Saturday, August 20, 2011

Zambales govt passes resolution vs. Subic coal plant

MANILA, August 21, 2011—Campaign against coal-fired power plants in Subic, Zambales continues as the Provincial Board voted unanimously and approved a resolution upholding the ban of erecting a coal-fired power plant in any parts of the province.
In a statement dated 17 August 2011, Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain II said that former General and Department of Works and Highways (DPWH) chief, and now the Governor of Zambales Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., had signed Board Resolution No. 2011-149 that strongly opposes the erection of the coal-fired thermal plant in Sitio Cawag, in Subic.
“When I accidentally came to know about this project during the presentation of the SBMA [Subic Base Metropolitan Authority] Ecology Center together with Taiwan Cogen before the municipal council of Subic, Zambales sometime in 2007, I immediately relayed it to SUBRA [Subic Bay Resorts Association] which afterwards requested from the SBMA Ecology Center a presentation about the proposed coal plant in Subic Bay,” the vice-governor said in a statement.
SUBRA, together with People's Task Force on Hanjin & Subic Bay Inc. and the Greater Subic Bay Tourism Bureau (GSBTB), were the first organization that opposed the proposal.
The provincial vice chief also said that other cause-oriented groups as well as the local government of Olongapo City opposed the project. He also said that he was present during the deliberation and approval of early local government resolution that strongly opposed the erection of the plant.
Lacbain also said that he cannot recall any consultation made in connection with the proposed power plant, neither there is a strong approval for the erection of the electric-generation facility in Subic.
“I don't remember any meeting or public consultations I have attended regarding the proposed coal plant in Subic Bay where the participants accepted or endorsed the project. I was out of the provincial board from 2007-2010 but I can't recall any instance when the proponents made a presentation before the provincial board.
“I [have even] asked the board members during those period and they confirmed that no presentation was made before them during their session. Until, I was re-elected as vice governor last 2010 and had the chance to attend another presentation, this time by Aboitiz Power, before the municipal council of Subic, Zambales on the proposed project. But what surprised me is when I saw the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by former DENR secretary Lito Atienza. [I am] surprised because how come the ECC was issued when I can't remember any public consultations regarding the project where it was accepted or endorsed?” he said.
The Aboitiz Group (also known as the Aboitiz & Company, Inc.) is known as one of the oldest shipping magnate in the Philippines, which traces its roots with the hemp trading in Ormoc, Leyte during the 1800s.
Aside from shipping and trade, in 1930, the Aboitiz clan had also ventured in power industry development (generation and distribution). Today the Aboitiz Group is known as the biggest companies in the Philippines and having its share in real estate development, agriculture, ship-building, and tourism, being the owner of the elite resort, Amanpulo in the Palawan Island.
Nevertheless, Lacbain and other groups continue to question the issuance of the ECC for the construction and later, operation of the plant, which the world environmentalists and scientists had identified as “the number one carbon dioxide (CO2) emitter in the atmosphere”. CO2 is considered the agent of global warming and climate change.
Coal plant in Subic: socially unacceptable
As it would pollute the air and waters of the scenic Subic in Zambales, the vice governor and the opponents of the coal plant in Sitio Cawag see the project as socially unacceptable.
“The social acceptability of the project is questionable and considering that this is the most important requirement for the issuance of the ECC. Several months after Aboitiz Power and the SBMA Ecology Center made a presentation before the provincial board regarding the project, the individuals and organizations that allegedly had accepted or endorsed the project had never submitted any documents to justify the legality of the issuance of the ECC,” the Zambales second chief disclosed.
“In fact, new SBMA Director Philip Camara was even asking for an investigation of SBMA Ecology Center Manager Ameth Dela Llana for failure to submit the list of individuals and organizations that accepted or endorsed the project, as requested by Zambales provincial board,” he added.
Fight for coal plant-free Subic to continue
Despite the fact that the prospective investors might be shooed away because of the vehement opposition to the coal-fired power plant, the provincial government even encouraged the people of Zambales to continuously oppose the proposed project by the Aboitiz.
“The people of Zambales and Olongapo must not retreat but must continue, with even more active and strong determination, to oppose this project which is being continued despite the opposition from all sectors. This project will definitely have adverse effects on our environment, health and our tourism industry in Subic Bay but in return for all these sacrifices no direct benefit will go to the people: no real property taxes, no assurance of employment, no assurance of lower power rates, no assurance of environmental guarantee fund, no specific material or financial assistance to affected neighboring communities,” Lacbain said.
The vice governor had also stressed that there are cleaner energy sources that the government can tap and there is no excuse for pushing the coal-fired power plant erection in Subic Bay.
"Why insist on this coal-plant project, most especially in Subic Bay that must be preserved for tourism and fishery industries? For the sake of our environment, our health, our tourism and fishery and most especially our children's future—let's continue to oppose this project and finally get the cancellation of the ECC,” the vice governor said. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

Governor Angara-Castillo bats for peaceful and progressive Aurora

Gov. Bellaflor Angara Castillo and party in a souvenir
photo with the Japanese visitors.

BALER, Aurora, August 21, 2011-In the recent twin separate encounters between the army and rebels, Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo calls for peaceful and progressive province, urging the Domingo Erlano Command (DEC) rebels to return to the mainstream society.

Angara-Castillo told newsmen that the provincial government is exerting fullest efforts for the continuous spur of development and maintaining its good image for having the lowest crime rate in Central Luzon.

“I expect all rebels in the province to return to the fold of the law. I want to change their status to know that the government is sincere in the peace process. We are providing now a housing project for rebel returnees,” she said, referring to the establishment of a rebel returnees’ housing community at a two (2) hectare land in the municipality of Maria Aurora where an initial forty (40) houses will be built exclusively for former New People’s Army (NPA) and their dependents.

Angara-Castillo said that the rebels should be given the chance to know that there is a good future waiting for them if they will return to the government.

“I want to help them and ready to give what they need just like the other rebels who are now enjoying their lives,” Angara-Castillo said, explaining that she is offering rebel returnees community houses, jobs, scholarships, livelihood projects among others.

“I want a former rebel community complete with free house, facilities, schools, day care centers, chapels, health centers etc…,” she said.

Angara-Castillo said that she wanted to uplift the lives of the former rebels to feel what a family life should be living in a peaceful society; thus, I urged rebels to turn their back in the armed revolution.

It could be remembered that 21 rebels were awarded each of P50,000 worth livelihood assistance cash money totalled to P1,050,000 through the Social Integration Program (SIP) of the government. (Jason de Asis)

Aurora to be the richest province in the country

BALER, Aurora, August 20, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara revealed that Aurora can be the richest province in the country, saying that the Philippines may be able to achieve energy self-sufficiency because of Benham Rise, a submereged volcanic ridge near the province which is very rich in natural resources here in Central Luzon.

“After its claim to own an undersea land almost the size of Luzon is getting fruitful, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) is currently deliberating the handover to the country of the Benham Rise,” Angara said.

The country will not only gain 13 million hectares in additional territory, nearly the size of Luzon, should UNCLOS approve the claim, but also a potentially oil-rich region.

“The Benham Rise can provide our country its own energy, and also set off the opportunity to export gas, copper and other minerals,” Angara said.

The veteran Senator said that the country can provide us for its own energy, revealing that DENR studies for the past five years in the Benham Rise showed huge methane deposits that poses the province as a possible natural gas exporter.

“Kaya nitong lunurin ang buong mundo sa dami ng mineral deposit. We are the only claimant of Benham Rise which bolsters the country’s bid to own it unlike the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal in the west side,” Angara said.

“Once UNCLOS decides the submerged mass is sitting in Philippine territory, exploration operations could start to determine the size of resources in the plateau,” he furthered, explaining that the submerged volcanic ridge was within the country's 370-km exclusive economic zone.

He recalled that the government submitted the claim to the United Nations last 2009 for the rights over the plateau which was known as a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock, and is described in a study as a thickened portion of the Philippine sea plate’s oceanic crust.

It is bounded by the West Philippine Basin to the north and east, off the coast of Aurora and Isabela provinces.

“I reiterated that the province will be still the laboratory for development. This coming September the Benham Rise will be ours. The certificate of title will come out stating that the Philippines (our province) is the owner of it. (Jason de Asis) 

SC opinion on Hacienda Luisita assailed

MANILA, August 20, 2011—The Central Luzon farmers’ group, Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL) has criticized the recent clarification made by the Supreme Court on its July 5 decision regarding the dispute in Hacienda Luisita.
The Supreme Court has said that it would not require a majority vote, in a referendum, in order to decide if stock distribution option or the free distribution of land would be good in resolving the five-decade struggle for land by the farmers and farm-workers in the Cojuangco estate.
Joseph Canlas, AMGL chairperson said in a statement, the recent opinion made by the high tribunal would only sow confusion, if not disunity, among the farmer-beneficiaries of the disputed land owned by the family of President Benigno C. Aquino III.
“The Hacienda Luisita issue is transforming the Supreme Court, supposed to be the highest deciding body of legal issues in the country, into a hesitant body of legal luminaries upholding the interest of the landlord class. We are now hearing a high court that is pushing the farm workers to fight their co-workers and tillers, instead of issuing a decision that would finally resolve the matter,” he said.
Canlas also said that the SC had made the spirit of landlord class in the country, “high and strong”, by its decision and even evaded the “rationality of implementing free land distribution” as the opinion will only precede a more feudal relationship among land tillers and the owners of lands in the countryside.
AMGL also observed that, while the High Court did not favor the stock distribution plan by the Hacienda Luisita, Inc., it did not junk the stock distribution option itself.
“The high court junked the stock distribution plan (SDP) not the SDO, thus, farm-workers who would choose ‘stocks’ would be compelled to work for it as SDO only granted the farm-workers, the ‘right to purchase’ the stocks of HLI,” Canlas said.
Meanwhile, the farmers’ alliance also criticized the continued implementation of what they call “failure”, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Extension with Reforms (CARPER), which the Aquino ally, Akbayan Partylist and the Roman Catholic Church had pushed, years ago.
“The choice of land distribution of the SC decision would legally be through CARPER for this would compel the farm-workers to acquire an “attestation” from the Cojuangcos that they are actual “tenants.” CARPER, too, has provision that landowners have the right to set the price of land the farmer-beneficiaries would pay through amortization,” Canlas explained.
“The SC decision is firmly [giving] a win-win [solution] for the Cojuangco-Aquinos, as neither stocks nor CARPER would actually give the lands to the farm-workers. Thus, Hacienda Luisita farm-workers have only their united strength to rely on to actually till the lands such as what they are carrying on Brgy. Balete,” he furthered.
Nevertheless, Canlas said that the SC has only one option: to junk the SDO in Hacienda Luisita and immediately distribute the lands to the farm-workers.
“Unless this is realized, they should prepare for the intensifying rage of farmers and sectors who are struggling for genuine and fundamental reforms in the country,” Canlas said. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

‘Grill’ the Angaras on Apeco, lawmakers told

MANILA, August 20, 2011—A group of fishefolks has asked lawmakers to probe Senator Edgardo “Edong” Angara and his son, Aurora Rep. Sonny Angara and the family’s involvement in pushing for the approval of the multi-million Apeco project in Aurora.
The fishers’ group, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) told lawmakers to “grill” the Angaras about the issue of Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Free Ports Authority (Apeco) as the P332.5 million (US$7,804,270.10) proposed funding for the project is being heard at the Philippine Congress.
Budget deliberation for Apeco is set on August 22.
Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France said in a statement that the project, being anti-people and environmentally degrading, should be shelved by the lawmakers.
France said, Pamalakaya and the umbrella organization Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement will extensively and intensively lobby for the scrapping of the project and will push for a probe regarding what they call “Angara clan scheme”.
“Let the Angaras explain to the people why they are pursuing the project despite the wholesale rejection of Apeco [by some groups and lawmakers] during the committee hearing. However, they should not be allowed to speak and cast their vote once Congress in plenary puts this controversial issue to vote and approval,” France said.
Earlier, the aforementioned groups sent a letter to House Committee for Appropriations chair Cavite (1st District) Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya and the other members of the Committee, humbly asking the solon to reconsider the disapproval of the Apeco budget in the spirit of “objectivity, fairness and justice.”
The groups opined that the approval of the P332.5 million funds for the creation of Apeco will only legitimize land-grabbing and the abuse of marine resources in the Aurora province, thus endangering the livelihood, food and housing security, and the environment of the people in Aurora and the other affected areas.
It will also undermine the security and safety of the people, as the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Aurora (PAMANA) had already reported harassments, allegedly perpetrated by the elements of the Bravo Coy of the 48th Infantry Battalion as some residents refuse to give up their lands for the project.
In case of land-grabbing in the area, some of the farmers and fisherfolks that would be affected by the reclamation are beneficiaries of the Commonwealth Government’s land reform program.
According to some reports that reached this reporter, as the project pushes through, there would be a massive cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) and Integrated Social Forestry Certificates, issued by the past regimes.
Aside from Pamalakaya and the Resist Apeco! Defend Aurora Movement other lobbyists against Apeco are the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the faith-based group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), the Government Employees for Genuine Land Reform, Katribu Party list and the PAMANA.
Meanwhile, the Angaras had defended the project saying that it would benefit their constituents in Aurora as it would provide more job opportunities for them. The Apeco, said that the project proponents envision “a globally competitive, technologically advanced economic zone in the Pacific Northeast Sea Board working towards a renowned business community characterized by unified perspectives on green revolution and world-class innovation” and take as its mission to “foster national socio-economic growth and foreign business relations through the advancement of an innovative, eco-friendly and cost-efficient economic zone capable of withstanding the demands of today’s global market.”
Earlier this year, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III had already appointed former Labor chief Bienvenido Laguesma as board director of the controversial Apeco. Another appointee for the grandiose development project is Roberto Mathay, a businessman. (Noel Sales Barcelona)


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