Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

Special greetings to Grace Torejas, president of the Urban Workers Homeowners Association of Davao shown here (standing extreme right) during their assembly last Thursday.


She was elected today as National Council member of the newly-formed Aksyon Mindanaw! (Action Mindanao!) party-list group.


Grace represents a new breed of women community leaders – articulate and dynamic.

Afrim has new ED


On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of AFRIM, I would like to formally announce the appointment of Maria Lisa T. Alano as AFRIM’s Executive Director, following the resignation of Mary Luz M. Feranil.

Lisa was AFRIM’s Administrative Officer prior to her new designation. She joined AFRIM in 1995 as a Researcher and has since been assigned to key positions within the organization, as head of the Information Services, Research, and Public Advocacy Departments. AFRIM values her commitment and contribution in the task of providing timely and relevant analysis of issues, which has been AFRIM’s hallmark as a social development organization working for peace and development in Mindanao. Lisa studied Community Development in the University of the Philippines – Diliman, an institution that provides the highest quality education as well as fosters an environment for activism and critical thinking. She holds a master’s degree in Development Studies with specialization in Rural Livelihoods and Global Change and minor in Poverty Studies from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The AFRIM Board has full confidence in her abilities and look forward to more years of success for AFRIM under her leadership.

Allow me, also, to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to Malut for her valuable contributions towards the attainment of AFRIM’s mission in over a decade of committed work with the organisation.

(Sgd.) Wilfredo F. Rodriguez

Chairperson, Board of Directors

2 March 2009

Halal food processing

Mindanao can kiss its hope for a Brunei-funded halal food processing venture here goodbye. This after our ASEAN neighbor has decided to develop a new deep water port with export processing facilities for halal food.

Brunei has just awarded the development of Pulau Muara Besar, an island off the coast of the eastern tip of the oil-rich sultanate, to companies from Singapore and the Philippines.

The plans of the Department of Agriculture to attract funds from Brunei for the development of halal food processing plants in Mindanao have therefore been overtaken by Brunei’s own development initiative.

The DA has offered Mindanao as the site for a regional halal food processing facility which could supply halal food to Muslims in southeast Asia as well as to the Middle East.

I also wrote a letter two years ago to Brunei offering Davao City as possible site for the halal food processing center.

This would no longer be possible with the development of Pulau Muara Besar, a 995-hectare island in Brunei Bay, into a new container port with export processing zone for halal food and other manufacturing facilities. Brunei is undertaking this project to help diversify its industrial growth and lessen its dependence on oil and gas.

The project would be developed by the Surbana Consortium from Singapore and its port operations to be managed by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. of the Philippines. Both won in the international tender or bidding.

The Manila-based ICTSI operates 16 international ports in 11 countries.

2nd Mindanao bloggers summit

Best wishes to all Mindanao bloggers who are attending the 2nd summit at General Santos City starting today.

I would not be able to make it to the Tuna Capital of the Philippines to attend the conference. I am confident though of its success following last year’s inaugural summit held here in Davao City.

With the likes of Avel of Bariles Republic at the helm and supported by the The Usual Suspects who were involved the 1st summit, things are indeed looking bright for the relevance of bloggers in this part of the virtual world.

I am truly happy that our ranks are expanding although I feel frustrated that not many public officials answered our own calls for them to use this new tool to promote government-to-citizen and citizen-to-government (G2C-C2G) communication.

Maybe by the 3rd summit more public officials, by the proximity of the 2010 elections, would embrace blogging.


World food day activities

Davao City will play host at the 3-day National Organic Conference starting today as part of the week-long activities marking World Food Day tomorrow.

In addition to the activities listed in this flyer, the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao together with the Task Force Food Sovereignty Mindanao will hold panel discussions on Friday on The Food Crisis: Regional Impacts, Roots and Responses at the Mindanao Training and Resource Center.

A battery of speakers from farmers, civil society groups, academe and government will tackle the food situation in Mindanao, the country’s food basket, but where hunger and poverty are prevalent.

I will be one of the reactors.

Check more activities posted at this blog action day network.

Tits for tat

Kosovo declared its independence early this year with the backing of the EU and the US to the objection and consternation of Serbia and Russia.

Yesterday, Russia supported the independence of not one but two breakaway regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – to the objection and condemnation of the EU and US.

Russia had its tits for EU’s and US’s tat.

The conflict in Georgia has strained relations between Russia and the EU and the US to a point that a new cold war has begun. And it is getting hotter.

Kosovo is now recognized by 46 countries but is not yet a member of the United Nations. Russia is certain to veto its membership in the world body.

The same can be said of Abkhazia and South Ossentia. Even if more countries, particularly allied with Russia, would give it recognition, its membership at the UN would be blocked by EU states and the US.

Hhmmm. My mind is playing tricks on me due to this issue.

What if the Bangsama Moro nation declares its independence and Abhkazia and South Ossetia recognize it? What if Taiwan calls for the formation of the United Countries (UC) to rival the UN and invites Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Bangsa Moro, and perhaps Kosovo as its charter members?

What if the likes of Iran and North Korea which are pestered by a UN atomic agency or Palestine which is fed up with UN Resolutions that Israel does not respect suddenly bolt the UN and join the UC?

What if liberation fronts all over the world seeking their own homelands are given observer status at the UC?

The possibilities playing tricks on me are endless. Thank God they are only in my mind.

Tit-for-tat, the cold war is indeed getting hotter!

5:20 a.m.

Heroes day

I just came from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beside the City Council building where we held the commemoration of today’s National Heroes Day.

I represented Vice Mayor Sara Duterte and delivered the welcome remarks. Our guests include the consuls from Japan and Malaysia, government and police officials, war veterans and representatives from many civil society groups.

Our keynote speaker was my colleague 6-term city councilor Nilo Abellera. He paid tribute to our heroes and extolled their virtues that we should emulate like courage, patriotism and sacrifice.

As I sat beside the Malaysian consul-general Nik Mustafa Kamal Nik Ahmad, we had a quiet conversation while the flower offering was going on. We covered quite a lot in the short span of time. Foremost on my mind was the stalled peace process where Malaysia plays a crucial role as both a mediator and a member of the ceasefire monitoring group.

The consul expressed concern that their mandate of being in the monitoring body would lapse at the end of this month. He said both parties, the GRP and MILF, must come to terms asap with regards this international monitoring mechanism.

He thanked Mayor Rody Duterte for lending a voice of moderation in the on-going conflict in Mindanao. He was also elated that the Kadayawan festival last week went without a hitch.

We likewise touched on the current political situation in Malaysia where former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is seeking a parliamentary seat in tomorrow’s by-elections in Penang. We talked about the wind of change sweeping Malaysia akin to the Obama mania in the US.

I also had the chance to congratulate the consul on Malaysia’s silver medal in badminton at the Beijing Olympics where our own local sports heroes brought home none.

My hero today is war veteran Sotero Palabyab who noticed the list of “distinguished national heroes” printed in the program. He remarked that most of those in the list were heroes of the Spanish era.

He said we should pay attention too to contemporary heroes. His suggestions: Manuel Quezon, father of the Wikang Pilipino and president during the Commonwealth period, who once said he would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than one run like heaven by the Americans; and Ninoy Aquino martyred for freedom and democracy 25 years ago who said the Filipino is worth dying for.

9:07 a.m.

US silent on MILF terrorism

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney is one of the most active enyoys in the Philippines and a favorite of the media. She openly expresses her ten-cents’ worth on almost all major issues in the country not just the bilateral relations between Washington and Manila.

In the on-going strife in Mindanao, she has a mouthful of things to say. Almost all major Manila papers carried her statements made yesterday.

Curiosly, none of it condemns the recent armed attacks of the MILF rebels in several provinces in Mindanao including killing of hapless civilians, burning houses and vehicles, toppling power lines, and taking hostages among them six Catholic priests.

From where I sit, these atrocities are no different from those committed by Russia in Georgia. And yet in the case of the conflict in the Caucasus, the US has a barrage of condemnation. Yesterday, the US State Department also “strongly condemned” terror attacks in Algeria.

Why the US is not condemning the MILF abuses and terrorist action is truly intriguing.

Incidentally, the MILF is not in the list of “terrorist organizations” of the US unlike these totally innocent Americans who are unfortunately on a terror watch list.

5:02 a.m.

Monday blues

My post on swimmer Michael Phelps was inadvertently deleted yesterday morning. Arrgghh! I really did not know what happened except that I was in a hurry to leave after posting and closed my laptop.

Anyway, I wrote about the greatest Olympian of our lifetime having more medals in two Olympics than the Philippines (population over 90 million) which has participated since the 1924 Games.

The Philippines is one of the major producers of gold in the world with mines stretching from Benguet in the north to Diwalwal in the south. It is unlucky, however, in the gold medal quest in the Summer Olympics. It has thus far produced only nine medals – 2 silvers and 7 bronzes. Michael Phelps on the other hand has 16 medals – 14 golds and 2 bronzes in the last two Olympics.

If he were a county, he would be at the top 50 in all time medal tally, better than more than 150 other nations.

– – – – –

I sat for more than six hours yesterday listening to the dialogue between the government peace panel and businessmen at the Marco Polo Hotel on the controversy over the ancestral domain issue.

While we were listening to the conversation, reports were filtering in from the field about rebel attacks in Sarangani and Lanao del Norte.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro noticeably changed his prepared remarks regarding the peace talks to strong assurances to the business community that the government would deal with the attacks more forcefully.

He was cheered by the participants unlike the other members of the peace panel who were jeered – at least in my table – over repeated answer that the peace agreement is still a work in progress.

– – – – –

After the dialogue, I rushed to the People’s Park for the opening of the Kadayawan festival.

At about 7 p.m., I excused myself after 3 hours through the elaborate ceremony. The program was simply too long. What was scheduled to be finished by 6 p.m. was still halfway by the time my stomach started to grumble.

6:41 a.m.

US hand in Mindanao

You might say I am stretching the issue of US involvement in Mindanao too far. But here are interesting views from respected columnists in Manila:

The untold realities of the MILF Pact by veteran media executive Billy Esposo; and

MILF proxy to international oil powers by nationalist economist Ding Lichauco.

And here are my previous posts:

A new kind of US military base – August 16, 2007;

GIs no fair game in Mindanao – September 2, 2007;

Defiant diplomat – February 22, 2008

The latter is about the visit of the US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to the “lion’s den” in the heartland of the Bangsamoro rebels in Mindanao in open defiance to the US State Department’s advisory against travel to troubled Mindanao. She was seen in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday where the signing of the peace accord on ancestral domain was supposed to take place.

I received this email yesterday from a Davaoeno in Las Vegas – who is the US supporting in the Mindanao War? He was not actually asking me a question. He was emailing me a copy of a previous article written by Billy Esposo of the same title – Who is the US supporting in the Mindanao War?

A letter of MILF founder Hashim Salamat to President George W. Bush was featured in this column piece. Esposo asked particularly “promoters of all-out war in Mindanao” to read it and “see the hidden dimensions of the current conflict.”

6:15 a.m.

Balkanization of Mindanao

I am not a war monger and not about to fan one.

Yet, the government’s deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to seek peace is ironically causing the drum beatings for war.

War is coming.

Military, MILF rebels trade mortar fires in North Cotabato.

AFP prepared for untoward incidents in the south.

That’s what this unpopular government reaped for sowing the seeds of secrecy. In keeping major stakeholders in Mindanao out of the loop on the peace negotiations, the government has no one to blame but itself.

It created for all of us a huge problem in solving another. I refer to the long feared Balkanization of Mindanao as the indigenous peoples of Mindanao want no part in the Bangsamoro deal. That’s in addition to the opposition already expressed by a number of local governments. Balkanization refers to the division of a territory into often hostile units.

Will the government appease the lumads too with their own juridical entity in their ancestral lands? From where I sit and understanding fairness, the lumads have actually the prior rights to ancestral domains in Mindanao as its pioneer inhabitants.

6:37 a.m.

Dark clouds over Mindanao

No, this is not about the bad weather. Yet the disturbance is as compelling.

The dark clouds hovering in Mindanao is ironically about peace.

The agreement on the contentious ancestral domain issue between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set to be signed in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow is causing serious concerns in several key areas of the island, notably in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga.

The inclusion of parts of their territory – without prior consultation – is among the gusty winds heaping up various protests. The other stormy blows are the continuing armed clashes in certain areas of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, and attempts to move the elections in the Muslim autonomous region scheduled for next week.

The recent armed attacks appears to have three-sided aims. One, to expand MILF controlled territory, two, to disrupt the elections, and three, to force the hand of both parties to sign or not to sign the pact.

I favor the peace agreement yet I worry how these new developments are unfolding.

For instance, we have seen how voters rejected the inclusion of many territories in the previous peace accords. I see the futility of including them again in this new agreement. Both panels are raising false hopes in this attempt to expand the areas to be covered under the envisioned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. I am certain that this would be voted down in a plebiscite.

In the case of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberal Front (MNLF), attempts were likewise made to include, for example, Davao del Sur under the autonomous region and Davao City under the Special Zone of Peace and Development in Southern Philippines. The former was rejected by the people of Davao del Sur in a plebiscite; the latter rejected by the government panel in the final negotiations.

I was in Jakarta to represent Mayor Rody Duterte in the final rounds of the 1996 peace talks and I witnessed the discussions on the inclusion of Davao City in the SZOPAD. The government panel stuck firm on its position that Davao City was not among the areas covered in the Tripoli Agreement, which was the basis of the GRP-MNLF pact.

Well, even if Davao City were included, it would have seen defeat in the plebiscite.

The government should consider seriously the objections being raised by local officials in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga. Otherwise, it would fan the fire of protests that can lead to more “unpeace” in Mindanao. The peace agreement should be an instrument not just to appease certain sectors, it should bring genuine understanding and cooperation among all the stakeholders in Mindanao.

5:34 a.m.

Update – The Supreme Court issued a stop order for the signing  of the MOA on ancestral domain during its en banc meeting yesterday afternoon. – 6:40 a.m. August 5

Back online 4

I’m up early this morning to prepare for another busy day.

I will speak at the Davao Christian Leadership Breakfast Forum at 7 a.m. at the Grand Men Seng Hotel. This would be my sixth appearance at this fellowship attended by priests, pastors, laypeople and their guests.

I will discuss current issues confronting our consumers from food shortages, high prices, product standards and consumer rights.

After this forum, I will be off to Felis Beach Resort for the Mindanao Island Consultation for the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development which will be held in Manila in October. This regional consultation will be attended by civil society groups, while the global forum would be attended by UN member countries.

I would be wearing two hats in this meeting. First, to represent Mayor Rody Duterte during the opening rites, and Second, to participate as the official representative of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation where I currently sit as Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Results of this island-wide consultation will be presented during the Manila global forum.

Yesterday, the City Council held a special session to discuss the monetization of part of the city’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in 2001 and 2003. Due to the reenacted budgets of the national government during these two years, the city has a differential amounting to P142 million.

I presided the debates of the City Council on how best to get this sum. The national government is offering us two ways:

Option 1 is to get this money by seven installments starting May 2009 to May 2015; or

Option 2 is to get the P142 million now at a discounted rate of just 70 percent.

But during the discussion, we looked at another option – borrow money from Land Bank against this unreleased IRA share. That way, we get the whole amount and pay the interests from our regular IRA.

For lack of time, we decided in postponing the decision until the July 1 Regular Session. But, offhand, many of our colleagues are favoring the third option.

What do you think?

3:43 a.m.

Update – I added an online poll on my right sidebar – A P142 Million Question. Please vote!

5:49 a.m.

Back online 3

The 3rd Mindanao Food Processing and Packaging Technology Expo opened yesterday at the Central Bank.

I represented Mayor Rody Duterte at the ribbon-cutting which was star-studded. The guests include action star Senator Bong Revilla who also tagged along his fellow actor Philip Salvador.

(Rene B. Lumawag/Sunstar Davao June 19)

Also present were Doc Edmund Dantes who represented Rep. Anton Lagdameo, Sim Marfori of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry, local tuna king Doming Ang of Philexport, former DATA head Baby Montemayor, and a gang of regional directors of national government agencies.

The exhibit features the latest technology on food processing and packaging, food products and services. There are also plenty of free seminars that will run up to Saturday.

Kudos to Joel Pascual of Premier Events Plus Group for holding this trade fair in the city. Last year, on site sales topped P50 million. We are certain that this would be surpassed this year.

Indication? Well, even the lobby of the Central Bank, which was used in the past for the opening rites, was now filled with exhibitor booths.

Here’s how Sunstar reported on my brief remarks.

Incidentally, seated beside Senator Revilla, I revealed to him that my father hails from Cavite. He inquired from what part and I told him from Amadeo. Seven kilometers from Tagaytay, this town is tagged as the coffee capital of the country.

Revilla served as Vice Governor and Governor of the province before taking over the post of his father in the Senate.

He is being considered as a potential vice presidential bet for the administration in 2010. After the opening ceremony, he headed to the first regional Lakas-Kampi merger conference at Apo View Hotel where the Malacanang occupant made certain that the administration would win in the next national elections.

That I doubt very much.

5:25 a.m.

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 .”