Monthly Archives: September 2009

UN told: Climate policies should be responsive

UN told: Climate policies should be responsive
By Vince Cinches in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand- Philippine based rural groups under the People’s Action on Climate Change appealed to officials of the United Nations, who are gathering here for the intersessional conference to combat global warming, to ensure that genuine and binding climate policies – that is responsive to rural people’s needs and rights.

In a joint statement signed by leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Amihan peasant women federation, the PACC asserted that climate change is not only jeopardizing the rural people’s future, but the advocacy is being used by multi-national and trans-national corporations (TNCs) who are the main contributors to global warming to rake in more profit from our miseries. ” It is a known fact that these climate culprits are the main reason why we are experiencing massive hunger and poverty is continuing with its plunder and environmental destruction in an unprecedented manner,” according to PACC statement furnished to The Pamalakaya Times.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the UN-IPCC unprecedented concentration of global warming gasses is causing the decline of our harvest.

“It is a known fact, that even without vast tracks of agricultural lands around the world are being controlled and converted by plunderers into cash-crop plantations such as biofuels and other corporate schemes that alienates and forcibly driving us out from land,” the PACC said.

The PACC said large tracts of forests have been lost in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia due to conversion of forests to oil-alm plantations for biofuels export. This drive for the export market makes countries like the Philippines to embark more biofuel plantations at the expense of food production and to the detriment of farmers and the environment. The destruction of the world’s forests also lead to the conversion of agricultural plantations for export oriented crops, farms fo cattle raising and monoculture tree plantations.

” It is alarming that these land grabbers and climate culprits are talking about climate change as another scheme to strengthen their hold over land resources. Also, upland farmers and indigenous peoples that depend on the forests are displaced. Further defeating any moves of the grass roots for food security and healthy environment,” said PACC signatory and KMP national auditor Antonio Flores.

Flores who represented the farmer group in the parallel conference sponsored by the PACC and the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) said the land is being degraded with the use of agrochemical products lik pesticides and fertilizer. These chemicals run on fossil fuels largely contributing to the GHG emissions and increasing the threats to our lives and livelihoods. “The TNCs are robbing us of our lands, our health, our lives and the future of our generations,” ina statement read before hundreds of environmental activists from countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Amihan spokesperon Zen Zoriano said rural groups from all over South East Asia are urging UN and other country representatives to make the ongoing UNFCCC intersessional meeting here in Bangkok becoming more responsive and should lead to an international agreement that will genuinely address climate change and environmental degradation in the region.

“UN should not entertain false solutions that pushes business as usual scenario and rescind any agreements that promotes the control of large corporations on our lands and resources, the degradation of our environment and impede the genuine development of our nations. Biofuels, land use conversion, deforestation, use of agrochemicals and other anti-people and anti-environment practices that do not address the problems of climate change should be rejected,” Soriano said.

PACC said climate negotiation should always put first the needs and rights of poor people like the farmers in Southeast Asia and not the interest of northern rich countries and their big business. National governments of third world countries should learn from its experience in pursuing globalization policies like liberalizing and privatizing our land does not lead to economic development but widespread poverty and devastated environment. #

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Termination of VFA pressed after Jolo incident

Termination of VFA pressed after Jolo incident

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) today urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) a day after an explosion incident occurred in Jolo on Tuesday morning, killing 2 US soldiers and a Filipino Marine.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France said President Arroyo should order the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to prepare the termination paper, sign it right away and just fax it to the US Embassy and the Office of US President Barack Obama.

“The termination of VFA by the Philippine government can be done in less than 24 hours. What is decisive here is political will and the readiness of President Arroyo to face her American military master and tell him it is the end of the road for military pact,” France explained.

The Pamalakaya leader agreed with the observations raised by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the US troops in Jolo were actually engaged in combat operations because of their presence in combat zones, and supported her call for the abrogation of the VFA.

France said the Jolo incident should lead senators to update their previous resolution—Senate Resolution No. 1356 entitled “Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the DFA should seek to renegotiate the VFA with the US, in a case of denial, should give notice of termination of the VFA.

Pamalakaya proposed to update Senate Resolution No. 1356 that should be read: “ Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate strongly urging President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to terminate the VFA in the name of national sovereignty.”

“We hope the senators, as well as the congressmen in the House of Representatives will rise above the occasion, express the patriotic will of the people through legislative action. No more debates please, just send the Yankees home,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said the Jolo incident would also remind the Supreme Court of their past mistakes in upholding the constitutionality of the VFA, the last of which is the 2009 case Nicolas vs. Romulo, where the high tribunal, through a 9-4 vote, declared the military agreement as constitutional,

Quoting Senate Resolution No.1356 sponsored by Sen. Santiago, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Pamalakaya said US troops in the country are engaged in combat operations. It said, the first commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-Philippines) Col. David Maxwell, clearly implied that combat operations are part of the US military business.

According to Maxwell ,the Philippine constitution only prohibits stationing of foreign forces but it does not ban US troops from engaging in combat operations. The US military official said the Task Force that he had led once as conducting operations under the guise of an exercise.

From April 2001 to October 2007, more than 50 US war ships entered in the Philippine territory and docked in various parts of the Philippine archipelago. #

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Donor countries on storm Ondoy victims told: No strings attach please

Donor countries on storm Ondoy victims told: No strings attach please

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said donor countries who gave financial assistance to the Philippine government for the victims of tropical storm Ondoy should not ask something in return for their cash donations, saying the situation should not be used as an opportunity and occasion to advance any kind of agenda.

“If donor countries want to help and they are sincere, that is very much welcome to the Filipino people and we will regard their respective efforts as expression of international solidarity. But if they are up for something big, let’s say big favors from the corrupt government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then forget it. No strings attach please,” said Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz in a press statement.

“We have to be brutally frank here and we believe it is a politically correct attitude in dealing with these cash aids foreign donors. These powerful foreign economies will not give cash without getting something big for their investments. That is the history of our master-slave relationship with the world’s economic giants,” added Corpuz.

The Pamalakaya information officer said most of the donor countries have anti-Filipino agenda like the European Union, the United States, Japan, Australia and China.

Corpuz said the US, which donated $ 100,000 or roughly P 47 million to flood victims, is hell bent in keeping the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and is strongly opposed to moves of the Philippine Senate to renegotiate or terminate the military pact. He said the US is also eyeing a bilateral free trade agreement with the Philippines similar to or even bigger in scope compared to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or Jpepa, which was approved by the Senate last year.

Corpuz said the European Union, which promised 2 million euro humanitarian assistance or P 140 million in total relief aid wants to enter a bilateral economic pact with the Philippines through the RP-EU Free Trade Agreement and is said to be interested in owning vast tracts of prime agricultural lands in the country and is reportedly urging lawmakers to purse Charter Change to eliminate the constitutional ban on 100 percent foreign ownership of land.

Pamalakaya said aside from Jpepa, Japan, which donated $ 220,000 for typhoon victims, is asking Malacanang’s permission to use 600,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Northern Luzon for bio-fuel production, while Australia, which promised 1 million Australian dollars or P 40 million in total relief aid, wants to clinch a bilateral economic and military agreement with the Philippines.

The group said China, which P 6.6 million in total donations given to Ondoy victims, is still pursuing the RP-China agreement which entails 13 sub agreements in agriculture and 6 sub-agreements in fisheries, aside from the continuation of the stalled NBN-ZTE deal and the $ 546 million North Rail Project.

On Tuesday, the massive flooding triggered by tropical storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) has inflicted over P4.6 billion in damage, the National Disaster Coordinating Council in its partial damage assessment said. Infrastructure losses reached more than P1.5 billion while damage to agriculture amounted to about P882.525 million, the NDCC said in its latest situation report.

“It is a partial damage assessment definitely, even loss to, or opportunity loss of revenues for establishments you know, I mean, that alone would amount to hundreds of millions at the least a day,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. said in a briefing after the Cabinet Meeting at the NDCC headquarters.

A total of 1,872,036 persons or 319,881 families have been affected by the flooding, the NDCC said.Of this number, 74,695 families or 374,890 persons have taken refuge in 607 evacuation centers.

The death toll of 240 was 100 more than Monday’s assessment. Thirty seven people remained missing. “I think for casualties the increase will be not as great but the damage figures may increase,” Teodoro said.

“The difficulty is, let’s say in a province you can very well judge a totally or partially damaged house, the problem in Metro Manila is if you have to inventory the appliances and articles inside the house, that poses some difficulty so an accurate picture of damages cannot be had easily,” the defense chief said.#

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RP activists bring fight for climate justice in Bangkok

RP activists bring fight for climate justice in Bangkok
by Vince Cinches in Bangkok, Thailand and Gerry Albert Corpuz in Manila, Philippines.

About thirty Filipino activists from the Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) joined thousands of international participants in the on-going intersessional meeting of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) in Bangkok, Thailand from September 28 to October 9, 2009.

In a statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, Philippine Climate Watch Alliance spokesperson Meggie Nolasco said the 30-Filipino contingent will push for a more binding global climate policy, by putting in place the voices of the poor who are the most vulnerable and have no capacity to respond to climate change. We will unite with other developing nations to make our demands heard in the UN meeting, Bangkok streets and worldwide web until ultimately they are addressed.

The UNFCCC is tasked to come up with an international agreement to address climate change as the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012.

While Third World countries are demanding a mandatory, immediate and significant reduction in carbon emission and billions of funding support from the international community, the climate change talks are dominated by powerful nations, headed by the United States, Japan and European Union, who are also the main polluters of greenhouse gases.

In a separate statement furnished by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the group’s coordinator Clemente Bautista said they will lobby and demand to the ANNEX I countries particularly the United States to immediately and drastically cut their carbon emissions which is the major source of global warming. ANNEX I countries should also be the primary responsible and accountable in providing climate funding for the mitigation and adaptation efforts of poor countries.

ANNEX I countries are mostly composed of industrialized countries which are the biggest polluter and historically responsible for global warming. Ironically, it is the developing nations who will bear the brunt of climate change.

“In the middle of the climate negotiation are the issue of justice and accountability. The poor countries like the Philippines are not responsible for the causes of global warming but we are the most affected and threatened by its effects and impacts,” explained Mr. Bautista.

According to the Fourth Assessment Report of United Nations – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Philippines will be among the many countries in South East Asia to be greatly affected by the changing climate.

“The recent devastation wrought by typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and adjacent provinces demonstrates how vulnerable and ill-prepared poor countries like us in dealing climate disasters. This proves how important it is for climate change be addressed both at the national and international level,” said Nolasco.

“We cannot afford another state of calamity, we cannot afford another typhoon Ondoy killing more Filipinos. The grassroots sectors and civil-society organizations need to be involved in the process of crafting international agreement that will genuinely address the issues of climate change. It will only be through the unity and solidarity of the G77 countries that their demands for accountability, responsibility and justice on the issue of global warming will be met,” ended Nolasco.

PCWA have partnered with other Asian organizations in holding exhibits, trainings, forums, and creative peaceful actions to deliver their message of climate justice while some of their members will attend the UNFCCC mini-session.

In Manila, Pamalakaya Vice chair for Luzon Salvador France said a resolution urging the Philippine government to stop all destrcutive projects in Manila Bay has been prepared by his group, and it will be emailed to Bangkok for signature signing.

France said, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap is part of the 30 Filipino activist contingent that will campaign for climate justice and gross reduction of carbon emissions of developed countries before the intersessional conference of the UN.

France said Hicap will also lead the Philippine delegation in sending boneless fish species to the representatives of the UN on climate change conference to dramatize the plight of the grassroots sectors affected by corporate plunder and exploitation of resources in South East Asia.

Among the member organization of PCWA and Kalikasan PNE that will participate in the climate change events in Bangkok, Thailand are various non-government and sectoral organizations such as Center for Environmental Concerns, the science group AGHAM , the Amioan peasant women federation, the protestant group National Council of Churches in the Philippines, the church-based NGO Peace for Life, the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center , the Katutubong Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP), Agham Youth sector, the umbrella group Defend Patrimony Alliance and last but not the least- the highly vocal fisherfolk group Pamalakaya.

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National inquiry on Ondoy tragedy sought

National inquiry on Ondoy tragedy sought

The militant alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to immediately schedule a separate or joint national inquiry on the real causes behind the massive flood brought by storm Ondoy last Saturday that devastated the entire National Capital Region and the provinces of Rizal, Laguna, Quezon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Bataan,Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora.

“Let’s have a national inquiry on the Ondoy tragedy. Let us determine the real score behind this corporate induced and government sanctioned national disaster that killed hundreds of people and which sent hundreds of thousands of people homeless and displaced,” said Pamalakaya Vice-Chairperson for Luzon Salvador France.

The Pamalakaya leader suggested that following government agencies and officials to be summoned either by the joint congressional inquiry or separate congressional inquiry if Enrile and Nograles decide to push through with the probe on Ondoy tragedy.

– DENR Secretary Joselito Atienza
– DND secretary and NDCC chair Gilbert Teodoro
– MMDA chair Bayani Fernando
– DILG Secretary Ronaldo Puno
– DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
– PAGASA Director Prisco Nilo
– incumbent governors of Quezon, Aurora, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.

Pamalakaya’s France said the 6 government officials should also take immediately a leave of absence in their respective officers or tender irrevocable resignations once the Senate and the House of Representatives begin their joint or separate inquiry.

The militant leader also said logging firms, quarrying companies and other business groups operating in Sierra Madre particularly in the provinces of Quezon, Aurora, Laguna, Rizal, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan should also be invited to shed light on the recent national calamity, which Pamalakaya said is destined to happen because of big business eternal thirst for super profits and government officials’ gluttony for fat kick backs and huge commissions.

Pamalakaya said what happened in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces in Southern and Central Luzon was directly connected and due to the all-out big time logging activities in Sierra Madre, which is supposed to be the backbone of Luzon.

“What is common to all these affected areas is that all these areas are enjoined and connected by the Sierra Madre mountain range. The present devastated state of Sierra Madre due to logging, quarrying and other forms of privatization and sell-out as promoted by the Macapagal-Arroyo government will cause more tragedy to the people,” the group said.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) yesterday said death arising from typhoon Ondoy is now 240, and many of the victims drowned in the floods, while others were electrocuted or killed in landslides, the council said.

Thirty-seven people remained missing on Tuesday while five others were injured, according to the council. Ondoy affected 1.87 million of the country’s 92 million people, with 374,890 of them now sheltering in makeshift evacuation camps, it said. #

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Government, private hospitals told: Send doctors to evacuation centers

Government, private hospitals told: Send doctors to evacuation centers

The left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya)on Tuesday urged government and private hospitals to dispatch doctors and other health personnel to evacuation centers and other areas ravaged by storm Ondoy and attend to the medical needs of victims of massive flood since Saturday.

“Malacanang is highly obliged to send government doctors and personnel to evacuation centers and other areas affected by typhoon Ondoy. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should forget her enthusiasm for foreign trips and grandiose dinners and dispatch state resources according to the needs of the affected people,” said Pamalakaya Vice-chair for Luzon Salvador France.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “We also ask private hospitals to send its army of doctors, nurses and other medical aides to evacuation centers and other devastated areas to help the victims of storm Ondoy. Even for this trying moment, please withdraw your fetish for big profits and put the people’s interest and health above profits and promising returns on investments.”

France said Malacanang and the Department of Health should mobilize doctors and other medical people from the Philippine General Hospital, the East Avenue Medical Center, Ospital ng Maynila, Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital, Philippine heart Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, National Kidney Hospital, Philippine Children Hospital and the other state-run hospitals to check up patients in evacuation centers and other flooded areas.

As for private hospitals, Pamalakaya suggested that doctors and other hospital workers from St. Luke’s Hospital, UE Hospital, UST Hospital, Makati Medical Center and the likes should also be sent to provide their medical expertise and share their medical technologies to victims and other indigent patients in evacuation centers and ravaged areas in the National Capital Region and nearby provinces affected by typhoon Ondoy.

Pamalakaya also proposed a P 10-billion health crisis fund for the victims of typhoon Ondoy. The group said the fund should be used for the additional purchases of medical equipment and medicines for the indigent patients.

Meanwhile, the militant group appealed to all presidential candidates not transform their relief campaigns for Ondoy victims into launching pads for presidential campaigning.

“Please do not trivialize the situation and turn your relief activities into a de facto electoral campaign for presidential election. If you want to help, just help and stop making noise or issuing statements as if it is already election campaign time,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group was referring to the announcement of Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino and Vice-presidential candidate Mar Roxas that their team will launch its own campaign for the relief and rehabilitation of flood victims. It was announced a day after their sortie in Mindanao.

“If Noynoy and Mar want to help, then please do, and they are welcome to do so. However, stop treating this crisis as an opportunity to gain electoral advantage. That’s political opportunism,” said Pamalakaya.

“We appeal not only to Senator Noynoy, but to all presidential candidates to be please be sensitive enough to the collective sentiment of the people in relation to the current disaster problem and crisis,” said Pamalakaya. #

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Public urged to monitor “Ondoy funds”

Public urged to monitor “Ondoy funds”

Manila, Philippines- Highly aware of the high crimes of corruption of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines ) urged the Filipino public to monitor the funds being declared and released by the government for relief and rehabilitation projects for victims of storm Ondoy.

The KMP warned of corruption in government, as the group predicted that Malacanang will use the occasion to rake up public funds intended for relief and rehabilitation of victims of typhoon Ondoy. Citing the recent report of the Commission on Audit (COA) that the P800 million emergency fund that should have been used for disaster-preparedness was used by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on her foreign trips, the group said the public and anti-corruption watchdogs should also watch how the Palace will mobilize state funds and donations here and abroad.

“We should all watch out for corruption by the Arroyo government as it has already been reported that the P800 million emergency fund was used for her trips abroad. Also, we have futile experience with the Dept. of Agriculture (DA) when we asked them of support for our members who became victims of typhoon Frank on June 18, 2008,” according to a KMP statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Pamalakaya Times this morning.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said, last year, typhoon Frank hit worst the region of Panay, where it submerged about 80% of Iloilo City , caused the death of 200 and 162 missing. Also the floods affected about 0.25 million individuals or 50,000 families, adding destruction of crops and infrastructure estimated to reach P500 million in Iloilo and P1 billion in the region.

“Because our members were badly hit by the typhoon, especially our regional chapter PAMANGGAS (KMP Panay Chapter), we gambled in inquiring with the Dept. of Agriculture to avail of any emergency resources. DA officials said that the funds were already at their regional field units, but when our members inquired at their offices, they said the funds were still not released,” Ramos said.

In the long run, no member of KMP and of other rural-based group benefited of the said fund.

The DA reported that P95 million worth of agricultural crops in CALABARZON were destroyed where P85 million were rice.

“We believe the damage is bigger for the Filipino farmers. The crops such as rice, vegetables, fruits and more, of our members at Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan were totally destroyed. Also, crops cultivated by our members were destroyed at Sitio Wawa, Bgy. San Rafael , Rodriguez, Rizal,” said Ramos.

KMP also said that the government has “all-excuses” on their approach of rescue operations. Amidst numerous reports on radio since morning, there was still no visible government mobilization and victims were already asking for help, particularly the use of “rubber boats.” Radio announcers of succeeding programs have always tried to contact National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), but failed as lines were busy. About noon, the situation is already life-threatening to the victims of the flood.

Dept. of National Defense Sec. and NDCC Chair Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. was quoted on Saturday afternoon telling people to ride the MRT to avoid being stranded. On early evening, Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte advised people to “self-rescue” or use their common sense. On late afternoon, it was reported that the NDCC held their meeting and by dark reported to have deployed 13 rubber boats for 26 areas of Luzon .

“We see that we are all unprepared for Ondoy. We are on regular monitoring on PAGASA reports prior, but they only warned of a Signal No. 1 typhoon and no qualitative report about the rainfall. Also, the government who has all the resources, where P800 million emergency fund were used by Arroyo on her trips, acted late,” Ramos said.

“The ordinary people who acted courageously to help others are admirable and we sympathize to those who lost their loved ones. The lost of lives should be enough justification for the government and other entities to look further into the slow reaction for rescue operations. Also, we should be vigilant of the corruption that would rake funds that should be used for relief and rehabilitating areas hit by Ondoy,” Ramos called.#

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