Archive | July 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)


[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)

[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.

[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)

[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)

[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)

[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)