Controversial SM hotel site has ‘dubious’ lot title; Solgen set to probe ‘scam’

>> Monday, June 30, 2008

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – City officials warned lot buyers here last week against purchasing lands covered by a controversial title which includes the site where Shoe Mart (SM) plans to set up a condotel by cutting down many trees in the area.

The city council Monday decided to elevate the investigation into the controversial Original Certificate of Title No. 1 to the Office of the Solicitor General following findings that several land titles issued to various entities have overlapped with that of the said mother title.

OCT No. 1 in the name of the Insular Government of the Philippines covers a prime and expansive lot that straddles Governor Pack, Harrison Road and the Government Center.

The title also covers lots now occupied by the Commission on Elections, University of the Cordilleras, Social Security System, Girl Scouts of the Philippines, Baguio City National High School, part of the University of the Philippines, the People’s Support and the forested area near the Baguio Convention Center which SM is eyeing for its condotel project.

In a resolution proposed by councilors Fred Bagbagen, Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Isabelo Cosalan Jr., the city council urged the OSG to also annul the extraneous titles if proven that these indeed overlapped with OCT No. 1.

In their measure, the proponents said it was found out that the titles issued to SM Baguio, the Government Service Insurance System, the heirs of Carantes and others have overlapped with OCT No. 1.

They said surveys have been conducted of the property by the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources and the city assessor’s office. During the department heads meeting Monday headed by Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., Register of Deeds Juanito Ampaguey issued a warning to the public against buying lots covered by titles that appear to overlap with OCT No. 1.

He said these titles may be valid as these were issued by legitimate agencies but these may be a cause of trouble eventually especially with the problematic situation of OCT No. 1. “Oct No. 1 is very controversial and we advise the buyers not to deal with people who sell these lots,” he said.

Tabanda during the meeting reported that prospective buyers of said lots came to her office inquiring on the legitimacy of the title. She said if the title holders succeed in selling the lots covered by said extraneous titles, then the city will face more serious problems eventually.

The OCT No. 1 problem has been the subject of an investigation by a city council committee headed by Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. The investigation was prompted by revelations made by Councilor Rocky Thomas Balisong in a privilege speech on the apparent indiscriminate titling and parceling of lots embraced by OCT No. 1.

The council the other week also asked for a formal survey of the lot to establish its metes and bounds to be conducted by the DENR in coordination with the City Government of Baguio, the Department of Public Works and Highways and with the presence of the representatives of SM Investment Corporation, University of the Cordilleras, Philippine Tourism Authority, Department of Education and all other parties with approved plans or titles within OCT No. 01.

According to the measure, a plan prepared by the assessor’s office and the DENR showed there are several survey work orders issued for the subdivision of some portions of OCT No. 01, some of which were already approved by the DENR.

The resolution also said that there are proclaimed areas for various public purposes as well as portions with individual original certificate of titles issued within OCT No. 01.

The resolution added that according to the Office of the City Assessor there exists 53 Tax Declarations on their record covering several subdivided lots within the said titled government property in the names of either government agencies or private entities who are either owners or beneficial users.


Search on for missing 12 La Union fishermen

By Thom Picana

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- Government authorities and volunteers are still conducting search and rescue operations for the remaining 12 missing fishermen from Agoo, La Union beefed up by two helicopters dispatched by the Philippine Navy dispatched Thursday to scour coastal areas of Ilocos Norte up to Zambales.

Before the Typhoon Frank hit northern Luzon, 23 fishermen from this province were reported fishing. Eleven fishermen were later found by rescuers Tuesday morning along the coast of the China Sea in Pilar, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur. Three were earlier rescued. Eugene Cabrera, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense, said the search mission “cannot yet relax until all lost fishermen are accounted for and safely home.”

Cabrera told local journalists the search has been widened to other coastal areas in northern luzon.

He said two naval ships, including speed boats, continue to patrol the coastal areas of Lingayen Gulf while a team was also sent to the seas of northern La Union.

Still missing were Lomer Garcia, Andy Domondon, Pepito Albay, Fernan Hugo, and Michael Garcia all residents of Barangay San Nicolas West, Agoo; Salvador Supsupin, Sixto Gualberto, Edwin Cachula, Boy Estacio, of Barangay Balwarte, Agoo; Bobby Ofiana, of Barangay San Isidro, Agoo and Amado Fangonilo, Roberto Eslao, both of San Juan, Agoo.

On June 24, rescuers spotted the 11 fishermen near the seashore clinging to the wreckage of their motorboats around 9:30 a.m.

Rescuers brought the rescued fishermen to Sta. Lucia Hospital for treatment. They were later flown by two helicopters to the La Union Medical Center in Agoo for further treatment.

The rescued fishermen were identified as Carlos Soriano, Macmac Celeste, Edmund Hugo, Benito Soriano, Rodel Bacalan, Julieto Sarmiento, Noel Rulloda, Jose Carrera, Vicente Ofiana, Roland Cadima and Carlos Ofiana. The provincial government of La Union asked all rescuers to widen their search for the missing fishermen.


Mine stops operations; Vizcayans urge GMA: Cancel explore permit

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya — Thousands of anti-mining advocates urged President Arroyo Thursday to revoke the exploration permit granted to a mining firm here.

This, as Australian owners of the national government-backed multibillion-peso Didipio mining project of OceanaGold Philippines in this province announced a self-imposed suspension of operations.

Didipio Project Manager Jake Foronda said suspension may last two to eight weeks for adjustments and place the pre-requisites in proper positions to prevent disruption of operations.

"Suspending the construction phase is one step backward for us to double check and do necessary reconditioning of our ‘vehicle’ to assure smooth sailing before we go back to the launching pad," Foronda told its employees. The anti-mining advocates, led by the Catholic Church, presented their stand to Gov. Luisa Cuaresma and members of the sangguniang panlalawigan during a rally Wednesday at the provincial capitol here.

"We firmly believe that the mining company had suspended its operation because it knew it has many lapses in its operation and is remiss in its obligation to the local government," a leader of the anti-mining group said. The impasse between the provincial government and the company came about when the latter refused to pay quarry fees.

It argued that its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA) with the national government exempted it from paying the fees. This prompted Gov. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma to issue a cease-and-desist order stopping the firm’s quarrying activities.

But this was countered by a return-to-work order issued by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Joselito Atienza. The impasse was aggravated by the filing by the company of charges for graft and corruption, grave coercion and abuse of authority with the Ombudsman against Cuaresma. OceanaGold Philippines said the move was to enable it to evaluate its position on issues that have affected its operation, which is now in the construction stage.

The unilateral stoppage, which started last week, was done upon the orders of the firm’s Australian-based parent company Oceana Gold Ltd., said to be the world’s second largest mining company.

An executive of the mining firm said "this (suspension of operations), in a way, will also show to the provincial government that we in the company are willing to work for a return to harmonious relations which we had before this problem broke out. We are doing this out of respect for the provincial government."

However, the executive clarified that the stoppage did not mean the firm is giving up its Didipio project. Sources on both sides said reason should prevail in the efforts to resolve the standoff between the provincial government and the mining firm in connection with the issue over quarrying fees and provincial taxes.

Foronda said suspension of major construction works does not have anything to do with the demand of the anti-mining advocates to stop the large-scale mining projects in the province.

"We are just like any other businesses allowed by the (national) government to operate. While majority welcomes us, some may hate us too, but this does not mean that we should close shop for as long as we abide the mining law and our FTAA contract with the government," Foronda said.

Except the workers involved in the construction activities, the regular administrative and corporate social responsibility (CSR) division will be kept to deliver regular services.

OceanaGold community partnership manager Arnel Arrojo said while construction division is idle, his team will take the opportunity to strengthen partnership sustainability in the mining village.

"Jamilla will be responsible for the development and management of OceanaGold’s community partnership and sustainable development initiatives in the Philippines and New Zealand business units of the company," Foronda said. -- CP


17,000 tourists visit Sagada

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province – Nearly 17,000 local tourists or 74 percent of total travelers, came here the last quarter of 2007 to May this year.

Municipal records 16,841 Filipino travelers visited this tourist town during the peak months of October last year to May 2008 of the total 22, 871 visitors the past 8 months.

Of the total visitors, 18, 876 tourists or 83% came from Asian countries including the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and China. Among Asian tourists, Filipino visitors were followed by 1,525 Koreans and 162 Japanese.

The rest of the 17% visitors came from the continents of Europe, America, and Australia. Most European travelers come from Germany, Austria, Czeck Republic, France, Italy, Denmark, United Kingdom, Spain, and Switzerland corresponding to at least 13% of the total visitors.

Four African travelers came from Namibia and Ethiopia.

Tourism is one major source of income especially among the residents of the Poblacion area where local business cater to meals, lodging, sale of souvenir items, and guiding tourists.

This, aside from transport and retail of goods.

Sagada is a popular tourist destination peaking its arrivals in the months of October to May. European tourists mostly from Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark along with some Americans had been the initial tourists during Sagada’s early tourism years in the late 1970s to the 80’s. Local tourists took their peak in the ‘90s to the present.

The pine-clad town offers refreshing sites for walks around the vicinity of the town. Its famous caves including Sumaguing Cave are favorite spots for spelunking aside from invigorating rice terraces of Kiltepan in nearby Antadao barangay, and cool Bomod-ok Falls in Bangaan to indulge in a dip after a leisurely one hour hike from the main town.

Former town councilor and tourism officer Jane Bawing estimated revenues collected from tourists adds to nearly half a million pesos for the whole year.

Tourists each pay P10 representing environmental fees used to maintain cleanliness and security of the tourist attractions including the caves and the vicinity of the town, aside from other community purposes.

The amount collected from tourists could also accommodate employment of a tourism officer to focus in tourism concerns, Bawing said. She said the municipal government could raise the environmental fee. The 10 per visiting tourist was then being collected by the Sagada Environmental Guides Association in the early ‘90s. The municipal government assumed collection last year.


Isabela mulls power plantrevival

ILAGAN, Isabela – The provincial government is considering reviving the plan of the Philippine National Oil Co. to put up a multimillion-peso coal-fired power plant in the province, amid increase in oil prices.

“The project was not actually stopped but only temporarily suspended. My stand is that we now need alternative sources of energy like this coal power plant,” said Vice Gov. Ramon Reyes, who presides over the provincial board.

Reyes said majority of provincial board members now favor resumption of exploration activities in Cauayan City and Naguilian and Benito Soliven towns for the coal-fired power plant.

The PNOC project was put on hold in 2006 after its major proponents backed out when they failed to obtain an environmental compliance certificate due to the residents’ opposition to it.

PNOC has resumed its information and education drive on the project in Cauayan, Naguilian and Benito Soliven.

Environmentalists, however, claimed coal-fired power plants contribute to global warming.

PNOC’s withdrawal in 2006 came in the wake of a series of Church and non-government organizations-led protest actions by thousands of residents in the affected areas.

The residents issued a petition opposing the PNOC plan, saying the proposed power plant would pollute the environment and pose hazards to their health and crops.

During the time, Gov. Grace Padaca lauded the PNOC’s decision to shelve the controversial project, saying, “Maybe this is not yet the right time for it.”

She said the project started “on the wrong footing” during the term of her predecessor, former governor Faustino Dy Jr., with Isabelinos feeling it was “being rammed down their throats without proper and sufficient consultation.”

When she became governor though, Padaca requested the PNOC “to go back to the people and perhaps start all over again explaining the issues to them.” -- CL


Isolated Benguet school recipient of needed ‘gift’

KIBUNGAN, Benguet – An isolated school here where there is no electricity received a much-needed “gift” last week courtesy of the of the Kindasan Lions Club of Baguio and the Benguet Electric Coop.

More than 100 students of the Kibungan National High School Dalipey Extension stand to benefit from a generator given to the school where teachers have to walk around 10 hours to the poblacion to do their regular reports and another 10 hours back to Barangay Dalipey.

Teaching is a sacrifice for the teachers who only leave the school as needed and go home at the end of the school year. Beneco raised more than P24,000 for the purchase of the generator – a longtime dream of the KNHS Dalipey, Tacadang barangay Extension teachers so their students could use the school’s only computer but in the past could not due to lack of electricity.

The locality is part of two percent of Benguet barangays Beneco has yet to energize due to steep and wild terrain.

“They want to teach their students basic computer to prepare them when they go to college in the city,” said Rose White of the KLC who spearheaded and coordinated the fundraising for the generator.

Around 20 to 30 students graduated yearly since the Dalipey extension started in 2003. The school serves nearby barangays of of Kibungan, as well as the neighboring town of Bakun , Benguet.

The terrain going to Dalipey from Kibungan’s poblacion is dangerous and virtually impossible to negotiate, the locals said, adding they do not allow anyone from going there without a guide due to the steep terrain. “One can only reach the area by walking a pathway and hiking 10-hours from the Poblacion and in case anyone falls on either side one won’t even see where to land,” said White.”

Kibungan is four hours away from Baguio traveling by land.

White, a scion of the Fianza family from Kapangan learned of the plight of the students early January this year when she went there to conduct a `career guidance’ session among graduating fourth year high school students. She represented one of the leading universities of Baguio.

“Director George Montes pledged P10,000 from his social fund as start-up money that gave me the courage to continue despite the initial hitch when the school I represented turned down my proposal.” she said.

The turn-over was a poignant moment for White when the KNHS principal sang Colin Raye’s song “The Gift” during a simple program at the KNHS main campus.

“The gift of electricity through the genset eased the teachers’ and students feeling of isolation,” White said.

To sustain the generator, Kibungan mayor Benito Siadto and chairperson for education of the local council Cecilio Fianza committed to provide the regular supply of gasoline to run the generator.


Incompetent police chiefs set for relief: Ilocos brass warned on rise in killings

By Mar T. Supn

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur -- Chief Supt. Romeo Hilomen, Region 1 police director, warned he will relieve provincial police directors and chiefs of police in the region if they fail to minimize the rising number of killings and shooting incidents.

Hilomen said the spate of killings and shootings the first six months of this year was alarming.

“In Ilocos Sur alone, the number of shooting incidents and killings from January to June, this year, based on reports, is quite alarming, and it should be addressed immediately,” he said.

A report submitted by Senior Supt. Virgilio Fabros, Ilocos Sur police director, to Hilomen showed that of the 49 shooting incidents and killings in the first six months, only four (8.16 percent) were solved by his command.

Hilomen, meanwhile, said he will let the axe fall on where it should, adding that some cops are virtually sleeping on the job. Hilomen said the goons and hired killers in Abra might have come to Ilocos Sur after they were driven away by the additional forces in the trouble-rocked province.

Based on Fabros’ report presented at the command conference last week, the shooting killing incidents were broken down as follows: January, 7; February, 15; March, 10; April, 6; May, 9; and June, 2.

But the apparent failure to prevent and solve the killings and shooting incidents in the province prompted Hilomen to warn police officers concerned of a possible relief.

"Sabi ko sa kanila na tatanggalin ko sila sa kanilang puwesto kung hindi nila kaya ang kanilang trabaho dahil masyasdo ng malaki ang bilang ng mga barilan at patayan sa kanilang lugar," Hilomen said.

This reporter tried to get the side of Fabros, a native of Nueva Ecija, but the police officer refused to answer media questions. Ilocos Norte, based on the reports, had 65 shooting incidents in the first six months, and only 16 (24.62 percent) were solved.


5 salvage victims surface Ecija

By George Trillo

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga – Five persons believed to be salvage victims were found in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan last week, police said. In his report here, Senior Supt. Napoleon Taas, Nueva Ecija provincial police director, said four male persons were found at the grassy lot in Barangay Sapang, Jaen, Nueva Ecija.

Taas said the victims were found by residents there and reported to police authorities last week.

The four victims described between 30 to 40 years old, wearing short and long pants and t-shirts.

All of them were hogtied with nylon rope with packaging tape on their eyes and mouth.

The victims bore gunshot wounds on their head and believed executed somewhere and later dumped there, said Taas.

The bodies were later identified by their relatives as Randy Valencia, taxi driver of Barangay Bagong Silang, Mar Tecson of Barangay Pollio and Jayson Reyes, of Barangay San Roque, all in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija and Efren Pimentel, tricycle driver of Barangay Imelda, Cabanatuan City.

The victims, according to police, were last seen at the residence of Victor Valencia.
Police also reported another unidentified body found along the road in Barangay Sto. Niño, Paombong, Bulacan on June 21.

The unidentified body was tied with plastic straw and wire in his neck with both hands and feet also tied.

The victim’s head was wrapped with packaging tape and has two gunshot wounds in the body.

Police said the victim might have been executed somewhere and dumped at the grassy lot to mislead the authorities.



CJH renters face big fines for failure to pay taxes
By Isagani S. Liporada

BAGUIO CITY – The city government is set to investigate establishments in Camp John Hay here who have failed to pay regulatory fees and secure business permits from the city.

This, after city legal officer Melchor Rabanes in a June 26 letter, requested the public order and safety division and the city treasurer’s Office for the probe saying “business proprietors must pay for the cost of regulation in exchange for a peaceful business environment secured for them by the city government.”

Abanes in the letter to POSD head Gregorio Deligero and treasurer Thelma Manois said, “The CLO intends to pursue prosecution of erring business establishments in line with the efforts of the city government to enforce compliance with Ordinance 2000-001 (the tax ordinance of the city).”

He said Ordinance 2000-001 stipulates, “proper enforcement of existing laws and ordinances, and the supervision of businesses in the city, it shall be unlawful for any person to engage in such business without first obtaining a business permit and paying the taxes, fees and other charges required.”

Quoting Sec. 178 of the same ordinance the CLO added, “Those who violate our tax ordinance shall be liable for fines amounting to P1,000 to P5,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months.”

“If the violation is committed by a corporation, the chairman, president, or manager shall be held liable,” Rabanes said. Earlier, Rabanes dispelled claims enterprises within CJHEZ are not required business permits from the Baguio government. In a legal opinion addressed to city treasurer Thelma Manaois dated June 12, he said,

“There are neither statutes nor case laws conferring the Bases Conversion Development Authority or John Hay Management Corporation police power to control, supervise and regulate businesses within CJHEZ.”

This, in reaction to a JHMC letter dated March 26, 2007 to Manaois wherein JHMC claimed businesses within the ecozone were excused from local government taxes. JHMC in the letter said “pursuant to Presidential Proclamation 1191, John Hay has been declared as a Special Tourism Economic Zone within the purview if Republic Act (RA) 7916 or the Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.”

“As an offshoot, a registration agreement was executed between the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and JHMC. The agreement provided that JHMC as developer-operator of the ecozone is authorized, among others, to administer, manage, and operate the ecozone.”

Rabanes however said JHMC should distinguish between the exercises of the power of taxation contra police power granted to LGUs via the Local Government Code. He said, “The police power exercised by a local government treats of its power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people.”

It is essentially regulatory in nature and the power to issue licenses or grant business permits, if exercised for a regulatory and not revenue-raising purpose, is within the ambit of this power relegated to the chief executive.

304 new plebes, 35 of them females admitted at PMA
FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – Three hundred four new plebes, 35 of them females, were officially taken in as members of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines here at the Philippine Military Academy last week. Composing PMA Class of 2012, the 304 out of 326 qualifiers who made it to the PMA on April became cadets in rites the Borromeo Field with AFP chief Gen. Alexander Yano as guest.

Air Force Capt. Dennis Solomon, PMA spokesman said the high success rate of 93 percent of plebes entering the PMA was due to implementation of reforms in its cadet training under the 10-year strategic plan.

The new cadets completed Summer Camp Training where they were taught fundamentals of cadetship, soldiery, military regulations and the “honor system” in the PMA.

This new batch of cadets would complete the CCAFP with 262 sophomores as third-class cadets, 247 juniors as second-class cadets and 189 seniors as first-class cadets.

Solomon said a parent-teacher association was established for the PMA Class 2012 with the parents of the incoming cadets interacting with PMA faculty.

The parents were reportedly briefed on the military and academic training, highlights of the Summer Camp Training, and an open forum to entertain parents’ queries.

OPEC tapped to fund P2 billion Cordillera program
BAGUIO CITY -- The government is tapping the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to help finance a P2.115-billion poverty alleviation program in the Cordilleras.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the Monetary Board has approved in principle a proposed loan from the OPEC Fund for International Development to partially finance the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project or CHARM 2. BSP deputy governor and officer-in-charge Armando Suratos told reporters in Manila that the program would be funded out of official development assistance from the OPEC Fund as well as from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Suratos said the government would borrow $10 million from the OPEC Fund and another $10 million from ADB, while the bulk, amounting to $27 million, would come from IFAD.

The entire project is estimated to cost an equivalent of P2.115 billion and would focus on increasing the farm income of upland families in Abra, Benguet and Mt. Province.
Suratos said the project is now on its second phase; it was initially implemented in 1997 and 2004.

Suratos said Phase 2 would continue the poverty alleviation aspect of the first phase by improving the livelihood of indigenous communities and institutionalizing their resource management and land ownership.

Suratos said the IFAD approved its funding for the program last February. For its part, the ADB is still processing the loan application before it is brought up to the Monetary Board for clearance.

Suratos said the OPEC loan will have a maturity period of 20 years, including a five-year grace period, and a three percent interest per annum.

Both the IFAD and ADB were involved in the first phase of CHARM but in the second phase, IFAD said the project would emphasize environmental concerns, better use of existing staff resources and strengthening of local government units.

The IFAD said the project aims to improve the disposable income of upland families, promote sustainable resource management, protect the environment and mitigate adverse effects of development, strengthen existing institutions, involve poor people in planning and implementation, and improve their access to formal and informal credit.

CHARM 2 will involve mobilizing communities and improving natural resource management, with focus on the poor villagers’ participation in community-based forest management.

The IFAD said the project will also fund the development of rural infrastructure, rehabilitation of existing roads to improve access to agricultural production areas, and the construction of communal irrigation and safe water supply systems.

Big Baguio establishments required to place waste bins
By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Owners of big establishments like shopping malls, hotels and restaurants here are now required to provide their own large garbage bins that would effect the segregation of wastes. The city council has approved on final reading Ordinance No. 52 series of 2008 and authored by Vice Mayor Daniel Fariñas.

This was meant to compliment the city’s waste segregation policy since these establishments are also considered as major waste generators.

“It has been observed that although there are business establishments that are now complying with the solid waste segregation process some have their solid wastes accumulated at their vicinities while awaiting the garbage trucks to pick them up.

This kind of situation is not only an eyesore but there arises a tendency that these segregated garbage may be scattered by stray animals,” the ordinance noted.

“If there were big garbage bins sufficient to accommodate the accumulated garbage of each of these establishments, this kind of situation can be prevented, including the infestation by insects such as flies, cockroaches, and other vermins aside from the diseases that may arise from such.”

As per the ordinance, “proprietors, owners, and/or managers of large business establishments such as, but not limited to, hotels, restaurants, malls and the like, are hereby mandated to provide big garbage bins sufficient to accommodate the volume of their segregated garbage collections.

Large business establishments would refer to “businesses not considered micro-, small and medium enterprise based on capitalization.

However, although the business establishment falls under such brackets according to capitalization, a business establishment may still be considered ‘large’ if the volume of their garbage would approximate the equivalent volume of segregated garbage by other businesses considered large as determined by the Solid Waste Management Office and/or the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO).

These establishments may include as schools, manufacturing plants and all other establishments with large volumes of segregated garbage. ‘Big’ garbage bins, meanwhile, would refer to containers that are “sizeable” or “must bear dimensions sufficient enough to accommodate the volume of segregated garbage and enough to hold such for the period before their next collection.”

Violators of this measure would be subject to the following penalties: written notice informing the establishment to comply for first offense; fine of P1,000 for the second offense; and P2,000 fine for third offense. A P500 fine would be meted for every succeeding violation.

Execs urge airline firms: Sked more Baguio flights
By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – The city council urged Philippine Airlines, Cebu Airlines and other airline companies to provide additional air transport services to the city. This, as the council reiterated to authorities its desire to allow continued operation of the Loakan airport here amid reports of plans to close the same to give way to the expansion of the Philippine Economic Zone.

The body earlier made Resolution No. 245 series of 2006 appealing to airline firms to consider the city in their route to further improve air transport services to the city and increase the city’s tourism industry.

“The Officer-in-Charge, Air Transportation Office, Baguio Airport, Baguio City, in her letter dated 29 April 2008 suggested that representations be made to request airline companies to come and service the City of Baguio like the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific that recently acquired smaller aircrafts like Bombargers and ATP to service smaller airports,” the resolution noted.

The council move was based on the recommendation of the council committee on public utilities, transportation and traffic legislation. Councilors said the airport should be maintained as it remains to be an important support system to the city’s tourism industry.

They said Resolution No. 157 last year expressed the residents’ “desire for the continued operation of the airport and to make known the opposition to any planned closure and/or conversion to an extension area of the Baguio City Economic Zone.”

Resolution authors Councilors Galo Weygan and Perlita Rondez said the problem on the safety of residents traversing the runway to get to their barangays could be addressed by constructing an alternate passageway for the people’s use.

The airport’s retention was supported by the Baguio Tourism Council which appealed to the city government and stakeholders to mount a campaign to stop the plan. The closure’s negative sociological, financial, cultural and environmental impacts should not be discounted, according to the body.

Resolution No. 157 series of 2007 cited numerous resolutions adopted in the past that support the continued operation of the airport. The council held a public hearing on the matter last year where many groups including the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio, Baguio-Benguet Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Baguio Association of Hotels and Inns and Baguio Conventions and Visitors Bureau bared opposition to the closure plan.

Permanent parking at auditorium proposed
By Julie G. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY- The city council last week referred to the appropriate committee the proposed ordinance of Councilor Perlita Chan-Rondez as to the parking fees being collected at the former dity auditorium and old city library, at Burnham Park.

The permanent rates were proposed after a six-month experimental pay parking at the said sites; based on ordinance no. 3, series of 2008.

Rondez said a status report from the City Environment and Parks Management Office showed the daily collection from the site, which would be potential income for the general funds and operation of the park.

The rates which to be made permanent: P40 for the first hour for tourist buses; and P10 for succeeding hours. Private tour vans, private pick-ups, private jeeps, cars and other similar capacity vehicles would pay parking fees of P20 for the first hour and P10 for the succeeding hours.

Motorcycles shall be charged P10 for the first hour and P5.00 for the next hours. A flat rate of P200 shall be charged for overnight parking, the proposed ordinance stated. The city treasury office is designated as the collection office, and could formulate additional guidelines with the approval and confirmation of the city council; Councilor Chan-Rondez said.

As in the earlier ordinance approved for the experiment the following rules also apply: overnight parking should be renewed for the next overnight parking schedule; trucks shall not be allowed to park; PUVs shall not be allowed to use the area for staging or terminal purposes; use of the park for vehicle repair shall not be allowed and there shall be no massive construction.

Parking fees collected “shall be deposited under the Burnham Park Parking Trust Fund and will solely be used to augment the operation and development of Burnham Park.”



Permit issued ‘flawed’: Bakun villagers oppose mine firm; seek meetings
By Dexter A. See

BAKUN, Benguet — Officials and residents of a mineral-rich village here renewed their opposition to mining activities, claiming that a permit issued to a mining company for exploration in their area was flawed.

Earlier, the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau granted an exploration permit to Royalco Philippines Inc. to conduct exploration activities at a 976-hectare area in Barangay Gambang in the next two years.

The purpose of the exploration was to determine if the area had sufficient ore deposits for viable mining operations.

However, the barangay officials said Royalco failed to secure an endorsement from the council of Barangay Gambang and the Bakun municipal council.

This was a requirement for "free and prior informed consent" of affected communities.

Although there existed an agreement between the company and tribal elders, barangay officials said customary decision-making process adhered to by the community was not followed as evidenced by the fact that the referendum held last December in connection with the exploration project was a failure.

Earlier, Cordillera MGB officials justified the issuance of the exploration permit to the company, saying it was only for 976 hectares instead of the 5,000 hectares which the company had applied for.

MGB said the company has secured the consent of the elders and the community for only 976 hectares.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples used the consent of the elders as basis for the issuance of a pre-condition certification to the company.

Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, companies wanting to exploit and utilize natural resources of a certain area must first secure “free and prior informed consent” of affected communities before they could commence operations.

Residents of Barangay Gambang said the NCIP certification was flawed. They requested the conduct of consultations so they could air their views on the effects of mining to the community and the environment.

The agreement between a few community elders and company officials was signed in Bangao, Buguias, which is outside Bakun.

This action deprived the community of the chance to clarify and to be informed of the provisions of the agreement, the residents said.

They said the signatories to the agreement were a "chosen few" and did not represent the majority of the residents in Gambang who have already manifested their vehement opposition to mining.

Benguet power coop chief disputes P280M loss; says it was ‘technical, non-cash’

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The management of the Benguet Electric Coop. disputed
reports the power firm is now facing bankruptcy due to its over P280-million losses the past four years, saying that the losses were technical and non-cash.

Gerardo P. Verzosa, Beneco general manager, said the cooperative has been incurring multi-million losses as evidenced by its annual financial statement the past several years, but losses didn’t result in bankruptcy as claimed by some groups.

He said these groups wanted to take over the power cooperative through its conversion into a stock cooperative.

He said the losses were not caused by operational inefficiency, but by depreciation of the value of its assets and facilities and provision of bad debts.

According to Versoza, the losses were non-cash items which could not be covered since the method used for the computation as directed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) does not provide for recovery of such losses.

Based on records, Beneco incurred net losses of P63.2 million in 2004, R78.8 million
in 2005, and R93.8 million in 2006.

In 2007, the electric cooperative suffered losses of P4.13 million but this has yet to be audited by a reputable accounting firm.

The electric cooperative’s losses caused by the depreciation of the value of its facilities: R78.8 million in 2004; and P101.5 million and P101.7 million in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

The losses incurred due to bad debts were P12.5 million in 2004; P1.7 million in 2005; and P1.5 million in 2006.

But Verzosa said that despite the red ink, the cooperative is still efficiently and effectively operating, and this was partly due to its ability to bring down its systems loss.

Since 1990, the cooperative’s systems loss had gone down from high 28 percent to 11.2 percent last year and in the first quarter of this year.

This is way below the tolerable limit of 14 percent as provided for the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

Verzosa said Beneco saved approximately P1.7 billion the past 17 years due to drastic reduction of its systems loss, and as a result, the power users have been enjoying the delivery of quality electric service.

The industry defines systems loss as the energy lost, either natural or manmade, as the electricity travels from the generation plant to households or industries.

Verzosa said the critics should be responsible enough in waging their all-out campaign to convince the more than 120,000 power users to approve their long overdue plan of converting the electric cooperative into a stock cooperative.

They should not be raising issues which are baseless, he added. – Dexter A. See

Benguet gov presses veggie, mine global competitiveness
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The provincial government is faced with pressing issues over the people’s major sources of livelihood – the vegetable and mining industries. Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, speaking at the "Kapihan sa Benguet" forum, said with the impact of the World Trade Organization which provides access to the global market, the province’s vegetable industry should now be globally competitive.

He said there is still a need to improve vegetable packaging and processing, utilizing the cold-chain facilities. Improved packaging and processing add value to the produce, he said. Sixty-five percent of the high-value, temperate crops produced nationwide comes from Benguet, Fongwan said.

Targetting the high-end markets for higher income, this strategy should benefit the farmers, he said. While it is true that there is lesser revenues generated from the vegetable industry, more people are benefitted, compared with the mining industry which generates more income, but benefits lesser number of people.

On the mining industry, Fongwan cited the need for the legalization of the operations of small-scale miners. He noted that many small-scale miners have been conducting mining operations, but they do not have mining rights. Fongwan said that the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) is working on a proclamation for a "Minahang Bayan" so that small-scale miners would be recognized as legal miners.

Engineer Octavius Mano of Environment and Natural Resources Office said that a group of small-scale miners in the province had filed a petition for the declaration of a "Minahang Bayan" which will be submitted to the central office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for clearance.

Mano said that to date, four small scale miners have been issued permits because they complied with requirements. But roughly, there are some 10,000 small-scale miners in many provinces, he said. Mano said his office, upon the directive of Governor Fongwan, is drafting an administrative order that would direct the conduct of inventory and profiling to determine the exact number of small-scale miners, including the equipment they use. The data will be needed for the possible legalization of their operations and for the protection of the environment. – Dexter A See



Former Ifugao rebels still dissatisfied with government programs
By March L. Fianza

LAGAWE, Ifugao -- For the sake of peace and development of Ifugao, 15 former comrades of the Communist movement in the Cordillera chose to make reforms as rebel returnees. But after leaving mountain strongholds and laying down arms in the late 80s, Mario “Ka Elias” Pugong was still dissatisfied with how government handled programs for rebel returnees.

Ifugao governor Teddy Baguilat Jr. said there were instances when Pugong felt frustrated about the programs. He quoted the former rebel saying “There are government dole-outs for rebel returnees but wala naman magandang nangyayari.”

The former rebel leader was a pioneer member of the first communist movement in the Cordillera based in Hapao, Hungduan, Ifugao. Pugong also served as councilor in his hometown of Hungduan after stepping out from the movement and putting down the gun.

He is now the president of the Concerned Citizens of Ifugao for Peace and Development which was recently organized together with former colleagues in the communist movement. In his discussions with the rebel returnees, Baguilat said they noticed how foreign funded peace and development projects were concentrated in Mindanao , “yet very little positive results come out of it.”

“Peace and order must also be sustained in the Cordillera, not only in Mindanao ,” the youthful Ifugao governor quoted Pugong. Apparently, their argument opened a door to an agreement with the United Nations Development Program through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Aside from coffee production, CCIPD is more focused on the distillation and fermentation of essential oils extracted from lemon grass.

The other members of CCIPD are Arsenio Humiding, then a.k.a Ka Rey; Pedro Ngittit and Dominga Nalliw of Lamut; Benedict Tangid, son of Sixto Tangid who was also a former comrade; and Noel Paynohan. Baguilat said it appeared that presidential adviser (Jesus) Dureza’s attention was caught by the argument raised by Pugong and his colleagues that is why he became supportive of the lemon grass project.

Through the OPAPP, the UNDP donated P150,000.00 for the fabrication of a distillation and fermentation machine. The rebel returnees have been planting lemon grass in commercial quantities in the farm of retired Ifugao provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, now CCIPD coordinator Fernando Bahatan in Gohang, Banawe. CCIPD has to increase lemon grass harvest in very large quantities to be able to extract more liters of essential oils.

Baguilat learned that one hectare of lemon grass harvest is required to produce just one liter of essential oil and has sought assistance from the Ifugao State College of Agriculture and Forestry in terms of research on how to increase oil production. Lemon grass which is citronella grass or cymbopogon is processed into varieties of oils used in making soap, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics by companies in Australia.

The extracted oils are also needed in antiseptics, disinfectants and mosquito repellants used in insect sprays produced in India , Malaysia and Indonesia . Locally, lemon grass is used for health drink such as tea, especially for those who have arthritis, Baguilat said. It is also an alternative livelihood from the woodcarving industry of Hapao in Hungduan.



10 outstanding Sadanga citizens honored in rites
By Angel Baybay

SADANGA, Mountain Province – This town honored its ten most outstanding citizens in a ceremony Wednesday witnessed by officials of local government units of the province and community people.

Leading the awardees were Sadanga natives who made names in the national scene for their exemplary performance in different fields.

Lawyer Joe Limmayog of the National Bureau of Investigation was cited for his contribution in the maintenance of public safety in the country. Now at the NBI central office in Manila, Limmayog rose from the ranks as investigator until he was promoted as regional director where he served the Cordillera region for some number of years.

Upon graduation from the Philippine College of Criminology, he joined the police force while studying law then joined the elite investigation agency after passing the bar.

Another lawyer, judge Robert Fangayen, was given commendation for his consistent and dedicated efforts as officer of the law leading to his appointment as judge of the Calasiao Municipal Trial Court. Fangayen earned his elementary education at Sadanga Central School then went to the Saint Paul’s School in Balbalasang, Kalinga for his secondary diploma. Not contented with a four year degree course from the Trinity College of Quezon City, he took up law at the Baguio Colleges Foundation. He practiced his profession while teaching at BCF before serving as legal officer of Baguio City.

Fangayen’s better half, the former Fatima Foy-os, was also awarded for her excellence in education. An alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas, she now heads the Saint Louis University college of nursing.

Provincial DILG director Rufina Fegcan was the unanimous choice in the field of local governance. A native of barangay Sacasacan, she braved all odds to finish her college education at the Saint Louis University. While stationed at the provincial DILG office in Bontoc, she continued her schooling obtaining a doctorate degree in Philosophy at the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College.

Couple Martin and Mary Apopot were selected awardees for the health sector. A medical doctor by profession, Martin works in an army hospital in the United States where they at present reside while his wife landed a job in a different hospital as a nurse. They were also commended for their financial support to poor but deserving college students.

The honors for initiating the sisterhood ties with Quezon City and conceptualizing the annual Fvegnash Festival was given to former mayor Gabino Ganggangan. Sisterhood ties opened many opportunities for people from both parties to learn and experience the unique culture of each government unit through exchange programs.
Her exemplary performance in the implementation of Early Child Care and Development programs led the judges to bestow to Cecilia Feyang the acclamation. A day care worker of Barangay Bekigan the past seven years, Feyang was cited for her unselfish service to the children by volunteering her time and effort in teaching the children in their most crucial formative years.

Former Saclit barangay chairman Ariston Aliga was equally given the honors for his commitment and support that contributed to the successful implementation of the Japan Social Development Fund – Social Inclusion Program benefiting many of the local residents.

They may not be natives of the municipality but Ha Hyun Yu and parish priest Marcial Lloyd Castañeda similarly bestowed citations. A Korean by nationality, Yu had been residing here for the last eight years as a missionary of a Pentecostal sect. Residents say he regularly conduct home visits giving material support to the needy. Castañeda on the other hand works as a parish priest to the catholic congregation. He was honored for his support to community programs aside from composing the lyrics of the municipal hymn.

The search for the outstanding citizens highlighted the activities of the annual Fvegnash Festival.



Bangued trike fare increased to P7.50

BANGUED, Abra — The Bangued municipal council passed recently Municipal Ordinance No. 6, Series of 2008, known as the "New Fare Matrix Ordinance of Bangued." The ordinance, authored by Councilor Danilo Adame, authorizes an increase in the minimum regular tricycle fares from P5.50 to P7.50 in the seven zones in the Bangued town proper.

Students and senior citizens get discounts and are charged P6. Mayor Dominic B. Valera immediately signed the municipal ordinance and marked it as "urgent" for the sangguniang panlalawigan to take immediate action.

The mayor had earlier explained the reasonableness of the fare hike, citing as reason the continuing increase in fuel oil prices which greatly affects the operation of the transport service sector. The riding public did not raise any opposition to the proposed fare hike



65 nuns, mountaineers conquer, reforest Aurora’s 7,000-ft high Mt Balagbag

SAN LUIS, Aurora – Sixty five nuns and mountaineers successfully scaled and reforested the peak of the 7,000-feet high Mt. Balagbag in Barangay Dimanayat in this town last week. The recent two-day historic climb atop Mt. Balagbag established two mountaineering records – the first documented successful climb and the first documented reforestation of the mountain which has also been christened Mt. England by local mountaineers.

Leonardo Usita, national president of the Noble Blue Falcons International said the twin feats were pulled off by mountaineers from the Aurora chapter of the NBFI led by its provincial chairman Christopher Usita.

Others who took part in the historic ascent were the Elite Red Falcons Climbers, Mandaragit International, the Aurora chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), The Blue Masons of Peace and Environment, The Life International Christian Fellowship; Bus, Jeepney, and Tricycle Operators and Drivers of the Philippines for the Peace and the Environment, Samahan ng mga Magsasaka, Mangingisda at Manggagawa ng Pilipinas para sa Kalikasan at Kapayapaan; The Blue Native Sons-Philippines; Tanglaw ng Karunungan Movement, Kalasag ng Kapayapaan Crusade; Bughaw, Krusada para sa Kapayapaan at Kalikasan; Aurora Sierra Madre Blue Mountaineers and Usita Advocates for Good Governance and Radyo Natin-FM (RN-FM), Hotel Sogo Mountaineers (HSM), Isuzu Gencars Backpackers (IGB) which were among the sponsoring organizations.

Usita said Mt. Balagbag has caught the fancy of thrill-seeking mountaineers for its abundant mineral deposits, tropical rainforest and spring water believed to cure incurable sicknesses.

NBFI administrator Marilyn Jacla said Mt. Balagbag poses a monumental challenge for the mountaineers due to its steep elevation, enormous height, slippery hills and the presence of deadly snakes along its path. “The presence of danger to life and limb lurking in one’s path makes the conquest an unforgettable experience and one successful climber, upon reaching the top, is constrained to exclaim I’m a legend,” she said excitedly.

Professor Joseph Beatriz Usita, an internationally acclaimed historian and geographer, said the historic climb was inspired by Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo who has been actively promoting environmental preservation and conservation as one of the cornerstones of her administration.

He said the feat has evolved into a climb-for-a-cause rather than an attempt at personal glory and prestige since reforestation was made an integral part of the activity through a tree-planting project dubbed “Akyat Kalikasan” wherein narra seedlings were planted at its slopes.

“The historic trek was like hitting two birds with one stone. It enhanced the skills of Filipino environmentalists and boosted environmental awareness and promoted Aurora’s potentials as a tourism mecca.

The climb was highlighted by the donation of one brand-new computer, printer and TV set by the Noble Blue Falcons Mountaineer to the Church-run Our Lady of Consolation Learning Center in this town which teaches environmental protection to its pupils. -- MG



P’sinan to use IRA for loan deal
By Jennelyn Mondejar

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The provincial board approved a resolution last week authorizing Gov. Amado Espino Jr. to enter into a seven-year term loan with the Land Bank of the Philippines using as collateral the P79,249,686 share of Pangasinan in the unreleased 2001 and 2004 Internal Revenue Allotment. In a session Monday June 23 here, the board members authorized Espino to represent the province to participate in the Monetization of IRA Collectibles for Local Empowerment Program (MIRACLE 2 Program), wherein Pangasinan has a collectible amount of more than P79 million.

The Land Bank has presented three schemes upon which the province may opt to collect its more than P79 million 2001 and 2004 IRA share.

Upon careful study of the Land Bank’s offer, the option to utilize the P79,249,686 as a collateral to a seven-year term loan is deemed to be most beneficial to the province.
Sixth district Board Member Alfonso Bince Jr. told local newsmen that compared to monetization which takes up to 2015 to fully receive the expected amount, they opted to resort to a loan where the province will receive the amount at one time.

He said they are not yet sure as to specific projects where the amount will be spent once the bank approves it.

But he said they trust the wisdom of Espino who shall negotiate with the bank and specifics will be known by the board members once they pass a supplemental budget where the amount shall be spent.

Due to the re-enactment of the General Appropriations Act for the years 2000 and 2003 in fiscal years 2001 and 2004 respectively, a total amount of P12,576,938,000 (the IRA differential) corresponding to the difference between the National Expenditure Program levels computed in accordance with the formula prescribed under the Local Government Code and the appropriations for IRA under the reenacted budgets for fiscal years 2001 and 2004 was not released.

The President issued Executive Order No. 723 (2008) authorizing the release of the IRA Differential on installment basis for a period of seven years commencing in fiscal year 2009 up to fiscal year 2015 or avail in advance of their respective shares in the IRA Differential through a monetization program.

Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank jointly established in 2006 the Miracle Program to implement the benefits intended under EO No. 494 series of 2006, and intend to continue the said program for 2008 in connection with the IRA Differential for the fiscal years 2001 and 2004 pursuant to EO 723.



Korean firm disqualified from bidding on Mimosa
By George Trillo

CLARK FREEPORT Pampanga -- The board of directors of the Clark Development Corp. disqualified “with finality” a Korean consortium from participating in the privatization of the 215-hectare Mimosa Leisure Estate in this former US military facility.

This developed as the CDC board approved the action of the special committee for Mimosa privatization (SCMP) which declared the bid of Hanwool I&D Corp., the Korean consortium, as ineligible due to "premature and lacking imprimatur of the board."

"We cannot favorably act on your (Hanwools) request for the approval or disapproval of the MCMP resolution in the MR (motion for reconsideration) filed," stated CDC board chairman Rizalino Navarro in a letter sent to lawyer Alberto Habitan, legal counsel of Hanwool, one of the two qualified bidders in the recent bidding of the Mimosa Leisure Estate at Clark.

Navarro stated that the CDC board had approved the Terms of Reference (TOR) which includes the delegation to evaluate bid documents to the SCMP.

"As previously emphasized, the CDC board has approved the TOR (terms of reference), which granted the SCMP the imprimatur to decide on the MR (motion for reconsideration) filed by your client," Navarro further stated in his letter.

Hanwool failed to submit a required vital document (bid security of P25 million), and so SCMP under the prescribed nondiscretionary action process of pass or fail criteria had to declare Hanwool ineligible.

A non-refundable bid security is a guarantee that the bidder will not default in its offer which must be submitted in a sealed envelop with the bid documents operative on the date of bid opening and payable to the procuring entity.


Bishop opposes plan to use nuke power

By Jennelyn Mondejar

DAGUPAN CITY -- Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz has opposed the plan of the government to tap nuclear power for future energy use, saying it is unsafe. "If the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was found to be unsafe before considering in particular its construction on a land with fault lines, what makes it safe now taking into account that the power plant has been mothballed for decades?" Cruz asked in a statement posted at his weblog (

The bishop also asked the authorities where it plans to throw nuclear waste once it
reopens the nuclear power plant in Morong, Bataan response to the ever increasing prices of oil.

"Where on Earth will the administration have the nuclear waste thrown, disposed, buried, or whatever? It appears that all countries having nuclear waste, consider their disposal a big and deep dark national secret," said Cruz



Candon picked ‘best performing’ Ilocos LGU
By Mar T. Supnad

CANDON CITY, Ilocos Sur — This component city was adjudged Best Performing Local Government Unit (city level) in the Ilocos Region. Mayor Allen G. Singson said the honor came as a result of combined efforts of city officials, heads of departments, employees and workers of attached national government agencies.

The mayor said the cooperation of the people of Candon also played a key role in the efforts to make the city government an efficient and effective LGU.

The award was given during the Regional Development Council meeting held recently in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur.

The eldest son of Rep. Eric D. Singson,(2nd district), Mayor Singson said the award was a reflection of the harmonious relationship among city officials, the city employees, and residents.

Vice Mayor Nestor Itchon said the legislative branch had always been very supportive of all city’s programs and projects.

"We share the same objectives and visions with the executive department as far as the delivery of services to our people is concerned, that is why we had excellent performance," Itchon said.

"I was expecting it because the city met all the requirements," said Victoria Ramos, the city’s local government operations officer.

The Region 1 RDC, in Excom Resolution No. 46, series of 2007, approved on Dec. 20 last year a proposal for the conduct of RDC-DILG Performance Awards.

It recommended two categories, the "Best Performing LGU," and the "Best Practices in the Ilocos."

The RDC said that the award aims to encourage LGUs to adopt good practices in the implementations of programs.

The Best Performing LGU was evaluated on five areas. These are a) governance, 20 percent; b) administration, 35 percent; c)social services, 25 percent; d) economic development, 10 percent; and e) environmental management, 10 percent.

The selection process was led and coordinated by the committee on development and ddministration. The regional selection team was composed of the Region 1 offices of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Budget and Management, and Civil Service Commission-1.

Ramos said that the DILG is the lead agency because in the evaluation process, it is using the Local Governance Performance Management System (LGPMS) system. Meanwhile, Singson said that the city expressed the hope that city would reap similar awards in the future, noting the smooth rapport in the governance affairs of the city.

"This recognition is being shared with everybody because this is something we aspire for," Singson said.



Probe needed on involvement of DENR officials on illegal titling of watersheds

It is high time officials of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources among other officials involved in the illegal issuance of individual land titles and approval of surveys on watershed areas of Mountain Province like Mt. Data should be investigated. But the investigation should be done by a multi-sectoral body to erase suspicions that if it would only be the DENR doing the probe, there would be a whitewash.

The provincial peace and order council also earlier requested a congressional investigation on the issue with provincial officials saying they were willing to go to Manila to have an audience with DENR secretary Lito Atienza who could initiate the probe. But then again, House and Senate investigations have been touted “in aid of legislation cum grandstanding,” Dalog has called on provincial DENR chief Peter Osbucan and Cordillera regional director Samuel Peñafiel to schedule the meeting but to date the two officials have reportedly not given a time schedule.

Dalog had instructed his staff to look into the problem particularly basis of issuance of land titles considering that 82 percent (166 hectares out of 201 hectares} of surveyed lots are outside the alienable and disposable area. Penafiel was quoted as saying his office was also investigating the issue and that he would “urge the Solicitor General to file a class suit should we find it illegal.

This is all what we could do for now because unless the titles issued are revoked, the recipients remain to be the owners of the land.” The alleged illegal titling of lots near the Mount Data watershed came to fore when residents of Barangay Dacudac in Tadian, on August 5, 2004, planted trees on an area they claimed as part of the community’s watershed only to be sued for illegal entry and damage to property by a certain Delson Palid.

In one of the court hearings, Palid produced a title to prove ownership over the land and dispute the claim of Dacudac residents that the area was communal property. A year after the incident, provincial government employees assigned to guard the Mount Data Hotel were also charged for theft by some gardeners when they captured rolls of plastic water hose tapped in one of the creeks which supplies water to nearby communities. The provincial government offered to build a water reservoir to supply gardeners and community people but was refused by the vegetable farmers.

This remedial measure was suggested by the provincial health office to avoid water pollution partly caused by people who frequent the area to tap and fix their water hoses. The uncooperative stance of some parties to possible solutions that benefit gardeners and nearby communities prompted Tadian officials to ask the help of the PPOC which made a resolution requesting secretary Atienza to revoke the land titles and the survey of lots outside the alienable and disposable section.

A copy of the completed survey and list of land claimants furnished to the office of the governor said some titled lots were timberlands and mossy forests with only small patches being utilized as vegetable farms.

Added to these, the municipality of Mankayan, Benguet has laid claim on at least 69 lots with a total area of more or less 532,128 square meters as manifested on the list despite the question of whether the area was part of Tadian or Mankayan. An investigation on all these by a multi-sectoral group should settle the issues involved wherein guilty parties should be held to account for their misdeeds.



‘Murdering’ a dog

BUGUIAS, Benguet – It may take awhile for Cordillerans to eat kimchi instead of dog meat as proposed by the country’s representative of the Network for Animals. By that time anyway, there would be more Koreans in the Cordillera than the locals who have migrated elsewhere. Mel Alipio of the NAP, during a seminar on “kimchi” production in this town said Cordillerans have to be taught to eat more vegetables than dog meat.

Together with Oscar and Lili Oh, visiting Korean educators, the NAP conducted a kimchi production seminar, the first of kimchi production workshops. “We have started with the Rural Improvement Club of Buguias. In the future, we will also train club members in Benguet towns, then the rest of the region,” Alipio was quoted as saying. Kimchi is a local delicacy in Korea consisting of pickled vegetables.
He said Cordillerans should eat more local vegetables (womboc), raddish, pepino) as part of their regular diet, aside from meat. Eating dog meat, NPA members said, is “unhealthy” while killing of dogs is cruel. The NAP, a non-government organization is against cruel treatment of animals. The NAP claims it is an organization that has spearheaded the anti-dog meat eating campaign in the Philippines, particularly in the region barking at the cruelty of people to animals.

“We must look into the health aspects of eating dog meat,” Alipio said. “We have so many vegetables in the Cordillera. What we are trying to introduce is eating of processed vegetables instead of eating dog meat, which is healthier.”
The Cordillera region is considered one of the places in the country where dog meat is a delicacy, aside from its value in customary and indigenous practices. Dogs are usually used in Cordillera rituals, customary practices and sacrifices. It is also considered a delicacy in northern Philippines among the Ilocanos, Ibanags and the Igorots the latter of whom some confused lowland people still call nitib like they are not natives too. It is an undisputed fact that eating vegetables is better than eating meat. But to impose on people (particularly Cordillerans) not to eat dog meat because doing so is being cruel, I believe, is going a little bit too much.
Dogs are considered best friends of men, even better friends than people. But then again, there are pets and there are non-pets. I for a fact wouldn’t have the stomach to kill my dog and feed it to my friends as pulutan. So even if my dog sometimes scatters the garbage and I get murderous feelings, I wouldn’t do anything to harm it. You see the number of clothes stolen from the house clothes line stopped ever since we tied the German dog mestizo near the gate where its menacing stare could frighten the most dangerous nincompoop around.

I like my dog, but I can also eat dog meat. Although I only do it every three to four months in any of a friend’s family’s string of restaurants specializing in the gustatory delight. For me to eat dog meat everyday would be boring. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be branded an ancient Jurassic mammal for doing so. ***
I also wouldn’t want to smell like a dog. If you smelled a koboy who had a drink too many of San Miguel gin, ate a lot of dog pulutan, didn’t take a bath in years and wears his trusty old leather jacket everyday, I guess you have an idea of what I mean.

Since the NAP is against cruelty to animals, maybe they should study their advocacy. Would killing a chicken ala pinikpikan (killing the chicken slowly by beating it black and blue like the Igorots do and later burning its feathers over an open flame) constitute cruelty? It is disputable if killing a chicken this way is a sacred cultural rite. But then again, most tribal norms and traditions have been corrupted for the sake of commerce and tourism not only in the Cordillera but worldwide. So let us leave this to be talked about by the academicians in their ivory towers.
How about killing other animals like cows, carabaos or pigs for food? Would this be cruelty? If we don’t kill animals, there may come a time there would be more of them than people on this blighted earth. I maybe gone by that time and I wouldn’t care if they mingle with some of the most hypocritical and corrupt human mammals I know.

Anyhow, should also start as part of its advocacy the banning of fierce dog fights in western countries like England. This Banana Republic’s cock fights are nothing as compared to western dog fights where the primal instincts of the “civilized” gentiles erupt in ecstasy like sexual climax every time they see a dog mangled with its body being torn to sheds by its opponent.

And oh, how about those seasons when western governments allow people to hunt deer or other animals for a certain period of time like in Canada? You see, I dread now going fishing at the China Sea in Bauang, La Union particularly when a NAP member is around lest I be branded a murderer – of a fish.



The Saga of Joc-Joc Bolante

Seven years ago, Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante never had it so good. He was on top of the world. In my article, "The Joc-Joc Affair is No Joking Matter" (July 28, 2006), I wrote: "He was appointed as Agriculture Undersecretary for Finance and Administration by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001, shortly after she assumed the presidency from deposed president Joseph Estrada.

'Joc-Joc' was 'right' for the job with his impeccable credentials which included membership and various leadership roles in the Rotary International, the prestigious service organization whose motto is 'Service Above Self.' Up to that point in his life, Bolante appears to have done everything right and maintained an unblemished business and professional reputation."

Four years later, in sudden turn of events, his world turned upside down. As Agriculture Undersecretary, Bolante had administrative and "discretionary" authority over the multi-billion peso fertilizer funds. In June 2004 -- following the controversial 2004 re-election of President Arroyo -- former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez filed plunder cases against President Arroyo and several Department of Agriculture officials including Bolante for alleged misuse of the fertilizer funds.

In 2005, the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) initiated a series of joint public hearings to investigate the alleged fertilizer scam. Consequently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism conducted its own investigation and discovered that a large portion of the P728-million fertilizer funds was released to fictitious -- or "ghost" -- foundations.

In December of 2005, the Senate joint committees chaired by Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. issued a report which concluded that the fertilizer funds intended for farmers were diverted by Undersecretary Bolante for the 2004 electoral campaign of President Arroyo. According to the report, collaborative testimonies from Agriculture officials, 13 farmer groups, Commission on Audit officials, the Budget Secretary, and alleged "runners" of Bolante indicated that the "farmers did not get a single farm input or implement" in 2004.

Soon after the report came out, Bolante disappeared and became a fugitive from justice after failing to appear before the Senate joint committees. Senator Magsaysay said that Bolante was subpoenaed four times but his whereabouts were unknown. On July 7, 2006, Bolante was arrested after he tried to enter the United States with a cancelled visa.

Unknown to Bolante, Sen. Magsaysay had previously requested the US Embassy in Manila to cancel his visa. However, instead of refusing him entry into the US, he was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the Department of Homeland Security. To avoid deportation, Bolante sought political asylum claiming that he would be persecuted if he returned to the Philippines. On June 25, 2007, an Immigration Judge denied his application for asylum and was ordered deported.

Bolante did not waste any time in filing an appeal with the Federal Court of Appeals. His lawyers made their oral arguments before the court last February 11, 2008. The court is expected to make its decision by July.

Meanwhile, he is detained at the Kenosha Detention Center in Wisconsin where he is treated like a common criminal. Should the Court of Appeals uphold the lower court's decision, Bolante can still exercise his rights to appeal his case before the U.S. Supreme Court. If he succeeds with his appeal, he would then become a permanent resident.

Recently, a leader in the Filipino-American community in the Midwest notified me of a rumor that has been going around.

Accordingly, Bolante is pleading poverty and is also trying to be moved out of detention for health reasons, claiming that he is ill. The Fil-Am leader said that they are opposing his release and a letter-writing campaign was started to make the proper authorities aware of what he has done.

Indeed, the "Fertilizer Scam," of which he was named in the Senate report as the "master architect of the scam," has recently been mentioned as one of the reasons for the poor production of rice; thus forcing the Philippine government to increase its importation of rice. Today, the Philippines is the top importer of rice.

According to the testimony of Chavez, the fertilizer funds were disbursed as follows: 25% to Bolante; 30% to a group of 26 mayors, 49 governors and 103 congressmen; 20% to the supplier of farm inputs; and 25% for Bolante's "runners." The biggest chunk for one individual -- a whopping P182 million -- went to Bolante.

With Bolante's deportation almost a certainty, his homecoming could jolt the political landscape and destabilize the Arroyo government. It is anticipated that the Senate would reopen the "Fertilizer Scam" investigation and summon Bolante to give his belated testimony. With nowhere to go, Bolante wouldn't have too many options. The question is: Is he going to sing like a canary and implicate government officials including those in Malacanang? If he would, it could be the mother of all scandals. -- (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)



Manong Paul Dampac

BAGUIO CITY -- In this season of wakes and funerals, our lawyers counted theirs, and then saw the wisdom to petition the Supreme Judge for a restraining order, this time through the indigenous process.

The media here also find solace in the native ritual whenever a member writes “30” or goes off the air for good. They plant a memorial tree, adding it to a secluded, growing patch of older ones for those who had gone earlier. Planting a living memorial tree approximates what Canadian writer May Sarton described as a “sacrament of the ordinary,” a simple, manual act that turns sacred for it helps us cope with loss.

Humor also helps fill the gnawing void and emptiness that hit whenever the news is found on the obituary page of the Baguio Midland Courier. Humor, morbid it may seem, has been making the rounds among lawyers trying to equate the letters of the alphabet to the names of peers who have just rested their cases on this mortal plane.

Former Gold Ore editor Peppot Ilagan had that gift of wit – and the tact and timing in dishing it out. Friends who came by his hospital bed to lighten him up ended up needing a stitch on the seams. He made them forget he was about to kick the bucket. The late Peppot also conceptualized the “living tree memorial”. The tradition lives on, even if some of the younger journalists now who hardly knew him seem not to see its substance

“Peppot was not late, he was early,”said retired assistant provincial fiscal Paul Dampac, correcting what I wrote. He knew Peppot and it was difficult to argue with Manong Paul. For quite sometime, he’ll remind those whose lives he touched of a truism novelist Richard Paul Evans observed: “Those with softest hearts sometimes build the hardest shells.”

I thank Manong Paul, not really for the word usage, but the compliment subtly delivered. Despite my spotty grammar and syntax, sentences and ideas that ricochet and leap-frog aimlessly from one point to another, he tried to read this corner.

“Maka-konpyus nga talaga ti Inglis,” I admitted. We were taught that “leap” is a verb and “frog” is a noun, but why is it “leap-frogging,” not “frog-leaping”? “Please do something for me,” Manong Paul said, brushing aside my analogy. We were then waiting for the Guisad boys to cook kapitan Ferdy Bayasen’s pig at the Dap-ay Pucay at the side of Guisad Central’s barangay hall.

That was sometime last year, when the barangay decided to celebrate its winning top honors in the city’s search for the best vegetable salad garden. Like leap-frogging, it was a misnomer, an event in irony. It was all meat and no salad.

“Can you write my obituary?,” Manong Paul, the retired prosecutor, asked. He saw me almost cringe and followed it up with dispatch. “Why should an obituary be written only after the subject is no longer around to read or hear it?,” he wondered. “I want to read mine and correct your errors.”

Questions crept up my brain marinated by alcohol: And what would you do if you’ve corrected it? Drop into the bucket and leave the Guisad, Pinsao, Sagada and other boys – and girls – in the cold, with no one to turn to about their problems? You want Apo Padi (Francis) Daoey , Apo Padi Marion Solang and Lakay Nelson (Batnag) to preside over this dap-ay without you?

I turned quiet and then turned to the boys of the dap-ay. Told them that time a typhoon cut-off Middle East-bound driver-mechanic John Linmayog from his plane schedule. When Manong Paul learned, he whipped out a $50 bill and told me to find John. It’s for his failure-to-board fine, he said.

I was told Manong Paul was in Sagada one time during an alumni reunion at St. Mary’s Like their professor William Henry Scott, he saw them coming up in their expensive cars. “Everybody’s showing up,” Scott was overheard as saying. Piskal Paul saw them coming from a distance, in a sari-sari store, in the company of alumni who failed to acquire materially. They, too, were celebrating their homecoming with gin and two dogs he had offered.

He learned I was bound for an environmental conference and called. Find a bottle and come after Sunday mass at Easter School, he said. We repaired to kapitan Ferdy’s where they emptied my whisky bottle and feasted on the host’s poultry and salted pork. The fiscal shoved $240 into my pocket and told me board of directors of the Benguet Electric Cooperative, of which he was then the president, had approved my request for fare support.

I learned more about Piskal from couple Edwin and Mia Abeya while they were guiding me to Virginia for a glimpse at John Denver’s Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge mountains. “So you know him, too,” Mia said, recalling how Piskal Paul took pains to be in Bontoc for the wake of her mother.

Paul Dampac would say his piece about the kindness of others but seldom or never talked of his own. Again, he fits into what Evans said: The greatest acts are done without plaque, audience or ceremony.

To many, he was right. He, too, left early, at 68, last Sunday morning, while he ready to go to mass at Easter School. I hardly knew him, except perhaps to understand why he shared me that quote he attributed to Gen. Douglas McArthur: “For the deepening shadows of life cast doubt on my ability to say again, I shall return.” (e-mail: for comments).



Firing squad for early campaigns thru pol ads

It is very, very obvious! The posters in plain sight and expensive television ads being supported by past, present and future politicians are “premature promotions.” The styles differ although the objectives are all the same, that is, to be popular and be remembered easily by the voting public, at least, until election time in 2010.

The culprit here, according to politicians who can not afford to spend for untimely or extra TV ads and posters is the fact that the election code is silent about premature campaigning. Even private election lawyers and the Comelec admit so. According to them, endorsing commercial products, government projects and other advocacies do not violate any part of the election code.

The latest politician to speak against ‘premature campaigning’ was Senator Jovito Salonga who said the act is “unethical.” He said the acts violate the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials. But that is debatable, said Senator Ping Lacson, who claimed that politician endorsers of commercial products were picked by the owner of the commodity and are paid for doing so.

“What is unethical is when the people’s money is spent to promote one’s self in the guise of promoting a government program,” Lacson said. The former police chief must have been referring to tourism secretary Ace Durano who is talking of something I really can not get.

Or, Lacson may have been referring to MMDA boss Bayani Fernando whose Mao Zedong-like photos are conspicuously plastered on Metro Manila street walls. Certainly, the advocacy becomes second priority when it is accompanied by a well-taken photograph of the endorser. What is the reason behind a face that is more eye-catching than the advocacy or product being endorsed?

In one MMDA-MIAA advertisement about a nationwide design contest for the NAIA terminal 3 landmark rotundas, Fernando’s photo appears. The striking B&W photo has no connection at all to the announcement, except that Fernando heads the MMDA that placed the ad.

Of course, the reading public can safely conclude that people’s money through the MMDA or MIAA was spent for the ad. But please forgive me for not knowing why Fernando’s photo was deliberately inserted there. I sense that maybe he wants to head MIAA or that he is running for barangay chairman in the next election… ahem.

In the case of tourism czar Durano, the ad goes: “kung maraming turismo, maraming trabaho.” For what is the ad for? It seems to have no point at all as he is talking about something that the public already knows. For me, it is an expensive ad of a plain and simple statement that was paid with people’s money.

Listening to the ad over and over again does not convince me that he is promoting tourism. Most of all, it helps promote Durano’s popularity. Because of his appearance, the advocacy became less effective as my attention was diverted to Durano.

It could have been better if an unsuspecting farmer, fisherman, market vendor or jeepney driver did the commercial. Ano say mo? Another TV commercial that was paid for by the government was the one that shows Noli de Castro on low-cost housing program of PAG-IBIG.

The other political personalities in advertising are Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Manny Villar, Mar Roxas, Pia Caetano, Vilma Santos. Most of them appear in private commercial ads except for Villar and Legarda. He talks about the plight of OFWs while she talks about protecting the environment.

Of course, the ads of Villar and Legarda are not endorsing home products. And neither did the two receive money for the advocacy ads. Maybe they spent their own money for the ads or someone donated the payment.

What is more certain is that while the advocacies are good, the manner by which these were done was in bad taste. The main idea for the ads is political promotion, just like the ads of Durano, Fernando and de Castro. All of these ads may not be violating any law but the manner of presenting them makes it bad.

In Baguio and Benguet, politicians also have their way of promoting themselves through ads. Board members Nazarro and Malaya separately own schools that they promote in wall calendars, especially during an election year. We can not blame them for doing so because they have to promote their own schools.

What is unique in their wall calendars is that no school picture appears – only their faces. Also, their calendars are distributed for free, and surprisingly, only within the districts where they are candidates. Maybe they do not want enrollees from other districts… hehehe. In Baguio , then congressman Vergara advertised his name by plastering the letter “V” on the posts of the overpasses built by his countrywide development fund. He said the prominent “V” stood for “vision.” But when he ran for re-election as mayor, he lost to former RTC Judge Raul Yaranon. Maybe the voting public thought that his opponent had far better visions for Baguio than him.

My American friend Conrad Marzan solved the problem by interfering in Philippine politics. He said, to avoid lengthy debates on whether a law was violated or not, what we need is a more explicit election law.

He said the law must say: “Past, present and future politicians, other appointed government officials are disallowed from appearing in any form of commercial advertisement, private and government advocacies in print media or TV and radio programs at anytime.”

“No other campaign material shall appear in public except that prepared and posted by the Comelec.” Conrad’s law further states: “Penalty for violations will be death by firing squad.” I wish I could live longer until that time when the law is made. By then, we will surely have honest, orderly, peaceful and very clean elections. –


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