Category Archives: agriculture

Fishers swimming with fish, but income went down further

By Sarsi Pimentel, Rey Manangan, Lady Michelle Adobe and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- Laguna Lake fishermen are reportedly swimming with fish nowadays, bringing home as much as 100 kilos per fishing trip but their income dropped to all time low.

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday said fisherfolk in Laguna Lake are literally and figurative swimming with fish particularly big head, milkfish and tilapia due to rainy season and the overflow of some of fish pens in the 94,000 hectare brackish lake water.

But Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said despite the bounty harvest over the last four weeks or one month, the small fisherfolk of Laguna Lake are wallowing in poverty because the farm gate price of fish in the lake was drastically cut by 1,000 to 25,000 percent per kilo of whatever water products fished from the lake.

The Pamalakaya official who went to Binangonan fish port over the weekend to check farm gate prices of fish said he was shocked to learn that the farm gate price of big head (sometimes called or mistaken as maya-maya) is now P 1 per kilo compared to previous farm gate price of P 25 per kilo or a drop of 24,000 percent.

“One fisherman whom we interviewed last week said his catch was 145 kilos and he only received P 145 for the entire catch or P 1 per kilo. He spent 5 liters of gasoline or P 230 and lost 85 pesos. This is unfair, very unfair,” added France.

The Pamalakaya official said in the aftermath of typhoon Basyang, fish traders buying milkfish in Laguna Lake fish ports buy milkfish at a rate of P 10 per kilo, one of the lowest in the history of fish trading in the lake.

Cartel blamed

France blamed the fish cartel operating in Laguna Lake for the low price of fisherfolk harvests. He said prior to typhoon Basyang, farm gate prices of bangus and big head are pegged at average prices of P 40 and P 20 per kilo respectively. Pamalakaya said fish traders are making huge profits by selling milk fish at P 80 per kilo and big head at 40 per kilo to fish retailers.

The group said aside from unscrupulous fish traders, multinational oil companies are largely to blame for the rock bottom drop in the income of Laguna Lake fishermen because of perpetual hikes and high rise cost of petroleum products used by small fisherfolk.

“The small fisherfolk are exploited, the fish eating public is summarily abused by the fish cartel operating like a long-running syndicate in Laguna Lake. We ask Gov. Junjun Ynares of Rizal, Gov. EJ Ejercito of Laguna and the mayors of Laguna Lake in Rizal and Laguna and National Capital Region to investigate this perpetual exploitation of Laguna Lake fishers and the consuming public and stop this 24 hour, seven day exploitation,” said Pamalakaya.

Collective petition

Pamalakaya said they will file a collective petition before the governor offices of Ynares and Ejercito and the rest of the local government units surrounding the lake to raise the farm gate price of milkfish by an average of P 40 to P 50 per kilo and big head by an average of P 20 per kilo to compensate with the high rising cost of production in fishing.

The militant group said 80 percent of the production cost goes to diesel and gasoline per fishing trip. Pamalakaya said their leaders in the national office and their chapters around the lake are willing to dialogue and come face to face with members of the fish cartel to discuss this problem of six feet below ground prices of fish products in Laguna Lake.

Income of small fishers in Laguna Lake has drastically reduced over the last 15 years due to diminishing fish catch, increasing prices of petroleum products and low farm gate prices. From a high of 10 to 15 kilos of average catch per day, today’s prevailing fish catch is pegged between 3 kilos to 5 kilos per day and income dropped at all time low from P 500 to P 1,000 per fishing trip to P 50 to P 150 per fishing trip.

The militant group clarified that despite their demand for the increase in farm gate prices, fish traders could still enjoy at least P 20 gross profits and could still sell milkfish in the market at P 70 per kilo and big head at P 40 per kilo which are lower compared to the prevailing price of milkfish at P 100 to P 120 per kilo and big head which can still be sold at P 50 per kilo which is way below the prevailing market price of P 80 to P 100 per kilo.

“Our proposal will give small fisherfolk decent income and at the same time will give the consuming public a cheaper price for fishery products,” said Pamalakaya. (With reports from Handog Malaya Vera and Billy Javier Reyes) #

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Criminal charges pressed against Manila officials behind rice scam

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Gegemon Babon and Roy Morilla

MANILA, Philippines- The peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the multisectoral alliance Bantay Bigas, the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged National Food Authority (NFA) chief administrator Lito Banayo to file criminal and other appropriate charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with the over importation of rice which occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Peasant leaders Willy Marbella, deputy secretary general of KMP, Bantay Bigas convener and Amihan peasant women federation secretary general Lita Mariano, Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap led 100 farmers and supporters’ rally outside the NFA outlet in Visayas Avenue in Quezon City asking the NFA chief to charge Arroyo and Secretary Yap before the regular court.

Marbella said aside from Reps. Arroyo and Yap, the charge sheet should include former officials of the Department of Agriculture and NFA who played key roles in the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 which cost Filipino taxpayers some 171.6 billion pesos.

In 2004, the Philippine government imported 900,000 metric tons of rice, while the country at that time only lacked 117,000 metric tons to fit the demand of the population, while in 2007, the government only needed 589,000 metric tons to fill the gap in rice supply, but DA and NFA pursued the importation of 1.827 million metric tons or about 1.2 million metric tons more of the required volume to augment the shortage in rice supply.

The rural based groups said aside from bringing the perpetrators of over importation of rice in exchange for fat or juicy commissions, the NFA and the DA should impose a six-year moratorium on the importation of rice and instead pursue measures that would increase domestic rice production, stop land use conversions of rice lands and assure irrigation for more than 3 million hectares of lands devoted to rice production.

They said, instead of reducing rice lands, the government should promote and increase rice lands devoted to rice and food production.

Procurement capacity

For her part, Mariano of Bantay Bigas and Amihan peasant women group urged Aquino government to increase the buying capacity of NFA to 25 percent of the total domestic produced palay by local rice farmers to stabilize rice prices and ensure good dividends for rice farmers.

Mariano lamented that while NFA is mandated by law to buy 10 percent of the locally produced palay from farmers, the authority only managed to buy one percent, and the rest of the funds of the NFA are allocated for unbridled importation of rice.

She said the NFA should increase not only its buying capacity, but also the price of palay per kilo. At present, Bantay Bigas wants the NFA to procure palay at P 15 per kilo, instead of spending taxpayers money to rice importation at the expense of Filipino farmers and consumers.

The groups said rotten and contaminated rice should not be distributed to poor Filipinos, saying the poor do not deserved rotten and unsafe rice for consumption. The groups said it would be grossly insulting and highly revolting to feed the poor with unsafe and health risk rotten rice.

Which is which?

But the groups asserted the unused and undistributed stocks of rice in government warehouses which are sound and still safe to eat should be distributed for free to communities affected by typhoon, including calamity stricken areas hit by Ondoy and Pepeng, and the El Nino and La Nina affected areas.

“In print media, Banayo of NFA said he will strongly consider the demand of farmers to have these hundreds of thousands of metric tons of rice distributed for free to poor Filipinos. But in TV and radio, the NFA chief said the authority will not give free rice to hungry families and multiple conditions shall be met to have these sacks of rice distributed either through food for work program or other measures,” noted Hicap of Pamalakaya.

” Which is which? Are Banayo and his puppet master in Malacanang taking us to another roller coaster ride?” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala should step into the picture and stop the NFA from talking non-sense , adding that the agriculture department has the last way on what to do with the over imported rice.

“Alcala should tell Banayo to shape up or leave NFA. The demand is as easy as ABC. Make an inventory and proceed with the free distribution of these sacks of rice for free at the immediate, ahead of the next harvest season this coming October. Is that difficult? Mr. Banayo and his benefactor in Malacanang are making things difficult and complicated for the Filipino public.,” said Pamalakaya.

Earlier, the KMP, Pamalakaya and other rural based groups demanded Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to conduct joint or separate congressional inquiry on the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007.

The groups said in aid of legislation, the rice inquiry will be able to draft policies to stop the government from anarchic importation of rice which are hinged on the liberalization policy and on the agenda of corrupt officials for juicy and fat commissions sourced from over importation and over pricing of rice imports. (With reports from Bombshell Moran and Lollipop de los Reyes)

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Probe rice scandal RP Congress urged

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Joyce Cabral in Manila and Gegemon Babon and Sugar Hicap in Tarlac City

MANILA, Philippines-Four of the biggest rural-based organizations in the country– the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the peasant women federation Amihan, the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday urged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to pursue a joint or separate congressional inquiry on the alleged over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007.

“In aid of legislation, the people of rural Philippines hereby order Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to undertake a joint or separate congressional inquiry on rice importation that cost the Filipino people of P 171.6 billion in taxpayers money,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The two activist leaders suggested the “rice inquiry” to open the books of the National Food Authority (NFA), including inventory, records of transactions and financial records of the food authority from 2004 up to June 2010.

Ramos and Hicap, who spoke in behalf of their peers in Amihan women peasant federation and UMA agricultural labor group said all the officials of the Department of Agriculture and the NFA from 2004 up to June 2010 shall be subpoenaed by the rice inquiry task force to be put up jointly and separately by Congress.

KMP and Pamalakaya said those who should be made answerable for the anarchic importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 referring to the 900,000 metric tons of rice imported as against the 117,000 metric tons needed to fill up the gap in supply in 2004, and the 1.827 million metric tons imported by the Philippine government compared to he 589,000 metric tons needed to fill up the gap in rice supply.

“If that is the case, then former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her then agriculture secretary now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap should take the center stage of the rice inquiry that should be called by Congress at the soonest possible time, maybe next week,” the groups said.

KMP and Pamalakaya also suggested that while Congress is investigating the rice scam jointly or separately, Reps. Arroyo and Yap shall be suspended from performing their jobs as legislators of their respective districts until the investigation is done and concrete legislative and legal actions have been made to address the over importation of rice and the corruption issues which surround the anarchic buying of rice from sources abroad.

The groups said Congress can make proposals out of the results of the rice inquiry like forwarding corruption cases or legislative complaints before the House Ethics Committee which could decide on the expulsion of Arroyo and Yap from Congress.

“The case People of the Philippines vs. Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rep. Arthur Yap must be pursued at all cost. We are talking here of 171.6 billion pesos drawn against the people’s hard earned taxes. The NFA can’t even buy 10 percent of the farmers’ produce in the nine-year rule of Arroyo, but billions of pesos of people’s money were spent for unwarranted importation,” added Pamalakaya and KMP.

Earlier. Danilo Bonabon, NFA director in Central Visayas, Wednesday said that around 2 million bags of rice were arriving in Cebu City until the end of August for Central and Eastern Visayas and the cities of Pagadian and Dipolog. He said this shipment would be on top of the 2.6 million bags of imported rice stored in different warehouses in Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental.

Lito Banayo, newly appointed NFA chief, yesterday said he was asking the Department of Justice to investigate why the NFA under Arroyo had authorized the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PTIC) to import 20,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam in spite of the surplus. #

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Manila’s justice chief set review on Belgian funded lake rehab project

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Rey Manangan

MANILA, Philippines- Leaders of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday welcomed the decision of Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary Leila de Lima to review the controversial P 18.7 billion Laguna Lake rehabilitation awarded to a Belgian firm by the previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Vice chairperson Salvador France said the decision of Justice secretary de Lima to review the opinion issued by her predecessor-former secretary Alberto Agra that the project is an executive agreement and governed by Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance (ODA) Act of 1996.

In Agra’s opinion, ODA loan agreements may be considered an executive agreementm which the under revised implementing rules of the Government Reform Procurement Act are exempted from its provision requiring government projects to be subjected for bidding.
But in their July 2 letter of appeal to Secretary de Lima, the Pamalakaya leaders stressed the issue is a matter of life and death to 6 million people residing around the lake’s surroundings.

“Honorable Secretary de Lima please pardon us for bringing this early to your honorable office. We believe this is a matter of national interest beyond the sectoral interest of small fisherfolk in Laguna Lake and the 6 million people surrounding the country’s largest but dying lake. We affirm this is a matter of life and death in which your honorable office can play a decisive role to correct the grave mistakes of the past,” Hicap and France said in their July 2 letter to de Lima.

“Madam secretary, to begin with, former Justice Secretary and Solicitor General Alberto Agra recently issued an eight page opinion affirming the legality of the loan agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Belgian government involving the rehabilitation of the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake which will cost the Belgian financial bank a total of P 18.7 billion,” they added.
Acccording to Pamalakaya, former Secretary Agra issued the opinion upon the request of acting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Horacio Ramos who sought the advice of the DoJ on whether the loan agreement between the two countries shall be considered an executive agreement or a treaty that needs the approval of the Philippine Senate and what Philippine laws govern the loan agreement between the two countries.
In his eight page opinion issued less than two weeks before the inauguration of President Aquino, former justice secretary Agra asserted the loan agreement may be considered an executive agreement based on the ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the Commissioner of Customs v. Eastern Sea Trading case, where it differentiated an executive agreement from a treaty.
In the said ruling, the Court held that international agreements involving political issues or changes of national policy and those involving international arrangements of a permanent character usually take the form of treaties.

On the other hand, executive agreements involve arrangements of a more or less temporary nature such as commercial and consular relations. The P18.7-billion loan agreement was signed by the government through the DOF and Fortis Bank on April 30, 2010.

Pamalakaya learned the project is covered by a loan agreement between the government through the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Fortis Bank SA/NV, a Belgian commercial bank which offers a comprehensive package of financial services for private and professional clients, wealthy individuals, corporate clients, financial institutions and public entities.

The loan granted by the Belgian commercial bank is to be guaranteed by the office National du Ducroire Delcrederedienst, the export credit agency of the Belgian government. Secretary Agra said the loan is considered official development assistance (ODA) under Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance of 1996.
The loan was intended to improve the environmental condition of the lake in order to uplift the socioeconomic condition of the people within the Laguna de Bay regionand its spillover development effect benefiting the entire Metro Manila and the whole country as a whole, in the long term.

The project is composed of subprojects such as dredging of the lake nautical highways; lake water-quality improvement; development and operation of the lake ferry-transport system; and lakeshore development.

The project will be implemented for 850 days and the contract was awarded to Baggerwerken through direct contracting, an alternative mode of procurement. Sources said Baggerwerken is a Belgian company engaged in the business of keeping the sea lanes open, construction of some of the world’s biggest ports and protection of the coastal population against flooding and violence of the seas.

The supply contract was entered into by and between then-Environment secretary Eleazar Quinto for the government and Dimitry Dutilleuz for Baggerwerken. Quinto was one of those midnight appointees of former President Arroyo and was followed by Ramos, another midnight appointee of the former President.

The Pamalakaya leaders said they were highly puzzled about the project since this rehabilitation undertaking was not even brought to the attention of Laguna Lake people. Everybody was kept in the dark. This project is an across-the-lake mystery to 6 million people of Laguna Lake.

“The DoJ, the DENR and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) did not bother to inform, consult or seek the collective opinion of 6 million people living along the lake regarding the ambitious lake rehabilitation project funded by the Belgian government,” the group insisted.

“The fisherfolk of Laguna Lake through Pamalakaya wish to inform your honorable office and the chair of the EU delegation to the Philippines—Honorable Alistair MacDonald that there is nothing honorable with the P 18.7 billion Laguna lake rehabilitation project simply because the project was questionable and merely a passed on project by the Arroyo administration to the Aquino government that should be reviewed and scrutinized by the present dispensation,” the group in their letter to the DoJ chief.

“Nobody knows what the project is all about? Madam Secretary it seems to us the P 18-7 billion project is one of the midnight contracts rushed by President Arroyo and the Office of the President before Arroyo’s term expired on June 30. We have this strong feeling that this project is another money making campaign on the part of the former Arroyo presidency,” the group added.

Pamalakaya also sought the help of Secretary de Liam to faciliate a talk with the highest official of the EU commission in the Philippines to immediately ask the Belgian government and its Belgian embassy in Manila to indefinitely suspend or terminate the contract for the P 18.7 billion rehabilitation project in Laguna Lake.

“We are suspicious of the project which is packaged as rehabilitation project of Laguna Lake. The Philippine government could be pursuing a bogus rehabilitation project in the name of privatization of Laguna Lake at the expense of the livelihood and community rights of over 6 million lake people,” it said.

Pamalakaya said the 18 billion peso project was meant for the setting up of support infrastructures for the full-blown privatization of the lake. The government intends to clean the lake and get rid of fishing communities and urban poor villages in preparation for the grand entry of big business planning to put up an international airport and world class hotels along the lake.#

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Suspension of Manila fisheries law proposed

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Rey Manangan and Billy Javier Reyes

MANILA, Philippines-Some 50 fisherfolk leaders and environmental activists today urged President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy Aquino III to indefinitely suspend the implementation of the Fisheries Code of 1998 otherwise known as Republic Act No. 8550 for the law’s failure to protect the livelihood and marine environment all over the country.

At the launching of the first National Fisherfolk Conference on Fisheries Code of 1998 and Marine Resources held at the conference room of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) in Quezon City , leaders of the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) from the provinces of La Union, Rizal, Batangas, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate in Luzon, Samar and Leyte in Eastern Visayas, Cebu and Iloilo in the Visayas and Sarangani in Mindanao and environmental experts from Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC-Philippines), Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (Fidec) and Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment said President Aquino can suspend RA 8550 by issuing an executive order.

“We strongly urge President Aquino to call on Congress to stop the implementation of RA 8550 and task both Houses of chambers to undertake impact assessment and performance evaluation of the 12-year old fisheries law. The reports from the grassroots concerning the impact of the law on small fisherfolk is highly alarming and life threatening,” conference organizersFernando Hicap of Pamalakaya and CEC-Philippines executive director Ces Quimpo said in a joint statement.

Based on the preliminary assessment conducted by Pamalakaya and CEC-Philippines, the 12-year old was a comprehensive failure, asserting further that RA 8550 failed to meet its objectives in uplifting the lives of small fishermen, promote food security for 94 million Filipinos and protect the environment from internal and external factors.

Pamalakaya, CEC-Philippines, Kalikasan-PNE and Fidec raised the following conclusions why Fisheries Code failed to provide meaningful reforms in local fisheries and should be repealed if not indefinitely suspended while Congress is studying what to do either to amend the law or have it replaced with a progressive fisheries law.

1. RA 8550 failed to raise the standard of living among fisherfolk. Before the law was enacted average fish harvest and average fish income prior to the enactment of RA 8550 was 10-15 kilos per day and about P 200- P 300 per day. Under the fish code regime, average catch and income dropped to 3kilos -5 kilos per day or P 50-P 75 per day.

2. The 12-year old law fisheries law led to massive privatization of communal fishing grounds. The national government and local government units to transact business with private groups to establish hectares of beach resorts, fish pens and fish cages biased to finance and export capital at the expense of Filipino fisherfolk, the local environment and national patrimony.

3. The law is extremely biased to big business. Commercial fishing vessels are allowed to enter even in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters which are reserved to small fishermen. Large scale aquaculture activities are also set up in the 15-km municipal fishing waters further delimiting access of small fisherfolk to the marine resources reserved to them within the municipal fishing water territories.

4. The proliferation of fish sanctuaries all over the country was not meant for marine environmental protection and resource regeneration but for profit motivated activities like eco-tourism. Fish sanctuaries have become synonymous with tourism and water-based rest and recreation activities.

5. The Fisheries Code of 1998 further reduced the scope and coverage of fishing activities among small fisherfolk. Ordinances such as zoning ordinance and color coding prevent fisherfolk from exercising their communal rights to the country’s archipelagic waters

6. RA 8550 is not a fisherfolk empowerment piece of legislation. It is actually a money making scheme. Since 1998, fisherfolk caught for minor offenses in violations of the 12-year fisheries law are fined with exorbitant fees ranging from P 1,500 to a high of P 60,000 per offense, while big players in the industry which committed high crimes in fisheries managed to escape by bribing officials and law enforcers all over the country.

Pamalakaya also noted that the Fisheries code of 1998 also failed to uphold the country’s national sovereignty and patrimony. The militant group said the fisheries law was never ranged nor cited in the country’s negotiations of various government treaties entered by the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Pamalakaya said RA 8550 was never referred during the Arroyo government’s negotiations on the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) and the recently concluded RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), where a number of provisions have something to do with production and mobilization of fishery resources.

The militant group also said RA 8550 was never treated as reference in allowing foreign companies to conduct offshore mining activities in the country referring to the oil and gas hunts in Tanon Strait in Cebu and Bohol, in Cebu-Bohol Strait, in Palawan and Spratly areas and recently ExxonMobil’s one hundred million offshore stunt in Sulu Sea.

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Obama told to stop Exxon oil hunt in Manila

By Sarsi Pimentel, Pepsi Laloma and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday asked US President Barack Obama to extend his order to suspend all offshore mining activities in American territorial waters to foreign waters like Sulu where ExxonMobil is currently undertaking a $ 110-million oil and gas exploration.

Obama recently suspended all offshore mining activities following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill where 20 million gallons are now estimated to have leaked since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and sank, killing 11 workers. Since the spill started, an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude have leaked into the Gulf each day, which environmentalists described as worst environmental disaster in US history.

The massive oil spill in Gulf of Mexico prompted US lawmakers to file a bill demanding a permanent ban on all offshore drilling across the United States. At least 6 Democrat senators — Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington sponsored the controversial measure.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap advised Obama to also issue an executive order calling ExxonMobil and other US-owned offshore mining companies doing oil and gas explorations abroad to call off explorations following the BP oil spill.

“Mr. Obama can issue an order calling ExxonMobil to back out from its oil and gas expedition off Sulu Sea. The White House current occupant can issue black and white order commanding ExxonMobil to back off from its oil deal with the Philippine government,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap said his group was apprehensive of the project’s impact on the livelihoods of fishing communities in Palawan, Western Visayas, Zamboanga peninsula and Sulu archipelago.

Pamalakaya said the Sulu Sea, in the southwest Philippines, connects the South China Sea and the Celebes Sea and is considered to be on the route of tuna and other schools of fish leaving or going to the Pacific Ocean.

The militant group claimed that the approval of the ExxonMobil exploration deal was “just a preview of the forthcoming RP-US Free Trade Agreement, which the incoming presidency of leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy”Aquino III is expected to yield to the Obama administration in recognition of the US top officials support to Aquino before , during and after the May 10 presidential elections.

Pamalakaya theorized ExxonMobil, a major world player, would not go to a country where the potential is not great. The militant group recalled that ExxonMobil officials US oil firm officials led by Stephen Greenlee said the plan to explore for oil and gas in Sulu was a big deal for the company, and that ExxonMobil was encouraged by preliminary seismic data on the potential of oil and gas reserves in the Sulu Sea.

Aside from ExxonMobil, Pamalakaya said Australian mining firm NorAsia was also reportedly set to conduct oil explorations in the Cebu-Bohol Strait, while Dutch-owned Premium Oil will also launch offshore explorations in the Ragay Gulf of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Quezon . #

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Aquino pressed to review Manila-Tokyo trade deal

By Gerry Albert Corpuz in Manila, Philippines and Tomada Sakaguchi in Tokyo City, Japan

Via-PLDT-The leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to immediately review the controversial Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement(Jpepa) which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 2008.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap the review and possible abrogation of the bilateral trade pact between the Philippines and Japan could happen in the first 100 days of the Aquino administration.

“This is a make or break for Aquino and his Yellow Republic. We are giving him 100 days to serve the death sentence to this one-sided agreement whose only claim to fame is the awarding of 30 caregiving jobs to 30 Filipino nurses in 2009,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said the Japanese government and the Japanese corporations are engaged in indirect bribe to ensure the incoming Aquino administration will continue to uphold and support the anti-Filipino economic and partnership treaty.

Citing a recent report of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Hicap said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) recently renewed its offer to provide at least $ 700 million in aid to the Aquino administration.

NEDA said the JICA country assistance to the Philippines is meant for the country to achieve its next Medium Term Philippine Development Plan that involves support programs and projects in the areas of capacity building, operation and maintenance and climate change. But Pamalakaya’s Hicap said the money was meant to fast track the implementation of Jpepa.

“This seven hundred million US dollar economic aid to RP is part of the pro-Jpepa offensive of Japan. If this is not a direct or indirect bribe, then what is it? A charity work from Japanese corporate syndicates? We don’t think so,” Hicap added.

According to Pamalakaya, a single 3,000-gross ton Japanese factory ship is capable of harvesting 50,000 metric tons of tuna a year or 150 metric tons of tuna per day. Based on industry standards, a single factory ship could earn as much as $32.5 million in gross profitsfrom the sale of skipjack tuna.

Pamalakaya said the bulk of the profit will come from the remaining 35 percent of the 50,000metric ton tuna catch, which is $210 million. “A single medium size factory ship thus will earn $242.5 million a year, and since Japan at the very least, employs four factory ships in its regular tuna fishing expedition per country, we expect them to earn a total of $ 970 million or P43.5 B per year,” the group said.

At present the local tuna industry yearly produces 400,000 metric tons of tuna, with 15 percent of the production going to domestic market and 85 percent for exports.

The European Union accounts for 40 percent of the country’s fresh and canned tuna exports or roughly 64,000 metric tons per year. The rest of the exports are shipped to tuna markets of Japan and the United States.

Pamalakaya recalled that during the Senate deliberation of Jpepa, Sen. Aquino voted against the controversial treaty. The group said Aquino can challenge anew the treaty by calling the Philippine Senate to review Jpepa and compel the 23-member of the August chamber to recall its ratification in 2008. #

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Fishers say DQ case vs. Yap will reach SC

By Manila Legarda and Bb. Tayuman Recto-Yap

MANILA, Philippines-

Pamalakaya activists accused former agri chief Arthur Yap of pocketing P 455 million in taxpayers money over purchase of 98 ice-making machine

The current legal battle involving the disqualification case filed by the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) may soon reach the Supreme Court according to petitioners Fernando Hicap and Salvador France, chair and vice chairperson of the activist fishermen group.

“Definitely we will challenge the decision of the Commission on Elections before the highest court of the land. The fight against unlawful and immoral claim of Mr. Yap to represent the third congressional district of Bohol will be vigorously pursued in any appropriate court, in the parliament of the streets and in the court of public opinion. There’s no turning back,” the Pamalakaya leaders said in a joint statement.

Hicap and France, the petitioners to the Supreme Court move will be presided by the filing of motion for reconsideration before the Comelec, and if the poll body rejected the motion, they will elevate the case before the high tribunal for proper legal disposal of the disqualification case.

“It is going to be lifetime nightmare for Secretary Yap unless this most favored Cabinet member of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo atone for his political, legal and moral follies and pay for his crimes against the Filipino public,” the Pamalakaya leaders said.

Pamalakaya is now preparing a people’s petition urging senators and congressmen of incoming Congress to investigate Yap on charges of big time corruption in the Department of Agriculture under his watch as secretary of the department.

“It is going to be addressed to the next Senate President and House Speaker of the House of Representatives. Imagine, Secretary Yap, the congressman of Bohol third district is being called to answer charges of top notch crimes of corruption,” the group said.

On January 6, Pamalakaya filed a plunder case against Sec. Yap and President Arroyo in connection with the P 455 million ice making fund scam, which the group said was overpriced by 100 percent per unit. Pamalakaya said Yap and other officials of National Agribusiness Council (NABCOR) should also be investigated on the P 7.14 billion which the Commission on Audit (COA) cited in its’ 2008 report was missing, diverted or bungled.

The Second Division of Comelec last week junked the disqualification case filed by the group.

Pamalakaya received a copy of the 10-page resolution penned by Comelec second division presiding Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer and members Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph dated May 13, 2010 denying the instant petition for disqualification of Yap.

“After thorough examination of the proofs presented by both parties, we are convinced that Respondent Yap has met such requirement. The term “residence” is to be understood not in the common acceptation as referring to “dwelling” or “habitation” but rather to “domicile” or legal residence, that is, “the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and remain,” the Comelec second division said.

The poll body further said: “It has been established that the domicile of origin of the respondent is in Metro Manila. When respondent Yap decided to make Loboc, Bohol as his residence, such a decision did not begin and end by his intimation to Judge Fernandez of his intention. In 2007, Yap was laying the groundwork for his transfer to the said municipality.”

The Comelec said Yap visited local government officials and neighboring towns whenever his regular visits to the place permitted him. The election body said Yap’s intention was made clearer when he finally purchased the house of his mother-in-law in Barangay Buenavista in Loboc, Bohol.

“Although property ownership is not an indicia of domicile, the fact that the respondent bought the property wherein he resides adds to his foothold to the municipality. His attendance in barangay assemblies as member of barangay is indicative of his desire to integrate himself in the community,” the poll body added.

The Comelec noted that Yap’s contributions in the community were recognized when he was conferred the title “adopted son of Loboc, Bohol by way of Resolution No. 131 adopted on October 24, 2005. The commissioners said the law does not state that in abandoning his domicile, the candidate must divest any and all of his properties and interest attached to his previous domicile.

“His electoral victory is a product of political horse trading, highly questionable and totally ridiculous. We will explore all legal remedies to stop Sec. Yap from misrepresenting the third district of Bohol and use his illegally acquired position to get away with high crimes of corruption he committed during his tenure as chief of the agriculture department,” Pamalakaya said. #

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Poll body junked DQ case vs. Yap

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Joyce Cabral and Billy Javier Reyes

MANILA, Philippines- The Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has junked the disqualification case filed by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Pamalakaya received a copy of the 10-page resolution penned by Comelec second division presiding Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph dated May 13, 2010 denying the instant petition for disqualification of Yap.

“After thorough examination of the proofs presented by both parties, we are convinced that Respondent Yap has met such requirement. The term “residence” is to be understood not in the common acceptation as referring to “dwelling” or “habitation” but rather to “domicile” or legal residence, that is, “the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and remain,” the Comelec second division said.

The poll body further said: “It has been established that the domicile of origin of the respondent is in Metro Manila. When respondent Yap decided to make Loboc, Bohol as his residence, such a decision did not begin and end by his intimation to Judge Fernandez of his intention. In 2007, Yap was laying the groundwork for his transfer to the said municipality.”

The Comelec said Yap visited local government officials and neighboring towns whenever his regular visits to the place permitted him. The election body said Yap’s intention was made clearer when he finally purchased the house of his mother-in-law in Barangay Buenavista in Loboc, Bohol.

“Although property ownership is not an indicia of domicile, the fact that the respondent bought the property wherein he resides adds to his foothold to the municipality. His attendance in barangay assemblies as member of barangay is indicative of his desire to integrate himself in the community,” the poll body added.

The Comelec noted that Yap’s contributions in the community were recognized when he was conferred the title “adopted son of Loboc, Bohol by way of Resolution No. 131 adopted on October 24, 2005. The commissioners said the law does not state that in abandoning his domicile, the candidate must divest any and all of his properties and interest attached to his previous domicile.

“We must take note of the fact that prior to his running for a House seat; he was the secretary of agriculture serving as alter ego of the President. Close proximity to Malacanang entails regular visits to the Metropolis. To maintain properties in furtherance of his profession could not be seen as an indication of non-abandonment of his previous domicile as held in Fernandez vs. HRET case,” the Comelec asserted.

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya-vice chairperson Salvador France, both petitioners in the disqualification case said the fight for the disqualification of Sec. Yap is far from over, and in fact’ the protracted fight against the removal of the former agriculture secretary from public office has officially started.

“The junking of our disqualification case against Secretary Yap is highly predictable from the very start. It is not surprising to us that Comelec had junked our case against Yap. It will be a major surprise of the election season if Comelec decided on our favor,” the two Pamalakaya leaders said.

However, Hicap and France said they would ask their lawyer on what would be the next legal action to be taken in connection with the Comelec decision. They said a motion for reconsideration may be filed before the Comelec or they may bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

“We see the junking of the disqualification case against Yap as an opportunity rather than a tragic defeat. The venues for the all out exposition of and opposition to secretary Yap as a power hungry and opportunist bureaucrat capitalist and corrupt public official will further go places including but not limited to Comelec and other appropriate courts,” the Pamalakaya officials added.

Pamalakaya said it will explore all available legal remedies to stop Yap’s illegal and immoral claim to represent the people of Bohol in the third district.

“His electoral victory is a product of political horse trading, highly questionable and totally ridiculous. We will explore all legal remedies to stop Sec. Yap from misrepresenting the third district of Bohol and use his illegally acquired position to get away with high crimes of corruption he committed during his tenure as chief of the agriculture department,” the group said.

Prior to the May 13 decision of the poll body, the lawyers of Sec. Yap said the poll body should immediately dismiss the disqualification case filed by Pamalakaya on March 9, saying that their client was able to garner 126,390 votes out of 173,539 total votes cast. According to Yap’s lawyers, this represents 72.8 percent of the total votes cast or an overwhelming majority.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sinaca vs. Mula (G.R No. 135691, September 27, 1999, 315 SCRA 266,282), Yap’s legal counsel asserted that when a candidate has perceived popular mandate overwhelmingly and clearly expressed, all possible doubts should be resolved in favor of the candidate’s eligibility for to rule otherwise is to defeat the will of the people. Ex-sec. Yap lawyers said, the determination of the true will of the electorate should be paramount, and that the voice of the people should prevail which is the essence of democracy.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya will send appeal letters to incoming congressmen and senators to investigate cases of corruption involving Sec. Yap particularly the P 455 million overpriced ice-making machines. The militant group said they will also ask the new congress under the Aquino presidency to investigate the unchecked operations of the National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor), an attached agency of DA which is implicated the questionable importation of 98 quick freezing machines.

On top of the P 455 million ice making fund scam, Pamalakaya said Yap and other NABCOR officials should also be investigated on the P 7.14 billion which the Commission on Audit (COA) cited in its’ 2008 report was missing, diverted or bungled. #

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Yap takes 126 K out of 173K votes, but fishers group refuses to give up DQ case

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Trinity Biglang Awa

MANILA, Philippines-Controversial former agriculture secretary and unopposed congressional candidate in Bohol’s third district Arthur Yap has accumulated 126,390 votes out of 173,539 total votes cast and appeared shoo-in for the elective post.

However, Yap’s nemesis—the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), that filed a disqualification case against the former agriculture secretary on the question of residency refused to give up, stressing it will explore all available legal remedies to stop Yap’s illegal and immoral claim to represent the people of Bohol in the third district.

“His electoral victory is a product of political horse trading, highly questionable and totally ridiculous. We will explore all legal remedies to stop Sec. Yap from misrepresenting the third district of Bohol and use his illegally acquired position to get away with high crimes of corruption he committed during his tenure as chief of the agriculture department,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap, one of the petitioners in the disqualification case against Yap.

In the latest manifestation submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the lawyers of Sec. Yap said the poll body should immediately dismiss the disqualification case filed by Pamalakaya on March 9, saying that their client was able to garner 126,390 votes out of 173,539 total votes cast. According to Yap’s lawyers, this represents 72.8 percent of the total votes cast or an overwhelming majority.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Sinaca vs. Mula (G.R No. 135691, September 27, 1999, 315 SCRA 266,282), Yap’s legal counsel asserted that when a candidate has perceived popular mandate overwhelmingly and clearly expressed, all possible doubts should be resolved in favor of the candidate’s eligibility for to rule otherwise is to defeat the will of the people.

Ex-sec. Yap lawyers said, the determination of the true will of the electorate should be paramount, and that the voice of the people should prevail which is the essence of democracy.

Meanwhile, Hicap assailed Comelec Chairman Jose Melo over the latter’s continuing snub of the disqualification case they filed against Sec. Yap. The Pamalakaya official said the poll body has yet to tackle the disqualification case filed by his group two months before the May 10 elections.

“But Chairman Melo and the rest of the commissioners did not perform their assignment and constitutional mandate. They allowed Yap to run while there is an urgent case waiting for their final resolution ahead of the May 10 polls. This is terrible, really terrible,” the group sad.

“It seems to us Chairman Melo is afraid of Secretary Yap because the former agriculture secretary is no ordinary person for the poll chief and taking up Yap’s case is like entertaining a major fight with Malacanang and Yap’s political benefactors in and out of Malacanang,” said Pamalakaya.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya will send appeal letters to incoming congressmen to investigate cases of corruption involving Sec. Yap particularly the P 455 million overpriced ice-making machines. The militant group said they will also ask the new congress under the Aquino presidency to investigate the unchecked operations of the National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor), an attached agency of DA which is implicated the questionable importation of 98 quick freezing machines.

On top of the P 455 million ice making fund scam, Pamalakaya said Yap and other NABCOR officials should also be investigated on the
P 7.14 billion which the Commission on Audit (COA) cited in its’ 2008 report was missing, diverted or bungled.

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