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Campaigners say “get the lead out for our children’s health” as Filipino children join worldwide action vs. lead poisoning

Bangon to grow vegetables for bigger market this month

40-day Climate Walk to Tacloban kicks off in Luneta

Yolanda-hit villages declared as first 'Zero Open Defecation' barangays in Leyte

Ailing political prisoner Benny Barid dies; rights groups demand justice

DSWD-8 awards winners of 4Ps model family

PRO8 intensifies security plan on Pope’s visit next year

8ID joins the nation in the observance of the Peace Month







Climate Walkers reach Albay Province, the “climate change capital” of the Philippines

Press Release
October 22, 2014

LEGAZPI CITY – Today, over a thousand people participated in the Albay leg of the “People’s Walk for Climate Justice”. Albay Governor Joey Salceda welcomed the group who have walked a distance of 500 kilometers and are now more than halfway in their quest to reach Tacloban City by November 8, the first anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda’s historic landfall in the Philippines.

“Albay welcomes these climate advocates, our modern-day heroes who are raising awareness on climate change and are fighting the climate fight on behalf of millions of Filipinos who are bearing the brunt of extreme weather events that often cause disasters and human misery,” said Salceda.

A staunch supporter of the climate revolution and a champion for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation efforts, Governor Salceda spent his birthday by joining the climate walkers.

Hailed by the UN as the role model on good practices on disaster risk reduction program, Albay province consistently follows through with its goal of “zero casualty” in times of calamities whether it be from typhoons, landslides, floods, storm surges. This goal will again be put to a test with the pending eruption of Mayon Volcano.

The province is also lauded for its climate change adaptation (CCA) efforts, with Governor Salceda being the prime mover of the CCA program that led to a commitment between national and local government.

“Albay has a zero casualty policy as far as disaster impacts is concerned. We have also created the institutional frameworks to deal both with climate change and disaster risks, and have set aside budgets to reduce future risks from the impacts of climate change, including through our work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Dealing with climate change and disaster risks is the responsibility of chief executives of local government and cannot be delegated or outsourced,” Salceda added.

Ron Villafuerte, a Greenpeace volunteer climate walker and a proud native of Bicol, called on the leaders of other cities to follow suit and transition to a more resilient, low carbon pathway. “The Philippines can lead the climate revolution if we replicate the efforts and commitments done by Albay province to the rest of the country.”

Now on its 21st day, the climate walk seeks to raise awareness on climate change by getting commitments from local policymakers and holding climate programs in communities, schools and local government offices, sharing stories of local folk on the ground and mobilizing people in demanding world leaders to take climate action and holding big industry polluters and their respective governments accountable for their contribution to the climate crisis.

“Imagine what the world would be like if we had more progressive leaders that value nature and the environment, to ensure a habitable planet for all their citizens. I dedicate this walk to support the call for climate justice because I refuse to succumb to a life that is doomed to the impacts of climate change,” concludes Villafuerte.

For more information on the Climate Walk: A People’s Walk for Climate Justice, please go to





Labor group wants Petilla’s head for deceiving the Filipino people bigtime over so-called power crisis

October 22, 2014

QUEZON CITY – A coalition of 49 labor groups and workers’ organizations called Nagkaisa is demanding President Aquino to immediately fire Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla for deceiving the Filipino people with his manufactured power shortage scenario hitting the entire island of Luzon early 2015.

Officials of the Department of Energy admitted during a congressional hearing that the projected deficit in supply for the coming summer of 2015 is only about 21 to 31 MW, a far cry from the 1,200 MW shortfall trumpeted by Petilla.

“It is now very clear to us that Secretary Petilla took the country for a ride. He bluffed the president, the cabinet, the senators and the congressmen, the business sectors, the labor and consumer groups with his tall tales of thin power reserves to justify emergency powers that entails possible purchase of multi-billion peso generator sets. Mr. Petilla deliberately exposed the country to unnecessary jeopardy that has been discouraging job-creating investments away since he came out with his bogus story in July,” Josua Mata of Sentro-Nagkaisa, one of Nagkaisa convenors said reading Nagkaisa statement.

“This is a grave crime to the Filipino people. The only way for Secretary Petilla to redeem himself, after having been rebuffed by congressmen for his exaggerated numbers on the alleged looming power crisis, is to apologize to the people and submit an irrevocable resignation. If he doesn’t have the delicadeza to do so, we are demanding his head from the president. Either way, the Filipino people does not deserve a reprehensible nincompoop in government,” he added.

“Instead of asking congress to hastily grant him emergency powers, President Aquino should first kick his energy man out for his failure to lead a critical department of the executive,” Wilson Fortaleza, spokesperson of Partido Manggagawa-Nagkaisa.

Fortaleza said Petilla’s main blunder is the absence of policy intervention and the heap of unsound options in addressing the looming power crisis.

Petilla has proposed costly lease agreements from independent power producers to fill up the capacity gap in two years. Another option was to top existing capacities from industries’ embedded generator sets under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).

“Petilla must go not because power emergency is none existent but also because policy intervention is absent. The president must fire him for deceiving the entire nation including himself as the chief executive and his fellow members of the cabinet,” added Fortaleza.

Another convenor, Louie Corral, executive director of Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagakisa, explained that had the government acted as early as 2011, we could have started building new capacities by building new power plants; forced private power to rationalize their scheduled maintenance shutdowns; optimize the use of every plant especially hydro; and exercised strong regulatory powers to prevent market fraud.

Yet these options, Fortaleza said, can still be utilized right now as these powers are present under DOE’s mandate, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the Office of the President, and Congress under the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC).

“The only time we will support emergency powers is when the government finally decides to take over the whole industry with the utmost objectives of bringing down the price and securing a sustainable power supply not only for present needs but also for the next generations to come,” concluded Corral.

The Nagkaisa is a coalition of labor unions and workers’ organizations who band together three years ago to advance security of tenure, reduce the price of electricity, empower public sector workers and improve workers living wage. The members of the coalition are the Alliance of Free Workers (AFW) All Filipino Workers Confederation (AFWC), Automobile Industry Workers Alliance (AIWA), Alab Katipunan, Association of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO), Associated Labor Unions (ALU), Associated Labor Unions- Association of Professional Supervisory Officers Technical Employees Union (ALU-APSOTEU), ALU-Metal, Associated Labor Unions-Philippine Seafarers’Union (ALU-PSU), ALU-Textile, ALU-Transport, Associated Labor Unions-Visayas Mindanao Confederation of Trade Unions (ALU-VIMCOMTU), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), Association of Trade Unions (ATU), Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU), Confederation of Labor and Allied Social Services (CLASS), Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS), Federation of Coca-Cola Unions (FCCU), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Kapisanan ng Maralitang Obrero (KAMAO), Katipunan, Pambansang Kilusan sa Paggawa (KILUSAN), Kapisanan ng mga Kawani sa Koreo sa Pilipinas (KKKP), Labor education and Research Network (LEARN), League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO), Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN), MARINO, National Association of Broadcast Unions (NABU), National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), National Mines and Allied Workers Union (NAMAWU), National Association of Trade Unions (NATU), National Confederation of Labor (NCL), National Confederation of Transport Union (NCTU), National Union of Portworkers in the Philippines (NUPP), National Union of Workers in Hotel, Restaurant and Allied Industries (NUWHRAIN), Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), Pepsi Cola Employees Union of the Philippines (PEUP), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS), Philippine Integrated Industries Labor Union (PILLU), Philippine Independent Public Sector Employees Association (PIPSEA), Partido Manggagawa (PM), Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA), Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (PTGWO), SALIGAN, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), Workers Solidarity Network (WSN).





At the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations’ hearing

Karapatan stands firm: VFA blocks justice for Laude's murder

October 22, 2014

QUEZON CITY – "The killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude by a US serviceman is a heinous violation of human rights," Karapatan secretary general, Cristina Palabay, told the Senate today during the hearing initiated by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

"The current situation of human rights violations committed with impunity is already bad as it is. The VFA and recently approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement worsen the situation," Palabay told the Senate. "The political will of the current administration to prosecute fully the case is also questionable, given the skewed political relationship between the US and Philippine governments," Palabay said.

Laude’s killing, she said, “reflects the realities in Philippine society on the extent of prevalent gender-based violence, the climate of impunity, and the geo-political structures that exist." These are issues that are swept under the rug by spinmeisters hired to deemphasize the enormity and the roots of the problem.

Palabay said “the killing of Laude and similar rights violations are acts that are legitimized because of judicial system that turns its blind eye to justice.” She added that “perpetrators of human rights violation in this country are usually free from arrests, detention and conviction."

Palabay zeroed in on the lopsided military agreements between the US and Philippine governments which provides the context of the crime committed against Jennifer. Palabay scored the US-RP Military Bases Agreement and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

She mentioned the rape of 12-year old Rosario Baluyot who died of sepsis because parts of a vibrator inserted in her vagina remained since her rape for seven months. Palabay also cited the rape of "Nicole" by US marine Daniel Smith in 2005. In both cases, the US soldiers accused of raping these girls were shipped out from the Philippines.

Palabay also enumerated a long list of atrocities committed by US soldiers against the Filipino people: the shooting Buyong-buyong Isnijal by Sgt. Reggie Lane; the killing of the Dr. Julius Ceasar Aguila who testified that Isnijal was brought by Sgt. Lane and two other US soldiers in the hospital he was working; the shooting of Arsid Baharun in 2004 by a US soldier; and, the mysterious murder of Gregan Cardeno in 2010 while inside a US facility in Camp Ranao, Marawi City and the subsequent death of Cardeno’s friend, Capt. Javier Ignacio who helped the Cardeno family shed light on Gregan's death.





PRO8 creates honesty team to weed out erring PNP personnel

By RPCRD, Police Regional Office 8
October 20, 2014

CAMP RUPERTO K KANGLEON, Palo, Leyte – Police Regional Office 8 thru the leadership of PCSupt. Henry P. Losañes, PRO8 Regional Director, issued a Command Memorandum Circular creating a PRO8 Honesty Teams. The operational guidelines is set to be followed by the PRO8 personnel in enhancing the image of the Philippine National Police through a comprehensive program to weed out erring PNP personnel engaged in extortion or “kotong”, “hulidap”, “mulcting”, “bribery” and other forms of illegal activities.

The memorandum revealed that these illegal activities usually occur but not limited to the following: during the conduct of an investigation; issuance of PNP clearances/licenses; traffic violation; illegal vending, and delivery of goods, fruits, vegetables, livestock, meat, fish by traders or “viajeros”. Some are involved in “hulidap” or arresting the people on trumped-up charges and demanding settlement money. They also prey on PNP personnel who seek reassignment or promotion.

According to General Losañes, PPOs and CPOs will likewise initiate the organization of Honesty Team to conduct an intensive region-wide campaign against erring PNP personnel engaged in extortion and other form of illegal activities.

The operation concept of this memorandum consists of three (3) components: 1. Target Areas/Personalities Acquisitions; 2. Reinforcement of PNP Core Values; 3. Neutralization Operations. A sub-term for each component shall be correspondingly created.

He added that a diligent intelligence gathering will be undertaken to identify the units/offices and areas of deployment, susceptible to acts or transaction that might lead to extortion or other forms of illegal activities including the personnel who are likely to commit or those who are already involved in such illegal acts.

Active and consistence education and information dissemination campaign will also be initiated in the entire region, prioritizing those police units/offices and areas of deployment that have been identified to be vulnerable to commission of misdemeanors, with particular focus on already known target personalities. The education campaign shall concentrate in inculcating the core values of the PNP organization in order to avoid the occurrence or commission of illegal acts that are subject of the Memorandum.

Those involved or who will persist in their nefarious activities will be arrested and criminally charged without prejudice to administrative sanctions.

The PNP TEXT 2920, walk-in complaints, CI activities, and dialogue with concerned sectors, i.e. transport, etc. shall serve as feedback mechanisms to reinforce the efforts of the PNP in formulating strategies to rid corruption within its ranks.

This is one of the initiatives of the PNP to enhance the image of the PNP not only in Eastern Visayas but also in the whole country.

The public is assured that the PNP will remain relentless in maintaining peace and order and enforcing the law without fear or favor.





Groups demand immediate return of Canadian toxic waste; Call for PHL to ban toxic wastes trade

Press Release
October 21, 2014

MANILA – As the illegal Canadian toxic waste shipments fester in Philippine ports for 16 months, public furor over the Canadian government’s brazen defiance of international law erupted anew in Manila as environment and public health groups staged a street protest in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) commemorating the signing of the flawed international treaty on toxic waste trade called the Basel Convention.

Twenty-one years after the Philippine government ratified the Basel Convention it continues to labor under the threat of toxic waste trade. With the latest illegal Canadian toxic wastes, the public is demanding the DFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to initiate the ratification process of the Basel Ban Amendment to prevent the Philippines from becoming a global toxic waste dump site.

Although the Philippines is a party to the Basel Convention, environmental groups said that the Basel Convention has loopholes, which toxic waste traders capitalize on. For one, it only requires prior consent from the receiving country to initiate toxic waste export, but more importantly, destination countries such as the Philippines are left to their own devices to police and intercept illegal waste shipments.

“As far back as 1995, developing countries tried to erect barriers to protect themselves from toxic waste dumping by amending the Basel Convention with what is now called the Basel Ban. The logic behind this amendment was simple; let those who generate toxic wastes deal with their wastes. And what better way to do this than banning these noxious exports,” explained BAN Toxics executive director Atty. Richard Gutierrez.

The Basel Ban Amendment, an amendment to the Basel Convention, prohibits the movement of hazardous wastes from developed to poorer countries for any reason, whether it be for disposal or recycling.

“This disgraceful hazardous waste trade in the Philippines needs to stop. We demand that the Philippines Senate ratify the Basel Ban Amendment immediately and promote clean production, stop toxic technologies and prevent governments and companies from circumventing the recycling loophole in the Basel Convention,” said Abigail Aguilar, toxics campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

Meanwhile, EcoWaste Coalition calls for President Benigno Aquino III’s intervention to ensure the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.

“The infuriating presence of the stinking Canadian garbage in our soil despite being declared illegal by our customs and environmental officials is a shameful slap on the face of every Filipino. If the DFA or the DENR cannot end this travesty of justice, we ask President Aquino himself to intercede, defend our national dignity and our right to a healthy and safe environment. The presidential intervention and the Senate ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment should send a clear-cut signal to all waste generators and traders that our country is not a landfill to the world," said Aileen Lucero, coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized 50 container vans containing waste materials imported from Canada, with the consignee Chronic Plastics, Inc. declaring the shipment as ‘assorted scrap plastic materials for recycling’. However, upon inspection of the BOC, it was revealed that the shipment contains mixed hazardous wastes, including hospital waste, used adult diapers, and sanitary napkins, which continue to rot and leachate, posing great risk to public health.

“We need a collective effort to solve this problem. We are asking for DFA to make a firm stand on the issue. Would you just allow the Canadian garbage to stay in our country? Or will you do what former Secretary Domingo Siazon did with the issue of the Japanese garbage? Aside from respecting and adhering to the provisions of Basel Convention we have pressing issues on the impacts on health and the environment,” said Ang NARS Representative Leah Paquiz.

While the botched importation of the Canadian toxic wastes shipment is a clear violation of the Basel Convention, the groups scored the Philippine government for giving in to suggestions from the Canadian government to permanently dispose of the toxic wastes shipment in the country.

“Filipinos have labored under a series of administrations that value toxic wastes more than the public’s right to a healthful ecology. The fact that the government has twiddled its thumbs for over 20 years on the issue of toxic waste dumping, shows that there are a few who benefit from this criminal trade, and that administrations past and present have been unwilling or have decided to look the other way,” Gutierrez said.

“The illegal Canadian toxic waste export is a testament to this awful truth.” Gutierrez added.

In an effort to gain public attention on the issue, the coalition filed an online petition on that drew 23,600 signers, more than half of which are Canadians. The group is encouraging more people to sign the online petition to appeal and urge the Canadian embassy in the Philippines to facilitate the pick up and return of the garbage back to the Canadian soil.

Joining AngNars, BAN Toxics, Greenpeace, and Ecowaste Coalition are Mother Earth Foundation, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, and the Ateneo School of Government.





As Congress reconvenes

Hundreds March to Batasan vs. Emergency Powers and the pork-riddled 2015 Budget

October 20, 2014

QUEZON CITY – Hundreds of urban poor, workers and farmers marched into Batasan as Congress reconvened Monday, October 20. Members of SANLAKAS, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML) and Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA) rallied in front of Congress to oppose a plan to sign a Joint Resolution Granting Emergency Powers to President Aquino, and the passage of the 2015 Budget, which Congress is set to pass within the next few days before going into recess again on October 30.

President Aquino asked Congress to grant him emergency powers in order to address an anticipated power crisis in 2015, based on Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla’s projections. But debates among government officials continue over whether this power crisis is real or not. Officials have also been divided over solutions to the anticipated shortfall in power by 2015 when Malampaya for its regular maintenance shutdown.

Says Atty. Aaron Pedrosa of SANLAKAS, “the President’s determination of a power shortage by 2015 is one based on conjecture absent of substantiation. What the government intends to do is to rent out power barges and diesel generation sets at an estimated contract price of P14 Billion for a two-year lease. This is a short-sighted approach and does not address the real problems plaguing a deregulated power industry. It diverts the public from the real power crisis that has defined the industry for more than a decade now thanks to EPIRA.”

Gie Relova of BMP elaborated, “To date, 2.7 million households remain without access to electricity; the country’s power rates are the most expensive in Asia and rank fifth in the world; market manipulation and collusion are at its worst with prices being manipulated in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), defying a cornerstone promise of EPIRA – of providing affordable and reliable electricity to the people. More than 13 years after EPIRA was passed, a mere five families control the power industry.”

Atty. Pedrosa adds, “Emergency powers will only result in socializing more obligations that the government intends to pursue. To this day, we are paying for the take or pay provisions and sovereign guarantees extended by the Ramos Administration when it was granted emergency powers allowing it to enter into lopsided supply contracts with independent power producers. That burden will be augmented with the proposal to enter into contracts with private firms for the lease of their generation sets. It is the people who will in the end foot the bill.”

“The power crisis is bigger than a mere projected shortfall. It requires a solution that recognizes the failure of a paradigm that puts the burden of providing for our power needs in private hands. Emergency power is not the solution,” Pedrosa concluded.

The groups also decried the passage of the 2015 budget, which they described as “pork-ridden”, and which continues to allow lump-sum, therefore discretionary, appropriations, such as the Presidential Special Purpose Fund. “The Pork Barrel System is alive, and will continue to drain our resources, and deprive the people of funds for such basic needs as housing, education and health,” decried Orly Gallardo of the KPML.

BMP’s Relova raised the alarm with regard the insertion of the provision for the redefinition of “savings”, “ala- DAP that in effect will now allow the President to use or misuse the funds by simply declaring funds as ‘savings’ at any time of the year so long as he declares it ‘justifiable’.”

The groups, who have launched a movement called ARM the People (All Resist Movement), vowed to undertake continuous mass actions in light of “Noynoy’s blatant abuse of his executive powers, such as seen in his use of DAP and challenge vs. the Supreme Court resolution, and his bid to, not only legalize this practice but to acquire more through emergency powers”.





P54-B for MRT-3 buy-out most likely to be slashed from DOTC 2015 budget – Chiz

By Office of Senator Chiz Escudero
October 20, 2014

PASAY CITY – The Department of Transportation and Communications’ (DOTC) plan to buy out the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) for almost P54 billion is unprogrammed and is not reflected in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), Senator Chiz Escudero said.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the P54 billion which the DOTC has set aside for the takeover of the MRT 3 will be sourced from a loan, and not from the national treasury.

“That amount which was authorized by DOF (Department of Finance) Secretary Cesar Purisima to effect the MRT 3 buyout is actually a loan. Thus, although it is unprogrammed once the loan has been signed, it will reflect in the GAA and the DOTC is apparently to push through with the buyout,” Escudero said.

He, however, said he is most likely to slash the amount from the GAA or realign it to more essential services for the general public like the much needed infrastructure to ease traffic congestion and disaster preparedness programs.

“While it is true that we need to improve our mass transport system, I have not been convinced by the DOTC that a takeover with a very high price tag is what we need at this time. One, that P54 billion is not enough as MRTH (Metro Rail Transit Holdings) said the equity value buyout amounts to P112 billion. Where did DOTC get that figure? Who did they talk to?” Escudero said.

The senator said the amount DOTC is appropriating as opposed to MRTH’s asking price is worthless and might just go to waste. “Even DOTC Secretary Abaya said in the hearings that even after they take over MRT 3, the only upshot is better terms for the government when it bids out the operation and maintenance. The DOTC can bid that out now without shelling out P54 billion of taxpayer’s money,” Escudero pointed out.

He is also wary that the bulk of the takeover appropriation will just be used to pay for the bonds held by state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.

“Granting we pay the bonds in LBP and DBP, which are technically government anyway, why scrape Juan dela Cruz’s tight resources? The remaining balance is too miniscule to really own back MRT 3, why force the issue then?”

The DOF will go on an executive session with the Senate today to discuss the MRT 3.

Asked if this is a session to convince senators to give their stamp of approval for the planned takeover, the senator is skeptic that he will be convinced. “We will see. And I don’t understand the need for a closed-door session. Why can it not be discussed in public? The public has the right to know why that money is needed and how is it going to be spent. That is our money, everyone’s money anyway.”



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