northern mindanao

Kolambugan residents continue to work for “unity among Muslims and Christians”

August 21, 2019

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – Eleven years after the tragedy, residents of Kolambugan town in Lanao del Norte still feel the pain but are now working “for the unity among Muslims and Christians,” Mayor Lorenzo Manegos said.  To recall, on August 17, 2008, a few days after the Supreme Court stopped the August 5 signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), four soldiers and three militiamen were killed in an ambush of a four-vehicle Army convoy by suspected MILF members in Mulondo, Lanao del Sur. Eleven others were wounded.  The convoy was moving along the highway in Mulondo at around 8 a.m. on their way to deliver cash allowances to militiamen in neighboring Lumba-Bayabao town. They were fired upon by around 100 armed men who were positioned on higher ground, Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said.  On August 18, 2008, the MILF led by Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo attacked the coastal villages of Tacub and Libertad in Kauswagan and Kolambugan towns, leaving a number of civilians dead and sending thousands of evacuees to neighboring cities of Ozamiz and Iligan. In Kolambugan alone, 14 civilians and a military officer were killed while 60 were taken hostage and later released in Tangkal town as the MILF was retreating. Mayor Manegos, who was vice mayor during the Kolambugan siege, acknowledged that it pains them to remember what happened, “apan ang nangagi nga kasaysayan isipon nga usa ka pag-tulun-an ang nahitabo ug mag padayon ang kahiusahan sa Muslim ug Christian sa Kolambugan” (but let us learn lessons from the past and let us continue working for unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan). “Nag tuo kami nga diha sa interfaith dialogue masulbad ang suliran sa komunidad ug ma kab-ot ang kahusay ug kalinaw and lig-on nga relasyon” (we believe that through interfaith dialogue, we can solve the problems in the community and we will achieve justice and peace and strengthen our relationship), the mayor said in an interview after the mass.  He said every first Friday of the month, Muslim and Christian religious leaders meet to discuss the situation in the community and to resolve whatever problems there may be.  He said they believe that the success of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) bring about lasting peace in the area Commemoration  In the mass to commemorate the tragedy on Sunday morning, Father Abet de Lara, parish priest of Kolambugan, said they are offering prayers for those who died in 2008 and for lasting peace and unity among Muslims and Christians in Kolambugan.  The priest read the names of the 15 civilians and a military officer who were killed and the damages to property during the siege.  He said the parish teamed up with the local government unit and joined their Muslim brothers and sisters in celebrating Eid’l Fitr, the end of Ramadan.  “Hand in hand, we shared with the people the value of forgiveness, peace, acceptance and unity,” the priest said.  For Melanie Avelis, barangay chair of Tacub in Kauswagan, “amo nang gidawat ang nahitabo ug dili mi gusto nga dumdumon pa ang nangaging hitabo ug ipadayun namo ang kalambuan sa Tacub” (we have accepted what happened but we do not want to remember what happened but we will work for the progress of Tacub). Tacub and Libertad are the recipient communities of a 552-megawatt coal-fired power plant which is expected to provide direct socio-economic benefits to the community.  The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is preparing for the decommissioning of MILF combatants under the normalization track, which includes alternative livelihood opportunities for MILF community members. Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., and military officials joined the MILF’s Abdullah Macapaar, now member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, during the celebration of Eid'l Adha on August 12 in Camp Bilal in Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)

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What to do with crooked BARMM officials taking cuts from 4Ps beneficiaries: ‘Slap them!’

August 21, 2019

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 21 August) – “Slap them, create a scene!”  This is the advice of Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on what to do to corrupt government officials taking cuts from the payouts for beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) intended for the poorest of the poor.  Sinarimbo, during the launch of the weekly Kapihan sa Bangsamoro last Monday, echoed the message of President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s 4th State of the Nation Address last month, after the Ministry of Interior of Local Government of the BARMM was alarmed over reports that the resumption of the multimillion-peso 4Ps program are being used by some corrupt leaders to their advantage once again. “Pwede na nilang gawin yung sinabi ni President Duterte na sampalin nila, para meron tayong mapag-usapan, yung merong marka na pwede nating habulin at kasuhan” (They can do what President Duterte said that they can slap them, so there’s something to talk about, if possible would leave a mark so we’d know who to run after and file charges), he said. Sinarimbo said the reports they received say officials from the barangays and municipalities, with links to employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, are interfering in the payouts He said they will continue validating the reports and to conduct investigations to stop the practice, noting that the BARMM administration is pushing for moral governance. A video of a Lanao del Sur payout activity a few years ago went viral where the barangay chairman was caught in a footage getting cuts from the beneficiaries. The DSWD national office advised last year to stop the payouts after noting discrepancies, like bloated data of those enrolled in the 4Ps, leading to the stoppage of the program in the Bangsamoro region. This was followed by massive validation, the use biometric system, and actual house to house enumeration of every member beneficiaries. A new cleansed list is now being used by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development (MSWD). MSWD personnel cited that in the town of Malabang in Lanao del Sur, which resumed 4Ps payouts last August 8, the number enrolled beneficiaries now number at 3,848. Before the list was cleansed, the enrollees totalled 3,900, or 52 beneficiaries more. The government thus saved P365,000. But Malabang Mayor Mohamad Macapodi complained that MSWD enumerators are not conducting house-to-house visits to validate data, doing it instead from afar. Lawyer Raissa Jajurie, MSWD head, acknowledged the need for enumerators to visit the residences of beneficiaries where they can get the real situation of the household. Her office has sought the assistance of the MILG to help them work with local officials in properly implementing the program and stop the wrongdoings of the past. In response, the MILF issued Memorandum Order No. 25, which refrains local officials from directly or indirectly interfering in the process or use the program for their political advantage. Beneficiaries in the Bangsamoro region could now get as much as P15,000 to P30,000 each because of the stoppage of the program. In Lanao del Sur, the payout coverage will be until October. Tawi-tawi, meanwhile, will have theirs starting in September. Maguindanao and Sulu will follow soon after. Noraida Lomondot, 50, a widowed grandmother and breadwinner from Barangay Macauranding in Malabang town, said there was no way she would share her 4Ps money to any local officials or anybody from the MSWD. “Why would I give share this with them? I am old and helpless; this is for the poor,” she said in the vernacular. Lomondot is raising three grandchildren, whom she said are a product of a broken family, abandoned by her jobless daughter. “I am just thankful that 4Ps came. Otherwise, I don’t know what to do,” she added. Lomondot admitted, though, that a huge part of her money from the 4Ps will be used to pay debts.. Representatives of lending companies were waiting outside the gate of the municipal hall, ready to collect their money from the beneficiaries. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

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BARMM commemorates deadly 1976 tsunami with multi-hazard simulation drill

August 20, 2019

KUSIONG, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao  (MindaNews / 19 August) -- As the siren sounded at 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 17, exactly 43 years after the 1976 tsunami that left at least 8,000 dead and missing along the Moro Gulf, residents applied what they learned from previous disaster drills: duck, hold and cover. When the shaking stopped, hundreds of villagers flocked towards the campus grounds of  Bai Hanina Sinsuat High School, designated as evacuation site by the Bangsamoro government’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidents (Bangsamoro READi) for the multi-hazard simulation drill. A helicopter hovered, assessing the situation on the ground. Speedboats of the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard and different rescue teams rushed to a respond to a drowning scenario from a capsized boat. Minutes later, ambulances, rescuers and hospital staff arrived to rescue an estimated 50 persons representing those who were wounded in the aftermath of the magnitude 8.1 earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Forty-three years ago, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake triggered what has been referred to as the country’s “most disastrous tsunami.” BARMM Local Governments Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, who also heads the Bangsamoro READi, said the exercise was meant to look at the integration of responses from local government units to barangays. “It’s a vertical and horizontal integration,” he said. Sinarimbo said they hope to link up government offices or ministry, security sector, private sector and the communities, to include communities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and bring in institutions which were not part of government before. Assessment Engr. Rainier Amilbahar, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in Cotabato City and the BARMM noted that an indigenous warning device of the Tedurays which was showcased during the first tsunami simulation in 2014 was not used in Saturday’s drill. He said hitting a piece of bamboo hanging in a strategic location in a Teduray’s house serves as an early warning device and the other areas have in fact followed this practice following the 2014 drill. He said the bamboo has been an effective warning device long before sirens and whistles became popular. Representatives of the Mindanao Humanitarian Team (MHT), a group of humanitarian agencies, observed that not everyone participated in the drill and cited an instance when a fish vendor was still doing business in the midst of the drill. They also pointed to poor communication signal, suggesting the need for a stronger UHF and VHF signal or satellite phone for responders. Some of the participants apparently forgot they were in a drill as they ended up looking at the helicopters hovering instead of portraying their roles. The tagging of supposed casualties also posed some problems. But there were good practices that were also observed.  Participants who acted as residents fleeing to higher ground did not forget to bring their  “go bags” which contained food, personal hygiene and emergency kit, diaper, napkin, water, personal documents like birth certificate and passports. Observers lauded the spacious evacuation site where areas for the evacuees and those needing treatment were delineated, and the immediate conduct of psycho-social activities for the children. Responders who had no stretchers but made improvised ones to carry their patients to the treatment area were praised for their ingenuity.. 1976 tsunami survivors Ricardo Fering, 81 and his wife, Lourdes, 80 could still vividly recall when a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck shortly after midnight on August 17, 1976, triggering a tsunami. The couple at that time lived in Minandar, an uphill village fronting the Kusiong village and the seashore. “Our hut was like a hammock in full swing,” Ricardo recalled. By daylight,  he  attempted to go to Cotabato. As he walked, he saw dead fish scattered on the ground along with dead persons. Lilia Suban, 67, a resident also of Mindanar, said shortly after they were jolted by the quake, they heard “a loud rumbling of rocks… it was like war, rocks falling from the hill” before the huge waves swallowed everything on its path. It took three days for the news to reach the other villages. At that time, the word ‘tsunami’ was still unheard of in these parts. It was merely referred to as “tidal wave.” Ricardo recalled that government response also took days as responders had to clear the roads of debris from the tsunami and landslides. At that time, too, there were no telephones in the area and other means of communications were cut off. Amilbahar said the Celebes fault has been consistently active since 1600. “That is why we have to be always ready,” he said. 8,000 dead About 8,000 were reported dead or missing, some 10,000 injured and an estimated 90,000 were rendered homeless, according to a 1978 report prepared for the Special Committee on Tsunami Warning System of the National Committee on Marine Sciences of the National Science and Development Board. The tsunami affected 700 kilometers of coastline bordering the Moro Gulf, affecting the coastal areas of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte,  Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and the cities of Cotabato, Zamboanga and Pagadian.  Maguindanao posted the highest number of dead and missing, followed by Lanao del Sur. Ninety five per cent of the casualties were due to the tsunami, the report said. The waves ranged from 4.3 meters (14 feet) to nine meters (29 feet). Waves were reported to be higher than five meters in Linek and in Kalanganan in Cotabato City, Pagadian City, Sacol Island in Zamboanga City. In Lebal, Sultan Kudarat, “waves may have been as high as nine meters,” the report added.  (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)

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Peasant leader shot dead in NorthCot

August 20, 2019

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/20 August) – Unidentified assailants gunned down a known leader of a progressive farmers’ organization in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 8:30 p.m. on Monday. Authorities identified the victim as Medardo Espina Barro, a.k.a. Dodong, a resident of Sitio Natipakan, Barangay Latagan in Matalam. Reports said Barro was drinking with friends and relatives outside his house when two men, one of them armed with an M4 Armalite, shot him in his head, stomach and chest. He died on the spot. Witnesses told police the attackers went straight to a black Toyota Hilux parked a few meters away from Barro’s residence after the shooting, and sped towards the town of Antipas, North Cotabato. Police recovered from the crime scene three slugs from an M4 Armalite. Some family members said Barro was active in organizing farmers in his village for the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao region. Police have yet to determine the motive for the killing. Friends from his group said Barro was among those that opposed the deployment additional soldiers in his village. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

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GenSan allots P5.8M to fight dengue

August 20, 2019

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 August) – The city government has allotted an initial P5.8 million to augment its continuing interventions against the deadly dengue fever. City Councilor Rosalita Nuñez, chair of the council’s committee on health and sanitation, said Tuesday such funding would be utilized for the purchase of medicine and the needed equipment and chemicals for the anti-dengue operations in local communities. She said the funds, as proposed by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC), will be drawn from the quick response component of the Local DRRM or calamity fund. The CDRRMC, headed by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera, recommended last Friday the declaration of the city under a state of calamity due to the rising dengue cases. “That is just the initial funding. We can increase it to P15 million later on if needed,” Nuñez said in a radio interview. Based on a report from the City Health Office’s epidemiology and surveillance unit, the recorded dengue cases from Jan. 1 to Aug. 9 within the city’s 26 barangays had already reached 791, with three deaths. Such figure is 45 percent higher compared to the 544 cases recorded in the same period last year. Nuñez said the dengue incidence in the city may not be considered as alarming as with the cases in other areas but noted that they should not be complacent about it. She said the Department of Health, through Secretary Francisco Duque, had warned that the dengue outbreak could still intensify in the coming months. “The heaviest occurrence of dengue is not now but reportedly in October based on its cycle. So we have to be ready,” she said.    Nuñez urged residents to continue with the regular cleanup activities in the community and household levels, especially the “4 o’ clock habit,” and the observance of the DOH’s 4-S strategy against dengue. The 4-S strategy stands for search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites; secure self-protection measures like wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts and daily use of mosquito repellent; seek early consultation; and, support fogging/spraying only in hotspot areas where increase in cases is registered for two consecutive weeks to prevent an impending outbreak. She said Mayor Rivera has ordered barangay councils to properly implement Ordinance No. 7, series of 2014, which provides for the “Prevention, Control, Reduction and Mitigation of Mosquito Vector of Dengue in the City of General Santos, Penalizing Violators thereof and for Other Purposes.” “It focuses on the search and destroy strategy. Areas that have mosquito breeding places should be subjected to misting operations,” she added.(MindaNews)

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SouthCot probes selling of gov’t fuel supplies

August 20, 2019

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 August) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has launched a deeper investigation into the alleged selling by several unscrupulous employees of fuel supplies purchased by the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO). Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said they are currently looking into the masterminds and employees who are involved in the illegal activity, which was reportedly going on for some time at the PEO. He said they uncovered the fraudulent practice in an operation conducted by a team from the local government’s motorpool on Thursday last week in Norala town. The governor said one of his “trusted persons” personally witnessed several employees assigned at a project in Norala selling six containers of fuel. He did not identify those involved but cited that they include workers who are under regular or permanent plantilla status and job order contracts. “For the involved job order workers, you will be dismissed outright. For the regular, we will find an assignment for you in Ned,” Tamayo said. He was referring to Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu town, one of the remotest barangays in the province. Tamayo said the erring employees cannot deny the illegal activity as the provincial government has witnesses to prove it. He said he had been aware of such activity beforehand and even warned PEO employees about it in a recent visit at their office in Koronadal City. “I want to know how they are actually doing it and who are those leading them,” Tamayo said. The governor warned that the local government will not tolerate any illegal activity under his administration. He said his office has commissioned at least 60 community organizers to establish core groups composed of seven to 15 individuals at the purok level in the province. “So it’s impossible for these kind of anomalies in the field to not reach me,” he added. (MindaNews)

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