By Bernard Badilla-Toledo, Reporter

DESPITE having a comrade as one of the top officials in the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, the armed struggle of the national democratic movement headed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which has been fighting for the establishment of a peasants-workers’ state since 1968 will continue.

Peasant leader Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and former KMP party-list group representative at the House of Representatives was appointed by Duterte to head the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Not a 100% guarantee

However, KMP has virtually admitted that their chairman’s appointment was not a 100 percent guarantee that the peasants struggle to own lands is now easier than the previous administrations.

In a statement, Antonio Flores, KMP secretary-general, said “while we welcome Mariano’s appointment as DAR secretary, the Filipino peasantry must not put their guard down.”

“The Filipino peasantry should continue and [in fact must] heighten their collective assertion of their rights to the land,” Flores asserted.

Mariano vowed to decisively distribute lands to the farmers and peasants who have no lands to till.

No farmer will be displaced

He promised that he will “ensure that no farmers will be displaced from their farmland by strengthening their security of tenure over the land.”

“We will conduct a no holds barred review and reversal of the DAR’s anti-farmer decisions, a moratorium on land-use conversion, and a stop to the cancellation of farmers’ land ownership certificates, among others,” he averred.

Mariano is facing several challenges, including the approval of the powerful Committee on Appointment (CA) of the 17th Congress wherein the majority of its members are believed to be friends of landlords.

Battle in Congress

Another one is the battle in the Congress, particularly at the House of Representatives where majority of members are either pro-landlords or are landlords themselves.

The group expects the landed lawmakers to oppose the extension of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in order for the DAR to continue distributing lands to the farmers.

CARP started in 1988 after then President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino approved Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) that replaced a Marcos agrarian reform program.

DAR records revealed that there are still about 50,000 farmers as of 2015 who are yet to b e awarded with lot titles that should have been given to them.

A proposed law for a one-year extension of the implementation of CARL was deliberately shot down by the landlord-lawmakers in the 16th Congress.

Sincere

Mariano’s appointment was viewed by many as the new administration’s sincere gesture to resume peace talks with the left.

Jose Ma. Sison, CPP founding chairman and NDF consultant, said his group’s resumption of talks with the government will start by July in Oslo.

CPP practically started the armed revolution in 1969 after the establishment of its armed unit, the New People’s Army (NPA), headed by Bernabe Buscayno, popularly known as “Ka Dante.”

Sison, at this early, said armed struggle and the abolition of NPA would lie on the results of the talks.

Observations

Political observers however said that Duterte is only accommodating one group of the whole left movement in the country known in the underground as “re-affirm” or RA, which is identified with Sison.

The other groups are those that rejected Sison’s supposed dogmatic implementation of Mao Tse Tung-concept of peoples’ revolution in China.

Groups like the Sanlakas and Partido Manggagawa (PM) are questioning many aspects of Sison’s armed struggle and views on various issues and concerns.

And one of the concerns of NDF and CPP is the land distribution to the peasants.

The Philippine government has been distributing lands to the farmers and peasants in line with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) since 1987.

Hacienda Luisita

The more than 6,000 hectares Hacienda Luista in Tarlac that is owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino family is under CARP, but has not been properly and effectively distributed to its farmers and peasants even as of press time.

In fact, according to Flores, the “Cojuangco-Aquino families are fortifying their stranglehold over … Hacienda Luisita.”

Flores said the Cojuangco-Aquino families have already made a move to secure Hacienda Luisita from possible distribution to its farm workers right after Mariano was named to head the DAR.

Harrasment

UMA reported that “agents of the Cojuangco-Aquino family attempted to demolish a farmers’ house in Barangay Mapalacsiao, inside Hacienda Luisita.”

“The house of victim, Charlito “Tatang Gerry” Catalan, was destroyed by a “demolition team” [allegedly] sent by barangay captain Edison Diaz of nearby village Lourdes (formerly Texas), … without showing any court order,” UMA continued.

UMA identified Ronnie Reyes, a certain Junior Baul, and Andong Basa, known employees of AGRICULTO, a sugarcane planters’ organization connected to the Cojuangco-Aquino family as members of the demolition team.

The demolition team were prevented to continue their plan after the local farm workers group intervened.

Sham Reform

Strongly citing the incident as basis, Flores emphasized that “the Filipino peasantry must strengthen their mass movement and prepare for bigger confrontation and struggle in the light of big landlords escalating opposition to anticipated policy changes and reversals of the DAR’s pro-landlord decisions.”

In the case of the Hacienda Luisita, Mariano said “We will immediately review the sham ‘tambiolo’ land reform implemented by the DAR in Hacienda Luisita.”

“This review will also include the pending petition by farmers for the revocation of the land-use conversion issued by the DAR in favor of the Cojuangcos of Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano clarified.

As he is prepared to do his job, Mariano agreed with Flores that it is “important is for the Filipino peasantry to rely on their organized strength and collective actions in asserting their rights to the land.”


FESTIVALS in the country are town fiestas celebrating moments in history that defined identity, polity and locality. They also reflect the way of life of the people in a particular town.

Thus, it’s not really surprising for the residents of Banna, a fourth class municipality in the northeastern part of Ilocos Norte, to have embarked the promotion of collecting an exotic food known as “panag-abuos” by adopting it as an annual festival every month of April.

The festival is held in celebration for the town’s abundance and the town folk’s resilience and hard work.

“Panag-abuos” is an Ilokano term that describes the way of gathering abuos, local term for weaver ants, and its eggs from its hanged oval-shaped shelters made out of the leaves of a tree that abundantly sprouts in the last quarter of the year until summer season.

The abuos thrive abundantly in fruit trees, forest trees and the like and lays white and juicy eggs a little bigger than grains of rice.

Over the past 10 years, this town’s festival has been attracting domestic and foreign tourists because of its exotic delicacies prepared by local residents during the town fiesta.

The harvested eggs of the weaver ants are called in Ilokano term as “buos,” a protein–rich exotic food that can be cooked as adobo or sinigang and an ingredient for pizza and pinakbet cuisines.

However, people who have diabetes are discouraged from eating buos due to its high cholesterol content. Sometimes, it also causes skin allergies.

But for the the locals, especially the men, dishes made of buos are believed to be energizer as it boosts their strength upon eating it.

Though weaver ants are abundantly seen in other places in the province, Banna town’s tourism officer Richard Banquil said the town had chosen it as the title of its annual festival due to its uniqueness that can attract tourists and visitors.

"The Panagabuos Festival is a mode of showcasing and preserving the distinct culture of the residents in collecting the eggs of weaver ants,” said Banquil.

The festival is highlighted with street dancing and a showdown by the students- participants portraying and interpreting the steps of getting and cooking the eggs of the weaver ants.

There is also a series of events such as sports competition, dance parade and showdown including a fireworks display in the evening.

Aside from its rich natural resources, residents here derive their income mostly on rice, garlic, cotton and beans and other vegetables are its principal cash crops.

As for its home industries, the town is famous for its rice coffee and processed food products like babana chips, cassava and many more. (With reports from Philippine News Agency/OpinYon)


A delegation from the European Union met with local government officials in Western Visayas last April 16, 2016, to boost trade between the Philippines and EU.

For the first time, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen, together with the Romanian Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Mihai Sion and German Deputy Ambassador Michael Hasper participated in ‘Sikaran,’ a pre-Earth Day advocacy initiative to fight climate change and increase access of Guimaras mangoes to international markets.

The EU has reiterated its call for the Philippines to adopt the Geographical Indications (GI) scheme, a type of intellectual property right used to identify a product originating in the territory of a particular country or region or locally where its quality, reputation or other characteristic is linked to its geographical origin.

The Philippines is expected to boost its exports of mangoes, especially those from Guimaras Islands through the protection of its products of regional origin.

At present, the Guimaras mango producers and processors continue to work on the code of practice to define the rules and procedures for using the GI.

The meeting with the mango industry stakeholders is in line with the Trade Related Technical Assistance Programme 3, which seeks to boost the competitiveness of specific Philippine products in the global markets.

The TRTA-3 has mobilized experts to support the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPh) in developing, promoting and protecting the “Guimaras mango” as a GI.

The GI serves as a label that characterizes the mangoes as both originating in Guimaras as well as reputedly fresh and sweet.

They can create value for local communities through products that are deeply rooted in tradition, culture and geography. They support rural development and promote new job opportunities in production, processing and other related services. (With reports from the Philippine Star)


To help ease the monstrous traffic situation in Metro Manila, the government should consider fielding more electric vehicles (EVs).

Concerned government agencies, led by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), should start by formulating the standards for vehicle parts, as well as standards for testing.

This was the call of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP) on April 14, urging the government to “start putting in place testing facilities and manpower-training centers,” said eVAP President Rommel Juan during the Fifth Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit, at the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

The group said that it continues effort to gain attention from foreign EV players and investors “to give our domestic EV industry a long, hard look.”

“We needed to build production capacities and increase our level of technology. This is why we encouraged technical tie-ups and joint ventures with foreign partners. We found that for us to really sell EVs for mass-transport application, we need to offer not just electric vehicles but a complete mass-transport solution package,” said Juan, referring to EV battery-charging and swapping stations.

The group said that is it still strongly pushing for the approval of the ‘Alternative Fuel Vehicle Incentive’ bill in both houses of Congress that are seen to grant fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for local EV industry players.

Furthermore, the eVAP also urged the government to produce a more definitive EV road map; to find cheaper and easier access to financing for capital expenditure, operational expenses and retail sales; to seriously pursue the application of newer technologies, including batteries and charging stations, among others.

“Slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. And this gives us more reason to be more optimistic about the year and years ahead,” Juan said.

“This year it is time to raise the bar and prepare for ASEAN integration with the theme, ‘Investing in the Electric Vehicle Industry towards Sustainable and Closer Regional Economic Integration.’ It is time to up the ante, time to put our money where our mouths are,” he added. (With reports from the Business Mirror / OpinYon, Rosemarie Señora)

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has to date built 5,627 typhoon-resilient houses, which were turned over to Yolanda victims in Leyte, under the PRC shelter recovery program.

On April 9, 2016, PRC chairman Richard J. Gordon handed over three health facilities and seven classrooms to Tacloban City and municipalities of San Miguel and Dagami, in Leyte, that were badly hit by super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ two years ago.

Gordon said that the turnover of houses and facilities ensures that the communities they are helping are now more disaster-resilient under the “build back better strategy.”

“The Philippine Red Cross ensures that the communities we are helping become more disaster resilient. We work under the build back better strategy; we build typhoon-resilient houses and classrooms so those who were affected by Yolanda would not be as vulnerable to the next disaster that hits. We also train them to become more capable of surviving any disasters,” Gordon said.

“Our shelter recovery program ensures that families have adequate, appropriate and safe shelter, supporting them from the transition to making more permanent durable housing. We also prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure their participation and access to basic services to provide them with a life of dignity,” he added.

PRC secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang helped in the symbolic hand over of houses’ keys and distribution of certificates of occupancy to typhoon victims.

Lawyer Miguel Tezon, chairman of the PRC Leyte chapter’s board of directors, and administrator Edwin Pamonag attended the event, along with delegates from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies led by Ramsey Rayyis, Mary Joy Evalarosa, Colin Price and Abhishek Rimal.

Delegates from Qatar Red Crescent Society, Rashed Al Muhannadi, Abdalrahman Lahmouni, and Mohammed Hizam Ali, were also present in the turnover ceremony.

The Spanish Red Cross, led by Ana Montoya Bermejo, Aurelie Hernandez Massi and Maria Jesus Millan Serrano, likewise witnessed the ceremony.

“We also commend our partner societies, in these projects the IFRC, the Qatar Red Crescent Society and the Spanish Red Cross. Through our partnership, we are able to reach out to a greater number of families affected by Yolanda,” Gordon said.

Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, devastating nine provinces in the Visayas.

In Leyte alone, the PRC has built 26,573 houses and rehabilitated six targeted health facilities.

A total of 263 classrooms have also been built since April 1.

For its overall Yolanda shelter recovery program, the PRC has completed 72,636 of the 80,203 houses it targeted to build.

The PRC has also built and rehabilitated 52 of 76 health facilities and finished 434 classrooms.

 

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