Istambay sa Mindanao

Personal blog of MindaNews' Walter I. Balane. Visit for more news, views and information on Mindanao.

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Location: Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Mindanao, Philippines

I'm Walter Balane. I am a journalist based in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. I initiated the group called Atong Press ( for press freedom and responsibility and media education in Bukidnon.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

[NEWS] Indigenous peoples to gov’t: Don’t include us in Bangsamoro homeland

(What went wrong with the distribution of ancestral domain titles? Is the issue only about ancestral domain distribution? Why did the IP groups raise this only now? These questions remained unanswered.But hail to the IP communities for coming up with a "unified position" on this.I hope this move will not be a divisive act that could deter peace in Mindanao.)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/30 July) – The government should grant indigenous
peoples their ancestral domains instead of including them in the
Bangsamoro homeland, Datu Migketay Saway, secretary general of Panagtagbo Mindanao told MindaNews Sunday.

“We also want peace in Mindanao, but the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and third parties to the Mindanao peace process should be reminded that respective homelands have already been identified before by traditional peace agreements between Moro and non-Moro indigenous peoples in Mindanao,” Saway said

"There is a need for the parties talking about ancestral domain in the GRP–MILF peace process to go back and respect those agreements," he said.

He said they are confident that the Bangsamoro and the non-Moro indigenous peoples in Mindanao can live together peacefully once they reaffirm past agreements on territories.

Panagtagbo convened the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples' Summit in Sungko, Lantapan, Bukidnon on July 22-24, during which the lumad came up with a position paper opposing the inclusion of their territories in the Bangsamoro homeland.

Saway said the position paper, signed by 107 leaders of indigenous peoples, serves as a "reminder" to the parties of their "unified position" so that they could consider it in the final peace agreement.

Datu Al Saliling, the lumad's representative to the government panel's technical working group, said in an interview by MindaNews Saturday that the signatories represented 18 tribes and eight sub-tribes in Mindanao.

The position paper asked the parties in the peace talks to give attention and consider their "unified position" in order to truly achieve lasting peace and development in the island of Mindanao.

Saway said Mindanao's indigenous peoples issued a similar position paper in 2004 but that it was not given enough attention.

He urged the government to focus on fully implementing the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 by granting them their ancestral domains.

Saway, however, said that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples requires ancestral domain claimants to submit to a “burdensome” process which has crippled their claims.

Among the requirements are perimeter survey, documentation of genealogy and history, and gathering and validation of anthropological data.

"It has become too costly for us. It will take us beyond life to accomplish this," Saway said.

He also asked the government to look into the plight of the indigenous peoples who do not even get a share of the wealth from the use of resources within their ancestral lands. (Walter I. Balane/ MindaNews)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

[NEWS] Mindanao traders invited to Hawaii expo

(Six takers so far, and more are coming from Mindanao, according to organizers. Isn't this a good sign for business in Mindanao? Give peace a chance!)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/29 July) -- Showcase Mindanao in Hawaii.

The Philippines-USA Business Club (PUBC) and the Filipino Chamber of Commerce in Hawaii (FCCH) have invited Mindanao’s business sector to participate in the Philippine International Trade Exposition and Business Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 12 to 16.

Ramon Escueta, PUBC chair, told MindaNews Thursday that they came over to meet with the business sector in Mindanao and invite them to the event organized as culmination of the centennial celebration of the arrival of the first Filipino migrants in Hawaii.

"We believe that the PhilTrade Expo and Business Summit will provide you with many benefits and a great opportunity to promote your products or services, expand your markets, and meet potential buyers from the United States during trade days," the invitation read.

Expo organizers went to the Ilocos region before coming to Mindanao. They will also invite exhibitors in Cebu and Manila.

As exhibitor, the Mindanao business sector could also promote and sell products there.

Escueta said they met with the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry and leaders of the chambers of commerce and industry around Mindanao, the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Mindanao and leaders of industries like the furniture association, on July 25 and 26.

The organizers expect to have around 200 booths of domestic and Philippine exhibitors as well as buyers and professionals. The summit will also feature workshops and seminars on how to export and import to and from the United States, he said.

Participation in the expo is a vital step towards firming up mutual ties with the Hawaii business community through trade and commerce, Senator Manuel Roxas said in a statement attached to the invitation.

Vergel Adonis, who co-chairs the expo organizing committee, said six exhibitors from Mindanao have already signed a contract with them. He did not name the groups but said they were into furniture and fruit distribution.

"But the expo is open to all types of trade exhibitors," Adonis said. He said interested exhibitors could visit the expo's official website at for more information. Hawaii could be a good market for Davao's exotic fruits, Adonis said. Prospective buyers in Hawaii could market products from Mindanao and eventually invest in it, he said. The Philippines exports around $20 million of goods per year to Hawaii. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Friday, July 28, 2006

[NEWS] USEP yet to probe student's death, ready to face charges

(I'm sure this is not only an eye opener but also a test case for administrators of state colleges and universities. How good are schools in balancing the act between campus freedom and regulation. They'll have to juggle between this two ideals. Honestly, it isn't pleasant to see university officials being "grilled" with questions and cynicism by the public. I for one did not want, if only it wasn't my job, to ask Dr. Julieta Ortiz any question during the press conference. If I am not a journalist, I would let it pass for the wheels of juctice to move. But a life of a student was wasted here, and possibly many more, if issues like this do not surface for public discussion. In one way, this could serve as an eye opener not only for USEP, but also for other colleges, universities and other institutions of learning. This is also a case for study in a month when we were supposed to be "prepared for emergencies and disasters". I pray for the soul of Cheryl, the welfare of her family. Also, prayers for the officials, teachers and students of USEP who are in the limelight of public scrutiny over this tragedy.)

USEP yet to probe student's death, ready to face charges

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews / July 28) -- The University of Southeastern
Philippines (USEP) could not yet establish liability over the tragic
pageant night eight days ago that scorched to death a campus beauty
contestant, university president Julieta I. Ortiz told a press
conference Friday.

But Ortiz said the university, southeastern Mindanao's largest
state-owned higher educational institution, has assumed full
responsibility and was ready to face charges that might be filed
against them.

"The administration is taking care of the incident and assumes its
moral duty to the Sarate family," Ortiz read USEP's official

She said a fact-finding committee created on July 25 would be the one
to investigate the incident and identify those who should be liable.
USEP could not yet say what would be its next move because it will be
based on the findings of the committee, she added.

Sarate, 16, was a first year Bachelor of Arts major in English student
from Calinan district. She told family members she wanted to graduate
from college so she could work abroad. On June 20, according to the
statement, she joined the search for the Lady and Lord of Utopia, an
annual beauty pageant organized by the Guild of English Students. At
around 7:15 that evening, her costume caught fire from a candle used
as props along the catwalk. She was rushed to the Mindanao Burn Center
of the Davao Medical Center (DMC) and was admitted with third degree
burns. She died on July 23.

Ortiz said she did not want to preempt the results of the fact-finding
body and referred all queries regarding the details of the incident to
them. Ortiz said the investigation was due to submit a report on
August 31.

Dr. Daniel Ungay, who chaired the fact-finding committee, told
MindaNews they were yet to meet Friday afternoon to start the
investigation. The rest of the members of the committee included the
university's chief administrative officer, the faculty club president,
secretary of the university's board of regents, the president of the
campus' student council and an assistant.

Ortiz said their main concern for now was to extend whatever help to
the Sarate family. She denied they were remiss of their duties and
allegedly depended on assistance from the city government.

She said they gave around P30,000 for the victim's hospitalization,
through Cheryl's mother. The amount included donations from the
faculty and students. She also showed photocopies of checks worth
P67,134.37 issued by the university for funeral and burial expenses of
the victim.

But the family said the school was too slow in probing the incident.
Antonio Sarate, the victim's father, said the investigation was
started only Friday, eight days after incident, and considered as "too
long" the time, 38 days, given to the committee to finish its work.
"The administration should not delay its investigation," he said.

Ungay said the timetable was meant to gather enough information "given
the circumstances of students who have classes". "But we will try to
submit the report before August 31," he said.

Alfie Keith Apalit, USEP's Obrero Campus Student Council (OCSC)
president, said the administration should already have a stand on
liability at this time.

"The OCSC stands firm in addressing the issue on the lack of safety
measures, facilities, and the available help (first aid) that could
have prevented and or saved the life of Cheryl Sarate from that
terrible incident," the student council's press statement on July 27

That the university did not report the incident to the fire station
accounts for some liability, Orencio B. Grado, senior fire officer of
the Bureau of Fire Protection told MindaNews Friday.

Grado, member of a BFP team investigating the incident, said they only
knew of the incident from television news. "That's a standard
operating procedure," he said.

"It would be most prudent for the school administration to assume
responsibility, said lawyer Ranuelo Leonar who was interviewed by
ABS-CBN radio on August 27.

He said the university could be liable for reckless imprudence
resulting to homicide because the incident happened within school

"What happened? Wasn't there a program coordinator overseeing the
event?" he asked.

USEP's public information office said if the committee finds anyone
liable, the university would impose appropriate administrative
penalties. "Everything now depends on the findings of the committee,
Melanie C. Pagkaliwagan," USEP's public information officer told

"It's an eye opener for us to fully implement our school policies,"
Ortiz told reporters, including more than a hundred students who
attended the press conference held at the social hall, where the
incident that killed Sarate was held eight days ago. (Walter I.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

[NEWS] Davao City vows quicker renewal of business permits

(Busines, business, business for Mindanao! I hope the improvements in doing business in any Mindanao city will go down to the level of providing more employment opportunities for the poor and improve their purchasing power and participation in the social realm. I hope this brings better living conditions too!)

Davao City vows quicker renewal of business permits

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/27 July) – Renewing business permits here will be much easier by January 2007 as permits will be processed even without clearances from the Social Security System (SSS), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and PhilHealth, Atty. Jhopee A. Agustin, bureau chief, told reporters Thursday.

But it could be to the detriment of employees, said officials of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) regional office in Davao City.

At present, Agustin said, applicants for renewal have to submit clearances for payment of taxes from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), remittances for Social Security System (SSS) and PhilHealth. They also have to go through local government offices such as the City Zoning Office, the City Treasurer's Office, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and the Bureau of Fire Protection. Depending on the nature of business, some applicants have to go to the City Health, Tourism and Veterinary offices.

Agustin’s proposal is not to require clearance from regulatory agencies in the approval of business permit "since all of the regulatory offices are obligated to conduct yearly inspections."

"I recommend that the SSS, BIR, and PhilHealth clearances be no longer required and that only the barangay clearance be presented for new and renewal application as provided in the Local Government Code," Agustin wrote in a March 23 letter to Atty. Melchor Quitain, chief, Davao City legal office, asking for legal opinion.

She said they will approve the applications for business permit renewal even without the clearances, but these will be marked with "Submission of (SSS, BIR, PhilHealth) clearances to follow.”

The business bureau, Agustin said, will not be "strict" with the clearances once the proposal is approved. “But we would still coordinate with those offices,” she said.

Agustin said they learned the scheme from the City Government of Manila. "This will cut the delay in the approval of the business permit renewal," she said.

Christopher Silagan, marketing specialist of PhilHealth, said if the proposal is approved, it would be very difficult to track down delinquent-paying employers and this could put many employees at a disadvantage.

Silagan said among their biggest problems in ensuring coverage of employees are fraudulent employers who use deceptive payment schemes such as covering only 35% of their employees while collecting payment counterparts from all of them.

He said these employers also manipulate payrolls to show their alleged compliance.

Jonas Joseph Angala, another PhilHealth executive, told MindaNews the responsibility to pursue delinquent paying employers is theirs but admitted it is “very difficult” to pursue violators.

Angala said they seek help from the local governments through the clearing process in the renewal of business permits which is done every January. He said they understand the city government's discretion on the matter "but there must be a way to balance between business and the coverage of employees to public health insurance".

According to figures given by Silagan, employees of private firms account for 34% of the total of 663,780 individuals covered by PhilHealth in Southeastern Mindanao as of June 30. Individually paying members account for 38%, 11% government employees and around 2% are non-paying members, including senior citizens. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

[NEWS] Halal board expected to start working in August

(I really hope this pushes through. If so, it will spur the economy in the ARMM region.
Although, how I really wish the initial Halal players for the poultry industry will not be
limited to the usual families that dominate the ARMM. I also wish the peace process
moves on and no more distractions, like the one that happened in four Maguindanao
towns last month. Right now, progress might still be unimaginable. But I'm sure that
once the field is readied and mechanisms or wheels of commerce are set, development
in Mindanao's poorest region would be unstoppable. I look at the Halal board and the
Halal industry potentials as one of these mechanisms. Ins'allah!)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/26 July) -- A private sector-led Halal
Certification Board (HCB) is expected to be activated by August this year, to fast track development of the halal industry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Local Government Support Program in the ARMM (LGSPA) said.

The HCB, it said, will be led by the ARMM Business Council and the Dar'ul Ifta, a council of senior religious leaders serving as final arbiter on matters relating to Islam, the LGSPA said in a statement.

The HCB is tasked to verify that what is declared halal is in accordance with Islamic rules of consuming only permissible food and non-food products as prescribed by the Holy Qur'an.

The Mindanao Business Council announced last week that around 15 tons of poultry products from Maguindanao are targeted as pilot shipment for halal export before the year ends. It will be shipped to the Middle East where there is a multi-billion poultry market.

The creation of the Halal board is overdue and fundamental in Halal certification in the ARMM, where majority of the country's Muslims live, the LGSPA quoted ARMM's trade and industry secretary, IshakMastura.

The LGSPA teamed up with the ARMM's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the formation of the HCB in developing the board's guidelines and manual of operations.

The crafting of the Halal guidelines and manual will involve consultations with the Dar'ul Ifta and provincial Mufti in the ARMM to ensure consensus that these are all in accord with Islamic

On May 18 in Cotabato City, ten Muftis from the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur signed a commitment to support the creation and operation of the board after studying the Koranic imperatives of halal certification and its organizational framework.

The ARMM is eyed by the Philippine government in its medium term development plan as center for the Halal industry. The region's development is expected to benefit from the international Halal food industry with estimated value of $80 billion per year. (Walter I.
Balane /MindaNews)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

[NEWS] UP eyes task force on health disasters in Mindanao

(This is a welcome move by the University of the Philippines in Mindanao. It goes beyond, and makes use of its academic mandate and influence to help Mindanao prepare for disasters. Its all around us: in Albay, Southern Luzon, Indonesia everywhere. This should parallel and dovetail with the efforts of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the Regional Disaster Coordinating Councils (RDCCs), especially in capability-building for LGUs to do hazard scanning and planning in their communities. The organizers however admitted to me that they were not able to invite LGUs from the Caraga region.Also, I hope that disaster-preparedness efforts do not precipitate after the disaster-preparedness month! UP's effort should not skim only by exploring but really push for this task force to be formed and activated.)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/25 July) -- The University of the Philippines in
Mindanao is holding roundtable discussions to explore the creation of
a multi-agency task force or network to focus on health disasters and
emergencies in Mindanao.

The discussions, scheduled on July 31 at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here,
would gather local government and non-government officials from the
cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and General Santos.

The forum aims to "facilitate exchange of views and share experiences
on health disasters and emergencies and its impact on human
populations and the environment," the UP-Min information office said.

It is organized to impart some methods to forecast health disasters
based on historical data using new research tools, said Rene Estremera
of the UP-Min information office. But Estremera said they are looking
at exploring the possibility of collaboration and integration of
efforts by various government agencies and other stakeholders. He said
they will assess at the end of the forum if the creation of a
multi-agency task force or network in Mindanao is viable.

Estremera said they are looking at a body which will study, monitor,
coordinate and focus actions on forecasting health disasters and

The key to dealing with disasters -- whether natural or man-made -- is
not to sound the alarm bell but to equip the people with appropriate
knowledge to help foster a culture of preparedness among the public,
said Allan Villanueva, project assistant.

Based on the tentative program as of July 12, Dr. Ma. Lourdes
Barrameda, emergency and humanitarian action officer of the World
Health Organization (WHO), will present a paper on "Global Health
Emergencies with Local Implications."

Prof. Sean Fitzgerald, a UP -Min visiting lecturer from the University
of Massachusetts, will discuss "Nature and Impact of Geohazards in
Mindanao. Prof. Vicente Calag, who chairs UP-Min's Mathematics,
Physics and Computer Science department, will present "GIS tool:
Forecasting and Monitoring Disasters and Health Emergencies."

Expected to give reactions to the presentations are Dr. Paulyn Ubial,
Department of Health regional director in Southeastern Mindanao; Davao
City Councilor Rene Lopez, a physician; and Engr. Luis Jacinto, Davao
City director for planning.

There will be an open forum and drafting of resolutions towards the
end of the forum.

The Office of the Civi l Defense in Southeastern Mindanao, in line
with the celebration of disaster-preparedness month, told MindaNews
earlier this month they are organizing local government units in
capability-building so they could evaluate their communities' disaster
hazards. The OCD said they will also aid communities in developing
emergency response action appropriate for the local hazards
identified. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Monday, July 24, 2006

[NEWS] Envoy eyes more Chinese investors, tourists to Davao

(I'm back blogging! But I got this busy news day. How I wish I could multiply myself. This one is about the Chinese ambassador: The Chinese are here, there and everywhere! This could be a creeping invasion, too. But well, I think this should mean more investment and employment to Mindanawons? I hope the benefits exceed the costs. This could be a renewal of centuries old of trading relationships between China and Mindanao.)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/24 July) -- Impressed by "Davao's safety,
security and cleanliness," visiting Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun said
he will introduce the city not only to more Chinese investors but also
to tourists.

Li made the pronouncement while meeting Vice Mayor Luis Bonguyan in a
courtesy call Monday at the city mayor's office.

The ambassador, who first passed by Zamboanga in his first visit to
Mindanao, is in town to meet Davao's Filipino-Chinese community and to
"see for himself the local economic and security situation in the

Speaking through an interpreter, Li said many Chinese businessmen
wanted to invest in Mindanao but are worried by the negative reports
they have heard.

But he said his visit will change the wrong impression his countrymen
harbor. "I am impressed with this beautiful city," Li told Bonguyan.

"Davao is safer and more secure than Manila," Li said.

He said many businessmen from mainland China are waiting for results
of his visit so they could start exploring the possibility of
investing in Davao.

He cited Davao's role in the future of economic development in
Mindanao and the country. He said they are willing to cooperate in the
BIMP-East Asia Growth Area "where Davao plays a big role."

Li said a group of businessmen are eyeing to put up an industrial park
in Davao City.

He also cited a plan to encourage more Chinese airlines to establish
direct routes to Davao as his country has a lot of tourists wanting to

Bonguyan said even if Davao gets only a small percentage of the
Chinese tourists, it would already be good enough, considering that
Chinese tourists reach millions.

The vice mayor said Davao is exerting efforts to establish sisterhood
ties with Naning, China. The Naning mayor visited Davao last April. It
was in Naning where the Asean China Expo 2004 was held where
a Mindanao delegation was sent.

Bonguyan told Li the Filipino-Chinese community in Davao plays a big
part in the city's economy, with many of them in control of many

He also announced the approval of the city ordinance detailing the
creation the city's Chinatown district to "give more importance to the
culture and the role of the Filipino-Chinese community" in Davao.
(Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

[NEWS] Envoy eyes more Chinese investors, tourists to Davao

(I'm back blogging! But I got this busy news day. How I wish I could multiply myself. This one is about the Chinese ambassador: The Chinese are here, there and everywhere! This could be a creeping invasion, too. But well, I think this should mean more investment and employment to Mindanawons? I hope the benefits exceed the costs. This could be a renewal of centuries old of trading relationships between China and Mindanao.)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/24 July) -- Impressed by "Davao's safety,
security and cleanliness," visiting Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun said
he will introduce the city not only to more Chinese investors but also
to tourists.

Li made the pronouncement while meeting Vice Mayor Luis Bonguyan in a
courtesy call Monday at the city mayor's office.

The ambassador, who first passed by Zamboanga in his first visit to
Mindanao, is in town to meet Davao's Filipino-Chinese community and to
"see for himself the local economic and security situation in the

Speaking through an interpreter, Li said many Chinese businessmen
wanted to invest in Mindanao but are worried by the negative reports
they have heard.

But he said his visit will change the wrong impression his countrymen
harbor. "I am impressed with this beautiful city," Li told Bonguyan.

"Davao is safer and more secure than Manila," Li said.

He said many businessmen from mainland China are waiting for results
of his visit so they could start exploring the possibility of
investing in Davao.

He cited Davao's role in the future of economic development in
Mindanao and the country. He said they are willing to cooperate in the
BIMP-East Asia Growth Area "where Davao plays a big role."

Li said a group of businessmen are eyeing to put up an industrial park
in Davao City.

He also cited a plan to encourage more Chinese airlines to establish
direct routes to Davao as his country has a lot of tourists wanting to

Bonguyan said even if Davao gets only a small percentage of the
Chinese tourists, it would already be good enough, considering that
Chinese tourists reach millions.

The vice mayor said Davao is exerting efforts to establish sisterhood
ties with Naning, China. The Naning mayor visited Davao last April. It
was in Naning where the Asean China Expo 2004 was held where
a Mindanao delegation was sent.

Bonguyan told Li the Filipino-Chinese community in Davao plays a big
part in the city's economy, with many of them in control of many

He also announced the approval of the city ordinance detailing the
creation the city's Chinatown district to "give more importance to the
culture and the role of the Filipino-Chinese community" in Davao.
(Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

[NEWS] Envoy eyes more Chinese investors, tourists to Davao

(I'm back blogging! But I got this busy news day. How I wish I could multiply myself. This one is about the Chinese ambassador: The Chinese are here, there and everywhere! This could be a creeping invasion, too. But well, I think this should mean more investment and employment to Mindanawons? I hope the benefits exceed the costs. This could be a renewal of centuries old of trading relationships between China and Mindanao.)

DAVAO C ITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/24 July) -- Impressed by "Davao's safety,
security and cleanliness," visiting Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun said
he will introduce the city not only to more Chinese investors but also
to tourists.

Li made the pronouncement while meeting Vice Mayor Luis Bonguyan in a
courtesy call Monday at the city mayor's office.

The ambassador, who first passed by Zamboanga in his first visit to
Mindanao, is in town to meet Davao's Filipino-Chinese community and to
"see for himself the local economic and security situation in the

Speaking through an interpreter, Li said many Chinese businessmen
wanted to invest in Mindanao but are worried by the negative reports
they have heard.

But he said his visit will change the wrong impression his countrymen
harbor. "I am impressed with this beautiful city," Li told Bonguyan.

"Davao is safer and more secure than Manila," Li said.

He said many businessmen from mainland China are waiting for results
of his visit so they could start exploring the possibility of
investing in Davao.

He cited Davao's role in the future of economic development in
Mindanao and the country. He said they are willing to cooperate in the
BIMP-East Asia Growth Area "where Davao plays a big role."

Li said a group of businessmen are eyeing to put up an industrial park
in Davao City.

He also cited a plan to encourage more Chinese airlines to establish
direct routes to Davao as his country has a lot of tourists wanting to

Bonguyan said even if Davao gets only a small percentage of the
Chinese tourists, it would already be good enough, considering that
Chinese tourists reach millions.

The vice mayor said Davao is exerting efforts to establish sisterhood
ties with Naning, China. The Naning mayor visited Davao last April. It
was in Naning where the Asean China Expo 2004 was held where
a Mindanao delegation was sent.

Bonguyan told Li the Filipino-Chinese community in Davao plays a big
part in the city's economy, with many of them in control of many

He also announced the approval of the city ordinance detailing the
creation the city's Chinatown district to "give more importance to the
culture and the role of the Filipino-Chinese community" in Davao.
(Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

On leave from Blogosphere

..Thank you for dropping by. Be back blogging on Monday, July 24.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

[NEWS] ARMM poultry bound for the Middle East

(Of course there is good news from the ARMM. With fingers crossed, I am optimistic this will help put the region back on the business map.)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/20 July) -- Around 15 tons of poultry products
from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are being eyed as
the pilot shipment to the Middle East starting in December.

Romeo Serra, president of the Mindanao Business Council (MinBC), told
reporters Thursday that once the Philippines gets a halal
certification from a Brunei accreditation body through an agreement
with the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia Philippines East Asia Growth Area
cooperation, it will be an all systems go for the delivery of chicken
from a farm in the 123-hectare economic zone in Parang, Maguindanao to
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Halal, which is a way of slaughtering farm animals in accordance with
Islamic practices, involves hygienic and disease-free preparation of
foods "from farm to plate."

Those that pass halal quality control will have labels marked with a
halal seal so Muslim consumers will be guided accordingly.

Serra said the initial volume, which is only two percent of the market
demand in the Middle East, will be a pilot export of the local halal
industry. More volume and other halal products will be exported if the
pilot shipment will be successful and once the halal accreditation
firms up.

He said that the ARMM poultry's export to the Middle East will be the
result of cooperation among member countries in the BIMP-EAGA -- using
feeds from Indonesia's corn industry, utilizing the marketing
expertise of Malaysia and the "trusted and widely-accepted" Brunei
halal accreditation.

Serra said the ARMM's halal certification body, including government
officials from the ARMM's Department of Trade and Industry and the
private sector, will go to Brunei in August to work on the

The government's 2004-2010 Medium Term Development Plan has envisioned
ARMM to be the halal-based food production center of the country.
(Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

[NEWS] RP's first: Davao prepares to implement water code

(I wasn't really very happy with "the way" I worked on this article. I know I could have done better. But this news simply made me happy anyway. It gives a much needed relief to a growing problem of water in the provinces.

When I covered the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bukidnon and the city councils of Malaybalay and Valencia, I met several issues concerning the issuance of water permits by NWRB using endorsements from some local adhoc representatives. The local legislators have since complained that the set up did not work very well in the interests of the province and the communities.

I'm proud Davao is poised to implement its own water code, to localize regulation, management and protection of our water resources. Just another proof that the rest of the country have a lot of things to learn from Mindanao (of course vice versa).

The news article:

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/18 July) -- This city will soon implement its
water ordinance, signed in 2005, with the submission of the proposed implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Councilor Pilar Braga co-chair of the joint committee that prepared the rules told reporters Tuesday.

Once implemented, Davao City will be the first in the country to
localize the National Water Code to ensure protection and management of its water resources, Braga said.

Braga said it took the city around 10 years to approve the water
ordinance because it is a controversial legislation that could affect interests of big businesses that are dependent on water like softdrink companies, bottled water firms and agricultural plantations.

She said the IRR has gone through a series of deliberations involving
peoples' organizations, non-government organizations and other stakeholders.

Braga told MindaNews it is too risky to leave to the National Water
Resources Board (NWRB) the regulation and management of local water resources. The NWRB, which is based in Metro Manila, issues the water permits nationwide.

"How could they take care of our water resources when we can't even see
their shadows here?" Braga asked.

Braga, proponent of the ordinance, submitted the IRR through City
Administrator Wendel Avisado on June 30. Braga said they expect no big hindrance to its signing.

The IRR was prepared by a joint executive-legislative committee earlier
formed by Mayor Duterte composed of city executives, legislators, and NGO representatives.

The IRR provides for the creation of the Davao City Water Resource
Management and Protection Council which will administer and implement the water code. The council, which will have an initial fund of P3 million, will be the lead agency in coordinating, implementing and monitoring the city's management, conservation, use, and development of its water resources.

The council will be composed of the city mayor as chair, the city administrator and other top city government officials and legislators representing committees on
environment and energy, the general manager of the Davao City Water District, the City Environment and Natural Resources Officer, City Health Officer, City Engineer, Chief of the Business Bureau, City Legal Officer and the executive director of the council.

The water council, according to the IRR, should prepare, develop, and
formulate a "comprehensive water resource management and development plan" to "ensure that sufficient and potable water will be available at a reasonable cost to the present and future generations of the city while furthering
the economic development of the city.”

Among the prohibited and regulated acts declared in the proposed IRR is
the drilling of a free-flowing or artesian well within identified protected water resource
areas from Calinan to Dacudao, Calinan to Malagos and Sirawan areas. A water resource area, defined by he proposed IRR, is the location of principal source aquifer or water sources containing huge volume of water.

Existing wells, with permits issued by the NWRB, will be secured,
capped and placed with a metering device to regulate water flow and water wastage.

No person will also be allowed to drill and operate a water well within
a water resource area or extract water from there without a clearance from the council. They will be required to install an approved measuring device.

The IRR also prohibits the putting up of solid waste disposal systems,
sanitary landfill or incinerator or garbage dump within the water resource areas. It also prohibits the construction of underground oil storage tanks within the water resource areas.

The water council, as provided by the IRR, has to consult and hold public hearings for any program, project, development structures, or any other massive land activities
that might affect the appropriation, use, exploitation, development, control and conservation or protection of water resources.

The IRR also prohibits or regulates the application of fertilizers and
pesticides or other chemicals within water resource areas.

Braga said they have proposed a meeting between the members of the
joint committee who drafted the IRR and the NWRB to agree on deputization of the city government to impose water tariff as provided in the ordinance and the IRR. The NWRB considers agriculture as the biggest user of water with 86 percent of the total use, followed by industrial firms with 8 percent and domestic use at only 6 percent.

A 1991 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, showed
Davao was among nine cities in the Philippines considered as "water-critical areas" together with Manila, Cebu , Baguio, Angeles, Bacolod, Iloilo , Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

[NEWS] "For official use" vehicles used privately in Davao, CDO

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/18 July) -- For private use also?

Around a hundred government vehicles in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro have been monitored to be used for private purposes, the Office of the Ombudsman reported.

Lawyer Rodolfo Elman, officer in charge of the Office of the Ombudsman in Mindanao said their "Operation Red Plate" monitored the government vehicles used during weekends and parked at beaches, churches, entertainment joints and other establishments.

"Operation Red Plate,” created on May 15 throughout the country, monitored 34 vehicles used on June 10 to 12 in Cagayan de Oro and a total of 60 vehicles on July 7 to 9 and July 14 to 16 in Davao City.

The Ombudsman has since subpoenaed the suspected violators in Cagayan de Oro, Elman said, and are working with the Land Transportation Office for the registration papers of those monitored in Davao City.

But the Ombudsman will have to verify, Elman said, if the vehicles were, indeed, out on official use as indicated in the trip ticket. Government vehicles on official business have corresponding trip tickets indicating the names of passengers, time of departure and arrival, destination or routes taken.

Private use of government vehicles is considered a crime as provided in Section 3-E of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-graft and corrupt practices law. It is also an administrative offense that could result, at the maximum, to dismissal in violation of Section 4 B of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Elman noted that violators are also made to reimburse the government for fuel, wear and tear and other costs.

Elman said violations of these laws include simple acts as delivering and fetching a child to and from school to grave offenses such as using the car for a date in a motel.

He said a patient once complained that an ambulance was not available but as it turned out, it was used by hospital personnel to transport personal belongings.

The average and most common violation, he said, is a detour from an approved destination, like going from Davao City to Tagum City and proceeding to the user's residence in Sto. Tomas town.

Elman said many government personnel take a detour while on official business to attend to their farms and other personal purposes.

Operation Red Plate monitoring teams, Elman said, will also be sent to the cities of Tagum and General Santos and neighboring areas.

Elman, however, acknowledged that the Ombudsman cannot be in many places at the same time. He said they also rely on their partner non-government organizations (NGOs).

Before May 15, Elman said, they monitored abuses of government vehicles from reports passed by their local partners in Mindanao provinces. He also said they used to have an agreement with the Commission on Audi to report on these violations. He cited, for example, violations monitored in Surigao, and Zamboanga cities starting in the late 1990s through NGOs they have accredited as Corruption Prevention Units (CPUs).

Elman said they have partners in all Mindanao regions except in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where they revoked the accreditation of a CPU for abuses and misrepresentation.

“But we are counting on help from the public,” Elman said, “to track the violators in their areas.” He said the mere presence of a vehicle with red plate in any area beyond office hours and during weekend is already suspicious. All government vehicles should be marked with "For official use only,” Elman said, except for vehicles used by undercover investigators.

Elman said the public could help report violations by sending text messages to mobile phone numbers 09175496241 and photos or videos to 09189156279. He said the messages should at least have information on location, time and description of the vehicle including type and color of vehicle and plate number. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Updates: I'll start my lifestyle check with this

[From this coverage I have resolved at least two things 1) Cut on bad cholesterol by 50 percent (made a list of food in which I execute this) and 2) Exercise for at least 20 minutes (Dr. Roy Ferrer of DMC says at least 30 minutes but I want this to be realistic and solemn. So I made an action plan.) I hope the stress part and lifestyle check is adressed initially.]

'Do you have Diabetes or the ants know better?'
By Walter I. Balane/ MindaNews (First draft)

DAVAO CITY – More people are suffering diabetes without them knowing it, diabetes expert Dr. Roy Ferrer of the government-run Davao Medical Center said in a press conference Monday announcing a forum on diabetes to mark the Diabetes Awareness Week on July 16-22.

"Mabuti pa ang Langgam, alam …DIABETES: Laban natin to" (The ants are better for they know, Diabetes: This is our fight.) is the theme of the forum on July 22 organized by DMC's Diabetes Education and Treatment Clinic.

Ferrer, a diabetologist, said most patients only notice and take the disease seriously when they already experience complications. At that stage, he said, it won't be easy and would be more expensive for them.

Diabetes, considered as a "silent killer disease" is the seventh highest cause of death in the country, Ferrer said, and is also among the top five causes of morbidity.

Ferrer cited a 4.2 percent prevalence rate of Diabetes and is affecting around 3.3 million of the 80 million Filipinos. He said among those at high risk are those who come from families with history of diabetes, hypertension and cardio-vascular diseases.

A person who has diabetes, Ferrer said, is like someone who just had a heart attack. He said the disease could being about more complications to a person's health like heart and kidney diseases for it brings damage to nerves.

Mrs. Elena Zapanta, a nurse at the DMC said swollen feet and eye problems are among the common symptoms they have observed at the Diabetes Education and Treatment Clinic where they have an average of 60 patients per week and are attending to at least 2,000 walk-in patients.

He said those are only the micro-nerve symptoms, as the person takes longer to address it, the disease brings about the macro-nerve symptoms which ills the heart and kidneys.

The disease afflicts all kinds of people, Zapanta said, with patients from the rich and poor, men and women, professionals and unemployed, and young and old.

"We even have a four-year old patient recently," she said as she stressed that the diseases chooses no one.

Ferrer cited that being in the Asia Pacific region which is a catch basin for diabetes, being a Filipino itself already puts people at risk to the disease.

With the high cost of maintenance medicine and medical attention, Ferrer said the cure to diabetes is prevention. People should live a healthy lifestyle, Ferrer said, lessen stress, exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet avoiding bad cholesterol.

"Have your blood sugar tested so you won't come to the doctor in a stage when the symptoms are already prevailing. That would be too late," he stressed.

Ferrer also warned the public to be careful on altering prescribed medicines on diabetes with herbal supplements advertised as if they could treat the disease. There is no assurance that they are effective, he said. With no intensive research on its effect to the body, Ferrer said, the supplements, could worsen the disease and may cause the patient more instead of saving. He advised the public to consult a physician on diabetes.

Zapanta said their weekly consultation every Tuesday would cost only P50 for first-timers and P30 for succeeding sessions, the cheapest in Davao City and a blood sugar test at only P75. Consultations for senior citizens are free of charge while indigents could avail of social welfare subsidy.

The DMC-organized forum on diabetes this Saturday, with a registration fee of P150 for food, is expected to give more information on diabetes to the public. The topics include the explanation of the disease, its complications and management. The public could also have a chance to ask questions from diabetes experts during an open forum. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Updates: ‘It is a national policy to keep the poor poor' – rural banker

jeepney ride
Originally uploaded by

(Photo courtesy of MindaNews) This Mindanawon rural banker looks more of a refined, meek and well-mannered person. Quitely placed in a corner seat, he was glued to the speaker through out the session.

He exchanged friendly chats with his seatmates and offered his seat to a lady participant who came late.

His statement caught me off-guard. It made me look closer. It was cold in that conference room in Davao’s Waterfront Insular Hotel on July 15.

Apparently, his way of announcing the judgment did not show in his mild manners. Here is a dissenter who freely expressed his mind and heart. I wanted to know the story behind that pronouncement.

I'll call him Freddie. He was one of the participants of the “consultative workshop” among micro finance institutions (MFIs) in Mindanao convened by the Mindanao Micro finance Council (MMC). They gathered to talk about a partnership between the MFIs, the wholesale lenders and the communities targeted to deliver micro finance services in “hard to reach” areas in Mindanao.

At first he sounded pathetic and plainly cynical. (Maybe one of those disillusioned by hopelessness) Or was he just testing my capacity to snoop for news knowing I was there to cover the event?

Over coffee break, Freddie told me his 15 years of working in rural communities as a small banker has made him critical of new programs of the government to lure the poor.

“Talk about the face of poverty in the depressed communities, I know that!” he said.
I handled hundreds of accounts who couldn’t pay their weekly amortization for their micro enterprise loan,” he said.

Freddie said the poorest of the poor in Mindanao, especially in agriculture-rich areas, shouldn't be poor. Productivity is high in those areas, he said. “But why are people still poor after how many years of projects?” he asked.

He said a farmer borrows money to buy farm inputs at a price much higher than how much the market wants to buy his products.

“So he always ends up speaking English,” he said. He clarified that when they collect payment for debts incurred with their bank, farmers who loaned money on a service they piloted in an area told them, “Failure man sir!”.

For him, micro financing makes lousy businessmen out of farmers. Yes, farmers have to be entrepreneurial in attending to their farms but they cannot do so because there is a lack of support services in their areas.

“Now you have a loan, but where are the farm to market roads and the mechanisms that protect them from losses?” Freddie asked.

For him, there is a big reason why the government could not solve the woes of the poor once and for all.

It is a national policy to keep the poor always poor, Freddie said, because our politicians who run the government want the poor to eternally need them!

He said studies, projects and programs to “supposedly help” the poor are just spins of those pretentious government leaders to manipulate a higher budget so they could get a higher cut.

“And the all-out war--- do you think that is really to solve insurgency?” Freddie asked. “No, that is to validate a bigger budget, well just the sum of P1 billion more,” he said.

Also, when there is war, the ammunitions are used, that’s for more budget. And look at the civilians affected by the war, when the government comes as if to their rescue, those politicians masquerading as public servants actually earn “popularity” points.

I asked him : “Do you have bases for these statements?”

He said the best proof are the poor in the communities who are prone to exploitation by politicians. Some people in government should be sincere in their effort to fight poverty and should be steadfast in their commitment to serve the public, he said.

“Really, there is so much poverty in the country. If you don’t believe me, you must be blind or dumb,” He said.

After a cup of coffee, I breathed fresh air in the hotel's lobby and pondered on those points. I know Freddie is right. I agree with him in most things. I shifted my vantage point and looked at the direction of the Davao Gulf for open spaces to think.

Maybe its unfair to call it a "national policy" because I don 't fault our good policies. Only the execution maybe. But I know what Freddie also meant. The government's failure to curb poverty has made poverty a "status quo" and eradicating it has become an illusion of mythical extent.

I wonder what “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” would mean in this situation?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

[NEWS] Micro financiers asked to invest in Mindanao's poorest

(Courtesy of MindaNews news service. Not yet available at as of posting time.)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 July) -- The Mindanao Micro-finance Council (MMC) has appealed to the micro finance institutions in Mindanao to extend loans to the poorest in Mindanao's remotest areas to help fight poverty there.

The appeal was made during a consultative workshop on delivering micro finance services in hard-to-reach areas on July 14-15.

According to the MMC, as of 2006, Mindanao's micro finance industry has reached only around 400,000 clients. The MMC, composed of MFIs, rural banks, non-government organizations, cooperatives and cooperative banks, aims to reach a million clients by 2010.

Most of the 'poorest of the poor' clients reached by micro financial institutions (MFIs) in Mindanao come from highway towns and barangays, according to Erwin M. Idong, assistant vice president of the People's Credit and Finance Corporation (PCFC), a government-owned corporation which lends capital to the MFIs.

According to data from the PCFC, between July 2004 and March 2006, only around 448, 531 poor households or 31.6 percent of the total 1,419,516 poor households in Mindanao have accessed micro finance loans. As of 2006, only 92 percent of towns have access to micro-finance and around 67 percent of barangays are reached by small enterprise loans.

Jeffrey R. Ordoñez, MMC executive director, said there is a need to saturate the areas where the MFIs are already operating, at the same time expand their reach to the lower market segments such as upland communities and areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ordoñez said the MMC has encouraged its members to expand the markets and flow in investments in the hard-to-reach areas.

"We are also asking big MFIs to go to the ARMM areas where there is an insignificant number of clientele availing micro-finance services. Only 15,005 or only 3.34 percent poor clients were served in the ARMM out of the total 448,531 poor households served in Mindanao, he said.

Iluminada Cabigas, president of the Landbank Countryside Development (LCD) Foundation, said the MFIs should go beyond lending to poor households.

"We should be able to expand our service to them not just to give access to any small loan. We should work with MFIs for an integrated community development scheme where we build up partnership to make them stakeholders in their own community's development," she said.

LCD launched at the workshop today (July 15) a partnership with the MFIs in integrated community development.

Cabigas asked the MFIs to “go deeper and wider” and give small farmers and fisherfolk
more access to microfinance.

MFIs should also provide livelihood training development and help communities in job generation and should also extend more products that improve access to potable water, electricity, toilet, waste disposal and management facilities, she said.

MFIs, she added, should also help the poor in gaining access to decent housing programs,
scholarship programs, ecological and environmental protection especially to indigenous peoples and should network with local government units among other areas.

Cabigas said they expect that all towns in Mindanao and the Philippines will have access to microfinance after two years in partnership with MFIs.

Erlow Talatala, head of microfinance unit of the Asian Hills Bank based in Bukidnon, noted that micro-finance alone could not solve poverty in Mindanao.

"It is not enough to provide micro-finance to the poorest of the poor in Mindanao's communities. The government should also provide support services," Talatala told MindaNews.

Support services, he said, should be provided especially in depressed areas where there is poor access to health care services, electrification, infrastructure like farm to market roads, education and other social services.

"Its not also just a matter of achieving quantitative goals, but also qualitative standards like if those who have accessed microfinance have since been out of poverty," he said.
Talatala, however, agrees there is a need to push MFIs to do their part in countryside development.

But expecting them to expand to “hard-to-reach” areas and channel their investments there, he added, requires of government to prepare the needed infrastructure as well as the peace and order situation in the area . (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reflections: On this youthful idealism

(Agence France-Presse Photo by Romeo Gacad)

Originally uploaded by waltzib.

When Lt. Lawrence San Juan, one of the Magdalo mutineers, was in the limelight for escaping from detention - I was amazed at his courage and his defiance of military authority, which they collectively accused of incompetence, corruption among other things.

A lot of things remained to be probed on their allegations, but if indeed the junior officers saw their leaders in the depth of dirt in the military then it is logical why young people like Lt. San Juan would do what they have done.

Idealism is not dead in this country even if there are a lot of cynism milling around.

When reports that he "repented" today came out, I was also not surprised. The young military officer is an intelligent person he knows what he has to do for the time being. But indeed, this young person is a "reflection" of the many problems around us ---one of which is lack of real heroes who walk the talk and lead by example.

At least, even if the idealist in Lt. San Juan probably waived with the present circumstances he is into, at least he looks like someone whose ideals are still intact --and is poised to rebound sooner carryi ng the lessons of youth.

I hope the likes of Lt. San Juan will inspire young people to stand by their ideals, in a time when minds are easily swayed by what money can buy and whereever their comfort processing zones lie.

Of course the youth, including myself, should also listen to the wisdom of old taking more caution and foresight.

(From "Joannah", who sends me daily inspiring messages via SMS: "Not one of us can bring back yesterday or shape tomorrow. Only today is ours and won't be hours for long. Once gone, it will never be ours again. So make the best of everyday!" Of course God owns time, He knows us best being our Creator and He has a plan for all of us, so turning to God-Allah-Mambabaya can still change the picture, I'm sure. Right?)

Musings: The media, government, and the public (according to me)

Goodness gracious.

I’m thankful for a lot things. My being a practicing journalist in a full time job is one thing. (Of course that’s only ideal, our news cooperative actually expects us members to perform multi-tasks.)

This job is a personal passion. I have always wanted doing this for various reasons. Once, I confessed this passion to a friend who was with me at the UP Visayas college student council back in 1996. I told her that being a UP student, whose tuition fee was paid by the people, I will really return to the people and do whatever is accessible.

Of course that’s not the only reason why I’m here toiling a daily routine to write about public issues. To me, this is really service, not even looking at a nationalist point of view. Even just by looking at the needs of people in my neighborhood imprisoned by poverty, that‘s my kind of point of view. Besides, I come from this kind of people. In fact, I still am one of these people.

Call this a selfish endeavor. But this is actually how I try to connect myself to a myriad of realities that my eyes could see and my ears could hear.

In short, as a passion, writing is my own way of trying to matter. Others call it their contribution. But that might b e to o assuming. For all you know, that contribution actually did not really matter.

I don’t really pose myself as a hero for the public’s need and right to know. I am only trying to do my little share of the big task to help people understand, including myself and my family. I am aware that what I’m doing is not enough, and there is a need to connect it to a larger collective of efforts, not necessarily synchronized, but going towards a common direction.

You who is reading this might agree or disagree, but at this point of time we all are doing
something for society in different forms and using different means or vehicles. There are those who work with the government—the bureaucrats, the politicians, the academe, the private and business sector, the military, the rebel groups, the religious, the activists, and all the other groups.

You belong to where you belong I belong to the media. And despite the many faces of the media: some are corrupt, some heroic, others dead, lucky, and the others quick; the media has a role to play.

The media serves as a representative of the peoples’ right to know! That is not a self-imposed duty but one that is constitutionally mandated.

What did Article 3 Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution tell us? (Unless “some” peoples initiative have already changed this constitution):

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press , or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress or grievances.”

Yes, it did not say so in that section, but the right of the people to a freedom of the press, guarantees the role of the media in pursuing other freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen!

Especially, government officials, they must know the importance of addressing the media (and the public in general) properly.

Lest they forget that the real boss in government are the people, for whom the media reports.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Musings: Rain, rain go away ...

...and go to where you are needed most!

Talk about rainy season and its really here.

This noon, I was complaining about the Davao heat to Manang Magda, the waitress at my "suki" food stop in Matina. While some people are suffering landslide in northern Philippines and heavy rains in most parts of the country, we are in this heat!

She did not serve me my frebbie hot soup, instead, offered If I want more ice for my water. Then she reminded me that Davao is typhoon-free, so I shouldn't worry about typhoons but I have to bear the heat as well. Well, well. I know we won't get everything right all at once. Right?

And, well, you've guessed it. Rain fell heavily tonight! For one of Murphy's laws: "It is fundamental law of nature, nothing ever quite works out".

As usual, the roads of Matina are flooded and GSIS Village, where I live is isolated from the rest of Davao! That's an exaggeration, but this is really the meaning of rain to me here--flood!

I hope our flood control and water disposal systems in the city would be better. That 's why I was really thankful it did not rain so hard during the ASEAN Tourism Forum in January. Hopefully rain should go away too come Kadawayan sa Dabaw 2006!

I pray it would rain more in the farmlands where much rainwater is needed for natural irrigation (although, hopefully, not much water in plantations where too much water could spoil the crops as well.)

I hope rain could make Mindanao produce more fruits, vegetables and food to feed the hungry. And also, so we have more produce to display to local and foreign tourists especially during festivals like Kadawayan!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

[NEWS] Pinoys among lowest consumers of vegetables in Asia

(Here is a big slap for people in an agricultural country like ours. But I think this is true, indeed. People cook more meat (and processed at that in an increasing rate) and plant less vegetables in their backyards. We ar e becoming syntheti c eaters . Great dependents of processed foods mixed with tons of preservatives . Is this why we are getting more sickly by t he hour and that our life expectancy rate is just above half that of China and Japan? wew!)

DAVAO CITY (Courtesy of MindaNews/11 July) -- With an annual per capita vegetable
consumption of only 40 kilograms as of 2003, Filipinos are among the lowest consumers of vegetables in Asia, according to an official of the National Nutrition Council (NNC). Consumption rate has reportedly been going down since 1978.

Maria Lourdes A. Vega, chief of the NNC's nutrition information and education division, told MindaNews Tuesday the declining vegetable consumption has pushed them to create a national strategic plan to increase vegetable consumption to at least 50 percent in 2010 as domestic production of vegetable also went down.

Vega led an NNC team to present and draw local actions in response to Davao stakeholders from July 10-11 at the Grand Men Seng Hotel.

Vega used data from the 2003 Food and Nutrition Institute (FNRI) Survey, which recommended that the Philippines should have at least 69 kg per capita annual vegetable table consumption.

In contrast, China has a per capita vegetable consumption of 250 kg per year, the highest in the world. Vietnamese, on the other hand, consumed 54 kg per capita in 2000.

The declining vegetable consumption, Vega said, is among the major factors in the increase of incidence of illnesses in the country. In 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) said low vegetable intake is estimated to cause some 2.7 million deaths each year, and was among
the top 10 risk factors contributing to mortality.

WHO reported there is strong and growing evidence that sufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables helps prevent many diseases and promotes good health, but large parts of the world's population consume too little of these.

Vega cited that the top reasons for the declining vegetable consumption include the low importance given to vegetables, the perception of time-consuming preparation of vegetables, and that vegetables are not acceptable to some. Among the reasons for the "non-acceptability" of vegetables is the low knowledge of its nutritional values, people are not accustomed to eat vegetables and the perception that some vegetables are not palatable.

Vega showed, using an NNC presentation, that Filipinos are not generally health conscious and that educational campaigns about vegetable consumption are not sustained. That is why, she said, there is low knowledge about the nutritional value of vegetables.

The factors that affect "palatability" of vegetables also include the freshness of vegetables available in the market and the lack of skill to prepare varied and appetizing recipes, Vega pointed out.

She cited the skills of the Chinese and the Thai in cooking and presenting their vegetable recipes. She encouraged Filipinos to develop more vegetable recipes.

There is also a stigma against eating vegetables in the Philippines, Vega said, citing that vegetables are linked to "incompetence," as in the use of terms like "nangamote" (sweet potato, for "not getting anything"), "mukhang lantang gulay" (vegetable for "ugliness") and
"kalabasa" award (squash for shameful acts).

"The stigma that vegetables are only for the poor and the incompetent should be taken away," she said.

There is a close relationship between the decreasing vegetable consumption and the decreasing vegetable production in the country, Vega said, but stressed there is more problem than production.

The other reasons why Filipino adults have low consumption of vegetables is preference for meat. Since 1978, Filipinos have also increasingly become meat-eaters with an increasing trend of the share of food from animal sources from 20.3 percent in 1978 to 28 percent in
2003, according to a report in the FNRI website.

Many Filipinos, according to a problem tree developed by the Davao stakeholders, also feared that vegetables have chemicals and pesticides. They also cited peculiar cultural beliefs against eating vegetables and the perception that vegetables, especially in the urbanized areas, are "expensive."

The group cited the increasing preference for fast-food and instant foods as a reason for the decreasing vegetable consumption.

Nerissa Babaran, an NNC nutrition officer, said they aim to increase the per capita vegetable consumption from 40 to 60 kg by 2010 and to focus first on key vegetables dishes like pinakbet, chopsuey and green leafy and yellow vegetables in key areas, namely, Metro Davao, Metro Cebu and Metro Manila and in select nutritionally depressed towns in Camarines Sur, Albay, Samar, Lanao del Norte and Cotabato.

The NNC plans to work with the vegetable industry for a stable supply of the key vegetables. It also intends to work to enhance acceptability vegetables, reduce importation to boost local
production, improve the quality and availability of locally produced vegetables in the market, expand existing export markets for asparagus, shallots, yellow granex and "okra" and open new and alternative markets for other vegetables. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reaction: For the greater benefit of the public

I find joy in reporting. One reason is I look at how my reports help the public in general. In return, my exposure to public issues also help me understand my surroundings. This will also guide me in how I could properly interact with others.

Everytime I face a public official or a private citizen representing an entity, I look at them as people who strive to make the public understand the world better. Either they talk to the media to inform, to convince, to guide or to encourage, I respond to them with due respect.

There are instances however when they make me lose my respect. Like when they are not telling the truth as shown by the choice of words they use , their gestures that lacked sincerity and also by the sheer sound of their voice. Among them are some politicians whose goal is to gain the "pogi" points for himself and to throw mud to his opponents.

I also do not like public relations (PR) practitioners who only want to "execute" a complan and face the media with transparent desires to just get the message across never mind if they are not understood at all. With a recent experience, a PR practitioner for a new petrol product, thanked the media for coming and said, "though I have expected that the major media networks were present." I cringed at the sight of her smile after uttering those words.

That's when she announced that the petrol executives talking to the media were leaving right away, cutting off an "ambush" interview with the reporters. Then she said "anyway, snacks is served outside". mailto:#@$^*&!

That was really one place to walk out from, and I did. I remembered a decision I made after a retreat: If I know that there is nothing else I could say or do but bad things, I would have to say or do nothing and walk out.

Obviously, she was either a neophyte or just plainly rude.

But they don't have to be politicians who lie and serve only their own interests or output-oriented PR people. What I really do not like most is when public officials or private citizens face the media with just "slogan" statements and qoutable words without backing it up with facts and figures.

I feel insulted when these people call for a meeting with the press to present an idea, event or plan; and yet could not provide data or at least assure reporters the same could be provided right away.

I know the media has the duty to verify and clarify statements and to balance the story by asking many sources. I advocate for the media to research more and prepare for the stories at hand. But many of these media-attention hungry people actually look down on reporters. They think the media would just believe them for their words' worth.

I believe the others, yes. But I still think officials talking to reporters should prepare too. The media won't bite and are friendly, but it really takes two to tango.

I really do hope people who call for press conferences should equip themselves with the facts and figures to back their claims.

If their intention is really to seek the media's help in increasing knowledge and understanding about a public matter, they must also commit to help the media report about it intelligently.

If they have minimum respect to the media, they should at least look at respecting the public, for whom the media works.

Well, if peoples' goal is only to impress the public about their rhetorics and their motherhood
statements and bait the media to sensationalise for them, or to sow confusion if not conflicts, then they can choose to spin shunning a factual presentation.

I'm sure I'll be one of the many journalists who will pick their pitch --and drop it in the garbage bin.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Updates: I'm back blogging ....

...after three days of silence.

There are so many things to blog about but mean time allow me to post this for those who have relatives anywhere in the country who are graduating from high school this year! Ask them to try taking advantage of UP education ...but let them take the UPCAT first.

Deadline for UP admission exam on July 15 (Courtesy of

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 July) – Want to be an “Iskolar ng Bayan?”Graduating high school students have until July 15 to file their applicationto take the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) onAugust 5 and 6 at the UP Mindanao campus in Mintal.

According to a press statement from the UP-Min’s Information Office, thefive-hour examination covers Language Proficiency, Reading Comprehension, Mathand Science. The morning session starts at 6:30 a.m. while the afternoonsession starts at 12:30. Applicants are required to be at the testing centerat least 30 minutes before the exam.

The press statement said graduating high school students are “advised todirectly mail” to the Office of Admissions, University of the Philippines,Diliman, Quezon City the following requirements:- correctly and completely accomplished UPCAT Forms 1 and 2; - four 2" x 2" identical recent photographs taken within the last 6 months; - non-refundable application fee of P450 and - self-addressed stamped envelope Exempted from paying the application fee are “UPCAT applicants whose parentshave an annual gross income of Pl00,000 and/or are one of the top tenprospective graduates of public high schools as of the end of SY 2005-2006.”For more information, call Prof. Karen Joyce G. Cayamanda, UniversityRegistrar of UP in Mindanao at 082- 2930201. (MindaNews)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

[NEWS] Cheap, practical trainings open for new, small entrepreneurs

(Courtesy of MindaNews news service. One good news for micro-small enterprises ---!}

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 July) – What can your P150 buy?

Lunch for two at a fastfood chain or watch a movie with a friend? With
P150 you can also attend a training on cinnamon and ensaymada-baking,
and maybe start your own business.

This and 11 other practical trainings for micro- and small enterprises
are open to the public at affordable registration fees, local business
leader, Sofronio Jucutan has announced here Friday. Jucutan, past
president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCI),
is the over-all head of the committee preparing for the Small and
Medium Enterprise Week, to be held here July 17-21.

Jucutan heads the public-private sector council for Davao City's Small
and Medium Enterprise Development (SMED), with the DCCCI, city
government, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and other

The trainings this year have basic courses on community and
self-managed enterprise, on preparing a business plan, and on
intellectual property rights for SMEs, as well as knowing the basic of
industrial and human relations.

There are also specialization trainings on packaging and marketing of
ethnic commodities, energy audit forum for SMEs, business prospects of
medical transcription, business registration forum, designing an
accounting system and filing, and income tax return, seminar on
emerging food safety issues, and the forum on information and
technology (IT) solutions for SMEs.

The one-session courses would be held in the function rooms of the
DTI, University of the Philippines in Mindanao, Ateneo de Davao
University, and in other venues.

SMED also offers monthly courses on other fields, Jucutan told
MindaNews, such as the 10-session "How to Start a Business"
entrepreneurial development course. The course is P1,500 per session.

The registration fees for the SME week trainings range from P100 to
P750 only per course.

The course offering would be expected to encounter some problems,
mainly attitudinal. Jucutan said many micro- and small entrepreneurs
"want it [a course] always free, but they really have to invest on

"We have to train so that there will be more business and more
employment too," he said.

Since 2000, SMED has organized trainings during the annual Small and
Medium Enterprise Week, said Jacky Flores, SMED's aide for training
and consultancy. Flores said around 1,500 home and community-based
micro and small entrepreneurs have attended different courses.

Jucutan said that the trainings are intended to help SMEs which "have
difficulty competing with branded products". But the bigger problem
among these enterprises was access to capitalization, he added.

Meanwhile, Jucutan said that "there are already mechanisms taken to
aid SMEs gain more access to capital and lessen barriers, like
offering tax holidays" although they still have to face constraints in
access like "track record" in obtaining loans.

According to the National Statistics Office, of the 35,886
micro-small-medium enterprises in Southern Mindanao as of 2001, about
91.4 percent were micro enterprises, or those whose capital are below
P3 million. Small enterprises, with P3 million to P50 million
capitalization, made up 7.8 percent. Both the medium scale
enterprises, with P50 million to P100 million capitalization, and the
large companies barely made up one percent of the number of
enterprises in Southern Mindanao. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Friday, July 07, 2006

[NEWS] Maguindanao standoff ends with 3-day "no movement" agreement

(Note: Alas, this should give us a breather, both space and time for our peaceworkers from all sides to help solve this problem and buy time to prevent another long and big war from erupting, which could possibly undermine all efforts and gains to peace in Mindanao. )

By Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews (Courtesy of MindaNews news service)
SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao (MindaNews/06 July) – Armed skirmishes in
Maguindanao towns have temporarily stopped as government and the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to a three-day "no movement on
all sides" policy requiring the CVOs (Civilian Volunteers
Organization), CAFGUs (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit
(CAFGUs), the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
not to launch "offensive movements" to allow for the Joint Ceasefire
Committees to verify the actual situation on the ground and "isolate"
those who are disturbing the peace.

At the same time, Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan also ordered the
pull-out of his armed CVOs from the contested area, Jesus Dureza,
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the President's emissary
to the Ampatuans, said.

Retired general Ramon Santos, head of the government's Coordinating
Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and undersecretary of
the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, explained
that it will not just be the Joint CCCH that will do the verification
on the ground and determine the area where they can assure civilians
no armed element can enter there without the permission of the Joint
CCCH and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) but the
expanded team – the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring and Assistance team –
to include the grassroots-based Bantay Ceasefire (Ceasefire Watch) and
humanitarian agencies.

Dureza said a buffer zone will be set up to ensure the CVOs and MILF
troops are "not within shouting match or sniffing match."

He announced the agreement before the province's 15 town mayors,
immediately after a 40-minute closed door conference with Maguindanao
Governor Ampatuan and his son, Datu Zaldy, the governor of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The briefing was held at
the "sub-office" of the province located inside the residential
compound of the Maguindanao governor.

Dureza said the President gave him two missions – to extend her
gratitude to both the government and MILF forces for exerting efforts
to prevent the escalation of the conflict and to express her
condolences to the governor who lost his security escorts to a bombing
on June 23 here; and to "find means to ensure the conflict ends."

Dureza said that after three days, the two sides will again meet to
assess "how to complete the arrangement to stop skirmishes."

He declined to call the three-day "no movement" agreement a ceasefire.
"We have an existing ceasefire (with the MILF)," he said.

Dureza also said a warrant of arrest had been issued against the
suspects of the June 23 bombing.

The warrant lists "Ameril Umbra Kato, Wahid Tundok, Sahid Pakiladatu,
Abu Nabrie Benito, Baguindali Abdullah, Kagui Macmod, et al" as

"Under the law… they are just suspects. … they are still presumed
innocent," Dureza said.

The Ampatuan camp says the suspects are MILF members.

Earlier reports noted that the armed clashes started on June 28 when
the CVOs and police of the Maguindanao governor reportedly set out to
serve the warrant of arrest on the suspects.

The government and MILF, however, had signed a Joint Communiqué on May
6, 2002, allowing for the creation of a Joint Action Group to allow
the MILF to help in pursuing after criminal elements in the so-called
MILF areas.

"We have handed over the warrant of arrest to the Joint Ceasefire
Committee because we already have that mechanism in an agreement with
the MILF," Dureza said, explaining the May 6, 2002 Joint Communiqué.

"Let us give the committee the chance to do its work," Dureza said.

Dureza, who told the mayors that he knows they "mobilized their CVOs,"
appealed to the mayors "to toe the line. Let's allow the ceasefire
committee work it out. Later on, we will meet and assess, where are
we, what were the problems, where do we go from here?"

Dureza noted the formula "will not give miracles" and will not mean
the problem is immediately solved.

"Let's take it one step at a time," he said, adding "in the meantime,
we appeal to everyone not to launch offensive actions. Keep your boys
in your respective areas."

Dureza also said displaced villagers will be attended to. At least
4,000 families have been displaced by the clashes. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

[NEWS] Standoff in 4 Maguindanao towns continues; Dureza off to Aguak

By Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews
(Courtesy of MindaNews news service)

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/05 July) -- The Presidential Adviser on the
Peace Process will meet with Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan tomorrow
(Thursday) "to work out how to stop the skirmishes" in four
Maguindanao towns from escalating and threatening the peace process
between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Attempts by the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT),
Joint Ceasefire Committee and civil society groups to end the standoff
have failed and Ampatuan's spokesperson, Engr. Norie Unas, warned
today that "this can escalate beyond Maguindanao."

"Armed encounters are still going on. And the evacuees, there are a
lot of evacuees. We are attending to the sufferings of both armed
elements and the civilians," Unas told MindaNews.

Asked how many persons had been killed in the clashes, Unas replied,
"no idea yet."

"What is alarming now," he said, "is the demonstrated sympathy of
mayors who sent their troops to fight side by side against the

He said 16 of 28 Maguindanao mayors had "sent their troops," referring
to CVOs (civilian volunteer organizations).

CVOs are supposed to be unarmed. The armed militia, known as the
Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), are territorial and
are supposed to be confined only within their specified area of
jurisdiction, e.g. their barangay.

The armed clashes started on June 28, five days after a bombing in
Shariff Aguak town, Gov. Ampatuan's hometown. The governor was
unharmed but five of his aides were killed. The Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), however, says in its press statements that
seven were killed.

Unas said "many are saying the target was the governor and his family."

The governor's camp named the suspects as Ameril Ombra, allegedly of
the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces' 105th Base Command and
Said Pakiladatu, allegedly also of the same command.

Unas said Pakiladatu was also among the suspects in the December 2002
bombing which killed Datu Saudi, mayor-son of the governor.

Pakiladatu's wife was gunned down in Cotabato City at noon today.

The police personnel, CAFGUs and CVOs were reportedly going to arrest
the two suspects on June 28, triggering the clashes.

Unas said "to a larger extent, the bombing was attributed to some
members of the MILF, not the organization but some members who are
linked to terrorists."

If the two suspects are served their warrants of arrest, he said, they
would be given due process.

"But we should look at the broader spectrum," he said, asking, "are
they (MILF) really sincere or are they blackmailing the government?"

Unas noted that the Ampatuans are "the last bastion of pro-government"
yet they are "being sidelined."

"Time and again," he said, "the regional and provincial governments
are in support of the peace process. Had we not been supporting the
peace process, things would have been worse."

The MILF, Unas added, imagines itself as an organization undertaking
reforms "pero ginagawa na ng leadership dito sa province (but the
leadership of the province is already doing that) in a very civil and
non-violent way."

Unas said they will agree to a ceasefire only if the suspects are
turned over to them, "justice is served" and the MILF elements "move
out of our territory."

The ARMM's Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in a special
meeting on July 3, urged President Arroyo to "direct the Philippine
National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to
take an active and fast action against the perpetrators of the June
23, 2006 bombing in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao."

The resolution also called on the government peace panel "to implore the MILF to make good
their commitment to help bring criminals/terrorists to answer for
their acts." The government and MILF peace panels, in a Joint
Communique on May 6, 2002, set up a Joint Action Group that would go
after kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal elements in the
so-called MILF areas. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

[NEWS] BFAD urges public to help in drive vs. fake medicines

(Thanks to MindaNews news service.)

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/5 July) -- The Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD)
has called on the public to assist in the drive against fake medicines
by reporting "suspicious" drugs in the market as a city councilor here
raised on Wednesday an alarm against the proliferation of counterfeit
Arnold Alendada, food and drugs regulation officer of BFAD-Southern
Mindanao, urged the public "to be vigilant against fake drugs and
report such incidents to BFAD for investigation."

He advised customers to keep the official receipt of the transaction
because it is useful in the complaint against fake drugs.

BFAD is encouraging the consumers to help, Alendada said, as they only
have six field inspectors to monitor at least 800 drug stores and
distributors around the region. He said BFAD organized its personnel
around the region into teams to inspect the drug stores per locality
instead of asking them to go alone.

Alendada said despite the manpower constraint, the inspectors
discovered recently that there are drug stores in Davao City that sell
products suspected to be fake. He added that a number of drugstores in
Davao City have already been closed for selling fake drugs.

He said that the regional office of BFAD could only monitor, collect
samples and report "suspicious drugs" to their central office in
Alabang (Muntinlupa City), which would then conduct tests to verify if
the medicines are fake.

Davao City Councilor Pilar Braga briefed reporters Wednesday about a
resolution she passed to the city council on July 4 asking health
authorities and the police to "look into the reported proliferation of
fake drugs in the city."

Braga cited a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that
most of the fake medicines are fast-selling multivitamins and
antibiotics. The WHO report estimated that between 6 to 10 percent of
medicines in the world market are fake and is also most serious in
developing countries like the Philippines.

Braga's resolution expressed the need to check supply of counterfeit
drugs in the local market citing reports that such medicines continue
to be widely available at "bargain basement prices." The lady
councilor cited the need to educate consumers on the dangers of buying
fake drugs and encouraged them to buy only from reliable drug stores.

Braga told reporters that fake medicines pose a serious threat to the
health of people. Her privilege speech during the July 4 regular
session of the city council was entitled "Fake medicine, fake health."

Internet postings on fake drugs reveal their dangers, including loss of lives.

Braga said fake medicines either have correct ingredients yet packaged
by unregistered firms, wrong ingredients, inactive ingredients and
insufficient active ingredients.

Alendada said it is difficult to equip fully the public on identifying
fake medicines but if they suspect the medicine to be different from
the usual stock they bought, they have to report it.

He said that oftentimes the appearance of the packaging of fake
medicines are different from the registered one. Another sign is the
poor quality of printing of the packaging. He also advised consumers
to watch closely if there is absence or distortion of the expiration
date, lot or batch numbers. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

[NEWS] Disaster preparedness: Kibawe residents asked to vacate landslide-prone areas

diwalwal pic
Originally uploaded by waltzib.
(DAVAO CITY) – Residents in four villages in Kibawe, Bukidnon have been asked to vacate their houses after environment officials declared their area across the Pulangi River risky and prone to landslide, the municipal public information officer said.

A total of 74 families or 346 persons from Puroks 1, 2, 3 and Sitio Lumbayan in Brgy. Magsaysay were advised to vacate the area by the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Northern Mindanao, Baldomero E. Baldomero, municipal PIO told MindaNews in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Apparently because there is no relocation area as yet, the residents in the danger zone have not moved out.

Baldomero said the local government of Kibawe and the province of Bukidnon have already prepared a contingency plan. “We are finalizing a relocation area and we plan to move people soon,” he said.

Since June 18, Baldomero said, residents and school personnel from the barangay reported cracks on the ground. Baldomero said government geologists also noted that in some areas, the ground collapsed to as deep as 300 centimeters to a meter.

Already, seven houses made of light materials had been destroyed in the danger zone due to these cracks.

Baldomero said geologists cited as a factor the area’s soil type – sandy loam – which dried up in summer, causing cracks. With the onset of the rainy season, rainwater seeped into the cracks and softened the base. An earthquake, Baldomero said, was counted out as a cause.

The cracks have damaged houses, barangay buildings, basketball court and classrooms.

Baldomero said classes were suspended in Magsaysay Elementary School on June 18, when teachers decided that the cracks on the walls of the classroom and deformities in door frames posed danger to the students. Classes were resumed in a makeshift classroom in another village a few days later.

"If rains will continue, we are afraid that this might have tragic results just like that in Leyte," Baldomero said.

He said the ground cracks were observed in a six hectare-area in Kibawe and that cracks as long as a kilometer extending up to Kitaotao, an adjacent town, have been found.

Baldomero said the local government has been trained to respond and prepare for disasters. But he stressed the need to have more trainings and preparations. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

Photo by Skippy Lumawag: Rural scene in a rainy day.