Volunteers, environment group cite lapses in TreeVolution

Published at DavaoToday

DAVAO CITY – Organizers of the Mindanao-wide reforestation event in Davao last week issued a public apology after a number of volunteers and participants told news organizations and swarmed the social media about the unannounced inaccessibility of the planting sites to public transport.

Complaints include alleged injuries and fainting due to exhaustion and lack of water provisions while walking for more than six kilometers to the planting site in Barangay Magsaysay in
hinterland Marilog District.

The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), one of the organizers of the event along with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, issued the apology on Tuesday.

“We offer our sincerest apologies to those who went through such physical challenges,” their statement said.

The statement added that volunteers were asked to disembark from their vehicles due to the difficulty of the terrain.

“In some planting sites, it turned out that reaching the area by several kilometers walk rather than by trucks was the safest mode given the circumstances. It was a decision made on that instance to principally avoid possible catastrophic pitfalls from slippery terrain,” their statement said.

The TreeVolution reforestation drive held last September 26 Friday, wanted to snatch a world record from India for planting the most number trees in an hour in multiple sites in Mindanao.

The MinDA statement said that the number of volunteers for the Marilog planting site more than doubled from the target of only 600, with as many as 13,000 volunteers, mostly students and teachers.

Volunteers from Ateneo de Davao University told Davao Today of their difficult ordeal.

Kelly Serenio, a mass communication student, said she fainted due to fatigue and dehydration. “I can’t breathe,” she said.

Her classmate Karyn Asure said she saw high school students begging police officers for a ride in their vehicles, but were told to move on. “Sige lang, gang, kaya pa nimo (It’s okay, you can do it),” the officers told the students.

Paolo Rosello said when they were about a half-kilometer near the planting area, they already heard the public announcement that the event was over.

MinDA said they are now coordinating with schools to assist the students for further medical attention.

They also announced they will conduct more forums with the schools.

”A series of fora will be done in the next few weeks in those schools to endeavor reflections among students, and communicate on the next steps of nurturing the trees they planted.

MinDA reported that the tree planting event surpassed the record held by India in the Guinness Book of World Records. They reported a total of 3,517,489 seedlings planted in 260 locations in the six regions in Mindanao by some 189,755 volunteers.

The feat, however, is still to be verified by Guinness.

Professor Kim Gargar said the organizers would also need to apologize to the public “for touting the TreeVolution as a reforestation event when they only planted cash crops such as cacao, rubber and coffee”.

“The apology should not only focus on the accidents. They should apologize for the deception. They should admit that the Treevolution will not address climate change, will not address food security, and will only worsen threats to biodiversity and ecosystem balance in Mindanao,” Gargar said.

Gargar says that the standard reforestation requires at least 30 species of native trees to be planted to ensure biodiversity conservation. “This TreeVolution will not pass the international standard for forest reforestation,” he reiterated.

He noted that at least 250,000 hectares of land need to be reforest in Mindanao to restore just 1% of lost forest cover.


PDAF is alive – ex-solon

Published at DavaoToday

DAVAO CITY – Former Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Teodoro ‘Teddy” Casiño said that the controversial pork barrel remained tucked in the budget of national government agencies.

Casino said the two forms of pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Fund (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) “still exist, hidden in various government agencies” despite the Supreme Court ruling that the pork barrel was unsconstitutional.

The Department of Health, for instance, he said. has its Medical Assistance for Patients, which would require applicant patients to be indigent. He said the MAP funds will be managed by the congress representatives of their respective districts where the patients reside.

The congressman,  Casino said, “will be the one to decide who is indigent or not”.

There is also the Commission on Higher Education which he said is not also scot-free. “CHED’s scholarship system has a lot of requirements, that even CHED’ chairperson Patricia Licuanan acknowledged pork’s presence in the agency”.

The other favorite agencies to tuck in the discretionary funds, Casiño said, included Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Labor and Employment.

He said the pork barrel is hidden in the government’s “wrong concept of savings.” Savings in government “is officially defined as funds intended for projects that have not been used”,. he said. “One reason is abandonment of projects. If the proposed project was not pushed through, the funds intended for the said project would be declared as savings and would go to the president”.

“Hindi na iyan savings, kupit iyan” (That’s not savings anymore, that’s stealing), said Casiño.

Casino held his Teddy Talks forum on the Philippines’ national situation on Thursday at the Sangguniang Panlunsod.

Kit Iris Frias, former College Editors Guild of the Philippines vice president for Mindanao, said the PDAF should be removed  “but it’s a decision to be made by the citizens .

Frias said that “there is hope for the Philippines, but it lies in the masses”.

“History has always been theirs,” she said. (davaotoday.com)

Evacuation echoes yearning for protected land for tribal Manobos

Published at DavaoToday

DAVAO CITY – They slept by day. At night, they left. Following the trail of the river, they walked, crawled, and stumbled. Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at didn’t use flashlights so that they won’t be seen. They first carried their children then went back for the ill.

On the 29th day of April, the entire village of Talaingod evacuated here again due to heightened military activities and alleged abuses against civilians in their area.

It was getting dark at UCCP (United Church of Christ of the Philippines) when Manobo tribal Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at, wearing a blue shirt and purple drawstring pants, led his son by hand to a nearby bench, where there was light.

Mansumuy-at is one of the leaders of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, a group that Manobos in Talaingod formed to defend their land from investors.

Upon taking his seat, he narrated what happened back then.

In 1993, C. Alcantara and Sons Inc. (CASI, formerly Alsons) was awarded an Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The agreement granted 20,000 hectares of land CASI to develop into an industrial tree plantation.

In 1994, armed with bows and arrows, bolos, and spears, the tribal baganis, their warriors, led by Chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga waged a bush war for their land. They used booby traps called batik wherein a sharpened bamboo is tied with a rope in such a way that when someone trips over the rope, the bamboo hits him with a fatal blow.

It was a while before the government military was able to understand their battle tactics, Datu Mansumuy-at said, because their weapons do not bang like guns do. Then they decided to evacuate to the city.

The Manobos are traditionally nomadic in culture. For food, they constantly search for land to till. They look for another place to live in if a family member dies in their house. In believing that god as creator makes him the rightful owner of land, they do not claim absolute ownership of it. Benefiting from properties not theirs is a practice called usufruct. In return, they take care of it.

But now the nomadic culture can no longer be practiced, for they no longer have land to go to. And in grievous circumstances, they staged a pangayaw, a tribal war.

Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon is a Manobo term for “the land we will not give to the foreign capitalists.”

In 1997, the government passed the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) whose aim was to recognize, protect, and promote the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. However, there are sections that seem to contradict its goal.

Section 55 states that communal rights over ancestral domains should not be confused with coownership as in the R.A 386 (New Civil Code).

Also, section 56 provides that property rights in ancestral domains existing upon effectivity of said act shall be recognized and respected.

It was in 1993 that IFMA was formed. Two years after, the DAO 96-40 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) was passed, which tribal communities in many mountain communities in Mindanao have voiced out their disagreement.

The Manobos of Talaingod like Datu Tungig wonder what law they can use to uphold their rights.

Now 20 years later, the Matigtalomo-Manobo have evacuated again in the ensuing fight between the NPA and the military. They had to leave, Datu Mansumuy-at said, to speak of their plight and to be helped.

Fearing for their safety, they decided to evacuate to the city again.

In the eyes of a Manobo, Datu Mansumuy-at wondered why people have no homes to sleep in when the land was so wide. “Why do people eat garbage when in the city, food is so abundant? Why is fish and wood being sold? Why do the land and the seas have to be divided? Why is no one helping those sleeping outside and eating garbage?”

The people from support groups helping them were how all leaders should be, said Datu, for they all ate the same food. If the evacuees only had gabi/taro, the support group members ate that as well. A hungry people’s leader should be hungry too, he said, then added, when they think, they don’t think for themselves only, but for everyone.

“I am called Datu by my people, but I am not different from them. If they’re hungry, I’m hungry too. If they worry, I worry more.” (davaotoday.com)