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Caritas PH brings P10-M aid to home-based Marawi evacuees


EVACUEES. NASSA/Caritas Philippines during its rapid needs assessment in one of the evacuation areas in Iligan City. Photo courtesy of NASSA/Caritas Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – At least 114,715 families or 522,778 persons have been displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City as of July 17, Monday.

Of this number, only 4,990 families or 27,030 are in the 87 evacuation centers spread out in Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, and Lanao del Sur. 

Majority of the internally displaced persons affected by clash – an estimated number of 97,788 families or 438,701 – are staying outside evacuation centers, with their relatives or friends in surrounding regions. 

In response to their needs, the Catholic Church, through the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, has earmarked P10 million ($196,869) for their humanitarian response, covering essential needs of 3,000 families or 15,000 individuals in Iligan City such as Halal food, and non-food items like hygiene kits, household items and sleeping kits. 

NASSA/Caritas Philippines is the humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). 

Caritas is also planning psychosocial activities, hygiene promotion awareness,  emergency preparedness, and accountability trainings for those affected by the armed conflict. 

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the effect of the unrest has displaced families coming from all 96 barangays of Marawi and 20 other municipalities of nearby Lanao del Sur. 

“We are targeting the home-based evacuees or those staying in their relatives’ houses because our assessment showed that many were still underserved. The concentration of the responses by other organizations are mostly in the evacuation centers,”  NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr Edwin Gariguez explained.   

Caritas Manila also allocated P2 million ($39,373) in relief assistance to those affected by the Marawi crisis through the Diocese of Iligan Social Action Center. 

This humanitarian response augmented the ongoing government efforts, and other non-governmental organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Save the Children, among others.

Earlier in June, the DSWD provided P5,000 ($98.43) in cash assistance for families affected by the clash. The agency also provided a total of P60,055,000 ($1,182,301) to its field offices in Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, and Caraga a few days after the start of the clashes between government troops and the combined forces of the Maute group and the Abu Sayaff group.

 Donation from Comelec

The DSWD received a P1-million ($19,686) cash donation from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on D on Wednesday, July 12, intended to assist internally-displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City and neighboring municipalities. 

The donation is also meant to be utilized to assist Comelec employees who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict in the aforementioned city.  

According to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, it was the first donation that the agency has received from another government institution. 

“This gesture sends an important  message that government agencies are coming together to assist our people in Marawi. We will do our best to judiciously use all donations for the relief and recovery of Filipinos affected by the armed conflict in Marawi," Taguiwalo said. – Rappler.com 
$1 = P50.80

Storytelling sessions held for children with special needs


READING FOR KNOWLEDGE. A storyteller narrates the story of a mother to a group of children with exceptional needs to commemorate National Children'™s Book Day. Photo by Hannah Mallorca/Rappler

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – In celebration of National Children’s Book Day on Tuesday, July 18, volunteers had a chance to serve children with special needs through a storytelling seesion.

Volunteers from the Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) participated in storytelling sessions organized by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Philippines (RHMC), and Adarna Publishing House. These sessions were simultaneously conducted in in this city and in Makati City.

The Baguio leg of the event was conducted in partnership with the A Child’s D.R.E.A.M. Foundation Incorporated, Baguio City’s first pediatric therapy center for exceptional children. (READ: Forum on autism opens opportunities for help and encouragement)

Beneficiaries of the event include children with intellectual disabilities and hearing impairment, aged 3 to 36 years old. They came from the foundation, and the Benguet SPED Center in Wangal, La Trinidad.

Volunteers from CISV, from 14 to 15 years old, joined the special kids for their Local Impact Day, where volunteers were encouraged to get involved in the local community. The CISV volunteers come from 9 different countries, namely Brazil, Colombia, France, Italy, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.

What it takes to volunteer

Working with special children is a tough job. To be a volunteer, one must possess genuine care and passion to serve children with exceptional needs.

“I think…it’s a heart of service, understanding, and compassion. I think it’s the attitude that we’re here for them, not what’s in it for me? But what can we do to help,” said Anne Marie Dimalanta, administrator and education specialist of A Child’s D.R.E.A.M.

INSPIRED. Campers from CISV listen attentively to a storyteller during National Children's Book Day Celebration in Baguio City. Photo by Cielo Marie Esmeria/Rappler

“If you’re a SPED teacher, you must have, a big heart....You have to have understanding and patience most of the time. And as a part of teaching, you have to have passion, and love these kinds of children,” said Violeta Santos from Benguet SPED Center.

The stories and what they tell

The stories selected, with the theme “Keeping Families Close,” reflected the battles of the parents with special kids, and aimed to inspire the parents to continue their fight.

A professional storyteller from Adarna Publishing House performed "Papel de Liha (Sandpaper)" by Corazon Remigio. "Papel de Liha" is a story of a mom whose hands are comparable to sandpaper because of the hard work she does around the house. The child, however, disagrees because he believes that his mom’s hands work wonders around the kitchen and when he is sick, unlike rough sandpaper that hurts the skin when rubbed against it.

The storyteller said Adarna Publishing House chose the story in keeping with the theme. In the story, a mother's care for her family is highlighted.

Ronald McDonald also told a story entitled, "Bilog na itlog {The Round Egg)" by Al Santos. The story puts emphasis on being unique, and reminded the kids that there is nothing wrong with being special.

The storytelling session initially aimed to empower the children and their parents through literature, but the volunteers shared that they, too, were inspired.

“I feel that I learned a lot from them, and I hope they learned from us, too,” said a CISV volunteer.

The volunteer shared her experience of interacting with a child with hearing impairment, and the difficulty of communicating. However, she shared that even without words, they were still able to “communicate and have fun.”

“[We had] a chance to understand how they communicate, and to communicate back to them also, so we built a friendship,” said another volunteer.

More attention for special children

The country currently has many awareness campaigns regarding persons with disabilities. (READ: FAST FACTS: What persons with disability are entitled to)

Pursuant to Proclamation No. 361, s. 2000, the country observes the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week every third week of July. The country also designates every third week of January as Autism Conscious Week, and the second week of February as the National Intellectual Disability Week (Retarded Children’s Week). The country also has a Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

“So far, as time goes by, we notice that government agencies are now recognizing these programs for special children. We are involved in the Palarong Pambansa, we are also involved in our municipality during the celebration of National Disability Week, so we are happy that we are now recognized in the society,” Santos said.

However, Senate Bill No. 468 or the proposed Special Education Act was only filed last year and is currently pending in Congress.

“We still need a lot of help [from the government]. We need more budget for them. Like we have kids who are in SPED but who don’t go to everyday because of scheduling and they are the ones who need to be in school everyday but they are not in school everyday,” shared Dimalanta.  (READ: A long way to go for special education)

“We’re not really giving any importance....And that’s the really sad thing about it, because when we talked about it [in camp] that, ‘Hey, we’re going to a special needs foundation,’ and they [foreign campers] were asking, ‘Why is there a need for you Filipinos to have a center? Why do you not incorporate it in schools?,” said Krishna Rilveria-Abubo, Camp Director for Camp Umali in CISV Baguio. (READ: Local governments urged to prioritize programs for PWDs)

Meanwhile, the event held at the Nemesio Yabut Elementary School in Makati featured storytelling sessions and games for children with exceptional needs from Nemesio Yabut Elementary School, Pembo Elementary School, Hen. Pio del Pilar Elementary School, Francisco Benitez Elementary School, and Palanan Elementary School.

“Literacy empowers us to be a part of the empathy generation, through stories, we learn to value each other’s perspectives, we learn how to be in each other’s shoes, in essence, we learn how to love one another for our differences,”  explained Francis M. Dimalanta, Board of Trustee Member of PPS and RMHC. – With reports from Hannah Mallorca/Rappler.com 

University of the Philippines - Baguio students Alexa Yadao and Cielo Esmeria are Rappler interns. Hannah Mallorca, a student from De La Salle University, is also a Rappler intern.

VIRAL: Filipino bayanihan spirit unfolds in baggage queue


MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are not oblivious to the heavy burden soldiers bear, considering the ongoing clashes in Mindanao. Some Filipino civilians did not think twice about helping the troops lighten their load, so to speak.

A viral post detailed how soldiers who were about to be deployed in Marawi and Cotabato andhad problems meeting the maximum baggage weight, sparked the Filipino bayanihan spirit among civilian passengers in the queue. (READ: Stories of kindness, perseverance inspire Filipinos)

Rakel Pidor Ross, the Facebook user who posted the story on AirAsia’s page yesterday, shared that the soldiers remained humble and followed the protocol without complaints.

Despite this, they could still not meet the weight requirement due to the heavy combat uniforms and other gears in their baggage. 

Ross together with another lady, then, offered their spare baggage weight to the soldiers in order to accommodate their things. 

“Other passengers cheered the soldiers...and joked [around] to help them lessen their anxiety, and the ground desk staff allowed us to carry the things of the soldiers. So, everyone did their part,” said Ross in an interview with Rappler. 

Ross added that the soldiers were even apologetic about the whole incident.  

“Sabi ko sa mga sundalo, not to worry. I promise that AirAsia management will know about the incident and ensure them that may maririnig kaming feedback from them,” she said. 

She stayed true to her word. 

Responding to the viral post, the CEO of AirAsia, Captain Dexter Comendador, recently released a statement regarding the situation.

“The incident has inspired many including us and we would like to announce that AirAsia will extend free baggage allowance of up to 40kgs (kilograms) including in-flight meals and snacks to all AFP personnel,” the statement said.


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As of posting, the viral photo has already garnered around 40,000 reactions, 6,000 shares and 1,200 comments. 

Mixed reactions

Some users expressed their dismay over the airline, saying that they and soldiers in general should be exempted of baggage rules.


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However, some reminded that the employees were only doing their job, and were right in following baggage rules which only aim to ensure the safety of passengers.


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The clash between government troops and the combined forces of the Maute group and the Abu Sayyaf will be entering its second month come Sunday, July 23 23. 

Meanwhile, a firefight erupted between the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in North Cotabato on July 19, Wednesday.

With the Marawi clash showing no signs of slowing down, President Duterte asked Congress on July 18 for an extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. – Rappler.com 

Alexa Yadao is a Rappler Intern

#ThinkPH trends on Twitter


MANILA, Philippines – Technology is shaping individuals and businesses at a pace we've never seen before. At this year's #ThinkPH summit, participants listened to some of the biggest names in tech and social media in the region.

The topics were diverse, ranging from the evolution of digital marketing, social media etiquette, to artificial intelligence. While the speakers shared their insights onstage, participants brought the conversation online. 

Let's check out the discussion on social media:


Based on Reach, Rappler's social listening tool, the #ThinkPH conversation generated a total of 449,935,285 impressions, over 2,000 posts, with 851 unique authors on Twitter.

The conversation peaked in impressions at 5:45 pm, hitting the 60 million mark, during the talk of Bianca Gonzalez, who discussed responsible social media use, and how to add value to dialogues online. (READ: #ThinkPH: 5 ways to make your social media use matter

On the map, Rappler and speaker Simon Kemp's Twitter accounts took the lead in the #ThinkPH conversation.


The hashtag trended on Twitter as of 12:44 pm.

Check out some of the top tweets below:

Forum on safer roads goes to Iloilo on July 22


ILOILO, Philippines – Is Iloilo City, one of the bustling cities in the Visayas, any safer to motorists than other urban areas in the country?

In 2014, the Philippine Statistics Authority recorded 733 deaths from motor vehicle crash incidents in Western Visayas.

If population is taken into account, Region VI is the most affected region in the Visayas in terms of road crash fatalities. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines?)

In Iloilo City, data collected by the city government showed that there are a total of 3,983 "traffic-related accidents" from January 2016 to May 2017 alone – 769 cases of which resulted to physical injury. (READ: Long way to go for Iloilo City's speeding ordinance)

How can we ensure pedestrian and motorist safety in the region?

Road safety awareness

Rappler, together with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, launched a campaign on road safety on May 8. (LOOK: Road Safety Awareness microsite)

The aim of the campaign is to promote the enactment and enforcement of better policies that will protect road users. (WATCH: Cagayan police draw pedestrian lane made of chalk)

On Saturday, July 22, the 3rd leg of the caravan will be held at the Nursing Review Center, University of San Agustin, in Iloilo City from 12 pm to 5 pm.

See the program below:



12:00 - 1:00


1:00 - 1:05

Opening Ceremonies

Dr. Felicidad N. Altalaguire
College of Technology Dean
University of San Agustin

1:05 - 1:10

Welcome Remarks

Voltaire Tupaz
Move PH

1:10 - 1:30


1:30 - 3:40

PANEL DISCUSSION: How do we make Iloilo roads safer?


Hon. Jed Mabilog
Iloilo City Government

Gaudioso Geduspan
Assistant Regional Director
Land Transportation Office Region VI

Engr. Ray Macalalag
Planning and Design Division
Department of Public Works and Highways Region VI

SPO3 Jun Batillo
Information Officer
Philippine National Police - Highway Patrol Group Region VI

Dr. May Ann Sta Lucia
Program Coordinator
Department of Health Region VI

Ted Aldwin Ong
Lead Mover for Iloilo
Move PH


Gemma Mendoza
Head, Research and Content Strategy
Rappler, Inc

Voltaire Tupaz
Move PH

3:40 - 3:50


Gemma Mendoza
Head, Research and Content Strategy
Rappler, Inc

3:50 - 4:00

Photo taking

 4:00 - 5:00Networking

If you're interested to attend the event, sign up through this link or send an e-mail to abigail.abigan@rappler.com with the subject "#SaferRoadsPH Iloilo forum sign-up." – Rappler.com

Learn more about Filipinos' safety on the road by visiting the Road Safety Awareness microsite.

How can we help curb the alarming number of motor vehicle crash incidents? Let us know your thoughts by writing on X or by posting with the hashtag #SaferRoadsPH on Facebook or Twitter!

Groups slam health reform failure under Duterte administration


PROTEST. CPRH™'s 'creative representation' of the main health issues in the government

MANILA, Philippines – Rainy skies did not stop advocates and organizations from marching for progressive healthcare.

The streets were filled with chants as the Coalition for People’s Right to Health (CPRH) and different organizations and interest groups held a caravan that pushed for free and progressive healthcare on Wednesday, July 19.

The caravan, which started from the Quezon Memorial Circle and ended at  the Mendiola Peace Arch, featured programs aimed at pushing for reforms in the current healthcare system in the country. Health groups also called on President Rodrigo Duterte to focus on addressing the “roots of poverty and ill-health.”

Dr Eleanor Jara, co-convener for the CPRH,  said that the President must hear the calls of his people and take into account the suggestions on how to address the issues in the current healthcare system as his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) neared.

“The government must change the direction it is taking, and move toward adequate and free social services,” she said.  (READ: DOH in 2017: Focus on universal health coverage, lowering drug prices)


CPRH noted that 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without so much as seeing a medical practitioner. They pointed out that problems in the health system all boils down to root issues like poverty, contractualization, privatization of companies, and low salaries of health workers.

Medical students, health workers and nurses also lamended the high cost of education, continuous cases of contractualization, low wages, and ill-equipped hospitals.

BETTER HEALTHCARE. Protesters bang the gates of the Department of Health to voice their concerns, including the privatization of public hospitals

For Jara, the current state of the Department of Health is a “mere continuation of the Aquino administration’s pro-corporate and pro-privatization policies.” She said Duterte had failed in stopping these “privatization schemes” due to his neo-liberal policies.

“Bagama’t siya ay nangangako ng libreng serbisyong pangkalusugan, tinutuloy-tuloy n’ya ang pagtupad sa mga neo-liberal policies to the Department of Health,” she added.

(Even though he promised free health care services, he continued to pass neoliberal policies to the Department of Health)

Jara said "neoliberal policies" made business out of health care for the poor. (READ: DOH: Fabella hospital will not be demolished

She said these policies include the planned privatization of public hospitals such as the Philippine Orthopedic Center. Jara said protests against the scheme stopped the plan. 

Calls to end impunity

Human rights groups also voiced their concerns on the current state of the people’s health under the first year of the Duterte Administration. They marched to protest against the human rights violations directed towards members of the health sector.

Julie Caguiat, a convenor for the Protection and Justice for Doctors and Health workers (PRO JUST), said  the DOH has reported 4 deaths of doctors, 3 of whom were public workers. 

Nakikita namin, ‘yung culture of impunity, na ang dali na lang pumatay. And to put, 'yung doctors pa, na alam naman natin na iilan nalang ‘yung doctors na willing to serve sa far-flung areas or marginalized areas, ito pa ang nangyayari,”  she added.

(We can see the culture of impunity, that it’s easier to kill. And this includes doctors. We know there are few who are willing to serve in far-flung or marginalized areas, and this happens.)

RALLY. Trucks raise banners asking the Duterte administration to stop human rights violations

Organizations also protested the extension of martial law in Mindanao and the extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s war on drugs. CPRH said all this promote injustice and foster a culture of impunity.

“The key to a free, comprehensive, and progressive or people centered health care system thus lie on the people’s concerted efforts to push for meaningful changes towards a just and healthy society,”  Jara said. – Rappler.com 

Arianne Jeanel Calumbiran is a Rappler intern 

Former UP film student free after 7-year detention


FREE. Former film student Maricon Montajes poses with former UP College of Mass Communication Dean Rolando Tolentino. Photo courtesy of Rolando Tolentino

MANILA, Philippines – After 7 long years, former University of the Philippines (UP) film student Maricon Montajes was released on bail Friday, July 21.

Montajes, who was detained in the Batangas Provincial Jail, was released on bail with the help of her family, lawyers, human rights advocates, and fellow UP students and teachers.

Montajes was released after posting a P400,000-bail. 

Montajes was doing her research for her thesis in Barangay Mayabas, Taysan, Batangas, when armed military men arrested her, Anakbayan member Ronilo Baes, and farmer Rommiel Canete in June 2010. They were collectively known as the "Taysan 3."

Leftist groups claimed that the 3 were detained on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of Omnibus Election Code.

Montajes was first brought to the 743rd Combat Squadron camp for 5 days before being transferred to Batangas Provincial Jail. 

In March 2016, the Rosario Regional Trial Court in Batangas granted bail to Montajes, Baes, and Cañete after the court found insufficient evidence to prosecute the 3. Baes and Cañete have yet to post bail of  P500,000 and P400,000, respectively,


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– with reports from Iona Mendoza/Rappler.com 

Iona Mendoza is a Rappler intern 

#SaferRoadsPH: What factors affect road safety in Iloilo?


ROAD SAFETY. Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog says the LTO should be stricter in issuing driver's license

MANILA, Philippines – Human error remains the top factor that affects road safety in the province of Iloilo.

In Rappler’s #SaferRoadsPH Forum on Saturday, July 22, local officials discussed the factors that affect the road conditions of Iloilo and what can be done to prevent accidents.

According to data from the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) and the Iloilo City Police Office – Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Unit (ICPO-TIEU), Iloilo recorded 4,877 road crash incidents in the first half of the year. (READ: With nearly 5,000 crash incidents, how do we make Iloilo roads safer?)

Recent data from the IPPO showed there were 1,871 crash incidents from January to July 3 in the province, excluding Iloilo City.

Statistics from ICPO-TIEU show that 3,006 road crash incidents have been reported in Iloilo City alone, from January to June.

Human error as the primary factor

Based on ICPO’s records, human error remained the primary factor in road crashes in Iloilo, involving driver error and driving under the influence (DUI).

Driver error covers reckless driving and other inappropriate acts behind the wheel. There were 2,529 reported incidents of driver error in 6 districts of Iloilo City while there were 159 cases of driving under the influence.

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog stressed that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) should be more strict in issuing driver’s licenses, and that that only those who really pass the exams should get licenses.

Roberto Valera, Chief Transportation Officer of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), said those who falsified their birth certificate to get a driver’s license will be meter a P3,000-fine plus one year of suspension.

“Only those aged 18 years old and above can be issued a driver’s license while the student permit is not a driver’s license. He should be accompanied by a duly-licensed driver,” said Marlon Velez, LTO-Region VI spokesperson.

Based on 2014 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority,  733 people died from road crash incidents in Region VI, making Western Visayas as the most affected region in Visayas in terms of deaths brought by road crash incidents.

Given that human error is the primary factor that affect Iloilo’s road safety, LTO-Region VI Assistant Regional Director Gaudioso Geduspan said LTO management will focus more on the education and production of quality drivers in Iloilo province.  – Rappler.com

Hannah Mallorca is a Rappler intern 

'Dear Digong': Lumad children ask Duterte to end martial law, violence


DEAR DIGONG. Lumad children ask the Chief Executive to end martial law in Mindanao. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – "Ang aking masasabi ay sana 'wag mo nang i-extend ang martial law sa Mindanao dahil 'yan ang dahilan kung bakit palagi kaming bumabakwit at lumilipat palagi sa ibang lugar." 

(What I can say is that I hope you do not extend martial law in Mindanao because this is the reason why we are always evauating our homes and moving from one place to another.) 

This is the letter of one of the Lumad children who wrote to President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, July 22, when Proclamation No 216 declaring martial in Mindanao was supposed to lapse.

"We understand that martial law is never good for Filipinos, especially children. We have heard stories coming from the siege in Marawi and we have heard the experiences of our lumad friends here today," said Trixie Gab Manalo, a 10-year-old member of the Children's Rehabilitation Center (CRC) Children's collective. 

Contrary to their appeal, however, the Congress in a joint session on Saturday voted 261-18 in favor of the President's request to extend the martial law in Mindanao until December.

A group of Lumad who arrived from Mindanao on Thursday, July 20, will join progressive groups in a rally on Monday, July 24, in time for Duterte's 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA).

According to reports, the 47 Lumad, mostly youth and students from the Caraga region, are the first of Lakbayanis who are set to come to Metro Manila in September. More are expected to join the protest on Monday. 

As of Saturday, July 22, at least 117,161 families or 531,416 persons have been displaced by the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. 

There are 75 evacuation centers open to accommodate the 4,945 families or 23,600 persons.

A CHILD'S WISH. A boy writes a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

According to Salinlahi secretary general Eule Rico Bonganay, the "intensifying" militarization around schools and in communities have resulted to multiple human rights violations. (READ: Marawi resident makes emotional plea vs martial law abuses)

"Cases of attacks on schools have noticeably gone higher due to the implementation of all-out war, Oplan Kapayapaan, and martial law," Bonganay added. 

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 through Proclamation 216 after homegrown terrorists from the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group clashed with government troops in Marawi City.

According to the 1987 Constitution, the President is only allowed to declare martial law for a maximum of 60 days, but this can be extended upon the approval of Congress in a joint session – Rappler.com 


Why are road projects scheduled during rainy season?


ILOILO ROADS. On Saturday, July 22, MovePH conducts a #SaferRoadsPH forum to talk about making Iloilo roads safer. All photos by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Why are there many road projects scheduled during the rainy season?

This was raised by many Iloilo residents, citing it as one of the additional factors that affect road safety in their area. 

In Rappler’s #SaferRoadsPH forum on Saturday, July 22, local officials from Iloilo City Government, Land Transportation Office-Region VI (LTO-Region VI), Department of Public Works and Highways-Region VI (DPWH-Region VI), Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group Region VI, and Department of Health (DOH) clarified audience’s matters on road constructions.

Unfortunate scheduling of projects

A student from the University of San Agustin voiced out his concerns on the scheduling of road engineering projects in the rainy season.

CONCERNED CITIZEN. Rico Amuan asks why road projects are scheduled during the rainy season.

“I don’t mind the road constructions, but the schedule of the said projects is unfortunate because you are trying to build a road on the rainy season. We are taught in school that we should have ideal conditions in making those roads,” Rico Amuan pointed out.

Amuan added that the untimely scheduling of road projects has caused road crash incidents and traffic jams in Iloilo City. 

Responding to this, Engr. Ray Macalalag from DPWH-Region VI admitted that, if they had it their way, they would ensure the timely implementation of road projects.

However, the budget season and the procurement process prevent them from doing so. Macalalag explained that the budget has to be approved before going through the preliminary detailed engineering process. The whole process would take months. 

In the Philippines, the budget season usually starts in January, after Congress passes the General Appropriations Act which often takes place at the end of December. 

“When you procure your projects (after), it takes almost a month sometimes because we have a lot of infrastructure projects which gives the contractors a hard time in implementing more projects… which happens beyond our control” Macalalag added.

Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog agreed with Macalalag’s clarification, also citing the bidding process of project budgets which takes 3 to  6 months at best to accomplish. 

Mabilog also stated that it is almost impossible to begin road constructions due to the project implementation process beginning at June which happens to be the rainy season in the Philippines.

“We have been appealing to the Congress, as well as the Commission on Audit, to reduce the procurement time otherwise we would get in trouble with the Commission on Audit come period of auditing,” Mabilog concluded.

Based on records from the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO), human error remains as Iloilo’s primary factor for road crash incidents. (READ: With nearly 5,000 crash incidents, how do we make Iloilo roads safer?)

Held at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City, the #SaferRoadsPH event is the third forum on road safety conducted by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. – Rappler.com

Hannah Mallorca is a Rappler intern 

Iloilo officials share new plans to ensure road safety


PROJECTS. Local officials shares projects in Iloilo City aimed at ensuring road safety. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - Road safety is non-negotiable.

This is according to Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog during the #SaferRoadsPH forum held on Saturday, July 22 at the University of San Agustin, Iloilo City. 

Home to over 1.81 million Filipinos, the province of Iloilo has recorded 4,877 road crash incidents in the first half of 2017 alone, according to the data from the Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) and Iloilo City Police Office-Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Unit (ICPO-TIEU). (READ: Long way to go for Iloilo City's speeding ordinance)

Local officials participating as panelists in the forum shared plans to ensure the safety of all road users and lessen road crashs in the province.

Iloilo City traffic handbook

To address road safety, Mabilog said that the city government has produced a traffic handbook that is given to each traffic personnel so they can be familiar with all the traffic laws.

With just over a month of strict implementation of the traffic laws, officials were able to apprehend over 8,000 violators.

Performance of the traffic auxiliaries are also heavily supervised. If they perform poorly, disciplinary actions are imposed on them.

“In this way, talagang makikita natin discipline sa kalye ngayon,” the mayor said.  (In this way, we can really see the discipline in the streets now)

Intelligent Traffic System (ITS)

According to Jeck Cunlu, Iloilo City executive assistant, the ITS is also already in the process of being implemented. Once properly installed, a whole road would be a non-contact apprehension zone.

Magiging non-contact apprehension iyan [road] so no one will apprehend you. Padadalhan ka nalang ng love letter galing city hall,” Cunlu said. 

(It will be non-contact apprehension so no one will apprehend you. You’ll just be sent a love letter from the city hall.)

The speed cameras installed will also be able to capture the plate number as well as recognize the faces of the drivers.

According to Cunlu, the ITS is expected to be fully running by the 1st quarter of next year/

From LED lights to solar-powered lights

One factor that leads to road crash incidents in Iloilo is the lack of street lights. Cunlu said that the lack of lights on the road is due to numerous people digging out the cable wires and stealing the electricity.

To solve this, the city government have already started to replace all the LED lights with solar-powered lights to avoid both electricity theft and road crash incidents.

To ensure further the safety of Iloilo citizens, the city government will be launching an emergency hotline, 333-3333. According to Cunlu, this will be fully functioning hopefully by next week.

There is a also long way to go for Iloilo City's speeding ordinance. The ordinance was passed June 2, 2015, but was only implemented two years later. -Rappler.com

Kaela Malig is a Rappler Intern

#StoryOfTheNation: Where is the change?


MANILA, Philippines – During the 2016 presidential elections, Maya served as the local campaigner for the then aspiring president Rodrigo Duterte in the province of Cavite. 

She believed in him and trusted the lofty promises he made to the public. 

A lot has happened since then. More than a year since the former Davao city Mayor clinched the presidency, Maya is now disillusioned. 

"Nanghinayang ako dun sa hirap na ginawa ko para sa kaniya. Kasi hindi niya tinupad mga pangako niya. Noong unang SONA niya nandun kami, lahat ng mga aktibista nandoon. Pangalawang SONA sa tingin mo susuportahan pa siya? Sa ngayon ano nangyari? Harassment na lang eh" Maya said. 

(I regret the hard work I did for him because he did not stay true to his promises. During his first SONA, all activists were there. During his second SONA, do you think we will still support him? What happened? We were only harassed) 

Duterte started his presidency on a good note with leftist groups in the country.

However, he made several executive decisions in the past year that did not sit well with progressive groups. These included the declaration and extension of martial law, the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and the rampant extrajudicial killings. (READ: The Left’s unity and struggle with Duterte

Maya also made an appeal on behalf of everyone who failed to get a formal education like her. 

"Bigyan niya ng (pagkakataon) lahat ng tao na magkaroon ng karapatan magtrabaho. Wala na (sana) yung mga porket 'di ka nakapagtapos wala ka nang karapatan mag-trabaho," she said. 

(Hopefully, he will give everyone the equal opportunity to work. Hopefully, we get rid of the notion that just because somebody did not graduate, he or she does not have the right to work) 

Maya's story is just one of the millions of stories of Filipinos who, despite the odds, are surviving. 

Stories on the ground

Ahead of President Duterte's second State of the Nation Address, MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm asked Movers and the public to help shed light on these untold stories through our #StoryofTheNation campaign.

We received different stories – some are sad while others are inspiring. 


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Here are their stories. 


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What do these photos tell us about the present state of the country? Share your thoughts on X, Rappler's self-publishing platform – Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com

Help illustrate the story of the nation! Send your photos and a brief caption to move.ph@rappler.com. Use #StoryofTheNation in the subject line of your email.

Editor's note: Rappler cannot guarantee the accuracy or veracity of the photos and statements submitted by contributors.

Rappler would like to thank Humans of New York and Man on the Street Philippines for inspiring us in this campaign.

'Build, build, build' gets a third of proposed 2018 national budget


SUBMITTED. President Rodrigo Duterte submits the proposed 2018 nationa budget to Congress.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte submitted the P3.77-trillion proposed 2018 national budget to Congress after delivering his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 24.

The second national budget with inputs or crafted under the Duterte administration, the proposed 2018 programmed expenditures is 12.4% higher than last year. It represents 21.6% of the projected gross domestic product (GDP) for 2018.

All in all, the government's infrastructure program "Build, Build, Build" gets P1.097 trillion or almost a third of the budget. This puts the 2018 budget for infrastructure at 6.3% of the GDP. (READ: Expect huge infra spending, tax reform – Dominguez

Education and infrastructure development will receive the biggest share of the pie at P691.1 billion and P643.3 billion, respectively. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

According to the DBM, the education sector budget will fund the construction of additional 47,000 classrooms, rehabilitation of 18,000 classrooms, purchase of 84,781 chairs, and creation of 81,100 teaching positions. 

On infrastructure development, the Department of Public Works and Highways received P643.3 billion, a 37.5% increase from its 2017 allocation of P467.7 billion while the Department of Transportation has been allocated P73.8 billion. 

During his speech, the President stressed the need to continue the fight against illegal drugs. This is reflected in the budget. 

The interior department received P172.3 billion which will be used mosty for the operations against illegal drugs. Of this amount P900 million is proposed for the Oplan Double Barrel Alpha Reloaded, the government's campaign against illegal drugs. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs')

Meanwhile, the health sector received P164.3 billion under the proposed budget which is P15.7 billion higher than last year. Some P57.1 billion will be appropriated for the National Health Insurance Program which is P3.9 billion higher than the 2017 allocation, as the administration targets wider insurance coverage. (READ: PH seeks to expand insurance coverage for the poor)

Duterte approved the 2018 national budget proposed by the Department of Budget and Management during the 16th Cabinet meeting last July 3.

The early submission of the proposed budget "will allow Congress more time to closely examine and scrutinize it before passing it into law," the DBM said in a statement.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said deliberations for General Appropriations Act should be done by October.– Rappler.com 

WATCH: #MoveSessions featuring Ilonggo artist Aenri


ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Let us celebrate Ilonggo talent and culture!

Aenri, an Ilonggo artist, will be performing a few of her songs for Rappler's #MoveSessions!

#MoveSessions is a regular online live jam that will feature up-and-coming performers and artists from communities and schools.  

Aenri or An Enriquez is also a proud lights designer and thespian. She will be performing a cover of ILYSB, among others.

"My music right now is experimental, eclectic, effect-driven; a combination of indie-house, ambient music with the rises and falls of storytelling. It might be different from the interpretation of others, but I really think great things don’t come from comfort zones," Aenri said. 

Aenri is one of the first 4 local performers who will be featured on #MoveSessions. Next on the line-up are The Nephrons, Pretzels, and Ember. 

Catch the pilot episode on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, at 7pm! – Rappler.com


Tour on two wheels: Seeing Iloilo City's historic sights by bike


NIGHT RIDE. Members of the iFOLD biking group regularly hold night rides to explore the city. Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – By day, the historic heritage street of Calle Real is bustling with activity, as Ilonggos go about their daily lives in the decades-old business district. 

By night, however, Calle Real comes alive in a different way. The roaring jeeps and cars are gone, and instead incandescent street lamps light up the quiet street, rendering it a scene straight out of the Spanish era.

This was one of the stops on a Tuesday night biking tour held by members of iFOLD, a group of cycling enthusiasts who hold regular biking activities around the city. For this particular night, the group held what it calls a "visi-tour" for Rappler – a tour-by-bike to the famed tourist spots of Iloilo City.

One of the group's members is Wilfredo Sy Jr, an architect by profession who also runs café and bike rental shop Fitstop, where visitors can avail of tours to discover the city on two wheels.

Iloilo City, after all, is hailed as one of the Philippines' most walk-friendly and bike-friendly places. Aside from hosting an annual biking festival, the city is also investing in infrastructure to encourage more people to bike. A 5-kilometer bike lane runs on Diversion Road, and soon, another 4-kilometer bike lane is set to connect to that, running through the city's university area.

BIKE LANE. Iloilo City has a 5-kilometer bike lane along Diversion Road, one of the major highways. Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

Through its weekly night rides, iFOLD hopes to encourage more Ilonggos to bike to work and around the city instead of using motorized transportation.

The proposed university bike loop, a project in which Sy is involved in, would go around 6 major tertiary institutions and would stand to benefit some 58,000 students.

"Part of the logic why we did it with university groups first is that there are active cycling groups there," Sy said.

He also pointed out that even before Iloilo City had bike lanes, people were already going around the city on two wheels.

But the city is banking on the idea that with better bike infrastructure that would help protect cyclists as they go around the city, more people would be encouraged to use bicycles instead of cars.

Tour by bike

One of the ways iFOLD is promoting cycling is by linking it up with tourism. On this particular "visi-tour," the 20-kilometer route would cover the heritage areas of the city that most tourists only get to visit in the daytime.

From Fitstop's headquarters along Diversion Road, the group kicked off the tour on the bike lane running on the highway – a smooth, easy ride, as the lane helped protect the group from motor vehicles sharing the road.

For around two hours, the bike tour covered Iloilo City's famed tourist hotspots, such as the Jaro Cathedral, the old Iloilo provincial capitol, Calle Real, and Plaza Libertad, among others. With the city streets almost deserted at night, it was like being on a private city tour without the bustling crowds.

With a total travel time of just around two hours, bike tours like these also highlight the fact that one can get around Iloilo City quite easily by bike.

BIKING COMMUNITY. The iFOLD biking group hopes to promote cycling in Iloilo City. Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

But the challenge, Sy said, is convincing people that biking to work – for many, just a 5-kilometer distance – is possible.

Raising awareness is also another challenge, because even with the bike lanes, other road users seem to have an apparent disregard – or even outright hostility – towards bikers.

"There are jeepney drivers or taxi drivers who try to corner you. Sometimes you can talk it over with them," Sy said.

"On the other hand, there are traffic enforcers who even help us out during a bike ride, stopping traffic for us when we cross the road," he added.

But Sy is also aware of the risks that bikers like him face. In May 2016, Sy figured in a road crash, after a vehicle rear-ended his bicycle, sending him tumbling down on the road. Fortunately, he did not sustain major injuries and was able to recover completely after two months.

This is where road safety education comes in. Sy hopes that more people would be educated on how to properly use bike lanes, and that motorists accord cyclists respect while sharing the road.

Despite these risks and the challenges they face, Iloilo's biking enthusiasts hope that their weekly rides – making them a staple presence on the city's roads – would promote more awareness of cycling and encourage others to join their community. 

Aside from promoting a healthy lifestyle and an alternative mode of transportation, the group's weekly night rides allow them to see their own city with new eyes. This is one thing they'd like to share with their fellow Ilonggos.

"Sometimes we revisit old places, sometimes we look for new routes. We constantly explore the city," said Sy. – Rappler.com

Environmentalists, rights activists across PH slam Duterte's SONA 2017


PEOPLE'S SONA. Members of the Lumad from Mindanao join a protest march during President Rodrigo Duterte's 2nd SONA on July 24, 2017. Photo by Anjie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines- Protests from all over the country and from different sectors of society greeted the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The main issues raised by protesters include the continued destruction of the environment by mining companies, alleged human rights violations, and the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

"The same old rhetoric of holding large-scale mining companies accountable is belied by Duterte's replacement of then-environment secretary Gina Lopez with a pro-mining ex-general, Roy Cimatu," Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, said.

Aside from his special mention of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, Duterte also highlighted in his SONA on Monday, July 25, plans on climate change, disaster response, waste disposal, and mining. (READ: SONA 2016: Mixed reactions to Duterte's environmental plans)

"Duterte should start walking his cheap talk by taking large-scale foreign mining companies to task by upholding the mining closure, suspension and agreement cancelation orders issued by Lopez. These orders have been stuck in the Office of the President, and it only needs the political will of someone who is honestly against the big foreign mines," Dulce said.

BAGUIO PROTEST. Artists perform in a rally in Manila during President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo by Luchie Maranan

'Change did not happen'

Indigenous peoples and their advocates also felt President Duterte's SONA ignored their plight, noting that "change did not happen" a year after Duterte's first SONA. 

"Mining plunder and destruction continues and is business-as-usual especially since Secretary Gina Lopez was replaced by an ex-military general...In the Cordilleras, the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation and Benguet Corporation, despite being suspended for non-compliance with environmental standards, continue to operate," Cordillera Peoples Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget said.

CPA led a protest action in Baguio City on July 24. 

Meanwhile, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) expressed its disappointment over the absence of an agenda for indigenous peoples in SONA 2017.

"Back when he was still a mayor, President Duterte came to the aid of Lumads caught in the crossfire between the military and rebels in Mindanao. As president, he seems to have forgotten the plight of indigenous peoples,” Norly Mercado, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC), said.

According to Mercado, they expect Duterte to lead efforts in recognizing indigenous peoples' ownership of their lands and ancestral domains, and to make sure they participate in the peace talks.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">IMPERYALISMO, IBAGSAK! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SONAngBAYAN?src=hash">#SONAngBAYAN</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LiftMartialLawNow?src=hash">#LiftMartialLawNow</a> <a href="https://t.co/LfeGMUjHcr">pic.twitter.com/LfeGMUjHcr</a></p>&mdash; KabataanPL UP Manila (@kpl_upmanila) <a href="https://twitter.com/kpl_upmanila/status/889393731077513216">July 24, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Katutubong Lilak, a collective of women advocates of indigenous women's rights, also raised their banners that called for the protection of human rights and the promotion of peace in Mindanao.

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Former Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) member Samira Gutoc-Tomawis earlier made an emotional appeal before Congress as she recounted alleged human rights abuses by the military as war rages in Marawi City.

About 2,000 protesters from Northern Mindanao trooped to Iligan City to stage a rally in protest of the extension of martial law in Mindanao.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Look: PNP Iligan City tried to stop SONA rally of evacuees at plaza yesterday, even arrested 4 Kalinaw Mindanao volunteers. <a href="https://t.co/rhFhuInioY">pic.twitter.com/rhFhuInioY</a></p>&mdash; Amirah Ali Lidasan (@AmirahLidasan) <a href="https://twitter.com/AmirahLidasan/status/889673549266341888">July 25, 2017</a></blockquote>

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In Davao City, thousands of farmers and lumad from various provinces in Southern Mindanao Region gathered to protest against what they called "intensifying state fascism" under the Duterte administration.

"Duterte's recent extension of martial law is tantamount to (escalating) human rights abuses," Pedro Arnado of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao, one of the protesters, said in Bisaya.

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Members of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or BAYAN from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, and Mindanao, flocked to Commonwealth Avenue on Monday, July 24, to participate in the huge People's SONA that also called revocation of the martial law in Mindanao, and respect for human rights.

Online, activists posted photos of the protest using the hashtag #LiftMartialLawNow to amplify their call. 

Martial law in Mindanao was recently extended by Congress up to December 31 after the President said it would take more time to quell the conflict in the besieged City of Marawi.

Human rights, on the other hand, has been a sensitive issue under Duterte's administration as the body count of drug-related killings continues to increase. – with a report from Danielle Nakpil/Rappler.com







WATCH: #MoveSessions featuring Ilonggo band Ember


ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Let us celebrate Ilonggo talent and culture!

Ember, an all-Ilonggo band, will be performing a few of their songs for Rappler's #MoveSessions!

#MoveSessions is a regular online live jam that will feature up-and-coming performers and artists from communities and schools. 

The members of Ember are childhood friends from iloilo City. They describe their music as melodic-indie rock alternative and a fusion of all their influences. Focusing on their originals, their goal is to "unendingly evolve their music to find their true sound and to share it with the world."

The band will be performing their original songs such as Beautiful Memory, Beyond the Rain, Hero, What Matters, and More than Just. 

Ember is one of the first 4 local performers who will be featured on #MoveSessions. The other Ilonggo performers are Aenri, The Nephrons, and Pretzels.

Catch the pilot episode on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, at 7pm! – Rappler.com

Palawan's hazard-prone towns identified


PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – With the rainy season in full swing, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) here has reminded communities residing in hazard-prone areas to always be prepared for disasters.

PDRRMO officer-in-charge Cruzalde Ablaña said people living in hilly to mountainous areas, and along the shoreline and rivers are vulnerable to climate-related hazards such as landslides, storm surges, and flooding.

"Lagi silang maghanda kasi hindi naman natin masasabi kung kailan ba darating ang sakuna (They should always be ready because we can't say when disaster will strike)," Ablaña told Rappler in time for the observance of National Disaster Resilience Month.

"Kapag sinasabihan natin ang ating mga kababayan na maghanda, 'wag namang ipagwalambahala. Ibig sabihin, paniwalaan at sundin ang tagubilin mula sa authorities (When we tell our countrymen to prepare, they should not ignore it. They should believe and follow the advice of authorities)," he added. 

Climate-related hazards

In general, most of the towns located in southern and central Palawan are the ones "more prone to flooding than the rest of the province with available data," according to the Provincial Climate Change Action Plan 2017-2023. 

The action plan estimated 73,201 people to be exposed to high risk of flooding, mostly residing in Balabac, Bataraza, and Puerto Princesa City.

The towns identified as having flood-prone areas are Taytay, Quezon, and Narra, while the towns of Agutaya, Busuanga, Cagayancillo, Coron, Culion, Cuyo, Kalayaan, and Magsaysay recorded no flooding.

Aborlan, Puerto Princesa City, and Rizal were identified as areas highly prone to landslides. 

An estimated 244,997 people are highly susceptible to landslides, with Puerto Princesa City, Roxas, and Rizal having the highest population exposure, the report added.

Meanwhile, expected to be affected by storm surges are mostly coastal areas with an estimated exposed population of 39,962 across the province, according to the action plan. Cagayancillo and Bataraza have the highest exposed areas at 20.44% and 13.55%, respectively.

However, due to the bigger population in the more urbanized Puerto Princesa, the Palawan capital remains to have the highest population exposed to storm surges, the action plan showed. It is followed by Bataraza, which has seen an increase of inhabitants owing to job opportunities from the growing plantation development and mining operation in the area.

There are also areas that may likely experience multiple hazards, where communities are vulnerable to a combination of two or 3 of the previously mentioned threats. Over 1,000 people or about 200 households in various towns of the province are deemed highly exposed to these hazards, the action plan said.


Ablaña said his office, in partnership with the Office of Civil Defense, local government units, and partner organizations like Pilipinas Shell Foundation Incorporated, trained in June the municipal DRRM officers (MDRRMOs), who will cascade the life-saving information down to the barangay level. 

Ablaña urged the public to closely coordinate with their respective MDRRMOs, especially when there is heavy rainfall.

He also urged residents in concerned communities to have "go kit bags" containing basic needs for survival, such as canned or packed goods, flashlight, first-aid medicine, among other essentials.

Ablaña said a series of community-based risk reduction and management training sessions will kick off starting August. "As part of our preparedness measures, we have a budget of almost P5 million for 2017 for training alone," the PDRRMO chief said.

This year, he said, the PDRRMO received a P112-million budget, relatively higher than last year's P100 million.

"Mostly half of it will go to disaster preparedness and disaster prevention and mitigation," Ablaña said, while the remainder "will go to disaster response for relief, and lastly for disaster recovery and rehabilitation." – Rappler.com

WATCH: Do you agree that ‘change is here?’


MANILA, Philippines – We took a quick poll of people on Taft Avenue and asked the question, do you agree that “change is here?”

University professor Ron Resurrecion says, “The most significant, what is striking for me, is that there are quick changes. Well, both positive and negative. ”

He adds, “He delivered on his promises, but the quick changes might also mean impulsive changes.”
He sums it up, “I like the idea of eliminating drugs. Good intentions but the methods may need improvement.”

Student Georgia Chan says, “Hopefully in the years to come and the remainder of his term he’ll be able to stick to his ‘Change is Coming’ but in a more positive way.”

Some say their lives haven’t improved. “There’s still demolition,” said an urban poor activist. “Endo is still here,” said another laid-off worker in a picket line.

Vendor Roden Hayag says crime is down but some policies adversely affected his livelihood, such as the ban on smoking in public places.

Video by Alecs Ongcal. – Rappler.com

Bulungan at the Navotas fish complex


MARKET. Brawny fish workers unload weathered tubs of wild and cultured fish – destined for markets in Metro Manila and the rest of mainland Luzon. All photos by Gregg Yan/Oceana

MANILA, Philippines – Most Filipino fish markets are packed full of peddlers shouting fish prices at the tops of their lungs – but at the Navotas fishport in Manila, fish buying is a quiet business.

The sun rises and sets and illuminates thousands of fish bursting out of neatly-ordered banyeras or fish tubs at the Navotas Fishport Complex (NFCP) in Manila – the largest seafood landing site in the country.

Dubbed as the fishing capital of the Philippines, around 800 tons of wild and cultured fish, plus invertebrates like mussels are disgorged by trucks and vessels docked at the Navotas Port daily, providing seafood not just for residents of Metro Manila – but all of mainland Luzon.

“I’ve been here since the 1970s. I grew up here and used to haul those banyeras day-in, day-out. Eventually I became a fish broker,” says Jimmy Santino. Clad in a white shirt, cargo shorts and soiled rubber boots, Santino is but one of hundreds of brokers at the Navotas fishport.

Fish prices are secretly set in a process called bulungan, before buyers from all over Luzon try to outbid each other for the fish. Usually, a broker manages hundreds of banyeras, neatly-arranged in front of prospective buyers. Then the action begins. To score the best prices for their fish, brokers will only accept whispered bids from buyers.

The trick was to keep the final price a secret. Buyers passively whispered their bids to brokers, trying to outbid the competition at the lowest possible cost. Bidders also gave vague hand signals.

DAILY SCENARIO. Hundreds of fish-filled banyeras being auctioned by a fish broker at the Navotas complex in Manila, where an estimated 800 tonnes of fish and invertebrates are traded and sold daily.

After a few minutes, one of the fish brokers announced the winner. Women in knee-length rubber boots and skirts haggle with rotund, shirtless men, while other workers haul and load newly-bought banyeras in parked trucks.

Past midnight, the chaos started to die down. Trucks formed a smoky queue on their way out of the complex, facing long drives to bring fish to the farthest points of Luzon – as far as Ilocos and Bicol. Forehead beaded with sweat, Santino calmly sat on a plastic stool, counting a thick wad of thousand peso bills.

When asked how much he made that night, Santino gave a wistful smile. “Only enough for the night and for my family’s needs.”

The fishport employs around 1000 families engaged in the fish trade. The airy, well-lit complex welcomes buyers and passersby with the overwhelming stench of fresh fish, plus the not-so-fresh waters of Manila Bay. As commercial boats and vehicles unload their catches, huge trucks wait on the other side to distribute fish all over Luzon.

The fish range from expensive yellowfin tuna, sold for around Php 5000 per banyera, to Bighead Carp or Imelda which are sold for Php 1000 per banyera.

Other popular fish include freshwater fish such as tilapia and hito, plus marine pelagics including scad, skipjack, and giant mahi-mahi. The dealers say most of the catches are from Palawan, while others are caught from as far south as Papua New Guinea.

QUIET BUSINESS. Thousands of Pesos change hands daily as tonnes of fish and invertebrates are sold in a silent auction called the bulungan.

Boxes of frozen fish, which locals said were caught in China and Vietnam and ‘blast-frozen’ or directly stored in freezers and sold at lower prices than locally-caught marine fish, are included in the auctions.

“On slow days, the complex might sell around 4000 banyeras. On good days, we can sell as much as P30,000,” Santino said.

The Philippines is one of the top wild fish producing countries of the world. And like his peers, Santino believed in the unlimited bounty of the sea. “There’s just so many fish for us to catch and sell.”

However, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said that 10 of 13 fishing grounds or about 75% of the country’s fishing sites are overfished, with fishers spending more time to catch fewer fish.  

To solve the problem, our country instituted policy measures to fight overfishing with special focus on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. In 2015, the Philippine Fisheries Code was amended, finally requiring fishing boats to adopt vessel monitoring technologies, among other interventions for sustainable fisheries management.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are mandated to put in place science-based fisheries tools such as harvest control rules and reference points, while setting stiffer penalties for violators.

“We’re working closely with the government and stakeholders to mainstream innovative and science-based strategies to keep our fisheries afloat such as institutionalizing the use of vessel monitoring technology for all commercial fishing vessels, as required by the amended Fisheries Code," Oceana Philippines Vice-president Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos said. 

Oceana works across the globe to restore the productivity of the world’s wild fisheries.

Aside from policies such as closed seasons, BFAR also committed to adopt a science-based management framework for sardines, one of the largest fisheries of the Philippines – to prevent a fishery collapse, with full stakeholder participation.

As for Santino, he said he’ll keep on selling fish. “It’s what keeps me and my family alive.”

Faced with fishing pressure and the rising price of commodities, the stakes are high for him and all others dependent on fish for food and livelihood.  – Rappler.com 

Candeze Mongaya is the Communications Officer of Oceana