Tag Archives: typhoon Pepeng

Rural groups cry foodless on World Food Day

By Roy Morilla, Gigi Babon and Gerry Albert Corpuz

Quezon City, Philippines—Four of the biggest rural based organizations in the country–the farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the Amihan peasant women federation on Friday declared “World Foodless Day” as the global people celebrate World Food Day.

The World Food Day is celebrated every October 16 after the United Nations (UN) established the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO)on the same day in 1981 or 28 years ago.

In a rally held at the Department of Agriculture, farmers and fisherfolk activists, KMP and allied groups said lack of food and hunger among food producers in the country has been a running nightmare among peasants and rural people all over the country.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said landlessness is the principal reason why farmers and rural producers remain poor and hungry and injustice continues to thrive in every farming and fishing area across the country.

“Today is supposed to be 28th year of UN’s World Food Day. But there’s nothing to celebrate. In fact, our problems were further exacerbated by state sponsored calamities and disasters in partnership with their foreign clients,” added Ramos.

The KMP official was referring to the storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng and the mass flooding in Cordillera and Northern Luzon provinces, the Central Luzon and Southern Luzon region, including the current sorry state of Laguna Lake.

For his part, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap dared UNFAO officials to come to the country and investigate the government and big business destruction of major food baskets and food resources across the archipelago.

“It is high time for UNFAO to send its people to investigate the Philippine government and crimes of their transnational clients to the Filipino people. The request for UNFAO to dispatch a probe team to look into the serious food problem in the country is long overdue,” added Hicap.

KMP said the food problem was worsened by the two successive typhoons that recently hit the country. The peasant group said storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng already brought damage to agriculture and fisheries amounting to P 13.2 buillion, resulted to the death of 632 farmers and rural people and destroyed 140,156 houses in the countryside.

In the same vein, Pamalakaya complained that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is only interested in rehabilitating destroyed fishpens and bangus farms in Pangasinan and other parts of Western and Central Luzon, and agriculture secretary Arthur Yap did no mention of any help or assistance to small fishermen affected by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

Secretary Yap will allocate P 2,500 per hectare for tilapia fishponds at 50 centavos per fingerling and P 1,750 per hectare for bangus farms at 35 centavos per fingerling, but he is silent to the legitimate demand of small fisherfolk for relief and rehabilitation.

An average of P 2,125 per hectare for 8,356 hectares of damage fishery areas, restocking could reach P 17.7 million. According to DA Central Action Center chief Maritess Bernardo some 5,000 tilapia fingerlings and bangus fries will be provided to affected fishponds and bangus farms in Central Luzon. Again there was no mention of small fisherfolk in the rehabilitation blue print of the agency.

“We are totally abandoned and neglected by Sec.Yap and his principal in Malacanang. We are the main fish producers in this country, but nothing is being planned to keep us maintain the wheel of production,” Pamalakaya added.

The estimated cost of rehabilitating damaged aquaculture farms in Central Luzon is part of the P 682 million fund earmarked by the agriculture department to repair damages to agriculture and fisheries caused by typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.

On July, 2008, in the aftermath of typhoon Frank, our group submitted a proposal to DA and to the the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to accomodate the demand of the small fisherfolk for relief and production subsidies to small fisherfolk. A petition letter urging these agencies to set aside production subsidy of P 5,000 per fisherman who owns and operates a small motorized banca, while those operating non-motorized boat should at least receive P 2,500 per person was coursed to Secretary Yap’s office.

“This is to ensure that small fisherfolk can continue to operate and provide the fish needs of population. eighty percent of the proposed production subsidies will go to procurement of gasoline and fixing of damaged boats and fishery tools. But this demand remains in oblivion”, said Pamalakaya.

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Think tank to PGMA: Cancel debt payment to free up funds for calamity relief

By Billy Javier Reyes, Bb. Joyce Cabral,Gerry Albert Corpuz and Viva Regala-Alonzo

Manila, Philippines–The independent think tank and research group IBON on Thursday urged the Macapagal-Arroyo government to cancel debt payments and free up resources for relief and rehabilitation, instead of seeking financial loans from foreign donors.

In a press statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, IBON senior researcher and economic expert Sonny Africa said the environmental shifts mean that extreme weather events will become more frequent and there must be much greater investments in the country’s disaster preparedness.”

“Extreme weather conditions are beyond government’s control, debt payments are not,” he added. “It is the height of insensitivity of the country’s leaders if they dogmatically insist on repaying debt in the face of the multiple crises facing the country,” Africa explained.

IBON’s Africa said the Arroyo administration paid P1.52 trillion in foreign debt service, interest and principal, from 2001-2008. It is scheduled to pay a further P224 billion in 2009 and P253.5 billion in 2010. In contrast, the programmed calamity fund for 2009 and 2010 were just P2 billion annually.

This unceasing debt service, according to IBON, is undermining the government’s capacity not just to prepare for disasters, give relief and support rehabilitation after calamities, but also to meet the people’s basic needs for health, education and housing—which could have ensured their adaptability to extreme weather changes and resilience to calamities.

IBON asserted that the government has a range of options for debt cancellation, said Africa . It can start from identifying a target overall percentage of debt stock and corresponding payments to cancel. It can identify particularly loans such as any still left over from the Marco s dictatorship or others funding particularly onerous or anti-developmental projects.

The research advocacy and polling group likewise stressed that government can prioritize loans from multilateral development banks such as the World Bank or Asian Development Bank which, unlike commercial creditors, purportedly extend loans for developmental purposes.

IBON said: “The drastic economic slowdown especially with the onset of the global crisis, the looming fiscal crisis with deficits rising rapidly and now the calamities due to tropical storms Ondoy and Pepeng are enough justification to call for emergency cutbacks in foreign debt payments. More than trickles of foreign aid, debt cancellation would free up resources for relief and rehabilitation and for overall economic development”.

“This is an opportunity for the government to exert political will and cease being a mendicant in its dealings with foreign governments and creditors,” said Africa . “We Filipinos are fully capable of helping ourselves if only the government stops its self-destructive debt policy”, it added..

IBON reiterates successive governments including the Arroyo administration have vigorously opposed any debt moratorium, cancellation or repudiation on the grounds of protecting creditworthiness. However, this long-standing lack of vision in the government’s debt management policy has proven to be extremely burdensome for the people.

The position of IBON on debt cancelation was supported by the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

It pressed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately stop paying the country’s debts to foreign and domestic creditors and re-channel the annual budget to debt servicing to massive relief and reconstruction efforts of all areas devastated by storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng from South to North of Luzon.

“Immediately suspending debt payment and by re-channeling these funds for all-out relief and reconstruction will definitely make sense, but our problem here is Mrs. Arroyo who has no sense of genuine public service, lacks political will and undeniably defiant in correcting fatal mistakes,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said if the government will stop paying these debt burdens at the maximum or impose debt moratorium for a significant number of years at the minimum to rebuild the country it would be able to make a big difference for Filipino public, especially those affected by Ondoy and Pepeng.

Hicap said the government has been honoring fraudulent debts at an average of P 450 billion per year or almost 33 percent of the annual national budget.

“Imagine the big push this amount would bring only if this government knows its priorities and has this great sense of serving people. But this government is the partner in crime of transnational interests whose business escapades and super profiteering ideology is behind this humanitarian crisis and across-the-nation corporate-driven calamities,” he stressed.

Pamalakaya rejected the proposal of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda for the government to seek at least $ 1 billion in foreign grants and concessional loans to be administered by a special reconstruction commission composed of the government, big business and civil society group.

Salceda, the former economic manager of the Arroyo administration said it is time for the government to admit that it needs help in a big way beyond the exigency of disaster response, saying the country can no longer opt to raise taxes or slash other priorities. The Albay Gov. said the country needs new external resources to address the situation.

Under Salceda’s proposed 1 billion US dollar aid, the government would cover the estimated P 46 billion in damage wrought by Ondoy, P 12 billion by Pepeng and P 7 billion by typhoon Frank that devastated Panay island last year.

The proposal also covers P 20 billion for relocation, P 21 billion for infrastructure rehabilitation and P 5 billion for livelihood . But Pamalakaya said if the government suspends if not erases its debt servicing policy and budget allocations for such purpose, the country can afford to finance rural and reconstruction projects, including a comprehensive disaster management programs all over the country. #

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Expert wants San Roque dam operators, gov’t held accountable for Northern Luzon disaster

Expert wants San Roque dam operators, gov’t held accountable for Northern Luzon disaster

by Viva Regala-Alonzo.

Manila, Philippines- University of the Philippines (UP)-based expert and scientist Dr. Giovanni Tapang said the Philippine government, including private groups and operators of San Roque Dam in Pangasinan province should be held accountable for the massive flooding in the province and other parts of Northern Luzon.

Tapang and scores of scientists, environmentalists and social activists presented a study on the structural and managerial flaws of San Roque dam, that caused the severe flooding in several areas in Northern Luzon.

They also accounted for the country’s continuing disasters and the Arroyo government’s failure to provide a comprehensive, effective and adequate disaster response and prevention plan.

“The dams, particularly San Roque Dam, are supposedly designed and used to control floods. However, the floodings these infrastructures have brought us prove that they were not really designed for that function. These dams just brought profits for its proponents and more harm than benefit to the people,” said Tapang.

According to Dr. Tapang, the most devastated provinces of typhoon Pepeng are Pangasinan and Benguet provinces, as these are the areas where the large dams, that worsened the flooding, are situated. “Pangasinan is the catch basin of water coming from the series of large dams in the Agno River.

“Massive flooding in Pangasinan is caused and aggravated by the release of voluminous water from these dams,” explained Dr. Tapang.

Tapang asserted the three dams located along the Agno River are the Ambuklao Dam, Binga Dam and San Roque Dam. Based on National Power Corporation report a total maximum 6,000 cubic meters per second were being released by three dams as October 9 and is still continuing to release water today.

“The operators and owner of the dams should be held accountable. They have allowed the water to reach dangerously high levels and not acted on it sooner. Instead of releasing the waters earlier, gradually and in lesser volumes, they did it suddenly without adequate warning to the communities,” said Dr. Tapang.

Tapang theorized that the operators are probably thinking more of generating power and profits, they most likely have kept the water level as high as possible and have have not placed primary importance to their duty to give attention to the safety of the nearby communities.

San Roque Dam is the biggest of the three dams and designed as to produce energy, supply water and control flood. It is supposed to have a flood maximum design of 13,000 cubic centimetre or equivalent to floods occurring every 10,000 years. Despite protest in local and international level, San Roque Multi-Purpose Dam was approved in 1998. The dam construction was completed in March 2003 and became operational in May.

“If the dams were designed for flood control, then there should have been an alarm system in place or a protocol to warn the agencies and communities of impending disaster. However, the testimonies of the victims and the calamity that has occurred prove that the system was ineffective, if there was any,” he added.

“Communities and areas near large dam usually experience increase in frequency and more damages from flooding than other areas which are far from dams. After San Roque Dam operated in May 2003, 90% of Pangasinan were submerged in water in September 2004 and after that local communities frequently experienced flooding whenever there is a typhoon,” expressed Tapang.

“The extent of devastation that was caused by the presence of the dams and the deliberate disregard of the operators and owners to the communities in the area calls should lead to the decommisioning of the dams. Because as long as the dams remain, it is likely that the similar tragedies will occur in the future as it has done so in the past,” called Dr. Tapang.

For his part, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) said the proponents of the dam itself, headed by the government should also answer to the millions of victims that were affected by the floods.

“The hundreds of lives lost, millions of families affected and billions of pesos worth of damages show the absence of planning and infrastructure of the government to address disasters. President Arroyo and the National Disaster Coordinating Council have blamed mother nature and climate change, the unprecedented rainfall, squatters, garbage and lack of budget but will not admit its fault and ineptness in handling and preventing the disasters,” claimed Bautista.

“In addition, to lack of disaster preparedness, the Arroyo government still pursues policies and destructive projects such as large-scale mining and large dams that destroy our environment and make communities more vulnerable and at higher risk to floods, landslides and other disasters,” cited Bautista.

“Again, we appeal to our countrymen and the international community to extend the bayanihan spirit that we exhibited in the face of disasters, in addition to joining relief operations, we should link arms to demand and push for a government that will perform its mandate to truly serve, protect and answer to the needs of the people and denounce the current one who only aggravates the suffering of our people, “ ended Bautista.

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Militant senatoriable calls for debt moratorium

Militant senatoriable calls for debt moratorium

By Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines- Makabayan party senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo urged the Philippine government to suspend payments, both interest and principal, on the Philippines’ foreign debt and instead use the funds for disaster response measures.

In a press statement sent to the Pamalakaya Times, Ocampo asked his colleagues in the House of Representatives to support mounting calls for a moratorium on debt servicing for the next three to six years or until the country recovers from the series of disasters that have befallen it.

“It would be the height of insensitivity and callousness if the government continues to allocate billions towards debt servicing when the Filipino people are in desperate need for relief. It will take years to rehabilitate the damaged areas, and it is certain that it will take much longer for the Filipinos severely affected by the calamities to get back on their feet and recover physically, emotionally and psychologically. It is also the state’s duty to ensure that the welfare of the victims is looked after, and their homes and communities are rebuilt and improved,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo, also the Deputy Minority Leader of the Lower Chamber of Congress, said that now is not the time for the government to prioritize foreign debt servicing.

The activist party list lawmaker asserted that now, more than ever, it is necessary to scrutinize and then overhaul the government’s budgetary priorities as it puts more importance to debt payments over social and productive spending.

The Makabayan senatorial candidate noted that as of October 2007, the country’s foreign debt was P1.589 trillion, or US$39 billion, according to the Bureau of the Treasury. More than 30 percent of the national budget for 2008 was allocated to interest payments.

“Pres. Arroyo should do all that is in her power as executive to seek help for the Philippines and the victims of Pepeng and Ondoy; and she can start by notifying the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other international finance institutions that the Philippines will be suspending debt payments immediately,” Ocampo said.

The Bayan Muna lawmaker noted that from 2003 to 2007, for instance, the Philippines’ foreign debt repayments amounted to some 1000 billion pesos. Do the math and consider how that money could have been used to improve the country’s disaster response capabilities. Funds being earmarked for dept payments for 2010 until 2016 should be utilized now for the relief operations and rehabilitation campaigns.

He said the victims in the evacuation centers and in the devastated areas can be given much more than instant noodles and canned good; soup kitchens can be put up and the victims can be served nourishing meals. Medicine and vitamin supplements can also be brought and distributed free, and sanitation facilities can be built,” Ocampo pointed out.

Ocampo said that an immediate moratorium on debt servicing will also allow the purchase of necessary technologically up-to-date weather forecasting equipment.

” Scientific, efficient and reliable weather forecasting and broadcasting equipment is an important service that will save lives and help reduce the potential damage to infrastructure,” he said.

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SC chief Justice Puno urged to lead proposed national inquiry on Ondoy and Pepeng

SC chief Justice Puno urged to lead proposed national inquiry on Ondoy and Pepeng

By Billy Javier Reyes and Maria Stella Recuerdo del Carriedo

Manila, Philippines-Leftwing activists identified with the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday said a independent investigating body should be formed to find out the roots of the humanitarian crisis and all-out disaster caused by tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the probe body, which his group proposed should be headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, and shall be composed of representatives from the Philippine Senate, the House of Representatives, environmental groups and experts, people’s organizations, the church community represented by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)and the protestant National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

“The proposed national indepent inquiry should be deputized by the Senate and the House of Representatives in aid of legislation,” the Pamalakaya leader said. According to Hicap, the results of the national inquiry shall be presented to the Filipino public.

Hicap said the inquiry can focus on the impact of large-scale mining and logging operations and other mega infrastructure activities in Bicol Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and other parts of Northern Luzon, the operations of major dams and lakes in Luzon island like the San Roque Dam, Angat Dam, Pantabangan Dam, Caliraya Dam, Laguna Lake, as well as Manila Bay to mention a few.

“This national inquiry is necessary move. Malacanang should not prevent or spoil it and let it happen in accordance with national interest and collective will of the Filipino people,” said Hicap.

Pamalakaya criticized moves of Malacanang and the Department of National Defense(DND)requesting the US embassy in Manila to re-deploy US troops in calamity stricken areas in Northern Luzon due to typhoon Pepeng.

Aside from US troops re-deployment Malacanang and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro had also asked the US embassy to deploy its amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry to help rescue residents isolated by the heavy flooding in Pangasinan province.

“President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Teodoro are white elephants and hopeless puppets of the United States. They are hopeless cases. Instead of agitating the Filipino people and relying on their collective strength and political determination, Mrs. Arroyo and her presidential wannabe played their true-to-life puppet card to the hilt. This is a preview of what kind of presidency we have under Teodoro’s command in case he is elected as president,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said the gestures displayed by Mrs. Arroyo and Sec. Teodoro in seeking US help were overwhelmingly irrational and grossly insulting to the collective intelligence and political determination of the Filipino people.

“Instead of rallying the Filipinos to rise above the occasion and ask for their tested collective action, Mrs. Arroyo and Secretary Teodoro begged the US government for help and made our Filipinos appeared like hopeless people and or a nation of people under an across-the-country state of paranoia,” the group said.

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