Monday, September 3, 2012

Mindanao CSOs endorse Sulu governor as sole ARMM gubernatorial bet

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 3, 2012) – An umbrella organization of civil society groups in Mindanao has endorsed the governor of Sulu province as the government’s official candidate to next year’s elections in the Muslim autonomous region.

The Movement for Sustainable Good Governance, whose members include at least 30 civil society organizations from the five-province Muslim autonomous region, passed a resolution and a manifesto endorsing Gov. Sakur Tan to President Benigno Aquino.

Tan, who recently joined Aquino’s Liberal Party along with other provincial governors and mayors, was earlier endorsed by the Moro National Liberation Front to the President as the official LP candidate for the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Muslim region is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

“Gov. Sakur Tan has all the good qualities of a true leader and as representative of the Muslim people; we have endorsed the Sulu governor to be the official candidate of the Aquino administration to the upcoming ARMM elections in May.”

“The civil society organizations strongly support the leadership of Gov. Sakur Tan because of his genuine and untainted political career and sincerity to serve the people and bring peace, progress and development not only to Sulu province, but to the whole of the ARMM,” said Dr. Amildasa Annil, the leader convener and president of the Movement for Sustainable Good Governance.

The manifesto was passed following the 1st Zamboanga-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi CSO Summit held in Zamboanga City over the weekend. Some 300 CSO members from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Zamboanga City participated in the summit sponsored by two of the country’s largest sardine canning factories, the Mega Sardines and Amadeo Fishing Corporation.

“We, the undersigned, convener and members of the Movement for Sustainable Good Governance in the Autonomous Region (in Muslim Mindanao), imbibing the true essence of political participatory governance, asserting the advocacy of social justice, promotion and protection of the basic constitutional rights of the Bangsamoro people, and the entire constituents of the Autonomous Region, do hereby declare and manifest to the Public and to his Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III...after due discussions and deliberations in a summit assembled, We, therefore, adopt and resolved this manifesto to call and declare our full support for the candidacy of the Provincial Governor of Sulu, Governor Abdusakur M. Tan as the next Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” reads the signed manifesto, a copy of which was obtained by the Mindanao Examiner.

Ustadz Noreen Pallong, Basilan provincial convener and internal vice president of the Movement for Sustainable Good Governance, said they will also hold a similar summit in the cities of Cotabato and Marawi, and Davao, to further spread the strong clamour of the Muslims for Tan’s candidacy.

“There is a strong clamour from various Muslim civil society organizations and Bangsamoro people for the Sulu governor to govern the ARMM and bring peace and development to the region and progress to all its provinces and constituents. Governor Tan is the only leader we see fit to be the next ARMM governor,” he said.

Pallong, an influential Muslim religious leader in Basilan, said provincial constituents are strongly supporting Tan.

Tan, a known philanthropist and one of the most respected politicians, in the southern Philippines, did not give any statement about the manifesto, but he previously said that he is willing to serve should Aquino chooses him to be the official ARMM candidate in the synchronized regional and national elections.

Tan, a religious man, also sits as an observer to the government peace talks with Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Philippine Army defends small-scale miners; denies mining firm claims of Balabag gun battle

PAGADIAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 20, 2012) – The Philippine Army on Monday rejected claims by an affiliate of a Canadian mining firm operating in Zamboanga del Sur province that illegal miners attacked its security guards that resulted in a gun battle.

Major General Ricardo Rainier Cruz, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said one person Wilfred Catampungan was killed and six others wounded after security guards of the TVI Resources Development, Inc. opened fire on a group of small scale miners. The incident occurred on July 25 in Bayog town.

He said police filed criminal charges against 7 private security guards working for TVIRD.

“Using the pieces of evidence gathered to include accounts from several witnesses and sworn statements of the complainants, cases of two counts frustrated murder and six for attempted murder have been filed at a local court against the seven security guards of the TVIRD who are all under the Big JR private security agency,” Cruz said in a statement sent to The Manila Times.

Cruz branded the security guards as members of a “pseudo-organization employed by the said mining company to execute dirty works” commonly known among miners in Balabag area as 'K9'.

He also quoted Police Senior Inspector Eilen Fermindoza, chief of the Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch in Pagadian City, as saying that “there was no actual gunfight between the two parties. Majority of the firearms used by the TVIRD security guards were 12-gauge shotgun and, surprisingly, only spent cartridges of the same firearm have been found at the crime scene. Furthermore, all the involved guards’ firearms yielded positive on gun-powder residue upon examination.”

According to Cruz, soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Battalion led by Captain Rafael Balincamaya also confirmed that all the spent cartridges they recovered in the area were from a 12-gauge shotgun. They cartridges, he said, were just a few feet from the security post where the laborers were situated and that Balincamaya did not find any bullet holes at the outpost, denying the allegation of the TVIRD those laborers fired at its security guards.

“Indigenous people of Bayog and Sindangan town in Zamboanga del Norte province condemned the illegal actions of the TVIRD management that resulted to the unjust killing and wounding of the Subanen small-scale miner-laborers. The truth shall always prevail,” Cruz said.

“In the spirit of Bayanihan (cooperativism), we will always support whatever investigation will be undertaken by any investigative bodies such as our Philippine National Police counterparts when needed. Every Tabak trooper should remain vigilant and at all times be protectors of the people in our communities,” he said.

TVIRD has strongly denied Cruz’s allegations.

“We do not have pseudo organizations in our company; much less people whose responsibilities resemble that of ‘K9’ dogs.  Instead, we have functional departments carrying out specifics tasks and duties for our operations and our sustainable development work for the communities and the environment,” said Yulo Perez, TVIRD’s Vice President for Operations and Chief Operating Officer.

Perez added that Jungoy, a native of Bayog town, is tasked to report and carry apprehended illegal mining equipment of illegal miners and to support tree-planting activities carried out by the Security Force Department.

“The group of Catumpangan carried sacks of cyanide, blasting caps, illegal toxic chemicals, and diesel fuels. Police authorities and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau personnel are tasked to apprehend illegal miners who smuggle these restricted materials inside TVIRD Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) site in Bayog’s Balabag mountain.

The TVIRD executive was deeply concerned by Cruz’s irresponsible statement which described Jungoy as a member of an illegitimate organization that does “dirty” works for the mining firm.

“Before issuing libellous statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines should have read the police report on the Balabag incident. They could have known that the suspect was just defending his life against his attackers and that the company does not condone criminal acts,” Perez said.

“We brought Jungoy to the police immediately after the incident. We did not hide him because we trust our law enforcers so justice can take its course. Instead of making irresponsible statements, authorities should stop these unprovoked acts of unlawful aggression,” he added.

According to TVIRD, Jungoy told police that he and his team where on a routine inspection inside the MPSA when they ran into some 20 laborers engaged in illegal mining activities carrying cyanide, activated carbon and diesel fuel use in their outlawed gold processing plants.

“Jungoy related to the police that he was attacked and mauled when he tried to stop the group of laborers. He fired a warning shot, but the group ignored it and continued their attack. Sensing serious danger to his life, Jungoy fired another shot that unfortunately hit one of his attackers,” TVIRD said.

TVIRD - an affiliate of TVI Pacific - said the company finds it necessary, together with local government and police authorities, to set up security checkpoints and patrols in Balabag due to the dangerous operations by illegal miners in the area.

It said even Zamboanga del Sur Governor Antonio Cerilles and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered a stop to all hazardous and illegal mining operations in Bayog town, particularly in Balabag.

Most of the miners operating in Balabag belong to the Monte de Oro Small Scale Miners Association, but the Provincial Mineral Regulatory Board recently passed a resolution denying MOSSMA’s application to have the area declared as “peoples’ mining area’ because it does not comply with the requirements set forth by law to conduct mining activities.

Illegal miners have been operating in Balabag for more than a decade now and were largely blamed for the destruction of the mountain and environmental pollution in the town, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine official, 2 others missing after plane crashes at sea

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 19, 2012) – Rescuers continue to search for three people, including a senior government official, who went missing after their air plane crashed at sea in central Philippines.

Government media reported that the plane, carrying Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, went down off Masbate Island on Saturday and that one has survived the crash.

Robredo was heading to Naga City from Cebu when the plane, a twin-engine Piper Seneca piloted by Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand, crashed.

The lone survivor, Police Chief Inspector June Paolo Abrazado, said the pilots radioed the control tower to say that the plane was experiencing engine trouble barely 30 minutes after it took off from Cebu airport.

Rescuers said they found a piece of the plane’s wing. (Mindanao Examiner)

Filipino Muslims end fast, celebrate Eid

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 19, 2012) – Thousands of Muslims gathered Sunday in the town of Maimbung where they feasted on free food and greeted peace and long life with each other as they celebrate the Eid ul-Fitr, which marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Tuan Bash, an influential spiritual adviser in Sulu, said the celebration of Eid strengthens the unity and promote love and harmony among Muslims.

“This celebration if very important to us because this is the time where we thank Allah for all the blessings in life and share these blessings to the less fortunate,” he told The Manila Times.

He said locals celebrate the Eid with thanksgiving and festival after the conclusion of the thirty days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the Ramadan.

The provincial governor Sakur Tan and his family – as they did in previous years - led villagers in the breaking of fast with prayers on a small mosque in Maimbung, the seat of power of the Sultanate of Sulu.

Tan and his wife, Hajja Nurinisah, both philanthropists, ordered ready-to-eat meals, which arrived in truckloads in Maimbung to feed the town folks. Sulu mayors, including police and military officials and government leaders, also arrived to greet the First Family and to join the Eid celebration with the locals.

“We all give thanks to God for all these blessings. We are happy helping the poor,” the governor said.

Tan said he only wish for peace for everybody not only in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, but the whole country as well. “Peace is all we want not only in Sulu, but the ARMM and the whole country. Without peace, there will be no progress and development,” he said.

Tan also thanked President Benigno Aquino for his support to peace and development in Sulu. “We are recipients of many development projects now and our people are happy with all these blessings and we really appreciate the efforts of the Aquino government in helping us in Sulu and we would like to thank the President for all these development projects,” he said.

Last year, Tan prepared food for over 2,000 people in the coastal town where he lives and locals also put up stalls to sell their goods – from lobsters to root crops – because the Eid is also the time that Muslims spend more to buy gifts for their families and loved ones.

A show band called Mac-B, from Zamboanga City, commissioned by the town’s mayor, Samier Tan, also arrived in the town to entertain the locals. “Everybody is really enjoying and this is the time to thank the God and share our love to others,” he said.

The band was a hit among locals who enjoyed the electrifying performance of the group. Among the band members were Marvin de Jesus (lead guitar), Ahmad Nubhan (drums), Christopher Casimiro and Komz Ibrahim (bass), and Angelo Bangcal, Anthony Juni, Anne Perez and Sher-Ainnie Nuruddin, (vocals).

A long display of colorful fireworks capped the first day of the Eid celebration which usually lasts up to three days. (Mindanao Examiner)