Oldest living tree

Guess how old is the world’s oldest living tree?

Hmmm. Give up?

Click here for the answer.

Asean-Japan FTA

From my daily readings of on-line news, I am a bit surprised that none of our Senators who are about to ratify the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) ever talked about the recent signing of the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (AJCEPA).

The latter was signed last April 14 and is the third free trade agreement of the 10-nation bloc with its northern neighbors. The first two were with China and South Korea.

What are the implications of this multilateral agreement with that of our bilateral JPEPA. This to me is a very crucial consideration.

I believe that the Senate should not rush in acting on the JPEPA until after we study the pros and cons of AJCEPA.

This was one of the major premises that prompted the City Council to pass two Resolutions last Tuesday –  the first calling on the Senate to hold in abeyance its action on the JPEPA, and second, for the Executive Department to recall JPEPA from the Senate for further study and/or renegotiation in the light of AJCEPA.

Our other premises were anchored on the many opposition to the JPEPA, particularly the secrecy of its negotiation, unconstitutional provisions, unequal terms and adverse human and environmental impacts.

In my sponsorship speech, I also raised doubt about the proposal of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago for a “conditional concurrence” of the treaty.

A conditional ratification only proves that something is wrong with the trade pact. Why not then outrightly reject it or send it back for renegotiation?!!

Earth Day walk and a hop

I walked my way to the office yesterday to fulfill one of the suggestions I made on what-to-do to mark Earth Day.

It took me almost an hour to cover about five kilometers from my home at Matina to the City Council. I left shortly before 8 and was at the session hall in time for its opening.

It was a worthy walk for a worthy cause in calling attention to help Mother Earth fight abuse.

Coming down from GSIS Heights, my walk was immediately noticed by curios onlookers. Many who recognized me must have asked themselves why was a City Councilor walking and not riding on his way downtown.

Along MacArthur Highway, it became obvious to me the stench of vehicle smoke that has polluted our city. Vehicles of all types whisked by me as I descended the Sabungan area down to the old Venees Hotel.

Something was terribly wrong with our vehicle emission tests. Many vehicles that were inching their way up to Matina opposite my way to the city were belching black smoke.

My disappointment was quickly forgotten when I reached Karasia. It has no vehicle on display. Not a single car or truck to sell?!! I thought to myself this was a victory in our efforts to lessen polluters in our streets.

After Tulip Drive, as I passed by the rows of establishments from the Baptist Church to the old Palayok Restaurant, I recalled efforts in the past by the Matina Barangay Council to develop the front of this area into a park. It is presently used as a park indeed, but as a parking lot, including one by a van terminal.

Our city needs more parks with trees to help fight global warming.

A new gas station just opened near the Albay Compound. I chuckled when I noticed the coconut juice vendor in front of it had four customers lining up; the gas station had only one.

At the Davao City Water District office, the old Coca-Cola bottling plant, a banner proclaimed April as “environment month.” It is one of the most active entities in the city advocating for the environment, particularly protecting our water resources.

As I was crossing the narrow street after the DCWD, an old truck sped my way to turn right. It forced me to hop for a safer distance. It was the only hop I made in this hour-long walk.

Traffic started to build up as I progressed in front of the NCCC Mall. On occasion, my pace was faster than some vehicles picking up passengers. I motioned to a number of them to walk.

I made my first stop in front of the Ateneo de Davao Grade School. Teachers near its gate recognized me. I told them I was walking my way to the office to mark Earth Day. They clapped and cheered me on!

I made my second stop at No. 77 MacArthur Highway, in front of the University of Mindanao.

I saw a taxi stopped in front of it and its passenger dropped off two sacks. I immediately know that they contained metal scraps. Three other fellows were lining up in this place to sell their metal scraps.

This junk yard does a very good job in collecting metal wastes, and recycling most of it. Our staff at the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) and barangay officials should study why our Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) are a big failure when private scrap metal yards like this are making a killing.

I went on to pass the busiest of this long stretch of the highway – the Sandawa Junction just before the Bankerohan Bridge. Near it, a security-conscious policeman caused my third stop. He greeted me good morning and asked why I walking alone without a bodyguard in tow. I replied that I was walking for Earth Day and added that I do not have a bodyguard.

At the bridge, I was lucky to chance upon two sand barges at the Davao River with people cleaning up to commemorate this Earth Day. I waved at them, wondering whether anyone of them recognized me.

I made my fourth stop at the old Coop Bank along Magallanes when a group waiting for some jeepney greeted me with “Nganong nagbaktas man ka Konsehal?” I again explained to them my day’s mission.

In front of the Grand Men Seng Hotel, I made my fifth stop to buy fried sweet potato. As the world grapples with galloping prices of food, here I am holding three sticks of what could be one of the solutions to world hunger.

I gave my thumbs up to the vendor who placed the sweet potato on a paper bag. Little did he know that this was a big thing for me! One of the ideas I listed in my what-to-do list today was to avoid using plastic bags!

No one seemed to notice me as I approached the final leg of my walk. At the City Hall grounds, no one surprisingly greeted me. However, as I walked near the City Council building, a group of television crew and photojournalists were waiting for one of the “news” of the day.

Seeing them indeed made my day. I know that this walk, a single step in “a journey of a thousand miles,” was a “giant leap for mankind.”

More awards

After our executive director at Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation – Mayan Villalba – was named as the Philippines Social Entrepreneur of the Year last month, we reaped two more awards recently.

Association of Young Linamon Producers (ALYP) of Linamon, Lanao del Norte which produces Virgin Coconut Oil for the 2008 Hatag Kalinaw Project of the British Council; and

New Lives for Old – Peace, Growth and Governance Through Social Enterprise for the Panibagong Paraan 2008. This project helps former Moro rebels undertake community livelihood programs.

Keep up the good work Mayan!

Earth Day clean-up

City Administrator Wendel Avisado is organizing two activities for the 38th Earth Day celebration:

Tree-planting at Eden, Toril on April 19; and

Coastal clean-up on April 22.

City Hall employees, members of the armed forces and civil society groups are expected to participate to help mark Earth Day with the theme “Tubig at Buhay, ating Pagyamanin at Linisin”

More suggestions

Here are additional suggestions on what-to-do on Earth Day next week:

7) Recycle bond papers by using the other side for printing;

‘8) Do not use our laptops during the session;

9) Minimize the use of paper by limiting the circulation of documents during the session;

10) No softdrinks please;

11) Drink tap water instead of bottled water

(7:20 p.m.)

Earth Day

The celebration of Earth Day on April 22 falls on a Tuesday, our City Council session day.

So, I am forwarding this suggestion to my colleagues to help mark this worldwide event:

1) Walk or bike our way to the office;

2) Minimize the use of electricity on the SP Building;

3) Give priority to pending proposals on environment, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, among others during our deliberations;

4) Allow civil society groups to use the SP lobby for Earth Day activities;

5) Serve organic food during our lunch break; and

6) Avoid the use of any plastics or non-biodegradable materials;

Any more suggestion?

(5:35 a.m.)

San Francisco

People of all kinds are once again flocking to San Francisco.

Where before it was after gold, now it is after the world’s newest sports – the clash between those for Tibet or for China via the Olympic torch relay, and/or to hide from immigration officials.

Sorry folks, no fireworks

Ria was correct in her comments. There were no fireworks at the City Council yesterday over the controversial Development Plan for Children.

The expected verbal clash was toned down by the move to defer consideration of the issue until next week. Its proponent Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad told our colleagues no less than the Mayor himself wants to talk the matter with members of the City Council before its final voting next session.

The principal oppositor Councilor Teresita Mata-Maranon delivered her final speech to appeal to our colleagues to reject the proposal.

The Development Plan for Children indeed appears innocent at first glance. However, a large portion of it deals with reproductive health issues opposed by pro-lifers, family crusaders and the Catholic Church. Neophyte Councilor Kaloi Bello on a number of occasion sought clarification if the title of the measure fits with its content.

Had the proposed plan been solely for the development of children, I have no doubt this measure would have long been approved. It has dragged on this long – over a year now – due largely to provisions regarding the contentious reproductive health programs of the government.

My own take of it is that having failed to pass legislation at the national level, RH programs are being pushed at the local level. Quezon City passed a measure last year which met stiff opposition from the Catholic Church.

A number of us suspect that this so-called Development Plan for Children is a Trojan Horse. Hidden by the gift wrappings are highly divisive reproductive health provisions.

Pro-lifers at City Council today

Expect some fireworks today at the City Council.

Local pro-life advocates will troop today at the session hall to lobby for the rejection of the proposed Development Plan for Children.

The measure contains reproductive health issues which those from the Catholic Church oppose.

Paul replies to NPA threat

From my inbox, here’s Paul Dominguez’s reply to the New People’s Army death sentence issued on the anniversary of the revolutionary group last March 29:

“I was surprised to receive information that the Valentin Palamine Command of the New People’s Army has issued a threat against my person and accused me of being involved in “deceit, coercion and murder” due to my involvement in the exploration phase of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The allegations being made against me are all the more disconcerting since I resigned from SMI as president on April 1, 2007 when Xstrata exercised its option to acquire a majority stake of SMI and took over the management of the company.

For the record, the accusations being made against me are totally unfounded and without basis in truth and in fact.

It is not true that I caused the militarization of Tampakan during my tenure as SMI president or that the exploration activities conducted by SMI dispossessed communities of their land and livelihood. On the contrary, the investments being made by SMI have created opportunities for the Tampakan residents and have the full support of all the lumad tribal councils, the barangay councils and the municipalities presently involved with the project. These facts are easily verifiable.

The principal focus of the management team during my tenure as SMI President was to undertake social development and environmental programs to precisely ensure that the host communities would be the first to benefit from the investments being undertaken in Tampakan. These programs were well received by the community and enabled the company to carry out its exploration activities without any major security-related incidents.

In fact, several of these community-based programs received awards and accolades from both local and foreign entities. The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) honored SMI as the recipient of its highest award – the Presidential Mining Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) in December, 2006 in recognition of the company’s programs and projects for environmental protection and development of the host and neighboring communities. PMSEA also honored the company with a Special Award for the Best Mining Forest Program.

Under my watch, SMI initiated community development activities in education, capacity building and health, with special focus on the indigenous communities in whose lands the mine may eventually operate. As a result of these education initiatives, over 8000 school children in Tampakan, Colombio and Kiblawan continue to receive scholarship grants and financial assistance. In addition, several of these innovative development programs were recognized as model projects by our national officials as well as visiting international dignitaries.

In a visit to Tampakan in 2006, Tanzanian Mining Minister Lau Masha lauded the project, saying that he would encourage mining investors in Tanzania to “learn from Tampakan” and would push for the adoption of SMI’s best practices in Tanzania ’s mining projects. Among the innovative programs that Minister Masha wanted to replicate in Tanzania was the SMI Competence Center which undertakes skills development and adult literacy programs for the host communities to enable them to be the first to be gainfully employed by the project. This unique program was given the National Kabalikat Award for Industry by Tesda in 2007.

During my tenure, SMI also encouraged the three municipalities presently involved in the project to form an alliance to accelerate growth and development and jointly address whatever issues that may emerge in the course of development of the mining project. This initiative referred to as the KITACO Growth Area ensures that all sectors within the three municipalities of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio which are in three separate provinces are consulted at all times thus assuring full project transparency.

Over the last four decades, I have been involved in both government and private sector initiatives to bring about peace and development in Mindanao . My term as presidential assistant for Mindanao during the Ramos administration was characterized by significant economic growth and infrastructure development in the island as well as more cooperation with our neighbors in ASEAN.

Today, I continue to be involved in several private sector and civic organizations whose objectives are to promote peace and development, poverty alleviation and sustainable development particularly in Mindanao . I remain steadfast in my commitment to help accelerate the development of Mindanao .”

April fools’ day

Thank God I survived April Fools’ Day with no one making a spoof on me.

Here are the top 100 April Fools’ Day hoaxes of all time.

Have a good laugh! Incidentally, check No. 12. Very interesting.

Davao Earth Hour

Davao needs to do better in contributing to energy conservation. I am saddened by this report that not many joined the lights off campaign last March 29.

My family did. But we need more to help Mother Earth.

As convenor of the Davao Green EAGLES (Energy Alternatives for Green Living & Economic Sustainability), I have been advocating not just the development and use of renewable energy resources but the conservation of current energy resources too. Fossil fuel, the main energy source, must be used less and less due to its ill effects on global warming.

Let us join and support campaigns for the use of less light and power like those of the Earth Hour and car-less days, among others.

(7:40 a.m.)

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