I am against oil palm plantations in Davao Oriental!

The title of this post somewhat summarizes what I am feeling right now. Just a caution, this post is kinda fired up. 

Recent news articles said that the government, as part of its investment plan in Mindanao, reveals thousands of hectares of lands suitable for oil palm. The exact figure is 900,000 hectares as potential and 177,000 hectares is under negotiation already. 

Well, it is a given fact that Mindanao is the country’s agribusiness hub with the numerous plantations of banana, pineapple and slowly increasing, the oil palm in many parts of Mindanao. Thus, majority of agricultural exports comes from Mindanao notably the coconut oil and banana. 

However, among those dollar-earning exports, the least developed and supported is the coconut industry. Referred to as “sunset industry” and despite coconut oil being the top export earner, most poorest provinces are coconut-producing. Many factors are enumerated such as limited support to farmers, producing only a single product which is copra (later on processed to coconut oil), century-old land sharing arrangement between landowners and tenants, among others. Check with AFRIM for many studies conducted on coconut industry and oil palm plantations. 

I may not have the exact data for what I claimed in previous paragraphs but what really strike me hard was the news report of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan eyeing Davao Oriental for oil palm plantations. His company with an international oil company he co-owned is actually entering my province, the top coconut-producing province which suffered Pablo’s wrath last December! Based on the news report, his company is assessing around 30,000 hectares. That is 30,000 football fields, if one find it hard to imagine how vast it is (thanks to a colleague for point it out to me yesterday). 

To steer clear why I am anti-oil palm plantations in my province, here are my points.

1) Oil palm plantations are monocrop – that is planting only oil palm (only one crop) in hundreds of hectares. Nothing except grasses and other shrubs can grow underneath. Other food crops like root crops, vegetables, fruit trees and others have low survival rate in this type of land. 

2) Oil palm will replace our beloved coconut trees! This is what I feared the most. With the devastation brought by Pablo in east coast municipalities of Davao Oriental, I am afraid that the government move will be replacing coconut lands with oil palm plantations instead of replanting coconut trees. Imagine the landscape of these coastal communities where coconut is so productive due to proximity to salty ocean which serves as its natural fertilizer will be replaced with those ugly oil palm trees (yes, I am getting personal). 

3) No alternative livelihood for farmers. To make my point clear, a coconut farmer in Davao Oriental, while waiting for harvest time in three months’ time, maintains either a rice field, vegetable gardens, or an orchard. With oil palm plantations, farmers’ options are limited to labor work only. Okay, I am open for discussion if someone will tell me what will be the farmers’ alternatives. 

4) Oil palm plantations simply cannot match eco-tourism. Davao Oriental boasts its pristine beaches, waterfalls, mountains and other natural sights to behold. Just imagine if you’re off to visit Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel and getting there, you’ll pass by tracks of lands planted with only one crop: oil palm. Will it be a feast of sight for your eyes? Most tourists love to dwell with nature (like hiking into a mountain with forest shade protecting you from the sun) but a huge plantation like that is simply not a nature, right? 

5) Oil palm will cause deforestation. The ongoing campaign of Greenpeace in palm oil issue in Indonesia will certainly give us a point or two to ponder. Do we want our Mindanao to be the next Malaysia and Indonesia? Or more specifically, do I want the surviving forest of Davao Oriental to suffer more? Our hands area already full with reports of illegal logging and mining applications in the province. Pablo provides us with hard core evidence of how rampant illegal logging is. Why should we allow another potential nightmare to haunt us more? 

At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, our local officials has the final say on this issue. For my part, what I can do is to inform our neighbors back home the ugly side of oil palm plantations. Yes, promises of instant fortune will be offered and yes, accepted. But I still believe that if only coconut industry will be supported to maximize its full potential, that promised fortune will be delivered, double-fold. 

Here my personal advocacy continues. 

How punches of Mayor Sara Duterte landed to netizens?

When Mayor Sara Duterte punched a sheriff, a whole different story on Davao started. Sad ito say, her actions earned much attention than the flash floods three days ago.But for most Dabawenyos, her punches are commendable acts.

Many praises for Mayor Sara! 
Mayor Duterte FTW! IKAW ANG IDOL KO.
July 1, 2011
Mayor Inday Sara Duterte is Optimus Prime!
July 1, 2011
http://t.co/sRB2Srq IDOL!! Mayor Sara Duterte, you should run for PRESIDENT!!
July 1, 2011
Galinga our Mayor Sara Duterte oe.Idol! Khit sa tingin ng iba mali un for me she was just thinking about d best interest of d poor settlers.
July 1, 2011
@gmanews #TESTIGO mayor duterte – justifiable ginawa na. we salute u!!!
July 1, 2011
sheriff andres was just doing his job!now, does Mayor Duterte also desrve a punch for not listening 2 d public 2 stop mass killing in davao?
July 1, 2011
Dutertes in Davao, just the best! ☺
July 1, 2011
laveeettttt what mayor sara duterte did to that tokwang sheriff! ha ha ha ha ha ha!! sana dito ka na lang sa manila mag mayor!!
July 1, 2011
Mayor Sara Duterte is such a fierce lady! WOW.
July 1, 2011
Some are critical. 
Kawawang Sheriff ginawa nga lang naman nya trabaho nya. Ikaw talaga "Mayor Duterte". Ok ka lang teh???hehehe
July 1, 2011
Shocked at Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte punching a sheriff who was just serving a demolition order. Tama ba yun???
July 1, 2011
Finaly saw d sucker punch by mayor sara duterte..but i pity d sheriff..ive work before in a bank’s foreclosure unit..he’s just doin his job
July 1, 2011
Mayor Sara Duterte ..super barbaric mayor..the untouchables. DUTERtE family of DAVAO!!!
July 1, 2011
Mayor Sarah Duterte. The new face of bullying. #24Oras
July 1, 2011

But others are defensive. 

RT @KatDeCastro: Seriously, if you are not from Davao and have no idea what the Dutertes have done to our province, quit bashing. I speak from experience.
July 1, 2011
@bayanmo If Mayor Inday Sara gets suspended, magkakagulo sa amin. To non-Davao residents who are so critical, please, mind your own mayors.
July 1, 2011
If Mayor Inday Sara gets suspended,magkakagulo sa amin.To non-Davao residents who are so critical, please, MIND YOUR OWN MAYORS!(lol na lol)
July 1, 2011

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Peace workers acquire dialogue skills

Almost a month ago and on a rainy day, I met some 25 participants of the training on Reflective Dialogue. Nothing seems to dampen their readiness in learning new skills particularly in conducting peace dialogue.

The two-day training was organized by the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao as Local Resource Partner and part of deliverables for the Barangay Justice Peace Project (BJPP) of the Gerry Roxas Foundation funded by the United States of America for International Development (USAID).

The training for trainers on Reflective Peace Dialogue aimed to enhance participants’ knowledge, skills and confidence in developing their respective pool of trainers and facilitators who will organize and facilitate the barangay peace assemblies and its clusters. This brought peace workers together to learn and un-learn the basics on running a peace dialogue. More importantly, the participants were taught on probing questions and how to formulate them.

Dr. Gail Ilagan of Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) and head coordinator of Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services (COPERS) spearheaded the whole activity with the assistance of Dr. Nelly Limbanan and Dr. Eric Batican as coordinators of COPERS and both AdDU professors.

Among the conducted activities were inputs on facilitating versus training, lecture on peace dialogues and understanding adult learners. Each session had workshops to assess participants’ skill in applying the concepts. The first workshop dealt with formulating probing question using ORID (objective, reflective, interpretation, decisions) method. The next and final workshop provided participants the fresh take on making a dialogue flow for the actual conduct of peace assembly where techniques of reflective peace dialogues were applied.

During the workshops, one could see the confidence and excitement in each participants’ face as they had discussed local and indigenous way of conducting dialogue among erring parties. They also shared their plans on how to conduct peace assemblies.

At the end of the training, most participants appreciated the new skills they gained. They also shared that their learning were useful and practical especially in conducting the peace assemblies. During evaluation, one participant admired the facilitators for their “excellent presentation by their respective topic” while another is grateful since the training is “really a very timely activity, since Zamboanga Sibugay is very actively participating on the conduct of the BJPP”.

The training was held in Lantaka by the Sea Hotel in Zamboanga Cityfrom 24-25 May 2011. Similar training was conducted at Paradise IslandPark and Beach Resort just a week ago.

This article is also published at http://www.afrim.org.ph. 


Earth Hour

Tomorrow is another celebration of Earth Hour. For the past four or three years, our household consist of a sister, a niece and two dogs this year (plus five, as of latest count, adopted cats) observed by turning off our lights of one full hour. It started in Sydney in 2007 and by next year, many countries followed suit. I guess it was also the time we started this annual participation for a noble cause.

First and foremost, the activity is so simple. You just need to turn off lights (excluding appliances) for an hour. For the remaining hours of the year, you have your light.

But there’s more to it than switching off lights for one hour once a year. It’s all about giving people a voice and working together to create a better future for our planet.(http://www.earthhour.org/About.aspx)

Based on the previous activities, major companies like commercial buildings, malls, factories and many households participated. I even remember that the Mall of Asia, the Philippines’ biggest, was the central location of last year’s celebration. There are similar events in other parts of the country.

On a personal level, as we chatted away under the moonlight and Piper surveyed the gate during the Hour, our neighbors’ lights were on. They haven’t observed it as of last year. I guess limited information and campaign is the factor. So far, I haven’t seen (or maybe missed) any Earth Hour – related campaign or slogan showed in television or printed in newspaper. It could be I haven’t searched thoroughly yet. But tomorrow is the day and the awareness of  general public on Earth Hour hasn’t sinked in.

Though many critics may find it superficial as the planet’s deteriorations showed strong evidences lately, the effects of one hour is impressive. I feel that the responsibility of spreading the work is upon us, the loyal participant of Earth Hour. Tomorrow,  I commit myself to talk it out with neighbors to switch off their lights.

Let’s give our Mother Planet an hour tomorrow. It’s not a hard work at all.

Hurting inside for Mr. Vizconde

One of the trending topics on Twitter is Vizconde. It’s also my first time to lost interest in tweeting with all those updates on Vizconde massacre. For a tweet-addict like me, it is highly unusual.

For a child growing up in the 1990s, the tragic massacre of the Vizconde family was deeply rooted in my mind. The images of the three victims plus the movie on them was forever etched in my memory. Fifteen years later, the main suspect walks free. Right after being acquitted, Hubert Webb walks out of the prison. No paperwork can no longer contain him inside his temporary shelter for more than a decade.

What troubled me most is why I felt so bad about it. Blame it to the media, to Lauro Vizconde’s steadfast belief, to the police who ‘brainwashed’ him into believing thatWebb is the main suspect, to that VHS movie which cost us two pesos, to the Philippine justice system, to SC justices who decided on Webb’s innocence, to whatever reasons the world can offer. Why I felt so hurt is the fact that Lauro Vizconde could no longer appeal his quest for justice. After more than a decade of living in the same house where the tragedy happened and he lost his entire family, the final decision was reached. Case over. Just like that.

The case has come to its closure. But how can he find closure, or even make sense, with this turn of event? Will a miracle happen and somebody will come out to admit those crimes? It is unimaginable for a father and husband to embrace such decision.

Yes, we can sympathize with the Webb family with their ordeal. But the greater ordeal is being faced by a man who lost everything. My heart broke just by watching him breaking down after the decision.  This is simply beyond words of pain.

As I grope to find some sense in this event, I prayed for Mr. Vizconde whom I never meet but almost feel his pain. Whatever the future holds for him, I hope he will be assured that justice will be served in God’s time.

I wish this tiny space will give comfort and hope that Mr. Vizconde got a supporter in me.

How FOI becomes personal

It has been two days since both Senate and Congress ended the last day of session. The 14th Congress ended with a bang. The bang of Nograles’ gavel crushed the 14-year struggle for citizen’s right to information. You see, 14th Congress will be forever etched as the killer of Freedom of Information bill. Also, the same Congress where FOI reached the farthest and only to be dropped like a potato on the last chance of being ratified.

Personally, the campaign started as I was assigned to a new task in Information Services Department. One of our partners in Manila was currently involved in FOI campaign and they tapped AFRIM to be part of it. Thus, the job fell on my lap. At first, I was a bit hesitant and distinctly remembered the first meeting we initiated. With all honesty, I didn’t know how to proceed with the meeting. Good thing those present members were veteran advocates and they suggested good strategies to jump off the campaign. The morning of 18 January 2010 will be memorable. It was the day when I participated a weekly press conference armed with rush reading on FOI bill and very limited knowledge on legal terms. To make it short, I survived after two hours and was able to land on city’s leading dailies and a local television station.

At that time, the Congress was yet to submit representatives for the bicameral committee hearing to reconcile of Senate and House versions of the bill. In the remaining days of Congress, the bicameral report was finished immediately. A feat for any bill. However, the last three days of House was filled with bickering and lack of quorum which left the bill unratified as Congress adjourned for elections. Thus, the chances of FOI is getting slimmer. The Senate, on the other hand, had ratified and compensated well the slow progress they manifested in earlier stages.

The campaign is now focused on the House particularly to Speaker Prospero Nograles, Davao City’s first district representative. In the same manner, greater attention was geared in Right to Know, Right Now! Mindanao specifically in Davao City. As one of the convenors, we held two fora on FOI, one in University of Southeastern Philippines and another in Ateneo de Davao University. Mobilizations were also conducted. One in Freedom Park during the resume of the Congress when Nograles simply put that nothing will be done but canvassing for president and vice president. Another mobilization last Thursday in Nograles’ office urging him to fully support the bill no matter what.

But last Friday, the bill was finally laid to rest. I was following Congressman Ruffy Biazon’s tweets updating on the session. Since we had a short program in the office, I lost track of updates. Only to receive a message from a partner asking for my reactions. My first words were not printable, so she said. I cursed a lot which I seldom did. The sad reality of how FOI almost made it was hard to bear. I could no longer follow the ongoing sharing of the staff. My mind seemed to burst on the injustice and unfairness of those so-called honorables. How come a seven-member short for a quorum be a reason for scrapping out of such an important bill? The Arroyos being absent reinforced common beliefs of Palace hand in the session despite their usual denials. By the way, another blog on our very own representative being absent on that day will follow soon.

The 14th Congress preferred to be remembered as the suppressor of basic rights of the people they supposed to represent. The news hit the headlines as media generously elaborated the issue and instilled in people’s consciousness the importance of the bill.

Still, hope of fellow advocates springs eternal. All of us are willing to pass the needle’s eye to have this basic right fulfilled. Right now, we look up on Aquino administration for this ever important bill. And Noynoy said he will.

Only then I realized that FOI had an impact on me. It became my personal advocacy.

In the meantime, I will continue joining the call:

Notes on Elections Day

After more than two weeks of thinking how to compose this blog, I decided to post any election-related thoughts, pictures, links and others that comes to mind.

First election-related realization: I willingly let Ate dragged me into PPCRV volunteer orientation and learned what I should do through a video just a day before elections.

As a result of haste orientation, out of 17 barangays of Caraga, only five barangays were covered by limited volunteers. I thought I was lucky to be assigned in the town center but had misgivings as election day ended. My ever energetic sister offered to render services in the 3rd vote-rich barangay of P.M. Sobrecarey. And lucky her (in truest meaning possible), she had a very interesting story to tell.

Elections in our town was blessed with heavy downpour. Blessing, in my own pleasure, as it provided an extended snuggle against the blankets and foregone the idea of being at the precinct before 7AM. While listening TV coverage of long queues under the sun, I felt truly blessed. I only went a bit berserk when lunchtime neared and we’re still stuck inside the house. Only when a fellow volunteer offered to fetch us. Clad in raincoat and rain shoes, off we went to fulfill our duty as Filipino citizens and a Catholic.

My first major stint on the first-ever automated elections are both fulfilling and patience-testing. Overall, it was good but admittedly, people will prefer unsystematic when it lingers for quite long. Like the queue which was a hopeless case.

Below are the snaps I got while manning the precinct. But I also had to say the Chairperson was superbly efficient and our precinct was the first to transmit without much delays. Plus poll watchers did their part.

Voters queue as they wait for their turn.

Member of BEI searches as the voter looks on.

Voters seriously contemplate their chosen candidates. (Or quite nervous if PCOS will take their ballots.)

While transmission is ongoing, poll watchers take a moment to pose.

Without much delays, PCOS print the results. (And I waited for the PPCRV's 4th copy!)

And more printing from PCOS, the most famous machine of the day (and future Congress sessions to come).

World Press Freedom Day

Every 3rd of May marks the World Press Freedom Day. Full details at UN website, http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/press/.

Here in Davao City, together with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Right to Know, Right Now-Mindanao, a whole-day activity with this year’s theme “Freedom of Information: Right to Know”, is being planned to be held in SM City in Quimpo Boulevard. It will start with a press conference at 10:30AM, opening of exhibit after lunch and a forum on Freedom of Information in the afternoon.

Help spread the word and let the citizens know their right to information as cited in the Bills of Rights.

Our doggies

Last month, a new member of the family came. The now three-month old Kulas is one naughty Labrador puppy which left our dear 10-year-old Piper grumpy most of the time.


Hello, WordPress! Hope to have a great time here. Thanks for the MindaNews Citizen Journalism Training, I meet you.

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