Saturday, May 27, 2006

'Irresponsible,' says Zubiri of Nat'l security adviser

Baguio defend Arroyo adviser, Camp Evagelista

BUKIDNON Gov. Jose Zubiri yesterday continued to hurl brickbats at National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales. He called the Palace official ‘‘irresponsible.’’

Zubiri’s tirades came even as the provincial board threatened to declare Gonzales persona non grata unless he apologized to Bukidnon for claiming that there were mass graves in the province.

The mass graves story was later denied by the source––barangay chairperson Jimmy Arion of Kibongtod, San Fernando town––whom Gonzales cited when he made the claim at Camp Evangelista over a week ago.

Zubiri said the story was a hoax. He denied that two mass graves were found in Quezon and San Fernando towns and that these yielded 29 bodies.

The bodies supposedly belonged to victims of the New People’s Army (NPA).
But Zubiri said only one body was exhumed by the military in San Fernando last year.

‘‘Bukidnon is peaceful,’’ said Zubiri, citing a military report that said the Maoist rebel group only has a little over 100 armed members in the province.

Bukidnon officials said Gonzales’ pronouncements make the province look like a ‘‘killing fields,’’ hence the demand for a public apology.

Arion, the village chief, was presented by the military to Gonzales during his recent visit to Camp Evangelista, the seat of the army in the region. After he ‘‘escaped’’ from Camp Evangelista, he claimed the military forced him to make the story up.

The police in northern Mindanao however defended Gonzales and Camp Evangelista, saying the claim was ‘‘factual and no concoction.’’

It was just a matter of semantics, said regional police director Chief Supt. Florante Baguio.

Said Baguio: "There are killings that were attributed to the CPP-NPA (but there are) no mass graves. The term used is not correct, it should be ‘buried separately.’’’

Baguio said the pronouncements of Gonzales were based on facts, adding that the remains of over 20 people murdered by communist rebels were found in the province.

But he said the victims were killed and buried separately since 2000.
The victims, he said, were ordinary civilians from the hinterlands of Bukidnon who did not cooperate with the rebels.

Baguio said he suspected Arion was under pressure, hence the retraction.
"The probability of a threat on Arion and his family is possible. That is the usual practice of the rebels," said Baguio.

"that can be read at Gold Star Daily>Link

Friday, May 26, 2006

Luna to rights advocates: What about the NPA's civilian killings?

FOURTH Infantry Division chief Cardoso Luna on Wednesday lashed at human right advocates in northern Mindanao for ‘‘unfair’’ and ‘‘biased’’ to the military.

"Why only us? They are just are criticizing us if there are violations committed by soldiers. It is unfair to us," said Maj. Gen. Luna, speaking before reporters.

Luna said communist rebels have committed many human rights violations and yet the same groups never raised a howl of protest.

Luna said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) have been abusing ordinary civilians and have even killed innocent people.

"Where are freedom, justice and equality there?" Luna asked.
Luna also called on the Commission of Human Rights ‘‘to be factual and fair’’ to the military and the police.

He challenged CHR to investigate the alleged human rights violations, including murders, committed by rebels, citing the case of farmers who were allegedly tortured and then killed by guerrillas in an outlying village in Surigao.

"Pinatay sila ng walang kalabanlaban, nasaan ang hustisya? Nasaan ang mga human right advocates dyan?" asked Luna.

He also challenged militant groups to make a stand and issue statements in regard to killings attributed to the NPA.

Meanwhile, Luna assured that journalists would not be barred from Camp Evangelista, the seat of the army’s 4th ID. He said this in response to reports that Camp Aguinaldo issued a memorandum to restrict the movement of journalists in military camps, including Camp Evangelista.

Luna also assured that the military was not spying on journalists.

"What we are asking is for you tell us where you want to go and we’ll make the coordination," Luna told reporters.

"that can be read at Gold Star Daily,>Link

Mindanao power supply to remain critical despite coal plant

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Baños / May 25) The worst may be over for the Mindanao grid this summer with the onset of the rainy season, but power supply in the island remains critical, as oil fired plants come down and repairs in its hydroelectric plants continue.

Emmanuel Abellanosa, Transco area manager for North Central Mindanao, said they have been constrained to implement voluntary power curtailment or "power shedding" at various times this simmer due to imbalances between the available power from National Power Corporation (NPC) and the demand from residential, commercial and industrial users.

"There's not enough spinning reserve in the Mindanao grid to address contingencies," Abellanosa said.

NPC figures show the system gross reserve in Mindanao from the latter half of 2005 to year end 2006 to be insufficient to meet the 11.9-percent load following/frequency reserve and spinning reserve requirements.

NPC president Cyril C. del Callar, NPC president Cyril C. del Callar earlier warned that "recurring power shortages are expected especially during peak periods, when generators and or associated transmission lines are on forced outage."

Peak power demand in Mindanao this summer topped 1,100 megawatts but the NPC only managed to supply an average of 1,050 megawatts to the Mindanao Power Grid. As a result, whenever there's a glitch in the distribution system, power is cut in some areas as the grid seeks to balance the remaining available power throughout the delicately balanced system.

Abellanosa said NPC's total power generated has been curtailed due to ongoing rehabilitation works in the Agus IV Hydro-Electric Power Plant at Iligan City, the 255-megawatt Pulangi IV Hydro Electric Plant in Bukidnon and the Iligan Diesel Power Plant in Ditucalan, Iligan City, turned over a few years back by independent power producer Northern Mindanao Power Corporation.

Agus IV's generators Nos.1 and 4 with a total output of 92 MW experienced problems with its turbines while low water level in the catchment area for the Pulangi IV HEP drastically curtailed its production. The Iligan Diesel Power Plant (25 MW) is not producing as much power as it should.

As a result, power supply to the Zamboanga peninsula and nearby areas was curtailed by 50MW causing up to three hour power outages although Cagayan de Oro city managed to get by due to the Mindanao Energy Systems (Minergy) power plant which augmented available power to the local utility (Cagayan de Oro Electric Power & Light Co. or CEPALCO) with 18 MW.

The onset of rains bodes well for the hydroelectric power complexes in Agus and Pulangi rivers but until power from these sources stabilize, Transco would be constrained to continue its power shedding contingency, Abellanosa said.

Rafael Magbanua, communications officer for Transco NCMA, said at least 85 percent of Mindanao has already been tapping independent power producers (IPPs) and NPC power barges particularly in key areas.

"But we are still talking about a very erratic and critical power supply...this power sourcing is very abnormal still," he said.

That's for the short term. Over the medium and long term, even if only ongoing base load coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental comes online as scheduled by year end, it's merely going to patch things over but not fix it.

Although the grid is being weaned away from its traditional dependence on hydroelectric power plants, the bulk of generated power in the island is still being sourced from the Agus Hydroelectric Power Plants in Iligan City and Lanao del Sur and the Pulangi Hydroelectric Power Plants in Maramag, Bukidnon.

The Regional Development Council in Region 10 (RDC-10) has sounded the alarm over the deteriorating power situation in Mindanao.

Arsenio L. Sebastian III, RDC-10 vice-chairman and Dr. Modesto Babaylan, RDC 10 infrastructure committee co-chairman, disclosed recently that Pulangi is producing only 100-120MW of its 255MW rated capacity due to accumulated siltation in the Pulangi River feeding its catchment basin.

Besides the lack of available funds to dredge the Pulangi river, Sebastian said they also have no place to dump the dredged silt taken from it.

Sebastian is also concerned the Mindanao Coal –Fired Power Plant might be delayed. Department of Energy statistics show a rising demand for power that the present supply might be unable to meet even with the new base load plant online, he said.

STEAG state power communications officer Jerome Soldervilla said RDC-10's fears are unfounded. "As of 15 May 2006, the power plant project is 95.5% complete. Based on this figure vis-à-vis the timelines, we are on track and confident that it will commence commercial operations by end of this year,"

"Right now, we are at the commissioning stage, meaning all mechanical and electrical facilities and equipment undergo series of testing," he added. "Transco's term of 'on-line' simply means that the power plant (through its 6-kilometer 138kV transmission line connected to Transco's sub-station in Natumulan, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental) is already energized and is technically connected to the grid."

NPC President del Callar earlier said that from 2007 to 2008, power supply in Mindanao would be stable as the system gross reserve remains sufficient to meet the LFFR and spinning reserve with the scheduled commissioning of the 200 MW coal plant.

The average power supply reserve margin in the Mindanao grid from 2005 to 2008 is 7.26% with 2008 having the lowest projected power supply reserve margin of 3.93% . By 2009, peak demand for power in Mindanao will start to exceed the existing power capacity , with additional new capacity of about 57 MW to be needed for the year and an average of 116 MW every year thereafter.

But the environmental advocacy group Task Force Macajalar (TFC) has called the NPC projections inaccurate.

TFM spokesperson BenCyrus Ellorin said Mindanao can sustain its power needs without resorting to fossil fuels like oil or coal because its existing hydropower plants are sufficient to meet the island's needs if their full potential of 12,000MW is tapped.

Latest NPC figures only show an existing power band of 982 –1,500 MW with independent power producers (IPPs) capable of another 543 MW.

NPC expects power demand in Mindanao to grow 11.8 percent from 2005-2011 and would need to have an installed capacity of 2,830MW by the end of this period with the Mindanao Coal-Fired Power Plant filling the gap.

Ellorin believes Mindanao would be better off if it rehabilitates its present hydroelectric power plants and reforest the watersheds that support them or inter-connect with the rest of the Philippine grid with the Leyte-Mindanao Inter-connection project.

The Mindanao grid is divided into three sub-grids - North, West, and South Mindanao. Of these, , only North Mindanao enjoys an excess capacity while the West and South Mindanao grids have to import from the North Mindanao sub-grid to sufficiently address peak power demand in their respective areas.

The country's Power Development Plan for 2005 to 2014 stresses the importance of putting up more power generating plants in order to avert a power shortfall in the major islands of the country, particularly in Mindanao since the previous surplus has been effectively erased with the reopening of the National Steel Corporation (NSC, now Global Steel International, Inc. or GSII) steel plant in Iligan City.

If power plants were to deliver the expected power supply in the future, the time to construct them (in no. of years) would be : coal (6), hydro (5), geothermal (5), diesel (high capacity)-4, gas turbine (4), wind (4), diesel (low capacity)-1, power barge (8 mos.)


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Enteria warns of Oro ban on VT Lao

COUNCILOR Maryanne Enteria yesterday threatened to push for a ban on Adhi Karya-VT Lao Construction in the city if the firm fails to finish in giving the Ysalina Bridge a major facelift on time.

Enteria also warned the contractor could be slapped with forfeiture unless it finishes the project on or before June 23.

She said the firm’s executives may even be declared persona non grata in the city.

"Sorry for them if they fail to finish the repair of bridge on the target date. People are expecting them to follow the contract heartily... The contractors should be man enough in their dealings with the government," said the councilor.

Enteria said she is serious in her plans to convince her fellow councilors to demand the forfeiture of the the contract and in banning Adhi Karya-VT Lao Construction from undertaking more projects in the city.

The warning came after a representative of the construction firm undertaking the Ysalina Bridge retrofitting project failed to attend the city councilo session last Monday despite an invitation. It was the second time, according to councilors, that the firm ‘‘snubbed’’ the council.

The council invited Jesus Diaz, resident engineer of the construction firm contracted to repair the Ysalina Bridge, and the district engineers to answer questions in regard to the ongoing project last Monday.

"We’re now studying their contract,’’ said Enteria. ‘‘If they will fail to show up during the session next week, the resolution may be filed," warned Enteria.

She added: "The harshest will be declaring them persona non grata if they would fail to appear again."

Meanwhile, Councilor Ian Mark Nacaya said the construction company should be asked to issue a bond to the government from five percent to 10 percent of the total cost of the project.

"This proposal would only be effective through an ordinance. We have no enabling ordinance to impose or demand a bond yet," Nacaya said.

Nacaya said the city council should immediately approve a resolution to this effect if local legislators feel that the contractor would not be able to finish the project on time.

Nacaya said he agreed that the firm’s executives should be declared persona non grata if they fail to beat their June 23 deadline or if they snub the city council again.

"They are supposed to come in aid of legislation and for the interest of the people of Cagayan de Oro," Nacaya said.

Diaz declined to comment when asked why he did not show up last Monday. He merely maintained that the firm would finish the project on time.

Earlier, Diaz faulted city hall for the delay, saying it did not immediately act on its request to start the project last March. The city hall greenlight, he said, was given in late April, hence the delay.

"There is nothing wrong with their (councilors’) plan, that is their right. I am only hoping that their criticisms would be based on the contract," Diaz said.

Vice Mayor Michelle Spiers, the acting mayor, earlier issued an order allowing the bridge to be fully closed until June 4.

She was reportedly assured that the complete closure of the bridge until June 4 would fasttrack the ongoing repairs. The extension would mean that the project would be finished on June 15 or eight days ahead of the target date, according to the City Information Office.

One lane of the Ysalina bridge will be opened to vehicles from Carmen from 5 am to 2 pm and to motorists bound to Carmen from 2 p.m. to 10 pm starting on June 5.

The project has been blamed for the traffic jams that have inconvenienced thousands of motorists and commuters since May 7.

that can be read at Gold Star Daily>link

A Call to Arms


By Mike Banos

EARLIER this week a radio journalist earned the dubious distinction of becoming the 42nd media worker to be killed under President Arroyo's tenure at Malacanang, the 79th since 1986, the fifth in the first five months of this year.

It has also won the Philippines the equally dubious distinction of being the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, second only to strife-torn Iraq.
And how does Malacanang react to this appalling genocide in its constituency? Urging journalists to carry firearms to defend themselves. Hello?

Even regional police director Chief Supt. Florante Baguio admits this is no guarantee for the safety of journalists'. He cited the case of the radio commentator who managed to fire back at his assailants but still died from his wounds.

The Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC) concurs. We thank the PNP's PRO-10 for their assurance of support and protection but again, this is no assurance of safety for the members of the fourth estate.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement both police and the military should ensure the safety of journalists because arming journalists is an admission of failure from the authorities to protect not only media but anybody from armed assault and perpetrates what NUJP spokesperson Joe Torres calls "the culture of impunity."

The body count of murdered journalists under the GMA presidency already exceeds that of the 14 year Marcos dictatorship and similarly unabated attacks on human rights activists will soon make the record for that death count history also.

The PNP has admitted that, of the 79 journalists killed since the so-called democratic restoration of 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts, and in none of those instances was the mastermind ever brought to justice, perhaps because many of those responsible are themselves persons in authority.

The failure of this administration to protect the Filipino people, journalists among them, is its failure to defend democracy. On top of that, it has the gall to continue trying to censor media, adding insult to the injury already heaped on the "free" Philippine press for this conspiracy to bury the truth from its constituents.

Now, the deaths of our colleagues has become fair game in the name of political survival and gamesmanship. Enough is indeed enough.

Let this insult on journalists to protect themselves with guns be our battle cry and call to arms.

The NUJP is right in saying let us fight this battle with the weapons we know best– our profession, our pens, our cameras, our microphones.

Over and above that, may I also humbly exhort our colleagues to continue doing with fervor their excellent record of reportage which has unveiled the graft and corruption in our society responsible for this genocide of those who dare bring their lies, deceit and thievery into the light of day.

Tama na! Sobra na! Makibaka na kayo! Makibaka tayong lahat!

Mabuhay ang Filipino….

comments to

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Enough Is Enough: NUJP


The Arroyo government may argue until it is blue in the face that a culture of impunity does not exist in the country.It should tell that to the family of Palawan broadcaster Fernando "Dong" Batul, murdered early this morning on his way to anchor his regular Bastonero program on DYPR in Puerto Princesa.

And to the families of Albert Orsolino, gunned down in Caloocan City on May 16, Iring Maranan, mauled just hours after Orsolino's murder by San Pablo City, Laguna Councilor Edgardo Adajar in full view of 100 people, including other journalists, and our 40 other colleagues who have lost their lives in the five years since Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power.

With a death toll of journalists that has already far outstripped the 34 claimed by the 14-year dictatorship and the unabated murders of activists in numbers human rights groups say is fast catching up to the Marcos regime's record, we no longer see how this administration can claim to preside over a society that claims to be the freest in this part of the world.

The murder of Batul happened just three days after UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura warned Friday that, "When violence poses a permanent threat for journalists, it poses a threat to the whole of society.""When crimes against journalists remain unpunished, the future of a country is endangered and organized crime or corruption becomes the main beneficiaries of this impunity," he said.

Indeed, the Philippine National Police itself has acknowledged that, of the 79 killings of journalists since the so-called democratic restoration of 1986, only five cases have been resolved by the courts.And we stress that, while the killers in these cases may have been convicted, NOT A SINGLE MASTERMIND has ever been brought to justice.

Not to mention the fact that, in many cases, the killings may be traced to agents of state security.We hold Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration accountable for the murders of our colleagues under her watch and the increasingly brazen manner in which they have been killed.

For not only has this administration's inaction emboldened those who would impose on us the ultimate form of censorship – death – it has actually attempted to muzzle the independent Philippine press.

In its obsession with national security and its own survival, this administration has failed to protect the lives and respect the rights of the Filipino people, journalists included, and consequently failed to defend democracy.

To our legitimate demands for justice and security, what we get are empty promises, inutile task forces, and fatuous claims by the likes of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that "forces out to destabilize" the government are behind our colleagues' deaths and those of hundreds of activists.

We reject and condemn such facile attempts to trivialize our colleagues' deaths and make them another pawn in the political games this government plays.Today, we say enough is enough. We have condemned enough. We have issued statement enough.

We have marched in the streets and called government's attention enough.Today, we call on all our colleagues to fight back.Let us cease to be just observers and recorders to the death of democracy.

United, we can fight back the threats to our lives and liberties with the weapon we know best how to use – our profession, our pens, our cameras, our microphones.We call on the people, the public, the audiences we serve, to stand with us.

For the Freedom of the Press we struggle to uphold is not ours alone but the logical extension of the people's right to free expression and to know from which all other rights emanate.It is clear that the survival of democracy now rests solely in our hands. ">Link

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

30 southern Philippines journalists attend peace, conflict journalism seminar in Davao

Mindanao-based journalists strike a pose during the Peace and Conflict Journalism seminar held at Eden Nature Park and Resort in Davao City. The 4-day seminar is the second this year. In January, the PECOJON held a similar seminar in Zamboanga City. PECOJON has members in at least 11 countries. The participants were selected from newspaper, television and radio reporters and film makers from all over the southern Philippines who finish on May 17, 2006, sponsored by the international Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON), InWent and Pax Christi in Davao City's Eden Nature Park.

The De Venecia Code... 'rated-GP'?

The De Venecia Code: A protester dressed as a monk and wearing an Arroyo mask stands in front of a photograph of De Venecia to protest attempts to amend the Constitution.

Opol freezes Barra road levy

THE Opol government suspended over the weekend the implementation of a barangay law that authorizes the collection of fees from drivers of ‘‘commercial’’ vehicles that use a road in the village of Barra.

The suspension order came even as the town government started looking into the complaints of taxi and jeepney drivers in regard to the road-use fees, said Opol town administrator Fermin Jarales.

On Saturday, Jarales reportedly told Barra barangay chairperson Emiliano Madronal to temporarily stop the collections in view of the investigation.

Jarales said the town government would also look into the validity of the Barra ordinance.
"We will look into the legitimacy of the ordinance. In the meantime, the collections of fees will be suspended," said Jarales who was acting mayor. The mayor, Dixon Yasay, was reportedly in Manila.

Last week, a group of mostly taxi and jeepney drivers complained about the collections and questioned the validity of the barangay ordinance.

One taxi driver said that collectors have been asking him to pay P2 to P5 every time he would bring a passenger to the place.

Madronal, the barangay chairperson, reportedly maintained that the collections were legal. The collections go to the barangay treasury, the chairperson was quoted as saying.

The barangay law, Ordinance 2002-030, authorized the collection of fees from drivers of public vehicles, including market vendors, who use the road leading to Vamenta and Jonhdorf subdivisions.

Jarales said the ordinance would likely need some changes if investigators find any of its provisions ‘‘fishy.’’

Jarales said Madronal was invited to shed light on the ordinance during a session of the town council today.

Cagayan de Oro Journal tried to interview Madronal but his staff said the official was attending a meeting.

A woman at the barangay office who spoke on condition of anonymity said collectors were only collecting P2 from every taxi and jeepney driver. She denied allegations that some drivers pay as much as P3 to P5.

She also apoligized for the way Madronal behaved during an earlier interview with this paper. An angry Madronal hung up in the middle of a phone interview. "We are sorry for what our chairman (Madronal) did during the interview.’’

Jarales said Barra officials could set up a billboard to inform the public about the ordinance. He said collectors also need to be easily identified by the public.

"They should be responsible to the public. They should not allow ordinances to become problems but solutions," Jarales said.

He also said investigators would check if the ‘‘cash tickets’’ given to drivers were properly documented for auditing purposes.

The tickets being used by Barra officials were bought from the town government. These came from the provincial treasurer’s office.

"that can be read at Gold Star Daily>

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bridge contractor snubs city council

REPRESENTATIVES of Adhi VT Lao Construction, the firm undertaking the Ysalina Bridge retrofitting project, were a no-show during the city council’s session yesterday.

‘‘This is a clear defiance,’’ said Councilor Edgar Cabanlas as he expressed disappointment.

Councilor Maryanne Enteria said it was the second time the firm and officials of the public works department ‘‘snubbed’’ the city council.

The council invited the contractor and government engineers to shed light on the ongoing bridge repair that has been blamed for traffic jams in the city since May 7.

‘‘They cannot ignore the city council just like that,’’ said Councilor Simeon Licayan.

Councilor Ian Nacaya said city hall might resort to drastic measures unless the contractor and public works officials show up during the next council session.

Councilor Alvin Calingin said the ongoing bridge retrofitting has inconvenienced residents and has caused damages.

Earlier, an engineer of the construction company faulted city hall for the delay in the implementation of the retrofitting project. He said the firm sought city hall’s permission to implement the project as early as March but the green light was given a month later.

"that can be read at Gold Star Daily,>Link

Opol government slaps 4 beach resorts with closure orders

LOCAL officials ordered the closure of four beach resorts in Opol, Misamis Oriental, for allegedly violating a town ordinance that requires lifeguards and other important requirements.

"This is an effort to make Opol beaches safe, secure and clean," said Opol municipal administrator Fermin Jarales over the weekend.

The beaches of Opol are among the most crowded in Misamis Oriental because of the town’s proximity to Cagayan de Oro.

Jarales said local officials documented specific cases of safety breaches at the beach resorts.

Slapped with closure orders were the Lacang-lacang, Baybayon, Cagatin and at least another beach resort.

The beach resorts are said to be owned by Nestor, Fe, Leah and Mario Yasay. The beaches, according to Jarales, are located between Roan and Marvilla beach resorts.

"They can only operate again after they have fully complied with the existing ordinances," said Jarales.

Meanwhile, the Opol police has heightened security operations on the beach. Police are keeping an eye on the beach resorts in shifts 24 hours a day.

This is so, according to Opol police chief Henry Dampal, because the beach resorts were being used as hangouts and for drinking sessions of gangs that have been scaring villagers.

"that can be read at Gold Star Daily,>Link