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Engineer Army Brigade to help rehab Marawi City

March 20, 2019

BALOI, Lanao del Norte--The 55th Engineer Brigade, Philippine Army was reactivated on Wednesday (March 15) at its headquarters in Baloi, Lanao del Norte.      Brigadier General Ramon Ruiz, commander of the newly-reactivated unit, said their primary mission is to help rehabilitate Marawi City which the rehabilitation is overseen by the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM).      The unit will help the government, together with other agencies, especially in the horizontal projects like road widening, drainage, building construction, schools, public health centers and other government facilities. "Ang focus ngayon ng (the focus now of the) Philippine Army is to help in the inter-agency or whole government approach and the Armed Forces (of the Philippines) is just one of the agencies of the government under the Department of National Defense mandated to the rehabilitation of Marawi," Ruiz said.      The 55th Engineer Brigade, Philippine Army was deactivated in 2013 as part of the defense planning guidance to streamline the organization according to Ruiz.      After six years, the unit was reactivated to help in Marawi rehabilitation program.      "We will help through the TFBM and we will promise to do our best to attend to the welfare of the people in Marawi," Ruiz said.      When the combat operation was terminated in October 2017, following President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration od liberation in Marawi City, the 549 Engineer Brigade took charge in the debris clearing.      It stopped when a private contractor got the award to do the demolition and debris management.      Now the Army Engineer unit was given the task again to help the Marawi rehab, it needs more personnel to fill up the needs of manpower.      A total of 1,000 Army personnel are needed for the construction of various government infrastructure nationwide.      "At the moment, the biggest chunk of that number is going to be deployed in Marawi for the rehabilitation program. We need the help of the media to dissimenate the information that we are inviting carpenters, mason, plumbers, electricians, heavy equipment operators to enlist in the Philippine Army and be part of the organization," Ruiz said.      Interested applicants may inquire at the nearest Army training school.      In Region 10, the 4th Infantry Division in Patag, Cagayan de Oro and in Region 9, the 1st ID in Pulacan, Zamboanga del Sur are the existing Army training schools.

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House Committee issues show cause order vs importer of garbage from South Korea

March 20, 2019

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The chair of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability on Friday issued a show cause order against officials of Verde Soko, importer of 6.5 tons of garbage from South Korea that were dumped in Misamis Oriental.      Verde Soko officials were a no-show at the public hearing, prompting Rep. Henry Oaminal (2nd district, Misamis Occidental), committee chair, to issue a show cause order against them.      “If still they will not appear before this committee, we will issue warrants of arrests against them,” he said.      The Committee held a public hearing here last Friday to investigate the dumping of 6,500 tons of garbage from Pyeongtek, South Korea, passed off as recyclable plastics. Out of this number, 1,400 tons of waste were returned to South Korea in January this year.      The first shipment of 5,100 tons (4.6 million kilos) arrived on July 21 last year and was immediately sent to the four-hectare facility of Verde Soko, in Sitio Buguac, Barangay Santa Cruz in Tagoloan. The second shipment of 51 container vans loaded with 1,400 (1.27 million kilos) tons arrived in the second week of August last year and was also brought to the same facility.      House members also moved to suspend Franklin Quijano, Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Investment Development Corporation (Phividec) Industrial Estate, a government-owned and controlled corporation; Efledo Resma, its port assistant manager; and former Cagayan de Oro Bureau of Customs Collector Floro Calixhan for allegedly allowing Verde Soko to import the garbage from South Korea.      Quijano, Resma and Calixhan denied the allegations, maintaining that Verde Soko imported recyclable plastic waste for its facility in Barangay Sta. Cruz,  Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental.      Oaminal said the Committee will hold officials of Verde Soko responsible for bundling of the garbage in their facility. He said the South Korean government had promise to foot the shipping costs amounting to P45 million.      “The shipping requires the garbage wastes to be bundled into bags. Verde Soko should pay the. Otherwise, its is the Filipino people who will hold the empty bag eventually,’ he said.      South Korea paid the US $47,000 shipping costs that brought back 51 container vans containing 1,400 tons of garbage to their port of origin in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on January 13 this year.      John Simon, Bureau of Customs port collector said in January that in accordance with the Basel Convention, the container vans were to be shipped back to South Korea aboard M/V Kalliroe of Maerks Shipping at the expense of the South Korean government.  The Philippines and South Korea are signatories to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, more popularly referred to as the Basel Convention, designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries.      Simon said the return of the household waste to South Korea was a result of series of meetings that culminated in Cagayan de Oro on Dec. 26 and 27.      Rep. Lawrence Fortun (1st district, Agusan del Norte) said Calixhan told him Verde Soko officials are in constant communication with him.      Magdalo partylist Rep. Gary Alejano recommended that the house committee ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a strong note verbale to the South Korean government to stop dumping its garbage in the Philippines.      Alejano said this is the second time garbage from South Korea was discovered—the first here in Misamis Oriental and Cebu City where 25 tons of garbage were found late last year.      Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate also called for an investigation of Phivedec and BoC operations in Misamis Oriental.      “In their haste to earn money, Phivedec officials neglected to safeguard the interests of the people and here we are now, Misamis Oriental has become a dumping ground,” Zarate said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)

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MILF’s Ghazali Jaafar passes away

March 14, 2019

•    His last public appeal to fellow leaders: ‘be the unifying forces for our people’   COTABATO City--Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), newly-appointed member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and nominated Speaker of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) passed away at 1 a.m. Wednesday in a Davao City hospital.      Jaafar, who went through a heart surgery late last year, passed away at the Metro Davao Medical and Research Center in Davao City, Prof. Raby Angkal, his chief of staff, announced at 6 a.m., through a text message using Jaafar’s mobile number.       Jaafar, Vice Chair for Political Affairs until the title was changed to “1st Vice Chair,” was the first chair of the MILF peace panel. He signed the general cessation of hostilities between government and the MILF in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997.      He chaired the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law in 2017 and oversaw the progress of the draft law until the Bicameral Conference Committee of Congress passed its substitute bill – RA 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM.      The law was passed in July 2018. Shortly thereafter, he underwent a heart surgery.      Jaafar’s last public appearance was at the oathtaking rites of the BTA in Malacanang on February 22, 2019. He arrived on a wheelchair shortly before President Rodrigo Duterte entered the Rizal Hall, insisted on standing up when he took his oath along with 71 other BTA members, but fell on his back while conversing with President Duterte.      Jaafar was not present during the turnover rites from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the BARMM on February 26 at the Shariff Kabungsuan Cultural Complex. It was here where interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim) named him as Speaker. But while he is recuperating, he said, a Deputy Speaker – former Lanao del Sur Rep. and Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Pangalian Balindong — would take his place.     In a message sent to MindaNews Wednesday morning, interim Chief Minister Ebrahim said “the entire MILF officers, members and sympathizers are very saddened for the passing away of Brother Ghazali Jaafar, the 1st Vice Chairman of the MILF and to be recommended for the Speakership of the BTA Parliament.”      Jaafar, he said, was “one of the pillars of the MILF leadership and had been with the Bangsamoro Struggle for around fifty years or more. We sincerely pray to Allah to reward his good deeds and accept his soul in His paradise.”      MILF Peace Implementing Panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said they lost “one of the most dedicated leaders of the MILF and Bangsamoro people. My family and I express our utmost condolence and sympathy to the bereaved family of the departed leader.”      In a sit-down interview on February 18, 2017, six days before they took their oath as BTC members, MindaNews noted the aging leadership of the MILF, that some of them might no longer be around in the next five years. Jaafar replied: “There is no problem with us because when we conceptualized the.. MILF many years ago, together with our leader si Salamat Hashim, included in the conceptualization of the MILF is the development of God-fearing leaders and … trustworthy, righteous leaders and I think we have produced some, although not many. I think we produced some… so if pioneer leader is no more, there are these new leaders developed by us… ready to take position and assume the leadership of the Bangsamoro.”       Jaafar in the 2017 interview declined to give his age but described himself as having graduated from high school ahead of Ebrahim and Iqbal who were batchmates in high school. Ebrahim is turning 71 in May while Iqbal is 72.      On March 1 this year, when MindaNews asked him for his age, Jaafar said his birth certificate states he was born on May 6, 1954 – placing his age at 65. MindaNews clarified if he meant 1944 because he had earlier said he was older than the two. He reiterated he was older. He was likely 75.      While in high school, Jaafar told MindaNews in 2017, he founded a youth group that sowed the seeds of activism among students and those out of school in Cotabato City and neighboring areas.  At the Notre Dame College (now University), he took up AB in Political Science. “I wanted to be a lawyer pero hindi na ako umabot doon.”      Like many in Jaafar’s generation, finishing college took a back seat to the struggle for liberation of the Bangsamoro.      Jaafar said it was important that government and the MILF are on the same page on the definition of peace “kasi the way we look at it, ang definition ng gobyerno sa peace is the absence of fighting. That is not the peace that we want. There can be no peace if the Bangsamoro agenda is not addressed to the satisfaction of the greater majority of the Bangsamoro people. This can be addressed if ma-realize yung demand ng Bangsamoro people na meron silang gobyerno and government they will run for everybody, Muslims and non-Muslims alike and a democratic government and still under the Republic of the Philippines.”      Jaafar did not live to see the inaugural session of the BARMM. It was supposed to have been inaugurated March 11 but this was moved to March 21.      In his last speech delivered at the Shariff Kabungsuan Cultural Complex on January 18 during the “Peace Assembly for the Ratification of Republic Act No. 11054 or the  Bangsamoro Organic Law,” Jaafar appealed to “all my fellow leaders to be the unifying forces of our people.”      “Our personal political interests should not stand in the way of the collective interests of the Bangsamoro, settler communities and indigenous peoples, the overwhelming majority of whom are pinning their hope for peace and progress through the Bangsamoro Organic Law,” he said.      “This coming Monday (January 21), we will make history again. The opportunity to set into motion our long-cherished Bangsamoro Government is now in our hands. We no longer need bullets and arms, but only a mere stroke of the pen. Let us all say Yes to the BOL, and together let us chart a new future for ourselves, our children and our posterity,” Jaafar concluded. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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Vice mayor nabbed

March 14, 2019

ILIGAN City--Authorities arrested on Wednesday (March 13) Marawi Vice Mayor Arafat Salic after almost two years in hiding following his rebellion case.      Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army, said Arafat was arrested at the city hall in a joint law enforcement operation of the army and Marawi police around 9 in the morning yesterday.      It was not clear if he was reporting as vice mayor because the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has installed the city’s first councilor as acting vice mayor after Arafat was not anymore reporting to his office in 2017.      Salic is included in the arrest order issued by Department of National Defense following the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao during the start of Marawi siege in May 2017.      He is now in custody of the Philippine Army in Kampo Ranao in Marawi while undergoing interrogation with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency because of the pending murder and drug cases according to Brawner.      Arafat Salic is the son of former Marawi Mayor Solitario Ali and nephew of Fahad Salic who also became a three-term mayor.      Fahad was arrested in a checkpoint in Misamis Oriental in the early parts of Marawi siege for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

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“1k turns to P1700” investment scam founder fall

March 11, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - An alleged founder of another investment scam in Cagayan de Oro fall into the hands of the National Bureau of Investigation, regional office 10 here. NBI operatives identified the suspect as a certain Antonette Sestoso, a resident of this city. Sestoso reportedly turned herself over to NBI for fear of reprisal from her victims. She also said she surrendered to face any investigation and she would tell the truth about the company and its operations. "Willing sad ko mag refund sa money. Fiscal na ang bahala mag sulti kung pila ka bulan nako iuli ang ilang refund," Sestoso told the media. Sketchy reports revealed that the suspect collected more than half million pesos from those who complained at the NBI office 10. However other unconfirmed reports had it that the suspect allegedly carted away P30-M pesos from hundreds of investors. At the NBI office 10, the suspect admitted she was responsible in posting on Facebook very enticing adverts such as turning the investor's "P1K to P1700 in just 10 days." But she denied she was the founder of "P1K turns to P1700" alleged investment scam. "Oh ako ang ga-post sa Facebook pero dili lang ako involve ani. Involve pud ani ang pamilya ni Pagaspas. She told the media that a certain Donie Pagaspas was also allegedly involved in the operation of the reported investment scam. "Dili lang ako involve ani. Ang pamilya Pagaspas. Sila tanan apil ani," Sestoso told the media. NBI regional director Patricio Bernales, Jr advised city residents not to easily get enticed by the offers of people online so that they will not fall victims of investment schemes. "Kung tan aw ninyo nga too good to be true and offer online especially kadtong pirme ga open sa ilang gadgets, magduda namo. Dili gani ga offer ug ingon ana ka dagko ang bangko," Bernales said in vernacular. Lawyer Alex Caburnay also of NBI-10 told the media that if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not give secondary license to a certain company offering investments, then it is a scam and the city residents must be aware of this fact. He told city residents to be watchful because there a lot of offers on Facebook that are all "too good to be true." "Para dili mo mailad kay daghan na karon investment schemes sa internet," Caburnay claimed. (JCE)

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Govt cancels peace talks with Reds

November 24, 2017

THE Philippine government on Wednesday terminated its peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements that he will no longer pursue talks with the communist rebels. “We are hereby announcing today (Wednesday) the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement. “Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision. We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations,” he added. In a speech in Taguig City on Tuesday, President Duterte said he has “decided to cut talks with the NPAs,” adding “giyera na lang tayo (Let’s just fight it out).” He said he has told Dureza and government chief negotiator, Silvestre Bello III, to convey to communist leaders abroad that the peace talks would no longer resume. The President has repeatedly lambasted the communist rebels for continuously attacking state troops and giving unreasonable demands in the peace negotiations. Among the demands the communist leadership has made was the release of all political prisoners prior to the peace talks. He also cited the NPA ambush of a police vehicle in the village of Tikalaan, Talakag town, Bukidnon, on Nov. 9, which resulted in the death of a four-month old infant. “In-ambush nila ‘yung pulis in Mindanao, tapos pati ‘yung bata na four months old, tinamaan. Kaya napundi talaga ako (They ambushed the policeman in Mindanao, killing a four-month-old baby in the process. I really lost my temper),” Duterte said. It can be recalled that President Duterte on Saturday told reporters that he would declare the NPA a terrorist group because he was sick of their shenanigans. Peace negotiations were stalled in May this year following a string of attacks committed by communist rebels against state troops. In the meantime, Dureza said the cancellation of peace talks with the Reds “is an unfortunate development in our work for peace”. “Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them,” he said. Talks between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDF have reached a fourth round, and a fifth round was being worked out when the process was stalled. Dureza noted that President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace, but the communist party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity. “There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP-NPA-NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident. We will closely watch the developments,” he said. “We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events,” Dureza said. (PNA)

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