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Philippine News Digest 4

September 28, 2001 ·  By Nestor P. Burgos, daily inquirer

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Contents:

  • Church pushes for repeal of RA 9154
  • Govt lawyers OK rape raps vs Pearson
  • DENR saves dying trees in the metropolis
  • Church to build houses for the poor
  • Biotech rice to be tested in Nueva Ecija, Laguna
  • NBI sues Korean trader for rape
  • Co-ops link to poaching
  • Lumad girls become sex slaves
  • Toxic waste victims oppose plan to use ex-bases
  • Agency reports growing poverty in Western Visayas

Church pushes for repeal of RA 9154

The Diocese of Bacolod through Bishop Vicente Navarra said the Church will continue its protest until the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) issues a written commitment that it will not enter the Mt. Kanlaon National Park (MKNP) for geothermal exploration. The Church’s statement calls for the repeal or amendment of Republic Act 9154 that created a 164-hectare buffer zone within the MKNP. The PNOC, meanwhile, has confirmed that a geothermal power plant would be built outside the park. On the call for the repeal of RA 9154, it said the law is a result of a 15-year legal process, which included consultations and hearings. A local official said that while the Church is protesting geothermal operations, residents support the project with the belief that PNOC has brought progress to the community by building roads, putting a stop to illegal logging, addressing the needs of malnourished children and starting reforestation projects. Bishop Navarra said the Church is not promoting trouble by leading protests. He denied insinuations that he was influenced by some members of the clergy branded as leftists. Source: Carla P. Gomez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 September 2001

Govt lawyers OK rape raps vs Pearson

Provincial Prosecutor Daniel Villaflor upheld the decision of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Ilog-Candoni, finding Victor Pearson (see previous News Digest) “probably guilty” of the charges made by his 15-year old former housemaid. This decision paved the way for the filing of two counts of rape against the retired US serviceman. As this developed, Pearson has filed charges against Ilog town police chief Inspector Fidel Fortaleza for less serious physical injuries he allegedly sustained when he was arrested last August 16. Source: Jaime Espina, Today, 28 September 2001

DENR saves dying trees in the metropolis

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources headed by Sec. Heherzon Alvarez have intensified their operations to effectively implement “Oplan Sagip Puno” (Oplan Save the Trees) to save damaged and injured urban trees through silvicultural treatment. The DENR cited cavities being caused by woodborers, gas poisoning caused by vehicle emission and trees injured by driving nails into its trunks as among the most common tree defects. The secretary said that his department will strictly enforce Presidential Decree 953 that penalizes unauthorized cutting, damaging and injuring of trees, plants and vegetation. Source: Rhodina Villanueva, Today, 28 September 2001

Church to build houses for the poor
A concerted effort by the Philippine Solidarity Fund Foundation, the Council of the Laity of the Philippines, Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines and Habitat for Humanity aims to build houses that will benefit 20% of the country’s poor. The project, called the Jubilee Homes for the Poor, will initially build 600 houses in sites identified in coordination with the National Housing Authority. It will be funded by donations from private individuals and corporations who will be invited to make a grant of US$3,000 or P150, 000 that must be coursed through the Philippine Solidarity Fund or Habitat International in the United States. Beneficiaries will pay a monthly amortization of P700 monthly for 15 years. Titles to the property will not be given to the tenants, but to the community’s association to prevent speculative selling. The homeowner may only resell the unit to the community association. Records show that the number of homeless families in the country grows two million annually. Source: Cher Jimenez, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 September 2001.

Biotech rice to be tested in Nueva Ecija, Laguna
The Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute will conduct field trial of two biotech rice described as resistant to major plant disease. IR72 with Xa-21 gene was proven on greenhouse inoculation tests to be resistant to nine kinds of bacterial blights. The field trial will provide data on the performance of the biotech rice in the natural environment. But before the trial could be conducted, it has yet to hurdle the requirements of the National Committee on the Biosafety of the Philippines, a multi-sectoral body that regulates biotechnology studies in the Philippines.

In Davao City, party list representative Satur Ocampo has moved to ban genetically modified organisms including importation and fielding of the controversial Bt-corn. Other non-government groups has vowed to continue their protest if Bukidnon officials do not recall a resolution supporting the field-testing of Bt-corn by seed giant Monsanto. Meanwhile, plants earlier tested in Isabela will be ready for harvest next month, according to Arnold Estrada who is the product development manager of Monsanto-Philippines. Source: Anselmo Roque and Ayan Mellejor, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 September 2001 and Villamor Visaya Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer, 25 September 2001.

NBI sues Korean trader for rape
The National Bureau of Investigation has files charges of rape and acts of lasciviousness September 17 against Cho Kue Soc, a South Korean national accused of raping a 31-year old woman and molesting her friend inside a condominium he rents. Soc denied the allegations, saying the girls agreed to have sex with him. He claimed they got angry when he refused to give them money. Soc also claimed that the women had asked money from him in exchange for the dropping of the case but he turned down the favor. Source: Kathy Navarro, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 September 2001.

Co-ops link to poaching
Cagayan representative Manuel Mamba accused officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of allegedly using upland farmers’ organizations as fronts for illegal logging activities. He said he would call for a house investigation of permits by organizations covered by the community-based forest management program (CBFM). Under the program, residents in forest areas are given occupancy rights by the DENR for the protection and rehabilitation of forests. They are also allowed to harvest forest products for small-scale livelihood. Mamba is questioning the permits given to Lapi Upland farmers Cooperative Inc. (Lufci) and Bolos Point Multi-purpose Cooperative Inc. (BPMPCI). Lufci was given by the DENR an annual allowable cut of 24,000 board feet of narra and 120,000 board feet of common hard wood species. On September 10, a truckload of narra lumber valued at P1.2 million was intercepted in Nueva Vizcaya believed to be smuggled out of Cagayan. The load was registered under the BPMPCI and was to be delivered to Antipolo City. Mamba said that with this large volume of forest products that the DENR allows to be harvested within a year, it would be just a matter of time before the forests of Cagayan are gone. Source: Melvin Gascon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 September 2001. Source: Melvin Gascon, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 September 2001.

Lumad girls become sex slaves

Lumad girls from the towns of Cateel, Baganga, Boston, Caraga and Manay aged 10 to 15 years old are displaced from their communities due to the slump in prices of copra and the continuing hostilities the government and rebel forces. Many of them find their way to urban centers of Southern Mindanao such as Davao and Tagum cities, where they are employed in beerhouses as sex workers. Commercial sex workers earn P50 a day while women working as househelps earn P300 per month. The National Commission on Indigenous People vowed to look into the plight of these girls but said that the office needs NGO partners so the government can extend assistance to them. Source: Ferdinand Zuasola, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 September 2001.

Toxic waste victims oppose plan to use ex-bases

Toxic waste victims are opposing the plan of the United States to use Clark and Subic in its war against terrorism. Mandy Rivera, spokesperson of the Task Force for Bases Clean-up said the re-use of Clark and Subic as refueling stations for American aircraft will introduce more pollutants to the former bases. The pollutants include jet fuels, cleaning fluids, pesticides and lubricants. Rivera further said that they are against terrorism but will not agree to a plan that will inflict more harm to residents who are already exposed to toxic waste hazards. Source: Tonette Orejas, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 September 2001

Agency reports growing poverty in Western Visayas

The latest report from the National Statistical Coordinating Board revealed an increase in the incidence of poverty in Western Visayas from 39.9% in 1997 to 43 % last year, the same level recorded in 1994. Poverty was worse in the rural areas where 53.9% of the families lived below the poverty line. In the urban area, the level was only 26.5%. Government planners attribute the worsening poverty to the lingering effects of the 1997 financial crisis, the prolonged drought caused by the el niño, rising unemployment and low level of investments in the region. Nestor P. Burgos, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 September 2001.

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