Kanoy Bukidnon holds peace process forum at BSU

Kanoy Bukidnon, a multi-sectoral group of young professionals in the province is organizing a forum on the Mindanao Peace Process on January 31, 2009 (Saturday).

The new group invited historian and MSU professor emeritus Rudy B. Rodil from Iligan City to give a lecture at the Bukidnon State University Media Resource Center from 1-6p.m.

Prof. Rodil, an author of several books on Mindanao and a peace advocate, was vice-chair of the disbanded government peace panel that negotiated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He was also part of past peace panels, including the panel that negotiated for the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Among the topics to be discussed include the Memorandum of Agreement between the MILF and the government. There will also be a presentation on the history of the conflict in Mindanao.

Representatives from different sectors in the province were invited to attend the forum.

This forum is organized with the Bukidnon State University Social Science Department, the Davao-based Initiatives for International Dialogue, MindaNews, and Association of Local Artists of Bukidnon.

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DENR allows cutting of trees for ‘ecotourism park’ in Baungon, Bukidnon

Officials at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have allowed the cutting of trees in a reforestation project in Baungon, Bukidnon to give way to a supposed ecotourism park that would serve as a “municipal landmark” and “tourist attraction”.

Roughly one hectare of trees has been cut at the 220-hectare Nicdao
Reforestation Project put up by the DENR in 1989, a move that has incensed
members of the provincial board.

“This is foolish, stupid, and dubious,” Board Member Rogelio Lago said after
the special session yesterday where local DENR officials were asked to
explain their action.

Lago, a former mayor of Baungon, told MindaNews the reforestation project
was funded by the Asian Development Bank.

The project site, which was planted to gmelina, was cleared on January 6
based on a memorandum of agreement between the municipal government and the DENR regional office, he added.

Then DENR regional director Maximo O. Dichoso and Baungon Mayor Ardan J. Roa signed the agreement on November 17, 2008.

Dichoso issued a memorandum on December 19, 2008 indicating his approval of the cutting of trees.

A total of 550 gmelina trees with an estimated volume of 253 cubic meters
and a diameter of 20-35 centimeters each were cut down, he said citing a
report from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office.

“How could they allow the cutting of the trees in a reforestation project
just for them to plant trees? This can push us to doubt their integrity,” he
said.

Lago said the clearing is shameful and that the provincial board is poised
to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation.

“We could even proceed to filing of administrative cases and complaints at
the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.

“Shame on them for allowing the clearing. The DENR has approved the cutting
of trees when in neighboring Cagayan de Oro people are suffering because of
the floods,” he said.

The eco-park project is eyed at Sitio Kamatayon, Nicdao, Baungon, near a
site where Lago said he had proposed a tree park during his time as mayor.
He said his proposal did not include cutting of trees.

Narzal Muñez, CENR officer of Talakag whose jurisdiction includes Baungon
and neighboring towns, appeared at the session to explain DENR’s side, as he
was the one who gave the recommendations for the MOA to Dichoso.

Muñez cited in a letter about the MOA to his superiors that “the development
plan (of the project) necessitates the removal of the existing gmelina trees
to pave the way for the introduction of engineering structures, ornamental
and flowering plants.”

Board members, however, lambasted Muñez.

“How could you as a forester allow that [cutting of trees in a reforestation
site]?” Board Member Oliver Owen Garcia said.

Lago pointed out that while the DENR has certified that the area is within a
“timberland project” it also said the land has undergone a cadastral survey
which would make it qualify under the alienable and disposable category of
lands.

Timberlands are owned by the state while alienable and disposable lands may be titled in the name of private persons or corporations.

Lago also said there were discrepancies in the tax declaration of the heirs
of Segundina Abugaa, who claimed the 200-hectare reforestation project is
part of her family’s property.

“I couldn’t see they paid taxes for cutting down the trees. There is no
permit to transport tax here,” he said showing a tax declaration document.

The MOA provided that Abugaa, referred to as “PO (people’s
organization)/claimant” may use 75 percent and the DENR 25 percent of the
sales from the felled trees.

Lago vowed to dig deeper into the case. He said he and Board Member Glenn
Peduche, chair of the committee on environmental protection, land use, and
zoning, will initiate the probe next week.

Baungon is one of the few areas where the rare large flower Rafflesia grows.

Scientists have discovered 23 species of Rafflesia aside from four others
which are yet to be verified.

The official state flower of Sabah in Malaysia, Rafflesia is also found in
the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Thailand.

Ordinance is Bukidnon’s protection vs abusive miners

Provincial board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. said an ordinance passed last year by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan could be Bukidnon’s recourse against abusive mining and quarrying operators.

Beltran told MindaNews Wednesday this could be a chance to regulate the applicants eyeing mining explorations or operations. The provincial board passed late last year an ordinance “further protecting the environment in the province” by requiring any person who is engaging in the business of exploration, development, and utilization of mineral and quarry resources to seek accreditation with the SP.

The ordinance requires a number of requirements to be submitted by the applicants to the provincial board. The accreditation will be made as a requisite to the issuance of the mining and quarrying permits. Continue reading →

Suspected NPAs raid Malaybalay city jail

(Also appears at MindaNews.com) Some 50 to 60 armed men believed to be New People’s Army rebels attacked the city jail in Barangay Patpat here Wednesday carting firearms and wounding a policeman and a construction worker.

Police Chief Supt. Orlando Beñas said the attackers did not free any prisoner but just snatched the firearms. The incident occurred a little past 4:00 p.m.

By 5:50 p.m., Mayor Florencio T. Flores Jr. declared the area had been cleared and that there was no need to evacuate residents.  

Police and military officials tagged the attack to the communist New People’s Army.

The attackers snatched three armalite M16 rifles from the guards of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and three short firearms from local police. The pistols taken were identified as  a 9mm Berreta pistol, a .38 Armscor revolver, and a .43 caliber Norinco firearm.

The jail’s base and hand held radio and the police’s hand held radio attached to the mobile was also carted. Also taken were six M16 magazines full of live ammunition.

PO3 Ronnel Diez was hit in his left chest and arm.  Another person, identified as jail laborer Junmark Prandas  was also wounded in the attack.

Beñas said Diez was with a police team who were in the jail to turn over some detainees from the Police lock up jail in downtown Malaybalay.

Initial police account said the armed men drove in three vehicles, two multi cabs and a forward closed van type vehicle. Five persons including three women rode in the first multi-cab and reportedly posed as jail visitors.

But when attended by the guards they then declared they were from the NPA, fired at the building as some members were entering the jail, and took the firearms.

The incident took about 30 minutes, according to the police incident report obtained by MindaNews on January 22.

When police reinforcement was sent and troops of the Philippine Army drove to the jail, the attackers withdrew in two groups one towards southeast and another towards the eastern part of the hinterlands behind the jail.

Col. Danny Pabunan, deputy commander of the army’s 403rd infantry brigade, said the suspected rebels aborted their operation when the police and military forces came.  

He said they are conducting pursuit operations as of press time.

The jail warden is still mum on the incident as of press time.

Beñas stressed the motive was arm snatching and ruled out a report they were meant to grab an inmate. 

He said after carting the firearms half of number of armed men “withdrew to the mountainous area behind the jail” and another eastward behind the Carmelites monastery in a property close to the jail.

He said the attackers were heavily armed themselves, carrying M16 and machines guns.

Pabunan said the army prevailed in an encounter that ensured between his troops and the rebels’ blocking force in Sitio Pal-eng near a Carmelites’ monastery.   

Reports said the attackers planted land mines on the road to the jail from the Sayre Highway, but Pabunan dismissed it as probably “leftover firecrackers” or misplaced landmines. “It did not cause us damage,” he said.

Flores has assured residents the area is back to safety even if he said he is likely to call for an emergency meeting of the city’s peace and order council.

Just the night before, two persons were shot killed near a lotto betting station about 120 meters away from the gate of the army’s Camp Osito Bahian. The victims were identified as Bueno Samson, 50, a retired policeman who was reported to have served as bodyguard of the late Rep. Reginaldo Tilanduca, and a man identified as Roger Odilon Santos, 42.

The motive of the killing is still unknown.

The jail attack spawned panic in downtown Malaybalay City at around 4:15 p.m. when police received a report about the attack from residents in Patpat village who have heard of firefighting near the jail. 

School children and passersby near the police station were advised to go home and clear the roads as rumors spread that half of the attackers were moving towards downtown area in a bus they have taken over.

Patpat is around seven kilometers from downtown Malaybalay.

But as of 5:50 p.m. Mayor Florencio T. Flores Jr. spoke over radio station DXDB from the jail confirming that police and military personnel have cleared the area and there is no need to evacuate residents near the jail.

“The military and the police are here to plan out next steps. They will stay here,” Flores said assuring order was restored but admitting such things could happen to a peaceful city. Flores told DXDB the incident would mar the peace and order situation in the city.

But there is no plan, he said, to relocate the city jail since it’s already in an isolated area (from population).

Flores said he would likely call an emergency meeting of the city peace and order council.

Former CMU chief: PGMA has no say on university land

A full report appears at MindaNews.com.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s proclamation taking at least 670 hectares from the Central Mindanao University’s titled property and awarding it to the Manobo-Talaandig tribe as ancestral domain will not hold through, as only Congress may alter a reservation, former CMU president Isabelo Alcordo said. “There is no way GMA can take land from CMU. The titling of CMU’s land is a closed issue,” Alcordo, third president of the university said.

Alcordo spoke to fellow members of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association Bukidnon Chapter on January 18.

CMU has challenged the proclamation in court and the case is now at the Supreme Court, according to Gideon Cabahug, one of the officials close to CMU officer in charge Rodrigo Malunhao, in a text message to MindaNews Monday.

Alcordo told UP alumni any legal mind would say CMU’s reservation is “untouchable”.

The President could not take away a titled land on the mere basis of a presidential proclamation, he said, adding [the titling process of the reservation] was completed during his term, in 1974.

“Unless they go to Congress and have them amend the title of this reservation,” he told MindaNews Sunday.