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2 killed, 11 wounded in Initao grenade blast

November 28, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--A police officer was killed along with the suspect in a grenade explosion in the compound of a state college in the town of Initao in Misamis Oriental, 40 kilometers west of here, Thursday morning. Police Master Sgt. Jason Magno, 50, was killed on the spot when he tried to pick up the grenade after the suspect dropped the explosive during a scuffle in the covered court of Initao College in Jampason, Initao, Misamis Oriental. Police Captain Princess Joy Velarde, information officer of Provincial Police Office in Misamis Oriental, identified the slain suspect as 65-year-old Ebrahim Ampaso Basher, a resident from Madamba, Lanao del Sur. Basher was identified through report of the police and the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO). The explosion ripped Magno’s body while a police woman identified as P/Msgt. Alice Balido, was wounded, but is now in a stable condition while undergoing treatment in a hospital here. An initial report said that most of the 10 wounded were students at the Initao College. The students, whose identifies are still being collated, are now undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the province and in Cagayan de Oro City. Police provincial director Robert Bahian, said that the suspect reportedly went to the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources (MENRO) asking for the release of his logs. The logs, loaded with two trucks, were reportedly held by the MENRO for lack of papers. The environmental officials did not release the logs prompting the suspect to pull a hand grenade and threatened to blow the environmental office. Bahian said that the suspect, however, went to the school’s covered court, only a few meters away from the MENRO, with the grenade and a knife on his hand. He said that the police responded after receiving reports of the unidentified armed suspect, which resulted in a scuffle after one of the teachers tried to grab the grenade. During the ensuing scuffle, the suspect dropped the already armed grenade, which exploded while Magno tried to pick it up. Bahian said that Magno did not notice that the grenade was already armed. Bahian said that the investigators were suspecting that the suspect would lob the grenade to the students at the covered court had it not for the timely intervention of the police. According to Bahian, the police recovered the grenade’s safety lever in the office of the MENRO, but the investigators failed to get the side of the environmental officials. “The environmental office is already abandoned when the police came over to get some important statements,” Bahian said.

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Suspect in Initao grenade explosion identified

November 28, 2019

ILIGAN City--The suspect who lobbed grenade to the responding police, around 11 a.m. Thursday (November 28) inside a school campus in Barangay Jampason in Initao town, in Misamis Oriental, has been identified. Police Captain Princess Joy Velarde, information officer of Provincial Police Office in Misamis Oriental, said the suspect is 65-year old Ebrahim Ampaso Basher, a resident from Madamba, Lanao del Sur. Basher was identified through report of the police and the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO). Velarde said, the suspect, who died when the grenade he was holding exploded, was coming from the office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Initao. “Nahuli po ang sasakyan niya na may dalang kahoy. Ang pin ng Granada ay nakita sa office ng DENR. Sa office pa lang po ng DENR ay nag amok na siya kaya yung mga personnel po ng DENR tumakbo sa covered court. Sumunod po ang suspek at doon nap o pumutok ang granada,” Velarde said. The DENR office is about 800 meters away from the school campus. A responding police personnel of Initao Municipal Police Station, Sergeant Jason Magno, died while being treated in a hospital in Initao while his companion, Sergeant Alice Balido was wounded and now under observation in a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City. Magno, 46, is a resident of Purok 9, Barangay Poblacion, Initao. Police force in Northern Mindanao has requested the public to pray for the recovery of Balido and one of the 10 students who were wounded in the explosion. “Let’s pray for our police officer,” said Brigadier General Rolando Anduyan, director of Police Regional Office -10. Magno and Balido responded the call from the school that unidentified man is roaming inside the school campus bringing with him a fragmentation grenade according to Anduyan. During the confrontation, the suspect lobbed the grenade, prompting Magno to shield his body from the students who would be hit by the explosion while Balido was able to shoot to the suspect to neutralize him and prevented him from inflicting further harm. Despite Magno’s heroic act, ten students were wounded and were brought to nearby hospital. “The suspect is in his mid 60s. Other information about him is still under investigation. The students are slightly wounded except for one, let’s include her on our prayers,” Anduyan said.

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Mercury-laced skin lighteners still sold online, NGOs claim

November 27, 2019

Ø 158 products tested in 12 countries: 60% contained too much mercury Ø Some products had tens of thousands of times more mercury than legal limit Ø International coalition of NGOs urge governments to end ‘toxic trade’ A GLOBAL alliance of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) working to eliminate mercury pollution said skin lightening creams containing mercury – a heavy metal and dangerous neurotoxin – are still widely available to purchase in shops and online, despite being banned by governments. Testing throughout 2019, revealed 95 of the 158 products purchased in the 12 sampling countries exceeded the legal limit of 1 ppm (part per million), with mercury levels ranging from 40 ppm to over 130,000 ppm, said the group in a press statement. More than two-thirds (65 of the 95) of those were bought online from such internet marketers as Amazon , eBay, BidorBuy, Lazada, Daraz, Flipkart and Jumia. In the Philippines, environmental justice group BAN Toxics said mercury-laced products were also available in Divisoria and are also being sold by online sellers on Facebook. Elena Lymberidi-Settimo Project Manager at the European Environmental Bureau and International Co-coordinator of the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) said: “Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin which must be effectively controlled. Internet retailers like Amazon and eBay must stop these Illegal products from being sold on their sites, as they have recently pledged to do in the EU.” In 2018, leading online retailers signed a ‘Product Safety Pledge’ to remove dangerous products. Many of the same brands were found to contain high mercury levels on several consecutive sampling occasions, in different years, and purchased from both physical shops and via e-commerce platforms. Most were manufactured in Asia, especially in Pakistan (62%), Thailand (19%) and China (13%), according to their packaging. Products were tested in accredited laboratories in the EU and US and using a hand-held X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer or analyzer by two regional hubs: CASE in Côte d’Ivoire (for Africa), and Ban Toxics in the Philippines (for Asia). The study did not test products from Latin America. It tested in Africa, Asia, the EU and the USA. Over 110 countries have committed to the Minamata Convention to phase out and limit mercury, including in cosmetics.  A meeting for parties to that convention is being held in Geneva this week. Reynalo San Juan, BAN Toxics Executive Director said: "Filipinos, particularly Filipino women, are being exposed to harm because mercury-laced products are still being made available to the public. Policies and implementation gaps must be addressed as soon as possible to prevent these mercury-laced skin lightening products from poisoning clueless individuals who buy these creams. The Philippine government must ratify the Minamata Convention to help protect the Filipino public from these kinds of merchandise.” Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project Director and ZMWG co-coordinator said: “Despite these illegal high mercury products being essentially banned by governments around the globe, our testing result shows the same products continuing to be sold locally and on the internet. In particular,  e-Commerce giants are not above the law and must be held accountable.” The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) is an international coalition of more than 110 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from over 55 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project. To address toxic trade in illegal products, the ZMWG has produced a report to assist authorities in effectively implementing the Minamata Convention. Key proposed enforcement measures include: new laws and regulations, alert systems, international and regional collaboration, inspections, penalties, engagement with online retailers and consumer outreach. The report also presents successful national examples and practices from 8 developing countries. Dr. Shahriar Hossein from Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) Bangladesh said: “These hazardous and illegal products pose a serious mercury exposure risk, especially to repeat users and their children.  We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with the authorities to stop the toxic trade in high mercury skin lightening creams.”

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PH overdependence on fossil fuels deepen

November 23, 2019

COAL expansion by the Philippines’ biggest energy companies will hinder the country’s transition to a low carbon future, and can lock the country into at least two more decades of overreliance on fossil fuels, environmental group Greenpeace said today in a press conference. In a briefing paper, the group detailed how four of the country’s biggest energy companies—San Miguel Corporation (SMC); Aboitiz & Co., Inc. (Aboitiz); Meralco PowerGen Corporation (Mgen); and DMCI Holdings, Inc. (DMCI)—are set to substantially increase their coal portfolios, more than doubling the country’s current coal capacity should all their proposed coal projects push through. Because they account for more than half of the current and proposed power projects in the country, the shares of energy sources in their portfolios will be crucial in determining whether or not the country can comply with the low-carbon development path needed to address the global climate crisis. “Clearly, the Philippine energy outlook is far from the clean energy scenario,” said Khevin Yu, campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines. “While the rest of the world is moving away from fossil fuels and shifting to clean renewable energy, the Philippines is moving the opposite direction, largely because of pro-coal government policies that allow energy companies to keep building coal facilities despite their documented negative impacts on the climate, the environment and communities.” Of the four companies, SMC and Meralco/MGen have the most coal projects in the pipeline, accounting for 67.8% of all coal proposals as of 2019. The paper also shows that Meralco/MGen is seemingly set to become one of the country’s major coal proponents with a proposal of 5,504.9 MW, a 672% increase in its current coal capacity. In contrast, proposed RE projects by SMC and Meralco/MGen amount to a meager 1,343 MW. The government’s Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2017-2040 highlights the promotion of a low-carbon future as a strategic direction for the energy sector. The imperative to shift to a low carbon future is also reflected in the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement for a 70% emissions reduction below business-as-usual levels by 2030. A pronouncement by President Rodrigo Duterte’s during the State of the Nation Address last July further gave a directive to fasttrack RE. Analysts have moreover identified that coal facilities are in danger of ending up as stranded assets as the world shifts to RE. However, none of these have not made a dent in decreasing coal proposals in the country. To facilitate the country’s low carbon future, Greenpeace is calling on the country’s energy companies to remove coal from their portfolios, starting with halting all plans for coal expansion, then phasing out existing capacity and replacing these with RE. Additionally the group is calling on the Duterte administration to immediately order a moratorium on all new coal power plants; and the Department of Energy (DOE) to create an ambitious energy transition plan that would prioritize RE as the country’s main energy source; and to remove financial incentives and all other forms of support for coal. “The country’s biggest energy companies can either make or break the future of the country’s energy landscape,” said Yu. “Current commitments for renewable energy development are not enough. These companies must realize and acknowledge that any coal expansion will block the country’s efforts toward a sustainable low carbon future, and lessen our chances to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis.” Source: Greenpeace-Philippines

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Building officials inspect high-rise buildings in Oro

November 20, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--Other than hairline cracks, the Office of the Building Official (OBO) did not find any structural deficiencies among the high-rise buildings that it has already inspected. The inspection will continue despite the lack of qualified personnel, said Engr. Isidro Obligado, OBO head. In a phone interview, Obligado said only 25 of the 87 personnel assigned in his department are qualified to conduct structural inspections. The inspection on all high-rise buildings, including those under construction, in the city was conducted in the wake of destructive earthquakes that struck Mindanao in the past few months. Obligado, however, said the OBO inspection team prioritizes those 911 callers who have reported cracks in their residential, office and commercial vicinities since the latest quake that struck Monday night. So far, OBO has not found any structural deficiencies in any building here in the city, including the high rises that they have inspected. "Most of these are hairline cracks sa walling. Of course, they still need to be corrected immediately but they do not affect the integrity of the whole structure at all," Obligado pointed out. He added that they are requiring these establishments to submit a certificate from a structural engineer once they have complied with the corrections. High rises that have already been inspected include Avida Aspira Tower 1, Centrio Tower, Seda Centrio, Teleperformance, Limketkai Luxe Hotel, G-Galyx, New Dawn Plus, Primavera Residences and Primavera City. All of these have passed structural integrity tests, according to Obligado. High rises calendared for inspection include CoHo's The Loop North Tower, One Oasis Cagayan de Oro, CUMC and One Providence. High rises under construction that are to be inspected include The Loop South Tower, Avida Aspira Tower 2, Mesaverte Garden Residences, ACE Medical Center, Tuscania Towers and Limketkai Cyberpark Building.

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Oro biz leaders wary over quake’s economic backlash

November 19, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The influential Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation (Oro Chamber) yesterday urged its members to be cautious about the costly economic backlash brought about by the series of earthquakes that rocked Mindanao in the past few months. In a letter dated November 15, Oro Chamber President Irene Floro has urged the chamber’s 400-strong members to inspect their respective business establishments to ensure its structural integrity. “This in order to promote public safety and security and for the furtherance of economic stability not only in Cagayan de Oro but the whole region,” read part of Floro’s letter. Floro focused her address specifically to chamber members who are operators of malls, hotels, restaurants, schools and other commercial establishments. She urged these chamber members to immediately coordinate with the Office of the Building Official (OBO) so the inspections could be executed the soonest possible time. “That is a proactive role of the Oro Chamber to its members to have their buildings assist in structural audits. We wrote Secretary Mark Villar to provide the Oro Chamber with Structural Engineers to help audit big buildings of private institutions or establishments. We even open our doors for non member companies to help them avail of the free audit from our partners,” Floro said in a separate text message. Earlier on Monday night, city administrator Teddy Sabuga-a called on the public to report structure cracks to Cagayan de Oro’s emergency “Hotline 911” so that OBO could dispatch its personnel and check on those reports. Mindanao has experienced four earthquakes in a span of two months, the latest which happened on Monday night with magnitude 5.9, the epicenter was traced in Kadingilan town in the province of Bukidnon. The quakes already caused the Court of Appeals Mindanao Station to suspend its operations at the YMCA Building due to what it dubbed as “significant” structural damages.

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