Thursday, August 28, 2008

Soldiers Build Schools For Children

By Angeline Valencia

Confirming effective tandem of the local government unit and the military in bringing development to far-flung areas, the Tubigon-based Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) erected another two-classroom for only P600 thousand, this time, in a high school at the heart of a forest zone in Sierra-Bullones, Bohol.

Governor Erico Aumentado and Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Elpidio Jala led Friday morning's ribbon-cutting and turn-over ceremonies for the two-classroom school building in Dusita High School, with Brigadier General Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, as the guest of honor.

In 40 days, the 53rd Engineer Brigade under Col. Arnaldo Fernandez Jr., through the Macaas, Tubigon-based troops of the ESB under Lt. Col. Ramon Ruiz, finished the building- -already fully-painted, with toilet, plumbing, electric wiring, insulator ceiling, blackboards.

Each classroom has an area of 8X7 meters.

On behalf of the Department of Education (DepEd), Jala vowed to provide the chairs.

It was the third two-classroom school building that the ESB troops constructed this year, in a counterparting partnership with the provincial government, DepEd, and the Office of the President.

The soldiers had earlier built a two-classroom building for a public school in Batuan in March and one for Buenavista in May.

In the ceremony, Col. Arnaldo Fernandez Jr., commander of the 53rd Engineer Brigade, turned over the school building to Col. Raoul Reyes, commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, who then turned it over to Provincial Engineer Edwin Vallejos, who turned it over to Governor Aumentado.

Then, from the governor, the symbolic key was passed on to Jala, then to Sierra-Bullones Mayor Simplicio Maestrado Jr., then to Sierra-Bullones District Coordinating Principal Juana Ismael, then to Dusita Barangay Captain Basilio Café Sr., then to Dusita High School Principal Felix Galacio Jr.

In his inspirational message, Aumentado told the school staff and students in the crowd that the provincial government intends to build more school buildings in partnership with the 53rd Engineer Brigade under the 2nd Joint School Building Program (SBP) for DepEd's "red" and black" schools, Aumentado said.

On Galacio's additional request for more buildings and the needs of schools in other towns, Aumentado told school officials that the provincial government will continue to find additional funds for the project's second cycle.

This year's budget of P21 million for the program, the figure may double to P42 million in the second cycle next year, he said.

The governor also announced that the Provincial School Board, which he chairs, will meet this week to discuss more funding to continue the counterparting strategy in implementing the school building program as instructed by DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus.

The program's implementation will sweep through all "red and black schools", he said.

For parameters purposes, the program classify schools as to "red schools"- -those with severe classroom shortage, having a classroom-to-student ratio of 1:56 or more; and "black schools" as the most deprived- -those without existing classrooms or those that make do with temporary or makeshift classrooms.

Aumentado understands that the project's low floor price proved unattractive to contractors as it barely offers any profit, considering the continuously increasing prices of construction materials.

Already paid as soldiers, the government can save on labor cost.

Aumentado also lauded the efficient leadership of Sierra-Bullones Mayor Simplicio Maestrado that introduced major changes to the municipality that he said once lagged behind in development trailblazing before the mayor's administration.

On this, the governor takes pride on having made the right decision in personally picking out Maestrado to run under his ticket in 2001 elections.

Aumentado also attributed the smooth implementation of many development projects in the province under his watch to the strong support of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In his message, Tabaquero, who had served as battalion commander of the 302nd IB of Camp Sikatuna based in Carmen for a period of time, took the opportunity to thank Aumentado for his recommendation that helped facilitate his installation as division commander of the 8th ID dubbed as Storm Troopers.

Tabaquero told the crowd that, though he is not a professional educator, he knew, as he was once a high school student, "how important it is for students to have decent classrooms".

It is in the classrooms that teachers mold students into "responsible citizens and positive contributors to progress and development of our country", and so the provincial government and the municipal government of Sierra-Bullones and the stakeholders exerted efforts to build the school building, "to highlight once more the importance of education to the youth, communities and the country," he said.

He added that right education can be achieved with the combination of decent classrooms, passionate teachers as mentors and role models of students, and diligent students.

"The school building is actually our investment on the youths. We are investing on them, because, to borrow the words of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, 'the youth is the hope of our future'," Tabaquero said.

Managing Provincial Jail

Top officials already finalized talks on the take-over of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the management of the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center (BDRC).

Top BJMP officials were here on August 17 to discuss with the provincial government, the details of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that shall be signed.

BJMP-7 Regional Director Rosendo Diel, Jail Chief Superintendent Doris Remedios-Dorigo, and BJMP-7 Assistant Regional Director for Operations Cesar Balderas were here to meet provincial officials.

Earlier, the Provincial Board (PB) passed Resolution 2008-200 dated June 3, 2008 authorizing Governor Erico Aumentado, to commence the negotiation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the transfer of management BDRC to BJMP which has the technical capability and expertise in jail management.

However, pending approval of House Bills 502, 3441 and 3666 placing for the purpose the provincial and sub-provincial jails under their jurisdiction, BJMP officials expressed willingness to enter into a MOA to fully manage the BDRC with terms and conditions addressing the concerns of the provincial government.

Provincial Jail Administrator Neil Avisado, con-current Tagbilaran City district jail warden, accompanied the visiting officials to the on-site inspection on the BDRC facilities.

Then they had a meeting with Provincial Legal Officer Handel Lagunay, on behalf of the governor, at Prawn Farms Restaurant in Island City Mall, where they finalized the details of the MOA to be signed by BJMP and the provincial government next month.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada Wants War With MILF

Like his father former President Erap Estrada, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is a staunch advocate in wiping out the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) thru an all-out war.

The senator was in town yesterday and met with a handful of reporters last night at the Miravilla Restaurant.

The young Estrada was reacting to a question about the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the MILF and the Philippine government.

Jinggoy said if only Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo follow the tack of former Pres. Erap there would have been no MILF creating trouble in Mindanao today.          

During Erap's presidency, the former chief executive unleased a mailed-fist policy against the MILF resulting in the capture of many rebel camps including its main headquarters Camp Abubakar.

It was different during GMA's time, Jinggoy retorted.

Instead of declaring an all-out war against the rebels, GMA coddled them and talked peace.

In the guise of seeking peace with the MILF, what the GMA administration got was the outbreak of violence in several Mindanao provinces resulting in the deaths of scores of civilians and the evacuation of thousands.

In his brief sortie in this city last night. Sen. Jinggoy also met with several first district mayors led by City Mayor Dan Neri Lim. Other first district mayors in attendance were Mayors Jose Ugdoracion, Jr. of Albur, Jasmin Balistoy of Cortes and Vito Rapal of Corella. City Kagawads Danilo Bantugan, Oscar Glovasa, Edi Borja and Faro Cabalit also attended the affair.

Useless Mindanao MILF Peace Talks

The peace talks had collapsed. Contending parties cannot agree on which areas will fall under the definition of ancestral domain. Since the qualifying word is ancestral, one would have to go to history books, who were there first and where. There were only two organized governments, the two Sultanates. The rest were just made up of clans and tribes led by tribal leaders, who were either religious leaders, men of wisdom or men of battle. They owe no allegiance to anyone except to themselves and to their kindred.

Since there were no organized governments in the areas away from the sultanates, property rights were nonexistent. There was no personal property only tribal property. Slash and burn farming was practiced, when the land is no longer as productive as it was first farmed, the farmers moved elsewhere. When the Philippine government opened Mindanao for settlers, the landless from Luzon and Visayas either homesteaded or bought land from the natives for a pittance.

Braving tropical diseases, the settlers developed the land and prospered.
Christians came to Moroland first as traders. Some eventually settled as farmers.

The settlers did not establish themselves in the midst of the Muslim communities but acquired land at the fringes. Cordial relations existed and the Muslims seeing the faster upwards mobility of the more sophisticated settlers, emulated them, sending their children to schools. Many prospered but prosperity sometimes generate envy.

There are those who refused to adopt. Since local governments are always under the more educated Christians, they who styled themselves as the Moro National Liberation Front wanted a government of their own with laws based on the Koran.

After a plebiscite the national government created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Naturally the ARMM top brass is composed of educated Muslims, mostly Tausogs and Maranaos which had lived in harmony with the Christians. The Magindanaos and some Maranaos of the former Cotabato province and some parts of Lanao formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, wanted a greater ARMM calling it the Bangsa Moro with them on the driver's seat.

Strangely, the Arroyo government treated the MILF not as rebels but like a foreign power, with areas of influence in the Philippine territory complete with a central government and armed forces. Despite atrocities committed like harboring Abu Sayyaf terrorists and ambushing Marines, which penetrated into their claimed areas in pursuit of kidnappers, the government still kept them on the bargaining table. When the talks collapsed, the MILF forces went wild.

The move took the MILF central command by surprise. Since there was no formal declaration of the start of hostilities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines considered the forces of Ameril Umbra Kato, which went on rampage in North Cotabato and Abdurahman Macapaar, which committed atrocities in Lanao del Norte as MILF lost commands. Days later, Eid Kabalu admitted that those attackers were regular MILF forces.

Analysts would see that the MILF high command has no control over their field commanders. The MILF brass is just there under the sufferance of the combatants. Eid Kabalu, Al Hadj Murad and other MILF brass would not say they unleashed Kato and Macapaar after the talks collapsed. They know the consequences. Ilaga resurrection would give them a taste of their own medicine.

In the MILF there is no definite chain of command like that of any regular army.

Orders from the top are blatantly disregarded. Field commanders operate on their own. The relationships of other field commanders are only tactical alliances. Even during the course of the so-called peace talks, sporadic encounters occurred.

Arson, murder, robbery and murder continued. It is no duplicity but weakness on the part of the MILF top brass that allows those atrocities to happen.

Cost of Peace in Mindanao

By Romy Teruel

More than 30 civilian lives were lost in the attack by elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in North Cotabato and Lanao provinces following the botched memorandum of agreement signing for the Muslim ancestral domain that would have expanded the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

How many more lives must be lost before government and the MILF realize that there can be no negotiation for a peaceful solution to the Mindanao problem without the consent of all stakeholders. It is alright to talk about what will finally bring peace to Mindanao but this must be within the ambit of the Constitution and the existing laws of the land and most of all with the consensus of the people living within the area to be affected. No single group, not even the negotiating panels, can determine what is best without getting the approval of the majority, if not all, of the people involved. Without that only bloodshed and more bloodshed will take place.

No matter what the MILF say about why they attacked and killed civilians, their actions have effectively sealed the fate of their cause to fail. They opened themselves to be tagged as terrorists like the NPAs by the international community. To the Filipinos, especially the families of their victims, they are plain treacherous terrorists and they must be pursued by government as terrorists.

They are now rejected even by their own fellow Muslims. I was in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato last week and I found the Muslims there together with their leaders expressing their decision not to be included in the Bangsa Moro Juridical Entity (BJE). Streamers to this effect line the highways in Isulan, capital of Sultan Kudarat and along the highway to North Cotabato.

They must have realized that peace cannot be had at the expense of peace itself. Relationships of the Muslims and the Christians in Sultan Kudarat have been very commendable according to Fr. Rudy Relator, a member of the diocesan clergy of Cotabato. They don't want the status quo to be disturbed by the creation of the BJE.

Friends in North Cotabato told me each family is now trying to prepare for any eventuality. They expect more atrocities as civilians, both Christians and Muslims, are now arming themselves. They said the Ilagas may surface again to defend the communities as AFP soldiers cannot be permanently there to protect them..

The Ilagas were dreaded by the Muslims in the early 70s for their audacity and courage to fight and defend their communities. Their fighting exploits were legends as they were known to cut and string the ears of their enemies and bring them home from battle like they would hold high a trophy.

People in Cotabato are now relieved by the announcement of Malacanang that there would no longer be any signing of the agreement with the MILF in present form even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the MOA. So much blood has been spilt already to allow the agreement to be implemented. Peace must be renegotiated, this time with utmost transparency if government expects to pull it smoothly.

The question now remains. At what cost will we pursue peace in Mindanao? Will changing the form of government through constitutional amendments bring peace in Mindanao?

Philippine history tells us that the Muslims of Mindanao were never completely subdued by the Spaniards. The MILF are advocating the same line today. So are they saying that no mater what they will fight to win their independence?

At what cost will the MILF go to establish a Bangsa Moro State? Only the succeeding events will tell us.

Solution to Illegal Fishing

By Ric Obedencio, Bohol Chronicle: Addressing the widespread illegal fishing in coastal and marine areas in the province "needs political will and it's a matter of priority," said Bohol Vice Governor Julius Caesar Herrera.

Herrera also urged fishermen to avoid using destructive methods.

He said coastal areas, a vast source of food, need to be properly kept because fishermen do not necessarily cultivate it unlike farms on land.

The vice-governor, who chairs the agriculture committee of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, was reacting to documented reports of unlawful activities such as dynamite and cyanide fishing particularly at the Danajon Reef in northern part of Bohol and other ares of the island.

Herrera, who received awards for his advocacy and campaign for coastal resource management while he was then mayor of Calape town, stressed the need for education for all stakeholders to make any coastal and marine preservation programs successful.

Aside from this, he said, the provincial government led by Gov. Erico Aumentado is strengthening the Coastal Law Enforcement Councils (CLEC) being institutionalized in three congressional districts.

CLEC composed of government agencies and private sectors, he said, is helpful in curbing illegal fishing since it is a deterrent. But there's a lot more to do about this, he added.

Herrera said he lauded the bold move of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Bohol chapter led by Jagna Mayor Exuperio Lloren to get rid of the illegal fishing in their respective turfs.

The mayors vowed to stamp out illegal fishing especially those big-time fishers who intrude the prohibited 15-kilometer municipal water from the shoreline.

He said the local officials should be true to their commitment to dispel public perception that they are insincere in enforcing the fishery law and rules and regulations.

Herrera expressed concern over the situation of the Danajon Reef as a result of the rampant destructive fishing. He appreciates the commitment of officials of regions VII and VIII to develop, protect, conserve and manage the 272-kilometer vast Danajon Double Barrier Reefs, the only documented double barrier reefs in Indo-Pacific region that is very rich in biodiversity and marine eco-systems.

He said Danajon Double Barrier reefs is the home the sea horse sanctuary that is recently awarded and the Banacon man-made mangrove forest, said to be the largest man-made mangrove forest in Southeast Asia. Both are awardees because of their significance in the environmental protection and conservation efforts.

Herrera said there is an urgency to save what is left of this Reef because of continuing destruction of the reefs and marine habitat there. Marine biologist Alan White study showed that only or about 25% of corals are left to support marine life in the area.

Waste Water and Solid Garbage Problem

Bohol Governor Erico Aumentado expressed elation over Tagbilaran City's proposals to provide long-term solutions to its road maintenance, wastewater and solid waste disposal problems.

Aumentado said being the capital and the entry point of majority of tourists and visitors, Tagbilaran is the province's show window.

"It is fitting and proper that Tagbilaran City always showcases its best form - not for tourists and visitors alone but more importantly, for the general welfare of its populace," said the governor who is also a city resident.

Aumentado's reaction came after Mayor Dan Lim submitted projects, supported with resolutions from the City Council and the City Development Council, to the Provincial Development Council (PDC) worth an aggregate of P839,005,000. The governor chairs the PDC.

The city projects, already endorsed by the PDC to the Central Visayas Regional Development Council (RDC), include a long-term road improvement project eyed to concrete pave a total length of 17.267 kilometers of city streets costing P259,005,000; a centralized waste water treatment facility worth P150,000 and an integrated solid waste management facility costing P430,000,000.

In its proposals, the city intends to finance the projects with the proceeds of a loan it is now negotiating for with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

Aumentado said the city is on the right track in deciding to push for concrete-paved streets. The governor who caused the concreting of the Bohol Circumferential Road Improvement Project Phases 1 and 2 and an upcoming Phase 3 on top of the Loay Interior and other roads admits he has a bias for concrete over asphalt roads.

Concrete roads cost only a little more than asphalt roads but are more cost-efficient in the long run because they require less maintenance, he explained.

He also lauded the city's think tanks for deciding to construct a centralized wastewater treatment facility in Barangay Taloto as this complies with the Clean Water Act.

Aumentado has always been concerned that without such facility, storm water andsewage seep into the existing drainage network that empties into seawaters, causing pollution and contamination that will adversely affect marine life and ultimately - human lives as well.

MILF Going to the Visayas Region?

Local authorities are prepared of possibilities that the current unrest in Mindanao would spill-over to the province.

This was the assurance of Gov. Erico Aumentado when asked to comment on security measures in place if the conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Although the specific security measures were not revealed by the governor, he said during the weekly Governor Reports on Friday that the Provincial Peace and Order Council will meet this week to tackle the issue.

We have an operational Bohol Local Internal Security System (BLISS)", he said.

The government, internal security forces and the local government units conceived the BLISS to expand the security local capability. This is through engaging communities' help in repelling reporting re-entry of communist terrorists who left Bohol during the recent anti-insurgency operations, this was bared by Bohol Police Director SSupt.

Edgardo Ingking, during a PPOC presentation months ago.

The pull-out and the re-assignment of the 302nd Brigade to Negros which left only a few internal security units operating here heightened the implementation of the BLISS.

Now, after MILF-induced conflict, the country's military leadership pulled out Bohol 's 43rd Infantry Battalion to help secure Lanao.