Monday, March 30, 2009

RP shines in dim Earth Hour

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:35:00 03/30/2009

Filed Under: Climate Change, Global Warming, Environmental Issues, Energy Savings

MANILA, Philippines—Tessy Pettyjohn had all the lights in her house in Calamba City in Laguna province turned off on Saturday night, leaving only the fridge on, in celebration of Earth Hour.

“I believe in this. I am a green person, recycling most stuff and never wasting—saving energy most of the time. Earth gets my support,” she said.

Earth Hour was a global effort that encouraged people from all over the world to turn off their lights on March 28, from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., to raise awareness about the effects of climate change and global warming.

Pettyjohn said it was her first time to participate in the global campaign to protect the environment, as last year “was not well known and had less publicity.”

While her home remained dark for an hour, she said resorts around her area had kept their lights on.

A basketball game at the municipal hall in Nagcarlan, Laguna, was stopped in observance of Earth Hour.

Astounding success

Residents in other cities and towns across the Philippines also took part in the global campaign.

More than 15 million Filipinos were estimated to have joined Earth Hour and a total of 647 cities and towns participated, making the Philippines No. 1 among all the countries that joined the global event, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippine representative said Sunday.

“Earth Hour Philippines is an astounding success,” said Yeb Sano, WWF Philippines campaign manager.

Sano said the country’s ranking was based on the initial reports of WWF offices the world over. Greece was second, with 484 participating towns and cities.

Only a million Filipinos were estimated to have joined last year’s Earth Hour. The 10-fold jump in the number of participants this year was attributed by Sano to the Filipinos’ increasing awareness of climate change and its effects.

Only fan, laptop

Donna Orilla, from San Pedro, Laguna, only had the electric fan and her laptop on while all the lights and other appliances at home were turned off.

In Imus, Cavite, former Vice Gov. Jonvic Remulla said almost 30 percent of households had switched off their lights.

In Sta. Rosa City in Laguna, SM Mall switched off the lights of its front façade and logo, and half the lights inside the building.

Pamela Baun, SM public relations officer, said that all SM malls nationwide took part in Earth Hour although each had its own program.

UPLB campus

On the campus of University of the Philippines Los Baños, a total blackout was observed. Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco said “it’s our (UPLB’s) own way of contributing to the solution against global warming.”

Since last week, according to Velasco, there had been efforts to persuade the university’s constituents to unplug appliances and turn off the lights when not needed.

“This (communication campaign) is not for the Earth Hour alone. We want to instill here behavioral change,” he said.

Minutes before Earth Hour, there was a 15-minute program near the campus entrance to explain the benefits of joining the activity.

A 10-second countdown was also held before the clock struck 8:30 p.m. Around 80 students, professors and community residents lit candles as a symbol of their support for Earth Hour.

All the street lamps in Los Baños were turned off, but most establishments did not participate in the activity.

Unaware of significance

In Lucena City in Quezon province, though some parts remained dark for an hour, most of those who joined Earth Hour were not aware of its significance.

“I put off the light just to join because that was the call. But I didn’t know what the reasons were behind that,” said Fe Fernandez, housewife and resident of Barangay (village) Cotta.

However, Fernandez and her neighbors enthusiastically joined the energy-saving activity as they chatted while waiting for the time to turn their lights on. “At least, we were able to save a few pesos on electricity,” a neighbor said.

In Davao del Sur, the provincial police office in Digos City switched off its lights for an hour on Saturday night.

But Elena Enero, 24, of Bansalan town in Davao del Sur, said she did not take part in Earth Hour because she had to watch “Maalaala Mo Kaya” on television.

Another resident, Rey Duran, 28, said he did not turn the electricity off because he wanted to see the televised lotto draw.

Candles, gas lamps

In Davao City, large candles and gas lamps lined up the walkways of the Matina Town Square, a popular compound of bars and restaurants, as the management observed an hour of blackout.

An exhibit that featured local photographers was also mounted. The photos focused on environmental protection.

A cultural group performed before a crowd of students, artists, environmental activists and nongovernment organization workers.

“A little of this, I hope, can do something good to save the world from environmental destruction,” said a student as she signed the “commitment board” mounted for the event.

Marco Polo Hotel also decided to turn half of the number of its lights off.

Flash flood victims

In Cagayan de Oro City, the last time Esther Pajo turned off all the lights in her house was two months ago when floodwater rose very quickly and inundated the house.

Pajo and her family had not gone back to the seaside home in Bonbon village, choosing instead to rent a smaller place far from the sea.

On Saturday, she turned off the house light once again, this time to send a message across.

“The flash flood we experienced was very traumatic. I hope it will never happen again. That’s why I’m doing this, to save Mother Earth, and stop global warming that’s causing all these tragedies,” Pajo said.

In Barangay Consolacion, also in Cagayan de Oro, village leaders exhorted the neighborhood to switch off their lights, and, while only a few houses actually did, the act raised curious questions from ordinary folk.

Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, president of the Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan, said the city residents had learned their lesson to take care of their environment the hard way.

“The flash floods we experienced last January taught us a lesson on the importance of environmental preservation. This is only one hour but it will symbolize our resolve to save Mother Earth,” he said.


In a program at Plaza Divisoria, Xavier students led the symbolic switching off of lights at exactly 8:30 and, in the darkness, sang, danced and recited poetry.

Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. (Cepalco) actively supported Earth Hour. It has been operating one of the biggest solar plants in Asia where it gets 1 megawatt of power that is fed directly into the grid.

In Tacloban City, residents turned Earth Hour into a big walk-in-the-boulevard party and rock concert. At least a thousand people paraded with candles at the city’s darkened 3-kilometer boulevard.

Establishments and houses also joined the worldwide campaign.

The city of more than 217,000 was practically plunged into darkness as homes, establishments and public buildings switched off their lights.

Both the provincial capitol and City Hall buildings and the main office building of the Leyte II Electric Cooperative were in complete darkness for an hour.

Jonathan Calvario, president of the Junior Chamber International-Tacloban, which organized the walk in the boulevard, said he was glad that a majority of the people knew about the campaign.

Members of several fraternities, newly recruited policemen, bikers and other residents joined the parade over 5 kilometers.

The campaign ended with a rock concert on the boulevard participated in by local bands.

In Bacolod City, lights at the Negros Occidental Capitol, the Lagoon Park and all provincial government buildings were turned off for an hour.

The same happened to City Hall, New Government Center, the Bacolod plaza and other city government buildings. Reports from Maricar Cinco, Karen Lapitan and Delfin T. Mallari, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Joey A. Gabieta and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Jeffrey M. Tupas, Orlando B. Dinoy and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez, Inquirer Mindanao; and Nikko Dizon in Manila

Saturday, March 28, 2009

3 cops freed after 83 days in NPA captivity

By Karen Lapitan, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:31:00 03/28/2009

Filed Under: Kidnapping, Regional authorities, Police, Armed conflict

MANILA, Philippines — The communist New People’s Army (NPA) on Friday released three policemen that the rebels had been holding as “prisoners of war” since capturing them in an ambush in Rodriguez town, outside Manila, almost three months ago.

Insp. Rex Cuntapay, Police Officer-1 Marvin Agasen and Police Officer-1 Alberto Umali were released at a little past noon amid heavy rain in Macabud, a hilly part of Rodriguez in Rizal province.

A civilian group that included Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares III, Rodriguez Mayor Pedro Cuerpo, Bishop Gabriel Reyes of the Antipolo diocese, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross hiked more than an hour uphill for the turnover that lasted no more than five minutes and involved the two parties signing the NPA’s so-called “order of release.”

The three captives were then reunited with their families who were waiting in an area further downhill.

The soldiers did not exhibit any untoward signs of their 83-day ordeal. They were laughing, were clean-shaven, sported new haircuts and wore clean fatigue uniforms.

Cuntapay said the rebels had treated them well.

“What we found really difficult were the long walks when it was raining hard,” he said, adding that he considered their capture and imprisonment as just part of their work.

Cuntapay’s wife Joyce also said that what happened was part of her husband’s sworn duty to safeguard the community. She said she was grateful to the people who helped in the negotiations for the release of the three.


Ka Ambrosio, the leader of the NPA custodial team, said their prisoners had been cooperative, even during the rebel group’s operations.

“The welfare of the three was closely checked,” he said.

About three hours after their release, the three policemen were presented at a press conference in the Rizal provincial capitol, with Ynares, Madrigal and Chief Supt. Perfecto Palad, the Calabarzon police chief.

They were not allowed to speak at the 15-minute press conference and were quickly spirited out of the briefing room by their escorts.

Palad said the three policemen would be undergoing a medical checkup and debriefing.

Agasen’s wife, Barbara, who is four months pregnant, said she learned of her husband’s release from a news flash report.

Thanks to negotiators

“I count not join Joyce [Cuntapay’s wife] and Grace [Umali’s wife] at the turnover because of my condition. We’re all very happy. Thank God, it’s now over,” she said in a phone interview.

She also thanked the people who helped in securing the freedom of her husband.

“We owe so much to the negotiators,” she said.

“The whole family is so excited,” she said.

Cuntapay, Umali and Agasen were captured last Jan. 3 when they went to investigate reports that rebels had burned a dump truck in Rodriguez. The three were forced to surrender after they ran out of bullets in a gun battle in which one policeman and two others were wounded.

Their captors, the NPA Narciso Antazo Aramil Command, said they would be set free once they had been “cleared of crimes against the people” and the revolutionary movement.

Ynares, who acted as the lead negotiator for their release, thanked both the military and the NPA for “bending over backwards” to accommodate each other’s requests, leading to the safe release of the three officers.

He also cited the roles of Madrigal, Reyes and Tarlac provinces’ Governor Vic Yap.

Madrigal’s chief of staff, Gary Jimenez, said the senator had acted as a “facilitator.”

He said the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, had contacted the senator two weeks ago and informed her about the NPA’s decision to free the three policemen.

Jimenez said that Madrigal and the NDF had established a “cordial relationship” in recent years, and that she twice signed with the group a joint communiqué calling for the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

In a phone interview, a tired but jubilant Madrigal said the successful release of the captives was the result of “long, long negotiations.”

“The success of this endeavor came because we were discreet and very quiet. Very few people knew about it. Politics did not come into play because too many cooks spoil the broth. This was cooked by very few cooks who never talked about it,” she said.

She said the captives were turned over “in very good condition.”

Asked why the NDF would go to her, Madrigal said she was the chair of the Senate committee on peace and unification, and a major advocate of the resumption of the stalled peace negotiations.

Limited press coverage

“I think they’re comfortable with me because I put politics aside. You see there’s very limited press coverage. Even my closest assistant did not know when I left my house early this morning,” she said.

Madrigal said she had been visiting the headquarters of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Utrecht, the Netherlands, for several years now.

She said the release was a “sign of goodwill on the part of the NDF. They did not ask for a ransom, for anything in return.”

She said the NDF was hoping that this gracious act would convince the government to resume the talks.

Letter of apology

Marilyn “Ka Hannah” Anayat, the former NPA member who participated in the ambush and capture of three police officers, sent a letter of apology to the released officers and their families.

“I can’t blame you if you’re angry with me. I know it will be hard for you to forgive the people who made you their prisoners,” she said in her letter, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer.

She blamed their ordeal and suffering on the Narciso Antazo Aramil Command operating in Rizal province, of which she was once a member.

Anayat said she too had been victim of “communist lies.”

According to a military report, Anayat was wounded by her own comrades during the gun battle that resulted in the capture of the three policemen.

Several days later, authorities discovered her when she went for treatment at the Lourdes Hospital in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

She was temporarily treated in a Camp Crame hospital and later ordered transferred to a military hospital in Tanay, Rizal, by the court.

She is still staying in the camp and has rejected calls by human rights group to turn her back on the military. With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Maricar Cinco, and DJ Yap

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Layoffs, hiring in Cavite ecozones

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:19:00 03/26/2009

Filed Under: Plant Openings, Employment, World Financial Crisis, Regional authorities

ROSARIO, CAVITE – While dozens of workers are losing jobs at the Cavite Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), hundreds are going to be hired soon as more investors are coming in, according to CEZA authorities.

Tereso Panga, CEZA administrator, said while two companies will close at the export zone, five are opening soon.

Panga, however, refused to identify the two firms that would close and the five ones that will open as their owners requested that their companies not be identified in the meantime.

The two companies planning to shut down between April and May will displace 142 workers while the five new projects that will soon be approved will hire at least 1,000 workers, he added.

Panga said companies inside CEZA are currently employing 61,633 workers, which could increase in the coming months.

He said the CEZA’s official figures on laid-off workers and companies imposing reduced work hours do not tally with data gathered by the Cavite Workers’ Assistance Center (WAC).

“We respect the data that WAC has presented, but our official figures are far below what they have,” Panga said.

He reported that 1,688 workers were laid off from January to March this year.

“The temporary work adjustments, like the no overtime policy, only serve as a response of the companies to the global financial crisis. It is better than shutting down the companies, and these adjustments are not permanent,” Panga said.

He said 11,886 workers had to cope with reduced work hours or forego overtime pay from January to March.

Concerned sectors in Cavite, known to be a location for a number of industrial parks housing export-oriented companies, convened on Sunday to discuss how to prevent massive job losses.

The WAC, a nongovernment organization that organized the event, presented the results of a survey conducted among workers in Cavite factories.

Laura Sarmiento, WAC research committee head, said her group conducted the survey for a closer look at real labor data in economic zones.

The survey was conducted from Jan. 29 to Feb. 8 with 495 respondents from 162 factories.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Livelihood training given to laid-off workers

By Karen Lapitan, Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 23:41:00 03/23/2009

Filed Under: Regional authorities, World Financial Crisis, Employment, Unemployment

ROSARIO, Cavite – The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) has implemented the One-stop Workers’ Assistance Center, which seeks to help retrenched workers look for other jobs or alternative sources of income, according to Tereso Panga, administrator of the Cavite Economic Zone Authority (Ceza).

This free service started in Cavite on March 2 and the affected workers had started benefiting from the project, Panga said.

The Department of Labor and Employment had released P2.1 million to assist 500 workers for livelihood assistance within Cavite, he added.

Through the project, the displaced workers could acquire more skills, which they could use to find another job, Panga said.

“The project also aims to provide training and capital if they want to start a small business,” he said.

“While we know that the workers are affected by this labor issue, we should also understand that the companies are also affected, so we should work together,” he added. He said the Ceza has suspended the annual increase in rental fees within Peza lots and rationalized the fees and charges that the companies pay.

But while the global financial crisis had affected the country and Cavite, in particular, there were also some gains that most workers were not aware of.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

2 rob suspects killed in Biñan shootout

By Abigail Kwok,
Maricar Cinco and Karen Lapitan,
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 12:20:00 03/15/2009

Filed Under: Police, shooting, Robbery and theft, Crime

CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna -- (UPDATE) Two suspected members of a robbery gang were killed while another eluded arrest during an alleged shootout with police in Biñan on Saturday night, police said Sunday.

Senior Superintendent Manolito Labador, Laguna police provincial director, said Saturnino Gobis and his still unidentified companion died when they shot it out with police on Sacrament St., South City Homes near the gate of the St. Joseph subdivision in Barangay (Village) Sto. Tomas, Biñan, Laguna at around 11:45 p.m.

Another unidentified companion of the slain suspects managed to escape.

According to Labador, patrolling Biñan policemen saw the suspects onboard a tricycle parked in a dim area of the subdivision.

Seeing the policemen, the suspects tried to escape, triggering a chase.

Gobis and the other slain suspect jumped off the tricycle and fired at the police, triggering the shootout.

Police recovered a .45-caliber and .38-caliber pistols and a sketch of the subdivision from the suspects.

“They were preying on possible victims that night,” Labador said.

He added that the slain suspects were members of a group that had been staging a series of robberies in the first district of the province.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Art that’s sensitive to social realities

By Karen Lapitan
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:57:00 03/08/2009

Filed Under: Arts (general), Social Issues

THERE is no place for artistic euphemism when social unrest is undoubtedly evident.

This is the belief of artist Emmanuel Garibay, 46, whose works essentially reflect social plights and realities.

A social realist, Garibay specifically criticizes the colonial brand of religion while sticking to his principle of showing others the problems that need to be solved.

Simply put, he believes that art can never be just for art’s sake.

His solo exhibition “Reunion,” 20 pieces in oil on canvas, opened Wednesday and runs until March 20 at Sining Makiling Gallery, Dioscoro Umali Hall, University of the Philippines, Los Baños, Laguna.

He explains his works are mere reflections of the issues in his environment. “If you are a sensitive person, you will reflect the realities around you. And that’s exactly what I have been doing.”


Garibay earned a degree in Sociology at UPLB and was an activist during the late 1970s.

He started his social-realist works in college even on his notebooks.

“I was busier then in drawing [on my notebook] than taking down lecture notes,” he recalls.

Garibay became an active member of a UPLB-based art group, Bigkis Sining, known to criticize the Marcos regime.

“Activism in UPLB was in high spirits then. It’s either you were an activist, fascist or a geek,” he says.

Along with the other student activists during that time, he would paint on walls to express his discontent against government policies.

He left UPLB in 1984. Shortly after, he worked in Palawan for a community-development project.

In 1985, he pursued Fine Arts in UP Diliman to give in to his artistic urge.

Garibay says this solo exhibition also serves as a reunion with his college friends, who, like him, were known student activists in UPLB during the ’70s.

“This also serves as a reunion with a place which gave me that high sense of artistic spirit.”

“Reunion” is also the title of one of his major works. Acclaimed by other artists, it is a futuristic reunion of Christ and some religious leaders.

“The setting is 2,000 years from now. Christ is with some religious leaders who are earning a big amount, I think.”

Aside from advocating social issues like human rights and land reform, Garibay is also a critic of the brand of Catholicism that thrives today.

He says “the religion that we know today is colonial in nature. I can not see its practical framework; instead, it tends to prescribe how we should live our lives.”

He earned a masters degree in Divinity at the Union Theological Seminary but remains a critic of “colonial religion,” as shown in his artworks.

“It [religion] is colonial since it came in a colonial package,” he explains.

Plebeian subjects

Instead of choosing subjects that belong to the middle and higher classes, Garibay’s works often showcase the lives and faces of plebeian classes. He veers away from the bourgeois brand of art.

“As an artist, I find it relieving to impart the social problems that we have to deal with. I cannot afford to conceal those problems,” he says.

In “Pakiusap,” a peasant holds a placard; written on it is “Lupa hindi bala” (Land, not bullets).

“You just have to be sensitive enough to come up with these works,” he said.