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Old April 27th, 2008, 08:12 AM   #61
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Team finds rare cloud rat breed after 112 years

By Delmar Cariño
Northern Luzon Bureau

BAGUIO CITY -- A team of American and Filipino biologists recently found a rare breed of cloud rat at the Mt. Pulag national park in Benguet, which was first seen by a British scientist 112 years ago.

Dr. Lawrence Heaney, team leader and curator and head of mammals at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, identified the mammal here on Friday as the “dwarf cloud rat,” a rare breed endemic to the Cordillera.

Heaney, whose team has been conducting studies on Cordillera’s animal life since 2000, marveled at the rat’s rediscovery, saying “it is the animal whose existence had baffled biologists for so many years.”

He said the rat was dead when the team found it. Heaney’s team immediately preserved the rat and prepared it for shipment to Chicago for further studies.

“The Philippines may have the greatest concentration of unique biological diversity, relative to its size, of any country in the world,” Heaney told reporters here on Friday.

Samuel Peñafiel, Department of Environment and Natural Resources director in the Cordillera, said the dwarf cloud rat’s rediscovery could boost government efforts to protect the region’s threatened watersheds and mossy forests.

He said the findings of Heaney’s team meant that there is still a wide range of rare animal life worth saving in the region’s mountains and forests.

Danilo Balete, a research associate of the National Museum and Heaney’s co-team leader, said the dwarf cloud rat, known by its scientific name Carpomys melanurus, was found in a patch of mature mossy forest on Mt. Pulag.

“It was found in the canopy of a large tree, on a large horizontal branch covered by a thick layer of moss, orchids and ferns about five meters above ground,” he said.

Balete described the rat as “a really beautiful animal with dense, soft reddish brown fur with a black mask around its large dark eyes, small round ears, a broad and blunt snout and a long tail covered with dark hair.”

It weighed 185 grams, he said.

Mt. Pulag is Luzon’s highest peak at 2,922 meters above sea level. It straddles Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya.

Emerita Albas, DENR’s Mt. Pulag park superintendent, said the park’s mossy forests had been gradually degenerating due to the encroachment of vegetable farms.

Based on initial assessment, Heaney said the rediscovery of the dwarf cloud rat indicated that “it required a pretty much undisturbed mossy forest” to be able to survive.

The team worked on the theory that the rare species probably lived only in high big canopy trees with mature mossy forests and from an elevation of about 2,200 to 2,700 meters above sea level.

“The rat’s rediscovery was the first evidence of such fact,” Balete said.

Heaney said: “Now that we know where to look for them, it will be possible to learn more.”

“The cloud rats are one of the most spectacular cases of adaptive radiation by mammals anywhere in the world, with at least 15 species ranging in size from 2.6 to 15 kg, all living only in the Philippines,” he said.

“They are the prime examples of why biologists refer to the country as the ‘Galapagos times 10,’” Heaney said.

Heaney was referring to the Galapagos archipelago found west of Ecuador in South America that is known for its vast wealth of endemic species.

John Whitehead, a British researcher, first saw the dwarf cloud rat in 1896 when the indigenous peoples living within the Mt. Data national park brought him some live specimens.

Mt. Data, which covers Mt. Province, Ifugao and Benguet, provides the headwaters for the region’s four major river systems—Agno, Chico, Bued and Abra.

But the DENR had admitted the park’s watersheds are rapidly deteriorating due to the expansion of vegetable farms.

Heaney said Whitehead did not know anything then about the animal’s ecology but the animal’s life drew the heightened curiosity of biologists.

“Since then, the species became a mystery. This could be partly blamed on the disappearance of the forest in Mt. Data where the rat was found,” he said.

Research on the rat’s existence drew new life when the species was found lately in Mt. Pulag, he said.

Heaney said the Cordillera is known as the habitat of endangered species, like the cloud rat.

The rats were identified as “cloud rats” since mossy forests are known as cloud forests, Peñafiel said.

Mt. Pulag is also known as the only place that hosts the four cloud rat species. One of them is the bushy tailed cloud rat, locally called “bowet.”

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Old April 29th, 2008, 11:47 AM   #62
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Getting Lost: Assault of Mt. Pulag: relaxing the rigors of the city


It all started when I received a text message from Ate Reyna (Villacarlos) asking if I could join the First Aid team to accompany a group of journalists in climbing Mount Pulag and without second thoughts, I said yes. Why not? It would be a way of relaxation after spending a one-year clerkship in the hospital.


The travel was difficult in a way that the road going up the ranger station is not cemented and the jeep swayed to the left or right and there were parts which are one way and sometimes it left me breathless when we met other vehicles at these parts of the road. Another thing is that, as we went higher in the mountains, the temperature became colder that by the time we reached the peak, it was near freezing and my hands were so numb I could not feel them anymore. The cold weather was remedied by the delicious cup of hot brewed coffee we drank all the time, accompanied by boiled sweet potatoes or biscuits.

During the day of the climb, we had to wake up before 2:00 A.M. so that we could reach the peak before sunrise. We started walking up the mountains armed with flashlights, good sense of hearing and common sense because they were what we needed for the climb.

At this point, I learned a few things: (1) It was difficult to lead others when you yourself could not see where you are going but this was remedied by letting the tour guide before us since he already knew the way to the summit. Without him we could not have reached the peak on time; (2) Since we could not see the path we are going to clearly, we had to listen to the instructions of those who were before us and we were also responsible of giving the right instructions to those coming after us so that nobody would step on slippery or wet areas and worst, nobody would fall; (3) Always bring with you a flashlight, water, any food to sustain you along the way, warm clothing, mitten, bonnet and of course, a camera.

At around 5:50 A.M we reached what we termed the summit junior and we were able to witness the changing colors of the sunrise. It was a really beautiful sight – the changing colors of the sky with the effects of the clouds and the green surroundings before our eyes. The wind was very strong that it could blow off the tarpaulins we were holding. It was very cold and I did not have any mittens so I could really feel my hands getting numb to the point that I could not feel the contents of my pocket when I attempted to bring out the petroleum jelly.

When it was already bright, some of us started the hike to the summit which is another 30-minute hike from where we stopped. With the remaining little energy in me, I started to climb the peak of the second highest mountain in the Philippines. Upon reaching the top, I had the urge to shout, however we were warned not to shout so as not to disturb the spirits dwelling in the place. I just filled my eyes with all the magnificent sight while I filled my lungs with fresh air.

Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

From where we stood, I could see Mount Napulawan of Ifugao, Mount Santo Tomas in Baguio City, parts of the towns of Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao in the sea of clouds. I also saw the miniature bamboos surrounding the peak of the mountain. We had to walk carefully as we went down so as not to destroy the said miniature bamboos and other small plants along the way.

Mount Pulag has a very rich ecosystem wherein you can really appreciate the rapid transition from a pine forest to a mossy forest to grassland. Actually, the word “pulag” literally means bald, according to Jun Verzola, who came along with his son, Jason.

The mountain peaks appear to be bald where only miniature bamboos and other tiny plants survive the cold climate. The mossy forest is called as such since mosses cover the barks of the trees and different kinds of mosses are seen in the area. There are also other variety of plants like ferns, orchids, flowering shrubs and tiny plants I could not identify. Mount Pulag is a perfect place to study Kingdom Plantae if you are interested in Botany and if you want to discover new species of plants. It is here where I saw a species of pitcher plant which is maroon with white stripes.

I was tempted to pick some of the plants, however as a biologist, I had to observe the rule: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures.” As the park personnel told us, we could not leave any contaminant behind like a tamarind seed because it would be changing Pulag’s features if a tamarind tree grows on the grassland at the peak. The contaminants might also interact with natural inhabitants of the forest to produce mutated species as she explained. We could not also take anything from their natural environment because it would destroy the entire ecosystem, she said.

I am right after all. The entire experience I had in Mount Pulag has provided me the relaxation I needed after the rigors of clerkship and it will prepare me to face challenges in the future because I have conquered a lot of things in this event. I was able to climb the mountains and I was able to endure the cold weather without any asthma attack. I also gained new friends who taught me new things and who gave me new insights. I will definitely do this again.

The whole activity was organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet Chapter with the sponsorship of Globe Telecom and the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples.

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Old April 29th, 2008, 11:49 AM   #63
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Makan a la Pinoy: Squash noodles


A popular tourist destination, Sagada offers another novelty attraction – canton noodles fortified with squash.

Last week, the Montañosa Research and Development Center (MRDC), a non-government organization based in this town, launched the Sagada Squash Canton Noodles, the very first variety of squash canton to hit the market in Mountain Province and the Cordillera region.

The Sagada Squash Canton Noodles is made from a mixture of squash puree, wheat, egg, squash, and salt. “Our squash canton noodles is very much improved and more nutritious compared to other canton noodles sold in public markets that are just made of flour, food coloring and preservatives. Ours has more nutrients like beta-carotene or Vitamin A,” according to MRDC nutritionist, Charlotte Camfili.

In an analysis conducted by the Food & Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), a serving of 55g of Sagada squash canton noodles will provide 9%, 12% and 35% of the RDA for energy, protein and vitamin A, respectively.
Marketing of the product is very encouraging. In Sagada alone, orders for squash canton noodles have been increasing.

“We are flooded with orders from hotel owners, retailers, and residents. This only shows people are very supportive of this new product from their hometown,” Camfili added.

She said that during the Lang-ay Agro-Industrial Fair held in Bontoc recently, they turned down the offer of some businessmen to market the product due to limited production capacity at present.

MRDC’s plant initially produces 600 packs of 150g vitamin A-enriched noodles every week. But with the growing demand in the local market, it expects to increase production to 150 to 200 packs daily. Each pack costs P20.

Dr. Matthew Tauli, executive director of MRDC, thanked the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through the FNRI, for providing the necessary information and technology for the manufacture of squash canton noodles.

He also commended the provincial office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) headed by Ms. Juliet Lucas for offering its consultancy services and providing training on product labeling and marketing.
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Old May 3rd, 2008, 07:21 PM   #64
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Bio of Bado Dangwa in the works

By Nikka Corsino
UP Intern

A BIOGRAPHY of the late Bado Dangwa, the first elected governor of the old Mt. Province, is set for publication by the end of this year.

Two professors of the Benguet State University, Felipe Comila, and Dr. Marcos Buliyat have started working on the book in 2006, but its completion took some time, as the authors say they want to put in as much information as possible before it is circulated.

"We have always thought of writing the biography of leaders in the Cordillera. It's actually a long-overdue book," Comila said.

He said the book will be circulated internationally.

"I think it will be an international one, because the name Dangwa has already gone worldwide. Having that in mind, we have to be more definite in the documents we will have to use," Comila said.

Born in Kapangan in May 5, 1905, Bado Dangwa was the first elected governor of the then Mt. Province, to which Benguet was merely a sub-province.

Dangwa as a businessman

Bado Dangwa is the pioneer of today's Dangwa Transportation. He started the transport business in 1928 with five dilapidated Chevrolet cars with the encouragement of a former school principal and P10 for gasoline expenses from a former teacher.

When World War II broke in December 1941, Dangwa turned over to the United States Army 197 of his vehicles, which were used to transport military personnel and supplies from Camp John Hay to Bataan.

Until his death in 1976, he was the president and general manager of the Dangwa Transportation Company, which serviced the Mt. Province and parts of Cagayan Valley.

He also organized the Dangwa Enterprises, which engaged in farming, dairying, poultry raising, among others.

As a military man

War veterans recently recounted their experiences with the late Dangwa, through the initiative of his nephew, now Benguet Representative Samuel Dangwa.

Among them are Camilo Atas, Belino Alumno, Icad Bayan, and former Mankayan Mayor Alberto Bugtong. Apolonio Alfredo, although not a war veteran, was also invited to recount his experiences as a young boy when the Japanese were in the Cordilleras.

Atas, who was part of the 12th Infantry organized by then Major Dangwa, also praises the late military man. "He is like no other. He eats what everyone is having," said Atas in Ilocano. Atas added as a politician, Dangwa "had no negative issues with the people." The 12th Infantry was later integrated to the now famous 66th Infantry Usafip NL.

Bado Dangwa's knowledge of generators and automotive electricity played a vital role in during the war. He set up communication system, which intercepted movements of the allied forces towards the liberation of the Japanese-occupied countries.

This made his hometown Kapangan the communications center of North Luzon and became the headquarters of the United States Armed Forces headed by General Russel Volkman.

The 66th Infantry to which Dangwa belonged, led the rescue of the family of then President Sergio Osmena Sr., who were then imprisoned at Teacher's Camp.

According to guerilla records, General Tomoyoki Yamashita planned to hostage Osmena's wife to be able to escape the country to Japan, via the north. Dangwa's intelligence group, which was then comprised of Kapangan women, devastated the Yamashita strategy.

Post-War and Dangwa as a politician

In 1953, then President Elpidio Quirino appointed Bado Dangwa as governor of the then Mt. Provinces, which comprised Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao and Bontoc as the sub-provinces.

After Quirino's defeat to Ramon Magsaysay in 1954, Dangwa was reappointed to rule Mt. Province.

Dangwa geared his programs for the establishment of more schools, health clinics, hospitals, roads, and bridges construction.

He also initiated the settling of boundary disputes between Mt. Province and its adjoining areas like Isabela, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Abra.

His exemplary leadership and principle earned him several endorsement and backing and he became the first elected and unopposed governor of Mt. Province from 1956-1959 and from 1960-1963.

Bado Dangwa died on March 18, 1976 from a lingering illness.

Congressman Dangwa plans to provide the different libraries, especially those in Benguet, with copies of the finished biography of his late uncle so students and the younger generation will have knowledge on the former politician, who is now declared a local hero.

He added the Board of Directors of the family-owned Dangwa Transco, of which he is president, plans to establish a museum either at the Dangwa Station in KM 6, La Trinidad or in Kapangan.

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Old May 3rd, 2008, 07:23 PM   #65
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UN representative baptized as princess of Bontoc's Chico River

BONTOC, Mountain Province - Suneeta Mukherjee, the representative of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in the Philippines, was baptized as "wagchas" or the "Princess of Chico River" by local government officials in an elaborate ceremony here.

Does that mean that Mukherjee, an Indian national and a strict vegetarian, would be able to partake of pork, the favorite food in Bontoc?

"No," said Gov. Maximo Dalog. "But this is our way of saying that we are serious in our thrust for population management and development."

Mountain Province and nearby Ifugao were among the few provinces in Northern Philippines that passed a code for comprehensive reproductive health.

Dalog said that the implementing rules and regulations of the code, as well as the Gender and Development Code were approved recently.

Mukherjee said local government units should not wait for the House and Senate to pass the National Reproductive Health Code.

"You should pass yours now…Three Filipinos are born every minute. Are we prepared to feed them?" Mukherjee said.

Rice production had grown by less than 2 percent annually, while population rose by more than 2 percent, thus hunger gap is growing, according to Mukherjee.

Mukherjee's task in the UNFPA is to reduce maternal mortality rate in the Philippines.

She was hoping that the country would meet its millennium development goal of reducing mortality rate among mothers by 2015.

In 2006, the maternal mortality rate in the Philippines stood at 162 per 100,000 births. The goal is to reducing it to 52 by 2015.

She said that yearly, about 4,000 Filipino mothers die while giving birthing. But a huge part of the cases, are actually preventable, according to Mukherjee.

Meanwhile, she said many pregnant women in the Philippines resort to abortion, which is illegal and is not recommended by UNFPA as a method in population control.

"But still 483,000 abortions happen in the country every year. This is an institutional report," she said.

About a third of the yearly 5.1 million pregnancies in the country are unplanned, and many resort to “illicit" abortions despite government denial that such things happen, according to the UNFPA representative. - GMANews.TV

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Old May 4th, 2008, 08:27 PM   #66
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Abra police enhance community relationship

By Ernie Olson Jr.

IN ITS bid to regain the trust and confidence of the community and to bring them closer to the police, the Abra Provincial Police Office (PPO) has initiated joint activities involving them and residents there.

Police Provincial Director Alexander Pumecha said with their 501-strong "Mamang Pulis and Aleng Pulis," this is just one of their ways to step towards the implementation of community relations and partnership in promoting peace and order maintenance.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

As their first step, he said the PPO pushed through with the conduct of their first Provincial Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (Plecc) meeting involving the various heads of concerned offices and agencies in the province recently.

Pumecha said Plecc was organized "to ensure closer cooperation and coordination among law enforcement agencies involved in the enforcement of general and special laws to attain a unified direction and integration of efforts towards the attainment of a better place to live, work and do business."

The heads of agencies actively participated in its first quorum conducted on February 27.

"The Plecc objective served as a forum for dialogue and coordination among agencies to be united and establish team work for the attainment of a peaceful community and for the development of progress in the whole province," he pointed out.

The second Plecc meeting was on March 25 in Bangued, Abra.

On the improvement and strengthening of the Abra PPO's capabilities, Pumecha said their modern provincial police office building located at Camp Villamor in Bangued, Abra is now on its final construction phase, symbolizing a more enhanced office to cater to the needs of the community for better quality of police service.

He said the Abra PPO opened its Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) inside the Abra multipurpose building located at Camp Villamori in Bangued, Abra on March 28.

The facilities in the children's park were remodeled purposely for a more comfortable and relaxed ambiance for women and children clients, he said.

Pumecha explained that the WCPC was established to serve as a one-stop shop for the investigation of and treatment of victims of child abuse, violence against women and other similar crimes through a multi-disciplinary approach.

Equipped with a computer set, two sets of bamboo chairs and a television set, the television is ready to play videos of cartoons, stress management and counseling videos.

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Old May 4th, 2008, 08:28 PM   #67
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PGMA declares Apayao and Abra "Priority One" provinces in delivery of social services

Noting that 34.5 percent of poor families live in the Cordillera Administrative Region, the President said that she has instructed her Cabinet to prioritize Apayao and Abra as "Priority One" provinces in the delivery of social services, especially food for the poor.

"The government wants to ensure that the hungry will have food but we also want to make sure that we give them a sustainable source of livelihood," the President said. This as the President announced in her address at the Local Peace and Security Assembly in Bangued, Abra, the allocation of P100 million for Upland Development Program.

The initial funding would be used for the construction of farm to market roads, small scale water projects, watershed and spring protection projects and construction of tramlines or footbridges.

The Government's Upland Development Initiative also calls for stepped up education and extension services to be spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture, the distribution of basic farm implements, tools and equipment.

The President pointed out that through the Upland Development Program, the poor in the Cordilleras would have access to the government's livelihood project.

The Upland Development Program package, the President said, also includes provisions for loans to farmers for the acquisition of dryers, seedlings for upland trees suitable for slopping land above 18 degrees like abaca, jackfruit, rubber, coconut, mango, pili, durian and rambutan.

Loans would also be available for the purchase of seeds for assorted vegetables and legumes like mongo, beans, peanuts, bataw and hadyaws, as well as goats, pigs and and poultry.

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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:43 AM   #68
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MGB head sees big growth of mining sector in 3 years

BAGUIO CITY – Despite the rice crisis and other national problems, the country’s economy is expected to grow in the next three years with mining as the major player.

This was predicted by Engineer Joracio Ramos, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), who said that many mining companies with investments in the mineral-rich areas of the country are expected to dramatically increase their capital for expansion and exploration.

He said the mining sector, which is a potential source of employment opportunities and business investments, will attain its projected growth in the next three years, and its output is expected to increase to over billion until 2011.

Most of the investments are projected to come between this year and next year when bigger, world-class mining investors speed up the construction and development of potential mining sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

At present, 40 mining-processing and exploration projects and 23 other exploration projects have already invested .4 billion.

Mindanao is considered to be one of the potential expansion and exploration areas because its mineral-rich areas consist 60 percent of total mining sites, followed by Luzon with 15 percent. The Visayas has 10 percent.

MGB projection shows a drastic increase in the volume of mineral production starting this year in all sub-sectors of the mining industry, particularly gold, nickel, copper, chromites, cobalt, zinc, ferronickel, and claimed nickel.

Ramos said the rise in the production volume will correspondingly raise the production value of the mineral industry which is expected to reach record-breaking levels.

Five major mining projects -- namely, the Oceana Gold project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, the old Atlas project, the Carmen ore deposit, the Filimar project, and the Filsag project in Agusan are expected to start their operations in the next two years. Their operations are expected to add to the production volume which would help address the global demand for high-quality mineral products.

With this production level, experts predicted the Philippine mineral industry’s contribution to exports will be at 6.5 percent, enough for the country to be classified as a mining country based on the standards set by the World Bank (WB).

The MGB is concentrating its efforts to put on stream big mineral projects in the different parts of the country before entertaining expansion and exploration projects with promising prospects.

In the Cordillera, the Far Southeast project of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp. is now in the pipeline, and its operation would spur economic development in the northern part of Benguet, which is considered to be one of the mineral-rich areas of the country.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:48 AM   #69
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Cordilleras allot P2.8-billion for infrastructure projects in 2008

BAGUIO CITY: The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will receive more than P2.8 billion for the government’s infrastructure programs this year, said Highways Regional Director Mariano Alquiza.

Alquiza said that of P2,890,520,000 intended for the region; P864,807,000 will go to the Mt. Province, of which; P554,000,000 will be allotted for roads to enhance tourism; P166,000,000 for road upgrading; P20,000,000 for the reconstruction of damaged national roads generated from pavement management system and highway development and management; P40,000,000 for various infrastructure including local projects; and P84,807,000 as foreign assisted projects for highways.

The Province of Kalinga will receive P533,323,000; Benguet, P520,665,000; Ifugao, P357,000,000; Apayao, P3,42,855,000; Abra, P138,870,000; and Baguio City, P100,000,000 Alquiza added.

On the status of State of the Nation Address (SONA) projects of President Gloria Arroyo, Alquiza said the DPWH has an actual 89.3 percent on actual accomplishments based on fund release, as compared to a 97.26 percent planned accomplishment as of April 30, 2008.

There are four SONA projects for the region, the Mt. Data-Bontoc Section (Phase II); the Bontoc-Banaue Section (Phase II); the Bontoc-Tinglayan Boundary (Section1) and the Tinglayan Boundary-Tabuk (section 2). Both the latter road improvements are part of the Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao road.

Alquiza said of the four SONA projects, the Tinglayan Boundary-Tabuk is now completed, while the Bontoc-Tinglayan Boundary road is 94.89 percent complete, followed by the Bontoc-Banaue Section with 90.67 percent completion and the Mt.Data-Bontoc Section with an actual accomplishment of 79.61 percent.
--Larry Madarang
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Old May 6th, 2008, 02:51 AM   #70
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Cordillera elders renew pact vs mine firms
By Desiree Caluza
Northern Luzon Bureau

BAAY LICUAN, ABRA – More than 50 elders in the Cordillera renewed a pact rejecting large-scale mining in tribal communities in the region, saying the industry would endanger the environment and displace indigenous peoples from their homelands.

The pact was signed in an elders’ caucus during the celebration of the 24th Cordillera Day here last month.

“We want roads and infrastructures that will help us transport our agricultural products and support livelihood. We do not want mining that will destroy our livelihood,” said Ernesto Quinto, 57, a member of the Binongan tribe and chair of Baay Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan.

The agreement was part of the seven-point “unity pact” forged before delegates of the Cordillera Day.

The elders said they were opposing the planned operations of Olympus Pacific Mines and wanted the firm to leave the people of Baay Licuan in peace. They said the Mining Act of 1995 had “legalized the plunder of resources of indigenous communities.”

Olympus Pacific Minerals, however, said it would not pursue mining operations in the town if the community would reject its entry, according to a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer by Emelita Fabro, the company’s public relations manager.

“Olympus Pacific Minerals is for progress and is not comfortable working in a chaotic environment where fear grips its employees. [The company] will only work in [an] area where the majority of the people welcome us as guests in their communities and appreciate the progress we can bring to them,” Fabro said.

Olympus stopped drilling operations in the town last year because of strong opposition from residents, Neoman de la Cruz, Cordillera director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, said.

Olympus signed a memorandum of agreement with its local partners, Abra Mining Industrial Corp. (Amic) and Jabel, on Nov. 23, 2006, for a proposed exploration of a 300-hectare area in Mt. Capcapo. Amic and Jabel have mining claims in Baay Licuan, through a mineral production and sharing agreement.

Before the elders endorsed the resolution against mining, they held a ritual called senga in Mt. Capcapo, where they spilled the blood of a butchered pig on areas where mining firms conducted drilling activities.

The elders said the ritual was meant to show the mining companies that the tribes owned the land “wounded” by their operations.

“Mt. Capcapo is a very high mountain, if mining is pursued in the area, our rice fields and houses would be submerged,” Quinto said.

Fabro said the drilling of eight holes on Capcapo was meant to verify the “very incomplete” geological records submitted by Amic and Jabel.

“If after drilling the confirmatory holes, Olympus finds out that the geological information provided to them by Amic and Jabel is not economically interesting, then Olympus will decide not to pursue a joint venture agreement. To this date, no joint venture agreement has been signed by either party,” Fabro said.

She said the company had agreed to seek the community’s “free prior and informed consent” for the project and was closely working with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 03:45 AM   #71
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Kabayan residents want to co-manage Mt. Pulag

KABAYAN, Benguet — As the Department of Tourism (DOT) declares Kabayan as the next eco-tourism site in the Cordillera, local residents are pushing for their involvement in the management of Mount Pulag.

“We are currently lobbying for our involvement in managing Mount Pulag,” Onjon ni Kasikuan shi Kabayan (Indigenous People Organization) President James Aroco said in an interview during the recent eco-tourism launching and grand cañao at Kabayan, Benguet.

He said that Mount Pulag is part of the ancestral domain of the indigenous people in Kabayan as asserted by the Ancestral Domain for Sustainable Development and Protection Program. Since Mount Pulag was declared as a national park during President Corazon Aquino’s administration, the park has been managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Local folk here have no participation in the management of Pulag,” said Aroco.

He added that the folk in Kabayan belonging to indigenous groups of Ibaloi, Kankanaey and Kalanguya want to be co-partners with the management of Mount Pulag National Park.

The municipal government has passed a resolution on the co-management of Pulag while the provincial board has endorsed it to the Protection Management Board which is responsible for all the rules that govern Mount Pulag.

Kabayan mayor Faustino Aquisan is amenable with this request of the local residents there. However, he said that “we have to consult first the other provinces like Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao,”who share boundaries on Mt. Pulag with Kabayan.

Mount Pulag sits on three provinces. Around 70% of Mount Pulag and most of its protected area is in Benguet’s territory.

“The people in Kabayan has a well-arranged program on managing Mount Pulag. So far, they are more aggressive at claiming Mount Pulag’s management than the other provinces,” Aquisan added.

Aquisan said that although the town’s folk have accomplished a program for Mount Pulag management, he said, they should carefully study the plans first.

“We have to talk with the other provinces to avoid conflicts and have a harmonious relationship to everyone’s advantage,” Aquisan said.

Mining, vegetable gardening as threats to Mt. Pulag

Before Mount Pulag was proclaimed as a national park, the people of Kabayan have been protecting it with their indigenous ways.

“It was well-protected, until a logging company came here during the 1970s” Aroco said. While logging has stopped several years ago, mining activities and vegetable gardening are threatening Mount Pulag, he said.

“There are mining activities at the foot of Mount Pulag,” Aroco said adding that unlike other mining operations in the Cordillera, the mining there has not yet caused great damage.

Aroco still fears that in the future, mining will destroy their ancestral lands if not contained.

The same threat is seen by Aquisan but with the vegetable gardening in some parts of Mount Pulag.

According to Aquisan almost 20% of the total area of the mossy forests in Mount Pulag has been encroached by settlers who are into vegetable gardening. He added that Mount Pulag is an eco-tourism site and its nature should not be disturbed and instead should be protected.

DENR-Cordillera Executive Director Samuel Peñafiel explained in his message that the local residents “should educate themselves in protecting the surroundings” now that Kabayan is an eco-tourism spot.

“In promoting eco-tourism, we should protect our environment” he added.

John Eric B. Escalante for NORDIS

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Old May 16th, 2008, 02:58 AM   #72
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Cordillera now has a population of 1.52 million


BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera office of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) here reported that the region has a total population of 1,520,743, based on the results of the 2007 census of population.

The census results showed that Cordillera’s population accounted for 1.72 percent of the country’s 88,574,614 population and indicated an annual average growth rate of 1.5 percent from 2000-2007 as compared with the 1.82 percent growth rate from 1995 to 2000.

Of the six provinces of the region, Benguet, excluding Baguio City, registered the largest population with 362,533, followed by Abra with 230,953; Kalinga, 182,326; Ifugao, 180,711; and Mountain Province, 148,661.

The sixth province, Apayao, recorded the lowest population of 103,633 although it has one of the biggest land areas among the provinces.

Baguio City, which is the only highly urbanized city in the region, accounted for 19.85 percent of the region’s population with 301,926, while the newly created city of Tabuk has only 87,912 people.

Batas Pambansa Bilang 72, Commonwealth Act 591, and National Statistical Coordination Board Resolution No. 9, series of 2007, authorized the conduct of the census of the country’s population.

This mountain resort city is considered one of the rapidly growing urban centers in the region. It draws people because of the availability of employment opportunities generated by the influx of investments.

The census of population is supposed to be conducted every five years as mandated by law but it was conducted only 2007. The last census before 2007 was conducted in 200.

NSCB officials predicted a rapid population growth in urban centers in the different parts of the region. This could come as a result the completion of the Arroyo administration’s infrastructure projects that link Cordillera with other parts of Northern Luzon, particularly Regions I and II.

The improved accessibility is expected to result in more employment opportunities, increased economic activities, various livelihood activities, and enhanced promotion of potential tourist destinations.

By 2015, it was predicted that the region will have a population of at least two million.

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Old May 22nd, 2008, 04:52 AM   #73
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Solon calls for bigger agricultural budget

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture chair Abraham Mitra during the committee’s regional consultation here said that the budget for the agriculture sector should be increased and that it should even be larger than the military’s.

“The agriculture sector should be second to education in terms of budget allocation and should have a higher budget than the military,” said Mitra adding that he will push for this in congress on the 2009 budget deliberations.

The congressman said he has talked about this with National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro quoting the secretary that “he is also for this as long as their budget will not be reduced.”

Virgie Dammay of APIT-TAKO a peasant alliance in the Cordillera, said that they support Mitra’s call citing that as an agricultural country, the government should give priority to the development of the agriculture sector.

On the other hand, Dammay was also wary and said “ though increasing the budget for the agriculture sector would also mean more peoples’ money would be subjected to corruption.”

The 2008 national budget allocates P50.9 billion to the Department of National Defense while P26.8 billion to the Department of Agriculture.

Vegetable smuggling

Meanwhile, Cordillera farmers and representatives of different agricultural line agencies of the local government expressed their grave concern over the influx of imported and smuggled vegetables. This was raised during the consultation by the farmers as an urgent threat to the local vegetable production.

“This vegetable smuggling almost killed the province’s vegetable industry because nobody is buying our vegetables,” said Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan.

Compared to the price of locally produced vegetables, smuggled vegetables are much cheaper thus preferred by the consumers.

Mitra reassured the participants that their committee would look into this matter.

Dammay on the other hand said that it is more the legal importation of vegetables that is killing the local vegetable industry.

“Entering into agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) is mainly the cause of this influx of cheap imported vegetables,” said Dammay citing that under this agreement, tariffs for imported agricultural products were lifted giving no protection for the local food industries.

“There is adequate supply of rice”

On the “rice crisis” issue, Mitra said that the country has an adequate supply of rice.

“The common sentiment of the farmers we have consulted during our rounds to the different regions, is to stop the importation of rice because there is really adequate supply,” said Mitra.

“We will have our own investigation on this to validate what the Department of Agriculture (DA) is saying that there is a rice shortage,” said Mitra adding that they would soon be ready to come up with their own findings.

Cye Reyes for NORDIS

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Old May 22nd, 2008, 04:53 AM   #74
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Balancing Wheel: The Camaraderie Race

By JOHN MARASIGAN Distance: 25 kilometers, Terrain: 80 percent off-road (rolling climb and steep ascent and descent) 20 percent paved, Travel time: estimated at 2-3 hrs. , Calorie burn: 428 cal. Destination: Talinguroy trail.

A portion of the few paved tire path killer climbs. Photo courtesy of Ji Gonzales Last Sunday exactly two months from the last time that I rode my bike, the pack hit the dirt road from the city to the outskirt of La Trinidad, Benguet. It was my second time travelling the same route, and the first time it nearly took the last breath out of me, figuratively of course, since the uphill climb was at least 30 to 40 degrees in elevation. Well, what do you know? This time I nearly ended up dead. So proud and never wanting to say enough (bike machismo), the two months of relaxation took its toll and made me suffer dearly. With muscle cramps and aching joints. How about that!

It does not stop there. It seems that being a couch potato for two months decreased my fatigue level and so it follows that the liquid intake is twice the usual amount compared to when I was riding the bike regularly. Midway of the technical course I already consumed my 500ml. supply of water. Good for me that in the middle of the route there were several sari-sari stores to stop and buy from. Anyway, we chose to take the Talinguroy trail for the primary purpose of getting familiar with the terrain since it will be a major advantage on our part come May 24th. When a team category cross country race will take place. The race route will start and end at the Pinsao Basketball court.

To give you a glimpse of the 25-kilometer grueling route here are some of the details. It starts at Pinsao. Upon reaching the Junction (Aguinalde hardware) take a right turn going to Tam-awan (Boy!..this concrete pavement is one monster of an ascend). Just follow the red arrow until you reach another junction (Lamtang, Trinidad Junction). Take a left turn and upon following the red arrows you will find your way to a tire path going to Talinguroy Proper. Just be keen, the red arrows and flaglets are your pointers.

The road is partially technical but never under estimate the curves or you will end up overshooting to a deep ravine. Talinguroy will be a challenge especially the uphill technical climbs. A couple of downhill and you will be at the foot of Brgy. Lower Wangal in a few minutes. When you reach the Memorial Park, take another right to upper Wangal and when you reach the Forestry area take the mossy path on your right. This is the part of the route where you enjoy the cool breeze courtesy of the thick pine trees. When you reach the top you will be maneuvering a two-kilometer paved ascent and descent.

Take a left turn towards the Piraso Private road and it will exit at the old crashing plant site. The last leg of the race of course is going back to the Pinsao Basketball Court. This race is a “must enter” event and we are encouraging everyone to join. Let us create a harmonious environment for Baguio and Benguet bike riders. Camaraderie and goodwill is the theme of the race. See you there.

For more details please contact Derek 09107193994.

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Old May 27th, 2008, 03:55 AM   #75
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Cordillera watersheds in grave peril

By Delmar Cariño
Northern Luzon Bureau

(First of two parts)

LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET—Watersheds in the Cordillera Administrative Region are courting an environmental disaster and the government is being urged to launch a major rescue operation to stop the further decline in the region’s forest cover and water resources.

Forest fires, timber poaching and the conversion of forest lands to agriculture areas has been eating up an average of 1,735 hectares yearly as of 2006, said Samuel Peñafiel, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“The situation is critical since even mossy forests have not been spared,” he said.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is also panicking because the region’s four major river systems—Chico, Agno, Bued and Abra—have been serving up less and less water the past few years.

“Major portions of watersheds are being converted into vegetable gardens while inland rivers and streams drawn from the watersheds are also seriously threatened by siltation,” said Abraham Akilit, NIA Cordillera manager.


While the government has acknowledged the grave danger confronting the watersheds, its bid to save them has been “lukewarm” and not aggressive, according to Ifugao Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr.

Baguilat decried the government’s failure to come up with a clear policy on dealing with the region’s crucial role as a well-sculptured environment.

“The Cordillera is a critical ecosystem. Its biodiversity is special,” the governor said, adding that the region would play a crucial role in cushioning the impact of climate change.

But the DENR and NIA dismissed as hogwash the governor’s claims that efforts to rescue the watersheds were slow or that these emanated from a tepid policy. Peñafiel and Akilit said the government had deployed its resources to save the watersheds.

Watershed cradle

The Cordillera is composed of the highland provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and the Mountain Province, and Baguio City. It has an area of 1.83 million hectares, of which about 85 percent or 1.56 million hectares are classified as timber or forest lands. The rest are alienable or disposable lands.

Of the forested areas, 92 percent are public forests and forest reservations, while the rest are national parks and civil and mineral reservations.

The DENR’s Forest Management Services said the four major river systems and forest resources had blessed the Cordillera with its greatest wealth—its 13 major watersheds—feeding the waterways of the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon.

These are the river basins of Cabicungan (5,000.059 hectares), Zimigui-Ziwanan (551,892 ha), Abulog (265,094.690 ha), Chico (405,670.603 ha), Siffu-Mallig (150,258.115 ha), Magat (232,445.053 ha), Agno (128,725.253 ha), Bued (18,473.812 ha), Aringay (19,455.427 ha), Naguilian (25,939.020 ha), Amburayan (60,848.213 ha), Silag (12,444.053 ha) and Abra (441,501.885 ha).

Their total area of 1,809,614.58 ha is a testament that indeed the Cordillera is the “watershed cradle of north Luzon,” supporting the irrigation, mini and hydroelectric power plants, fishing, agriculture and potable water supplies of the region and northern Luzon’s lowland provinces.

Very high forest loss

Forest resources are classified into three types—dipterocarp, pine and mossy forests—that are the home base of resources rich in biodiversity and natural ecosystem.

But the rate of forest loss is very high, according to Moises Bai, chief of the DENR’s Forest Conservation Division in the region, and Julius Cawilan, chief of the Forest Resources Development Division.

However, both officials said that assessing an environmental disaster was “too much.” They said “some parts are in danger but some are not.”

For the last five years, the Cordillera had a reforestation rate of 1,284.88 ha a year or a recovery rate of 903.8 ha compared to the rate of forest loss.

Cawilan said that aside from an intensive forest protection program, the DENR executed 76 memorandums of agreements with various stakeholders for the management of forest lands.

Environment officials, however, view the word “critical” differently.

Critical condition

“A forest is critical if it supports a major watershed infrastructure like a dam,” Bai said. “The word critical meant the forest plays a major role in supporting a watershed.”

Akilit was more candid. “The region’s watersheds are in critical condition since they are fast deteriorating. Forest cover is declining and our rivers are drying up,” he said.

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Old May 27th, 2008, 09:40 PM   #76
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Cordillerans in Hong Kong unite to defend ancestral lands

HONG KONG — The sound of gongs reverberated in Chater Road on May 4 as migrant workers from the Cordillera region reaffirmed the defense of their land, life, livelihood and resources in celebration of Cordillera Day in Hong Kong.

Organized by the Cordillera Alliance, the event focused on the issue of mining plunder and state terrorism in each of the six provinces in the region, namely Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

The Cordillera Catholic Group headed by Luz Afidchao sponsored an ecumenical service for the morning part of the whole day program. For the first time, a Bible enthronement ritual was participated by representatives of various tribal groups from the region. Spiritual readings focused on respect for God’s creations including land and the environment.

The main program in the afternoon featured the specific cultural heritage of each of the six provinces that was clearly depicted in the opening rites. Josefina Pingkihan, Cordillera alliance (Corall) chairperson, welcomed the participation of the migrants who braved the searing heat of the sun and showed solidarity throughout the whole program.

Abra, the host of this year’s Cordillera Day in the Philippines last April 23 & 24, is under threat of massive mining exploration particularly in the Baay-Licuan area as well as dredging of the Abra River, according to Caring Bachiller, president of the Abra Tinguian-Ilocano Society Hong Kong (ATIS).

Fourteen municipalities in the province would be disastrously affected if the project continues, she stressed. The negative impacts of mining include deforestation, slope destabilization, soil erosion, desertification, water resource degradation, de-fertilization, crop damages, siltation, alteration of terrain and sea-bottom topography, increased water turbidity and air pollution.

Aggravating the situation, Bachiller stated, is the deployment of the 41st Infantry Battalion in the communities, sowing fear and terror therein intended to silence the communities in their protest against Olympus and other destructive mining companies. The military camped under residents’ homes and have maliciously tagged members of people’s organizations, like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its member organizations Kastan-CPA Abra and Balitok to be members of the revolutionary New People’s Army, making the civilians open targets to the attack of the military when in fact these legitimate organizations are but pursuing legitimate activities asserting their democratic rights and survival as a people, according to the sources.

Bachiller called on all Cordillerans to stand firm to oppose the exploitation of their rich natural resources by foreign corporations as well as the heavy militarization protection provided by the Arroyo government

Speakers from other provinces echoed the situation suffered by the people of Abra. Actually, each province presented a specific concern such as illegal logging, open pit mining, killings of tribal leaders, and others.

Guest speaker Norman Uy Carnay from the Mission for Migrant Workers lauded the Cordillera tribes for being a source of inspiration to the rest of the Filipinos in their bravery and unity to defend their ancestral domain.

“Let us remember how our ancestral lands have been stolen from us. Let us remember the various government-sponsored and foreign funded projects that destroy our environment and put our lives and way of life in danger – Chico Dam, Cellophil, San Roque Dam, open pit mining. And let us remember the courage and victories of the various Cordillera peoples,” he stressed.

He reminded the migrants that Cordillera is worth fighting for since it is home to the biggest concentration of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. It is rich in natural and mineral resources like gold and copper and it is also an ideal site for hydroelectric dams that can be used, as the government says, to meet the power needs of residents in the region and big industries in Luzon.

But the local inhabitants value their land because land is a gift from God and thus should be protected, according to him. This is also the source of their life, their food and the foundation of their very existence.

Carnay cited the martyrdom of Macliing Dulag who was gunned down by government troops on April 24, 1980 and later became the symbol of the Cordillera people’s struggle for self-determination. His death became a cause for the celebration of Cordillera Day in the Philippines and later abroad.

“Life! If life is threatened, what should we do? RESIST! This we must do, otherwise, we are dishonored and that is worse than death. If we do not fight, we die anyway. If we fight, we die honorably… and our children may win and keep this land. And the land shall become even more precious when nourished by our sweat and blood.” This was Macliing’s commitment.

Vicky Casia-Cabantac
Cordillera Alliance and Abra Tingguian-Ilocano Society (ATIS)

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Old May 27th, 2008, 10:16 PM   #77
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From mossy forests to vegetable gardens

By Delmar Cariño
Northern Luzon Bureau

Read Part 1: Cordillera watersheds in grave peril (05/21/08)


LA TRINIDAD, BENGUET—Abraham Akilit, manager of the National Irrigation Administration in the Cordillera Administrative Region, was shocked to see five bulldozers roaring like lost motorcycles in the forests.

Akilit led a team to inspect the Mt. Ahin watershed in the boundary of the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet and Mountain Province last month.

“Like in the other national parks, the bulldozers were meant to clear the forest for vegetation,” Akilit said.

Attracting most attention are the Mt. Pulag National Park that straddles Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, and the Mt. Data National Park in Buguias, Benguet, and in Bauko, Mountain Province.

“Crucial sections of Mt. Data and Mt. Pulag are becoming vegetable gardens. This is a sad development,” Akilit said.

At stake in these national parks are mossy forests, the most critical portions of the country’s forests, said Manuel Pogeyed, Benguet’s environment and natural resources officer. “They provide the habitat of endangered species of plants and animals.”

Samuel Peñafiel, director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Cordillera, agreed.

“The mossy forests act like a sponge. They hold water and organic matter which are crucial to forest life and biodiversity. This is why mossy forests are attractive to vegetation,” he said.

33 bird species

Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon and the second tallest mountain in the country, had been reported to host 33 bird species and several mammals believed to be in danger of becoming extinct, like the deer, longhaired fruit bat and the giant bushy tailed cloud rat (Crateromys schadenbergi).

Officials said the extinction of the cloud rat, called bowet (also known as buwet, puot, yut-yut, bu-ot or vuwot in the vernacular), a rare species endemic to Philippine forests, also meant the demise of the region’s watersheds.

“The rats have played a role in sustaining life forms in the remote forests of Kalinga and Apayao to Pulag in Benguet, and even diminished the threat posed by giant earthworms in the rice terraces of Ifugao,” Peñafiel said.

In fact, he said, the DENR had adopted the cloud rat as the mascot of its efforts to salvage forests from further deterioration.

Deforestation and expanding vegetable farms were cited as ways to welcome desertification.

Water scarcity

In his visit here in November last year, Dr. William Dar, chair of the United Nations subcommittee on desertification, said the symptoms of desertification, which has made water scarce in other countries, were already present in the Cordillera.

Dar, who is also the director general of the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics based in Greater Hyderabad, India, said the region’s expanding vegetable farms might bring in more problems as the ecosystem would be greatly disturbed by the use of chemical farm inputs.

The loss of forest covers, on the other hand, would also destroy biodiversity that would cut short the life of watersheds that are critical water sources, he said.

Dar’s statements confirmed Akilit’s fears.

Gov’t ‘very slow’

The NIA official said the sources of water for domestic and irrigation uses in the different communities and the lowland provinces would dry up if the present rate of deforestation in forest reservations, such as Data and Pulag, continues.

“A collaborated effort must be done by the various stakeholders to prevent the mossy forests from being destroyed by enterprising individuals who want to enrich themselves at the expense of the environment,” Peñafiel said.

He said the DENR was doing its best to protect the remaining forest covers.

But Ifugao Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. is unimpressed. Asked if he believed the government is taking for granted the role of the Cordillera as a watershed cradle, he said yes.

“The national government views the Cordillera more as a super region of mines, high value crops and vegetable production. This would mean conversion of forests to agriculture lands,” Baguilat said.

“The government is very slow in releasing the shares of the provinces from the national wealth taxes and there seems to be no effort to redefine host communities in hydropower plants projects to include upland communities.”

Ecosystems approach

It all starts how the government would view a watershed, he said. “This view would determine the response and the level of commitment to save them.”

Baguilat said: “The Cordillera as a watershed cradle invites a lot of development imperatives. The forests and water resources in the region must be viewed as one ecosystem. This approach would force policy reviews on the increased production of vegetables and other high-value crops and the granting of mining permits.”

“Definitely, mining cannot coexist with a watershed cradle,” he said. “The key is ecosystems approach.”

This, Baguilat said, was the correlation of humans, resources and activities. “It means biodiversity. What the DENR is doing is massive tree planting of exotic homogenous species. That’s not good. It should be biodiversity approach,” he said.

He suggested the following programs—identification and inventory of critical watersheds, adoption of traditional forest management systems into the reforestation programs of the DENR and the implementation of biological diversity in tree planting that would intercrop forest trees with coffee, rattan, bamboo and provision for wildlife.

Partnered with int’l groups

Peñafiel and Akilit disagreed with Baguilat, particularly on the failure of government to view the Cordillera as a watershed cradle.

Peñafiel said the government launched last year the P12.25-million Integrated Watershed Management and Sustainable Development Project. This year, he said, the project would target the rehabilitation of three critical watersheds—Chico, Abulog and Upper Magat—concentrating on reforestation, agroforestry and the assisted natural regeneration (ANR) project.

“The massive planting of trees would reverse carbon dioxide from the air through a process called carbon sequestration, the planting of trees and the conduct of ANR activities would help slow the growth of greenhouse gas concentrates in the atmosphere,” Peñafiel said.

He said the department’s national tree planting project, the Green Philippines Project, had planted 5,573,383 seedlings in the region, covering 2,893 hectares and 171.2 kilometers of roadsides.

The government has also partnered with the international community to save the forests, like the Department of Agriculture’s link with the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management project, he said.

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Workers in Region 11, CAR get pay increases --Philstar.com

Workers in Region 11, CAR get pay increases

By Mayen Jaymalin and John Unson
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Even without filing a petition, workers in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) are getting an additional cost of living allowance (COLA) of P10 to P15.

In Central Mindanao (Region 11), meanwhile, the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board has approved a P10 to P15 wage increase.

The CAR wage board approved motu propio or even any without formal petition the pay adjustment for minimum wage earners in the region.

Patricia Hornilla, officer-in-charge of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), said the CAR wage board unanimously approved a new wage order providing P10 to 15 COLA for workers in the private sector.

Under the new wage order, workers in the non-agricultural sector in Baguio City, La Trinidad, Tuba, Itogon and Sablan will receive a daily pay of P260 from the previous P245.

Those in the agricultural sector will receive P242 while workers in retail and service establishments with more than 10 workers will get P260 and those in firms with 10 workers or less, P240.

In Mt. Province, Abra and other towns in Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao, minimum wage rates in the non-agricultural sector will increase from P233 to P243, and in the agriculture sector, from P216 to P226.

Retail and service establishments employing more than 10 workers in these areas have to give a minimum wage of P 243, and those with 10 workers or less, P219.

Hornilla said the CAR wage board took into consideration the increases in the prices of goods and services brought about by shortages in supply, high importation costs, and the upward trend in world market prices.

Household or domestic helpers, family drivers and workers in barangay micro enterprises are not covered by the new wage order.

The wage board encouraged commercial establishments to adopt productivity improvement schemes to sustain the “rising levels of wages and enhance competitiveness.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Tango, who chairs the Region 11 wage board, told Catholic radio station dxMS that the increase is a combination of adjustments in the basic pay and COLA, which will take effect on June 15.

“We expect the new wage order to be published in a local newspaper of regional circulation this week so it can take effect, hopefully, on June 15,” said Tango, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment.

Tango said workers in the non-agricultural sector will get a P10.50 increase in their basic pay and P5 in their COLA, while those in the agricultural sector, or plantation workers, will receive an additional P10 in basic pay and P3 in COLA.

The region’s non-agricultural workers are presently receiving a daily wage of P230, and plantation workers, P212.

With the new wage order, workers in the non-agricultural and agricultural sectors will have a daily take-home pay of P245 and P225, respectively, Tango said.

Agricultural workers not employed in plantations will now have a daily take-home pay of P220, with an additional P8 in their basic pay and P3 in their COLA.

Those working in retail and service establishments with more than 10 workers will get P7 in their basic pay and an additional P3 COLA, or a daily wage of P225, Tango said.

On the other hand, those in retail and service establishments with less than 10 workers will get a daily take-home pay of P219.

Tango said the new wage order for Central Mindanao has been sent to the NWPC “for confirmation.”

“It will not take long. Hopefully it can be confirmed and sent back to us for publication,” she said.

The regional wage board last granted a wage hike last November.

From The Philippine Star:
Workers in Region 11, CAR get pay increases
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Old July 3rd, 2008, 08:20 AM   #79
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School-building projects hampered by high cost

Some contractors abandon projects in Benguet due to losses

Dexter A. See

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The continuous rise in the prices of construction materials has hampered the construction of school buildings in this vegetable-producing province, it was reported.

The construction of more schoolhouses was intended to address the problem of classroom shortage caused by the sudden increase in enrollment.

Education officials here said some contractors have abandoned their school building projects, causing inconvenience to the teachers and pupils.

The on-going construction of three school buildings for the Benguet National High School, the largest public secondary school in the province, was abandoned by the contractors after the cost of construction materials rose by an average of 100 percent over the last two months, education officlals said.

In Tublay town, local officials said they required a contractor to submit a bank guarantee to ensure the completion of a two-storey schoolbuilding at the Tublay School of Home Industries (TSHI), one of the technical-vocational schools in the province.

From an average price of P270, a piece of 16-millimeter arm bar now costs P570, while the price of a 10-millimeter arm bar increased sharply from P99 to P220 per piece.

In year 2000, officials in charge of the Special Education Development and Improvement Program (SEDIP) of the Department of Education targeted the construction of at least 40 school buildings in the province with a total allocation of P170 million.

The bulk of the amount came from the national government, and the rest of the amount was provided by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the provincial and municipal governments.

In Kibugan, the municipal government had to allot additional fund after the contractor undertaking one school building almost abandoned the project because hauling cost ate up a substantial part of the amount.

Aside from steel products, local contractors said, the cost of cement has been increasing since 2006. Contractors had earlier warned against what they believed to be "a cartel which is controlling the supply and the prices of cement."

They said project estimates prepared last year have dramatically changed as the prices soared over the past several months. This resulted in losses, which prompted the constractors to abandon the project.

Because of the continuing rise in the prices of construction materials, some contractors are forced to save on materials, thereby sacrificing the quality of the projects.

Despite the constant plea to concerned government agencies for the tight monitoring of the prices of construction materials, it appears that the appeal has fallen on deaf ear, the contractors said.

They asked the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into reports on poor quality of cement being sold by giant cement manufacturers in the country. If true, this would compromise the stability and shorten the lifespan of infrastructure projects, they said.
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Old July 7th, 2008, 07:26 PM   #80
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Ifugao eyes tourism boost post-Campbell case rule

ABS-CBN Baguio

BANAUE, Ifugao – The provincial government is anticipating a boost in the tourism industry after the promulgation of the province’s most distinguished crime story: the murder of the 40-year-old US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell.

Mixed emotions were drawn by Juan Donald Duntugan’s conviction on Monday.

Majority believe the court’s decision was fair and would serve a lesson for all.

Residents said that after all, tourists are welcome in Ifugao.

“People may come and go here without any fear at all,” said Erlinda Calug, an Ifugao elder.

Following the decision that saw the court handing down a life term for Duntugan, Ifugaos again are hoping for a soaring tourism rate in the world-renowned Cordillera Rice Terraces following the scare that cloaked their place because of Campbell’s slay.

Local businessmen and stall owners admitted their income dwindled after the murder in April 2007. “Many (tourists) want peace in Banaue. We would like to assure the safety of foreigners,” businesswoman Susan Nanglihan said.

Latest tourist arrival statistics of the Department of Tourism in Cordillera said Ifugao placed fourth after Baguio, Benguet and Mountain Province among the top tourist destinations in the region.

Ifugao Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr. said he would like to maintain or further enhance the province’s great tourism performance.

Baguilat and the local police assure tourists that Campbell’s murder was an isolated case.

They said that despite the controversial killing, Ifugao remains one of the most peaceful provinces in the country.

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