Monday, September 28, 2009

The Warnings of Jolina and Ondoy

Greenpeace is again calling the attention of the industrialized nations to mobilize their resources in order to help the most vulnerable countries,- like the Philippines, in dealing with the impacts of catastrophic climate change. The statement was released after Typhoon Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) submerged up to 80% of Metro-Manila and covered areas that never experienced flooding before, stranding people on rooftops and bringing death and misery to rich and poor alike. According to Amalie Obusan, Green Peace Climate and Energy Campaigner, “It is ironic that this disaster should happen in between two big important climate meetings, the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and the UNFCCC intercessional meeting in Bangkok. While world leaders are pussyfooting on their commitments, countries like ours are left to experience the ravages of climate change.”

Incidentally, last September 5, 2009, I was invited as a resource speaker by the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) students at the Occidental Mindoro State College (OMSC) Main Campus here in San Jose. Around 200 college students under Mesdames Luisa M. Pechardo, Leticia R. Valdez and Maricris M. Usita. I told my audience : “Mining contains a key threat to climate change. In fact, reduction of mining is essential to climate change mitigation”. My topic was, “Oil Exploration and Nickel Mining in Occidental Mindoro.” Climate experts say that unless decisive solutions are immediately put on the table, the worst is yet to come. The UN Summit on Climate Change will be held this December in Copenhagen.

Likewise, the Colegio De San Sebastian (CDSS) College Department initiated a symposium on mining with Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez of the Mangyan Mission of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan as their guest speaker. The activity was held at Sablayan Convention Center last September 24, 2009. This was initiated by Fr. Gerardo F. Causapin and Ms. Rosavilla Dalumpides, Director and Dean of Academic Affairs, respectively. Around 700 college students attended the affair.

Windel Bolinget of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) addressed the Eighth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and recommended “a moratorium on large-scale mining and extractive industries in indigenous territories until mechanisms addressing outstanding issues are set, especially on compensation and rehabilitation of devastated communities and the urgent concern on climate change.” Indeed, corporate and large-scale mining worsens climate change so we are calling for the moratorium on mining and extractive industries in the whole island of Mindoro.

Before Typhoon Ondoy, during Typhoon Jolina’s onslaught, Occidental Mindoro experienced heavy floods, landslides, soil erosion and scouring which rendered its national highways impassable for several weeks and caused huge and serious damage to crops, livestock and property. Undoubtedly, the Mindoro Nickel Project and all the mining applications in the island would make the effects of global warming even more disastrous.

Obusan has this to add: “It is unfair that people in the Philippines should be the ones paying a greater price for the damage that developed countries have wrought on the environment.”

Just like the damage brought to us then by Jolina, and now Ondoy...

(Photo : Courtesy of )

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Legacy of a Historian

Tonight, the San Jose Centennial Commission headed by Mayor Romulo M. Festin will be having the public launching of the centennial celebration of San Jose with the theme, “Our home. Our heart. Our Pride.” .Want to read the history of the town where I was born? Click here and enjoy our history.

This was written by our local historian Rudy A. Candelario, a Divine Word College of San Jose alumnus and presently working as a senior researcher at the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Kuya Rudy is also a lay minister. Candelario’s contribution and legacy to our rich historical past requires recognition. He even wrote a book entitled “History of Occidental Mindoro” on the occasion of Philippine Centennial celebration last 1998. And I would be very proud if all of his works will be published in a not so distant future.

To trace back the author’s journey in this particular journalistic endeavor, he practically went in every single barangay (village) of San Jose (and the whole province for that matter) for almost twenty (20) years sitting with the elders of certain community for a story telling session that catapulted into a real experience of sharing. He also utilized usual data-gathering approaches such as researches, community-discussion session and the likes.

Like any other historical writing, his piece is in no way complete. For history happens every minute and since events unfold everywhere in our town everyday and every minute, Candelario’s legacy, his historical compilation is still an unfinished business.

We stated above that this particular work of Candelario (“History of San Jose”) involves traditional methods such as the informal story-telling which is a more personal and his approach is very friendly especially to the poor rural dwellers or community members. They are usually senior citizens that have rich experiences to impart, say... in the so-called “Japanese Time” for example.

Other methods used by the author include academic and formal data-gathering techniques such as researches (He even went to National Library and the National Archive in Manila for some data) in both local and national levels.

His present function and capacity in our local Church was of great help in gathering of historical facts,- both narrative and documentary, for data banking. Prior to his writing.- was already done by the priests assigned in every mission area of the province. The author lumped together, I presume,- on a case-to-case basis, every method and approaches in the book in making “History of San Jose” a success. He is also the former Station Manager of DZVT, a local radio station.

San Jose-based students (HS, College and Post Graduate) of History subjects and other related sciences are somehow being helped by this historical reading as reference material for their academic quest. On the other hand, taking the risk of being branded as too trivial, this became a major source of vital information regarding San Jose, my beloved hometown.

Mr. Candelario’s piece, being said that it is in no way a finish product, we as educators and professionals are being challenged to continue this task. To be a historian is to learn as we go along. The key phrase is something like this: “Be methodical in your work and your record keeping. Always think of context, of local color.”

But who will write about the events unfolding each day in San Jose? The scandalous nastiness of our Public Market and Solid Waste Management, the people’s struggle against Intex Resources and Pitkin Petroleum, the Small Town Lottery (STL) and other concerns. In addition, our local historians are not getting any younger.

Calling the enthusiastic and idealistic youth of Pandurucan to write something about your town. Immerse with them. Keep a journal when you intermingle with people. Study things around us as they unfold. Stand up and be counted even beyond May 10, 2010, the San Jose Centennial Celebration.

Spend a lot of time joining the people in their every struggle for self-determination and rights. Get rid of those who ride with historical celebrations for their personal, political and economic gains. Remember, writing history is not exclusively for the influential elites and intellectuals, including political publicists and propagandists. History may also be written by the masses, the common tao like you and me as long as we want to share something, to communicate and connect with people and eventually fight for social transformation. Nobody can know everything but try to expand our knowledge and extend our understanding even if we are not members of our local historical group. Just write something about the past,- people, places and events, you remember most.

Just like what Rudy A. Candelario have taught us and that made him our most credible local historian, ever…

(Photo : SSC File; Mr. Rudy A. Candelario)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Of True Ants and Truants

I am having a wonderful time that early morning watching ants unfamiliar to me in a tree at the back of the Pastoral Center when me and Bishop Warlito I. Cajandig of Oriental Mindoro had a little chat. I was in Calapan last September 16 to 17 to attend the Mindoro LGU-CSO Conference on Mining Moratorium together with my boss and a bosom-buddy and co-worker. We are part of the more or less twenty participants coming from different Local Government Units (LGUs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) of Occidental Mindoro upon invitation of Gov. Arnan C. Panaligan. Though the gathering was held at the Provincial Capitol Square in Calapan City, we were billeted at the Bishop’s House in Brgy. Salong. The activity carried this theme : “Isang Mindoro, Isang Panindigan : Tutol Kami sa Minahan!” (One Mindoro, One Stand : We are Against Mining!)

The good bishop told me that he is very happy with the initial result of the conference where unity and solidarity against mining between two provinces of Mindoro was officially conveyed and forged. “It’s a welcome development and I would be more willing to attend the proposed continuation of this endeavor in your province”, he told me. We talked about their almost ten years of struggle against mining. Its ups and downs and the whole roller-coaster ride of said campaign aimed at environmental protection and integrity of creation. And I won’t forget what he told me that Thursday morning : “I just hope and pray that this struggle is a result of our faith”.

No doubt that the event is is succesful in a way. The Occidental Mindoro provincial officials headed by Gov. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato and Vice-Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola came. Seven out of eleven of our Provincial Board members twice crossed the sea for the occasion. Gov. Sato delivered her speech,- in her familiar delivery style, proposing for a march and rally in Manila to ventilate united Mindoreños sentiment against Intex Resources and the holding of same conference in her province. But she did not mention nor utter a word about mining moratorium. They are just verbal fireworks in my own opinion. Colorful and beautiful but the heat and light are not lasting thus lack vital elements. Nevertheless, she received a warm round of applause from all of the participants because,- perhaps, of her oratorical genius or perceived sincerity. Or both.

But the sad thing is, all of them went out on the first day of the conference missing very important things like the discussions on the legality of mining moratoria especially the open forum and the island-wide planning. Except for Board Member Marian Haydee “Sugar” G. Villaroza, Environment Committee chair. During the workshop, Villaroza is like a little girl tied in an ant hill for she absorbed and answered every query and question (and even ire) of the Occidental LGU-CSO group. And for such patience and wit, I admired her.

According to the young legislator, they are crafting the moratorium step-by-step. They are about to conduct committee hearing in every municipality to avoid technicalities and other legal hassles before the body could pass and approve one. She did not mention when. This is despite of the fact that earlier in the program, Atty. Grace Villanueva of the Legal Resource Center and Atty. Girlie De Guzman of PANLIPI,- two of the Manila-based support groups who participated the affair, discussed various of laws and jurisprudence as bases for the legality of the mining moratorium passed by some LGUs in the land. Despite of the fact that nine out of eleven municipalities of Occidental Mindoro already passed a resolution and ordinance against large-scale mining. Despite of the fact that the 25-year mining moratorium ordinance of Oriental Mindoro in January 2002 came out without any resolution coming from the municipal level. According to the speakers, the provincial board should initially pass the moratorium and let the mining companies question or challenge it in court or other venue. Despite of the fact that Mayor Eric Constantino of Abra De Ilog and Vice-Mayor Eduardo Gadiano of Sablayan, Msgr. Ruben S. Villanueva, Vicar General of Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose,- the priests and the nuns and the rest of the Occidental participants are expecting that the delegation would assure us of the immediate passing of said legislation. LGUs have to make the first move of passing such ordinance according to the two lady lawyers. But sadly, the elected officials of my province who came to Calapan in full force went out,- one by one, like ants towards the queen,- err.. the door to go out of the hall.

On the positive end, Governors Sato and Panaligan led the signing of a Petition Paper against the Mindoro Nickel Project of the Intex Resources together with more or less eighty participants. But that document is not sufficient in my view.

In his talk during the opening of the conference last Wednesday, Bishop Cajandig told us, “We had one thing in common. We are believers. And this belief must lead us somewhere.” I believe that the initial path that would lead us to that “somewhere” is the Occidental Mindoro mining moratorium.

I believe that the service-giving ants are the true ants and they are not truants…
(Photo credit :

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Marco Polo Move

I was once a gymnasium barker and a play-by-play announcer at the old and roofless San Jose Municipal Gymnasium for the San Jose Summer Basketball League (SJSBL) games in the late 80’s to early 90’s. I replaced Mr. Apolinar “Ka Popoy” Valverde when the old man rested his voice in 1990. My contemporaries are Rommel Sandiego of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Carlos “Lot” Bagatsolon, municipal employee of Magsaysay. I was jobless then.

The work became easy for me for I am also a play-by-play league announcer when I was still a teenager in Bubog. In addition, I am a big fan of Joe Cantada. I love to imitate his voice while I am at the panel. Not his looks,- only his voice, for I do not wear moustache and neatly-pomaded hair in my wholelife. (I imitated Smokin’ Joe’s voice but to no avail.) Incidentally, the legendary Vintage Enterprises and Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) sportscaster calls a traveling violation a “Marco Polo Move”. In basketball, traveling is a violation of the rules that occurs when a player holding the ball illegally moves one or both of his feet. Most commonly, a player travels by illegally moving his pivot foot or taking too many steps without dribbling the ball. Such violation is also called “caught on step” or “illegal travel” in basketball parlance.

According to reports, since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency she had already 81 foreign trips, which included 111 visits and meetings in 40 countries, cities and territories. On the average, PGMA visited about 4 countries a year. Latest data from the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that the Office of the President incurred P 1.45 billion in foreign travel expenses from 2002 to 2007. Her office spent P241 million yearly for such travels which is equivalent to P 20 million monthly or P666,000 daily.

And here’s the latest : President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is set to have her state visit again after she went to Libya a week ago. The President is scheduled to leave again next week for London and Saudi Arabia (her New York trip was officially cancelled today) this coming Sept. 17 to 26. Meanwhile, the President defended her foreign visits amid persistent allegations of extravagant spending, saying the benefits far outweigh the cost as she wants to ensure the stability of the economy through her state visit. The very same words I've heard from a different lady Marco Polo.

And in many of the President’s travel abroad, Deputy Speaker Ma. Amelita C. Villarosa,- our representative to Congress, is included in GMA’s entourage. And if official foreign trip is a measure of good governance,- then GMA and our representative can be considered as very accomplished public servants. But that is not the case and according to Sen. Francis Escudero, ”Governance is (also) all about allocating scarce resources…”

Let us go back to basketball, the game invented by James Naismith. Somebody asked me this during my SJSBL days: “How do officials determine if a traveling violation occurs when a player goes to the floor and recovers a loose ball?”. Under FIBA rules diving or falling to floor is legal. However if a player then slides, he/she commits a traveling violation. If a player falls, without sliding, he/she can pass, shoot, dribble, if he/she has a dribble, before attempting to stand. But if the player rolls over, slides or stands with the ball he/she is guilty of traveling violation.

Is there such thing as “illegal travel” in politics? The idiot in me is just asking…

(Photo from Kareem Abdul Jabbar's official website. As seen in the picture, Jabbar is in town together with other NBA legends for the NBA Asian Challenge 2009 and will be facing PBA legends tonight headed by Benjie Paras, once played in SJSBL)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Another Chasing Game

We have been chasing them again in their series of consultations with different barangay (village) officials in respective areas where they would conduct the so-called 2D Seismic Survey. I am pertaining to the people of Department of Energy (DOE) and the Pitkin Petroleum PLC. Pitkin Petroleum is an exploration firm producing on a small-scale basis in Louisiana, USA but with assets in offshore Vietnam and Peru. The company’s drilling activities in an exploration bloc in Vietnam, where it has a 40 percent stake, are scheduled to commence by the end of 2009. Here in Occidental Mindoro, a total of 645,000 has. from Sablayan, Calintaan, Rizal, Magsaysay and San Jose is placed under Service Contract No. 53.

They were in Central last week and from Friday intil yesterday they came for the same meeting in Camburay, La Curva and San Isidro (formerly Canwaling). The objective of the meeting is to talk with the identified owners of the land or lot where the survey will be conducted. The Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) once again registered their objection to the project citing different moral, social, practical and environmental reasons. They were all supported by their respective parish priests and the nuns assigned in the area. In August 4, 2009, His Excellency Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD of Occidental Mindoro issued a Statement renewing the stand of the local Church against Petroleum Service Contract No. 53. We are challenged by our bishop to do necessary legal and non-violent actions and adhere to the Social Teachings of the Church to oppose the project. The Provincial Government is in favor of said DOE project. In their Resolution No. 56, S. 2008 is emphasized that while they are up against large scale mining activities in Sablayan, they exclude the exploration of natural gas and oil in said objection.

We were not allowed to participate in their meeting and we did not gate-crash either. We just had a little program inside each chapel ended by praying of the Holy Rosary. All of the barangays mentioned have already issued individual Resolutions favoring the project but the people were not generally consulted. We will not only sit down in prayers. As a next course of action, we intend to talk to the shot-hole "holders” or go right down to the fields (or areas of the survey) if needed, aside from lobbying, sustaining our community-based formation activities and pressure politics.

I would like to connect this issue on the global problem of climate change. All of the countries in the world depends on energy, but cannot continue on the current path of unsustainable growth and pollution. Climate change is not an insurmountable problem but we have to beat the clock and so the whole world needs to move towards sustainable development and accelerate clean technology. This technology must be prioritized by the government, specifically its energy department. Because exploration and extraction or exploiting natural resources in the Philippines, particularly when it involves foreign companies, can often be sensitive and as well destructive,- socially, culturally, economically and politically.

We in the Church including Mangyan leaders and other local pro-environment POs, NGOs and LGUs are not against development and progress but development and progress must be gained in a responsible manner and must ensure the sustainability of resources and the future of our children. Oil Exploration and agriculture cannot go together. There is a Filipino saying, “Kailanman ang langis at tubig at hindi mo mapag-hahalo.” (You cannot mix water with oil). Water and land are the two basic necessities in agriculture, and oil and petroleum exploration must be taken out of the map!

Consequently then, we are opposing any destructive form of development and progress where investment and employment come only in short-term basis. We opposed to development that disregards and neglects the long-term negative impact of such development on both the environment and humanity.

As long as this project is not presented to the majority of the people of community and you continue to divide our us Mindorenyos,- we will be forever chasing you even in your nightmares. Your local cohorts, included!

We will forever be united in shouting : “Pitikin ang Pitkin!”…

(Photo : SSC File. Taken inside the Camburay Chapel)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Nameless Group

We had a hard time naming our newly-formed coalition. Suggestions vary from wise to “otherwise”, so the group came into the decision of just finalizing the matter on our upcoming consultative meeting in the next few weeks or so. I had suggestion in mind but I did not bring it up for I will surely get the ire of my fellow participants : "Hypocrites of Occidental Mindoro, Unlimited, or HOMU".

I was in Abra de Ilog the other day,- along with more or less 100 participants from the Local Government Units (LGUs), NGOs, POs and church leaders from MAPSSA (Mamburao, Abra de Ilog, Paluan, Sta. Cruz, and Sablayan) municipalities, to attend the Anti-Mining Forum called by Mayor Eric A. Constantino, as main its convener, and Vice Mayor Floro A. Castillo and the rest of SB members. The event was held at Villa Salustiana Resort in Brgy. Tibag. To refresh our memory, Abra de Ilog issued Ordinance No. 106-2008 declaring a 25-year moratorium on large scale mining activities in the municipality. Fr. Edwin "Edu" Gariguez and Jeff Rafa from Alyansa Tigil Mina or ALAMIN in Oriental Mindoro, Atty. Ron Gutierrez of Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN) and Msgr. Ruben Villanueva of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, serve as speakers while Mayor Constantino himself and Fr. Richard Castillo, Parish Priest of Holy Cross parish acted as facilitators. Mayor Godofredo Mintu and Vice Mayor Eduardo C. Gadiano are also invited but they sent separate representatives instead.

Why HOMU (Japanese-sounding, isn’t it?)? Or why “hypocrites”? It is simply because our kind,- pro-environment and anti-mining advocates, are considered as such by miners including their supporters and vanguards, coming from both government and private entities. They say : “The computer that you are using when blogging against mining came from minerals. Even environmental protection itself can never be possible without mining. You, hypocrite!”

In p. 6 of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines’ Open Letter to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) regarding the CBCP Statement of Concern on Mining Act of 1995, it is stated : “The ultimate question, perhaps is : Could we live without mining? Whatever cannot be grown has to be mined. The materials that we need to build buses and jeepneys, telephones, calculators, eyeglasses, concrete churches, stained glass windows, bridges, ships and airplanes, televisions, printing press, tooth paste, plates and bottles, watches, toys, etc. all come from mining…”

But have we forgotten than here in our country, the mineral needs are NOT met by mining operations? According to “Miner’s Lie” (1998) a publication by the Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center authored by Andre Gerard G. Ballesteros, “It is clear that the products of mining industry in the Philippines, contrary to industry’s assertion, are not responsive to the needs for minerals, particularly metals. In a sense, what the mining industry addresses in not the need for metals but the need for revenue.” Yes, all in the name of revenue or profit regardless of environmental, energy as well as social cost such as landlessness and poverty, especially among rural communities.

Instead of massive extraction, we need to conserve, recycle and re-use. The properties of metal provide a unique advantage for its re-use. Unlike other recycled materials, such as plastic and paper, metals are eminently and repeatedly recyclable without degradation of their properties. Metal from secondary sources is just as good as metal from primary sources. Bishop Emeritus Julio X. Labayen once said : “After reaping their big profits they leave us with ecological system that they stripped of the capacity to support and sustain the lives of our people.”

This coming September 16-17, 2009, the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro in partnership with ALAMIN will be having a LGU-CSO Conference on Mining Moratorium in Calapan City. This is to discuss on how to effectively implement the mining moratorium through application of legal strategies or options in order to put a stop continuing activities of Intex Resources in the whole island. Social acceptability requirements are also expected to tackle. Top provincial leaders are also invited to join. Our still nameless group have decided,- as priority activity, to push our Occidental Mindoro political leaders to enact and implement and support parallel mining moratorium issued by our sister province some years back. So expect my next blog will be on LGU and mining. By the way in Abra last Tuesday, I was handpicked as one of the conveners of the still-to-be- named group.

If fighting for environment, for the Mangyans, for sustainability, for honesty and transparency and against (what JPII dubbed as), “development without a human face” is hypocrisy, I would be proud to shout from the top of my lungs that, “Hey world, I am a hypocrite!”

Care to join us? …

(Photo : SSC File. The majestic Calawagan River in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro)