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Survivors light candles to commemorate Yolanda anniversary


PROCESS OF HEALING. Yolanda survivors come to the memorial to light candles and offer their prayers to their loved ones as a tribute, especially those who were not recovered after the catastrophe. Photo by Chris Billes.

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Yolanda survivors commemorated the third anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in a candlelighting memorial and tribute on Tuesday, November 8.

Jeff Manibay of One Tacloban said that the memorial is dedicated to the dead, especially those whose bodies were not recovered after the onslaught of the disaster.

“This is a memorial for those who were never recovered. It’s difficult to grieve when you don’t know where exactly you should grieve,” Manibay, who is also the head organizer of the event, stressed.  

Manibay believes that the candlelight memorial will provide an alternative place for grieving to those who lost their loved ones.

One of those who lit candles was Jonabella Cinco, who had lost a close friend and 4 relatives. When asked about her experience on receiving the news of their deaths, she replied: “Nalaman ko nalang ilang buwan pgakatapos ng Yolanda. ‘Di ko naacept agad. Nagbakasakali pa akong baka nasa ibang lugar lang sila, buhay.”

(I learned the news about their death a few months after Yolanda. I didn’t accept it right away. I was hoping that they are just somewhere, still alive.)

Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the healing continues for the survivors.

“I feel that this is an important process for their (Yolanda survivors) healing and for all of us to continue healing our nation and the lives of people who were impacted by Yolanda. This event is something that people are looking forward to; a place to converge and just to express the continuing hope for the future," Saño said.

Continuing the fight

Saño told survivors that Yolanda should serve as a reminder to the world about the realities of climate change.

“Calamities as great as this are not just natural phenomena, they are caused by the bigger evils that we face. As those who are still living it is imperative to continue fighting for a better world," he remarked. 

HUMAN SPIRIT. Survivors show that there are still reasons to celebrate life and lessons to be learned from the tragedy. Photo by Chris Billes

Allan Amistoso, Station Manager of Magic FM, hopes that through the memorial people will value disaster preparedness. 

"There are lessons that we need to revive for the sake of future generations and we can only do that if we continue commemorating Yolanda. We are hoping that with the lessons of Yolanda, the policies of the government when it comes to disasters would be better," Amistoso added.

The resiliency of Taclobanons and all Yolanda survivors are evident three years after the devastation. 

“I think there is that desire to always remind the survivors and the whole world that this is an important tragedy that we should forever etch in our hearts because we have learned many lessons from this. This is the tragedy that opened the eyes of many people around the world to the reality of climate change,” Saño said. 

He concluded: “We admire their (Yolanda survivors) courage. We take inspiration from their strength and they have demonstrated a lot of lessons for us about the human spirit. It is imperative for the living to continue fighting for a better world and to ensure that justice is served.” 

Media groups DYVL-Aksyon Radyo, PRTV, iFM, CAT Network, Leyte-Samar Express, Magic FM, and Thunder FM, together with Greenpeace Philippines organized the memorial. – With a report from Catherine Atienza/ Rappler.com 

25,000 Yolanda survivors in Aklan appeal for gov't help


NEED HELP. Yolanda survivors march in Aklan to ask the national government for the housing assistance promised to them by the provincial government. Photo by by Boy Ryan Zabal/ Rappler

AKLAN, Philippines – Militant groups in the province appealed to the national government on Tuesday, November 8, for funding assistance and rehabilitation for the remaining 25,000 victims without homes because of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Three years after the devastation, more than 19,000 households in Aklan are still waiting for Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) and other cash-for-work assistance schemes promised by the provincial government, according to Rise Up Aklan coordinator Kim-Sin Tugna.

“These families were deleted, omitted, or replaced in the master list of government agencies due to patronage and anomalous implementation of ESA. At our end, more than 6,000 ESA-unserved victims were also documented by Rise Up Aklan. A combined 25,000 were still unable to receive ESA,” Tugna added.

In a solidarity march held to commemorate the 3rd year anniversary of Yolanda in Aklan, some 4,000 survivors of Rise Up Aklan converged at Goding Ramos Park for a forum-interaction with Social Welfare and Development Assistant Secretary Hope Hervilla and regional director Rebecca Geamala.  

Scrap MC 24

Rise Up Aklan, a member organization of a broad alliance of Yolanda survivors in Western Visayas under Kusog sang Pumuluyo, also signed a petition urging President Rodrigo Duterte and Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to scrap Memorandum Circular No 24.

“MC 24 was formulated very far from the context of the actual plight of Yolanda victims...it was discriminating and an injustice. We are also calling the attention of Taguiwalo to reconstitute the original list of beneficiaries and to investigate the past administration with regards to the proper accounting, management, and utilization of Yolanda funds and make them accountable,” the petition stated. 

In the November 17, 2013 list, there were 55,168 partially-damaged houses and 32,088 totally damaged houses (total 87,256 houses) affected by Typhoon Yolanda in the province.

However, in the Office of the Presidential Assistance for Recovery and Reconstruction (OPARR) counter-report, the number of houses totally and partially damaged was reduced to 77,337. 

Tugna said, “MC 24 was issued by the national government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development to calm down the frustration of beneficiaries of the promised ESA.”

“It turned out MC 24 was the worst nightmare for majority of marginalized typhoon victims who were intentionally disqualified by certain laws and MC 24. They were delisted, but, not all victims living in the danger zones and those included in the new master list of ESA recipients were indigents under MC 24,” he stressed. 

Rise Up Aklan data showed P1.229-billion ESA were released through the LGUs for 24,242 families with totally damaged houses and 48,644 families with partially damaged houses in 17 towns of Aklan. 

Yolanda ravaged large parts of the Visayas region in November 2013 that left more than 1,229,000 families with damaged homes. – Rappler.com

#BalikBayan Voices: Not the America I thought I knew


The author (middle) with college friends in the US.

MANILA, Philippines – I have never felt the world move faster than it has this 2016. I had the opportunity to cover the election here in the Philippines and watched the rise of Rodrigo Duterte from Davao City mayor to becoming the President of the Philippines. 

In only a few hours, the United States, the country where I was born, will also choose a new president. 

Having lived in the Philippines for the past 3 years, this is the first time I had observed an American election from afar. 

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most diverse areas in the United States. So discrimination was not a direct concern. 

Where I'm from, you could go to the grocery store and hear a dozen different languages being spoken. In school, being the child of immigrants or having parents of color was the norm – not the exception. The Bay Area was – and is – a melting pot of cultures.  

This was the America I knew – or thought I knew. (READ: 'Filipino Americans and the US elections: What's on their minds?' )

America was the country where I learned to dream. To believe that there were no barriers to achieving your dreams, except the will to work for them. 

These ideas are ingrained in our minds from a young age, but as I grew older, I realized that there were indeed barriers. And those barriers are greater than politicians or teachers would like to tell you.

While racial discrimination is no longer constitutional, the truth is, it still matters.  

Being a white male gives you a greater chance of graduating from college, becoming a senator, congressman, or a Fortune 500 CEO. 

Being born as an ethnic minority, however, increases your likelihood of being born in a slum; as well as the challenges of getting into a university. Then the harder you have to work to prove yourself to land a job after college. And if you're a woman, the odds stack up even higher. 

The author (left) with cousins in Union Square in San Francisco.

Over the past 3 years that I've been away, I've stay tuned to the random mass shootings, violence by police officers against ethnic minorities, and brazen acts of racism I had never experienced personally.

Being far away has opened my eyes to a side of America I hadn't paid attention to when I was living there. 

And tomorrow, if the projections are correct, the world will wake up to a different America. One that represents America's dark times, when the constitution allowed discrimination against people based on the color of their skin. A time when women had no rights. And immigrants were treated as second class citizens. (READ: 'U.S. Pinoys for Trump' )

On November 28, I will return to the country of my birth for the first time in over two years. As a Filipino American who has been living in a country Trump called a "terrorist nation," and who frequently gets mistaken for an Arab, I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous. 

This America I will come home to will be one where its leader makes it okay to disrespect immigrants and minorities, and encourages violence against those who disagree with their beliefs. 

What is the America I'll be coming home to? I'll find out in less than a month. – Rappler.com


What a Trump Presidency means for the climate


MARRAKECH, Morocco — Donald Trump won the United States presidential elections on the third day of the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an annual meeting of 196 countries to discuss how to prevent man-made climate change.

This is the first conference after the Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015 and after it officially entered into force last November 4, with 100 countries ratifying the agreement. (READ: 8 reasons why PH should honor UN climate commitments)

A Trump win has worried many environmentalists and climate justice activists, especially because Trump has been known to criticize the Paris Agreement and has made statements to “cancel” it. He has also been supportive of the fossil fuel industry. He has also called climate change as a hoax made by China.

The United States and China, two of the biggest country emitters, have both ratified the Paris Agreement last September. Formerly, the United States bailed out on the first climate treaty which was the Kyoto Protocol under the president George Bush. The Kyoto Protocol has then been seen as a failure. The Obama administration, on the other hand, has been more supportive of climate action and has had efforts such as the “Clean Power Plan” which seeks to mitigate carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. 

While the US certainly has a long way to go in meeting the amount of carbon emission mitigation that is expected of them, a Trump presidency may reverse the efforts already done by the Obama administration.

“The Obama administration moved mountains to rally the world around combatting climate change. Our new president needs to carry that legacy forward and make good on the promise to make America into the world’s clean energy superpower,” said Mariana Panuncio-Feldman, senior director of international climate cooperation of World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

While many are worried, Segolene Royale, French environment minister and president of COP 21, assured that the United States cannot withdraw from the treaty easily.

“The Paris agreement prohibits any exit for a period of 3 years, plus a year-long notice period, so there will be four stable years,” she said. 

Other organizations also urge the new president to take the Paris Agreement seriously.

“The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a President, but by the United States itself. As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments,” said Carroll Muffet, president of Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

Jean Su from Centre for Biological Diversity shares the same sentiments adding that “one man alone, especially in the twenty-first century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make.”

The Paris Agreement is still in its infancy stages and countries are still grappling with how to implement it and in making sure that all steps taken will be in the lines of equity and justice. The Paris Agreement is very fragile, with a foundation built on trust that all countries will work together, with developed countries taking the lead in climate action.

The United States and China have both been crucial in the success of the agreement at COP 21. Both are also seen as key countries that need to do their share of work if the world is ever going to hold global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius, which countries have agreed on last year.

However, with the Trump presidency now in place, all seems a bit more uncertain. With global temperatures only continuing to rise, Annaka Peterson of Oxfam America has a reminder for us all: the world won’t wait for the US and neither will the climate.– Rappler.com 

Filipino in Trump's America


Today at my school a student came into my homeroom, slumped over the desk and, with a stunned voice, said, “Pence is going to send me to conversion therapy.”

Today I looked out into a classroom of faces either brimming with tears or trying not to cry. I’ve seen my fellow teachers cry. On the street, I have heard strangers make jokes about "deporting illegals." I have known grown men and women who are afraid of leaving their homes. I have walked into schools and colleges, places of learning, and been met with the silence that comes with the realization that our world is not what we thought it was.

This is the truly devastating thing about today’s America. It is not that we were surprised to see hatred and intolerance in our communities. No, what truly shocks us is the realization that this is, and always has been, the true face of this country.

And yet.

The sad truth is that this America is just another symptom of what has been going on in the rest of the world. All around the world people are finding other people to blame, to target, to shut out with their borders, and now all the things we believed could never happen have happened. (READ: '#BalikBayan Voices: Not the America I thought I knew' )

As a writer, teacher, and feminist, the life I have chosen for myself is essentially political. The fact that I am an international student and woman of color living in the US only makes this even more true.

Often I wonder if what I do makes any difference; if this fight for equality is worth anything in the grand scheme of things. I myself am now trapped between the country I currently live in –  one that marginalizes me, that has turned my body into a political body – and the country of my birth, where misogyny and disenfranchisement of poor people are just as prevalent. For many of us, it seems like there are no safe spaces left in the world. But rather than feel hopeless, this has only convinced me that we need to be doing much, much more.

Now, the children I educate have grown uncertain of their future. And I think that this is what scares me the most: that these wonderful champions of equality and peace, these fledgling people born from the ashes of what the older generations have wrought, will have to live through the dying thralls of an old regime built on hatred. We must remind them that this is only temporary, and show them that our time, our world, is yet to come. We cannot let them be snuffed out.

Be vigilant. Protect yourself, and protect those around you. Fight harder to call out and correct the injustices you see in your communities. Keep your loved ones close, especially those who have been marginalized by history. Reach out to them today, because you know they are going to need it. Do not let history repeat itself. Fight harder. Fight back. – Rappler.com

 Frankie Concepcion is a writer from the Philippines living in the US. Visit her site here.

 Are you an OFW with a story to tell? Send contributions to balikbayan@rappler.com

Fear, resilience among Fil-Am Dems over Trump presidency


 ACCEPTANCE. Hillary Clinton supporters console one another in Las Vegas as the reality of a Donald Trump presidency sets in. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

LAS VEGAS, USA - It was 8 o’clock Pacific time before the Nevada Democratic Party’s Election Night gathering at Aria Las Vegas on Tuesday night, November 8 opened its doors. But as results came across the screen from the east coast voting, the party seemed over before it even began.

It seemed a safe enough bet that the DNC’s gahering would be the hottest on the strip that night, with Nevada being carried twice by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 by large margins and virtually all polls assuring that Hillary Clinton would become the first female president of the United States.

Yet by the time the convention center’s doors opened, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio – all swing states with double-digit electoral votes, had fallen into the hands of Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee. With traditionally blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin deadlocked and Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes beginning to slim, the mood turned somber and the reality of their doomsday scenario coming true began to set in. 

Trump, a first-time politician who ran on a platform of mass deportations of undocumented immigrants and a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” for an indeterminate amount of time, was the embodiment of everything which threatened their vision of the American dream. For each step Obama had taken society forward with his embrace of LGBT and immigrant rights, Trump’s outline offered two steps in retreat.

“Is everybody excited?” asked Roberta Lange, Nevada Democratic Party chair, to a lukewarm response.

“This is just like 2012,” said one man in front of the television in his most hopeful tone. “At 8 pm it was looking like Mitt Romney would win and then at 9:30, boom! Obama wins a landslide.” Brave faces turned to resignation when Pennsylvania fell.

Tears were shed, drinks spilled and fear spread of overnight repeals of every gain accomplished by Obama. 

“Everything, down the drain,” said one frustrated Democrat, as word of an impending Trump presidency matched with a GOP controlled House of Representatives and Senate spread.

Just down the strip from the Democratic Party's election day results party is Trump Las Vegas. Photo by Ryan Songalia/Rappler

Gregory Cendana, executive director for Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), was one of several Filipino-American union workers in attendance who had spent months encouraging voter registration in Asian-American communities and canvassing votes in battleground states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The night’s events had a sobering effect.

“When we think about the Affordable Care Act and health care, when we think about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, when we think about a variety of programs Obama led in his administration…I worry about what Trump would do when he’s president to take us even further back than where we are,” said Cendena.

Scary future

“A Trump presidency would mean that the things that we care about…pathway to citizenship, fighting for immigration reform, healthcare, education, those things won’t be prioritized in a Trump presidency and I have a hard time believing that people like us, Filipino-Americans, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, people of color, immigrants, are gonna be as represented in his administration.”

“I think what it means for us is a very scary future,” says Johanna Hester, a Filipino-American raised in Las Pinas and national president of APALA. “He campaigned on a platform of hate, and a platform that talked about people, women, black people, Mexicans. He talked about every single person except white people in America. I’m just very worried that a bunch of racists and xenophobes are gonna be running this country.”

The night went as well as the Nevada Democrats could control, with the state being called quickly for Clinton and Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrats’  bet to replace the retiring Harry Reid in the US Senate, taking control of the race shortly after results started coming in.

The day brought to a close an election cycle as divisive as any in recent American history. At one polling location in nearby Henderson, two African-American males rolled up to Liberty High School to vote while blasting a hip hop song from their car which continued the repetitive hook “F—k Donald Trump!”, while another white male complained that he had difficulty voting due to a change of address while alleging that undocumented immigrants were voting without any identification.

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Fear eventually gave way to resilience among this crowd, and the realization that America, for all its flaws, remains the democratic model all other governments for the people aspire to.

“We’re not gonna just sit back and take this,” said Luisa Blue, executive vice president for Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 1.2 million workers nationwide, including about 110,000 Asian workers.

“We’re gonna stand up and fight back. We’re gonna continue to fight for immigrant rights. We’re gonna continue to fight for racial justice, we’re gonna continue to fight for decent healthcare for everybody. We’re gonna continue to fight for decent schools and for families to be able to afford college without going into debt. We’re gonna continue to stick with our issues and fight.”

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“We’re gonna have to think about how we’re gonna respond, how we’re gonna push back and how we’re gonna continue to galvanize folks and let people know that we can’t stop here, that we won’t stop here, that we must continue to organize and build power,” adds Cendana.

With the night a downer, Senator-elect Masto took to the stage to rally supporters to remind them that the will of the people supersedes that of any one man.

“America was built on a system of checks and balances. I promise you this: I will put one hell of a check and balance on [Trump],” said Masto, the first Latina senator in US history, to rapturous applause.

And, just as Obama assured, the sun did rise that following morning. – Rappler.com

House panels form working group to consolidate bills on OFW dep't


MANILA, Philippines – The House committees on government reorganization and on overseas workers affairs have approved the creation of a technical working group that will consolidate proposals for a department dedicated to overseas Filipino workers (OFW). 

The House panels  approved the motion of Deputy Speaker Sharon S. Garin in a joint hearing on Thursday, November 11.

ACTS-OFW Representative Aniceto III D. Bertiz III will head the technical working group's head, with Manila Teachers Representative Virgilio Lacson, Kabayan Representative  Ron P. Salo, and PBA Representative Mark Aeron H. Sambar as members.

The technical working group will consolidate a total of 6 bills seeking to create the Department for Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) envisioned to "provide prompt, immediate, and effective response to the problems and needs of OFWs."

These are House bills 227, 288, 543, 822, 1936, and 2334.

Urgently need 

At the joint hearing, Lacson said the creation of a single entity devoted to OFWs had been pushed since the 12th Congress. The proposed department would promote the welfare, rights, and needs of OFWs in recognition of their huge contribution to the national economy.

Arenas said there is an "urgent need" for an agency that will take full charge of the deployment and repatriation of OFWs, when the need arises.

“There should be one agency which will be made accountable to the OFWs and their families," she said.

Romero, for his part, said that in 2015, OFWs contributed about 9.8% of the country’s gross domestic product and 8.3% of the gross national income.

“It is high time that our OFWs feel the support and protective care of our government by creating the DOFW that will specifically cater to their needs,” he said.

Meanwhile, Quezon City 2nd District Representative Winston Castello asked the joint panel to give government agencies 10 days to submit their position papers on the proposed DOFW.

Department of Migration and Development 

The hearing also discussed HB 192 and HB 3255, authored by Bertiz and DIWA Representative Emmeline Aglipay-Villar respectively, both seeking to create the Department of Migration and Development (DMD). The proposed agency will recommend and implement the government’s policies and programs to promote the protection, safety, development, support of and for Filipino migrants and families.

Bertiz said while the present bureaucracy serving the OFW sector is mainly focused on Filipino migrants’ departure, the DMD seeks a full migration cycle in promoting migrants rights, from pre-employment to on-site services.

“The purpose of the DMD is not to push people out – that will always be their personal choice – but to make sure that while they are out there working, the support system until they return is cohesive, developmental in approach and protective in nature,” said Bertiz.

Bertiz said the DMD shall also address the social cause of migration and shall minimize, if not totally eliminate, the “turf” problems especially in times of crisis. This, he said, would keep government officials from passing blame whenever a crisis happens in host countries.


Scholars and a migrant group have previously expressed skepticisms about the proposed DMD.

The Center for Migrant Advocacy-Philippines (CMA) and the Working Group on Migration of the Political Science Department of Ateneo de Manila University (WGM), earlier said, "The proposal to establish a separate Department on Migration and Development must be studied carefully and discussed by all stakeholders."

The two groups warned that "a separate department could send the wrong message to the public that migration-for-work is to be promoted further as its establishment signals a level of 'permanence.’"

They also said the proposed agency "can cause displacement of government employees in existing migration-related agencies.” 

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), for its part, said it is "heartened" by the proposal but has reservations. In a statement in September, the group sought answers to the following questions:

  • How will the new department do better than the current system?
  • How many laws will have to be revised?
  • Who will be the lead department responsible for the protection of Filipinos overseas?
  • What is the main scope of the proposed department?
  • If the main issue is streamlining and coordination, what is the best solution?

During the campaign period for the May 2016 elections, President Rodrigo Duterte also promised to establish a department for OFWs, which he reiterated in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). – Rappler.com

Project MOVE: Entrepreneurship guide for millennials


MANILA, Philippines – Are there existing businesses that young Filipinos and students can capitalize on? What should people know about Filipino millennials and entrepreneurship?   

These questions will be answered on Sunday, November 13 for the next Project MOVE episode.

Project MOVE is a regular online discussion that talks about different issues and advocacies concerning the youth sector. Project MOVE will feature different partner student organizations and non-government organizations (NGOs) from its MovePH Network community as hosts and guests.

This episode on Filipino millennials and entrepreneurship will be hosted by Maroon FM. Guests include Patch Dulay of The Spark Project, Kevin Cuevas of UPLB Enactus, and Faustine Lim, a smartpreneur ambassador. 

Catch the episode on Sunday, November 13, at 3 pm. Rappler.com

 What issues affecting the Filipino youth do you want us to tackle next? Share your thoughts on x.rappler.com!  


Kerwin Espinosa fears for his life upon return to PH


EASTERN VISAYAS' 'TOP DRUG LORD.' Kerwin Espinosa faces deportation to the Philippines after being nabbed by UAE authorities. File photo courtesy of PDEA Region 7 chief Yogi Filemon Ruiz

DUBAI, UAE – Suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa fears he would suffer the same fate as his father, slain Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, once he is deported to the Philippines. (READ: Espinosa death: 3 issues police need to answer )

Ambassador Constancio R. Vingno Jr said a distraught Espinosa raised this concern when the Philippine envoy talked with him at Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Jail, on Thursday, November 11. He added that Espinosa requested that his common-law wife, Hazel, and 3 children be allowed to fly home with him.

“In relation to the death of his father,nagwo-worry siya na baka the same thing ang mangyari sa kanya. Namatay tatay niya under detention,” Vingno told The Filipino Times in a phone interview from Abu Dhabi.

(In relation to the death of his father, he is worried that the same thing may happen to him. His father died while under detention.)

Espinosa had asked that he and his family be placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program which is up to the Department of Justice to approve. A team from the Philippine National Police (PNP) will reportedly fly to Abu Dhabi on November 13 bring him back home.

Espinosa will be detained temporarily at Camp Crame in Quezon City. Media reports quoted PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa as saying that he would let Espinosa stay at the White House, the official residence of the PNP chief, to ensure his safety.

The PNP chief had extended the same courtesy to Mayor Espinosa, who was joined by some family members, but the top cop evicted them after the younger Espinosa failed to meet the PNP's surrender deadline.

Vingno said he talked to Espinosa for an hour inside a room with two UAE police officials standing guard. “Gusto ko nga sanang kunan ng litrato pero di daw puwede (I wanted to take a photo but I was told it was not allowed),” Vingno said.

“Okay naman daw siya. He looks okay. Malungkot siya (He says he's okay. He looks okay. He's sad),” he added.

Vingno said Espinosa, who was arrested October 16 in Abu Dhabi, also requested that his common-law wife’s mobile number be registered so she can call him. At the moment, Vingno said, Espinosa is only able to talk to her through his lawyer.– Rappler.com

This story was republished with permission from The Filipino Times of the United Arab Emirates

Filipino woman set on fire in Japan restaurant – reports


TOKYO, Japan – A man set a woman on fire following an argument in a restaurant in Japan, local media reported Saturday, November 12, in a rare act of violence in the country.

The 52-year-old Iranian man was seen pouring liquid over his 36-year-old Filipina girlfriend before setting her alight at the eatery in Ibaraki prefecture, north of Tokyo, on Friday, November 11, reports cited police as saying.

Workers at the restaurant called an ambulance, saying: "People are burning."

The couple was taken to hospital with severe burns and both remain unconscious, public broadcaster NHK said.

There were several customers inside the restaurant at the time of the incident, but no one else was injured, the reports said.

Police are treating the case as attempted murder.

The man and woman had been advised by police to stay away from each following a dispute involving their child, Kyodo News reported. – Rappler.com

Implement new tax exemption rules on balikbayan boxes – Angara


TAX EXEMPTION. A new law imposes a higher tax exemption ceiling on balikbayan boxes. File photo from the Bureau of Customs

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara urged the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Saturday, November 12, to immediately implement the law on a higher tax exemption on balikbayan boxes as Christmas approaches.

Angara said the BOC should fast-track its administrative order on balikbayan boxes – packages of food, clothing, and other imported items that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) send back to the Philippines for special occasions like Christmas. 

He pointed out that the BOC promised to implement its administratative order on this by early December.

"Sigurado akong nagsisimula nang mamili ng mga ipapadala ang ating mga kababayan abroad. Kapag naipatupad ang batas na ito, tiyak na maraming OFW ang matutuwa dahil mas mura na ang pagpapadala ng balikbayan box dahil wala ng buwis," Angara explained.

(I am sure that our countrymen abroad have started buying goods for Christmas. Once this law is implemented, I am sure that many OFWs will be happy because it will be cheaper to send a balikbayan box as it will not be taxed.)

Angara, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, sponsored Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). 

Under the CMTA, the government increased the value of balikbayan box items that should be subject to tax. 

This law hiked the tax exemption ceiling to P150,000 ($3,060) from the previous P10,000 ($200). This means that balikbayan boxes worth below P150,000 will be tax-exempt.

Then president Benigno Aquino III signed the CMTA on May 31, a month before he ended his term. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P49

#InspireCourage: Our pledge


We believe there are many freedoms:

To speak,
To choose,
To love,
Or just to be.

In Rappler, we stand for those freedoms. But we do not stand alone.

We stand with the men and women of this country
Whose visions for the future challenge and engage.

We believe that freedom calls for courage:

To believe in the good,
To question,
To seek solutions,
To clamor for change.

As we work to connect our communities,

We are moved by the strength of those who speak for the voiceless.

We are empowered by the technology that allows us to tell the nation’s story.

We are fueled with hope that together, we can inspire courage.

We are Rappler.  Rappler.com


Love in the time of Trump


When I finally held my green card a month ago, I found it sitting unceremoniously in its envelope on top of a stack of unread magazines. It might have been there for the last day or two, I don't know, but, as a new mother, I must have missed it the morning it arrived.

For me, the card symbolized the 12 years since I started the process; legal fees equal to the downpayment on a mid-sized home in my city. And perhaps, more than anything, it was proof that my legal status as a resident alien could finally reflect what I had felt for the last several years. "Honey," I told my husband, waving it in front of my face, "I'm finally home."

But on Tuesday night, November 8, after the New York Times barometer showed that Trump had a 95% chance of becoming president, I wept in the dark. Where was I? The reasons I fought to stay in this country – its diversity, its reproductive health rights, its marriage equality, its opening its doors to the poor, huddled masses – all were put at risk. A man whose campaign was rooted in xenophobia, racism, bitter misogyny, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism, was going to be the president of the country I loved but suddenly seemed alien. 

The writer James Baldwin says in his 1965 Cambridge debate with William F. Buckley, "It comes as a great shock… to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance… has not pledged allegiance to you."

Since the winning of the president-elect, who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, the US's oldest white supremacist hate group, there has been a "rash of hate crimes" reported all across the US. It does not matter that his promise to block Muslims from entering the country has quietly disappeared from his speeches. His exclusionary rhetoric is already out there, validating and animating his supporters' bigotry and anger. All you need to do is turn on the news or visit Twitter to read about them. 

I can feel the illusion of safety in my little pocket of my city, but outside it? As I read about swastika signs painted on store windows, women's hijabs pulled off their heads, and children chanting "build a wall," I  cannot breathe. November 9th, the day after the election, was one of the most difficult days teaching I've ever had.

I pray for my Muslim friends with whom I grew up in Saudi Arabia and who, like me, immigrated to the US. I think of my student who cried because she was afraid her rights as a gay woman would be taken away. I think of transgender friends and students who are even more terrified now about using the bathroom. I think of undocumented immigrants and their families, who are peaceful and pay taxes. I tremble as I think of my black friends and Black Lives Matter.

I think of what Trump's victory means for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, fighting to protect their land and water. I think of my Mexican-American friends whose Mexican family Trump has called "rapists and criminals." I think about my beautiful Jewish daughter, whose mother was born in a country that is sinking because of the effects of climate change.

I feel this fear in my bones.

FIlipino-Americans comprised the highest percentage of Asian-American voters who supported Trump. Judging from what I've seen online, they were dazzled by his and his running mate Pence's anti-undocumented immigrant, anti-abortion, and anti-marriage equality policies.

THE WINNER. Republican candidate Donald Trump is the new US president. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

They voted for him, despite the fact that Filipinos make up the largest group of Asian undocumented immigrants and Trump called the Philippines a terrorist nation. Filipinos pride themselves on their generosity, their families, and their treatment of women (the Philippines ranks in the top 10 for gender equality) – and yet those Filipino-American Trump supporters voted for someone they would not want at their family potluck. 

For the Filipinos who assert that I should not be afraid if my papers are in order, I have been here since I was 15 years old and neither my visa, my education, nor my white last name has protected me – not from the men who slowed down their van while I walked home, in broad daylight, and hissed, "Me love you long time." Or the woman who blocked, with her baby stroller, the front door to the building where my husband worked and told me that the service entrance was around the corner. Or the stranger at the bar, who asked if my pu**y was (sic) as slanted as my eyes. Or the man on the bus who yelled, "Chink, go home" as I got off. I think of my white high school classmate, who said that Filipino women were "LBFMs" (little brown f*cking machines) or that an American network had actually green-lit a show about a Filipino mail-order bride.

I could go on and on, but what gave me strength, in part, was knowing that I'd had allies in the White House.

Come Monday, I will be strong and I will work to protect the rights of those most vulnerable. I will continue teaching American Literature and I will keep trying to love the country where my husband and I have decided to raise our daughter. I will make sure that my students know they are loved. I want my undocumented friends to know that wherever I am, they have a home. On Monday, I will be braver. My voice will not crack and I will pick up the pieces of whatever broke in me on Tuesday night. I will not let my fear keep me from making this country – this world – a wonderful one for my daughter.

I do not have a choice: I must fight. My little girl, she is my heartbeat. This country is her home. We are not moving.

But a few days after the election, it is still so very hard and I need time.

I am giving myself this weekend. – Rappler.com

Kristine Sydney was born in the Philippines, raised in Saudi Arabia, and has studied and worked in the United States for the last 23 years. She teaches high school English at a private school in Rhode Island. Follow her on Twitter at @kosheradobo.

#NotOnMyWatch anti-corruption caravan goes to Iloilo


MANILA, Philippines – Corruption remains a big problem in the Philippines, even though the government has been vocal about fighting it. Corrupt practices are still taking place down to the grassroots level, and in some cases, are so rampant that they are more the norm than the exception.

The aim of the #NotOnMyWatch campaign is to encourage local communities to join the fight against corruption. After a successful run in Cebu City, the anti-corruption caravan is set to run in Iloilo City from November 18 to 19 at the University of Iloilo.

#CorruptionPH : A closer look at Iloilo

Based on a 2016 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 67% of surveyed businessmen in Iloilo said there is "a lot of corruption in the public sector." It was the highest rating given among the areas surveyed this year, equal only to the rating of the National Capital Region (NCR).

From 2012 to 2016, the percentage of surveyed businessmen in Iloilo who believe that there is a lot of corruption in the public sector has been on a steady rise. From 47% in 2012, it rose to 55% in 2013, and then to 67% in 2016 (no data was available for 2014 and 2015).

Other areas surveyed aside from Iloilo and NCR were Metro Angeles, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas, Metro Cebu, Cagayan de Oro / Iligan City, and Metro Davao.

#NotOnMyWatch: Using technology, social media

Rappler launched the #NotOnMyWatch campaign on September 24 during the annual Innovation+Social Good Summit. The aim of the campaign is to promote integrity, competence, and accountability in government by encouraging people to report bribery and other grievances against government officials while showcasing honest and commendable service.  

On the first day in Iloilo – Friday, November 18 – select participants will go through a whole day workshop to be integrity champions. They will be expected to help spread the word on how to report corruption accurately and how to find and validate sources of information.

On the second day – Saturday, November 19 – there will be a public forum with representatives from the government, civil society groups, and students. The forum aims to tackle local corruption issues in Iloilo and what ordinary citizens can do to help solve these – particularly with the use of technology and social media. 




DAY 1: Workshop for select participants
November 18

10 am - 4 pm

University of Iloilo-College of Law Conference Room

DAY 2: Public Forum
November 19

1 pm - 4 pm

University of Iloilo Auditorium


Public Forum Program 



12:00 - 1:00 pm


1:00 - 1:15

Opening ceremony

1:15 - 1:25

Welcome remarks

1:25 - 1:55

Keynote Address

Maria A. Ressa
CEO, Rappler

1:55 - 2:10

Presentation of #NotOnMyWatch

Gemma B. Mendoza
Project Lead, #NotOnMyWatch 
Research and Content Strategy, Rappler

2:10 - 2:50


Issues per sector: What types of corruption affect us?

Ted Aldwin Ong
Freedom from Debt Coalition

Voltaire Jacinto
Professor, Political Science and Public Administration
Western Visayas State University

JJ Cordova
Jaro Archidiocesan Social Action Center

2:50 - 3:30



Strategies and Approaches to fight corruption

Gileo Alojado
Assistant Regional Director
Commission on Audit - Region 6

Atty. Pio R. Dargantes 
Acting Director
Office of the Ombudsman - Region 6

Leo F. Jamorin
Officer-in-Charge, Public ASsistance and Liason Division
Civil Service Commission - Region 6

3:30 - 3:50


3:50 - 4:00

Closing Remarks

Rupert Ambil
Executive Director

How to join the anti-corruption caravan in Iloilo

Interested participants can join the forum by registering below:

For the validation workshop, limited slots are available for groups or individuals interested in pursuing the anti-corruption advocacy in their own communities or government offices. You can email notonmywatch@rappler.com to reserve a slot.

#NotOnMyWatch works with civil society groups, government agencies, the academe, and ordinary citizens to help build integrity champions around the country. – Rappler.com

Rappler thanks community, partners at #InspireCourage


MANILA, Philippines – Rappler on Friday night, November 11, celebrated years of doing journalism, connecting with communities, and using technology for social good. 

It also took the chance to celebrate courage and its many forms.

“It’s been a surprising year,” Rappler’s CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa said at the #InspireCourage event on Friday, November 11. “For Rappler, this is the year we had to find the courage to stand tall. To stand firm. To figure out who we are, what are the values we will never actually move from.”

Courage to stand

#INSPIRECOURAGE. Rappler’s CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

As with previous years, Rappler continued to innovate in 2016. Developments include a wider, more mobile coverage of the presidential elections; and building RapRap and #NotOnMyWatch, bots that aim to help users get the latest news and report both the good and bad they see in the government through Facebook Messenger, respectively.

This was also the year when Rappler had to weather particularly trying challenges. First, it attempted to redefine the role of online media as it filed a case before the Supreme Court that challenged the limitations attached to livestreaming the presidential debates during 2016 campaign season. Rappler won the case in an unprecedented 14-0 vote. (READ: Rappler vs Bautista: SC allows livestream of debates)

“2016 is also the year where the wisdom of the crowd became an online mob,” Ressa said, recalling the incident where a student of UP Los Baños was attacked, harassed and threatened online after asking then-Mayor Duterte a question at a forum, to the point that a page demanding death for the student was put up. (READ: UPLB students to Duterte: Give us direct answers)

Facebook took the page down while the Duterte camp issued a statement urging its supporters to “take the moral high ground when engaging in any kind of discourse,” all within the same weekend. (READ: Duterte to supporters: Be civil, intelligent, decent, compassionate)

“But this was a harbinger of things to come,” Ressa said.

In August, Rappler started the #NoPlaceForHate campaign (READ: #NoPlaceForHate: Change comes to Rappler’s comments thread). Shortly after, it launched a series that looked at how the internet and social media were being weaponized. (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the Internet)

“We knew that there would be consequences when you do things like this, and there were,” Ressa said, pointing to a death threat on the screen. “We had threats like this come through. But I realized that our reporters suffer this on a daily basis.”

#NoPlaceForHate provides a place “that can still give you the exponential power of social media,” Ressa said. “We use it for disaster risk reduction. Because all of these things still work and because when something bad happens, we turn to social media to show us what is actually happening.

“We cannot pollute the river that gives us this great power for development,” she added.

Safeguarding social media

A SYMBOL OF HOPE IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Daniel Cabrera and his mother. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Despite the bad, Ressa emphasized the need to preserve and protect social media, and to stand up to cyberbullying.

She recalled the story of Daniel Cabrera, the boy whose photo was taken while he was studying outside a McDonald’s branch in Cebu in June last year. (READ: Kid studying on Cebu sidewalk inspires netizens)

Cabrera’s dedication not only helped improved his life – he and his family now live in a house, his mother now has a job, and he now has enough money to study until college – it also inspired millions of people.

Speaking through a translator, Cabrera, who was present at the #InspireCourage event, spoke of his wish to have not only his but also his siblings’ dreams come true.

“There’s a lot of bad that we see,” Ressa said. “Daniel reminds us of the good. And it reminds us of the good in us. He inspires us in Rappler to inspire courage.”

Viral courage

Earlier in the event, Ressa said, “Technology moves at exponential growth rates, but people don’t change that fast.

“Regardless of what you believe or where you come from, it’s very clear that this is a time of great change. It is a time of creative destruction. And as destruction is happening, we’re also creating a new world. In order to deal with that, what do we need? We think we need courage.”

She talked about Rappler's #InspireCourage logo, which shows that courage starts with love, radiating outwards. 

“We believe courage is viral. This is the trait that we’ve long thought journalists have had to have. But now, since everyone is a journalist, technically, we all need this viral courage,” she said.

Different forms of courage

Ressa took the opportunity to look back and share Rappler's milestones since it launched in January 2012.

In 2012, it was the courage to dare, start a team of 12, and define multimedia journalism from zero.

In 2013, it was the courage to build. It was the year Rappler made history as it held the very first marathon 24/7 online coverage of the May 2013 elections for over 4 days, as well as processed granular data on election results. 

Project Agos, which was launched exactly a month before Super Yolanda hit the Philippines, combined crowdsourced data with updates from the government. Today, government agencies such as the Office of Civil Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are part of Project Agos.

In 2014, it was the courage to innovate. It was the year #SharePH, where Pinoys shared their most favorite of the Philippines, and BrandRap, which is Rappler’s own innovative business model, were launched.

In 2015, it was the courage to grow. Last year, Rappler expanded to neighboring Indonesia to build communities and action through Rappler Indonesia and formed X, a platform where partners of MovePH can share their thoughts, and XChange, where partners collaborate. Campaigns #ShowThePope and #WHIPIT also made waves on social media.

Ressa predicted 2017 would be the year to dream.

“Daniel Cabrera is really that hope of what social media is. He actually gives me that courage to dream, which I think is where 2017 is going to go. We begin the cycle again,” she said.

Embracing technology, hand in hand 

“It’s going to be a challenging future,” Ressa said towards the end, “I mean, technology is turning everything upside down and we have to adapt to it.”

In parting, Ressa had this to say.

“Thank you, our partners. And to the Rapplers, we have a lot of work to do. We have so much ahead of us. 2017 is going to be a challenging year in so many ways because technology is changing it so fast.

“How are we gonna cope? I hope we cope by being together. I hope we cope by inspiring courage in each other as we face the road ahead.”

The night ended with the announcement of winners of the 2016 Move Awards, 5 Filipino millennials who are making waves in their respective communities. –Rappler.com

On balikbayan boxes: Why not implement tax exemption ceilings now?


As Christmas approaches, Senator Ralph Recto said that the Bureau of Customs must already implement the new tax exemption ceilings for balikbayan boxes. Photo of Recto by Camille Elemia; balikbayan box by Bureau of Customs

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said on Monday, November 14 that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) must already comply with a portion of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), even if the new law still does not have implementing rules and regulations (IRR).  

“The BOC plans to release the implementing rules next month, but Filipinos overseas have started shipping their balikbayan boxes, some as early as September, when the law was already in effect,” the senator said.

Recto said that the BOC has no option but to waive the payment of taxes for balikbayan boxes containing less than P150,000 worth of personal effects and souvenirs based on the CMTA which was signed into law by former President Benigno S. Aquino III on May 31, 2016.

“Hindi kasalanan ng mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) natin kung natagalan ang pagbuo ng impementing rules for the CMTA. Matagal nang pasado ang batas na iyan at dapat lamang na makinabang na ang mga OFWs natin diyan,” Recto stressed. 

(It's not the OFWs' fault that it took so long for the CMTA implementing rules to be made. It's been passed into law for so long now and our OFWs should already benefit from it.)

Under Section 800 of the CMTA, “residents of the Philippines, Overseas Filipino Workers, other Filipinos while residing abroad or in their return to the Philippines shall be allowed to bring in or send to their families or relatives in the Philippines balikbayan boxes which shall be exempt from duties and taxes.”

The new law hiked the tax exemption ceiling to P150,000 ($3,060) from the previous P10,000 ($200). 

No need to wait for implementing rules

According to Recto, the absence of the law's implementing rules does not prevent the government from complying with a portion of it.

“As the CMTA is a voluminous law, then government should not wait for an omnibus IRR that will cover all of its provisions. It can, in the meantime, issue an IRR just on balikbayan boxes and other OFW shipping privileges,” he said.

“Pasado ng Kongreso, pirmado ng Presidente. Mukhang nadale ng red tape sa agency level. Kung ganito ang sitwasyon, baka pwedeng ipakiusap natin na kahit yung sections lang sa balikbayan boxes, ipatupad na kaagad,” he added.

(It was already passed in Congress, signed by the president. Looks like it was hit by red tape at the agency level. If this is the situation, may we can ask that at least the sections on balikbayan boxes be implemented immediately.)

To expedite things, Recto said that the BOC can come up with its own order covering the particular section of the CMTA that deals with higher balikbayan box values.

This should be done soon, he said, in view of the expected high number of OFWs coming home for Christmas.

“Kahit ano pang tarpaulin ang ilagay mo na ‘Pamaskong Handog ni Pangulong Digong’, kung hindi ipapatupad ang bagong batas sa balikbayan boxes ngayong pasko, wala ring epekto,” he lamented.

(Even if you put up tarpaulins saying ‘Christmas Gift by President Digong,’ if you do not pass the law concerning balikbayan boxes this Christmas, it won’t have any effect.)

Recto filed Senate Bill 2913, or what he dubbed the Balikbayan Box Law in August last year after a public outcry over a BOC plan to open and inspect balikbayan boxes revealed outdated regulations, one of which taxes any box whose contents is worth more than P10,000.  

The BBL was later incorporated into the CMTA by Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Angara also urged the BOC November 12 to immediately implement the CMTA as Christmas approaches. – Rappler.com

The story behind the viral video of kid crying for OFW father


MANILA, Philippines – "Dili ko." (I don't like.)

Five-year-old Vaniah Ayn Perdido was in tears as she tried to stop her father, Joe Mar David Perdido, from returning to the Maldives where he works as an assistant restaurant manager for a resort.

The emotional parting of Ayn and her father was captured on camera by her grandmother. The video was later posted by her mother, Icar Yves, on Facebook. 

The video shows Ayn passionately crying and hugging her father at the Davao International Airport. "Dili man ko love nimo daddy," she tells her dad in Bisaya. (You don't love me, daddy.) 

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The post touched the hearts of netizens, especially overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and quickly went viral – getting 240,000 shares and 7.5 million views in just 2 days.

Ayn's story

For the first few years of her life, Ayn was cared for by her grandparents in Dangcagan, Bukidnon, along with her little brother, David.

Her parents were both OFWs who first met in the United Arab Emirates and eventually moved to the Maldives where they worked at the same resort.

Back then, Ayn and David could only be with their parents for 30 days a year.

According to their mom, Icar, she and her husband each had 30 days of leave annually, which they would divide into two trips.

It was easier at first because the 2 children were still too young to understand their situation, but as they grew older, Icar said Ayn would cry every time they had to return to the Maldives.

In one instance, Ayn was so upset that she ignored her parents' long-distance calls for a week.

Seeing her daughter incredibly sad was what pushed Icar to leave her high-paying job abroad and return to the Philippines this year.

Her husband, Joe Mar, remains in the Maldives.

Another farewell

Joe Mar was allowed to go on vacation last October 28. But this time, he only had 13 days.

By November 10, Ayn's time to be with her father was up. 

The bus ride from Dangcagan to Davao International Airport takes 4 hours. Throughout the trip, Ayn wouldn't let go of her father and cried every time he tried to talk to her. 

She burst into tears when they arrived at the airport.

One of many children

Ayn's cries showed the widely documented emotional toll of the OFW life – the struggle of the children left behind.

"The social cost of migration is also something that needs serious attention," said Melanie Reyes in her 2008 working paper, "Migration and Filipino Children Left Behind: A Literature Review."

According to Reyes, while working abroad does benefit many families financially, several studies "show that migration of parents is indeed heartbreaking for children" who may "long for parental care, be confused over gender boundaries and roles, develop a consumerist attitude, [or] be vulnerable to abuses."

For now, Ayn has no choice but to patiently wait for her father's next return. But Icar said their children can now hold on to one promise: that Joe Mar will finally be back for good next year.

Meanwhile, Icar is looking forward to making her first Christmas with Ayn and David an unforgettable one. – Rappler.com

COP 22: Energy is PH's 'elephant in the room'


MARRAKECH, Morocco – The first week of the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened with reminders for attending governments on the urgency of climate action. COP 22, dubbed as the “action COP,” seeks to iron out details of the Paris Agreement, the climate treaty signed by 196 countries in December 2015 which was hailed as a big step in solving the climate crisis.

COP 22 opened 3 days after the Paris Agreement entered into force. Some 105 countries have ratified the agreement so far.

“All together we have made possible what people said impossible. It is a historic moment for humanity. I encourage other countries who have not ratified it to do so this year,” said Segolene Royale, president of COP 21.

Salaheddine Mezouar, president of COP 22, reminded governments that while the conference comes with a climate of hope and aspirations for humanity, it is also a “call to our consciences and to our collective responsibility,” adding that ambition is needed in the conference. (READ: CO2 emissions level off, still too high to save climate – report)

“At stake now is not just climate change. This is a question of civilization and economic development,” Mezouar added.

Royale also emphasised climate justice, especially for Africa, and the right of every African to have access to light and electricity. (READ: There are bigger issues outside the Paris agreement)

Energy also a problem of PH

In a side event “Experiences from the Philippines” hosted by the Philippine delegation, environmental lawyer Antonio La Vina also raised his concerns about energy needs in the country.

“Energy is the elephant in the room,” La Vina said.

The Philippines has initially submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC last year, with a target of reducing carbon emissions by 70% in 2030 on a business as usual model. However, the Aquino government was also much criticized for having approved more than 30 coal-fired power plants which are all set to be built before 2030.

La Vina said that in order to tackle energy problems in the country, there is a need to reduce over dependence on one energy source, citing coal as an example. 

The country will be crafting a new set of commitments, now called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). La Vina emphasized that “whatever number we give in our NDC, energy needs to be a part of it."

However, there are also concerns of access to electricity. In 2013, some 16 million Filipinos still do not have access to electricity. Echoing Royale, La Vina said that “loss of access to electricity and power is not acceptable” and that the government needs “to make sure that we are able to address that need.”

Long term vision for PH

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) with their Ambisyon Natin 2040, the 25-year long term vision for the Philippines, said that climate change is one of their priorities, especially because it affects the Philippines’ economic growth. Climate change impacts costs the country 1% of its GDP. The challenge, however, is to mainstream climate change across institutions.

Speaking in the same event, Kathleen Anne Capiroso of NEDA said that resiliency is included in the framework and will be explicit in the new Philippine Development Plan (PDP). 

“If you read the guidelines that we will be later on coming out with, climate change mitigation and adaptation will be more explicit. These are overarching principles we will consider and it will definitely be more visible in the plan,” Capiroso said.

Asked whether there are final numbers on the targets of renewable energy for the country, Capiroso said that it is still in the works but that they are closely coordinating with the Department of Energy. The PDP is expected to be finalized by the end of the year or early next year.

However, Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez raised an important question: how will the Philippine government keep its climate change commitments and plans given that it will take 3 presidents to implement this?

La Vina was hopeful, saying every president usually comes around, especially if it starts becoming about people.

“Every president eventually comes around, especially if climate change is no longer abstract. If it’s about emissions, it’s going to be difficult because you can’t see it. But if it’s about people — people dying and getting sick, they will come around,” La Vina said. (READ: What a Trump presidency means for the climate)

La Vina also adds that it is not the president that matters, but rather the institutions that will carry out the plans and how they will “internalize, integrate, mainstream climate change in everything that we do.” – Rappler.com


DFA: No 'calamitous impact' on Filipino migrants in US despite Trump win


UNDOCUMENTED, UNAFRAID. Students, faculty, and supporters gather for a walkout protest against US President-elect Donald Trump at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington on November 14, 2016. Photo by Jason Redmond/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines sought to quell fears of its citizens after US President-elect Donald Trump threatened to deport up to 3 million undocumented migrants from the US, home to more than 3 million Filipinos abroad.

"We presently do not expect President-elect Trump's immigration pronouncements to have a calamitous impact on the Filipino community there," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose said Monday evening, November 14.

Jose explained that for years, the US has deported illegal immigrants "in a timely and orderly fashion."

Deported immigrants, he pointed out, "have occasionally included Filipinos arrested because of immigration irregularities and criminal violations."

"Nevertheless, a vast majority of the 3 million Filipinos residing in the US have legal residency or citizenship status, pay their taxes, and generally obey American laws," Jose said. (READ: 5 ways a Trump presidency could affect Filipinos)

Rise in racism, too

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) estimates that 3.5 million Filipinos live in the US as of December 2013. 

The CFO classifies 271,000 Filipino workers in the US as irregular or undocumented.

The DFA issued Monday's comment after Trump, in an interview aired on Sunday, November 13, said he will keep his vow to deport millions of undocumented migrants from the US.

"What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, where a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million – we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate," Trump said on CBS's 60 Minutes program.

The 70-year-old real estate mogul became US President-elect after winning more electoral votes in the November 8 election, defeating early favorite Hillary Clinton.

While Trump has not taken office, however, minorities and civil rights groups have begun to worry that Trump's election has led to a surge in reports of racist incidents. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

For the undocumented Fil-Am: Living in fear


NEW YORK – Jocelyn lives in the suburbs of Seattle where she has managed to carve out a life that she loves.

She has a small business, looks after a gaggle of nieces and nephews and gets to travel to places like the Grand Canyon or Las Vegas.

She goes to the gym twice a week and then swings by Starbucks for a treat of lemon cream pie.

Marilyn, on the other hand, lives in the shadow of the Disney resorts and parks just outside Orlando.

She works with her husband in a pet shop and they have an apartment full of bric-a-brac when I visited her last year. 

They drive down the Florida coast for vacations, taking the I-95 all the way down to Key West where she always swings by the former home of author Ernest Hemingway, whose writing she adores.

The couple hope to work for another five to 10 years and then possibly retire in the Bicol region near Legazpi. They have a house being constructed there, about 500 meters from the beach in front of the Pacific Ocean where the sunsets are often spectacular.

Jocelyn and Marilyn are undocumented migrants. Both arrived in the United States sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. 

Rappler reached out to both people after Trump and his anti-immigrant message won. Their names have been changed given the sensitivity of their status.

Fear in Trump's America

Going by the US Census in 2010, there are 1.8 million Filpino-Americans in the United States.

Community activists believe the actual number of Filipinos hiding in the woodwork ranges from 1.8 to 2.0 million people, or a total of nearly 4.0 million people. 

President-elect Donald Trump has declared that immigration will be his top priority when he takes over on January 20, 2017.

His election has spawned a tsunami of fear among those who do not have their papers and believe they will be thrown out of the country in mass deportations.

“I really don’t know,” Jocelyn told Rappler when asked if she was ready for anything.

“As of now, I’m still shocked and sad. I never thought the election results would turn out the way it did,” she added.

Marilyn asked me about sanctuary cities which plan to defy the Trump administration and protect migrants from immigration roundups.

She has also started the surreptitious process of turning their assets into cash. In that way, they can transfer their funds electronically if they are caught and placed on a plane for the Philippines.

Marilyn thought for a long time on the phone before answering my question if she is ready for anything.

“In a way, yes,” she finally said. “I do not want to go but I have to consider the possibility that it may happen.”

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to deport millions of illegal migrants in the US.

Jocelyn feels a pervasive melancholy at the victory of Trump and what it means for the millions of migrants in the U.S.

“I feel a growing sense of uncertainty, not only for myself, but for others like me,” she said. “I really don’t know what to expect.” 

Both women are now gathering as much information as they can to give them clues on what can possibly happen next.

Marilyn has quietly contacted a handful of relatives in Manila so she can slowly transfer some of her belongings to the country.

“You do not want to think of the worst, but you have to prepare for it. I want to stay, but you have to recognize the fact that your time here may soon be up,” she explained.

Jocelyn wants to know if it is “really possible to deport 11 million” people.

“Are there laws or procedures that can protect us from deportation? What are our options? These are the things I am trying to explore. Maybe this is one of the many ways that will help us get ready should anything happen. I hope nothing happens though.”

Both love the United States passionately, just as much as the Trump die-hards who want all 11 million illegal immigrants deported from the country. 

“I don’t know if I am ready for it (deportation) , maybe not,” Jocelyn said, adding she left the Philippines decades ago. 

“I would have to start my life all over again. That would be difficult. I am not ready to give up my dreams of making a life here in the United States.” 

“I love this country.” – Rappler.com 


Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.  

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