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Reporting Environment: An important focus for Mindanao’s media

Citizen Journalism has been a field so close to my heart. This is what we wished to help enrich in Mindanao’s communities with MindaNews’ Grassroots Documentation and Reporting Training (GDRT). So when I first proposed a master’s project (the equivalent of a thesis at the Asian Center for Journalism in Ateneo de Manila University) I immediately thought of looking into Bukidnon’s treasure chest of citizen reporting experiences.

I poured energy and time to pore into documents and interviews around Mindanao on the topic of DXBB’s (forerunner of today’s DXDB in Bukidnon) own brand of citizen reporting using the Bandilyo newsletter way back during the dark age Martial Law.

However, several consultations thereafter my proposal did not prosper. I botched my intended research and resumed study only now. My materials had become obsolete or at least needed updating. So when asked for a topic again I was forced to propose a new one, another important topic.

Meantime,my research on citizen reporting in Bukidnon during martial law will be sidelined only as  a master’s project. It still remains my dream project outside this academic requirement to graduate.

I choose an equally compelling subject: the state of environment reporting in Mindanao. Of course, I choose only to look into two weekly newspapers in Bukidnon considering the constraints of a master’s thesis. When I submitted my proposal, I did not forget the request by both media and government officials back in 2011 during the 7th Mindanao Media Summit.

I wish to add to the knowledge on environment reporting in the community setting – to check on the extent and depth of environment issues covered by community media, how these issues are presented, what limitation and challenges abound the community media. This should compare with the expectations from the community, that is to check if the reports live up to the issues raised by the Bukidnon Environment Summit in 2008.

I would also like to check on how the two newspapers coverage of environment issues stack up to the coverage of Manila-based broadsheet newspapers with national circulation. Yes, I also plan to compare this to the state of environment reporting portrayed in a research of the subject in an Asia-Pacific context.

In an earlier training on Reporting Environment in Bukidnon, I have called on colleagues to level up to the tenets of environment reporting. I hope this research looks more clearly into the practicality of that encouragement.

 

2014: Centennial year for Bukidnon

Welcome to 2014!
For those living in Bukidnon, this is a special year. It is the year the province turns 100 years old.
The provincial government decided to celebrate this event this year after realizing based on recent discovery that it was wrong for many years. Historical accounts used by the province trace to 1917 as the year of the creation of the province.
But based on findings recently put forward, the province was created in 1914, not 1917.
Still there is debate but the formal preparations have already began with the provincial government’s creation of the centennial steering committee.
We should be able to tackle this even more clearly in more interactive platforms.

Reading the 11-point summaries of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks in Kuala Lumpur

When I used to cover Davao City, I have become more familiar with the GPH-MILF peace negotiations. Even if it is only the committees on the cessation of hostilities who meet, they issue a joint statement to some how shed light on the coverage of meeting.

I expected this from the talks in KL but the reports said there was none.This is not a good sign, if we look at it that way.  I think having no joint statement is more sincere an act, than forcing one when there is none.Is it right to have one just to play with symbolism?

Many people expected a lot from the talks. After that “historic” meeting in Japan between President Benigno Aquino III and the MILF’ chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the stakes are high on “expediting the peace process”.

As a journalist who covered this from afar, my reading is, are we supposed to mistake “expediting the process” with taking short cuts? Unless we expected the negotiators to be rubbing on a bottle for a genie to make wishes easily his command. Read More…

NEVER FORGET!

Logo for the commemoration of the 1st anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre

In line with the commemoration of the 1st anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao, we are sharing this logo/patch.

You may use this instead of your present Facebook profile pix on Nov. 23 as a sign of your solidarity with the families of the victims, the journalists and media workers, and the rest of the world.

It was so far the biggest blow to journalists and journalism in the Philippines. Let this be a symbol of our collective cry for justice and for more protection for journalists, where ever they may be.

Changing the world starting from one’s dining table

On the road to a resort in Lianga, Surigao del Sur late on October 28, our Grassroots Documentation and Reporting Training Team talked about the application of science in the food that we eat.

It was a humorous but “meaty” chatter. The usual one you get into inside the vehicle while heavy rains slow your trip down. A check on the time piece showed dinner should go ahead before check in.

We talked about the chicken in the fast food chains. We talked about the poultry products in our breakfast table. Then the conversation extended to the synthetics of food preparation in the world of fast food chains and how they alter way of life and relationships. Fast food vs. slow food. Old vs. new ways to prepare food. We also talked about that World Toilet Summit in Beijing (yeah, but that’s another thing.)

Just a week before, I sat next to a Vegan. Is that how you call people who live on plant-based diet?

So I had some inputs to make in the car ‘conversation’: that natural diet is a healthier choice.

When we arrived at the resort and dinner was served later, I was shocked to find fried chicken on the table. Wew! While most of us skipped it at least as the main course, I find it very funny.The caterer later on told us they failed to follow the agreed food requirements.

We usually have nice conversations on health and diet; very nice,  that we often do not see them in our decisions and actions.

The simple reflection I got during the chatter was quiet an awakening.

If I want to correct what for me were unhealthyfood  decisions, I should rather start it on my dining table.

Back in Malaybalay, I wanted to bring the reflection closer to home.

I immediately shared about the advantages of this diet choice. I felt it was welcomed, in the light homecoming conversation. But I realized its not going to be easy.

When you are not the only one deciding in the kitchen, the market day, and the budget, there will be complications on your desire to initiate or explore a healtheir diet.

This thing about science, technology and food is quite a sensitive topic at home. Because of preferences and primarily due to the lack of time to prepare with everyone working for a living and not being able to afford hiring a househelp.

I realized it requires mass-based, proper and open consultations with every one concerned at home. It requires education about diet, health, among other things.

We even need rules on how to talk about it (why and how are we going to change the menu that has been our choice through time?) We need information and communication. We need not only one-sided information dissemination. We need to listen to one another. (Now this sounds like the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front already.).

Anyway, we also cannot miss out on the environment or the market.

The poultry industry, despite the talk of unhealthy hybrid/synthetic-based production (millions of eggs in how many days?) is a big and multi-million industry.

If you look at trimming it down you are looking at cutting on the feeds sector, and eventually the corn industry for example.

From my window in Kalasungay, I can smell the odor of poultry farms in Patpat, our neighbor village in Malaybalay City.

What I thought are micro personal choices and basic human rights will have bearing on the world economy!

Likewise, the choices we make in our kitchens are  affected by the choices offered by the market. Its an economic structure embedded into our way of life.

I remembered a colleague expressed his potent view over that dinner in Lianga: “That’s why most of us often get sick” and “that’s why doctors and hospitals are making money.”

Who is winning if we are losing? Such a formidable foe I supposed.

I missed the forum organized by anti- GMO (genetically modified organism) groups (sorry for this label) or should I say pro-organic farming groups last week in Bukidnon State University where Bt Talong took centerstage.It should have been a venue for critical information.

We all need to look at these options laid on the table by modern science and technology. Science does wonders, too. I think what we must remember is that “modern” doesn’t always mean healthy.

That’s why I still wanted to offer my two-cents worth in the big cloud and inter-gallactic movement for change.

I start going natural and fry-free food for breakfast, at least. I hope it will snowball into something more significant.(The folks at home do not entirely like this move at all.)

But like the ripple effect, it starts from baby steps.

Maybe if we change what we eat for meals at home, we help change the landscape of our farms and plantations.  (End)

NIA’s organic fertilizers for Northern Mindanao: People’s money in shadowy subsidy

Hundreds of farmers become recipients of at most 20 bags each of organic fertilizers. But not all of them are happy. Some claimed they received ‘very dry’ stocks, useless fertilizers.

By Walter I. Balane

MALAYBALAY CITY, Philippines – About P30 million worth of organic fertilizer subsidy implemented by the National Irrigation Administration in Region 10 for thousands of farmers in Northern Mindanao becomes subject of public inquiry after farmers complained it is of sub-standard quality.

NIA-10 proposed the project to help irrigators’ associations they are working with to improve their yield in rice along thousands of hectares of rice farms.

But the farmers found the fertilizer useless, and a government official finds out it was produced by a company owned by no less than the NIA national administrator’s family.

Some farmers also found out that the report of the number of bags released to them was bloated: two farmers received only a total of 60 bags, and a receivable of 20 bags more; but the distribution report showed a total of 200 bags were released to them.

Here are some links to the running story of the controversial Northern Mindanao organic fertilizer subsidy project as posted on news website MindaNews:

A dog sleeps above a pile of unused organic fertilizer in bags in a farmers’ association garage in Sinayawan, Valencia City, Bukidnon

Samples of NIA-distributed organic fertilizers taken as Bukidnon board member alleges scam. The FPA-10 regional office already sent board member Glenn Peduche a copy but the results are yet to be revealed.

Valencia agriculturist says NIA didn’t coordinate with LGUs. Engr. Gerson Galvan said NIA did not have the expertise to test the quality of the organic fertilizers.

Bukidnon Gov wants P-Noy to look into fertilizer scam. The Department of Agriculture already announced it has initiated an investigation by ordering their legal division to probe on the issue.

Mayor-wife of NIA chief supplier for NorMin’s P30-M fertilizer subsidy program. NIA-10 regional director Julius Maquiling was qouted in official records of the Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan that Lila, Bohol mayor Regina Salazar owned Bayugan, Agusan del Sur-based supplier 3K and C  Enterprises. He identified the mayor to be the wife of NIA administrator, now replaced, Carlos Salazar.

NIA chief Salazar owns outlet supplying NorMin’s fertilizer subsidy program, says FPA.  The Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority Manila Office revealed that Carlos Salazar, the NIA administrator actually owned the company, based on documents he submitted to the FPA to apply for product registration.

DA team starts 45-day probe on NorthMin organic fertilizer project. The Department of Agriculture, upon request of the Bukidnon provincial board, has initiated an investigation into the possible organic fertilizer scam. NIA officials have been investigated. The report is due oin mid-September.

Organic fertilizers and pesticides are left to the elements at a motor pool of the National Irrigation Administration compound in Valencia City pending an investigation.

P2.3M worth of fertilizers in Bukidnon put on hold. The Fertilizers and Pesticides Authority has put on hold P2.3-million worth of organic fertilizers and pesticides here following complaints by farmers over alleged substandard quality, overpricing, and rigged bidding.

About 2,700 bags of Grow Organic Fertilizers and 3,741 liters of Green Organic liquid fertilizer-pesticides have been placed inside a motor pool building in the National Irrigation Administration compound after these were delivered in the first quarter of 2010.

Jimmy Apostol, NIA Bukidnon irrigation officer, told MindaNews Wednesday the fertilizers and pesticides are part of the last of three tranches of the NIA’s Bio-Organic Fertilizer Subsidy Project in Northern Mindanao initiated in June 2009.

The stocks have been put on hold since last June 4 by virtue of an FPA “stop use/stop move/stop sale” (SUMS) order pending their own tests of samples.

Two months after samples were taken, the fertilizers and pesticides are still kept in the open motor pool building.

No results yet on probe of P30-M NIA fertilizer project. After almost four months after the Department of Agriculture investigated into the controversial P30-million National Irrigation Administration’s Bio-Organic Fertilizer project for Northern Mindanao, no results have been released so far.

DA investigators find irregularities in P30M NIA organic fertilizer project. A fact finding team created by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in July 2010 found irregularities in the National Irrigation Administration’s P30-million bio-organic fertilizer subsidy program implemented in Region 10 in 2009, among them that there was only one bidder and that the organic fertilizer delivered did not comply with the specifications of the procuring entity, “hence should have not been accepted and paid for.”

No raps, only ‘reorientation’ for NIA officials behind P30-M fertilizer program. Irregularities were found in the implementation of the National Irrigation Agriculture’s fertilizer subsidy program in Northern Mindanao, but Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was satisfied with the recommendations to withdraw and replace the substandard organic fertilizers released to farmers and reorient the officials behind the questionable P30-million project on bidding procedures.

In her letter to Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata on October 18, Lealyn A. Ramos, Department of Agriculture-X regional executive director said the recommendations came from the investigation team formed by her office.

Rice farmers in this city were among the recipients of the organic fertilizers distributed by NIA-10 in 2009. At least 1,000 farmers in Northern Mindanao, mostly in Bukidnon received the fertilizer procured with funds from the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) – Rice Program.

Ramos said the reorientation means keeping all members of NIA-10’s bids and awards committee abreast with the latest updates of the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184).

She said Alcala’s decision was prompted by Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution no. 425-2011 passed on August 1 urging the secretary to “take the appropriate actions based on the said recommendations.”

Alcala’s decision drew the ire of City Councilor Glenn Peduche, who was among the first to expose the alleged irregularities of the project, including lapses in bidding and the reportedly substandard quality of the fertilizer.

“The DA should conduct a more in-depth investigation how this happened. If proven to have violated the law, perpetrators must face the consequences,” Peduche said.

[The report is an Investigative Journalism project of the author for the Asian Center for Journalism Ateneo de Manila University MA Journalism course.]

EO 765: Good for bakers, bad for corn farmers

First published in MindaNews.com. President Arroyo signed Executive Order 765 in December 2008  claiming that  “reduction on tariff on food wheat would help stabilize the price of bread and other baked food products.” Unfortunately, former agriculture secretary Leonardo Montemayor said in a report that the order did not only include the lifting of tariff on importation of food wheat or milling wheat, the ingredient used to produce bread, but also on feed wheat, which like corn, is used as animal feed.

Excess feed wheat supply brought by the zero tariff has competed with local corn supply, Roderico Bioco founding chair of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. told MindaNews.

The implementation of EO 765 has led to an estimated P6-billion losses in income for corn farmers and at least P1-billion loss in revenues for government, Montemayor, now a member of the House representing of the ABA-AKO party list, said.

The lowest price for yellow corn was P6.50 per kilo or P6, 500 per MT, lower than the production cost of P10.

The  Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported  last week that the price of corn had dropped from P 9 per kilo to P7.50 during a five-week period.

The executive order was effective until June 2009 but favoring sectors, including the livestock feed millers lobbied for the extension. The corn industry stakeholders such as the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. and ABA AKO party list lobbied against the extension. Read More…