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NUJP presses for justice on Gerry Ortega’s 9th death anniv

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for broadcaster Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on the ninth anniversary of his killing.

In a statement, the NUJP said it calls on the courts to resume trials against alleged masterminds in Ortega’s murders after the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed a 2018 ruling clearing former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, the primary suspect.

The group said the CA  ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Reyes) and to conduct proceedings in criminal case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” last November.

“Today, as we remember Doc Gerry, we call on the courts to let the wheels of justice finally turn, but not turn slowly,” the group said.

Hopes that the alleged brains behind Ortega’s murder would be held accountable had been dashed when co-accused former Coron, Palawan mayor Mario Reyes was granted bail in 2016 and his brother Joel was cleared of the murder charge and freed by the Court of Appeals in January 2018.

The former governor was back behind bars however after he was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan three weeks later.

The NUJP expressed optimism in a conviction as the gunman and all the members of the hit team were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.

“In a rare instance, the hired killers named the alleged masterminds, who fled the country in 2012 soon after arrest warrants were issued against them but were captured in Thailand three years after and brought back to stand trial,” the NUJP said.

Ortega—also an environmentalist, public servant, good governance advocate and civic leader—had just finished hosting his program on radio station DWAR when shot dead.

The NUJP also noted that the victim’s family never wavered in their struggle for justice, adding it can do no less.

The NUJP is set to light candles for Ortega at the Sgt. Esguerra gate of ABS-CBN tonight, January 24, as it also calls for the renewal of the media company’s legislative franchise President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to block at the House of Representatives. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Art town unites against mining extension

The people and the local government of the historic town of Angono in Rizal Province are petitioning the national government to prevent the extension of mining operations in their area, citing grave damages to their environment after five decades of gravel extraction.

Members of the group UMALMA, the Ugnayan ng Mamamayang Ayaw na at Laban sa Minahan sa Angono, said they support the local government of Angono in its “Yes to Rehabilitation at No to Quarry Extension” position.

The group said Angono no longer needs the mining companies’ annual fee of P33 million if it means exposing their town to dangers brought about by climate change and global warming.

“It is a fact that Angono also lies merely 15 kilometers from the Manggahan Floodway and the Marikina Fault Line should ‘The Big One’ happen,” the group added, referring to the predicted big earthquake that may hit Metropolitan Manila in the future.

Angono’s famous “Higantes” (Philippine Information Agency photo)

Famous for its annual Higantes Parade Festival featuring colorful paper mache giants, Angono is also considered as the country’s foremost artists’ hub having produced at least two national and other well-known artists.

Last Friday, January 3, groups gathered in front of the town’s municipal hall to hold a candle-lighting event and sign a manifesto against the continuation of mining operations by LaFarge Holcim Holdings and its associates Delta Earthmoving Inc., Batong Angono Aggregates Corp. (BAAC), and the Concrete Aggregates Corporation (CAC) of the Ortigas Group.

Five decades of extraction

Gravel mining in Angono started in 1969 covering 212 hectares of its hills overlooking the scenic Laguna de Bai lakeside town, UMALMA said.

Gravel extraction in Angono. (Photo courtesy of the Angono PIO)

The two current Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), extended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in 1995 and 1996 are due to expire this year and 2021, exposing an additional 106 hectares to mining, the group said.

UMALMA said that the companies applied for a seven-year quarry extension in 2017 that only became public knowledge when they asked company lawyers in a public hearing last January 2018.

The quarries shall have until 2029 to operate should the DENR grant their application. 

UMALMA, however, pointed out that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR has the discretion to approve extensions of up to 25 years in accordance with the Mining Act of 1995.

The group revealed that the companies’ original petition for extension was actually for this period, possibly granting continued operations until 2046. 

“If the extension petition is approved, the companies will extract the remaining 57, 940, 264 million metric tons of gravel from the hills of Angono,” the group said.

UMALMA said the nearly 58 million metric tons is all that remains of the 482. 8 million metric tons lodged in the mountain system that hosts the historically and artistically important Angono Petroglyphs

The 10-year extension would exhaust the remaining 58 million metric tons at the current annual extraction rate of 4,100,000 metric tons by the companies, UMALMA said.

“It is clear that the mining companies have over-extracted from their stated 4.1 million metric ton target for 2018 by mining 4.6 million metric tons as published in its own ‘Sulong Angono’ newsletter,” the group pointed out. 

‘Responsible mining’

LaFarge Holcim for its part said it is practicing “responsible mining” and undergoing “progressive rehabilitation” of areas affected by its operations through tree planting.

Its Angono operations also use a Zero Discharge System water treatment in its settling pond that prevents wastewater from being discharged from nearby water systems such as Laguna de Bai.

In its websites, LaFarge Holcim said it is a world leader in implementing international standards and sustainability in mining.

“Sustainability is among our core values at Holcim Philippines. We believe it is a key driver of our business success and we strive to practice this every day in our operations,” the company said, adding it looks to “make a lasting positive impact and contribute more than building materials to the development of [the] country.”

This outlook may be seen in the company’s efforts to be respectful of the environment, ensure the health and safety of our people and partners and help uplift its host communities, it claims.

LaFarge Holcim said it also assumed the community development responsibilities of its partner CAC when its subsidiary BAAC took over the former’s Angono mining operations in June 2008 through its “LaFarge Way of doing things.”

BAAC`s implementation of its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) has made the company quite a household name in terms of community development support not only in their two main host Barangays but also in the whole town of Angono, a DENR-MGB Region IV-A article said.

The article, written by one Sonny Villar, added the LaFarge Holcim subsidiary had been a recipient of a Titanium Achievement award for quarry operation in the 2009 Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Awards.

Immediate rehabilitation

UMALMA, however, revealed that while LaFarge Holcim has petitioned for an extension of its mining operations, it has also submitted its Final Mine Rehabilitation and/or Decommissioning Program approved by the DENR-MGB last July 11, 2018.

The candle-lighting activity opposing the extension of mining operations in Angono. (Photo courtesy of the Angono PIO)

The FMRDP is a 10-year phase-out of mining operations in Angono that has a budget of P23 million, the group said.

Part of the phase-out and decommissioning involves the removal of mining machinery and equipment; formation of a monitoring team composed of barangay, environment organizations, the local government unit and the DENR; revegetation, air monitoring, noise and fugitive dust elimination; safety; and separation pay and benefits to 136 permanent employees and about 500 contractual employees.

Part of the rehabilitation program is to transform the mined-out areas into a theme park or a residential and commercial area, UMALMA said.  

But the group said the entire town has spoken and it wants the immediate implementation of the rehabilitation plan once current mining permits have run their course.

“It is the position of the local government, led by Mayor Jeri Mae and Vice-Mayor Gerry Calderon as well as the Town Council, ‘Yes to Rehabilitation at No to Quarry Extension’,” the group said.

It added that the local government is after environmental and health reasons as well as its legacy to young Angono residents. 

In their candle-lighting event last Friday, Vice Mayor Gerry Calderon said the Town Council supports Mayor Jeri Mae Calderon’s position not to extend mining operations in Angono.

“It is important to show that the people of Angono is united behind our call,” he said. 

Mayor Jeri Mae for her part said she is heartened to witness that her town’s people are behind the call to save what remains of Angono’s hills.

The town’s petition, addressed to the DENR and President Rodrigo Duterte has been posted on social media, reaching more than 107,000 views in three days.

“The people of Angono are one with our local officials in opposing the application for renewal operation of a mining company in Angono, Rizal Province, the Republic of the Philippines which has been operating for the past 50 years,” it, addressing Duterte, said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Scientists, green group condemn continuing detention of colleague

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

VIGAN CITY – The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) and Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines condemned the continuing detention of environmental scientist, and peasant rights advocate Delilah “Delai” Padilla for trumped-up criminal charges filed by state forces in Cagayan Valley.

In separate statements, Agham and CEC said that Padilla’s apprehension and imprisonment are examples of attacks against environmental defenders and human rights advocates to silence and stop them from their advocacies. They also shared the significant contribution of Padilla to environmental defense and advocacy.

Delilah Padilla (Photo courtesy of AGHAM)

“As an environmental scientist, she was very dedicated to sharing her knowledge in far-flung communities that were experiencing environmental issues due to mining, logging, and pollution,” CEC Philippines said.

The institution added that “her work in environmental education resulted in improving the learning methods to promote the understanding of basic ecological principles among those who did not have formal schooling.”

Before relocating to Cagayan Valley, Padilla worked with CEC Philippines. She became part of the institution’s Environmental Research and Advocacy Program, where she worked to strengthen environmental education and awareness.

Later on, she also joined Agham to reach out to many scientists and encourage them to take part in people’s issues. In the early part of 2000, she became its Deputy Secretary-General.

According to Agham, Padilla headed the environmental investigation mission (EIM) in the coal mining areas in Cauayan, Isabela, in 2000. This undertaking exposed the dangers of coal mining and extractive industries to the people and the environment.

The group also noted that she was with the team that conducted the study on the impacts of the conversion of vast tracts of agricultural lands into monocrop plantations of Bt Corn in Isabela.

“Her temerity in the face of the glaring injustices that she saw challenged the status quo and helped stir the growing consciousness and will to act of the people she worked with. We know that her imprisonment will not deter her conviction to defend the environment and the people,” Agham said.

Agham lauded her for using her knowledge and expertise with the grassroots organizations and non-government sector “despite having the option to pursue a more lucrative career.”

According to the group, Padilla decided to move to Cagayan Valley after “realizing the need for a more proactive response to the needs of farmer communities.”

She was one of the conveners of Save the Valley, Serve the People, a broad multi-sectoral alliance against plunderous and destructive projects in the region. With her hard work and expertise, she earned respect and recognition of groups and communities, which eventually tasked her to become the spokesperson.

Padilla is a graduate of BS Biology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños. She also earned her Master in Environmental Science in UP Diliman.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region 2 apprehended her on October 8 in Leonarda Village, Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. She is facing charges for assault, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder, and robbery. The government placed a P700,000 bounty for her arrest. Also arrested in a separate operation on the same day were Violeta Ricardo and Cristeta Miguel. Authorities tagged the three as a ranking officer of the Cagayan Valley Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

According to Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan-CV), Padilla’s arrest came during their protest preparation for the October peasant month commemoration.

The number of environmental activists red-tagged, arrested for trumped-up charges and killed continues to rise, said Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, with 225 killings recorded in the Philippines since 2001. This year, Global Witness, an international watchdog, reported the Philippines as the most dangerous country for land rights and environmental activists with 113 killed in the past three years alone. #

Nueva Vizcaya stands by checkpoints, barricade against OceanaGold

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The province of Nueva Vizcaya stands by its action to stop the operation of OcenaGold Philippines. Incorporated (OGPI), despite the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) order to “remove or dismantle” the checkpoints installed by the people and local government.

Governor Carlos Padilla, on Sunday, December 15, told Nordis that they already responded to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año’s request.

“We are politely turning down the request of the Secretary sapagkat ito ay isang issue na nasa korte (because this issue is already in court) and under the sub judice principle, not even the DILG has jurisdiction on this question,” he said.

He was reacting to the November 22 letter from the agency signed by Año. The DILG chief asked the province to “remove or dismantle the checkpoints” that the people and local government installed at OGPI’s entry.

Año said the provincial government has to first “coordinate with the [Philippine National Police] or the [Armed Forces of the Philippine] and secure the necessary permit” to establish checkpoints.

The DILG also wants the provincial government to “maintain status quo” before the Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) issued by Padilla on June 25.

OGPI continued commercial operations despite the expiry of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) last June 20. The company cited the letter from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Wilfredo Moncano. According to the MGB letter, the Administrative Code allows OGPI to operate as it has allegedly made a “timely and sufficient application for the renewal of a license.”

On July 1, residents of Didipio in Kasibu town and environmental groups, backed by the provincial and municipal governments, put up three checkpoints leading to the mine site of OGPI. The people put up the barricade to ensure the implementation of the CDO and halt the mining operation.

Proactive response

Notwithstanding their letter to the DILG chief, Padilla said that they are also verifying the authenticity of the letter. The governor noted that Diocese of Bayombong Bishop Jose Elmer Mangalinao informed him that  DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya was not aware of the document.

However, the governor also told Nordis that DILG Nueva Vizcaya personally brought the letter to his attention. According to him, the following day, the regional office of the agency also inquired if he received the letter.

“In the absence of proof to the contrary, we are treating [the letter] as something from DILG,” he said.

Asked if he suspects anyone who would do such deceptive step, the governor responded: “Ang tingin ko ang OceanaGold ang number one suspect (I think OceanaGold is the number one suspect).”

Padilla said that mining companies, in general, use deception to protect their interests. He also questioned why the DILG furnished the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson, a copy of the letter.

“Medyo nagdududa rin kami dahil doon sa sulat ni Sec. Año sa amin dahil copy furnished ang opisina ng ambassador ng Australia sa Philippines. Pwede nating sabihin na tahasang pakikialam ito sa internal concerns ng ating gobyerno at ng ating bansa (We also doubt the letter of Sec. Año because they furnished the office of the Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines a copy. We can say that this is an outright intervention to the internal concerns of our government at country),” he said.

“Ang amin lang is panawagan sa DILG, tooto man o hindi ang sulat na yan, ang paniwala naming ay wala sa kamay ng DILG ang usaping ito (Our message to DILG, whether the letter is genuine or not, we believe that this matter out of the hands of DILG),” the governor added.

Actions are in order

Nasa korte na ito at sa first round, sa [Regional Trial Court] level, ay panalo kami ((This is already in the court, at the RTC level, we won) so the presumption is what we are doing is in order,” said Padilla.

He explained that the issues raised by the DILG secretary were the same matters cited by OGPI in its court petition. The company filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the action of the people and local governments.

RTC Branch 30 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, ruled on July 25 to deny the mining company’s petition.

“The OGPI not having clearly proven, at this point, its clear and unmistakable right to be protected, the prayer for a preliminary injunction is denied…,” stated the decision penned by Judge Paul Attolba, Jr.

The judge also noted in his ruling that “other issues raised will be best threshed out in full-blown trial” and ordered the Pre-Trail Conference to proceed.

Padilla stressed that the provincial government “do not want to enter into a dispute with DILG” since the matter is up for the court to decide.

“We are asking Secretary Año to understand that it is within the jurisdiction of the court; that is why we cannot comply with the content of his letter addressed to us,” he added.

Reinforce the barricade

Learning of the DILG, the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) called on Didipio residents and other groups to send reinforcements for the barricade on Thursday, December 12.

The group reiterated that different the “people’s barricade” was instrumental in forcing the company to stop its operation temporarily. It stressed that its success was the result of the sacrifices of the different sectors that joined and sustained the action for five long.

“Nais lampasan ng DILG ang ligal na proseso ng korte at ipinipilit ang kanyang awtoridad para i-pressure ang mga lokal na pamahalaan sa Nueva Vizcaya (The DILG wants to go beyond the legal process in court and use its authority to pressure the local government of Nueva Vizcaya),” ANNVIK said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Besides the court proceeding, LGU Kasibu and the Save Nueva Vizcaya Movement filed a petition before the Office of the President to deny the FTAA renewal of OGPI. More than 6,000 individuals signed the petition.

“Subalit sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang reklamo ay narito ang DILG upang saklolohan ang minahan (Despite the numerous complaints DILG is here to help the mine),” the group said.

The MGB has also admitted that the Office of the President found deficiency with OGPI’s FTAA renewal application under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. According to the bureau, the company has to undergo the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) since the area covered by its operation is now under the ancestral domain application by the Bugkalot tribe. This matter came up after the DENR recommended the interim renewal of the FTAA.

ANNVIK added that the DILG letter and the previous endorsement of DENR for the interim renewal of FTAA renewal are proof that the Duterte government favors corporate mining interests. #

DUGUANG LANGIT

ni R.B.Abiva

 

Pagkatapos mananghalia’y

ipinakita ni Sumatra

kay Ayu Putri Wijianti

ang mukha ng hinaharap–

pagkatapos hubaran ng makapal

na usok na sinlaki

ng mga bundok

mula sa nasusunog na

kagubatan– ang mapanlinlang

na bughaw na kalangitan:

nakapangingilabot pala

ang nalalapit na

paniningil ng

mata ng Diyos

na si Kratos!

At maging ang diyus-diyosang

si Widodo

            ay tiyak mapupulbos!

Setyembre 24, 2019

Lungsod Quezon

Kratos- Anak ni Zeus; Diyos ng Digma.

A snapshot of climate strikes across Southeast Asia

‘THERE IS NO PLANET B”

By Mong Palatino

Filipino protesters in a human-Earth formation. Source: Facebook page of Scientia

Several actions were organized across Southeast Asia from 20 to 22 September 2019 in support of the Global Climate Strike. One of the aims of the global strike was to mobilize young people and put pressure on world leaders who were scheduled to meet at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

The protest actions in Southeast Asia highlighted various issues such as the impact of large-scale mining, haze pollution, and continuing dependence on fossil fuels. Like in other parts of the world, the climate strikes in Southeast Asia featured the active participation and leadership of young people.

Below is an overview of protest activities across Southeast Asia:

Myanmar protesters demand the declaration of a climate emergency

More than 200 people marched from the new Bogyoke Market to Sule Pagoda, and then gathered outside Mahabandoola Park in Yangon on 21 September. They urged the Myanmar government to declare a climate emergency, impose a moratorium on projects that harm the environment, and promote environmental justice.

Young environmentalists joined the protest in Yangon. Source: Facebook page of Climate Strike Myanmar

Filipino activists call for climate justice

More than 600 young environmentalists in Manila participated in a human-Earth formation while carrying placards that call for climate justice on 20 September. They denounced the rising number of extrajudicial killings targeting environmental defenders and land rights activists under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte who came to power in 2016.

Thailand asked to stop building coal plants

More than 150 young environmentalists held a die-in protest in front of Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on 20 September. They submitted a petition asking the government to phase out coal and transition to renewable energy. A government official received the letter and lauded the concern of young people for the environment.

Young environmentalists rally in front of Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Source: Facebook page of Climate Strike Thailand

Malaysia pressed to act against haze pollution

More than 300 people joined the protest organized by Klima Action Malaysia on 21 September. They linked the worsening haze pollution to the climate crisis and asked the government to probe companies responsible for financing the deforestation of lands in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Stop forest fires in Indonesia

Reports indicated that more than a thousand young people marched in Jakarta on 20 September. They criticized the failure of the government to stop the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan which caused massive haze pollution not just in Indonesia but also in Malaysia and Singapore. The expansion of plantations and illegal land conversions are blamed for the raging forest fires in the country.

Singapore told to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Singapore had a large turnout during its climate strike on 21 September at Hong Lim Park. An estimated two thousand people joined the action calling the government to decarbonize the economy and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Participants wore red to symbolize the climate emergency we are facing today.

Vietnamese activists defy risks and hold protest in Ho Chi Minh City

And finally, in Vietnam, environmental activists organized a climate protest in Ho Chi Minh City despite the political risk of such an action.

(This article was first published by Global Voices, an international and multilingual community of bloggers, journalists, translators, academics, and human rights activists. It is republished by Kodao as part of a content sharing agreement.)

Groups blame Duterte’s martial law for the deaths of 52 environmentalists

An international anti-corruption group has revealed that the Rodrigo Duterte government’s heavy-handed rule in Mindanao and many other parts of the country has caused the deaths of 52 environmentalists in the hands of the military in the past three years.

In a report entitled “Defending the Philippines”, the group Global Witness said that Duterte’s “martial law has emboldened [the military] to use force to silence environmental and indigenous activism, with 52 defenders have been killed extra-judicially by the army in the last three years.”

The group, in a press conference in Quezon City last Tuesday, September 24, said it uncovered shocking evidence of widespread attacks against land and environmental defenders when they stand up to destructive coal, agribusiness, mining and tourism projects.

The group also identified major local and international corporations as the beneficiaries of the systematic attacks against Filipino citizens.

 The report accused major players Dole Philippines, Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, Standard Chartered and the World Bank of “corporate greed” that caused killings and widespread displacement of marginalized communities.

The revelations come after the Philippines was named last July as the world’s deadliest country for land and environment defenders in 2018 back, sparking widespread international coverage of the issue.

In his presentation, Global Witness Senior Campaigner Ben Leather said his group’s report could not be clearer in its finding that the Duterte government has miserably failed in protecting land and environmental defenders.

“Businesses from coal to agribusiness, from mining to tourism, are allowed to run rampant and irreparably damage the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” Leather said, adding corruption and conflicts of interest within government affecting well-known politicians also remain out of control.

“If the Filipino government is going to deliver on its promises, it has to protect land and environmental defenders and stand up to big business and corrupt politicians. And if companies and investors like Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel and Standard Chartered want their sustainability and human rights pledges to be anything other than poisonous hot air – then they too need to take immediate action to tackle the root causes of these attacks and support defenders,” Leather said.

Impunity against land and defenders

Local environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE), a partner to the investigations, agreed with the Global Witness analysis that “the killings are the sharp end of a broader impunity against land and environmental defenders.”

“The Global Witness report reveals damning evidence of how Duterte’s military and paramilitary have essentially functioned as mercenaries for large-scale mining and other extractive and destructive business projects. By using brute armed force to guarantee and secure dirty investments, Duterte has indeed failed in his promises to protect the environment and indigenous peoples, and curb corruption,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said

“Martial Law is clearly not the so-called tool to save democracy that Malacanang wants to paint it to be. For us Filipino environmental defenders, it has functioned as a tool for repression and to promote the unimpeded plunder of our natural resources by big businesses,” Dulce added.

Kalikasan PNP demanded an independent into the function of military and paramilitary groups as ‘mercenaries of large-scale mines and other extractive and destructive projects across the Philippines.’

‘We also demand for the immediate cessation of the Martial Law declaration over Mindanao and the institutionalization of a national policy that will protect the rights of Filipino environmental defenders and other human rights defenders from the atrocities especially of state security forces,” Dulce said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reclamation project tinututulan ng mga taga-Taliptip

Isang kilos-protesta ang isinagawa ng mga residente ng Sitio Taliptip sa Bulakan, Bulacan sa harapan ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 3 sa San Fernando, Pampanga.

Nanawagan sila sa ahensya na ipawalang-bisa ang Environmental Compliance Certificate ng Silvertides Holdings na siyang sub-contractor ng San Miguel Corporation para sa pagtatayo ng New Manila International Airport o Aerotropolis sa nasabing lugar.

Tinatayang nasa 1,000 pamilya ang mawawalan ng tirahan gayundin na ang hanapbuhay ay pangingisda. Masisira din ang mga bakawan at ilang yamang tubig sa nasabing isla.

Ang Bulacan Aerotropolis ay isa mga proyekto ng pamahalaang Duterte sa ilalim ng Build, Build, Build Program. Bibigyan ng Department of Transportation ang San Miguel Corporation para pamahalaan ang konstruksyon ng Aerotropolis. (Music: news background. Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Cagayanos want blacksand mining ‘disguised as dredging’ stopped

By ACE ALEGRE
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Cagayanos asked President Rodrigo Duterte’s help in stopping dredging activities at the mouth of Cagayan River they said is “disguised” magnetite mining.

The Cagayan Province Provincial Board approved last August 7 a resolution asking the president to suspend the dredging operations at the mouth of the Cagayan River in Aparri town.

This came after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) confirmed that it did not issue any dredging permit to the private firm involved in the dredging.

Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc.  (POEI), a firm owned by a former Isabela town mayor, has been dredging the country’s biggest river system for months.

The company reportedly ships the dredged materials to a reclamation project in Hong Kong and may earn about $50 million monthly if it sells the sand at current local prices, according to the resolution.

A cubic meter of sand in Cagayan is being sold at P160 to P180.

The exportation of black sand to Hong Kong was met with protests from locals.

Provincial Board member and resolution author Mila Lauigan said the deal with the dredgers has to be investigated.

“That is why we are appealing to the President to immediately suspend the dredging operations and inquire whether the company has complied with all the requirements before it proceeds,” Lauigan said.

According to the provincial legislator, “the contractor is only extracting black sand and leaves waste (non-mineral sand) material back into the river.”

It is reason why environmentalists and locals are raising heaven and hell [while] Gov. Manuel Mamba had been defending POEI’s operations amidst the environmental mess it has been causing, she said.

Mamba’s camp had been defending the dredging operation they said is meant to prepare for the reopening the Port of Aparri.

Mamba said the port’s reopening would improve economic and trade relations between Cagayan province and China as well as neighboring Asian countries.

Mamba, who entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI) under the authority of a resolution passed by the Cagayan Provincial Board last January, insists there is only dredging activities in the area and not magnetite (black sand) mining.

The provincial board has yet to be shown a copy of the memorandum of agreement between Mamba and POEI.

Mamba’s camp said there is no economic value to the exportation and the dredging activities help clear the river of heavy silt for free.

Engr. Mario Ancheta of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau agreed with the governor that there is no mining but dredging operations that should be sanctioned by the DPWH.

“There is sand extraction, but it is not mining but dredging,” Ancheta said.

The Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA), meanwhile, had been silent on the controversial dredging and “exporting” of the dredged sand to HK.

Immigration officials and the maritime police in Cagayan are also silent on the presence of foreign workers on the sand barges regularly approaching the shores of Aparri town. # (With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva) nordis.net / Photo from Gising Cagayan Facebook Page

International groups express condemnation, concern on journalist shooting

By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — An international media watchdog and environmental protection institution expressed condemnation and concern on the recent attack against Brandon Lee.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, condemned on Friday, August 9, the shooting of Lee, who writes for Northern Dispatch and a paralegal volunteer of the Ifugao Peasant Movement.

CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin urged the authorities to “leave no stone unturned” in their investigation.

“Until President Rodrigo Duterte shows he is serious about protecting journalists, all the talk of investigations will come to nothing and violent attacks on the press will continue,” he said.

The Police Regional Office Cordillera formed a task force to conduct a thorough investigation of the case. To date, the police have yet to release the progress of their work to identify the perpetrators and motive for the attack.

Meanwhile, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL), expressed shocked over the incident. The institution has been working with local organizations in the country to increase the safety of environmental defenders.

The institution said that Brandon is one of their local partners “who stands up for the rights of people and nature.”

“Violence against environmental defenders in the Philippines is increasing at an alarming rate,” said Antoinette Sprenger, Senior Expert Environmental Justice of IUCN NL.

The Philippines recorded the most number of killings of environmental and land defenders in 2018 according to the recent report released by Global Witness. #