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WATCH: #MoveSessions featuring Ilonggo band The Nephrons


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

The Nephrons, an all-Ilonggo band, will be performing a few of their songs for #MoveSessions!

#MoveSessions is a regular online live jam that will feature up-and-coming performers and artists from communities and schools. It's organized by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm.

The five-piece band made their local scene debut at a Manoy Bart's Pink Party gig in Iloilo City.  The Nephrons bring to Iloilo City their own fresh mix of funk, blues, rock, and alternative.

The band will perform a cover of When did your heart go missing and few of their original songs such as "Wait Another Day," "Good Times," and "Casanova Magic."

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

Catch the pilot episode on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at 7pm! – Rappler.com 

#FloodPH Alert: Flooded areas in Metro Manila on July 27


MANILA, Philippines – The southwest monsoon, enhanced by Tropical Storm Gorio (Nesat),  brought more moderate to heavy rain to Metro Manila and the western part of Luzon, and  light to moderate rain to the rest of Luzon and the Visayas.

State weather bureau Pagasa earlier identified Metro Manila, Ilocos, Cordillera, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Mimaropa as the affected regions. These areas should be on alert for possible flash floods and landslides.

Classes were again suspended in several cities on Thursday.

Below are photos of the resulting flood from the rainfall on Thursday.

Rizal Ave near R. Papa (boundery of Caloocan and Manila) 

Above gutter deep; not passable to light vehicles

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Taft Avenue near United Nations Avenue

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Below are the other flooded roads across Metro Manila as of 11:15 am, according to the the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Quirino Roxas Blvd along Taft Avenue (Southbound/Northbound)

Gutter deep; passable to all types of vehicles

Quezon City A Bonifacio C3 (Southbound/Northbound)

Gutter deep; passable to all types of vehicles

Quezon City A Bonifacio 11th Avenue (Southbound/Northbound)

Gutter deep; passable to all types of vehicles

G. Araneta/Victory Avenue (Eastbound/Wesbound)

Knee deep; Not passable to light vehicles

Quezon Avenue Biak na Bato (Eastbound)

Gutter deep; Passable to all types of vehicles

Quezon Avenue Biak na Bato (Westbound)

Half tire deep; Not passable to light vehicles

EDSA Aurora tunnel (Northbound/Southbound)

Gutter deep/Passable to all types of vehicles

Balintawak Cloverleaf (Right-most lane ramp going EDSA)

Knee deep; not passable to light vehicles

Below are the roads where floods have subsided as of 11:15 am, according to the MMDA.

Manila P. Burgos Victorino (Eastbound)

Flood has subsided; all lanes passable

C5 near Market Market (Southbound/Northbound)

Flood has subsided; all lanes passable

How to report floods

The public can send photos and post status updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtag #FloodPH. The posts should be set to public.

Reports can also be sent via SMS to 2929 for Smart and Talk N' Text subscribers.

Text Format: FLOODPH <Street, Barangay, City> <Describe Flood> 
Sample Text: FLOODPH Quirino Roxas Blvd, along Taft Ave Southbound, Manila Gutter deep passable to vehicles 

Flood reports can also be posted directly on the Agos map, powered by eBayanihan. Rappler's MovePH team will monitor the map and alert the public and authorities. – Rappler.com

WATCH: #MoveSessions features Ilonggo band Pretzels


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

An all-Ilonggo band, the Pretzels, will be performing a few of their original songs on #MoveSessions!

#MoveSessions is a regular online live jam that will feature up-and-coming performers and artists from communities and schools. It's organized by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm.

Formed in 2015, the band of young souls was named after a knot which depicts the bond among friends that music tied up together.  The band describes their music as indie, alternative, and pop rock, 

Many of the songs of the Pretzels tackle the ups and downs of living and loving, self-expression, and empowerment. The Pretzels is one of the first 4 local performers that will be featured on #MoveSessions. The other performers are Aenri, Ember, and The Nephrons.

The Pretzels will perform some of their original songs such as "Undefined," "Dahilan," "Underneath the Stars," and "Bloom."

Catch #MoveSessions on Friday, July 28, 2017, at 7pm! – Rappler.com 

#ThinkPH 2017: The future of AI and the human experience


Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Is a bleak, futuristic era of technology upon us?

During the #ThinkPH Summit at the SMX Convention Center last July 15, a group of innovation leaders discussed technology’s role in human behavior. The speakers were Arvin Yason, Managing Director of Accenture Technology in the Philippines; Stephanie Sy, founder of Thinking Machines; and Shahab Shabibi, co-founder of Machine Ventures. The talk was moderated by Mia Umanos, data science expert.

Does the trajectory of current technologies parallel that of television series Black Mirror? Does it truly portray the potential state of technology in the near future?

Mia Umanos. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

“It leaves the viewer thinking some ethical questions about what’s in store,” Mia said.

Where are we?

In case you were wondering, we’re not going to fall in love with robots or artificial intelligence anytime soon.

“That situation where AI gains sentience is still 40-50 years away,” said Arvin.

What we have now is called narrow AI, an example of which are chat bots and under-the-radar applications. The type of AI usually presented in films – ones which can feel, think on their own – are called general AI.

Stephanie Sy. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Stephanie said data for the latter isn’t accessible to everyone. “It’s a competitive advantage. The volume of data you’d need to build that is probably not gonna be available to you or to people in general.”

Narrow AI provides solutions to basic problems, and we can only go further. “Big companies are setting the tone on how AI can be used. Apple, Google, Facebook – these guys are making it much easier for developers to come up with real-life applications,” said Shahab.

How is human expectation going to change?

Scrolling through our Facebook feed and seeing content irrelevant to us now feels jarring – and that’s because AI usually presents what we want to see.

More than satisfying human needs, AI enhances daily routines. But just how tuned will AI be to our problems? How quickly will it respond to commands?

Arvin Yason. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Arvin added, “Does the AI do something without prompting from the human? Is that too

Designers therefore have to answer: how far will technology go to do the job for us?

There’s a lot of ground to cover in terms of ethics. “We need to make sure… that the machine is being trained in the neutral way, or beneficial way, that will result in non-biased behaviors, whether it’s a chat bot or something else,” said Arvin.

What are the entry points?

You’d be surprised to learn that some of Stephanie’s teammates have backgrounds in biology and accounting. Meanwhile, Shahab has employees with no college degrees.

Shahab Shabibi. Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

“Since it’s a new industry, it’s very easy to catch up. What’s important with AI is actually the logic and the thought process,” Shahab said.

Stephanie added that one doesn’t need years of experience in a specialized field. If you’re
interested, you can look up resources online. Start with Coursera’s courses on daily science, then progress to Stanford’s computer science machinery classes.

“You don’t have the excuse of saying there’s nowhere to learn. This is the magic the internet has brought to us,” she said.

Mia added, “We’re learning it as we’re doing it. It’s up to you to be able to have the moxie to
check it out and develop the skills.”

The human element

The process of innovation involves understanding the human experience, recognizing its
problems, and looking for solutions.

“All you need to know is where you are today and where you want to be. You can't necessarily predict the way to get there. But every once in a while, ask yourself, have I gotten any closer to the vision?” said Shahab.

Innovation involves more than tools. You need the ability to learn on your own quickly, work well
with a diverse team, and take the initiative to study beyond what’s assigned to you.

If your early models don’t work, don’t be disheartened. Stephanie said, “Maybe your first
solutions are kinda bad but sorta work – that’s good enough. Keep going!” – Rappler.com

EXPLAINER: LTFRB requirements for Grab, Uber permits


MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Regulatory Franchising Board (LTFRB) recently raised issues against Grab and Uber drivers over franchising permit violations.

What does the LTFRB need from these transportation giants?

It all started in July 2016, when the LTFRB, through Memorandum Circular No. 2016-008, suspended the acceptance of new applications for transportation network vehicle service (TNVS) permits of transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Grab.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the circular was issued due to the rising volume of TNVS applications and the government review of the fare scheme.

On July 23, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) released a statement on its Facebook page and cited issues of "accountability of TNCs to passengers and operators alike, and the problem of fare surging scheme."

"Equally important issues for compliance is to make sure that TNCs and TNVS contribute their fair share of taxes to the government, and for TNVS to have the required garages to avoid illegal parking on streets to prevent traffic congestion," the DOTr said.

TNVS permits are legal papers given to accredited TNCs.

These are the qualifications for aspiring TNVS applicants prior to the moratorium:

LTFRB gives two kinds of permits to TNVS drivers: the provisional authority (PA) permit valid for 45 days, and the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) franchise valid for one to two years. (READ: LTFRB fines Grab, Uber P5M each for permit violations)

The requirements for a CPC permit are as follows:

New Certificate of Public Convenience by Kimiko Sy on Scribd

 A CPC permit usually takes more time to process. While waiting for the CPC permit, LTFRB gives out a PA permit which is processed just for 7 to 10 days.

Here is the cost for filing permits:

  • Filing for a CPC - P520
  • Renewal of CPC - P520
  • Filing for motions (PA permits, motions for reconsiderations, etc) - P260
  • Renewal for filed motions -  P260

Filing for a motion to get a PA permit requires a motion for extension of provisional authority to be executed by a lawyer, OR/CR from LTO Registration, receiving copy of the application for CPC, government-issued ID, special power of attorney (for a representative), and the receipt of the payment for motion.

No more permits

Since the suspension last year, LTFRB has not processed a single application for TNVS permits. However, Grab and Uber have admitted that 80% of their drivers are driving without either a provisional authority (PA) permits or a certificate of public convenience (CPC) franchise.

Those whose status have been held following last year's suspension order can continue to file for PA permits until their CPCs are released. 

The LTFRB’s latest estimate is that of the 42,000 Grab and Uber drivers,15,400 at most have adequate papers to operate.

Discussions of Grab and Uber’s suspensions raised numerous complaints from commuters, especially those taking metered taxis. (READ: #CommuterWatch: ‘Choosy’ taxi drivers and other transport woes)

The suspension dilemma is also heavily reflected on 50,000 Grab and Uber drivers operating around the country. “Hindi ko naman po alam na kailangan naming kumuha ng ganoon sa LTFRB kasi hindi malinaw ang instructions nila sa amin, ang hirap po kasi lahat kami mawawalan ng trabaho,” said Grab driver Dodie Cabatu.

(I didn't know that we had to get [those forms] from the LTFRB because their instructions weren’t clear to us. It’s hard because a lot of us will lose our jobs [because of this]).”

Grab and Uber have filed separate motions for reconsideration. Pending the LTFRB decision on the MRs, the TNCs' undocumented drivers can continue their services. The LTFRB has also ordered the Grab and Uber to deactivate drivers who registered with the TNCs after June 30 this year. – with reports from Hannah Mallorca/Rappler.com

WATCH: Prepare for disasters by playing a board game


LEARN AND PLAY. The Civil Defense board game aims to teach the youth the concepts on disaster preparedness

MANILA, Philippines – Imagine this.

A super typhoon just ravaged the city. You were deployed as a responder to the area. In its immediate aftermath, you bear the responsibility of allocating your limited resources efficiently.

Each decision comes with its own risk and rewards.

How do you make sure relief goods will reach communities that need help? How will you overcome challenges like looting, hunger, and limited resources?

This is the concept behind Civil Defense: The Strategic Humanitarian Crisis Board Game that was designed by Francis Gasgonia.

Lack of innovative tools

Francis Gasgonia is not a game designer by profession.

A sociologist and urban planner, Gasgonia conceptualized Civil Defense after his Tacloban deployment in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). There, he realized that the disaster risk reduction (DRR) community lacked the innovative tools to teach communities about disaster preparedness.

“Nag-isip ako before nu'ng nagte-train pa ako ng community-based DRR, ano 'yung mga tools na ginagamit natin. Kasi madalas ang ginagamit ay lecture type, community mapping, Venn diagram, vision mapping. Hindi siya masyadong engaging, lalo na sa mga youth and young adults pati sa mga older persons natin,” he said

(I thought of all the tools we use for community-based DRR trainings. Most of the time, the trainings come as lecture type, community mapping, Venn diagram, and vision mapping. These activities are not engaging especially to the youth and the older people.) 

ADVOCATE. Francis Gasgonia is a not a board game designer. An urban planner and disaster responder by profession, Gasgonia saw the need for more innovative tools for teaching disaster preparedness.

This was echoed by emergency and safety advocate Martin Aguda. 

According to him, while awareness is high, making sure communities translate this to concrete action is a different matter altogether. 

"It's not enough to tell them how to duck, cover, and hold. It is important to bring the lessons and situations to their respective houses. The instructions should be very specific to their experience," Aguda said in a phone interview with Rappler.  (READ: Bring disaster preparedness down to communities – DILG exec

Aguda, on the other hand, founded the "Rescue March Challenge," a camaraderie march of rescuers in preparation for the Big One.

Who can play

Civil Defense can be played by two to six players. Each game usually lasts an hour. However, during rigorous training and workshops, Gasgonia suggested that the game be played for up to 4 hours.

The cards have different physical and mental challenges that all aim to put you in the shoes of disaster responders and humanitarian volunteers. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Disaster preparedness in the age of social media)

"May mga physical challenges – push-ups, burpees. May mga mental challenges like role-playing. For example you get kidnapped as a volunteer or kapag naambush convoy niyo, what would you do? At the end of it, the game is race to 100 points," Gasgonia explained.

(There are physical challenges – push-ups, burpees. There are mental challenges like role-playing)

While the activities might be novel for the players, they are actually familiar scenarios for post-disaster responders, according to Gasgonia. The goal is to teach the youth concepts on disaster risk reduction in a fun and engaging way. 

Yung [visual] learning mas makukuha niya yung results if you provide them a situation or scenario that allows them to think critical. Mas mai-incorparate nila yung results, especially for the targeted audience which is the millennial age group. They lack or crave for experience. One way to do this is through visual learning,” Gasgonia added.

(You will see more positive results through visual learning, when you provide them situations or scenarios that allow them to think critically. They will be able to incorporate the results especially to the targeted audience) 

Gasgonia said he hopes to partner with schools and universities, through the National Service Training Program that focuses on disaster preparedness, and private companies that are interested in incorporating the boardgame for their business continuity programs. 

Making the boardgame

From July 7 to 8, the Samsung Hall lit with up activity as hundreds of disaster risk reduction advocates go around the XChange area of the Agos Summit, organized by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. 

Several groups showcased their own projects and innovations for disaster risk reduction including Red Cross, Liter of Light, Humanitarian Leadership Academy, Manila Water Foundation, Philippine Army, PLDT, and Smart. 

XCHANGE. Advocates gather at the two-day Agos summit organized by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm

In the middle of the bustling activity stood Gasgonia, the only lone exhibitor, with his board game.

According to Gasgonia, it took him six month before he was able turn his initial idea to the physical product.

There were several challenges. When I was starting to develop, I had to balance my time because I had a day job and I was going to graduate school. From time to time, I would allocate one to two hours before going to bed – I would start sketching it, writing the details, drafting the board game design," Gasgonia shared.

Fortunately, his hard work and dedication paid of. According to him, several groups, companies, and individuals have so far bought and expressed interest to purchase the board game. 

With Civil Defense, you can prepare for disasters and play a board game at the same time, proving that learning does not have to stop when the fun starts. – Rappler.com 

Learn more about the board game by visiting its Facebook page  

How an entrepreneur turned a 'public enemy' into a money-making resource


WATER HYACINTH. Los Baños entrepreneur Remia Dedoja finds a way to turn a public enemy to a friend. All photos by Clyde Villanueva

LAGUNA, Philippines – The displacement of many families living in coastal areas around Laguna Lake during the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 was attributed in part to the gigantic amounts of water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) that have clogged waterways and caused severe flooding in Los Baños. 

For this reason, it was perceived as a "public enemy" or a "pest" by residents affected by the displacement. 

Fortunately, 59-year old entrepreneur Remia Adedoja found a way to turn this "pest" into something positive – source of livelihood for their community.

The proprietor of Remdavies Enterprises and the president of the Laguna Water Hyacinth Handicraft Producers Association, Inc. (LWHHPAI), Ate Remy, as she is popularly known in their community, has been enjoying the fruits of her extensive work in research and trainings with the popularity gained by handicrafts made from water hyacinth stalks.

From rattan to water hyacinth

Her success was a result of years of hard work and dedication. She recalled how she put every ounce of effort to establish and build her business from ground up. 

Back in 2009, water hyacinth product manufacturing was still relatively a new concept. During that time, Adedoja was maintaining a rattan furniture business. However, the log ban forced her to find a new raw material for her handicraft business. 

OWNER. Remia Adedoja is the proprietor of Remdavies Enterprises and the president of the Laguna Water Hyacinth Handicraft Producers Association, Inc. (LWHHPAI). Shje is populary known as Ate Remy in their community

The whole thing started when she was invited to attend a seminar-training about water hyacinth production. Out of curiosoity, she joined to check if she can use it as a replacement to her rattan business.

“Nagtatatawa-tawa pa nga kami noon kasi ang lambot noong stalk o fiber ng water hyacinth. Sabi ko, hindi ito pwede sa furniture,” she said. (We were even laughing because the stalk or fiber of the water hyacinth is too soft. I told myself that this cannot be used in the furniture.) 

This did not discourage her. After attending more trainings and workshops, an idea crossed her mind: What if she uses the water hyacinth fiber in making handicrafts instead of furniture?

As she ventured on this idea, her business slowly expanded. 

Processing water hyacinth

Adedoja fondly recalled the first handicraft she made from water hyacinth fiber – a dusty bayong bag she made in 2009. She kept it as a reminder of how far she has reached since then. 

“Una kong pinagbentahan dati eh ‘yung mga teachers kong kaibigan, worth P50 lang kasi trial ko lang naman. Sabi ko paglagyan nila ng lesson plans nila o kung ano man," she said. 

(I sold my products to my friends who were teachers. I charged them P50 because they were trial products. I told them to use it to keep their lesson plans, or whatever items they have. ) 

From that plain bayong, her collection grew to a wide selection of beautifully crafted bags, houseware, and officeware products.

She said technology and research have greatly helped her business grow and increase its production.

With the help of the Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the process of manufacturing handicrafts was made a lot easier and faster. Remdavies Enterprises was granted a dryer and laminating machine that she used in drying and furnishing water hyacinth fiber, respectively.

“Dati, kapag rainy seasons, ‘yung pagpapatuyo pa lang ng fiber eh pwedeng umabot hanggang 30 days. Pero ngayon dahil sa dryer, 5 days na lang," she shared. 

(During the rainy season, drying the fiber may take 30 days. With the dryer, it now only takes 5 days.) 

PROUDLY PINOY. Products of the Remdavies Enterprises are slowly reaching the international market

Making water hyacinth handicrafts undergoes a multistage process. From harvesting water hyacinth from the Laguna Lake, the plant’s stalk is flattened, then applied with a safe chemical treatment. After that, it will be woven, colored, and adorned with finishing touches.

As a growing industry, her products have also penetrated the international market, especifically Japan. Adedoja, however, emphasized that they have higher demand in the local market with their active participation in trade fairs organized by the DOST and the Department of Trade and Industry. 

Empowering women, the community

Remdavies Enterprises and the 14 other members of the LWHHPAI are social enterprises that aim to empower fellow members of their respective communities through water hyacinth prodcution. 

For Adedoja and the Remdavies Enterprise, this goal translates to the employment of 60 full-time weavers working on the successive orders of bags, baskets, and trays, among many others. When the demand gets higher especially on the peak seasons of August to December, she would tap her subcontractors all over the province of Laguna.

Isa sa pinaka-proud ako dito sa ginagawa namin ay ‘yung empowerment na naibibigay sa community at lalo na na sa mga kababaihan. Ngayon, hindi na lang ‘yung tatay ang nagtatrabaho para sa pamilya kundi pati na ‘yung nanay," she added.

(One of the things I am proud of about our project is the empowerment we provide in the community, especially among women. Now, the men are not the only ones working for their families – even the mothers are earning.) 

That other than wanting to establish her own shop in a mall, she also hopes to empower more women and out-of-school youth in her community by training them in water hyacinth processing. – Rappler.com

Clyde Villanueva is a Rappler intern 

Leaving the sex industry and starting anew


VICTIMIZED. Danica is just one of the thousands of child victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Philippines. All photos from Joy Maluyo/World Vision

MANILA, Philippines – Danica, not her real name, is just one of the 60,000 to 100,000 child victims of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation nationwide.

She did not plan on becoming a sex worker at the age of 12. She, just like any girl, had a dream.

While poverty is one of the factors why children her age are forced to work in the sex industry, there are other reasons.

"Things changed when my parents separated. I was being passed on [from one household to another] so I ran away," said Danica.

With no food to eat and no place to stay in, she went to bars in Cagayan de Oro and gave in to her friends' nudging.

Cagayan de Oro is one of the 3 provinces in Northern Mindanao with a high incidence of trafficking.

The Task Force Against Human Trafficking 2008 report of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) showed that 38% of trafficking victims are from Bukidnon, 35% are from Cagayan de Oro, and 11% are from Misamis Oriental. Of the 138 cases recorded, 117 involved children. (READ: Sex at the drop of a tweet or a like)

Danica earned P5,000 the first time she engaged in prostitution.

"They say it's easy money but it's not. I felt dirty during that night. I felt dirty in the next months and years that I had to do that but when I started to pay for my apartment and buy good food, I could no longer stop," she admitted. 

Her vulnerability was continuously taken advantage of by pimps. Every night, she would receive a text message from her handler, someone she only knew by an alias. She would get at least P2,000 to P3,000 every time. To ease her guilt, she turned to drugs and solvent.

Starting life anew

Fast forward to 2017 – Danica is now 16 and has just given birth to a girl. 

"My pregnancy was the last straw. I was already planning on quitting even before it happened, thanks to the patience of the volunteers of Tisaka," she said.

SEX WORK. Danica shows text messages she received from her handler.

Tisaka or Tingog sa Kasanag is a local organization that focuses on women and children who are survivors or at risk of prostitution, trafficking, and abuse. It is one of World Vision's partners in the implementation of the Teaching Health and Resilience to Children through Inclusive Values and Empowerment (THRIVE) project, an initiative that helps children recover from harmful and traumatic experiences, including sexual exploitation.

The project is implemented across Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, and Misamis Oriental, where World Vision has been doing development work for 16 years.

Danica received help through the project when she was turning 16. Staying at a temporary shelter, she underwent psychosocial interventions, counseling, and HIV and AIDS testing.

It wasn't easy at first.

"I was in and out of the shelter. Having people genuinely care about me was something I was no longer used to. They would text me regularly and whenever I go back, they still show the same love and concern," said Danica.

No going back

According to Connie Quebada, World Vision's THRIVE project manager, the work is challenging.

"There are many children like Danica who are already in the shelter but would still run away and go back to the street. It's not just because of poverty. Each girl has her reason," she added.

World Vision is also working closely with the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWD) of Cagayan de Oro to further address the needs of the rescued girls.

"The different counseling sessions also showed me how badly hurt I was with my parents' separation. I used to think that this was my revenge against them. I was too focused on my anger that I never saw other people taking advantage of that grief," Danica said, adding that it was only recently that she started holding herself accountable for the things that happened to her.

Danica then showed her scarred hand, saying that she tried to harm herself with a blade when her parents separated.

"When I started admitting it to myself, I realized that at least it's not yet too late. I started reconciling with my parents," she added. 

Danica now lives with her partner's family. In partnership with the CSWD and Community Improvement Division Office of Cagayan de Oro, they participate in the THRIVE project's skills training and livelihood arm.

Her partner will be taking the National Certificate II exam conducted by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the next months. The certification will not only give him better chances of landing a good job, but also increase his chances of getting a job abroad, which he and Danica have been dreaming of.

"There are times when I watch my baby sleep and I whisper to her that she will not become like me. I already stopped doing my previous work so she'll be proud of me," Danica said. – Rappler.com

Joy Maluyo is an emergency communications specialist from World Vision.

Rappler Talk: How can data help people displaced by war, disasters?


MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Philippines introduced an interactive online map that gives an overview of displacement incidents in Mindanao from January 2012 to June 2017. 

Called the Mindanao Displacement Snapshot, the map provides an at-a-glance insight into displacement incidents ranging from armed conflict to natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes, and typhoons.

The launch of the humanitarian platform coincides with the release of Breaking the Impasse: Reducing Protracted Internal Displacement as a Collective Outcome, a new global study commissioned by OCHA. It comes at a time when the numbers of those repeatedly displaced by over 4 decades of conflict in Mindanao are again increasing and is underscored by the conflict in Marawi City.

OCHA has also produced an interactive platform for pre-disaster indicators for each province in the Philippines. It will be used by Agos, a disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation information platform powered by Ateneo's eBayanihan and operated by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. (READ: What is Agos?)

To discuss how humanitarian information guides government agencies, humanitarian and development organizations, donors, and volunteers, OCHA head of office Mark Bidder talks to MovePH’s Voltaire Tupaz on Rappler Talk.

Catch the interview and join the online discussion via Facebook and Twitter at 2:30pm on Monday, July 31. – Rappler.com

Rosita Caballero, a kept maiden from Panay Bukidnon, dies


KEPT MAIDEN. Rosita Caballero is one of the last known binukot belonging to the Panay Bukidnon indigenous community. Photo by Keith Censoro

ILOILO, Philippines – Rosita Caballero, one of the last known kept maidens or binukot in the Philippines, has died.  

Belonging to the Panay Bukidnon indigenous community, Caballero died last July 23 at the age of 73. She also served as the tribe elder at Barangay Garangan from the municipality of Calinog in the province of Iloilo,

Known for their rich culture and abundant living traditions, Panay Bukidnon is a recognized indigenous community in the island of Panay.

“At first, she got a stomachache after eating pineapple fruit, and so, we brought her to Calinog for check-up. The next morning, she had a hilot from a known manghihilot. The next day, she became yellowish, so her children brought her to the hospital," shared her grand daughter, Cyrhence Caballero-Santiago

According to Santiago, the municipal hospital referred them to seek further tests at the Western Hospital in Iloilo. In iloilo, tests revealed that she needed to undergo an operation due to her kidney stones.  

 “Later they found out in the ultrasound result that she has a gallbladder rupture. They did not push through with the operation because of the bacteria in her body. In addition, they found out that she also has hepatitis,” Santiago added.

Nanay Rosita is a binukot. It means a kept maiden in English. Binukot refers to a tradition of the families belonging to Panay Bukidnon where parents choose the most beautiful among the children who be kept from the public eye from the day of birth until she becomes a young woman or maiden.

Story of a binukot

Never to be exposed to the sun nor seen by other people, a binukot is not allowed to get out of the house.

In the community, she is treated like a princess where she is being bathed, combed and served by her family. True to her princess status, the binukot receives only the best of things and is taught the tribe’s traditions like memorizing Sugidanon, a long verbal narrative which contains the epics of Panay through chanting.

A binukot also learns and masters folk dances like Binanog.

When she reaches the right age, she is allowed to be seen in public to lead the tribal ceremony and to entertain her fellow tribesmen with the Binanog dance.

Her princess-like benefits do not end once she is seen in public. Whenever she leaves her home, she is carried on a hammock to make sure her feet do not touch the ground.  

Preserving the culture

The ‘binanog dance’ closely imitates the movements of the hawk or ‘banog’.  In this dance, the woman is in charge. The man observes and matches the steps of the woman, his movement dependent on her every move and shift.

The binukot’s hand for marriage goes to the man who offers the biggest dowry. Even then, tradition demands that the man cannot see her until after marriage. It doesn’t matter where the man came from as long as he is able to bid the highest price.

Experts said a binukot is usually frail, who knows nothing about doing chores or the practical ways of living.

According to Nancy Deocades, who made an anthropological study on the Sulodnon/Bukidnon tribe, one binukot even said that her feet bled when she first tried to walk on the ground.

While these kept maidens are often physically weak, they serve an important function in keeping their traditions alive. Through them, they preserve the ages-long epics and legends of their tribes.  The binukot is also the embodiment of the culture and tradition their ancestors have worked so hard to practice and perpetuate for decades.  

Panay Bukidnon rely on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. They plant and grow root crops and they also attend to domestic animals in order to survive.

With attaining education becoming their priority over grooming their daughters for marriage, only a few families of the Panay Bukidnon still continue the tradition of choosing a binukot.  

Caballero's death came just a few weeks before the country celebrates the National Indigenous People's Day on August 9. – Rappler.com

Gem Cavalida is a Rappler Mover from Iloilo 

Collaboration powered by social media


MANILA, Philippines – Have you ever felt the need to be part of something bigger than yourself?

If you’re passionate about a cause or you simply want to make a difference in your community, online is a good place to start helping out.

Sometimes, social media can feel like a race to make something of ourselves.

But it’s more than just that double tap – it’s for interacting with others, discovering ideas, challenging views, and creating new ideals.

Online platforms provide us the opportunity to create meaningful connections and launch movements. They’re designed to enhance lives, so what better way to harness it than for causes you truly believe in? You don’t need a large follower base to inspire courage in your own way.

Since 2012, Rappler has always embraced using technology for social good. From hashtag-driven campaigns such as #millionpepeoplemarch and #savemaryjane, to platforms like SharePH and Project Agos, to events such as #ThinkPH and the Social Good Summit, we’ve always highlighted the power of collaboration and innovation in affecting change not just in our communities, but also for the nation.

But awareness needs to be complemented by on-ground effort. To champion social good in more concrete ways, we’re launching CO+LAB, a crowdfunding platform.

Crowdfunding is a process used to pool resources  from like-minded people to fund a campaign’s operations.

When you join crowdfunding, you’re involved in something bigger than yourself. You’re investing in change by bringing an advocacy to fruition.

We’re pushing for bigger efforts on behalf of worthy campaigns, and we want you to be part of it – because every little contribution counts.

We want to gather people with the same beliefs. The goal is to amplify an advocacy, then help it reach an audience who believes in it and wants to chip in.

Our first campaign is for Agos, Rappler's online platform for disaster risk reduction. We want to raise funds to better connect people and raise awareness during critical disasters.

Interested in helping out? Here are the steps:

1. Click support on the crowdfunding box you'll see in Rappler stories
2. Choose how much you'd like to fund
3. Choose your method of payment

To encourage people to contribute, there are special perks or rewards for specific amount brackets.

Aside from cash, the most important capital crowdfunding offers is the sense of shared values. You’d be part of a community working toward the same goal.  – Rappler.com

Lumad children appeal to Duterte to save their schools



FIGHT FOR EDUCATION. Placards used by Lumads during protests now lie in front of their camp in Manila. All photos by Gari Acolola

MANILA, Philippines – A complicated mix of defeat and hopefulness filled the air in UP’s International Center, where Lumads have gathered in Manila ahead of the annual Lakbayani in September. 

“Hindi po kami titigil sa paglaban namin para sa aming karapatan – ang karapatan na makapag-aral muli.” (We will not stop fighting for our rights, especially the right to our education.)

These were the words of Genevieve, one of the Lumad children who had to stop going to school when martial law was declared in Mindanao. They have been rallying against the extension of martial law for a simple reason: they want to study again.

Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, Genevieve said soldiers have occupied schools in Sultan Kudarat, preventing Lumads from attending their classes. According to the Lumads, they have also been accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA), simply because they were taught to read, write, and count.

Similarly, Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated, a school in the mountains of Davao, stopped classes after government troops occupied the building. According to Jinky Malibato, an evacuee from Davao, martial law has become an excuse for the military to be unnecessarily violent. 

 “Nagpapaputok sila habang hiningan kami ng sedula.  Eh wala naman kami noon, mga Lumad lang kami mula sa bukid na gusto lang mag-aral,”  Malibato said. (Soldiers shoot their guns as they ask for our IDs.  But we don’t have one, we’re just Lumads from the mountains who want to study.)

Unfortunately, their collective appeal fell on deaf ears. Contrary to their call, the Congress voted 261-18 in favor of the President's request to extend the martial law in Mindanao until December.

 UNKNOWN FUTURE. Lakbayanis Lee, Lalay, Genevieve, Jomar, and Arjean travel to Manila from Sultan Kudarat. They dream of becoming teachers to help fellow Lumads get an education

Schools are for learning 

The Lumad children are not alone in this fight. 

In a statement, the National Youth Commission (NYC) also raised the issue about these incidents involving Lumad schools and emphasized that the institution of learning "should be utilized for what they are intended for."

The NYC appealed to all stakeholders to respect and uphold learning institutions as violence-free spaces and peace zones.

“It is very important that the children should be given an opportunity to enjoy their right to grow, learn, and play in a peaceful environment," NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra said. 

The youth commission suggested an agreement between the Lumad Schools and the Department of Education so they can identify areas of cooperation in terms of operational standards set by the government for basic educational institutions. 

A young woman named Lee, also a Lakbayani, claimed that while the military have been roaming Mindanao for years, they have became abusive only after Duterte declared martial law.  

Unknown to many Filipinos not in Mindanao, the Lumads claimed there has been an increase in the number of rape cases, shootings, extrajudicial killings, and unwarranted arrests since May. 

NOT AN NPA. Jinky denies accusations that Lumads are members of the New People's Army (NPA)

An evaluation of Duterte’s first year

“Ang tagal na naming naghihintay. Sa isang taon, walang nagbago… Actually, meron pala! Mas maraming namatay nang walang anu-ano,” said Arjean.  

(We have been waiting for so long.  In the past year, nothing changed, nothing at all.  Actually, only one thing did! So many more were killed suddenly)

She also described how she and her fellow Lumads have slowly losing faith in the President, who has not fulfilled his promises to help indigenous peoples. With dozens of Lumad teachers killed and arrested, their initial trust in Duterte has slowly faded into a sense of abandonment.  

The cry of the Lumads to end martial law echoed across all ages in Mindanao, from the adults who experience violence firsthand to the children who want nothing else but to continue studying.  

In fact, Lumad children wrote letters addressed to President Duterte in a bid to stop martial law in their hometowns. 

On September 1, a larger gathering is expected in UP, with hundreds of more Mindanawons marching towards Luzon. Joining the Lumads now in Manila, they too will campaign against martial law, paramilitary occupation, and the halting of Duterte’s peace talks.

Despite the martial law extension, they will continue to voice out their concerns until President Duterte heeds their pleas. – Rappler.com  

Gari Acolola is a student at the University of the Philippines. She is currently a Rappler intern

Marawi kids undergo psychosocial treatment


PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT. At least 70 child refugees participate in the activities co-organized by the Philippine army. All photos from AFP

MANILA, Philippines – What kind of help do the children affected by the ongoing clash in Marawi receive?

Various advocates and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly emphasized: children in violent environments need more than relief aid – they need immediate psychosocial support.  Fortunately, in Marawi, there are deployed groups whose aim is to help children cope with the conflict that has besieged their hometown. 

For some Philippine soldiers, the evacuation center is their battleground. Their goal is not to kill enemies but to provide assistance to the kids displaced by the war. 

"Masaya po ako.. gusto ko po maglaro sa mga kuya ko," one of the kids said, referring to the soldiers who participated in the activity. (I am happy. I want to play with my brother) 

Spearheaded by a US-based alumni association in partnership with Lanao del Sur Provincial Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at least 70 child-refugees participated in a series of activities aimed at entertaining and empowering the children, who struggle with staying in evacuation centers. 

"Despite the language gap, beneficiaries were noticed genuinely laughing and enjoying the series of activities and the interactions," said Colonel Thomas Sedano of the Joint Task Group Tabang.

These children are sheltered at the Lanao del Sur Capitol Evacuation Center. They make up a small portion of the total number of internally displaced persons by the armed conflict which the Department of Social and Welfer Development (DSWD) estimate to be at least 78,466 families or 359,680 persons  as of July 31. 

"Most of the instructions were done through sign language so that the kids will be able to understand the mechanics of the activity," he noted.

EVACUATION CENTERS. Through the psychosocial program, the soldiers hope to help divert the children’s attention away from the trauma caused by the war.

"We want to take part in the initiatives of the government and concerned stakeholders in assuring the protection and welfare of the civilians who are caught in the crossfire,"  Brigadier Ramiro Rey of the joint Task Force Ranao also said.

Through this program, Ranalo said the children’s attention will be diverted away from the trauma caused by the war. 

Earlier in June, the DSWD, in partnership with other humanitarian organizations, has also set up women and child-friendly spaces in evacuation centers in Iligan City. 

So both women and children can feel safe – free from violence, trauma, and threats – children in these special places are provided tools to draw and toys to play with while women are given a space to breastfeed their babies.

The safe space also serves as a place for them to meet, talk, and help each other.

"They (women) face greater risks as they try to keep their families together. It has also been documented by various humanitarian agencies that women tend to be less aware of how to protect themselves, and this is because they are often left out of the planning process when it comes to emergency preparedness," explained Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in a press statement. – Rappler.com 

Information management vital for Marawi recovery – UN OCHA


MARAWI CLASH. ARMY soldiers stood watch as they hold their position near the shoreline of Lake Lanao in Marawi City on Thursday, June 22,2017. the soldiers are holding the shorelines to prevent fleeing members of Maute group. File photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippnes – In conflict scenarios like the one in Marawi City, the use of accurate data can tremendously aid various government agencies and the private sector in helping interndally displaced people get back on their feet.

This is according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) head Mark Bidder during the Rappler Talk session on Monday, July 31, 2017. 

Thousands of people have been displaced by the continuing armed conflict in Marawi City. On May 23, clashes between the military and local terrorist groups erupted and this crisis prompted the declaration of martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte in the entire Mindanao region. 

Different government and non-government organizations have been sending relief to affected families who have been living in evacuation centers for two months now.

As of July 31, there are 78,466 displaced families, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Responding to their needs, the agency distributed cash assistance of P5,000 to displaced families in early July.

"For us, information management is one of the key pillars of effective coordination of humanitarian assistance and response so we focus very much on data – on accurate data, to help out partners and responders exactly understand what the needs of affected people are," Bidder said.  

The UN OCHA, together with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), launched an interactive online map to provide a bigger picture of the displacement incidents in Mindanao from January 2012 to June 2017. 

"This is an online platform that we have developed in conjunction with our colleagues in UNHCR to protect our cluster in Mindanao and for a number of years through that cluster grouping, they have been tracking displacement. Displacement as a result of natural disasters, floods and typhoons, and as a result of conflicts," he added. 

According to Bidder, this online platform is used to help local government units, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector know what the population needs and how to help them.  

The data comes from government sources and their partners on the ground. The information goes through a process of validation, cross referencing, and double-checking before it is published in the database. 

‘Not just physical rebuilding’ 

"We see it as not just physical rebuilding but [also] is about rebuilding the social fabric of society - rebuilding trust of people in government services. It's gonna be a long-term effort and investment," said Bidder.  

He added the tools they introduced and the data they have can help analyze the dimensions of the present humanitarian crisis and therefore, can provide better response. 

HUMANITARIAN EFFORTS. The online platform launched by UN OCHA is used to help local government units, NGOs, and the private sector know what the population needs and how to help them.

"The better we understand that level of detail, the more efficient and effective the response can be,” he added.

Some of the prevailing concerns in the region are overcrowding, sanitary and health conditions, and the quality of water in evacuation centers. According to Bidder, LGU officials also have a big responsibility in involving the communities in establishing data. 

"The more information we have collectively, the more data that is available, the better.” 

Marawi displacement is unique

In most cases, displaced families stay in evacuation centers. But according to Bidder, one characteristic that makes the displacement in Marawi unique, is how victims are often home-based. Majority of the victims stay with their friends and families. 

He said that this is a positive thing, considering the state of evacuation centers. However, it can cause burden to the hosting families.  

"Marawi is a tragedy. It's unique in many ways in terms of the number of people impacted by this fighting. It's also unique in terms of how long is going on. I don't think anyone expected people to be displaced for this long and that has it's impact and humanitarian consequences." 

"And I think it also raises certain challenges when it comes to recovery effort. We are collectively thinking now what comes next in rebuilding Marawi." – Rappler.com 

DBM on free tuition in state colleges: 'Di kaya ng gobyerno 'yan'


TOO EXPENSIVE. Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the free tuition bill is too expensive for the government. File Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The bill granting free tuition in state colleges is "too costly for the government," according to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno.

During the hearing on the proposed 2018 national budget on Tuesday, August 1, Diokno admitted that the government cannot shoulder the estimated budget requirements of the bill. (READ: Education, infra to get bulk of proposed 2018 nat'l budget)

"We estimate that the cost of this bill, it will cost us something around P100 billion. Hindi po kaya ng gobyerno 'yan (The government cannot shoulder that)," Diokno said, in response to Kabataan Party-list Representative Sarah Elago's concern over the bill's absence of budget for 2018.

Elago questioned why the Duterte administration proposes to spend over P1 trillion in infrastructure development but would not allot budget for free college education.

The Duterte administration has previously allocated P8 billion under the 2017 budget for the implementation of the tuition-free policy. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Karlo Nograles said he supports the restoration of the budget. 

"It was not in the 2018 budget of the President... In the absence of any law, we cannot appropriate money for free tuition," the budget chief told Elago. (READ: What to expect if Duterte signs law on free college tuition by June)

The House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the final version of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in May, which will provide full tuition subsidy for students in 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs), local universities and colleges, and government-run technical-vocational schools.

Under the National Expenditure Program, SUCs will receive an allocation of P64.6 billion while the Commission on Higher Education will receive P13.5 billion next year.

In February, the country's economic managers expressed opposition to the bill because it will benefit largely "non-poor students."

The bill was submitted for President Rodrigo Duterte's signature last July 5. It will lapse into law on August 5 if the President will take no action on the measure. – Rappler.com

Making maps useful for addressing disasters and climate change


When addressing disasters and climate change, at what point does the geographic information become useful?

This is the main question of a masters dissertation I am preparing with the support of the British Red Cross. It is part of my final requirements under the MSc Geospatial Analysis program in University College London (UCL).

Originally, the question was born out my curiosity in making better maps about the risks and vulnerabilities behind disasters and climate change.

During my experience in working as a geographer and urban planner for UN-Habitat Philippines in disaster-hit areas, I have observed that there were difficulties when using geographic information in addressing such risks and vulnerabilities.

First of all, issues in using such information can arise when using maps from multiple sources and methods.

Here is a comparison of hazard maps of the Tacloban City, which was the main settlement hit by Haiyan in 2013.

UNDERSTANDING MAPS. This is a screenshot of the maps on landslide and flood susceptibility from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Mines and Geosciences Bureau). The maps are in jpeg format, and require considerable work for reuse.


UNDERSTANDING MAPS. Maps on flooding and landslide were from the Department of Science and Technology (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards Project). The maps are downloadable in open format, and can be used sooner.

When we were showing the maps to authorities and residents, we were asked this very strong question: “so which maps should we believe?”

Disaster scenarios 

These are maps of the same place, and back then during the typhoon response, both were official maps. Furthermore, let me show you a picture of related issues through these scenarios:

  1. A major disaster (like Super Typhoon Haiyan) hits a major urban area, and the mayor asks for help in planning recovery and reconstruction in the most efficient way. But soon, you discover that the format in which some of the geospatial data are available will take you months to reprocess into something useful. This is a problem of accessibility.

  2. The process of recovery and reconstruction requires a lot of consultation and decision-making, especially with citizens. But you later find out that the “risk” maps only visualise hazards (hazard are not equal to risk), and not how people are vulnerable to those hazards and the exposed assets that are important to the people. Hence, the residents complain that they don’t completely trust the map because the things that are familiar to them (such as their community assets) are not in the “risk” map. Some of the residents’ houses are not even in the map. The maps don’t give the complete picture; and may allow a misunderstanding of the dangers. This can be a problem of context, semantics, and trust.

  3. There’s another powerful typhoon coming; and the town and village leaders need maps to help them plan the evacuation of the residents. But you notice that some of the roads and houses are missing from the available data from the national government. This can be a problem of completeness and representation.

  4. While crafting a post-disaster policy, the national government decides that all places at the coastal zones are dangerous. They declare that all households within 40-meters of the coastline should move out. But when comparing the “40-meter no-build-zone” with the datasets of from different agencies (e.g. the department for environment vs. department for science), there are differences, as seen in the visual comparison above. This can be a problem of uncertainty, error, ambiguity, and vagueness.

All of these issues are related to the quality of the geographic information (or spatial data as others call it). And all of these affect the usability of the maps and other knowledge products that are based on such information.

Making maps useful

These complex issues are at the center of what I am trying to do. My claim is that institutions and communities in the Philippines can better reduce risks and vulnerabilities if such issues on the geographic information are better understood and addressed.

Having usable geographic information on the topic can benefit policy, planning, and project management in the long run. Hence, for practical reasons my current research is approaching the problem through the lens of usability.

As I wrap up in the next few weeks, I hope to do the following:

  • Understand the context and scenarios of use of geographic information for reducing risks and vulnerabilities in the Philippines; and

  • Identify issues on the usability of such information for mapping and other purposes.

In a time when people are increasingly exposed to the factors of disaster and climate change, I believe that usable maps can help people make a difference. – Rappler.com 

David Garcia specializes in placemaking, cartography, and spatial data science. He is currently a volunteer geographer at Missing Maps Project. Garcia is also currently enrolled under the MSc Geospatial Analysis program in University College London (UCL).

This story was first published on Medium. 

Caritas Manila to help Marawi victims through livelihood


VICTIMS NEED LIVELIHOOD. Radio Veritas launches news and public service program 'Pandesal Forum' with (left to right) Wilson Lee Flores, George Siy, Caritas Manila executive director Fr. Anton Pascual, and Jarkie Miranda.

MANILA, Philippines – The Catholic Church has been one of the most active sectors in sending aid to Marawi victims. Its humanitarian, development, and advocacy arm Caritas Philippines, or the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), donated P10 million pesos in July to internally displaced victims.

In partnership with the Diocese of Marawi and Iligan, Caritas Manila will also be doing its part by giving a total of P2 million ($39,710) donation in cash and in kind and is furtherly looking at allocating more funds on rehabilitation efforts.

According to Caritas Manila executive director Rev. Fr. Anton Pascual, they want to focus on rehabilitation through providing livelihood programs, aside from sending relief goods to Marawi and Iligan City.

A total of 78,466 families or 359,680 persons have been internally displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi City as of July 31, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"Aside from the usual food, apparel, and medicines, kailangan po nila ay livelihood to go back to their normal lives," Pascual said at the Pandesal Forum, held by Radio Veritas on Wednesday, August 2.

(Aside from the usual food, apparels, and medicines, what they need is livelihood for them to go back to their normal lives.)

Radio Veritas will launch a news and public service program called "Pandesal Forum sa Veritas" on August 17 to address different concerns like the Marawi conflict. 

Pascual said that they can possibly help people in Marawi through retail businesses.

“They want to go back to retail business because a lot of these Maranaoans are more retail sellers but we still have to finalize and do a project study on how we go about the support and livelihood."

Aside from aid and recovery, Pascual encourages different groups and organizations to partner with them in giving vocational-technical and college scholarships to the youth in Mindanao.

He added the church wants to help the poor help themselves.

"The problem in Mindanao is poverty, and war is only the effect of a much deeper problem which is poverty. We have to address poverty. All of us, all sectors – civil society, church, government, and business."

The youth is one of the most affected when it comes to the armed conflict in Mindanao. To some extent, some kids from Marawi even treat the members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as heroes. (READ: Marawi kids who idolize ISIS undergoing debriefing- AFP)

"We have to address poverty by giving opportunity to the people, especially the youth. We have to save the youth," Pascual said.

People can donate cash and goods through the information provided in Caritas Manila’s website and Facebook page.- Rappler.com  

*$ = P50.36

ASEAN region to lose 70-90% of habitats by 2100 – report


BIODIVERSITY-RICH REGION. The ASEAN region is home to globally significant natural resources on land and in water, including about 18% of all species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Photo courtesy of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity

MANILA, Philippines – The biological diversity or biodiversity in the ASEAN region, which is home to the "mega-diverse countries" of the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, will greatly be eroded by 2100 if the destruction of the environment continues unabated, a recently launched report by an intergovernmental organization revealed.

"The region is poised to lose 70–90% of habitats and 13–42% of species by 2100,” according to the second edition of the ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook.

The ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) released the report on the sidelines of the inauguration of its new headquarters on July 29 in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The report “aims to highlight challenges in biodiversity conservation in the region, efforts by ASEAN member states to strengthen biodiversity conservation at the national and regional levels, and prospects for achieving biodiversity targets by 2020,” ACB executive director Roberto Oliva said.

The ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity endorsed the document.

The ASEAN region is home to globally significant natural resources on land and in water, including about 18% of all species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It has the most diverse coral reefs in the world and spans several “unique bio-geographical units" such as Indo-Burma, Malesia, Sundaland, Wallacea, and the Central Pacific.

"The various ecological services we derive from the environment speak of our dependence on biodiversity - medicine for our illness, materials for our shelters, food for our nourishment, sites for our recreation, and the deep solitude and calm that Mother Nature offers," Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said in his speech at the event.

Threats to biodiversity

The latest ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook noted that assessments of forests in the region indicate an average annual rate of loss of 1.26% from 2000 to 2010. This decline represents at least 5,261.62 square kilometers of forest area loss every year if threats such as habitat fragmentation, clearing for agriculture, and infrastructure and housing development continue.

Meanwhile, the growing ASEAN population has increased the demand for food and the expansion of agricultural areas, resulting in the loss of habitats, the increasing use of chemical pesticides, and other threats to biodiversity in agriculture.

The ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity endorses ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook 2.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity endorses ASEAN Biodiversity Outlook 2. <a href="https://t.co/LJvzNaUaT8">https://t.co/LJvzNaUaT8</a> via <a href="https://twitter.com/issuu">@issuu</a></p>&mdash; Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz/status/892675332074946560">August 2, 2017</a></blockquote>

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The productivity and viability of the region’s lakes, rivers, and peatlands also continue to decline, while most of the region’s seas are overfished and degraded, threatening marine health and food security.

Given these threats, the ACB report urged "shared responsibility of the region’s biodiversity to those who continue to exercise large-scale deforestation, pollute rivers and lakes, overexploit seas in the conduct of their business, mail-order threatened wildlife, and completely ignore principles of sustainability and accountability for the region’s biodiversity.

Biodiversity center in PH

As it opened its new headquarters, the ACB vowed to strengthen its flagship programs including the ASEAN Heritage Park and biodiversity information management to ensure the sustainable management of biodiversity and contribute to the reduction of biodiversity loss by 2020. In 2013, ACB declared Mt Makiling Forest Reserve, which is managed by UPLB, as the 33rd ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013.

The ACB’s new home, which stands on a 4,000-square meter lot along Domingo Lantican Ave in UPLB, symbolizes "ASEAN’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and a gift of the Philippines to ASEAN and the world,” Oliva said.

UPLB manages Mount Makiling, a key biodiversity hotspot which ACB has declared as the 33rd ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013.

Public officials, dignitaries from ASEAN member countries, and advocates graced the inauguration of the building which was built following sustainable construction standards.

"The Philippines is very fortunate to be the home of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity,” Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, said in her speech at the inauguration.

ASEAN CENTRE FOR BIODIVERSITY HQ. ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community deputy secretary general Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Governing Board Chairperson Lonkham Atsanavong, ACB executive director Roberto Oliva, Senator Loren Legarda, and DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu lead the ceremonial cutting of ribbon to open the new headquarters of the ACB in UP Los Baños on July 29, 2017

Conservation measures

Legarda urged other ASEAN member states to introduce policies that would strengthen the management and protection of their countries’ natural resources especially in critical areas.

“If we truly want the ASEAN Economic Community to be successful, we must learn to co-exist with our environment. The Earth that we live in provides us with our needs, and even if we have all the money in the world, we will not survive in a deteriorating environment,” Legarda said.

According to Legarda, the Senate has already passed on third reading the proposed Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas Act. The measure seeks to strengthen protection and conservation measures of almost a hundred protected areas in the country.

At the same event on July 29, ACB and the European Union (EU) signed the EUR 10-million Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP) grant agreement. The initiative aims to improve the management of protected areas in the ASEAN region, generate knowledge and scientific basis for biodiversity conservation, and include it into the education system.

“Biodiversity and development are closely linked as biodiversity sustains development and development impacts biodiversity,” EU Charge d'Affaires Mattias Lentz said.

Lentz stressed that “a robust and protected biodiversity supports livelihood, enhances food security and nutrition, and contributes to significant climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits." – Rappler.com

Angkas passenger in coma after crash: Who's liable?


MANILA, Philippines – Everything turned upside down for 23-year-old Alejandro Cajano on the night of July 15. 

By habit, he took a motorcycle ride courtesy of ride-sharing app Angkas on his way home to Makati. That night, however, he figured in a tragic crash that left him in a coma for over 2 weeks now. 

It happened near Nagtahan bridge, in the city of Manila, when the vehicle in front of them suddenly stopped, causing Cajano and the Angkas rider or biker to fall to the ground. Before they could recover from the impact of the fall, an SUV behind them hit Cajano. 

Following the crash, Cajano sustained brain injuries and was left in a critical condition. Half a month after the incident, he has raked up a huge hospital bill estimated to reach up to P1.1 million.

Convenient service

Tragic incidents like this raise questions about how app-based transportation services are regulated. This was raised during the hearings by a lawmaker who lost his relative in a car crash in Singapore involving a similar transport-based app-service, Uber. (READ: Grieving lawmaker demands Grab, Uber legal accountability)

In its January 2017 press release, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said that Angkas is "considered as another form of TNC [Transport Network Company]".

Angkas is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a "software application provider, [that] matches users [with] third party service providers like passengers and bikers." 

Just like Grab and Uber, Angkas customers can easily book a ride through their app. Aside from being able to zoom through traffic, Angkas riders also offer cheaper fares. Angkas rides cost P50 for the first two kilometers and an additional P10 for the next kilometer. 

Angkas essentially provides its customers with a convenient and cheap way to navigate through the city where mass transportation remains problematic and where traffic jams are a common occurrence.

There is a need to clarify guidelines, however, when questions arise about who foots the bill when crashes happen. 

In Cajano's case, it was the SUV driver, Louie Dy, who paid the bills at the Del los Santos Medical Center where Cajano was initially admitted. Cajano's condition and mounting bills, however, required him to be moved to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, a publicly-owned hospital. Cajano's family now complains that it has been difficult to coordinate with Dy since. 

Because multiple parties are involved (the Angkas rider, Angkas itself, Cajano's family, and the SUV driver), lawyers have stepped in to mediate the case and settle liabilities.  

On July 30, two weeks after the incident, Angkas released an official statement on their Facebook page stating that they have provided financial assistance to both the rider and Cajano. 

The family has been grateful to Angkas for its cooperation, especially in terms of financial support. 

According to a GMA News report, however, the management of Angkas sent a statement to the Manila Traffic Enforcement Unit saying that the motorcycle rider, Zammy Banzuela, is not their employee. 

Angkas described Banzuela as someone with the “access [to] the Angkas App’s booking services [which allowed] him to be matched with passengers who use the Angkas App.”

Accountability issues

Under LTFRB's Memorandum Circular No. 2004-004, Public Utility Vehicles nationwide are required to have the Passenger Personal Accident Insurance Program (PPAI). In 2015, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) extended the same requirement to Transport Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Grab through Department Order No.  2015-011.

Things are more complicated for Angkas, however, compared to the situation of other TNCs. 

For one thing, existing transport regulations do not consider motorcycles and tricycles as PUVs. By extension, motorcycles are also not included in the type of vehicles operated by TNCs according to LTFRB guidelines. 

Therefore, although the LTFRB considers Angkas a TNC, the agency has not accredited it and has even ordered it to stop operations in January 2017. 


The issue becomes even more of a concern given that motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable groups to road traffic crashes in the Philippines according to data from the World Health Organization.  

Riders may be sanctioned

Because regulations are murky in this area, it is unclear what sanctions might be imposed on Angkas when crashes arise.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO), which has jurisdiction over the registration of motorcycles, said that it can only impose sanctions on Angkas riders in the meantime, according to an Inquirer report.

In its Facebook page, Angkas promises to ensure coverage for both the biker and passenger. This insurance policy covers up to P 200,000 according to an Angkas employee.

Riders and passengers who figure in crashes can claim the insurance after 15 days of confinement with complete hospital documents.

ANGKAS APP. These are the promises made by Angkas to attract bikers to apply. Photo from Angkas Barkada Facebook Page

To ensure the safety of both passengers and bikers, Angkas spokesperson Walter Wong said they make sure their bikers are professionals by conducting background checks and by making sure that motorcycles are in good condition.

Angkas also said it requires biker applicants to pass through an obstacle course examination to ensure that they are well trained. Aside from this, they also conduct seminars and service training on how to handle passengers.

When asked about this issue, Wong replied, "We want to provide a safe, accountable, and professional service to passengers whose needs are currently not being met. In the absence of a clear policy, habal-habal continues to proliferate but without any professionalization or safety measures in place."

He added, "So we welcome regulation of our industry to raise the standards for this type of service. When Grab and Uber started, car-hailing was also a new and unregulated industry that faced the same challenges as us. Today, it’s acknowledged that they provide a lot of value to commuters. We believe it’ll be the same for us." – Rappler.com

SUC student leaders urge Duterte to sign the Free Education Bill


 BOOKS NOT BOMBS. Benjie Aquino, Jeza Rodriguez, Amber Quiban and Richmond Roxas warn Duterte against neglecting promises to students. All photos by Gari Acolola

MANILA, Philippines – While the country continues to face several insurgencies and conflicts, student leaders from all over the country gathered to remind President Duterte that funds meant for the educational sector should not be used to purchase bombs for Marawi or bullets for his war on drugs.

With Duterte’s inaction in signing the Free Education Bill into law, student leaders from state universities and colleges (SUCs) all over the Philippines gathered on Wednesday, August 2, to campaign against the vetoing of the Senate Bill 1304.

Through an ongoing manifesto signed by almost a hundred student leaders, members of Akbayan Youth, Youth Resist, the University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Technological University of the Philippines, and Rizal Technological University, campaigned against the collection of tuition and miscellaneous fees in SUCs.  

“We believe that the long-term solution against poverty and conflict is to provide free, accessible and quality education to the youth,” it read. 

A press conference and mobilization were also held at the University of the Philippines Diliman, as a response to budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, who deemed the bill as “too costly for the government” during a hearing on the proposed national budget.  (READ: DBM on free tuition in state colleges: 'Di kaya ng gobyerno 'yan')

Unfulfilled campaign promises

EDUCATION IS A RIGHT. Amidst enrollment period in the University of the Philippines, students gather to protest the continued collection of tuition.

While Duterte made education his second budget priority when he campaigned for presidency last year, he made no mention of the Free Education Bill in his most recent State of the Nation Address.  (READ: FULL TEXT: President Duterte's State of the Nation Address 2017)

Benjie Aquino of the University of the Philippines, Jeza Rodriguez of Student Council Alliance of the Philippines, Amber Quiban of Bukluran UP System, and Richmond Roxas of the Technological University of the Philippines each argued that much of Duterte’s term has ignored the education sector and has instead focused on the war on drugs.

Quiban called this a flawed analysis of the problem.  “Basically, insurgencies daw yung problema.  Kaya ang finufund ng government natin ay yung mga counter-insurgency programs."

(Basically, they believe insurgency is the problem.  That is why what is ultimately funded are counter-insurgency programs)

Quiban claimed that dealers and pushers are usually driven into the world of drugs because of poverty and unemployment, which are rooted in the lack of access to education.

Unsustainable and anti-poor?

To address qualms about the Free Education Bill only benefitting the non-poor, Quiban and Aquino also argued that the prioritization of education must not only focus on SUCs but should also include elementary and secondary levels.  

Because non-poor students from private institutions have higher chances of entering college, the budget for education must also be spent on improving basic education, especially of public schools.

Aquino also claimed that the government has enough funds to implement free tuition. “Hindi sustainable ang free education dahil masyadong malaking budget ang kakailanganin, samantalang ilang bilyon ba ang ninanakaw nila taon-taon?"

(Officials say ‘free education is not sustainable because it requires too big of a budget’ when in fact, how many billions do they steal each year?)

Though both the House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the bill on May 29 and May 30 respectively, the President has until Saturday, August 5, to exercise his veto powers.  Should Duterte actively refuse to sign SB 1304, the Free Education Bill shall not lapse into law. – Rappler.com

Gari Acolola is a Rappler intern