PH climate change plans favour big business, threaten IP lands


*Featured image by Kathy Yamzon, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – National Capital Region

Thousands of Filipinos joined today’s global climate change march led by the Roman Catholic church to protest a mitigation program that they say favors big business.

As President Benigno Aquino Jr. readies for his talk in Paris on behalf of nations vulnerable to climate change, environmentalists in the Philippines say the race to build coal-fired power plans and start mining operations on indigenous peoples’ lands erode his credibility.

Environmental groups like Kalikasan, Caraga Watch and Greenpeace International say the push for coal sets back the country’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 70% within the next 15 years.

Even the government’s ambitious re-greening program covering more than 7 million hectares of denuded lands has come under fire because of the focus on plantation cash-crops that include oil palms, the source of the deadly Indonesian haze that recently blanketed Southeast Asia.

Community farm - Lianga caraga1
Lumad of the Andap Valley complex in Surigao del Sur fear their farms will wither and die with the entry of coal mining firms .

Caraga Watch, which monitors investment projects in Southern Mindanao, links these big development projects to the spate of attacks on Lumad.

More than 60 indigenous leaders in Mindanao have died in resource conflicts since 2010. Ten of the dead were children. The attacks, which almost always precede the entry of mining and plantations have displaced more than 40,000 Lumad, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Many of the rights violations are traced to paramilitary groups that received funding, arms and training after Mr. Aquino allowed the creation of investment defense forces.

Dirty coal

Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan forecasts Mr. Aquino’s short talk next week before the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as “grandstanding double talk that will ultimately toe the line of the United States and other top big polluter countries.”

He pointed out that coal and other fossil fuel power projects in the pipeline comprise more than 80 percent of all upcoming energy projects in the Philippines.

“In order to make climate solutions work for our nation, we need to put pressure not only on the world leaders, but most especially on our country’s leaders themselves,” Bautista said.

Sen. Loren Legarda has warned that the push for coal jeopardizes the country’s commitments to ease climate change.

“They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe,” Legarda stressed.

alsons saranggani bigger photo
Alson’s Power Group will start operating its new coal plant on the shore of Sarangani Bay by January next year. Environmentalists fear damage one of the country’s richest fishing grounds. The company counters that it is using “the latest clean coal technology.” 

The government’s energy program originally called for a 30-30-30 energy mix with natural gas, coal and renewables each accounting for 30% with 10% reserved for alternative technologies.

Legarda, however, said coal now dominates the country‘s energy mix, accounting for for 42.5% of power generated. By 2020, she added, coal would account for 56% of the mix.

“Barring any intervention, this will further increase to 75% by 2030— the highest share of coal among countries in Asia,” Legarda said.

Twenty-three new power plans are starting operations in the next five years.

“By embracing coal, the Philippines loses its credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

Government’s coal program ignores the Greenpeace’s warnings in its 2012 report:

“From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal … Coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel and coal mining is responsible for 8-10% of human-made methane emissions globally.”

Threat to Lumad lives

Michelle Campos lost her father, Dionel, to a September militia attacked linked to coal mining. Soldiers acting on behalf of mining firms are demand a halt to Lumad resistance in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex, she said.

While Lumad huddled in a displacement camp, mining firm Abacus brought in mining equipment and personnel into the valley, according to Caraga watch.

MINING - EXISTING OPS

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the environment department show half a dozen mining firms, including some responsible for horrific disasters, preparing to start operations.

Coal mining contracts cover 6,000 hectares in Lianga, Campos’ hometown, where militia killed her father, an uncle and the head of a Lumad school for “poising the minds” of IPs against extractive industries.

The town hosts the world’s biggest coal block reserve, according to Caraga Watch.

Coal, the country’s major lignite reserve, can be found in three of its provinces: Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The biggest bulk of coal reserve is said to be found in Bislig and the Andap Valley Complex which covers the municipalities of Tandag, Tago, San Miguel, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.

Aside from approving coal mine applications, the government is pushing construction of coal-fired power plants in Surigao del Sur and nearby provinces.

Mr. Aquino promises peace and greater economic standards from his development thrust.

The Ibon Philippines think tank, however, notes that most of the financial gains from mining — the country’s mineral reserves are valued USD 1.387 trillion or five times the country’s 2013 gross domestic product —  go to the big private firms.

Resource conflicts, meanwhile, put much burdens on local government units whose please to disband paramilitary forces have been ignored by Mr. Aquino.

MINING - AREAS OF CONFLICTS

“When we protect our ancestral lands we also protect all Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans, from environmental devastation and food insecurity,” Campos stressed. “When President Aquino talks of development and peace, he means the peace of the graveyard for our people.”

 

 

 

Elegy for Freedom of Information Law


When the Right to Know Right Now (R2KRN) coalition proclaimed the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill dead in the 16th Congress, I wondered if the declaration was premature. Could renewed clamour prod President Benigno Aquino III to finally declare the bill urgent? READ: R2KRN 2010 Letter to PNOY on FOI

Another paragraph also raised my brows. The coalition said it would be unfair to continue giving House FOI champions the burden of taking political risks in order to overcome the leadership’s refusal to push for FOI.

“Champions are expected to take political risks,” was my thought bubble. But I come from a more militant point of view than other folks in the R2KRN coalition and so decided to ask co-convenor Nepomucena Malaluan some questions. There’s always room for enlightenment.

I’m going to share Nepo’s replies verbatim. Before that, however, let me acknowledge the very hard work the coalition has done in more than 15 years of campaigning for the passage of the FOI Act.

Ed Chua, country chairman of Shell Companies in the Philippines and a trustee of Makati Business Club signs www.change.org/TayoNaParaSaFOI at a UP event
Ed Chua, country chairman of Shell Companies in the Philippines and a trustee of Makati Business Club signs http://www.change.org/TayoNaParaSaFOI at a UP event

It has has held forums, issued statements, ran pooled editorials, participated actively in the legislative process – the latter not a task for the faint-hearted and the sensitive. It has also launched mass actions signature campaigns — more than 17,000 signatures on this Change.org petition and 20,000 more on the paper version. It also organized advocacy runs, filed its own bill by way of Indirect Initiative, produced information materials, initiated dialogues, and coordinated work with allies in Congress and the executive. READ: 38,000 signatures submitted to Malacanang

This is the coalition’s sad conclusion:

“We confront the reality that our institutions, particularly the Presidency and Congress, are not ready to overcome their selfish fears and take the side of public interest on the issue of FOI.”

Sounding the death knell for the FOI bill isn’t a full retreat. Nepo explains it as an alternative course of action and one started even as the coalition pushed for passage of the FOI Law.

This is what the coalition said in its statement:

“While the FOI bill again meets its death in the hands of a President and a House leadership reluctant to redistribute power or too arrogant to heed our call, our fight for an effective, working, and living FOI, lives on. It may take a different form, emphasis and strategy, but its essence will remain the same: we assert the right to information as a fundamental mechanism in the struggle for a rights-based governance with greater transparency and accountability, less corruption, broader and informed peoples participation, and development outcomes that are sustainable and just.”

Here are Nepo’s answers to my queries. I just broke down the pargraphs for easier reading:

1) Why is the coalition issuing the death certificate this early?

It is not early.

There is hardly any more time if we go by legislative calendar. Session adjourns October 10 to November 2, and resumes session again from November 3 to December 18. It adjourns again December 19 to January 17, and resumes session from January 18 to February 5. Then a long break for the elections, to come back on May 23 mainly for the canvassing of votes and proclamation of the new president.

This is where prioritization by the highest leadership is important, and the declared top priorities are BBL and the budget. All others in the “priority list” are really secondary.

Can we get them to give FOI equal priority, such that they will take it up alongside/at the same time they take up and approve BBL and the Budget?

freedom-of-information-law-aquino

2) Have there been clear indications — other than (Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales ) Boyet’s remarks; say, from the Palace — that it is going nowhere?

It’s not like we are demanding such high prioritization only now. We demanded it from day one of this administration. We did not see it for the past five years (other than lip service).

You can google how after taking his oath PNoy changed his tune by raising ever-mutating concerns early in his term. He created a study group, which we painstakingly engaged for a year to arrive at a balancing of concerns (which our friends in Makabayan reduced to calling a watered-down Malacanang bill). READ: FOI Bill ‘defanged’ — Makabayan

READ: Coalition responds to Makabayan criticism

Nepo adds:

PNoy’s supposed endorsement in Feb 2012 was not accompanied by push on the ground, unlike in other measures such as sin tax and even RH. His allies saw it as mixed signals, allowing Evardone and House leadership to dribble FOI to death in the 15th Congress.

At the start of the 16th it was not included in the priorities. It took PNoy to be cornered by a question from Ramon Del Rosario at the Daylight Dialogue in Malacanang before the 2014 SONA, to for the first time in his term personally say something positive about FOI passage. It was only after the 2014 SONA that it was included in the list of Malacanang’s priorities, even if he still did not mention it in the SONA itself.

For what it’s worth, the statement at the Daylight Dialogue provided some Malacanang close allies who are supportive of FOI to join the push at the House (particularly Reps Dina Abad and Leni Robredo, and Usec Manolo Quezon, which provided political counterweight to allow Committee chair to move positively). “Added to the coalition and House champions (those pushing independently of Malacanang) work, the Bill passed through the committee.

I could tell you there was really hard work behind the scenes that went into that — coordination meetings that goes from substantive unities to the specific motions and manifestations to be made, and mustering the votes. The Makabayan opposition is the easy part, although they did contribute to the slow process at the TWG level, and also undermined the integrity of the bill through conclusions that are attractive to those who don’t have the time to objectively look at the fine print.

The biggest hurdle was the counter-signals from Speaker and Boyet, and we confirm the account by Walden. I can give you details if you’re interested.

Here is a passage from Walden’s op-ed article on FOI:

The problem, however, lies not with Belmonte but with Malacanang. As everyone in the House knows, Belmonte is a pliant ally of the president, and whatever may be his public statements, if Malacanang does not want a bill, it won’t go through. Thus, Aquino’s silence on FOI last Monday spoke volumes to Belmonte and other members of Congress.

During both the 15th and 16th Congresses, Malacanang tried to waylay the advocates by playing a double game. On the one hand, it would send Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III to assure them that Malacanang was willing to assist in framing a law that it could support. On the other hand, other emissaries would float the word that the president had major problems with the bill, giving ammunition to opponents of the bill.

In both Congresses, advocates bent over backwards to accommodate Malacanang’s legitimate national security concerns while ensuring that there would be no blocks to full transparency. In both Congresses, Malacanang’s representatives registered no objections to the versions that finally passed the Committee.

What has prevented people like Belmonte and Aquino from following through on their promises to pass FOI?

I think their strong hesitation stems from the generalized fear of many politicians that the legislated transparency of FOI may work against them in some undefined way at some point. In the case of the House leadership, it is probably a case of generalized fear. In the case of President Aquino, however, it is probably more than generalized fear. It probably stems from his desire to prevent access to documents and other material that may give him an image different from that he wants to leave behind, if not make him and some of his subordinates vulnerable to criminal and civil charges for felonious deeds committed while in office. – See more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/530402/opinion/commentary-freedom-of-information-bill-in-its-death-throes#sthash.G9UCdGXw.dpuf

FOI cebu by foi youth initiative

Nepo expounds on the process of shepherding a bill through Congress:

However, getting the bill out of committee is one thing; getting it even calendared in plenary and much more voted on with sufficient time is another. And this is where a mention of FOI at at last SONA would have been critical, and I’m sure PNoy and Malacanang know it.

He did not mention it. Instead, his spokespersons point to the budget message, which to me is just a cover. PNoy could also certify it urgent; he says he wont because the constitution requires an emergency but you very well know it’s a political discretion, as it is used when convenient

3) Is the coalition making it too easy for the Palace? It could die, of course, even with another wave of mass campaign. It would, at least, give some discomfort for those responsible. In bowing out this early, isn’t the coalition encouraging similar behavior from whoever succeeds Mr. Aquino?

We are making it too easy for the Palace by declaring the FOI Bill dead?

On the contrary. What will be too easy is if we allow ourselves to be strung along up to the point when any cry of betrayal is already moot since the elections is done.

We did not just declare the FOI Bill dead; we unequivocally put the responsibility for killing it on PNoy and Belmonte. We gave up on PNoy. We gave up on the House of Representatives. We gave up on the institutions. Certainly it is not our intent to give those responsible comfort.

4) On ‘unfair to continue to burden our House FOI champions with the expectation to take political risks’… It’s a strange phrasing. Don’t major, urgent causes also come with political risk? Does this passage have anything to do with the champions’ political future with the administration’s coalition come election period? Is this linked to the early death certificate?

No, we did not mean political future with the administration’s coalition. We mean the readiness to do what it takes — such as scuttling BBL or budget deliberations to compel the House leadership and PNoy to negotiate on FOI passage. Is there anyone ready to do that? (During the 14th Congress what it required towards the endgame was for someone to scuttle the Presidential canvassing to force a negotiation on FOI.)

We recognize the work of our allies, but how far they will take it is a leadership call and not for us to demand. We can only offer our full support should they do so.

There may be other engagement nuances that I do not see. I’d appreciate if you could expound on these. I’m sure the numerous other supporters of the FOI would also appreciate your insights.

Nepo then discusses the alternative:

What is lost in your questions is the other side of the statement — FOI Practice. We are serious about this shift in focus, and this will be something we will pursue systematically and doggedly.

The serious gaps in FOI that can be comprehensively addressed by legislation, which was the path we took for more than 15 years, we can alternatively struggle to address by FOI Practice. (We did have occasional conversations on Direct Initiative, but this is another very difficult route.)

There are trade-offs. This alternative focus on FOI Practice allows for incremental changes, rather than a one-off big change through legislation. But this can also be rewarding, and can give as much discomfort to the centers of power.

You mentioned earlier another wave of mass campaign directed at the legislative push. That is no small matter; it requires much time and resources. This is time and resources that we can put to FOI Practice, and we are ready to show this can have great impact as well.

In the 14th and 15th Congress we fought the legislative route up to the very end. We may not have done enough, but we also felt the institutions failed us. We are prepared to go a different route this time, and it is not a matter of whim.

The coalition does not see our legislative efforts lost. We would like to think that we have developed a strong and broad coalition. Whatever shortcomings we have, and there would be many, we would like to think as well that we were able to reach some people.

It is from these foundations built from our legislative advocacy that we take the road of FOI Practice.

Health, not just infra services crucial to PH disaster mitigation, recovery efforts


(First of Two Parts)

Life and death in Palo, Leyte. Photo by Charlie Saceda for Change.org Philippines
Life and death in Palo, Leyte. Photo by Charlie Saceda for Change.org Philippines

MANILA –When the stench of death and the wails of the bereaved fill the air, the advent of new life makes for great human-interest stories. 

A child born on a roof surrounded by swirling waters. Those babies nicknamed “Bakwet” (a play on evacuate) in the aftermath of typhoons, earthquakes or conflict. Beyond these life-affirming tales is a painful truth: In disaster-prone places there is scant protection to be found for the community’s most vulnerable members.

Over 1 million people lost access to full health services following Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The international aid group, Save The Children, reports that more than 100 of an estimated 750 births daily in affected areas came with potentially life threatening complications.

“Four months after the typhoon, only half of affected health centers had reopened – meaning up to 45,000 babies were born without full medical care,” said Save The Children Philippines Country Director, Ned Olney.

In a briefing, Olney pointed out that when women die in childbirth following disasters, the family loses its primary caregiver. The surviving newborn babies could fail to thrive, and many do not survive beyond five years old, as they tend to be malnourished.

According to the NGO’s 2014 “State of the World’s Mothers” report, more than 60 million women and children are in need of humanitarian assistance this year. Over half of maternal and child deaths worldwide occur in crisis-affected places. “The majority of these deaths are preventable,” the report adds.

In a bid to ease mortality among mothers and newborns during disaster periods, Save The Children launched ‘the BEACON Box’ (Birthing Essentials And Care Of Newborns) program.

The kit, contained in a stormproof box, contains everything to enable a pregnant woman to give birth in a clean environment if she cannot get to a health clinic: plastic sheets, a tarpaulin, soap, sterile cord ties, sterile blades, clean towels, a birth certificate and a lamp. The aid group will preposition these supplies in the country’s most vulnerable barangays.

The project will cost P10 million.

Bracing for more loss

Disaster belts crisscross the world. But many governments lag in providing mothers and children with appropriate health services even during periods of strong economic growth.

In the Philippines, for example, per capita GDP has almost tripled since 2000. But a series of typhoons and a major earthquake in 2013 caused the country to slip four places in Save The Children’s global ranking of 178 countries.

The Philippines’ 2014 105th ranking is lower than neighboring Southeast Asia countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Even Iraq, a country still recovering from a decades of war and terror, outranks the Philippines.

The official Yolanda death toll has topped 6,000, thrice the initial figure claimed by President Benigno Aquino III. Private rescue and relief groups say the actual death count is much higher as protocols do not include unidentified dead and the missing. The Philippine government estimates that Yolanda affected 16 million, more than 16 percent of the national population. At least 10 million of these were women and children.

VULNERABLE. Mothers and young children take the brunt of disasters. Photo by Charlie Saceda for Change.org Philippines
VULNERABLE. Mothers and young children take the brunt of disasters. Photo by Charlie Saceda for Change.org Philippines

Beyond the immediate death toll, however, loss in human lives could worsen this year.

Save The Children’s report   cited research on impact of Philippine typhoons that indicate, “Almost 15 times as many infants may die in 2014 due to conditions that deteriorate in the wake of Haiyan than were killed outright by the storm itself.”

“Depressed incomes will leave families with less to spend on health care, education and nutritious food,” it added, noting that historically, female infants are most at risk post-disaster.

“More males than females die in the womb immediately after typhoons, as is well established. After being born, however, a baby girl’s risk of dying is higher even if she has no siblings, but it doubles if she has one or more older sisters, and quadruples if she has brothers,” it added. Save The Children cited a 2013 report, “Destruction, Disinvestment, and Death: Economic and Human Losses Following Environmental Disaster,” published in the Social Science Research Network.

Yolanda devastated more than 2,000 hospitals and health clinics and destroyed countless health records and computer systems, according to Save The Children. Six months after the disaster, only 50 percent of facilities have been restored.

Francesca Cuevas, Director of Health for Save the Children-Philippines however, notes that only 7 percent of health facilities in affected areas are able to provide clean and safe delivery. Only 4 percent of the health facilities can handle newborn that need resuscitation.

Greater health focus urged  

Six months since Yolanda, Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson says the Office of Civil Defense still needs to submit its Post Disaster Needs Assessment. The report is a requirement before the national government rolls out its rehabilitation masterplan.

There are Cabinet clusters to streamline the delivery of basic government services to communities in an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands. Lacson says only the infrastructure cluster has submitted a comprehensive rehab plan.

Critics have chafed at what they see as a bias for infrastructure at the expense of other crucial sectors.

There’s no overstating the need for infrastructure recovery. Yolanda damaged more than a million homes and destroyed 17500 public school classrooms in more than 2,000 schools.

Lacson says 200,000 housing units need rebuilding. Many private companies and foundations have rebuilt or have pledged to replace more than 2000 of the classrooms.

Save the Children and multilateral aid agencies have acknowledged the Philippine government’s “robust” response to the devastation of Yolanda. They urge the government, however, to step up efforts in providing jobs, shelter, and safeguards to prevent post-disaster abuse and exploitation of the most vulnerable sectors.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the Philippines representative Bernard Kerblat noted, “gaps in aid provision of which, shelter and livelihood remain outstanding needs.”

The global charity Oxfam also expressed concern that the provision of jobs and livelihood lagged behind other services.

Kerblat said it best. After relief, the main challenge is putting “durable” solutions at the grassroots.

AT RISK. A family in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Photo from Save The Children's 2014 State of the World's Mothers Report
AT RISK. A family in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Photo from Save The Children’s 2014 State of the World’s Mothers Report

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, stressed the need to address longer-term health issues.

WHO country representative Dr. Julie Hall cited the need to provide safe health facilities for 70,000 births expected in the next three months. She also warned of mental health problems among those struggling to move on.

There have been many news reports of entire families perishing during Yolanda, and clans with only one or two surviving members.

“Six months on, we have made real progress, but the resilience of the Filipino spirit alone will not be enough,” Hall stressed.

“Ensuring the resilience of the health infrastructure, universal health care for all Filipinos, and continued investments in health promotion are all required,” she said.

Health gains

Multilateral and private aid groups note the improvements in the delivery of health care in the Philippines, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. Save The Children, however, pointed out that, “without greater investment in disaster-proof health systems, and quicker and more effective humanitarian response, it may be increasingly challenging to keep rebuilding the country’s health infrastructure.”

“There are considerable inequities in health care access and outcomes between socio-economic groups, and a major driver of inequity has been the high cost of health care,” its report added.

The national insurance program, Philhealth states that 83 percent of the population is enrolled in what aims to be universal health coverage. Save The Children’s report, said that the covered rate (those who are actually able to go to a hospital) is estimated to be less than 75 percent, citing the PharmaBoardroom.com on Philippine healthcare coverage.

With local government systems still struggling to recover from Yolanda, aid groups urge President Aquino’s administration to invest more in basic health services. Resilience can only go so far. In the areas devasted by Yolanda, the 2013 earthquake and conflicts in Mindanao, defaulting on urgent health confirms could only increase the loss of human lives. (Inday Espina-Varona is Philippine Campaigns Director of Change.org, a global petition platform.)

Daily Mail aid scandal report could create (undeserved) backlash


Chiara Zambrano’s “They are Alive” video of Leyte folk seeking kin or rescue 

had just started airing on TV Patrol, silencing the entire household, when a slow-loading laptop scrolled open the Daily Mail‘s report on the alleged diversion of UK relief aid for Yolanda victims. (** See update with DSWD below)

The UK paper quoted a former Scottish DJ, expat Keb Darge, 56, as saying he was facing threats for exposing alleged aid diversion.

“Mr Darge photographed supplies being locked up rather than distributed in Eastern Samar, where he used to live with his Filipino wife and their nine-year-old daughter. Now he has gone into hiding in Manila, fearing reprisals after receiving threats from the corrupt officials he has been trying to expose.”

It also alluded to a newspaper report quoting Hernani Mayor Edgar Boco (a Liberal Party member) as admitting  “his officials were controlling distribution”.

And then it attributed to Goco some lines that belong to a movie villain:  ‘You can’t constantly give relief goods to the people. People will abuse the system. They will gorge themselves.’ 

That’s a classic with the highest potential of virality. The problem is, with so many flaws in its report, one can’t even be sure the Daily Mail quoted Goco in the proper context. Confusing is an understatement for its report.

For example, the first two paragraphs read:

“Crucial aid sent from Britain to help the victims of typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines is being siphoned off and sold for profit by corrupt local officials.

Emergency supplies delivered  by military helicopters have turned up on the shelves of shops in affluent districts of the capital Manila  – hundreds of miles from the disaster zone.”

Aid scandal2However, the photo grab of a GMA broadcast news clearly referred to “ready-to-eat meals ng mga sundalong Amerikano (American soldiers).”  The context of this strange arrangement comes much later in the story.

The Daily Mail (contact its editors on social media — @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook ) said :

“Television stations in the Philippines have supported Mr Darge’s claims, reporting that supplies have been diverted  to Manila. Aid packages have also apparently been auctioned online.” (Not a very accurate statement. GMA reported on diversion of aid, but it wasn’t reporting about UK aid.) 

The report notes the “the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – an umbrella group representing 14 UK charities” has “expressed concern about evidence that suggests not all the £60 million of aid given by Britain is reaching those most in need.” That isn’t the same as confirmation of Mr. Darge’s claims.

Aid scandal1British Ambassador Asif Ahmad has called it a non-story. He adds that the Mail has taken down the story from its website.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported, UK embassy denies report on ‘Yolanda’ aid not reaching victims

The Inquirer said the United Nations is investigating why some remote islands are still bereft of aid a month after Super Typhoon Yolando whipped through Eastern Visayas.

But it’s also in the same we’ve-heard-some-reports vein, with this from Valerie Amos, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator:

“Although we’ve got significant aid now coming in to the major centers, we still have a little bit of a worry that in a couple of the smaller islands that there may be needs there that we haven’t managed to meet yet.”

“I’m still hearing worrying reports in the media — indeed I heard one this morning — where people said they hadn’t received any aid as yet, and we’re looking into that.”

The Daily Mail did not check with the British Embassy in Manila. It probably didn’t check out the Embassy’s Facebook site, which has a slew of posts on relief services. Among these:

Aid scandal3More than 10,000 people have been given food for seven days – just one headline statistic from the first week’s efforts in the Philippines by the men and women of HMS Illustrious.

A blog post by Mike Taylor, who led the Foreign Office Rapid Deployment Team, which “drove 1,400 miles and found 24 British nationals reported as missing, as well as other foreign expats in need of assistance.”

Mr. Taylor acknowledged he’d “seen at first hand the terrible cost of Yolanda, but also the resilience of local people, Filipino and expatriate.”

Of course, these stories or the ambassador’s statements don’t quite prove the Daily Mail story was all wrong. Nobody has called Mr. Darge a liar or refuted the claim that he is in hiding because of death threats.

However, the absence of any condemnatory note also does not mean Mr. Darge’s report is true. In fact, we don’t exactly know what happened.

It’s bad enough that you have another silly mayor blaming the Department of Social Welfare and Development for a chopper crash that injured crew and aid volunteers — he said aid should have coursed through the local government; DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman says national government stepped in because of text messages from people claiming they haven’t received any.

There are also frequent PM’s from foreign-based Filipino donors — the US and, more recently, Japan — quoting news reports and questioning whether they should still continue helping out. I’ve tried to correct false reports or, at the least, provide them with the list of accredited foreign and local NGOs as alternative conduits.

The December 7 Daily Mail report is still on the Web. Whether old or new will not really matter — it’s the first thing that pops up when you google “Philippines aid scandal.”

That’s a damn shame. The Daily Mail could do this country a favour by either coming out with a clear retraction or, conversely, a firm stand-by-our story position that should include more concrete data.

(Update : from abs-cbnnews.com )

DSWD vows probe into sale of relief goods

“The reality on the ground is there are NGOs (non-government organizations) directly distributing relief goods to LGUs (local government units)… (In) every municipality, we have already deployed (teams) to assess whether commodities are being received by our people in the villages,” DSWD officer-in-charge for Eastern Visayas Nestor Ramos said.

“Usually, when there are donations from the international organizations, we just make an inventory of it by box, but we are not opening that box. We immediately dispatch them to the different municipalities. We have a list of distribution plan as to who will be given priority. We do not repack (these relief goods) in our offices,” he said.

He asked the members of the media to visit relief hubs to check whether there is truth to the allegations.

Villamor-Aguinaldo chacha: CAN WE START AGAIN, PLEASE?


We know volunteers stepped in to prevent potential chaos — hundreds, no, thousands of survivors streaming into Manila with no money, no nothing, with many of them befuddled and, maybe, setting foot in the big city for the first time. I shudder to think of the fate that could have befallen many of them had private citizens with big hearts not stepped in to shoulder some of the problems of governance. 

Whatever criticism we have on national and local governments’ response to the Yolanda disaster, this much we all know is true: Our social and economic infrastructure is buckling under the volume of devastation and loss wrought by the super typhoon.

bangon bayan2Volunteerism is great. But let us not forget that we, volunteers, no matter how expert or motivated, are that — volunteers. Somebody has to be on top, someone has to make the tough decisions, especially when 100 people with 100 different views are gathered and all believe in their good intentions.

The DSWD is that agency and it must be allowed to play its role. Other hierarchies must be subsumed to this need — because once we’ve packed up and gone home, the DSWD will be there, quietly knitting back lives interrupted. In most instances, the DSWD has worked on a heroic scale. It has and it will make mistakes. But we cannot shunt it aside in our impatience.

The military also plays an important role. I agree with Maria Ressa that for immediate relief operations on ground-zero, they probably are the best equipped, in terms of experience and operational abilities, to move the fastest and smoothest. But Metro Manila is not ground zero. What arriving survivors need now is help on a different realm — nurturing. Nobody does this better than the DSWD, with the health department coming in second.

Yes, I think the Camp Aguinaldo caper was a hasty, ill-timed move. Any defense reporter will tell you that moving traumatized people to the premier military camp is a baaaad move. The very character of Camp Aguinaldo and its location would have narrowed the survivors’ breathing space, their freedom to move with a semblance of normalcy. And normalcy is exactly when we all seek to give them now. It is a requisite to moving on.

I was as exasperated as everyone else, especially since nobody seemed willing to give answers. When they did, their answers that cancelled out each other!

Let’s assess all that later. Let’s get our priorities straight. Volunteers, this is not about us. This is about the survivors of Yolanda. For them, I suggest we all walk the extra mile. The survivors face huge challenges — the dangers of depression, of joblessness, of human traffickers lying in wait, of kin incapable of handling the responsibility of adding more mouths in their families Let’s start all over again.

Dialogue with the DILG. And by dialogue, I mean all parties coming in with open minds, with a will to see where all sides are coming from. Offer your bright ideas, offer what you can do. Try to simplify matters without becoming lax about the realities of security and fiscal responsibility. I’ve always thought of DSWD personnel as among the most reasonable, inclusive and pragmatic people in this country. I’ve seen them in the middle of war zones, disaster areas, dysfunctional families. Give them some love. Credit them with goodwill — as we want to be credited with the same.

Let’s just talk and talk, NOW. Because if any of you heard the governor of Leyte on TV today, you know that things are bound to get worse before it gets better. This is our country. We better get our act together. And no, it’s not just the government, even it it’s muffed up some things. It’s all of us. That’s what citizenship is all about.

PS: We can try to make their temporary stay better. But our main thrust should be to get them home. Safe. Whole. Empowered with greater skills. Let’s not forget that goal. Now, let’s do it.

Ano sana ang nabili ng salaping ninakaw ng ‘baboy’?


pig1Ilang linggo nang nangingitngit ang mga Pilipino dahil sa pagnanakaw diumano ng P10 billion mula sa PDAF o pork barrel.

Dumadami na din ang nakikiisa sa mga dating opisyal ng gobyerno na nawagan sa Ombudsman na busisiin din ang  papel ng mga senador at representatives sa paglulustay nitong  pondo.

Pati si Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle ay naluha na sa business-as-usual na asta ng mga lider ng bansa.

Ilang mambabatas ang pinangalanang kasangkot sa pagbuhos ng pera sa mga ghost projects ng mga pekeng NGOs. May mga news reports na nagsasabing ang diumanong utak ng PDAF scheme na si Janet Napoles ay mahal ng mga mambabatas dahil diumano sa mga kickback na hanggang 70% ng bawat PDAF allotment.

Bagamat pinangako naman ni Pangulong Benigno Aquino III na hihigpitan nila ang proseso sa pag-apruba ng mga proyekto sa ilalim ng PDAF, at ang pag-pili ng mga implementing private groups, hindi yata ito sapat sa taumbayan. Lalo nang sinabi nito na mas malala ang kaso ng P700-million agri fertilizer scam noong panahon ng dating Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Mahirap nga namang maunawaan. Todong nangampanya ang gobyernong Aquino para masipa ang pinakamataas na opisyal ng Supreme Court, dahil sa mga di nai-report na mga ari-arian. Ngunit nakikita itong matabang ang reaksyon sa pagkasangkot ng mga kongresista at senador — kabilang na ang mga ka-alyado ng Pangulo — sa malaking pagnanakaw.

Ibang usapin ang higpitan ang proseso. Ibang usapin naman ang pag-imbestiga sa mga kawatan o sa mga tumulong sa kawatan.

Sa maraming Pilipino, simple lang ang usapan: Ang tuwid ay daan ay patas din na daan. Sa usaping pork scam, puno ng lubak at  bukas na manhole ang daan.

Kung nagtataka pa ang Pangulo at mga nasa paligid nya sa ngitngit ng sambayanan, siguro makakatulong ang pag-lista ng kung ano ang katumbas ng ninakaw ng pondo.

Medyo mahirap nga naman ma-imagine ang P10 billion, kaya tutulong tayo. Kung meron kayong dagdag na ehemplo, pakilagay na din sa comment box.

(Update)

Sa Twitter, nag-tanong si @jematoms4h:

ilang school armchairs ang mabibili ng 10B para walang nag-aagawan at nagpapatayang mga bata para sa upuan? #porkbarrelscam

Nagsimula yun sa pagmuni-muni ko, pagkatapos mabasa ang balitang pinauuwi na ng Department of Foreign Affairs ang mga Pilipino sa Egypt, pero voluntary lang daw muna:

Ilang distressed OFWs ang maibabalik sa bansa ng P10-B diverted pork barrel funds?

At habang nagagalit ang taumbayan, ito naman ang patutsada ni Sen. Jinggoy Estrada na una nang pinakitang nakikipag-party kay Napoles at isa sa mga senador na nagbigay ng malaki sa mga ghost NGOs.

We’re not obliged to check NGOs getting pork

Nakakbuang yata ito. Kasama sa obligasyon ng isang senador ang bulatlatin ang mga iba’t-ibang anomalya ng gobyerno. Kasama din ng kapangyarihan nya na mag-desisyon kung saan pumunta ang pera ng taumbayan. Tapos ngayon, sasabihin ng isa sa kanilang wala siyang pakialam kung nag-endorse sya ng kawatan?

ILANG BAHAY?

Core shelters in Ahuy, Iloilo province. Photo from iloilocapitolnewsfiles.com
Core shelters in Ahuy, Iloilo province. Photo from iloilocapitolnewsfiles.com

100,000 na bagong bahay o core shelters ang maitatayo sa mga relocation sites kung susundin ang estimate ng Gawad Kalinga na P100,000 bawat bahay (P110,000 sa ibang lugar).

Panay ang relokasyon ngayon ng mga informal settlers. Kadalasan ang problema, wala namang nakahandang mga bahay para sa kanila.

Ang perang nawawala ay makakapaglipat sana ng 100,000 na pamilya. O di kaya nagamit ito sa paglalagay ng patubigan at kuryente sa mga relocation sites.

PAGKAIN PARA SA MGA BAKWIT

Magkano ang halaga ng isang food pack na pinamumudmod ng DSWD sa tuwing may kalamidad o kapag may gerang pumutok at naging sanhi ng paglilikas ng isang komunidad?

Kadalasan may 2 kilong bigas, may ilang de lata, may sabon, shampoo, toothbrush at toothpaste, kumot at ilang damit. Sabihin pang P500 ang bawat isa (at sigurado akong di aabot dito ang halaga), makakabili ang gobyerno ng 20 million na food pack.

Isipin nyo ito sa sunod na makita nyo ang mga bakwit na nagdadaing dahil di sila naabutan ng pagkain.

BUNKHOUSE PARA SA BAKWIT

Labuyo devastates Aurora province. Photo from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Labuyo devastates Aurora province. Photo from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Ito ang lagay ngayon ng ilang bayan sa Aurora province pagkatapos sumalakay si Bagyong Labuyo nung nakaraang linggo. Sa panahon ni Bagyong Pablo, ubos talaga ang buong bayan ng Cateel. Pati ang evacuation center ay giniba ng bagyo. Walang masilungan ang mga tao. Kinakailangan ng agarang matirahan.

Ilang bunkhouse ang maaring itayo sa perang ninakaw ng baboy?

Ayon sa DSWD, ang halaga ng isang bunkhouse sa Compostela Valley ay P70,000.  Halos 143,000 na bunkhouses ang pwedeng maitayo sa P10 billion.

GAMOT SA TB

Anti-TB drugs. Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
Anti-TB drugs. Photo from abs-cbnnews.com

100,000 TB treatment course ang maaring mabili ng ninakaw na pondo.

Ayon sa World Health Organization ang buong gastusin sa pag-papagaling ng isang pasyenteng may TB ay US$3613 noong 2012.

Mababa ang presyo ng gamot laban sa TB.

Pero karamihan ng pasyente ay nangangailangan ng mga mamahaling antibiotic para malunasan ang malalang infection sa baga at ibang parte ng katawan na kadalasang sumasabay sa TB.

Kailangan din ng bitamina para sa mga pasyente. At dahil pahinga ang isang mahalagang parte ng solusyon, at kadalasan ang kailangan ding mabigyan ng gamot ang ibang myembro ng pamilya, mahalaga ang direktang ayuda.

Ang TB ay isang madaling magamot na sakit. Pero dahil sa komplikasyon na dulot ng kahirapan, pang anim sya sa pinakamadalas na dahilan ng kamatayan.

Sa bawat araw, 73 na Pilipino ang namamatay nang dahil sa TB and mula 200,000 hanggang 600,000 ang nasa listahan ng may active o nakakahawang TB.

DIREKTANG AYUDA

28,248 na pamilya sa Metro Manila ang mabibigyan ng isang taong cost of living na gastusin kung ibabase sa P971 na datos na binigay ng National Labor Commission noon pang 2008.

Ibang usapin pa ang katotohanang halos kalahati lang ng cost of living ang minimum wage sa NCR — at halos kalahati din lang ng mga kumpanya ang sumusunod sa minimum wage. Pero isipin mo na lang. Ang isang mahirap na tao na wala halos maipapakita sa kasipagan nya ay siguradong magagalit sa paglulustay ng pera ng bayan.

CLASSROOM

Mga core classroom sa Cordillera Autonomous Region. Photo from DepEd CAR
Mga core classroom sa Cordillera Autonomous Region. Photo from DepEd CAR

Ayon sa mga datos na galing sa Department of Education, ang isang maayos na classroom ay nagkakahalaga ng P600,000. Mahigit 16,600 na classroom ang magagawa ng P10 billion o halos 25% ng kinakailangang 66.800 na classroom.

Taon-taon na lang nagmamakaawa ang gobyernong tulungang mapunuan ang kakulangan sa classroom. Eh ang mga taga-pasa ng badyet ng bayan ang mismong tumulong sa pagtangay ng pondo ng sambayanan.

Sa susunod na mag-sermon laban sa korupsyon ang ilang banal na tao, sagutin nyo na lang… anong ginawa mo sa tinangay ng baboy?

(UPDATE) SAVING GRACE: ‘Pipol Power’, ‘piso-piso’ for Integrity — w bank details


Within minutes of publishing the blogpost, “Padrone: Si Grace Padaca at Ang Pera ni PNOY”, citizen journalist Shawn Monique Tantengco had a bright idea.

“I Admire Grace ever since. I don’t understand the lapses in judgement here and the memory lost in delicadeza. Maybe we should ask for contribution here to pay PNOY his money back.I am willing to donate. She should owe the Filipino alliance and not one party.Kahit I support that partido ang mali ay mali . Kahit saan angulo eto tingnan Mali talaga!”

I highlighted that on a Facebook post and there was stream of enthusiastic replies. Three friends immediately pledged P1,500. Ian Laput and Mae Paner, good friends of Padaca and members of Kaya Natin (the group of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo), chimed in:

  • Ian Laput yes, bilis ah, sige..let’s do this…
  • Mae Paner Inday Espina-Varona Ian Laput isoli ang 70k ni PNoy! haha! ok ba yun kay gov. grace? dapat syang umoo sa suggestion ni Shawn Monique Tantengco kung ok yan kay comm. grace magaambag din ako!
    THE STAKES
    Everyone seemed to understand the stakes. A good woman was being sucked into patronage politics — on the eve of joining a constitutional body mandated to be rise above patronage politics. Many folk like Grace Padaca. They want to continue believing in Grace. As Laput says: “I want her to succeed — cleanly”.
    Many were disappointed at her acceptance of bail money from President Benigno Aquino III. But few were willing to write her off. Blogger Pedro Jacobo (Political Jaywalker/Pedestrian Observer) asked: “Should we subject good people like Grace Paaca to a higher degree of culpability?”
    From the United States, lawyer Merit Salud stressed:
    “It is not the personal character of the recipient that gave rise to the issue but rather the public position of the benefactor and the consequent public position accepted by the recipient from the benefactor that triggers the question of delikadeza to be raised. Has she or has she not compromise her position of neutrality under the circumstances ? I adore Grace and precisely because we adore her that we raise this question. There are almost 100 million filipinos. and we could not even have more than our fingers the number of people we adore like her for public service.”
    People felt Shawn’s suggestion was a way to salvage the situation. Political comedian Paner: ” 1k from me para tubusin si grace from PNoy. w love!”
    Salud says:
    “Sama ako dyan, basta wag magresign si Grace ! I know she has not compromised her objectivity with what happned. There are many people here I know who believe in the goodness of Grace as a public servant.”
  • Photojournalist Jun Sepe — Piso-piso lang yan! What’s 70,000 supporters? Great suggestion! It’ll show PNoy too… =) He later suggested leaving a fishbowl outside the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) office in Intramuros and offered to deliver it to the offices of the official “collector”.
    WHERE TO SEND
    On consensus and following an offer by author, artist, curator Marian Pastor Roces, the Pipol Power Institute was appointed official recipient of the “SAVING GRACE” funds. The aim: to return to the P70,000 bail money to President Aquino and give the rest for her legal defense. Padaca faces two cases for graft and malversation of public funds.
    Marian Pastor Roces: “if we pipol power a remedy, we can assist a good woman like Grace keep her head above the fray”
    Marian Pastor Roces Pipol Power Institute can receive your contributions at: Pipol Power Institute, 2nd Floor, Ang Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. FYI PPI’s Chair is Jim Paredes, President is Noel Garth Tolentino, and trustees include Mae Paner, Dr. Ruby Alcantara, and myself and others. It is an NGO. Contributions for Grace Padaca reimbursement to PNOY will be given an official receipt. I will personally turn over the sums to Grace and give a report to all contributors.
    Another trustree, Kay S. Bunagan gave the group’s current account details: Hi everyone! I’m one of the trustees of PPI. Our account information is: BDO Berkeley 003578008350, Pipol Power Institute, Inc. Kindly email us at pipolpowerinstitute@gmail.com andattach a picture or scanned copy (if possible) of your deposit slip after you deposit so we can track the transactions and issue receipts when needed.
    Kay S. Bunagan For those who want to drop off donations at the office, kindly text or call Tita Ruby G Alcantara first, 0939-922-6140. She’s our corporate treasurer, a professor at the UP Filipino department. Thanks!
    “Ang puna na may kasama pang ambag! ang taas na talaga ng level natin ng propriety! why not!” Paner crowed.
    There were sceptics, of course. Rolando Rico Olalia felt “no amount of reimbursement can clean the already tainted integrity.” Butch Ruiz Baliao : unanuna, bakit tinanggap ni padaca yung alok?? at meron pang matching escort ni roxas??ANO BA YAN????(in bold letters,hehe)
    Yes even as he cast doubts on the cause of saving Grace, Baliao was also giving suggestions — perhaps simply in empathy for more hopeful peers.
    Butch Ruiz Baliao : if some people want to save padaca, i think the best way is not to ask her consent at all..that’ll put her in an awkward position. just do it.
    Among those willing to save Grace:
    Anna May Hipolito I am willing! However good Grace Padaca’s intention is, accepting money from Pnoy will forever cloud her performance at the Comelec. Mabuti na yung walang utang na loob..
  • Katherine B. Buenaflor Piso Power for Grace Padaca? 🙂
  • Sylvia Morningstar I repeat Pedro Jacobo’s question: where do we send our contribution?
    Jun Sepe Piso-piso lang yan! What’s 70,000 supporters? Great suggestion! Let’s show PNoy WE ARE THE BOSS!!!
    As the original proponent says:
    Shawn Monique Tantengco Kung ethics ang pag uusapan dito. She should have asked the filipino people. Kahit barya baryamag bibigay ang filipino, basta para sa prinsipyo at paninigigan. Kung yun ang ginawa nya Irerespeto sha ng mga tao. Now the damage has been done! Kung ako na Dilaw, nag isip sa motibo papano pa ang yung mga Masa!!
    And so we’re off… saving grace, saving integrity and, yes, saving people’s hopes.