Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Might Of The Mining Industry

BUSINESS CORRUPTS everything it touches, especially if it is a gigantic one like the mining industry that is fast gaining a foothold in Palawan’s mineral-rich soil. It corrupted local politics so easily that our politicians have been nodding one by one to the entry of mining, with the pro-mining policy of the Arroyo administration as their foremost justification. They also point to the Supreme Court, which has upheld the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995, as another defense for opening the province to miners. But in truth, they just have no moral resolve to resist the generous perks offered to them by the mining companies.

A mining executive confessed recently to a group of selected Palawan journalists that mining is a very juicy business. He boasted that it only takes a few shipments of ore to recover their investment. In the approximately two-decade life span of the mines being opened in Palawan, the investors are assured of staggering profits. The fabulous fortunes that the mine firms expect in the coming years have emboldened them to shell out lavish funds to facilitate, as it were, the passage of their applications through the stringent bureaucratic route engendered by the SEP Law. Public officials whose fiercest passion is to stay in power are willing cohorts of mining firms, at the right price of course.

The mining industry is a formidable force that is threatening to lord over the province. It has already conquered the political echelon and is claiming easy victories in the labor sector, LGUs, media, academe and indigenous communities. The only tenacious sectors that will probably remain hostile to the industry till doomsday are the NGOs and the Catholic Church. But these sectors are more of watchdogs than policy makers whose voices are often ignored in decision-making processes that are orchestrated by politicians. Although they have some influence to whip around, they cannot do much as mining is a government-sponsored development strategy that rests on bedrock. With the notorious habit of the present administration in ignoring the people’s will, there is not much hope for the powers-that-be to appreciate the sentiments of affected communities.

Although it might seem like raising the white flag, the current reality shows that the foray of the province into mining is almost beyond help. The might of the industry will soon demolish the remaining obstacles standing in its way. The only thing that can stall the progress of the industry’s conquest is the corporate squabble that is pitting mine firms against each other in a battle for control over mineral-rich lands. But this may not last long as businessmen are more interested in gaining profits than spending money for court litigation. The indigenous people who are claiming most of the proposed mine sites as their ancestral domain are easy to convert, the mining executive said. Blighted by years of poverty and ignorance, they will easily trade their lands for the comfortable life promised to them by the mining company. In fact, an indigenous community in the south is now fighting bitterly over the royalty given out by the mine firm operating in the area. The industry’s executives know well the power of money, and they are exploiting this to their full advantage.

Even as we believe “responsible mining” is just a PR mantra meant to hypnotize the sectors hostile to the industry, given the inevitable victory of the mining industry, we are compelled to turn this phrase into actual practice as our weapon against expected environmental degradation. We can do this by keenly watching the mining operations and blowing the whistle at the earliest sign of anomalous practices from the companies.

Editorial written by Robert Bagalay and published in the Aug. 21-27, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan

Competing Claims Hound Mining Firms

By Sergio Pontillas

PALAWAN’S MINING companies are getting a rough ride before they can even start full-scale mining operations in the province’s southern municipalities.

Aside from strong opposition in many communities, corporate battles are proving to be a headache among mining companies involved in the utilization of the province’s vast mineral resources.

Two national dailies reported last Aug. 2 that Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. (CMDC) has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to stop the mining activities of the Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) in the municipalities of Narra and Sofronio Española.

According to its operating agreement signed on July 18, 2003, the Platinum Group was allowed to operate in the mining claims originally owned by the Olympic Mines and Development Corp. (OMDC) in the two municipalities.

PGMC was reportedly allowed to operate in the OMDC area pending Olympic’s application for a large-scale mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).

On April 24 this year, OMDC unilaterally rescinded its operating contract with PGMC, citing violations of environmental laws, particularly excessive extraction of minerals. OMDC then reassigned its operating partnership rights to a newly formed corporate entity, the CitiNickel group.

The Platinum Group allegedly practiced large-scale mining in its production site, in violation of its two small-scale mining permits issued by Gov. Joel T. Reyes in November 2004 that limits the company to the extraction of only 50,000 metric tons of ore per year in each of its two sites.

However, a source from PGMC who requested anonymity believes that OMDC tried to revoke its contract because the latter had seen the viability of mining in its former mining claims.

The source described the cancellation of the contract as “pure harassment,” saying the PGMC does not see any violation in its exportation of 282,729 tons of ore to Australia in a span of one and a half years. The current project is covered by a total of 100,000 ton limit for the PGMC permit per year plus another 100,000 ton limit for Olympic, the source argued.

Last week, Palawan Regional Trial Court Branch 52 ruled in favor of PGMC, on the grounds that only the court could cancel or revoke a binding contract.

Rival Mining Companies

Early this year, another mining company lodged an appeal with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to delay the council’s endorsement of rival mining companies with MPSAs in the municipality of Brooke’s Point.

In a letter to the PCSD dated February 20, 2006, Lebach Mining Corp. asked the council to reconsider its endorsements for MacroAsia Corporation, Blue Ridge Mineral Corp. and Celestial Nickel Mining Exploration Corp.

The mining company based its appeal on the pending cases with the Supreme Court and the Mines Adjudication Board, which involves its rival mining companies with claims to the same tracts of mining sites in Brooke’s Point.

Records from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau indicate that an MPSA for 2,835 hectares of land in Brooke’s Point had been issued to Celestial Mining as early as September 18, 1993.

Lebach’s application for a mineral agreement was filed on September 11, 1997.

On the other hand, MacroAsia Corp. was issued an MPSA for 1,113.9 hectares in Brooke’s Point on December 1 last year. MacroAsia is reportedly expecting the issuance of another MPSA that will cover 410 hectares of land in the same municipality this year.

Libo-Libong Uwang Napigil Sa Paliparan

Ni Lourdes Escaros-Paet

PINIGIL NG MGA otoridad sa paliparan ng Puerto Prinsesa ang 2,212 piraso ng uwang (beetles) na dala ng dalawang dayuhan noong Agosto 16 dahil sa kawalan ng collection at shipping permit.

Ang mga uwang, na isa-isang nakaplastik at nakasilid sa isang karton, ay hindi nakaligtas sa paningin ng mga bihasang kawani ng Air Transportation Office (ATO) nang dumaan ito sa X-ray machine.

Agad na inaresto ng PNP Aviation Security Group sina Shen Lun Ten ng Canada at Wei Hui Fan mula sa Taiwan na natukoy na nagmamay-ari ng kargamento.

Tumangging magbigay ng impormasyon ang dalawa kung saan galing ang mga insekto at ano ang gagawin nila dito.

Subalit sa impormasyon na nakalap ng Bandillo, galing ng Bataraza sa timog Palawan ang mga insekto at binili ito ng dalawang dayuhan sa isang middleman sa halagang P50,000.

Ayon sa mga environmentalists na nakabase sa Bataraza, P30 hanggang P45 kada pares ang kuha ng mga middleman sa mga katutubo. Binebenta naman ito ng mga middleman sa mga dayuhan ng P300 kada pares.

Sa labas ng bansa, umaabot ng $80 o P4,000 hanggang P5,000 umano ang bentahan nito kada pares.

Bagaman wala pang kumpirmasyon mula sa mga eksperto, may bisa umano kagaya ng Viagra ang mga uwang at mabenta ito sa mga kalalakihang nakakaranas ng erectile dysfunction. Sa Internet na umano nagaganap ang bentahan nito.

Bukod sa medisinal na pakinabang, pinagsasabong din umano ng mga dayuhan ang mga insekto bilang katuwaan. Ang katawan nito ay niluluto samantalang ang ulo ay ginagawang souvenir item ng mga Hapon.

Ang dalawang dayuhan ay sinampahan ng kasong paglabag ng Wildlife Act ng Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS).

Nilinaw ni Alex Marcaida, tagapagsalita ng PCSDS, na hindi bawal magluwas ng mga uwang sa lalawigan basta may collection at shipping permit.

Ang mga uwang ay hindi kabilang sa mga naganganib na buhay ilang sa Palawan. Ilang uri nito ay kilalang peste na pumipinsala ng mga tanim na niyog.

Ito ang pangalawang beses na may nahuling iligal na kargamento ng uwang ngayong taon.

Lowly Shrub Seen as Solution to Fuel Crisis

By Eliseo Valendez

THE SAPPY and soft shrub that finds its worth only as a hedge plant in rural areas could save the country from economic difficulties brought by soaring oil prices.

Energy experts have acknowledged that the physic nut (jatropha curcas), locally known as macasla, tubang-bakod and tuba-tuba, is a good source of renewable bio-fuel that could replace expensive fossil fuels for vehicles and factories.

Last Aug. 22, the provincial board invited the Palawan Biodiesel Development Corporation (PBDC) to its regular session to explain the merits of the plant, which abounds in rural areas.

PBDC Pres. Caesar Ventura and Exec. Vice Pres. Laurence Padilla explained that Palawan has a great potential in developing macasla plantations considering its vast land area, favorable climate, and good labor source.

Ventura said many idle lands in the province could be used for plantations as the plant can adapt to any kind of soil.

Cultivation of macasla requires no fertilizers or pesticides, only the occasional clearing of weeds that might choke the plants. It also thrives well even if planted with other crops.

Propagated by simply inserting a stem in the soil, macasla starts bearing fruits within two years. For 40 years after the first year of harvest, the plant keeps yielding seeds for bio-diesel extraction, Ventura said.

The plant, which grows from two meters to five meters in height, yields clusters of round fruits about the size of pingpong balls with nothing inside but oil-rich seeds. The oil extracted from its dried seeds may be used as lighting material, emetic and purgative.

Manufacturers use the oil for making candles, soap, and varnish. The seeds are also used as rat poison and insecticide. Traditional fishers once utilized the seeds of a rare variety of macasla as fish poison, but the practice has been deemed illegal.

Aside from its oil, macasla is also used as laxative, remedy for cough, antidote for poisoning, cure for toothache and treatment of gonorrhea and syphilis in rural areas. The leaves, roots and bark of the plant can be used as dye, according to one research study.

Ventura said the use of bio diesel from macasla is not new. Research shows it was first used in 1896 when the diesel engine was invented.

According to historical accounts, Spanish colonizers brought the plant to the Philippines from tropical America, and cultivated them for use as fuel in their vessels’ lamps.

The bio-diesel could be used by itself in running engines, or it can be mixed with commercial diesel.

Demand is “Forever”

The use of bio-fuel would be a great help for the country with its growing demand for fuel, experts said.

The current annual fuel consumption of the country is six million tons, but it is expected to increase to 40 million tons by 2015.

With this demand, bio-fuels from plantations could answer the problem of supply, advocates said.

Commercial production of biodiesel from macasla has been going on for five years in countries like India and Egypt, according to Ventura.

In the Philippines, the technology is not yet fully developed so the expected harvest from Palawan would have to be exported to Japan and China, Ventura said.

However, Board Member Alice Fabellon questioned the stability of the market. She observed that several plantations have been introduced in the province, such as oil palm and coconuts, but these have not produced any remarkable results.

“We planted a little of everything and then we do not know how to sell,” Fabellon said. “The government is encouraging us to plant all these trees, but when grown up, the government does not help us to sell.”

Padilla assured investors that PBDC would provide the market, but they would have contracts with the corporation.

Ventura added that revenues from bio-diesel production would be better than the province’s expected revenue from Malampaya project. He said Palawan could only benefit from the gas project for 21 years but with bio-diesel it could be “forever.”

However, Vice Gov. David Ponce De Leon said, “we can never really say that for sure.”

The national government could again impose conditions, as the bill for the bio-diesel industry’s nationalization was passed recently, Ponce De Leon said. The province still has to see how the bill would affect the industry, he concluded.

A Season For Burglars

WITH THE RECENT onslaught of monsoon rains, many of us should be aware of the heightened danger of having uninvited guests in our homes. We know too well the possibility of having burglars in our homes during nights of endless rain. We can only prevent incidents of theft by securing our homes before we go to sleep at night.

But unknown to most of us, along with the rainy season comes another form of burglary. We only learn about it with the multiple apprehensions of travelers attempting to ship wildlife from our province and destined, predictably, to the black market for exotic animals in Manila and beyond. The shipments range from the lowly beetle – a known pest for coconut plantation owners – to the beautiful and talkative mynah and blue-naped parrot.

Most of these shipments originate from the southern part of the elongated Palawan mainland – a pattern that coincides with the illegal shipment of live tropical fish from our province. Recently, we have not heard of apprehensions of illegal shipments of live tropical fish. The rainy season could be the reason behind such absence. Mameng and other kinds of marine delicacies are hard to come by during this season.

But this pattern begs the question – could the same fly-by-night organizations of illegal live fish traders be also behind these attempts to ship terrestrial wildlife from the province? Our vigilant NGOs and government agencies have no proof yet that these patterns are merely coincidental. But before we start looking for proof of connections, we should be on the alert simply because there seems to be a rise in the number of attempts to ship terrestrial wildlife from our province.

The pattern of lack of proper documents for shipments is glaring. It could reflect on the lack of knowledge on the part of traders about the provisions controlling the shipment of flora and fauna from Palawan in existing laws such as the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan or RA 7611 and the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS law. Is the PCSDS running on such a limited budget that the common trader is not aware of laws meant to protect our unique ecosystem? Or are these just signs of a devil-may-care attitude among our traders?

At present, a multitude of wildlife species thrives in our vast tracts of forests. Some of these may be pests like the coconut beetle, while others may not have even been discovered and properly recorded yet. There is simply too vast a cache of wildlife in Palawan, enough for an uninformed individual to think that he or she can get away with trading on these species, unmindful of its possible impact on the future of our ecosystem. After all, what negative effect could the trading of a pest beetle do to an ecosystem that spans the entire mainland of the country’s largest province?

It would take scientists to explain this at the ecological level. But at the moral and civic level, we can simply assert that this is akin to burglary – there is a law that prohibits such shipments from Palawan’s unique ecosystems after all. Flouting the law, no matter how trivial it may appear, has no place in civilized society.

Editorial written by Sergio Pontillas and published in the August 14-20, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan

JTR Files Libel Suit Vs. Accusers

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet & Robert Bagalay

PIQUED BY sly insinuations that he is involved in the murder of Fernando “Dong” Batul, Gov. Joel T. Reyes filed a P20 million libel suit last week against his accusers, Cindy Clavecilla and her lawyer Romeo Gerochi.

Local radio stations had interviewed Clavecilla and Gerochi, both from Iloilo City, almost daily in connection with a 10-year old estafa case arising from a botched land deal in Coron.

In some instances, the two implicated the governor to the still unsolved murder of Batul last May, saying the slain commentator was the first to discuss the case against the governor on the radio.

“Si Batul lamang ang matapang na tumalakay sa kasong ito,” Clavecilla had said.

Gerochi said the governor had allegedly refused to give to Homero Clavecilla, the family’s patriarch, his rightful share from the proceeds of a land sale that Reyes had brokered when he was still a board member

But Gov. Reyes assured Palaweños that he is innocent of the accusations of Gerochi, pointing to the decade long inactivity of the case as proof that the complaint against him was not substantial enough.

“Nasa korte na ‘yan at hindi ko tinatalikuran yan,” the governor said.

Reyes believes that politics is behind the “surprising revival” of the case, due to the seemingly coordinated efforts of the Clavecilla camp and some local broadcasters.

Provincial Information Officer Rolando Bonoan Jr. recalled that Batul had indeed discussed the issue in his radio program a few weeks before he was killed, but he had refrained from discussing it further after finding out that the case is already in court.

Bonoan said they already know the political group behind the move to malign the governor’s reputation through Gerochi and Clavecilla, with the help of “hired” local broadcasters.

“Kung hindi nila alam kung paano lilinisin ang duming ginawa nila, hwag nilang ibabato ‘yan sa gobernador,” said Bonoan.

Telephone Brigade

The governor’s camp is also
closely watching the reactivation of the telephone brigade that successfully brought down the Dennis Socrates-Fernando Batul administration from the Puerto Princesa city hall during their 2001 to 2004 term.

Bonoan expressed suspicion that the group is again at work after a number of callers phoned in to radio stations and expressed negative opinions towards the governor after the interviews with Gerochi or Clavecilla.

The case also found space in some national tabloids.

The provincial capitol’s legal team is also studying the filing of libel cases against local broadcasters who interviewed Clavecilla and Gerochi.

Gerochi, when reached for comments by a local station regarding the libel case, said the broadcasters who interviewed them must be included for the suit to stand in court.

The lawyer, who claimed to be a prominent personality in Iloilo City, also disproved the anchorman’s statement that he had called up the station to be interviewed.

“Di ba ikaw ang tumawag sa akin?” Gerochi asked candidly, to the consternation of the obviously bewildered anchorman.

Gerochi also denied the accusation of the governor’s camp that a political group is manipulating him and Clavecilla in an effort to malign the governor.

Meanwhile, the Batul family laughed off the insinuation that the governor was linked to the murder of the former vice mayor. According to family members, nobody would believe such a story since the people know who is the real mastermind of the murder.

“Alam natin kung ano ang totoo at kung may nais kaming pasalamatan, si Governor Reyes yun at wala nang iba,” said Letty Batul-Cabusao, the family’s spokesperson.

Reyes honored Batul’s remains with the Philippine flag, eulogized the broadcaster during the funeral mass, extended assistance to the family, and offered a P500,000 reward for witnesses who could identify the killers.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Former vice mayor of El Nido shot dead

By Eliseo Valendez

FORMER EL NIDO Vice Mayor Edwin Vidal died after suffering three gunshot wounds from unknown gunmen who entered his home in El Nido town at around 3 o’clock in the morning last August 21.

His wife, municipal councilor Julieta Vidal, survived a gunshot wound and was recuperating at the Taytay District Hospital as of press time.

Gov. Joel Reyes immediately instructed the Provincial Philippine National Police to conduct immediate investigation on the case.

Businessman Ernesto Fernandez, who has announced plans to run for mayor of El Nido next year, said the killing is “politically motivated.”

He said Vidal was supposed to be his running mate for El Nido. “One possible reason (for the crime) ay para matakot ako,” he said, but added that the killing made him more eager to run.

Fernandez asserted, “Walang kaaway, walang negosyo, walang babae, at walang pera ang taong ito.”

He said Vidal’s murder was a “professional way of killing” done by a hitman. An informant had told him two months ago that a certain “political person” had threatened his camp, Fernandez said.

However, El Nido Mayor Edna Lim said, “wala po akong nakikitang political motivation.”

“Bakit ngayon pa at hindi noong kasikatan pa niya?” Lim asked.

Vidal, 51, served the municipal government from 1979 to 2001.

He was the Secretary for the Sangguniang Bayan from Aug. 1, 1979 to Dec. 31, 1981 and the municipal Budget Officer from Jan. 1982 to April 30, 1986.

Vidal served as councilor from Feb. 18, 1988 to March 30, 1992 and Vice Mayor from 1992 to 2001.

Mayor Lim said the municipal government would offer reward money to anybody who could give information that would lead to solving the crime. The municipal council has yet to convene and discuss the exact amount of the reward, Lim said.

“Ayaw kong masira ang image ng El Nido dahil sa krimeng ito,” Lim stressed.

She asked the tourists “not to fear” the town because of the incident, saying El Nido’s residents are a peace-loving people.

Responding to the residents’ request for additional electricity service, which only runs from 1 pm to 12 midnight, the council has passed a resolution requesting the extension of operating hours.

Lim said electricity now runs from 5 pm to 5 am beginning Aug. 21.

Vidal’s remains were transferred from Taytay to El Nido last Aug. 22 for the wake in their house in the town’s poblacion. Vidal’s son John Rustom said they are yet to schedule his father’s interment.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Attack On Press Freedom

LAST TUESDAY, August 1, Amihan Sabillo, reporter of DYPR and news writer of Bandillo ng Palawan, went to bed early to relieve herself of the fatigue of another busy day. The other members of the household were away for the night so she was alone in the house. She fell into a deep sleep easily, but was awakened past midnight by the strange sounds and movement inside the house. In the darkness, she was able to make out the figures of two men, who were busy rummaging around and looking for something, unaware of her presence. Smelling danger, she quickly crawled beneath her bed and stayed there, trembling with fear until the two men left.

Nothing was taken from the house. Obviously, the two men did not break into Ms. Sabillo’s house to steal anything, as the house is bare of valuable furnishing. They were there to find and retrieve a document that would eventually strip Louie Larrosa of DYER of his masquerade. But Ms. Sabillo is wiser than the two men and whoever gave them orders to break into her house. The documents that reached Ms Sabillo’s hands, through an insider who can no longer bear the squandering of taxpayers’ money by the administration’s cronies, are the original copy of the personal data sheet and contract of service of Louie Larrosa’s wife as shift supervisor in the Kilos Agad Action Center (KAAC), a special project of the city government of Puerto Princesa.

Mrs. Ma. Felicitas Larrosa is receiving a P10,000 monthly salary from KAAC, but its personnel swear they have never seen even just her shadow in the office—a perfect ghost employee. As station manager of DYER, the radio station we all know belongs to the city mayor’s family, Larrosa wields such influence in the city government that he could have easily worked his wife’s name into the payroll. (Larrosa announced recently that he has already acquired the station; we are leaving the matter to BIR personnel who could gladly assess the tax of our brand new millionaire, and will happily reward his “exemplary honesty,” sorely lacking among the country’s billionaires, with a certificate of appreciation that he can surely brag as another prestigious award for his station.)

For Louie Larrosa, whose name is now synonymous to mercenary journalism and whose broadcasting practice is the worst in Palawan, such an act is not surprising anymore: he is actually keeping a closet of stinking carcasses that would damn him once opened. It would need a divine miracle for him to realize how good he is at ruining himself and his family at such cheap bargains. We don’t care much if he is indeed dying to get rich even at the expense of his soul and his family’s reputation. However, we cannot tolerate that again, he made a mockery of this serious threat to the life of a fellow journalist.

Like what he did to DYPR broadcaster Dong Batul after a failed grenade attack in the latter's home last April, Larrosa mocked Ms. Sabillo and made fun of her hiding beneath the bed, calling her a “buang” (crazy) reporter. Now, who will forgive him for such a statement made in the face of real danger? Where is the ethics, the professionalism, the respect, the humanity in that statement? Only a lunatic can afford to laugh in the face of real danger.

Enraged as we are, we are also sorry to note that Larrosa and his handlers still believe that the truth is a disposable commodity they can crush into dust with their soles. We are sorry that they believe the listening public is so gullible, they would be incapable of discerning and separating fact from fiction. Admittedly, Larrosa’s brand of broadcasting has, in some way, succeeded in deceiving the public from the truth. But no matter how subtle and shrewd the tampering done to the truth, it will always remain absolute. Something real and infallible will always emerge out of the haze created by lying tongues.

And one real thing that cropped up recently, which Larrosa can no longer distort and revoke, and certainly, make fun out of, are the authentic documents proving his corruption along with his wife in the city government.

Editorial published in the Aug. 7 – 13, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan

Court summons reluctant witnesses in Batul’s murder

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet and Robert Bagalay

JUDGE TORIBIO ILAO of Regional Trial Court Branch 52 has ordered two reluctant witnesses in the murder case of radio commentator Fernando “Dong” Batul to give their testimonies in the first hearing of the trial of Aaron Golifardo, one of the suspected gunmen, on Sept. 8.

Both the prosecution and defense panels asked the court to summon Beor Reynoso, the owner of the house closest to the crime scene, and Ding Osia, a former Navy officer who happened to be in the area when the killing took place, to testify in the case. Both men are not witnesses of either camp.

The lawyers of Batul and Golifardo believe that Reynoso knows the killers but for some unknown reason, he has been reluctant in giving information to the authorities.

When reached by Bandillo for comment, Reynoso expressed dismay over the court’s “encroachment on his private life.” He said that he would seek his lawyer’s advice regarding the court order.

“Sana nirespeto nila ang aking pagiging pribadong tao,” he complained.

Although Reynoso admitted that he was at home when Batul was ambushed, his knowledge is limited to hearing the gunfire and finding Batul slumped in the driver’s seat, almost lifeless.

He said he was cooking breakfast in the morning of May 22 when he heard a vehicle crash against the wall across his house on Valencia Street. He went out to check what happened but the burst of gunfire sent him scampering back to the house.

He crouched low in his house until he felt that it was already safe outside. When he came out after about ten minutes, he found Batul fatally wounded inside his multicab.

Reynoso said other people were in the area when the killing took place, and they could provide better information on the case.

He claimed that investigators had already questioned him, but he could not give additional information.

Reynoso also disproved the rumor in his neighborhood that the suspects or their handlers had bribed him to remain silent on the matter. The rumors circulated following the renovation of his dilapidated house a few weeks after the murder, but Reynoso explained that his wife who is working as a nurse in the US sent him the money for repairs.

Meanwhile, Osia admitted having witnessed the ambush when he explained his side to Bandillo. But unlike Reynoso, he expressed willingness to comply with the court order.

He claimed that he had informed the National Bureau of Investigation and Task Force Dong Batul what he knew of the crime.

Osia denied allegations that he was bribed to keep silent, saying some “personalities” in the city have tried bribing him but he turned them down.

Both Reynoso and Osia claim to be supporters of Batul.

Appointment of Awat as KSK director questioned

By Eliseo H. Valendez

CONTROVERSY IS HOUNDING the appointment of noted lawyer and environmentalist Atty. Nesario Awat as the new director of the provincial government’s Kilusan Sagip Kalikasan (KSK) starting August 1.

Gov. Joel Reyes named Awat as the head of Palawan’s environmental watchdog, replacing officer-in-charge Maj. Pablo Margarejo who has held the post since former director Capt. Reynaldo Trajano resigned last year. Margarejo will resume his regular duties as Security Officer IV in the provincial government when he returns from his sick leave, officials said.

Critics have claimed that Awat’s appointment is allegedly the governor’s “gift” to Awat, who had filed a petition in court questioning the eligibility of Palawan Congressmen Antonio Alvarez and Abraham Mitra to sit as members of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Reyes and the two congressmen used to be political allies, but they have since gone separate ways.

The election for PCSD chairman in 2004 highlighted the rift between Reyes and Mitra, who obtained a recommendation from Pres. Arroyo for the post despite an earlier agreement that the governor would be nominated to the influential position.

As a result, Mitra became the chairman while Reyes was relegated to the post of vice chairman.

Last year, Awat and Integrated Bar of the Philippines – Palawan President Atty. Carlo Gomez filed a petition with the Court of Appeals questioning the constitutionality of the congressmen’s membership in the PCSD, which performs executive functions under the Office of the President.

The petitioners sought clarification on the possible “conflict in the separation of powers” with regard to the two legislators’ membership in the council.

Provincial Information Officer Rolando Bonoan denied the allegation from the governor’s opponents, saying “hindi na niya (Awat) kailangan ang ganitong regalo.”

In fact, Bonoan said Awat had declined the offer for the position, but “pinakiusapan lang siya ni Gov.”

He added that the provincial government believes Awat is the best person for the job as the lawyer had formerly served as the legal officer of the Bantay Palawan, the project’s name before it was changed to KSK.

Bonoan said the KSK position “has nothing to do with the case” on the PCSD membership and added that even if the lawyers did not file it, “somebody will ask that query regarding the eligibility.”

He also pointed out that if the governor is guilty, “he should have not appointed Awat.”

Ang Totoong Sumisira Sa Pamilya Hagedorn

Ni Lourdes Escaros-Paet

NAGREKLAMO SA pamunuan ng DYPR sa pamamagitan ng text message (hindi man lang ginawang black and white) si Clink Hagedorn dahil sa tila itinuturo ko raw ang kanyang ama na si Mayor Edward Hagedorn na siyang pumaslang kay Fernando “Dong” Batul. Nagpapasalamat naman ako sa aking himpilan dahil naging supportive ito sa atin at naging balanse sa pagtrato ng naturang reklamo.

Kay Clink Hagedorn, na minsa’y itinuring ko ring kaibigan, heto ang masasabi ko. Ang ginawa mo ay nagpapakita lamang ng iyong kahinaang harapin ang anino ng inyong pagkakamali. Isa-isahin natin para mas maunawaan mo at ng iyong ama kung ano ang katotohanan at ano ang inyong pagkakamali.

Mayo 22 nang pinaslang si Batul. Minuto lang, sa wakas, nagsalita na rin sa DYPR ang iyong ama at sinabing wala siyang alam sa pangyayari. Nagpaliwanag, dahil alam niyang siya ang unang pagbibintangan. Kanyang hiniling ang agarang pagresolba sa kasong ito.

Tama ang ginawa ng iyong ama. Bagama’t may istasyon kayo na pwede niyong gamitin para magpaliwanag sa publiko kahit isang taon, sa DYPR siya tumawag at nagsalita kung saan nakikinig ang mas nakakaraming mga Palaweño at supporters ni Batul. Nagpaliwanag ang iyong ama sa DYPR, pero sa himpilan ninyo, binabanatan si Batul. Palagay mo Clink, may maniniwala sa ‘yo at sa sinseridad ng iyong ama?

Maraming nagulat nang marinig ng taong bayan ang iyong ama sa aming himpilan. Nagpaabot kasi siya ng pakikiramay sa pamilya ng mga Batul! Tama ang aksyon ng iyong ama, ng alkalde. Pero teka, narinig mo bang humingi ng paumanhin ang iyong ama dahil siya ang unang nagtanim sa utak ng mga Palaweño na ang granadang inihagis kay Batul noon ay gawa-gawa lamang nito? Pinagtawanan at sinira ng inyong istasyon ang dating bise alkalde! Palagay mo Clink, may maniniwala sa iyo at sa sinseridad ng iyong ama?

Hunyo 3, araw ng libing ni Batul. Ang libu-libong mga Palaweño ay nakikisimpatiya, naghihinagpis at umiiyak. Umaasa kami na sana ito rin ang araw na bigyan niyo kami ng konting respeto at dignidad. Irespeto ang sakit na nararamdaman ng pamilya Batul. Pero hindi niyo ‘yan ginawa. Bagkus sa inyong himpilan, patuloy ang pagsira niyo sa pagkatao ni Batul. Libing na niya, hindi niyo pa iginalang! Clink at Mayor Hagedorn, palagay niyo may maniniwala sa inyo?

Hanggang ngayon, nagpapatuloy ang pambabastos at paninira ng inyong himpilan sa amin at kay Batul. Ngunit kailanman, hindi kami nagreklamo dahil ikabababa ng aming pagkatao ang patulan ang iyong bayarang broadcaster na ang tanging hangarin ay humanap ng pera na ipambubuhay sa naghihikahos nang pamilya.

Clink, kahit kailan ay hindi namin inipit ang iyong ama. Ang iyong binabayarang mamamahayag ang sumisira sa pangalan ng iyong ama, at sa pangalan ng iyong pamilya. Maaaring hindi mo alam ‘yan.

Iba ang salita sa ginagawa. Mali ang diskarte na ibinibigay ninyo sa inyong bayarang broadcaster. Wala nang masisira sa taong ‘yan. Pinagsawaan na ‘yan ng mga pulitiko. Sa konting halaga, sisirain niyan kahit sino. Galing na ‘yan sa ibang diyos na ang ilan ay mga kalaban pa ng iyong ama. Alam niyo ba yun? Kaya nga pinagtatawanan na lang kayo eh.

Wala nang pangalan ang taong ‘yan. Pero ang inyong pamilya ay may pangalan at dignidad na dapat niyong pag-ingatan. Buti pa si Kgd. Douglas Hagedorn, alam kung paano harapin ang isyu ng pagkakasangkot ng kanyang pangalan sa pagkamatay ni Batul. Tahimik lang kaya walang intriga. Pero ang iyong ama ay pinagkatiwala ang isyu sa inyong himpilan na wala namang ginawa kundi ang isubo siya sa kahihiyan. Natatakot kami sa magiging hatol sa kanya ng taumbayan.

Ang white paper, ang mga kolum ng isang Joey Venancio, ang mga pahayag ng mga witnesses na sana’y paborable sa amin ay hindi namin pinatulan kailanman dahil naniniwala kami sa batas. Ang mga bagay na ‘yan ay binuksan ng iyong binabayarang broadcaster na siyang totoong umiipit ngayon sa iyong ama.

Sana Klink, mapagtanto na ninyo ang pinsalang dinudulot sa inyong pamilya ng inyong bayarang broadcaster. Sa dami na ng binitiwang mapanirang salita niyan sa ere, hindi niyo na mababawi pa.

Sabi nga ni Dong, sa pamamamahayag hindi dapat pera ang nasa isip. Utak ang dapat gamitin. Ngunit tila ‘yan ang kulang sa inyong bayarang mamamahayag, kaya banat lang nang banat at hindi iniisip ang magiging epekto ng kanyang mga pahayag sa inyong pamilya.

Para sa mga nais na magbigay ng reaksiyon maaari kayong mag-email sa treselourdes13@yahoo.com

Dreaming Double

PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO must have been out of her mind when she made the following statement during her recent state of the nation address: “Local governments must get their rightful share of revenues. I ask Congress to pass a supplemental budget to effect this.”

In the case of Palawan, it would not need an act of congress to pass a budget for the province to get its “rightful share of revenues.” She does not need to pass the buck to lawmakers to make a major turn in the history of this province in terms of revenue shares from the controlled plunder of its natural resources. It only takes a verbatim order from Arroyo to her cabinet members to make the pipe dream come true.

Palawan has long been waiting in the wings to take its rightful share of Malampaya’s revenues. But, as of today, there seems to be no sign of any executive decision that will allow Palawan’s local governments to finally drink from the overflowing cups of resource extraction taking place in its backyard.

After tolerating and participating in the act of environmental rape in the province, the chief executive adds insult to injury by taking a high-nosed stance – denying any acknowledgement of the backyard from whose resource her government is now trying to fuel its stratospheric dream of “Philippines 2010.” Double murder indeed, in the face of her dreaming.

But what else can we expect? Reading through the President’s SONAs in a chronological order brings out the glaring truth – the SONAs are not interconnected in any way. President Arroyo’s SONAs do not in any way build upon her blueprints in the preceding years, in much the same way that she reneged on her earlier words of acknowledgement of Palawan’s gas wealth. She’s a perfect example of the politically incorrect line “women do change their minds.”

In 2001, Arroyo dangled the Malampaya dream in front of a Palawan suffering from the lack of tourism and business in its shores. Now, in 2006, the winds have probably changed inside Arroyo’s mind. She is dangling the prospect of big bucks from a culture of tourism in the Central Philippines supra region. Roads and airports are the bywords for Palawan nowadays.

We can only pray that the big money from tourists will finally reach Palaweños, and not just line somebody else’s pockets. Also, we need to pray that we will still have enough natural beauty to show tourists when they come. We need to pray that her dreams of tourism will finally come head-to-head with her never-ending quest for the plunder of minerals in the province.

Editorial written by Sergio Pontillas and published in the July 31 – August 6, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan

Shipment Ng Salagubang, Kinumpiska

Ni Amihan Sabillo

KINUMPISKA NG PINAGSANIB na puwersa ng mga ahensya ng pamahalaan sa Palawan ang 939 piraso ng salagubang o uwang na nakatakda sanang ibiyahe sa Maynila sakay ng barko noong Hulyo 28.

Ang shipment, na pag-aari ng isang nagngangalang Amie Potestad, ay kinumpiska ng mga otoridad dahil sa kawalan ng collection at shipping permit.

Ayon kay Manuelito Ramos, hepe ng Protected Areas & Wildlife sector ng City Environment and Natural Resources Office, isang linggong minanmanan ng Filipino Alliance Movement si Potestad sa Bataraza bago ito nahuli.

Kaagapay ng City ENRO at Filipino Alliance Movement ang Port Police, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Coast Guard, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff sa operasyon.

Dumaan sa X-ray machine sa port terminal ang kahon kaya nalaman ng mga otoridad ang laman nito. Nilagyan ng yelo ang kahon kaya hindi naging maingay ang mga insekto.

Ang naturang mga insekto ay wala sa listahan ng mga nanganganib nang maubos na buhay ilang. Ayon sa mga magsasaka, isa itong peste sa niyugan dahil binubutas nito ang mga murang palapa ng niyog.

Ganunpaman, kasong administratibo at kriminal ang haharapin ni Potestad bilang paglabag sa Wildlife Conservation & Protection Act, ayon kay Alex Marcaida, tagapagsalita ng PCSDS.

Binibili umano ito ni Potestad sa mga katutubo sa Bataraza ang uwang ng P40 kada piraso. Binebenta naman nito sa isang buyer na Hapon sa Maynila ng P1,500 ang maliliit na pares at P5,000 ang malalaking pares na sumusukat ng dalawa hanggang tatlong pulgada.

Hindi rin malinaw kay Potestad kung ano ang gagawin sa mga salagubang ng kakontrata niyang Hapon. May palagay naman ang mga otoridad na may pang-nutrisyunal at medisinal na gamit ang mga insekto dahil sa magandang presyong binibigay ng buyer nito.

Hindi naman sinabi ni Marcaida kung ano ang gagawin nila sa mga salagubang.

Unsubstantiated Complaint

By Lourdes Escaros-Paet

RECENTLY, THE PALAWAN Press Club, a local media organization that claims to be the official organization of media practitioners in Palawan (minus DYPR, Bandillo and Palawan Sun) filed a complaint against me with the management of the radio station where I work.

They are griping over my emotional and blunt commentary on the morning when Dong Batul was slain, about the polarized local media and the curbing of the alleged corruption of Rod Evangelista and James Viernes, broadcasters from DYSP, as one of the unfinished business of the late Bastonero.

While the complainants claim that my statements about the corrupt practices of some known practitioners have been detrimental to the reputation of the local media, it is already public knowledge that there are local media practitioners who receive money from politicians. Therefore, the complaint is clearly hypocritical.

Besides, Dong Batul had discussed the issue extensively in his broadcast last March 27 and April 25 of this year, right down to the details on how Viernes and Evangelista collected money from Atty. Edwin Gastanes as payment for their demolition job against Cong. Baham Mitra in the last election. Batul even challenged them to sue him for libel, but they remained silent.

This documented incident was also included in the letter dated July 7, 2006 sent by Letty Batul-Cabusao, sister of Dong Batul, to the management of GMA Network. Last week, Ms Cabusao discussed the issue with Mike Enriquez of GMA 7 when she went to Manila. The issue is everywhere.

On the allegation that I maligned the image of the local press by projecting it as a quarrelling group, well, I think the truth will speak for this matter. Contrary to the complainants’ posturing as a united group, division certainly exists between those honorably pursuing their profession and those who prostitute themselves; between those who are for truth and the common good, and those who are in the business of fabricating and spreading lies for private gain.

The truth that the Palawan press has been fragmented with the entry of illegitimate practitioners in government payroll is a fact that existed before Batul was murdered. If the Press Club just took time in analyzing what the disassociation of the three credible media outfits from the group means, they would have seen the pointlessness of their complaint.

The public has become so concerned about the rift in the local media that the Palawan Community Media Council, composed of media executives and civil society groups, has been exploring the possibility of reconciling the quarrelling factions.

I find the complainants’ demand for DYPR to pull out its plug “Mga Palatandaan ng mga Bayarang Mamamahayag” because it supposedly alludes to the fact that indeed, the local press is haunted with corrupt practitioners, very amusing.

It is our way of educating the public on how to weed out the corrupt practitioners from the local press to redeem its reputation, yet they find it offensive! Only those who are guilty of that public-service message will find it hurting and feel threatened by it.

Now, they complain that such a plug hurts the local press, after conveniently ignoring the abuses in the airwaves done by their members in the past. Dong Batul suffered terrible personal attacks from his former colleagues in DYSP and commentators of DYER, owned by the city mayor.

He was even called “Bastonegro” in the GMA’s FM station, a corruption of “Bastonero” which was an obvious mockery of Batul’s dark complexion. The abuse of the airwaves that went on days after Batul was killed even worried Bishop Pedro Arigo so much that the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines to call the attention of the National Telecommunication Commission regarding the matter.

The Press Club would do better by policing its members instead of calling for the pullout of a radio plug that calls for the professionalism of the local press that they claim to represent.

Now, if the Press Club really thinks I’m culpable of libel, well they should stop talking about it: if they have a case, they are free to go to court. Our conduct in the matter has been motivated by the desire to continue the crusade of our fallen colleague, Dong Batul, who suffered endless attacks from fellow media practitioners in his crusade to clean the local media of crooks, and whose memory has been honored by the Catholic Church by a Pro Deo Et Pro Patria Award.

Mabuhay ang malinis, malaya, makatotohanan at de kalidad na pamamahayag sa Palawan!

Comments are welcome at treselourdes13@yahoo.com

Mining firms in Palawan unite for PR blitz

By Eliseo Valendez

AS ENVIRONMENTALISTS stood firm on their position that responsible mining is merely an abstract concept, six mining firms in Palawan formed an umbrella organization and asked the public to give them a chance to put their theory into practice.

“Give mining companies a chance to conduct responsible mining,” Engr. Rufo Cabanlig, president of the Kabuhayan, Kaunlaran, Kalikasan, Inc. (KKK) told local media in a mining forum last July 29.

The newly formed group brings together Atlas Mining Corp., Berong Nickel Mining Corp., Macro Asia, Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC), Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Company (RTNMC), and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. (CBNC).

However, Beth Maclang of the Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI), told Bandillo: “Sa concept, maganda talaga ang responsible mining. Pero nasa papel pa rin iyan hanggang sa ngayon.”

Cabanlig admitted, “mining companies made mistakes in the past, and that we are trying to correct.”

He promised to “put pressure dun sa mga member companies” to practice responsible mining operation, and said the KKK could blacklist violators of environmental laws.

Tapping the media this time, the forum is the fifth of a series organized by the KKK. The same forum has been held in the towns of Narra, Quezon and Brooke’s Point.

Maclang said, “So far, wala pang naipapakita na good example ng mining sa Palawan, and even in the Philippines.” She challenged the companies to “prove true the responsible mining that they are talking about,” adding that, “The operational mining firms in the province have bad track records.”

She cited the PGMC’s massive cutting of trees recently, which caused siltation in 23 farm lots in Española.

“Records would show that there is no responsible mining done in the province,” Maclang said.

P72-million for Bataraza

KKK said that RTN and CBNC have funded livelihood projects and infrastructure projects, and provided medical and educational programs in Bataraza.

But NGOs have questioned the contribution of the mining firms in Bataraza, saying the town remains one of the poorest municipalities in the province based on the 2005 poverty mapping done by the Social Welfare Department.

Cabanlig said Bataraza will be the richest town in the province when it starts receiving P72 million annually from the CBNC starting 2008.

The main purpose of the series of forums is to provide “enlightenment” to the public and help them make “informed decisions,” Cabanlig said.

Through the Mining Act of 1995, KKK gave assurances that companies would comply with the law and promised not to harm the environment.

Engr. Albert Rama said the people of Palawan suffer from poverty while the natural resources remain intact. “Hindi ba natin dapat galawin ang likas yaman?” he said.

Cabanlig said Southern Palawan is part of the ‘Sunda plate’ which is rich in mineral resources such as nickel, chromite, and manganese.

The nickel deposits found in Berong, Quezon as well as in Rio Tuba, Bataraza and Brooke’s Point are world-class, he said.

Cabanlig cited Baguio City as “the best example of sustainable mineral development started as a mining community.”

But Maclang belied that mining firms provided development in the mining areas in Benguet.

She said she attended the national IP (indigenous peoples) conference on mining last March 12-15 in Baguio City and heard complaints from NGOs and indigenous groups in the area.

There were abandoned sites in Benguet province, which suffered environmental destruction and displacement of the IPs, she said.

Contrary to the KKK reports, Maclang said “the host communities experienced the worst from mining” and “mahirap pa rin ang mga tao sa Benguet.”

She said the forum aims to misinform the people so they will believe the promises of mining firms.

Restoring the Environment

Engr. Gabriel Pamintuan Jr. cited the Lepanto Consolidated mining company, Philex Mining Corp. in Benguet, and the Taganito mining in Surigao Del Norte, and Philex MC in Bulawan for their “best practices.”

He said these companies restored the environment where they had their operations and provided various benefits to the host communities.

“I am not sure that a mining company would enter into areas where they are not accepted,” he said.

Viable mining projects, Pamintuan said, could be distinguished for certain characteristics such as “profitable, safe, continuous or sustainable, environment friendly and socially equitable.”

Pamintuan said the potential of the Philippine mining industry faces challenges in terms of the “scale of operations, gaining acceptability, facing issues, brain-drain, and economic opportunities.”

He said the Philippines needs to “take advantage” of the mining boom, with the price of metals in the international market at high levels and foreign investors entering the country.

The mining industry makes “temporary use of land” and provides economic benefits through employment, livelihood, and taxes.

But geologic risks as well as financial risks, physical risks and environmental risks are always present.

Cabanlig said mining firms spend about P100 to P400 million in explorations alone.

“We’d rather comply with all the requirements rather than be stopped from the operations,” he said.

It is the firms’ responsibility to “put back (the environment), as much as we can, to its former state,” he added.

Drug Abuse Cases In Palawan down by More than Half

By Ian Davatos

THE PROVINCIAL Prosecutors’ Office recorded only three cases of drug abuse in Palawan from January to June this year, a very encouraging figure for the Palawan Drug Abuse Council (PADAC) that convened last July 27 to formulate new strategies for eradicating drug abuse in the province.

Last year, 16 cases reached the prosecutor’s office, which means this year’s figures represent a decrease of more than half the number of cases. The drug abuse council could claim success in its campaign to free the province from illegal drugs if the trend will continue until yearend.

Supt. Reynaldo Jagmis of the Philippine National Police - Palawan reported that only three barangays in the province have reported cases of drug abuse, which he attributed to the successful reorganization of the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils. However, he refused to name the three barangays.

Jagmis also disclosed that they are monitoring the police force for possible drug abuse.

“There are 10 policemen in our watch list who are suspected of using drugs. But we conducted a drug test this year and found all the results as negative. Yet we are still going to be careful with our men,” Jagmis said.

Since it was created in December 2001, PADAC has been active in primary intervention, training, intake and referrals, community outreach and volunteer services, research and documentation, monitoring and evaluation, the council said in a written report given to Bandillo.

“The activities have been going on, and they will continue in the future,” said Vice Gov. David Ponce de Leon, who serves as the vice chairman and executive officer of PADAC.

“All municipalities in southern Palawan, except Rizal and Quezon, have Community Outreach Centers that are fully operational. But in the north, only Taytay has it,” he added.

One of their programs this year is the establishment of Community Outreach Centers in Northern Palawan. The Centers disseminate drug information materials and serve as focal points of drug abuse prevention in their localities, the report said.

Other upcoming programs of PADAC are weekly trainings, seminars and forums for educators of the province, and the holding of the 4th Palawan Youth Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention with the theme, “Youth for Youth.”

The council also brainstormed on possible strategies to enhance the anti-drug abuse campaign.

Mayor Rosendo L. Mantes of Kalayaan, representing the League of Municipal Mayors, suggested giving extra attention to the coastal areas, which often serve as drop-off points of drug supplies.

Dr. Ben Carlos, an NGO representative, suggested: “It would be better for the SK representatives of municipalities to visit the City Jail and observe the drug pushers and users there so that, through the experience, they may realize how miserable there life will become once they try using illegal drugs.”

But Eva Ponce de Leon, wife of the vice governor and president of the Inter-Agency Committee for Drug Abuse Preventive Education Program, expressed doubts about the idea.

“One thing is that we cannot predict what they are going to say. We should monitor first what they are going to say before asking them to speak. Their words may invoke danger; they may even encourage (the use of drugs) rather than discourage,” she said.

Instead, she proposed that, “We must also expand prevention in work places because it is much easier to purchase drugs when one has income.”

Bentahan ng Espasyo Sa City Cemetery, Nalantad

Ni Amihan Sabillo

NALANTAD kamakailan ang isang anomalya sa loob ng City Cemetery na pinagkakaperahan umano ng mga tagapangasiwa nito.

Ito ay ang pagrereserba ng mga espasyo at nitso para sa mga taong buhay pa kapalit ng pera, bagay na ipinagbabawal sa isang pampublikong sementeryo.

Ang ganitong modus operandi ay pinapalagay na matagal nang ginagawa ng tagalibing dahil sa dami na ng nakareserbang espasyo, ngunit nalantad lang ito nang magreklamo ang isang Rose Abian.

Si Abian ay napilitan umanong magpareserba ng espasyo para sa kanyang may-edad nang kaanak dahil sa umano’y masamang karanasan nito sa pagkamatay ng isang kapamilya. Nahirapan itong makakuha ng espasyo sa sementeryo dahil wala umano siyang reserbasyon.

Ayon kay Abian, P5,000 ang hinihingi ni Jerry Tabang, ang kasalukuyang tagalibing ng sementeryo, sa bawat nitsong pinapareserba dito simula pa noong Enero.

Subalit mariin naman itong pinabulaanan ni Tabang. Sa ipinakita nitong appoinment paper mula sa City Health Office, noong Marso lamang ito umupo at Pebrero ginawa ang nitsong pinareserba ni Abian. Malinaw aniya na wala siyang pananagutan dito.

Itinuro niya si Bernardo Dacuan, ang pinalitan nitong tagapangasiwa ng sementeryo, na siyang may pananagutan sa anomalya. Pinabulaanan naman ni Dacuan na may kinalaman siya dito.

Sa pagsisiyasat ni Tabang, lumilitaw na mahigit 50 espasyo ang nilagyan ng upuan at silungan na palatandaan na nakareserba ang mga ito. Hinahanapan na niya ng papeles ang mga nagpareserba sa sementeryo. Kung mabibigo ang mga itong magpakita ng papeles ay hahayaan niya umanong gamitin ng iba ang mga espasyo.

Ang mabilis na pagkaubos ng espasyong mapaglilibingan sa City Cemetery ay isang problemang hindi pa nahahanapan ng pangmatagalang solusyon ng pamahalaang panlungsod.

Kamakailan ay binili ng lungsod ang karatig lote ng sementeryo at ginawang extension nito, ngunit sa dami ng nililibing kada linggo, malapit na naman itong mapuno.

Strategic Enrichment Plan For Politicians

THE COMMON ARGUMENT of pro-mining officials in defending their stand is the God-given dominion of man over every lesser form of life and the natural wealth that abounds in this planet. They rationalize that since mineral deposits are gifts from God, it would be an insult to God if we will not utilize them for our advantage. They are afraid that fire and brimstone would rain upon the province if the rich mineral deposits will be kept intact beneath the earth, so they are now rushing to exhume the prized minerals.

What these officials deliberately forget in their rhetoric is the fact that not everything that God placed in this planet are meant to be touched: some are better left in their natural state to maintain the natural equilibrium of life. For in reality, this planet is a big test to humanity. Its destiny is left to its human stewards who both possess enough wisdom to keep it healthy and enough lust to ruin it. With human greed as the primary cause of environmental degradation everywhere, delineation of places that need protection and restrictions on human activities in these hotspots became the trend of global conservation efforts.

In Palawan, such wisdom, which safeguards the environment from the ravages of human greed, is embodied in RA 7611, the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan. The law’s main strategy is the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN), which provides “a graded system of protection and development control over the whole of Palawan.” ECAN areas, which comprise terrestrial, marine and tribal lands, were divided into management zones, according to their environmental significance. Areas above 1,000 meters elevation were classified as core zones, and should be free of human disruption except for traditional and non-destructive activities of indigenous communities.

But then, God made these lush mountainous areas sit over huge deposits of minerals that the mining companies are drooling over, a perfect test to the human heart’s desires. Naturally, the mining capitalists, obsessed with huge profits, are clamoring for the opening up of those areas for mining, using the poverty of the place and the “God gave it, let us use it” brand of twisted theology as their justification. The next thing they would do is to win to their side the local officials who have discretion over those restricted areas.

Unfortunately, winning the unprincipled politicians (which many of Palawan’s politicians are) is one of the easiest things to do in this world. It is just like luring loose chickens to the trap: scatter rice around and soon they would come flying from every direction to feast on the delicious grain. Simply announce that huge amounts of cash will be given out to officials who will move for the reclassification of the core zone and presto, a pack of drooling politicians will soon be crowding your doorway, hands itching to lay hold of the bundles of bills.

With the 2007 elections drawing closer, time breeds harm and threats against the communities around the places where God had buried the mineral deposits. Local politicians are getting ready for the electoral race and they would gladly accept monetary contributions for their campaign chest, though it would mean yielding to the wish of the contributors. Alas, mining executives are such generous contributors, and with most of our local officials willing to bargain, it seems that we are about to see our revered mountains crumble to dust.

We therefore call on the provincial leadership to uphold the integrity of the SEP Law by opposing the proposal of Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation to utilize Mt. Bunlanjao in Bataraza, classified as core zone, for its expansion project. Giving in to the wish of the mining company would mean that the SEP for Palawan is nothing but a feeble law, open to the tinkering of the politicians and therefore, in dire need of a new and apt definition. “Strategic Enrichment Plan for Politicians” is just perfect.

Hurting? Then act wisely.

Editorial written by Robert Bagalay and published in the July 24-30, 2006 issue of Bandillo ng Palawan

Two mining firms accused of illegal logging


THE ENVIRONMENTAL Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) has requested Gov. Joel Reyes to revoke the small-scale mining permits of two mining companies in Española for cutting trees in a natural forest.

The Platinum Group of Metals Corporation (PGMC) and Olympic Mines Development Corporation (OMDC) have “violated the terms and conditions of their SSMPs, the Chainsaw Act Section 13, and the People’s Small Scale Mining Act,” ELAC executive director Atty. Gerthie Mayo-Anda said in a letter to Reyes dated July 13.

ELAC seized five chainsaws allegedly owned and contracted by the two mining companies last July 12.

Reyes chairs the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board and has the power to cancel the permits.

“Hundreds of trees had been cut down, including apitong, amoguis and other naturally-grown hardwood trees,” Anda said.

Reports from the local community about the massive cutting of trees in the area prompted ELAC and the Philippine National Police to conduct the operation.

The team caught chainsaw operators in the act of cutting trees and saw the cleared area of about nine hectares, according to their sworn statement.

The ELAC learned from the operators that the PGMC owns one of the chainsaws, while the other four are owned by individuals under contract with the two companies.

The chainsaws have no permit from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which handles the registration of chainsaws pursuant to the Chainsaw Act.

The team said operators told them that seven other chainsaws are being used in the area.

“Ang kabuuang gamit nilang chainsaw na kinontrata ng PGMC, kasama na ang aming mga nahuli ay 12,” the team said in their statement.

Composing the team are Efren Balladares, David Abela and Paul Bobby Dantic from ELAC and Narra Police Officer PO2 Megdonio Bascongada.

“It is very sad dahil delikado ang kalikasan,” Atty. Anda told Bandillo in an interview.

While the permits clear state that no trees should be felled, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued special tree cutting permits to the two companies, Anda said.

Anda said the cutting permits reveal “that a total of 4,470 trees will be cut consisting of, among others, 221 pieces of apitong, 253 pieces of premium hardwood species and 661 pieces of common hardwood trees.”

ELAC also sought assistance from Board Member Arthur Ventura, chair of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources in the provincial board, to investigate the issue.

“We hope that your good office can expeditiously help resolve this apparent irregularity in the issuance of permits so we can save the remaining forest of Española,” Anda said.

Trouble in the Core Zone

The alleged reclassification of proposed mining areas in the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) Map for Palawan has put PCSD’s reputation into question.

NGOs said the council is easing the core zone requirements to accommodate applications for mineral exploration in the province.

Anda said, “The area applied for is a natural forest which falls under the core zone or area of maximum protection category” under the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) Law.

ELAC questioned the council’s issuance of SEP clearances to PGMC and OMDC despite the fact that the area is a core zone.

The issue was also the subject of Ventura’s privilege speech during the provincial board’s regular session last July 18.

The two corporations have failed to comply with Republic Act 7611 (or SEP Law), which maximizes the protection of core zone forests from human disruption, Ventura said.

Pending the investigation of the issue, Ventura called for the suspension of all cutting and mining permits of the two companies.

Meanwhile, Board Member Vicky de Guzman suggested the creation of a multi-partite monitoring team that would report developments regarding PGMC and OMDC’s mining activities.

As this developed, PCSD Staff information officer Alex Marcaida denied allegations that the agency is preparing to reclassify the ECAN Map in various municipalities that have mining applications.

Marcaida told Bandillo that each local government unit has to approve its ECAN Map first before going to the council. The map is based on the Comprehensive Water and Land Use Plan of each municipality, and the PCSD has to check its guidelines before any changes can be done, Marcaida clarified.

But in PGMC’s case, Marcaida said the cutting of trees is considered a violation because the PCSD has not given them a permit for this activity.

“Dapat kumuha sila ng separate permit for the cutting of trees,” he said, adding that the companies’ permits are only for their mining activities. Marcaida said the cutting permit from the DENR is different from the SEP clearance obtained from the PCSD.

-with reports from Jestoni Manayon

RTNMC Eyes Expansion In Core Zone

By Eliseo Valendez & Ian Anthony Davatos

THE RIO TUBA Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) is eyeing Mount Bulanjao, classified as a core zone under the Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) in Palawan, for its expansion project in the municipality of Bataraza.

The company has applied for a Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), which is one of the requirements for a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement for its proposed expansion site covering 990 hectares in Mt. Bulanjao.

But non-government organizations and peoples’ organizations are opposing the expansion.

The Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI) objected to the proposed amendments of the ECAN Map during the PCSD Environment and Natural Resources committee hearing held at the Legislative Building last July 19.

Considering that the area falls under the core zone in the 2005 ECAN map, PNNI volunteer lawyer Atty. Jayjay Panfilo asked, “Maaari bang magmina o magsagawa ng ano pa mang gawain sa lugar?

“If the mining operation will destroy the core zone, which is home to endangered and endemic animals in Palawan, there is no need for any negotiation to alter or change the law,” Panfilo pointed out.

The mining company has gained the support of the Bataraza municipal council. The Sangguniang Bayan of Bataraza approved and adopted “A Resolution Earnestly Requesting the PCSD to Amend Zonation of Bataraza, Province of Palawan and Incorporating Said Amendment into the Municipal Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan” last Jan. 9, 2006, to accommodate the company’s application.

The RTNMC, whose operation in the area started in the 1970s, requested the PCSD to give “due course” to the resolution.

In a letter dated April 19, 2006, RTNMC senior vice president Jose Saret asked the PCSD “to allow mining activities in Mt. Bulanjao,” which has an elevation of 1,000 meters.

The letter also revealed that the company “holds a Mining Lease Contract over an area along the ridge of Mt. Bulanjao which was granted on June 29, 1978 and June 25, 1979 and has presently applied for renewal and conversion to MPSA.

“The MPSA applied area contains a sizeable deposit of nickel ore which can considerably extend the economic life of RTNMC’s mineral properties. This will serve as the main source of the ore feed which will justify and support the projected expansion of the processing plant of the Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) from its present capacity of 10,000 tons of nickel per annum to 20,000 tons of nickel per annum,” Saret said in the letter.

Damage to Farm Lots

“On the environment aspect, RTNMC and CBNC have proven track record in protection and enhancement activities,” Saret claimed.

However, PNNI recalled that last year, mining waste spread throughout Sitio Raquiom in Bataraza and along farm lots near the mine site, and the company is still paying for the damage until now.

Engr. Mario Cartaroja of the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau said destruction is inevitable in any mining operation, but he believes it can be mitigated. “If the activity will destroy one tree, it should be replaced with 10 trees.”

In his letter, Saret said the CBNC’s principal stockholder, Sumimoto Metal Mining Co., Ltd., would invest US$285 million to build a second plant in April 2009.

“The expansion project will bring in a significant amount of foreign direct investment and create new jobs as well as sources of revenue for the Province of Palawan,” Saret pointed out.

He added: “It will also expand tremendously the social development program of RTNMC and CBNC which are now creating a better life for the residents of Bataraza and outlying areas.”

Bataraza Vice Mayor Haron Narrazid supported Saret’s position, saying, “Money is our main problem. We can use our environment to make money. If that will be for the benefit of everyone, why would we not allow it?”

However, NGO representative Fr. Armando Limsa disputed their claim and asserted, “I made a personal research and found out that Bataraza is still the poorest municipality in the province even if a mining company is working there.”

The company also owes the provincial government excise taxes dating back to 1995. It has only paid taxes for 2003 and 2004, officials said.

The municipal government said the company is providing medical services and scholarships to 300 students from the Pala’wan indigenous community in the area.

But Marilyn Samparan, a Palaw’an from Bgy. Taratak who is opposing the company’s expansion, said she is not after the benefit that these companies could provide her family. Samparan’s two children are scholars of the RTN foundation.

She said, “Hindi bale nang hindi makapagtapos ang mga anak ko kung kapalit nito ay masisira naman ang bundok (Bulanjao).”

Committee co-chairman Vice Gov. David Ponce De Leon said the benefits that people will get from the company are not the deciding factor on granting the SEP clearance. The council has to conduct a study and look at all sides of the issue before it could decide, he added.

In the next committee hearings scheduled on the last two weeks of August, data from the study would be presented to serve as basis for the decision.

PNNI maintained that there is no need for a further study as the ECAN map clearly shows that the area lies within the core zone.


By Sergio A. Pontillas

WITH THE awarding of its Environmental Compliance Certificate, the Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation is set to start commercial operations of its P3.5-billion nickel project in Quezon, Palawan.

To quote from the company’s report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, “road construction to the direct shipping mine location has been completed and the construction of a temporary causeway for loading has commenced.” Indeed, the development of this mining project is coming at us at full throttle.

This is the latest in the burgeoning mining industry that has been in the province since the 1970s. Ideally, part of proceeds from this mining project would be funneled off to jump-start, at least, the economy and the over-all development of Palawan, recently declared one of the poorest provinces in Region IV-B. Palawan is also beset with a looming population boom, one of the worst in the region.

But before we start the drums rolling, with matching thunderous applause, we should remind ourselves that mineral exploration and development along with its liquid cousin – oil – have often been historically linked to poverty especially among developing nations.

Governments from mineral-rich but poor African nations have been rightfully accused of being bad at managing their wealth. Nigeria, one perfect example, has long been producing oil but majority of its citizens barely survive with a per capita income of one dollar a day. Nigerian oil money was used to build an elephantine central bank, which was supposed to spur economic development in the country. But lack of a grassroots financial structure and frequent dips into the country’s oil money by warring politicians prevented development from trickling down to the country’s poor. This left Nigeria in its current state, where the only sign of modernity and development is its gargantuan central bank and the well decorated throne room of its ruling despot. Much like what is happening in Palawan, which has not benefited from its natural gas in Malampaya, mineral is siphoned out of resource-rich regions without the guarantee of profits getting poured back into the regions. With a centralized system of politics, management of profits from resources depends heavily on the caprices of the political elite.

This does not, however, go to show that Palawan may be on the road to a bleak future. The Philippines is, after all, better off than Nigeria and Chad. But we are not also richer than the Netherlands, which suffered an economic slump during its heyday as a North Sea gas giant. Economic historians point the blame on the sudden influx of dollar-denominated revenues from gas money, which upset the balance with other economic sectors. This made the agricultural and manufacturing sector of Netherlands less competitive in the international market. Consequently, those who worked in these sectors did not fare well during Netherlands’ heydays as a European natural gas giant. This same historical lesson could spell trouble for Palawan if proper support for the agricultural and fisheries sector is not given as the province follows the mining and energy industry bandwagon.