Friday, 30 December 2011

Arresting sights for the New Year … A collage of winning Christmas lanterns last year at the Annual Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. One of those that won again this year was an entry from Sta Lucia, Pampanga. The winning entries then go around the major neighboring cities including Manila with a grand display at the Rizal Park during the holidays. To read the story, click here. – A photo collage of original lantern shots by ANTON PRIMA

In This Edition

Friday, December 30, 2011
Volume 1 No. 4

Transparency in the Php202m devt funding






1) To view stories in the 3rd edition, please click here
1) To see stories in the 2nd edition, please click here
2) To see stories in the 1st edition, please click here  

Best Holiday Decoration Award

Best Xmas d├ęcor … A Mambulaoan who works as civilian personnel at the US Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan, won the “Best Holiday Decoration” award yesterday. Retired US Navy serviceman Arnel P Hernandez (JPHS Batch 73) was recognized for coming up with the “best decorated balcony” for tower apartments inside the US Naval facility. This has been Hernandez’s second year to have won such an award. As Engineering Technician (Mechanical), he is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) working in the HM&E Fleet & Industrial Support Division, Propulsion Machinery Branch, Code 281, providing comprehensive system and equipment support to ships operating in the Ship Repair Facility - Japan Regional Maintenance Center (SRF-JRMC) Area of Responsibility. Hernandez often works independently and without supervision in a dynamic environment to resolve unique and complicated problems requiring a high degree of initiative, analytical skills and judgement. He lives inside the naval facility with his wife Mariles. – Text by AP HERNANDEZ, picture by ARNEL P HERNANDEZ

The entry that won the best decorated balcony inside the US Naval facility
The Hernandez's living room ... the beautiful lights of Christmas. - Picture courtesy of ARNEL P HERNANDEZ

Hernandez and wife Mariles proudly display the plaque of recognition.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


This half-lane cemented portion of the Parang-Larap road just across the JPNHS campus was undergoing curing last April. It is hoped that new funds would arrive to finish this baranggay road-cementing project of the municipal government. - MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ

Transparency in the Php202m devt funding

A RAFT of development funding for Mambulao worth Php202 million has been received by Mambulaoans with both optimism and skepticism.

This is the aggregate amount of several development funding outsourced from known money dams such as the ARCP (Agrarian Reform Community Projects) and more.

The breakdown of this development fund was first made public on the Facebook account of “Taga-Larap Ako”, a chat group composed of natives of Larap, a community that was abandoned in ruins by the Philippine Iron Mines, which exploited its rich iron ore resources for several decades until the end of 70s.

That the amount of Php202 million for Mambulao’s dreamed development is too good to be true. It was immediately considered as disinformation.

But then, whether it was true or not, it is something that the 75,000 citizens of Mambulao are looking forward to, as their respective baranggays truly hunger for much-needed development.

When it was first posted on TLA chat site, the figures cited were immediately received with skepticism, saying that it was just an early attempt at early politicking, the local elections just being round the corner.

Others commented that this is something they have been waiting for, noting that the development of Mambulaos has been in the doldrums for so long and that it is just about time a welcome news like this should break the boredom among Mambulaoans.

This is understandable; on the other hand, the people continued to be wary about it.

We have learned in the past that development money that was supposed to benefit the community, and therefore, the people, just went somewhere; big chunks had remained unaccounted for while the infrastructure that were put up had been considered “for a show only”.

But nevertheless, the case of Mambulao’s windfall of a massive funding has been finally revealed, something that has not been witnessed in a long while in a community like Mambulao.

Hopefully, there should be some truth to it.

Tricycle stop … tricycle operation is a common job for many in Mambulao, financed by someone who either struck gold at the gold-panning mine sites or who continuously worked overseas. Notice the end of the cemented road. This picture was taken last April. – MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ

Until now, our community has remained semi-urban.

Despite the riches it enjoyed during the boom time in Larap in terms of tax revenues, Mambulao has remained a nearly third-class community.

Very soon, the town of Sta Elena, which BLTB and other long-distance traveling buses used as a roadside comfort room and carinderia on their way to Manila and back to the hinterlands of Bicol region during the 1960s, will overtake Mambulao in terms of development.

And during those years, Larap was booming and so the tax-revenue rich coffers of Mambulao.

But Sta Elena is speeding up, powered by its own resources -- from coconut to other less-known agricultural produce. It could beat Mambulao to the finish line of real development one day.

When this happens, every Mambuloan would really be pissed off.

The first question would be: How come?

Your news tunnel, the MWBuzz, was able to confirm the existence of Php202 million from a source close to the Jose Panganiban Mayor, Dong Padilla.

And Mayor Padilla, in a message to MWBuzz, promised to discuss through your news tunnel the nature of this funding in due time.

This news outlet has been assured that the money would soon start trickling down to the coffers of the community. In fact, the first trance is expected to be received this month.

The good news is that a portion is now being used in a number of development projects that included the concreting of the road linking Parang and Larap.

A number of baranggays have already been issued their respective ambulance vehicle to be used in emergencies that usually involved life and death.

We hope to hear more good news in the New Year.

But before anything boils down to the classic affair of fund mismanagement and fund skimming, Mambulaoans should stay vigilant about how the Php202 million would be disbursed.

We don’t want to be told about the fade-out of funds by way of the so-called “system’s loss”, a lingo in the power generation industry wherein an amount of electricity disappears along the way before reaching the targeted household lighting bulbs.

And that power users should bleed some more in terms of additional pesos in their bills to cover the loss.

And we have been told that this is legitimate.

But as to the feared systematic loss of some millions from our community’s development funds, this is something Mabulaoans would not take for granted.

But anyway, a transparent New Year to every one!

-- By A P Hernandez

Sunday, 25 December 2011

JP govt warned on people’s declining quality of life, ecological degradation

Crystal clear … children enjoy clear water at the beach in Baranggay Osmena in 2007. What had been a reality five years ago – clean and pleasant beach water – has now become just a dream after the same beach water and beach sand have been spoiled by silt and mud – a result of unregulated gold operations in a number of areas in Mambulao. – MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

Batch 65
Port Moresby

IN 2009, the municipal government of Jose Panganiban was given a warning on the declining quality of life of Mambulaoans and the degradation of the environment, particularly its farmlands, mountain sides, shorelines and coastal waters.

The report warned the municipal government that “every action or inaction corresponds to great benefits or serious problems in the future”.

The report urged the municipal government to act “now”, because the future of the next generation of Mambulaoans lies in the hands of the sitting government.

The warning, which was contained in a study on the state of development in Mambulao released in 2009, was prepared by the Local Government Performance Management System (LGPMS).

The report called e-SLDR or State of Local Development, Electronic Report was an “approximation of the state of socio-economic and environmental development in a locality”.
It explained that the result is “based on LGU self-assessment or estimates of key development indicators. National target, average and expert inference are used as benchmark”.

The MWBuzz has obtained a copy of the report.

Morning fish vendor … selling fish around Parang is one source of income for many mothers, thus they compete with one another for “suki”. But it is the only way to get by. This vendor says she marks up her ware by Php10 - a modest income from a capital of Php180 per kilo, and makes at least Php150 from her fish on days she’s selling. She gets her fish supply from a Parang-based fisherman. - MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ
e-SLDR declared that the state of health and nutrition of Mambulaoans was in appalling state.

It said: Maternal mortality rate was unbearable and infant mortality rate was high.

On education, the report said that “tertiary or technical education completion rate is very low.”
This had put the quality of human capital as an issue, it said.

The report had given a low mark on the municipality’s state of housing and basic utilities.
It said that the “prevalence of households with makeshift houses was extremely high.

Access to sanitary toilet facility was an inconvenience to a number of households.
It concluded that “health and sanitation is at stake”.

There were many unemployed in the municipality, thus unemployment was alarming and underemployment was high.

The report said that the income per capita was extremely low and poverty incidence in the municipality was “alarming”.

The magnitude of families living below poverty threshold was “too high”.

It also noted the decline of the municipality’s environment.

It said that “tree cover in urban areas falls short with the desirable condition. Therefore, air quality was at stake.

Taho kayo d’yan … peddling taho around Mambulao everyday, this man (left) makes at least Php300 from his ware, meeting his family’s daily needs. The job, he says, is better than doing nothing. – MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ

Polluting industries were present and the quality of air was at stake as well.

The “socio-economic and environment are inter-dependen"t, the report said.

“A healthy and good quality human resource (labor force) is a productive working force that breeds a healthy economy and one that recognizes the value of environmental quality.

“A well-managed economy sustains the productivity of natural endowment and the life support system needed to build a healthy society.

“Well-conserved natural resources provide communities with a sustainable source of livelihood and income and thus improve their economic welfare.

“Clean environment and good economy ensure the quality of life.”

The report had urged the municipal government to give the three sectors – health, human resource and environment – equal importance “to achieve a balanced and sustained development”.

Blue panorama … a pier at Baranggay Osmena. On a clear day five years ago, this was how the bay water would look. The same could not be said these days as the coastal water has turned brownish-yellowish and the beach muddy and silted – a result of indiscriminate gold operations in a number of areas in Mambulao. – MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
A portion of the Parang beach which has been inundated by community waste pollution. - MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ
The report had also stressed the inter-connection between poverty and environment.
It said: Low family income would impact on the education of children.

“Children may opt to work instead of going to school to help the family with the basic necessity such as food. Poor nutrition due to imbalance food intake may lead to many forms of illnesses or worse, even death.

The report pointed out that low income was a “hindrance in accessing shelter and basic utilities such as water, electricity and sanitary toilet facility”.

And because of this the difficulty in accessing water and sanitary toilet posed environmental and health problems.

On income, the report noted that low income may lead to illegal activities that impact on the integrity of the environment or social disharmony.

It said that the overriding motivation was survival.

“One example is illegal fishing,” the report said, such as the use of dynamite to increase fish catch.

While dynamite fishing may increase income, “it is not sustainable … what is irreversible is the destruction of coastal habitat.”
An abandoned gold-panning site in baranggay Sta. Elena has left the former farm devastated. – Photo courtesy of ellan5 website.
 The reports revealed the impacts of illegal fishing to socio-economic and environmental dimensions.
“Illegal fishing,” it said, “destroys marine life which contributed to the loss of seaweed beds, tidal marshes, coral reefs, mangrove forests, and other important biotic communities.”

The loss of important marine organism has an impact on marine nutrient imbalances leading to the decline of fish resources, as well as degeneration of the natural resilience or cleansing ability of marine ecosystems which, later on, would result to serious marine pollution.”

The report had warned that the livelihoods of fisherfolks and food security were issues that would crop up because of declining fish resources.

Marine pollution definitely affects the biodiversity and marine ecosystem health, including the marine ecosystem services.

Pag-Asa beach. Photo courtesy of Jimmy069  website

Mayor Padilla bats for mercury-free gold-panning industry


JOSE Panganiban Mayor Dong Padilla has batted for a drastic reduction in the use of mercury as part of the reform needed in the country’s small-scale gold mining industry.

He pitched the proposal at the start of a recent meet held in Baguio City – the National Summit of Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) – where he posed the question to the assembly: Is this group (summit) convinced about removing mercury in small scale mining?”

He stressed that with several communities dependent on the industry, coming up with responsible and mercury-free methods is an urgent matter for the local government units.

Mayor Dong Padilla
“We need to reform the industry now … in therefore suggest that we begin convincing the other 300,000 gold panners in the country to also do the same,” Padilla said.

Padilla was aware of the ecological problems posed by excessive use of mercury by gold operators in Mambulao whose operations are supposed to be regulated by the government’s environmental agency, especially the improper use of mercury in gold extraction.

Not only that, the gold operators have been dumping their mine tailings and slurry into the waterways, which end up in the coastal waters of Mambulao Bay, according to people who noticed the gradual degradation of the quality of the bay water.

They said that right now, the coastal bay water is muddy and looked yellowish-brownish, causing much of the marine life in the area particularly fish to disappear.

The summit, which was held on November 24-27, 2011, noted that in Camarines Norte and in so many other gold-rich regions in the country, a significant portion of a family’s income comes from gold mining.

In his commentary, Dan Abril of the movement Ban Toxcis! said: This is particularly true for areas where other forms of livelihood are non-existent. Thus, it is disheartening to see the government to continue to fail in providing much-needed assistance to this commonly-overlooked sector.

"The issue of mercury use in the small-scale mining sector in the Philippines is not simply an environmental and health concern.  

“It is also a symptom of a broader problem, continued government neglect of the sector and the pervading atmosphere of corruption brought upon by this neglect," said Atty. Richard Gutierrez, Executive Director of Ban Toxics.  

"The challenge for President Noynoy is to shine the cleansing light of law on the sector by helping miners formalize and accord them the support that's been too long overdue."

The national summit brought in speakers who engaged attendees with a variety of topics including a hands-on training on mercury-free mining methods.
The Summit was capped with a formal National Plan of Action and Declaration, formulated by the summit attendees themselves.
Johson Gold Mining Corporation (JGMC) is an existing and operating Gold Mining company with complete operational permits. It currently controls 426.7099 ha mineral rights or a combined measured and potential resource/reserves of 8M ounces of Au. JGMC also operates a complete CIL circuit with a capacity of 100 tons per day. The mine/plant is located at Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, Bicol Region, Island of Luzon, Philippines.The company is open for sale or joint venture. - Photo courtesy of company website
A mountain of earth containing gold ores and gold nuggets at the Johson Gold Mining compound. This will be water-processed to extract gold ores and nuggets and the slurry is dumped somewhere, a portion of which could lead its way to water tributaries that washes down into the Mambulao Bay and ends up along the beach - as mud. The miner uses mercury to extract gold which is also washed down the water tributaries. -  Photo courtesy of company website

"Ban Toxics! helped us understand the dangers of mercury and helped us move away from its use," said Royce Lingbawan, board of trustee of the Banao Bodong Association (BBA) an indigenous group in Kalinga.  

"We the indigenous miners and families that compose BBA in Kalinga are better for it, and we are hopeful that this summit and the efforts of Ban Toxics! will continue to help other miners in the country."

In Mambulao, where small-scale gold operators use mercury to extract gold, the degradation of waterways, creeks and streams have been noticed over the years. 

Most of these waterways end up in the coastal waters of Mambulao, bringing with them muddy water tainted with mercury, alongside the yellowish mud that has spoiled the crystal state of the bay water.

These days, the coastal waters of Mambulao Bay have become muddy and yellowish-brownish as a result of the dumping of silt and slurry from gold operations.

According to a World Bank-funded study in 2006 titled Training of Small Scale Miners and their Families in Safe Handling of Mercury during Extraction of Gold in the Philippines, the small-scale miners (gold panners) in the investigated gold mining communities “release excessive amounts of mercury.”

The study said: They (gold panners) use in the order of 10 to 25 grams of mercury to recover one gram of gold.

On the other hand, small scale miners in other parts of the world use about one gram of mercury to recover one gram of gold.

The survey project investigated small-scale mining districts in the country that included Baranggay Calalugan in Paracale and Baranggay Luklukan in Jose Panganiban and Baranggay Gumaus in Paracale.

Every year, according the study, the gold-panners in Panganiban and Paracale released about five tons of mercury every year.

The report said the volume of mercury used has been confirmed by other previous investigations.

A report by the Department of Health submitted to UNEP in 2001 concludes that some 140 tons of mercury are released annually to the environment from small-scale mining in Northern Mindanao.

“These figures show that the old extraction methods presently used by small scale miners in large part of the Philippines create a ticking bomb for the environment and for the health of the Filipinos.

In photo: Atty. Richard Gutierrez (executive director, Ban Toxics), Ryoce Lingbawan (board Member, Banao Bodong Association, Gaang Mining Site, Talalang, Kalinga), Municipal Mayor Romeo Y  Moreno (Paracale, Camarines Norte), Municipal Mayor Ricarte Padilla (Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte), Paul Bagamo (Office of the Governor - Benguet), Leoncia Na'oy (secretary, Benguet Federation of Small Scale Miners, Inc.), Orlando Pineda (DENR-EMB), Municipal Mayor Dindo Pardo (Labo, Camarines Norte), Edgar Dasco (Miners Association of the Philippines), Elvira Pausing (senior environmental management specialist and project coordinator for ASGM Project, EMB-DENR) and Edgar de Lara (provincial environment and natural resource officer - Masbate) – Photo courtesy of Ban Toxics!

“Sagip” Parang beach, anyone?

A MOTIVATIONAL speaker from Parang is batting for the launch of a “Sagip Parang beach” program that would take care of the clean-up, rehabilitation and maintenance of the community beach.

Aldrin Toribio, founder of Unlad Panganiban Movement, has seen the degradation of the community beach from a pristine weekend “languyan” to a dumping ground for community rubbish.

He said: Isa sa problema natin ang kawalang-habas na pagtatapon ng dumi ng tao sa baybayin, sanhi na rin ng kawalan ng toilet.

“This is one void that we to fill, with the involvement of the community,” Toribio said.

He is proposing the creation of volunteer groups that would help in the beach clean-up, giving at least one to two hours of their free time on weekends.

Schoolchildren of Parang as well as those studying at the Jose Panganiban National High School should be oriented on the importance of having a clean beach and to get them involved.

This way, they would appreciate the need to help in the clean-up, which could be carried out one weekend every month, Toribio said.

But the campaign should give more focus on households along the shore, who are believed to be the No. 1 culprits in spoiling the beach, Toribio said.

They should be the first group to be made aware of the situation, because they have treated the beach as their backyard, and therefore, their dumping ground for their wastes, including their excreta, he said.

A monitoring team should be created composed of the members of the “purok” units covering households along the beach to prevent any attempt of households to dump their rubbish on the beach.

Toribio said that he is aware of the lack of toilet facilities among the seashore households and that it is one issue that his Unlad Panganiban Movement will try to address.

He said that there should be a baranggay toilet in each of the six “puroks” in Parang, which should be built after a survey to find out how many households are without toilets.

These six public toilets could get funding from the municipal government and from fundraising drive that would involved the members of the community, Toribio said.

He said that environmental sanitation is one of the targets under the Php202 million development funding that the municipal government of J Panganiban is going to get starting this month.

These baranggay toilets would help discourage the dumping of human wastes into the beach area, he said.
Parang beach stretches from the poblacion of Mambulao to the other side of baranggay Parang where it ends up just next to the road leading to Larap.

These days Parang beach is a sorry sight: its entire stretch of what used to be fine, untainted light-brown sand, has been inundated by all forms of waste pollutants that also included human excreta.

Except for the members of squatter households that have occupied the entire beach area since the early 70s and families of fishermen, Mambulaoans have avoided the place like a plague.

When the founder-editor of MWBuzz – Alfredo P Hernandez -- saw the sad state of the beach last April, he immediately launched a crusade on Facebook called Taga Jose Panganiban Ka Ba?
( to make Mambulaoans who happened to visit the site be aware of the declining quality of the coastal water and the beach itself that has become a virtual rubbish dumping ground.

A resident of Parang whose family home is just about 700 meters from the shore, Hernandez also posted pictures of the Parang beach to dramatize the need to rescue it from the worsening polluted condition.

Now, Toribio has the same feeling for the beach, where he used to swim in during his younger days.
The community should now act to save this beach - the Parang beach. - MWBuzzpic by AP HERNANDEZ