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Travel advisory: Mindoro boat trips cancelled due to Tropical Depression Ramil


BOAT TRIPS SUSPENDED. According to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Oriental Mindoro, all passenger boats and other kinds of watercraft were not allowed to sail effective 1:15 pm on Wednesday, November 1. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines - All boat trips bound for Mindoro have been cancelled on Wednesday, November 1, as state weather bureau Pagasa raised typhoon signal number 1 over Occidental and Oriental Mindoro. Since Monday night, October 30, Tropical Depression Ramil has been bringing heavy rain to Southern Luzon.

According to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Oriental Mindoro, all passenger boats and other kinds of watercraft were not allowed to sail effective 1:15 pm on Wednesday.


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There are no stranded passengers reported as of posting. 

Tropical cyclone warning signal number 1 is currently in effect over the following areas:

  • Northern Palawan including the Calamian Group of Islands
  • Southern Occidental Mindoro
  • Southern Oriental Mindoro
  • Aklan
  • Antique

PAGASA said that moderate to occasionally heavy rain is expected with the storm's 200-kilometer diameter, and residents in areas under storm signals, as well as those in Metro Manila, Bicol, Calabarzon, and the rest of Mimaropa should be on alert for possible landslides and floods.

Tropical Depression Ramil maintained strength as it continues to move closer to the Calamian Group of Islands,  Pagasa said on Wednesday.

In its 11 am bulletin on Wednesday, Pagasa said that the center of Ramil was located at 85 km east southeast of Coron, Palawan.

It is moving west at 20 km per hour (km/h), with maximum winds of up to 45 km/h near the center and gustiness of up to 60 km/h. - Rappler.com

What's the weather like in your area? Report the situation through Rappler's Agos or tweet us at @rapplerdotcom.

'Matumal': Small-time vendors struggle to earn this Undas 2017


MATUMAL. Small-time vendors inside cemeteries struggle to earn this Undas due to the rain. All photos by Aika Rey/Rappler

CAVITE, Philippines – "Ang hirap talaga 'pag umuulan. Matumal ang kita 'pag Undas." (It's difficult [to earn] when it rains during Undas.)

Orlando Mendez, 54, a small-time vendor in Bacoor City in Cavite, told Rappler he's been in Heavenly Peace Memorial Garden for two days, hoping he'd be able to earn enough to cover the fees he spent to get a selling permit.

"Dalawang araw na 'ko dito. Sana talaga tumila na 'yung ulan kasi 'yun lang ang pag-asa namin," he said. (READ: Making a living among the dead)

(I've been here for two days. I really wish the rain stops because that's our only hope.)

He paid P800 for a two-day permit which was valid from Tuesday, October 31 to Wednesday, November 1. 


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He said selling balloons and other toys helped him pay for his children's education. He's been in this business since 2004.

"Dito ko na binuhay pamilya ko. Napag-aral ko na mga anak ko. Ngayon lang mahirap. Di 'pa ko nakaka-bale," he said.

(I have raised my family with this business. I was able to fund my children's education. It's just difficult to earn because of the rain. I have yet to break-even.)

Mendez lives in Dasmariñas City, some 17 kilometers away from Bacoor. Heavenly Peace Memorial Garden, a private cemetery, is his top area of choice for selling his goods.

"Dinarayo talaga namin. Minsan Batangas, Laguna, Maynila. Doon kami. Pero dito kami, prayoridad namin dito kasi may kayang bumili dito," he said.

(We travel far. Sometimes in Batangas, Laguna, Manila. We go there. But we go here, it's our priority because the visitors here have the capacity to buy.)

Mendez, a former farmer in Leyte province, said he was not new to this kind of hardship. He shared that his only wish today was that the rain stops, so more people will visit the cemetery.

"Sanay na 'ko makipagsapalaran. Sana tumila na. Pambayad ko rin 'to sa utang sa Bumbay. (I'm used to trying my luck. I just hope the rain stops. I'll use the money to pay my loan)," he said.

Will be right back

Mendez is not the only one complaining. Other vendors also complained about the rain as it affected their projected income for the season.

However, the rains brought by Tropical Depression Ramil won't stop the vendors from making a living.

Jonard Sanchez, an ice cream vendor, said he usually earns more than the cost of the selling permit in Heavenly Peace Memorial Garden yearly but this year's another story. (READ: On the job: The Filipino precariat)

"Last year okay lang kahit umaambon. Eh ngayon, ang lakas talaga eh. Di 'pa nakakabawi. Lugi talaga," he told Rappler.

(Last year's earnings were enough even though it was drizzling. But now, it's raining hard. I have to break-even. I haven't earned enough.)


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The two-day permit is valid up until Wednesday but Sanchez said he'd still be back during the All Souls' Day on Thursday, November 2, to sell ice cream.

Another vendor, Doming Gopole, said he will also be back for All Souls' Day hoping people will still visit the cemetery grounds. He sells fish crackers, quail eggs, and chicharon.

Gopole said he's about to break even so he needs to be back on Thursday.

"'Di na bababa sa P300 pero malapit na. Basta may tao, papasok pa kami bukas. (It's not lower than P300 but I'm about to break-even. As long as there are visitors, I will be back inside)," he said.

Making ends meet

Every year, cemeteries are dotted with small-time vendors trying to make ends meet during Undas.

Food, clothing, cigarettes – name it and you'll have it – cemeteries are like marketplaces during the season.

Mendez, Sanchez, Gopole, and the many other vendors you see along the streets are among the 15.6 million informal sector workers in the country.


<div class="blob-full" style="position:relative;">
<img id="D5A521493E254B87A476F565236D0B5B" src="http://assets.rappler.com/612F469A6EA84F6BAE882D2B94A4B421/img/D5A521493E254B87A476F565236D0B5B/emily.jpg" class="rappler_asset" border="0" alt="NOT ENOUGH. Emily Cajusay said her earnings are not enough, despite the over 3,000 visitor estimate at the Molino Public Cemetery on October 31 and November 1. Photo by Aika Rey/Rappler " data-parentid="" /><br />


The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines informal economy workers as those "independent, self-employed, small-scale producers and distributors of goods and services." (READ: FAST FACTS: What you need to know about PH's informal sector workers)

In 2016, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies also found that 40% who are not Social Security System-dependents and are not employed in the formal economy have no health insurance

The rain this Undas has been unforgiving but the vendors only hope for a bright blue sky tomorrow before the season ends, and perhaps, earn enough to make a living in celebration of the day of the dead.– Rappler.com

Smoke forces MRT-3 train to unload passengers


SMOKE. MRT Line 3 offloads passenger after one of the trains was seen emitting smoke. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – A Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) train unloaded passengers after smoke was found in one of its coaches on Sunday, November 5, the latest incident involving the beleaguered rail line.


A northbound MRT train stopped in front of Mega Q-Mart in Quezon City after passengers reported smelling and seeing dark smoke in one of its coaches.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Cesar Chavez said passengers were evacuated from the Cubao to Kamuning train around 10:14 am on Sunday.  

Passengers were immediately offloaded and walked along the rails back to Cubao station.

Chavez added that the defective train immediately resumed operations around 11:10. "Provisional service lifted at 11:12am," he added.

This is not the first time MRT 3 stopped operations due to smoke or fire-related glitches this year. Late in September 2017, a passenger seat inside one of the MRT-3 trains caught fire, forcing the train to stop operations and unload passengers. – Rappler.com 

Mini-grandmaster? Meet this 3-year-old Pinoy chess prodigy


CHESS PRODIGY. At 3 years of age, Magnus Roma starts joining and winning at chess tournaments for his age group. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – At a time where other boys his age busy themselves with toys, Magnus Roma has been beating players 4 times his age at the game of chess.

At 3 years old, Magnus started joining and winning at some chess competitions for his age group. This comes as no surprise for his parents who taught him how to position pieces on the board when he was just one year old.

Magnus started playing chess before he started to learn how to read and write. He would often make his move on the board with distinct confidence, as if he is sure it would eventually dismantle his opponent on the other side of the board. 

The young chess prodigy is named after Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian chess grandmaster who currently holds the title of World Chess Champion.

Runs in the blood

His story starts way back, when his parents Jollibee Sedaya and Alvin Roma met in college. Jollibee was the chess team leader at National University when Alvin just joined the team as a newbie.

Alvin admired Jollibee as a leader. She was aggressive, determined, and most importantly, great at playing chess. Jollibee, on the other hand, liked how Alvin worked hard to learn tactics that could help him win at competitions.

Eventually, the two did more than join chess tournaments. Their love story blossomed until, years later, Alvin and Jollibee became parents to Magnus. The two decided to pass on their shared love for chess to their eldest.

"Parehas kami ni misis [na naglalaro ng chess] kaya naisip namin na mamamana ng mga anak namin yung talento namin," Alvin said. (Both I and my wife play chess so we thought that our children would inherit our talent) 

“Naisip po namin na turuan siya ng isang bagay na kapakipakinabang na magagamit niya hanggang sa paglaki niya, Jollibee added, echoing her husband.

(We thought of teaching him something he can use when he grows up.)

They were right. Magnus, according to his parents, showed interest in playing chess even before he turned 2 years old.

Chess prodigy?

Alvin trains young chess players for a living while Jollibee works as a full-time housewife and mother to Magnus and their one-year-old daughter. According to him, unlike his students, Magnus learns fast and efficiently.

This is also the reason why Alvin decided to teach Magnus a variety of basic and advanced lessons when Magnus was still a toddler.

YOUNG PRODIGY. The small house where Magnus Roma and his family live is decorated by medals and trophies the family won from various chess tournaments. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

“Lahat kasi ng tinuturo ko sa kanya, isang take lang po. Kumbaga hindi na siya magkakamali,” the father said. (It would only take me one round to teach him lessons. It would not take long before he understands the lesson)

According to Alvin and Jollibee, they would spend at a total of 20 minutes daily to train Magnus. For the rest of the day, they would let him play outside with other kids his age. They said they still want their son to enjoy his childhood.

The regular training paid off.

Before he turned 4, Magnus won the Chessmates Kiddies Championship, in the 14 and below category, in Makati early in September. 

He has also bagged the youngest chess player awards at two different tournaments held in Quezon City and Malolos, Bulacan. 

These victories are enough for Magnus to keep on training. “Gusto ko sinasabihan ako ng good,” Magnus said. (I like it when they say that I am good.) 

Not easy

But while playing chess comes easy for the family, joining tournaments for them proved to be tricky. The family does not just have enough money to constantly support Magnus’ participation in chess competitions. After all, Alvin does not receive a steady income from his chess training gigs.

“Problema 'yung budget. Yung ibang competitions kasi, malalayong lugar. Minsan talagang wala kaming budget kasi hindi naman palagian yung turo ko po. Pinapang-utang po namin sa mga kakilala namin. kapag nakapagturo na po ako, binabayaran na lang po sila,” Alvin said.

Entry fees to local chess competitions usually range from P250 to P500. If the competitions are located in another town, they would have to spend on transportation.

“Hindi naman ganun kataas ang estado ng buhay namin. Kapag may tournament siya, may entry fee, pamasahe, pagkain,”Jollibee explained. (We are not well-off. Whenever he has a tournament, we need to find ways to pay for his entry free, fare, and food) 

ROMA FAMILY. Magnus Roma belongs to a family of chess players. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

The family shares a small house in Montalban with Jollibee’s parents. Their house, despite being small and cramped, is decorated with medals and trophies won by Jollibee, Alvin, and Magnus.

“Siyempre bilang magulang, andoon na yung magsasakrapisyo ka para sa pangarap mo sa kanya para balang araw maging successful siya. Kahit mahirap, masaya pa rin, kasi nakikita mo paghihirap mo sa kanya,” Jollibee said.

(As a mother, we are willing to sacrifice for him to to reach his goals so that, eventually, he would become successful. Even though it is difficult, we enjoy seeing him succeed.) 

Being a chess player is not easy within the landscape of Philippine sports due to different factors like lack of budget and complicated politics and power play, as in the experiences of Grandmaster-elect Haridas Pascua and Super Grandmaster Wesley So.

In fact, Wesley So, who is now the second-ranked chess player in the world, has decided to represent the United States, and not the Philippines, in tournaments. (READ: The problem with Philippine sports

FUTURE GRANDMASTER? The endgame that Magnus' parents dream for the young chess prodigy is for him to become a Filipino chess grandmaster. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

Become a grandmaster

Despite these problems, Jollibee and Alvin are still optimistic that their son, with his unique talent in playing chess, would reach far. The couple dreams of their son eventually becoming a grandmaster at a very young age.

“Pangarap ko sa kanya 'yung, kung pagpapalain, nawa'y maging world champion din siya kasi andoon na rin naman siya eh. So pagbutihin na,” Jollibee said. (My dream for Magnus is for him to become a world champion since he has been playing chess already. I wish he'll train well) 

As far as the young chess prodigy is concerned, he shares the same dream as his parents. He also promised that he will do everything to make his parents proud. 

"Thank you, Papa. Thank you, Mama kasi tine-train ninyo ako tapos tinuturuan mo pa ako ng chess nung baby pa ako. Promise ko na magtrain ako," Magnus said. (Thank you, Papa. Thank you, Mama. Thank you for training me, for teaching me since I was still a baby. I promise to train harder) – Rappler.com 

4 years after Yolanda, trauma still haunts typhoon victims


AFTERMATH. A woman picks up what's left of her belongings in the rubble after the floodwaters subsided in Eastern Samar. File photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

AKLAN, Philippines – Four years since Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan), most survivors still carry the emotional burden brought by the catastrophic disaster that hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013.

On that day, Bret Michael Urmeneta was supposed to celebrate his 20th birthday. Instead, it turned into a tragedy. (READ: TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan))

A 4th year college student that time, Bret was living in his aunt’s house in Tacloban, Leyte, one of the worst-hit areas during Yolanda. During the typhoon, he and his relatives were trapped in their house for more than 8 hours before they were rescued. “I thought it was already my last day,” he recalled in an interview.

After the flood subsided, Bret never expected the devastation that he would see on his birthday. The city was flattened. Everything was washed out by the flood. He saw cadavers of young and old people, as well as animals, on the streets. Fortunately, all his family members survived, including his parents who were living in Jaro, Leyte.

“It was emotional damage. I still feel afraid sometimes when it rains hard,” he said of his traumatic experience.

On Yolanda’s 4th year on Wednesday, November 8, Bret will turn 24. But he doesn’t celebrate the date anymore. (READ: Yolanda Museum to rise in Tacloban 4 years after deadly typhoon)

“I don’t think it’s a day to rejoice. It’s a day to remember the people who died during Yolanda,” he said.

Yolanda, one of the most powerful typhoon recorded, killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines.

Bret is one of the many survivors, but is one of those who still carry the trauma brought by the disaster.

Due to Yolanda, he had to cross enroll from University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Tacloban Campus to UPV Iloilo. Now a certified public accountant, he said he was lucky to have a strong support among his peers.

According to Dr Bernardino Vicente, medical center chief II of the National Center for Mental Health (NMCH), disasters linked to climate change also pose risk to mental health.

NCMH is the biggest mental health facility in the country operated by the Department of Health (DOH).

In times of disasters, some people lose their family members; others lose their livelihood. These experiences could lead to trauma, according to Vicente, adding that it could take months or years to recover for some.

Victims of natural disasters are also vulnerable to other mental problems such as stress disorders, depression and general anxiety, he added.

Mother’s burden

During a disaster, most of the burden is also usually carried by the mother of the family.

Lily Acuyado, 41, a mother of 3 from the coastal village of Talon in Roxas City, Capiz, said that fear still remains, though it has been 4 years. “I still feel fear. I fear that the same disaster like Yolanda will happen,” she shared.

Their house, which was among the 16 houses situated along the riverbanks in their village, was destroyed during the onslaught of Yolanda. They also lost their boat, which was their main source of income.

After losing everything, Acuyado’s family was left with no choice but to start over again.

“As a mother, it is more painful to see my children suffer the situation. I don’t want them to experience it again,” she said.

Acuyado said aside from the financial assistance, psychosocial support given to them by different government agencies and non-government organizations helped her cope with the emotional stress of the disaster.

With climate change, Vicente noted that mental health must also be given attention. “We need to give more focus on mental health,” he stressed.

He said the DOH is also training people to provide immediate psychosocial support to victims of disaster. This year, the department allocated more than P1 billion for mental health projects, majority of which is for the improvement of mental health facilities in the country.

Vicente said some areas in the country still lack facilities to cater to mental health patients. The Ilocos region, Central Luzon, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao have no DOH-operated mental health hospitals.

The country only has a total of 6,000 beds in mental health institutions. Aside from that, some areas also don’t have access to medication, he added. (READ: Why we need a mental health law in PH)

Severe mental health is already affecting at least one percent of the total Philippine population, according to Vicente.

Climate change and public health

Mental health is just one of the impacts of climate change to public health.

Climate change is also affecting social and other environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food, and secure shelter, according to engineer Bonifacio Magtibay of the World Health Organization in the Philippines.

Magtibay said the WHO projects that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.

Climate change’s direct damage cost to health is also estimated to be between $2 to 4 billion per year by 2030.

Magtibay added that areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries like the Philippines – will be the least able to cope with climate change without assistance to prepare and respond.

In the past years, the WHO has worked with different government agencies in the country to raise awareness about climate change’s impact to public health. The WHO has created programs focused on health emergency and water safety, considering that water sources and water quality are affected by climate change and disasters.

In the next two years, WHO will focus its climate change support to health care facilities by “greening” hospitals, ensuring that greenhouse gas emissions are curbed and the physical structure is safe from disaster, said Magtibay.

Meanwhile, health will also be the key theme in this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany. (READ: Children’s health in peril as climate impacts escalate in PH)

The COP 23 will start two days before the 4th anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda. In the conference, governments will convene to discuss the next steps after the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, in which the Philippines is one of the signatory.

In the 4th year of Yolanda and on his 24th birthday, Bret has 3 wishes.

First, is for the victims to finally heal from the disaster. Second, is for the victims to finally get what was promised to them. And lastly, for the government to step up its effort in mitigating and adapting to climate change, so that impacts of monstrous disaster like Yolanda will not happen again.– Rappler.com

Karen Bermejo is a freelance journalist based in Boracay Island, Aklan, Philippines. She is a 2017 Southeast Asia Fellow for Climate Tracker, a global network of climate journalists.  

#WalangPasok: Classes in Cagayan suspended due to floods


FLOODING IN CAGAYAN. Cagayan in Northern Luzon experiences continuous heavy downpour prompting the provincial government to suspend classes on November 7. Photo courtesy of Cagayan PIO Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines - There will be no classes at all levels including graduate, medical, and law schools in Cagayan province on Tuesday, November 7, due to continuous flooding.

In a Facebook post, Cagayan Public Information Office announced the cancellation of classes at 5 pm on Monday, November 6.


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Ealier on Monday, troops of the 17th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army - Alcala Base and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) prepared the relief goods to be distributed to families affected by the flooding. 


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Cloudy skies with isolated light rainshowers due to the northeastern monsoon is expected in Tuguegarao City and the rest North Luzon on Tuesday, but classes will still be suspensed until further notice, local authorities said.

State weather bureau Pagasa issued a bulletin alerting all residents in low-lying areas adjacent to or near Cagayan River to take all precautionary measures for possible landslide and flash floods. - Rappler.com

Techie aid workers to share lessons from Yolanda


MANILA, Philippines – It's been 4 years since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the country.

In remembering the disaster, a book that honors Filipino aid workers who pioneered technological innovations in disaster response will be launched on November 9, Thursday, at the De La Salle University by the British Council-funded Newton Tech4Dev Network. (READ: 4 years after Yolanda, trauma still haunts typhoon victims)

The book, which is entitled "The Filipino Aid Workers of Typhoon Yolanda: A Commemorative Feature," narrates the struggles and opportunities faced by 8 Filipino aid workers working for global humanitarian agencies.

It includes narratives and interviews from the research project on local aid workers led by Dr Jonathan Corpus Ong of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, photography by renowned photojournalist Geric Cruz, and design by National Book Award winner Karl Castro.

Humanitarian response for Yolanda is unique, according to Ong's research, as it gave unprecedented attention to communication and information needs in disaster-stricken areas.  (READ: TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan))

It found that local aid workers who are fluent in local culture and language became crucial agents in humanitarian agencies as they gave voice to the needs of their communities. (READ: 5 lessons from Yolanda women survivors)

Despite the important roles of local aid workers, Ong's research also noted that they often experience marginalization within global aid agencies being employed in short-term contracts to pilot projects by expat bosses.

While they sometimes felt as "second class citizens" within the agency, they nevertheless persisted to diligently serve communities with great compassion and courage.

"We wanted the book to record the voices of local aid workers who are often the unsung heroes within their organizations. We hope their stories can inspire the humanitarian sector to better support local workers and address power inequalities in organizations," Ong said.

"Our aim is that local aid workers who are actually embedded in communities are encouraged to author and lead projects from the local perspective," he added.

The book features the stories of aid workers who piloted hazard mapping technologies and community feedback mechanisms:

  • Angelo Melencio (Plan International Philippines)
  • John Vergel Briones (previously worked for International Organization for Migration or IOM)
  • Jerby Santo (previously worked for IOM)
  • Aivon Guanco (World Vision Philippines)
  • Arnold Salvador (World Vision Philippines)
  • Janeen Kim Cayetano (Catholic Relief Services)
  • David Garcia (previously worked for United Nations Habitat)
  • Mikko Tamura (Red Cross)

The book will be launched following a roundtable discussion hosted by Dr Nicole Curato of the University of Canberra and Voltaire Tupaz of MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm.

Curato is an experienced disasters researcher and political sociologist, and a researcher of the Newton Tech4Dev Network. Tupaz, editor for MovePH has covered various disasters including Yolanda and has led the operations of the disaster platform Agos, powered by eBayanihan. 

The book and the research project it is based on will be available as a free download on the Newton Tech4Dev Network website by Thursday.– Rappler.com

LRT1 commuter injured after foot got caught in door of moving train


A commuter was seriously injured after his foot got stuck at the door of moving LRT-1 train. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A man suffered serious injuries after his foot got caught in the door of a moving train at the Gil Puyat station of LRT-1, authorities said.

LRT-1 Operations Director Rod Bulario said in an interview with Rappler that at around 5:30 am on Monday, November 6, 48-year-old Julieto Eco's foot got caught in the door of the train as he tried to get on the coach after the warning buzzer sounded off.

Bulario said since it was a first generation train, it did not recognize the passenger's foot as an obstruction to stop and continued to move. He said that doors of first generation trains do not automatically open for objects that are less than 4 inches.

Eco was dragged approximately 50 meters before the train stopped, resulting in serious injuries to the passenger.  According to a GMA News report, the victim sustained multiple injuries on his face and had internal bleeding in the brain, and was rushed to the ICU. 

"We paid all the expenses and we are taking good care of him," Bulario told Rappler in a phone interview. 

Bulario said it was not the first time such an accident happened because some commuters ignore warnings and safety instructions. 

To prevent similar incidents in the future, Bulario said LRT1 management has been replaying announcements to remind commuters of safety signages and measures.

They also reminded the train personnel in the platform and train driver to be more alert and active in reminding the commuters to observe safety precautions.

Bulario said LRT1 is waiting for the government to replace the old first generation trains with newer trains. They expect 120 new trains by 2020. – Rappler.com

DSWD gives P300,000 in aid to families in flood-hit Cagayan Valley


SUBMERGED. Houses in low-lying areas in Tuguegarao are flooded due to the swollen Pinacanauan River. Photo courtesy of Cagayan PIO

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Wednesday, November 8, that it has allocated P327,461 ($6,361.56) worth of assistance to disaster-hit Cagayan Valley.

According to the DSWD, at least 17,447 families or 64,659 individuals have been affected by the massive flooding and landslides that hit the region.

Less than 50 days before Christmas, many residents from the towns of Sta Ana and Peñablanca in Cagayan province saw their houses submerged and washed away, as the northeast monsoon and the tail-end of a cold front triggered heavy rain.

According to Sta Ana disaster management chief Mario Miranda, two people were killed in the town due to landslides.

As of Wednesday, at least 85 families or 425 persons are still staying in two evacuation centers in Cagayan, while 6,371 families or 29,568 persons are taking shelter with relatives or friends.

Last Monday, November 6, troops of the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army - Alcala Base and the Cagayan Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) had prepared relief goods for distribution.

According to the DSWD, the Cagayan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) has already downgraded the province's status from red to blue alert after the weather improved on Tuesday, November 7.

Classes in all levels on Monday and Tuesday had been suspended. – Rappler.com

P1 = $51.47

DBM: Palace approves additional P14.5-B disaster funds for Marawi rehab


REHAB. Budget chief Ben Diokno says about two-thirds of Marawi City can be inhabited again but the remaining third will have to be redesigned into a 'new city'.

MANILA, Philippines – An additional P14.5 billion in disaster funds can be used for rebuilding Marawi City – the ground zero of clashes – in the remaining months of 2017.

Malacañang approved the augmentation of the 2017 National Disaster Risk Reduction Funds (NDRRMF) last October 30, budget chief Benjamin Diokno announced on Wednesday, November 8.

Before funds are released, agencies should submit supporting documents to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). (READ: Marawi rehab tops Duque’s agenda in DOH)

"Agencies are now expected to submit their respective budget execution documents to support the release of such funds, especially for budgetary requirements for Pre-Post Conflict Needs Assessment," said Diokno.

The needs-assessment should include housing, health and social welfare, business and livelihood, peace and order, and information management and stategic communications support.

The budget augmentation will be sourced from the savings of the Department of Public Works and Highways from 2016 to 2017, amounting to P10.3 billion and P14.2 billion, respectively.

Marawi rehab

According to Diokno, around P495 million has already been spent for evacuation and relief of internally displaced persons.

The amount was sourced from the quick response funds of the social welfare, national defense, and health departments.

A total of P3 billion has also been released to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to cover food assistance and hygiene, kitchen, and sleeping kits among others. The funds will also cover DSWD's cash-for-work program, enlisting residents in rehabilitation community work, and operational support.

Some P195 million has also been released to the Department of Public Works and Highways to fund quick response, transitional shelters, and various evacuation centers in Marawi.

Diokno said that about two-thirds of the city can be inhabited again, but the remaining third will have to be redesigned into a "new city".

He noted, however, that expectations need to be managed.

"As far as financing is concerned, there is no problem. But to manage expectations, this will not happen overnight," Diokno said.

In previous statements, the budget chief gave assurances funding is not a concern by the government, but that technical assistance is needed.

The Marawi rehabilitation task force is led by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), with retired army general Eduardo del Rosario as its current head after Vice President Leni Robredo resigned.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi City liberated as the killing of top Marawi seige terrorists – Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group leader Omar Maute – was confirmed by the defense department on October 16. – Rappler.com

These gov't workers will get P40B in yearend bonuses, cash gifts


MANILA, Philippines – All qualified government employees will receive their yearend bonus starting Wednesday, November 15.

"Starting November 15, all qualified government employees will receive yearend bonus tax-free that is equivalent to their one month basic salary and a cash gift of P5,000," said Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Wednesday, November 8.

However, since work has been suspended due to the 31st ASEAN Summit from November 13 to 15, Diokno said employees should expect their bonuses the following day.

"Makakaantay naman. (They can wait)," Diokno said. 

Under Budget Circular Number 2016-4, "qualified" government employees are the following:

  • All positions for civilian personnel whether regular, contractural, or casual
  • Military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Department of National Defense
  • Uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Public Safety College, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Philippine Coast Guard, and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority

Under the 2017 national budget, the budget department has allocated P32.84 billion for the yearend bonuses and P6.93 billion for cash gifts. – Rappler.com

Super Typhoon Yolanda survivors look back 4 years later


DESTRUCTION. Super Typhoon Yolanda left parts of the Visayas in ruins. Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – It's been 4 years since one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded struck the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) left more than 6,000 people dead and caused massive destruction when it battered Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013.

As survivors mark the 4th anniversary of the tragedy, they remember what they went through and how it changed them.

Below are some of their stories.

Gerard Lee, convenience store owner

It was 7 am and we were helplessly stuck on our rooftop because we were surrounded by 8-foot floodwaters. I thought we were going to die so I told my mother to pray the rosary. As soon as we finished praying, two workers of Roger Lo, the owner of RL Appliance Incorporated, came to rescue us.

God works in mysterious ways, and truly, "the family that prays together, stays together."

Four years after Haiyan, we have completely recovered and rebuilt our home, Tacloban City, with the help of people around the world. We became more resilient, practical, and more appreciative of what we have. Each day is another chance to correct our mistakes so always try to be better. Life is short.  

Aaron J.P. Almadro

Aaron JP Almadro, editor-in-chief of 8 Magazine and marketing manager of Nissan/BAIC/Chevrolet Tacloban

The whole experience was hard to forget: the howling winds, the destruction of our house, the torment of thinking if you would survive. But what almost pushed me to the brink was finding my parents dead – my mom on the street with her face covered with a rubber tire interior, and my dad on the floor of their hotel room with blood coming out of his mouth.

There were two phases in my life after Yolanda. In 2014, I was angry, hateful, vengeful, skeptical, selfish, and doubtful. But after I met the Pope and I had a heart attack in 2015, my life took a 180-degree turn. I realized the beauty of life. Now, I'm stronger, fearless, and optimistic. 

Winfred, former overseas Filipino worker

I went around the city on a borrowed mountain bike the day after the typhoon hit. The destruction was everywhere. The streets in some of the hardest-hit areas had numerous bodies left on the side of the road, unclaimed. The feeling of shock and hopelessness was all too pervasive – one only needed to look at the faces of the survivors walking on the road to see this. 

An experience like Yolanda makes you realize a lot of things: the importance of family and friends, the lengths people will go to keep their loved ones safe, the kindness of strangers.

An experience like this will also make you see the ugly side of human nature. However, it can also show you the nobility, compassion, and decency of the human spirit. There were people who chose to stand strong for the community and for the city, people who volunteered, people who chose to help relatives, friends, and even strangers despite their own losses.

I hope that most people can look back and say that despite the tragedy that visited their lives they did something that they can be proud of. If not, then I hope that one learns from the examples shown by those who did.

Maria Angela, businesswoman

My most vivid memory of the typhoon that still reminds me of how catastrophic it was: I was walking from my hotel going to Anibong, near the coastal area that was hit badly, where our building was located. I felt it was the longest walk I had ever taken. My heart was racing with every step I took towards the building. I saw a few corpses on the way. At that time, I didn't know what I would see inside our building. I was fearing for the lives of people who stayed there during the typhoon.

The devastation made an impact on my life that words alone can’t describe. The experience did not just make me resilient and brave, but also awakened a feeling in me that deepened my sense of appreciation of life.

Every day is precious, and because I'm lucky that I survived, I won't take this chance for granted. I'm making the most out of life.

Probably, if you're a Yolanda survivor like me, you could say that you can overcome anything!

DEVASTATION. This is the view from Liezl's window when Yolanda hit her home in Tacloban

Liezl, lawyer and entrepreneur 

I remember enduring the feeling of being inside a giant washing machine for 5 hours and listening to "Still" by Hillsong Worship. I remember seeing people walking like zombies, looking for their lost families after the catastrophe. 

Life on earth is really just temporary and we are just passers-by. No matter how much we cling to life, we will eventually lose it. We should focus on things eternal, which we alone can find in Christ Jesus.

Are you a Yolanda survivor? What did you go through and what lessons did you learn from the tragedy?
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– Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: 4 years on, Yolanda survivors remember their loved ones


NOT FORGOTTEN. Four years since Super Typhoon Yolanda hit her hometown, Priscilla Mia, 73, remembers her daughter and her grandchild who died when a storm surge submerged their house in Tacloban. Photo by Ailene Liporada

MANILA, Philippines –  Four years since Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) barreled through Eastern Visayas, survivors look back and remember their loved ones who perished in the disaster on November 8, 2017.

In 2013, Yolanda was considered as the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall in recent history. (READ: TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

Its unprecedented wrath killed over 6,000 people and left billions of pesos in infrastructure damages.

The super typhoon brought strong winds and whipped up storm surges that battered parts of Eastern Visayas. State weather bureau PAGASA raised Storm Signal No. 4 in some affected areas. (READ: 4 years after Yolanda, trauma still haunts typhoon victims)

Four years on, survivors continue to tell tales of their survival, share the lessons they have learned, and remember those who died. (READ: Aftermath of Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan): What we know)

Below are some of their stories of resilience:

Photos by Jene-Anne Pangue and Ailene Liporada.

HOPE STILL REMAINS. Analyn Pajares, 43, is a resident of Barangay 88 San Jose. She lights a candle for her sibling who has yet to be found since Super Typhoon Yolanda. She has not lost hope that someday, her sibling will come home. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue

WAITING. Priscilla Mia, 73, lost her daughter and her grandchild to Yolanda. She lives with her other grandchildren in a bunkhouse in Costa Brava, San Jose. She feels neglected because her promised permanent house in the north of Tacloban remains unfulfilled. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue   

REMEMBERING. A child lights a candle to remember those who died during the disaster. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue

UNITED. Taclobanons gather in memory of their departed loved ones. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue

NOT FORGOTTEN. Those who died during the devastation of Yolanda would not be forgotten. Photo by Jene-Anne Pangue

– Rappler.com

Netizens ask LTFRB: How can we beat traffic without Angkas?


BEATING TRAFFIC. Angkas riders take to social media their frustration over the recent announcement by the LTFRB that the motorcycle ride-hailing app is considered closed.

MANILA, Philippines – How will we beat Manila traffic without Angkas? What is your alternative?

Furious netizens took to Twitter to criticize Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) after it announced on Thursday, November 9, that Angkas is "considered as closed."

According to the LTFRB, the popular motorcycle ride-hailing service has been operating without a proper permit.  

Recently, LTFRB has been enforcing stricter regulations for transport network vehicle services (TNVS) providers like Grab and Uber. Angkas, however, does not fall under this category.

Angkas has appealed to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to consider revising Department Order 2015-11 and include two-wheeled vehicles under the TNVS category. In a statement, Angkas added that they are open to regulation.

Angkas has been widely used by its passengers as an alternative to the inefficient public transport in Metro Manila and to slip through the city's horrible traffic.

Netizens also appealed to LTFRB that instead of only cracking down on innovative apps like Angkas, they should also provide alternative solutions to commuters. 

Here are some tweets by netizens on the issue:


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/928598608290574336?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Angkas - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>



On a lighter note, netizens did not miss out on how Angkas' chose to poke fun at the issue on Twitter. The motorcycle ride-hailing app posted its statement on social media with the caption, "Oh my god… I’m… Ok, I’m so sorry… I… I told you that I’m so confident… Eto, ahmmmm." This was an obvious reference to Janina San Miguel's popular answer during the Bb. Pilipinas 2008. 


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Ang goodvibes ng angkas twitter account hahahahaha gayahin ko kaya char</p>&mdash; Bernadette (@ftwBERNA) <a href="https://twitter.com/ftwBERNA/status/928595577125847041?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 9, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>



<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="da" dir="ltr">Huhu give Angkas Twitter handler a raise <a href="https://t.co/fcC8vrI8XM">https://t.co/fcC8vrI8XM</a></p>&mdash; Bitch Byers (@jbcabret) <a href="https://twitter.com/jbcabret/status/928587080065728512?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 9, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>



<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Ang funny ng caption pero ibalik nyo na angkas hays <a href="https://t.co/e7FJvJd5HB">https://t.co/e7FJvJd5HB</a></p>&mdash; hannah (@hanaanzano) <a href="https://twitter.com/hanaanzano/status/928582860318969856?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 9, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


While Angkas has received general support from the public, it does not mean that the app-enabled transport service has been operating free from controversies. 

Earlier in July, a tragic crash incident left Angkas rider Alejandor Cajano in comatose. This incident has raised questions about how app-based transportation services are regulated. 

Angkas is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a "software application provide" that uses technology to match its passengers with 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. – Rappler.com

Are you an Angkas rider? What are your thoughts on this issue?  



SCHEDULE: Protest activities during ASEAN Summit 2017


 ASEAN PROTESTS. Militant groups gather to show their opposition to the regional bolc's meeting, emphasizing that it doesn't benefit the Filipino people. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Several militant groups have lined up protest activities to raise policy issues that they believe to be "inappropriate for the country" during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Summit Sunday to Tuesday, November 12 to 14. (IN PHOTOS: PH sends off 60,000 security personnel for ASEAN Summit)

A total of 21 heads of state and government, plus United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, will attend the ASEAN Summit, the head of the summit organizing committee confirmed. (READ: LIST: Important tips for newbies in rallies)

Here are some of the scheduled of protests and activities, starting Saturday, by sectoral groups

Saturday, November 11

  • Anakbayan
    • University of the Philippines activists will hold the International Youth Congress to tackle pressing issues like globalization, war, and fascism. A cultural night follows.
  • Bayan-Mindanao
    • BAYAN-Mindanao delegates composed of Bangsamoro, Lumad and peasants will stage a rally at the US Embassy to protest against US atrocities in their homeland. Assembly will be at Plaza Salamanca, Kalaw by 10 am. They will begin the march to the US Embassy by 11 am.

Sunday, November 12

  • Anakbayan
    • Start of People’s Camp

Monday, November 13

  • Anakbayan
    • People’s March
  • Laban ng Masa
    • March from the University of Santo Tomas to Philippine International Convention Center from 8-9 am

We shall continually update the schedule. Please bookmark this page.  Rappler.com


'P15-B ASEAN summit budget should have gone to the poor' – Kadamay


ASEAN BUDGET. Kadamay says the P15-B budget for the ASEAN summit could have benefitted thousands of poor Filipinos. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – An urban poor group on Friday, November 10, questioned the P15.5-billion ($292 million) budget of this year's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings hosted by the Philippine government.

Militant group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) slammed the huge amount that the government has set aside for the regional meeting during a protest rally at the "Homeless Camp" in Mendiola on Friday, November 10.

Kadamay is among the many groups that staged a series of protests ahead of the gathering of  ASEAN leaders and their dialogue partners, as well as the region's senior offcials, for the 31st ASEAN summit in the country.

‘Overkill preparations’

The government has put aside an estimated budget of P15 billion ($321.92 million) budget for the country's hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. According to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, a bulk of the budget will go to car rentals for visiting dignitaries.

Kadamay described the country’s preparation for the ASEAN Summit as an “overkill,” adding that taxpayers' money could have been used for poor Filipino families, like those whose homes have been demolished at the East Bank Road in Floodway, Pasig City, and who are now camping out at the Homeless Camp in Mendiola.

"We highly condemn this outmost display of insensitivity and impracticality from our government. President Duterte is clearly impressing Trump and other ASEAN leaders by spending lavishly while not giving enough services and support to his own people," Kadamay spokesperson Cecil Cali said.

Instead of spending the huge amount for the ASEAN preparations, Cali said that the budget could have improved basic social services for the poor.

BASIC SOCIAL SERVICES. According to Kadamay, the P15.5 billion budget for the ASEAN summit could fund the creating of 34,444 low-cost housing or send 55,357 high school students and 77,5000 college students to school. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Education and housing

According to Kadamay, the P15-billion budget for ASEAN could have been used to for the following:

  • Provide average low-cost housing to 34,444 beneficiaries
  • Provide free secondary education over 6 years to 55,357 high school students
  • Fund free tertiary education for 4 years to 77,500 Filipino college students

Independent think-tank IBON foundation said in a study that an average low-cost housing unit  costs P450,000.

Kadamay computed the number of potential high school beneficiaries from the ASEAN summit budget, based on its estimated that every public high school student, from Grades 7 to 10, spends at least P30,000 every year. Junior and senior high school students need P160,000 annually to continue their education.

On the same day, youth groups like Anakbayan marched to the US embassy to protest the scheduled arrival of US President Donald Trump for the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings.

The Philippine government deployed around 60,000 security personnel for the international event. 

Here are some photos from the ASEAN Summit-related protests on Friday:

ASEAN PROTESTS. On November 10, 2017, militant groups stage a series of protests ahead of the ASEAN Summit.

NO TO US. Militant groups burn a US flag as a sign of protest against the scheduled visit of US President Donald Trump to the country. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

NOT WELCOME. Ahead of the gathering of world leaders in Metro Manila for the ASEAN summit, militant groups stage a series of protests on November 10, 2017. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

– Rappler.com 

*$ = P51.17 

U.S. to fund PH war on drugs anew – rights group


BAN TRUMP. Demonstrators staged a rally against the arrival of US President Donald Trump. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) government will still fund the administration's campaign against illegal drugs that has claimed thousands of lives, a human rights group said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights slammed the Trump administration for "funding" President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs despite reports of human rights violations.

According to Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay, the US gave the Philippines $9 million for the war on drugs and $47.5 million as military aid for 2017, citing US Congress budget documents.

"Next year, the US is allocating $111 million as military assistance to the country, primarily for the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, while $7 million will be given to the anti-illegal drug campaign," Palabay said.

According to the 2018 US Congressional budget document, $46 million in assistance will go to combatting extremism in the country, while some $5.5 million has been allocated for anti-terorrism support.

The document also lists some $5.3 million that will be used for the narcotics control support of the US government for the Philippine justice sector which may be used by the Philippine National Police to "improve respect for human rights."

Karapatan said that the US government condemns Duterte's anti-illegal drugs campaign only when convenient.

"It (US government) hypocritically denies and condemns whenever convenient. The Duterte-Trump meeting is sure to be a spectacle, a meeting of liars and fascists who are hastening the human rights winter in the world," said Palabay.

US President Donald Trump is set to attend the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit. However, Trump and Duterte were expected to first meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam.


According to her, the US is engaging in "doubletalk" by "condemning" Duterte's war on drugs but at the same time funding it.

"The US engages in doubletalk when it throws criticisms on Duterte's human rights record, when all this time it has been funding Duterte's drug war and the Philippine military’s all-out-war in the country," she added. (READ: In the PH drug war, it's likely EJK when...)

US lawmakers Randy Hultgren and James McGovern urged Trump to highlight the human rights situation in the Philippines in his upcoming meeting with Duterte. (READ: Two U.S. lawmakers slam Duterte in drug war hearing)

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, however, that the war on drugs issue won't be a contentious point between the two presidents. Trump wished Duterte success in his campaign against drugs last December.

On Tuesday, November 8, Duterte said that if Trump or any other leader brings up the country's human rights record during the APEC Summit, he will tell them not to interfere with the Philippines' domestic issues.

"Once again, the world is set to witness an illusion of luxury and affluence, where heads of states dine and talk about plundering more resources from poor countries, pressing down already-low wages, promoting globalization and economic integration at the expense of local economies, and bombing countries for the ushering of 'democracy' – all while Filipinos continue to be mired [in] poverty as a direct result of US neoliberal policies. The stench of hypocrisy is revolting," Palabay said.

Data from the Philippine National Police (PNP) show that as of July 26, 3,451 suspected drug personalities had been killed in legitimate operations. (IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs'

The Commission on Human Rights believes, however, that killings have exceeded the number the government suggests. – Rappler.com

ASEAN civil society groups to highlight human rights issues in region


CIVIL SOCIETY. ASEAN civil society groups promise to highlight human rights during the parallel gathering at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference on November 11 to November 14. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Will leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states tackle human rights during the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila? (READ: The deafening silence of ASEAN on human rights violations)

While it is not yet clear whether ASEAN leaders will stay mum on the pressing issue of human rights in the region, civil society groups promised they won’t.

Hundreds of civil society groups from Southeast Asia vowed to highlight the topic of human rights during the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ASCS) to be held simultaneously with the regional summit, or from Monday to Wednesday, November 13 to 15.

To be held at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, the conference aims to traverse the landscape of challenges within the ASEAN region. To jumpstart the parallel activities, the ASCS held a press conference in Quezon City on Friday, November 10.

“ASEAN is not a safe place for human rights activists and defenders, journalists, and people who have been progressive and modernizing ideas,”Jelen Paclarin, chairperson of the ACSC steering committee, said as she read the network’s statement.

Human rights in ASEAN

The 2016 Bersih 5 protest rally in Malaysia clamped down on several human rights activists, Rohingya Muslims are subjected to systematic attacks in Myanmar that have forced more than 600,000 to the borders, LGBTIQ activists in Indonesia have been subject to a wave of attacks, and a government crackdown has suppressed opposition and a free press in Cambodia.

In the country's own backyard, the Philippine government, the host of this year's ASEAN summit, has waged a war against drugs, leaving over 13,000 suspected drug personalities killed in the process.

Civil society groups agreed that such incidents should not happen.

"Violence against human rights defenders in Indonesia and other ASEAN member-states, should not be allowed. They should not be harassed or persecuted under this rule of law principles," said Jane Tedjaseputra, who represented a civil society group in Indonesia.

In a previous interview with Rappler, Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy director for Asia Phelim Kine said that the association has fallen short in ensuring that the countries follow benchmarks when it comes to protecting the rights of their citizens.

In its statement, ASCS said "indeed, change must happen" but it should be transformative change.

"This change must transform the existing systemic inequalities and injustices towards a socially-responsive and rights-based ASEAN,” it said.

Non-interference clause

During the press conference, civil society groups also called on the dropping of the “non-interference” principle within the context of human rights in ASEAN.

Kine agreed with this, adding that the “silence” of ASEAN member-states on human rights is rooted in the principle adopted under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) of 1976.

While it may look like such principles in the ASEAN Charter are meant to protect the independence of each member-state, that is not case with the non-interference clause, according to the civil society groups.

“The states are using the non-interference to their advantage. This is the reason why we need to drop it, within the context of human rights perspective,” said Joyce Godio of the Asian Indigenous Peoples' Pact.

How would dropping the region's fight for human rights benefit from dropping the non-interference principle in the ASEAN Charter?

Paclarin said it will be difficult for a regional human rights mechanism to come in if the non-interference principle will remain as part of the ASEAN Charter.

“The dropping of the non-interference must also be in connection with the review of the ASEAN Charter itself. Our government has been using the principle as an excuse not to respond to various human rights violations particularly, for example, in the extra-judicial killings in the Philippines,” Paclarin added.

By the end of the ACSC gathering, civil society groups are expected to come up with a joint statement and recommendation for ASEAN leaders regarding the pressing issues faced by the region. – Rappler.com

PH environmental group to Trump: 'Take a second look at climate change'


MANILA, Philippines – A local environmental group has called on US President Donald Trump to take a second at global warming and climate change, as the world leader visits the Philippines to attend the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings.

Michael Aragon, chairman of Clean Air Philippines Movement, Incorporated, made the call at the launch of the joint CAPMI-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Clean Air Patrol program at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) main office in Quezon City on Friday, November 10.

In explaining the importance of the issues of global warming and climate change, especially in the case of a vulnerable country like the Philippines, Aragon cited the massive devastation inflicted by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that killed over 6,000 Filipinos in November 2013. 

"Because of the continuing threat to Filipino life and limb, we are urgently appealing to US President Donald Trump, to take a second look at the issue of global warming and climate change," he said.

Trump is due to arrive in Manila on Sunday, November 12, for the ASEAN meetings.

Seizing the opportunity, to raise the concern while the US leader is in town, the CAPMI chief told Trump, “Mr President, we do not intend to debate on your personal views on climate change but we seek your compassionate heart for you to see the clear and present danger that continuously threatens all Filipinos due to global warming and climate change."

"The policies and decisions of the leader of the most powerful country in the world also affect us here in the Philippines," he added.

In June 2017, Trump ordered the withdrawal of the US – the world's second biggest carbon emitter – from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, saying that he will not support a deal that "punishes" his country. (READ: Trump pulls U.S. out of global climate change accord)

Several world leaders and environmental advocates who worked hard on realizing the 2015 climate deal tagged the US' withdrawal as a "tragedy."

Despite the US' insistence that it will not return to the negotiating table, CAMPI still saw the Philippine hosting of the ASEAN Summit as an opportunity to repeat the appeal made by the Philippines' Climate Change Commission (CCC) to the US.

"Although not a major contributor to the overall global footprint of the world, the Philippines’ minor contribution to the total global carbon footprint is only 0.3% or less than 1% vis-à-vis the major carbon footprint contributions of the first world countries yet when fatal disasters strike due to global warming and climate change it is the Filipinos who suffers most," Aragon said.

The Philippines' vulnerability to climate change is backed up by several studies conducted by the German Watch organization and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).  – Rappler.com

Farmers urge ASEAN members to adopt UN Declaration on peasant rights


PEASANT RIGHTS. Dubbed as “Salubong and Pakikiisa” (Solidarity Walk), the marchers belonging to the international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, joined more than 300 hundred 
representatives from ASEAN civil society, peoples’ organizations, and NGOs gathered at the Commission on Human Rights. Photo from La Via Campesina

MANILA,Philippines – Farmer groups from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand  on Saturday, November 11, urged Southeast Asian governments to protect peasant rights.

Led by international movement La Via Campesina, around 40 small and landless farmers from the 3 countries, joined by civil society groups, marched to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Saturday.

The group urged Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-countries, whose leaders will meet in Manila for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings, to protect and promote the right to land and access to justice of farmers and peasants in the region.

"Peasants' rights must be secured to ensure that there can be food on every person’s table. We owe it all to the food producers of Southeast Asia to protect their rights," said Elvira Baladlad of Paragos-Pilipinas, a member of La Via Campesina.

The group also noted that the ASEAN Economic Community that aims  to establish a single market for the region through free trade agreements and large-scale investments have had a negative impact on small farmers and food producers. (READ: Balancing profit with inclusivity key to keeping ASEAN together)

"Land grabbing and land use conversions have become normal phenomena in the countryside. We are losing our lands because of mining, special economic zones, tourism, and real estate. Our rights are continuously and systematically violated," said Mohammed Ikhwan of Serikat Petani Indonesia.

La Via Campesina called on ASEAN leaders to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in the Rural Areas.

The declaration recognizes peasants' rights as human rights, which is yet to be adopted in the domestic laws of individual ASEAN countries.

"The lack of adequate policies is a major stumbling block in achieving food security and sovereignty. It is high time that ASEAN governments hear our voices and demands," said Baladlad.

study by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) revealed that 70% of the food people consume globally comes from small farmers.

The average age of farmers in the Philippines is 57 years old, which raises the alarm over the possible future gap in human resource requirements needed for agriculture. (READ: Wanted: Younger farmers in PH)

The march came before the arrival of ASEAN leaders and other world leader for the ASEAN meetings to be attended by the 10 leaders of the ASEAN member-states and their dialogue partners. (READ: PH to mark end of ASEAN chairmanship with summit, grand celebration)– Rappler.com

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