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Philippines: Bangsamoro peace process continues despite non-passage of BBL—Ferrer

3 February 2016 - 8:12pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Patricia Ruth Cailao

QUEZON CTY, Feb. 4 -- Government of the Philippines Chief Negotiator Mirriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the Bangsamoro peace process will continue even though the 16th Congress closed sessions Wednesday (3 Feb) without passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The collective inaction of our legislators to complete the deliberation on the BBL did not, and will not, stop the momentum of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Ferrer said in a statement on Wednesday. “At this low point, we call for sobriety and perseverance.”

Ferrer said the Comprehensive Agreement of the Bangsamoro (CAB) from which the proposed BBL was created, “remains a signed document that binds the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to their respective obligations in order to seal the peace…”

Ferrer said the CAB reflects the “diverse interests” of stakeholders concerned in the creation of a Bangsamoro region and promotes social justice through equal distribution of wealth in Muslim Mindanao.

She added that CAB also provides mechanisms for the transformation of conflict-affected areas to safe communities, decommissioning of MILF weapons, and remove biases that allowed the huge gap of the majority of Filipinos with minority populations.

“It took a long time to get to this set of practical steps,” Ferrer said. We need to take away the fear and distrust of the Bangsamoro for our country to become whole.”

She urged politicians and the public to study the history of conflict in and the peace process of Mindanao to understand the peace efforts the government has undertaken.

“As members of the GPH negotiating panel, we will do everything in the remaining time we have to ensure that the infrastructure for implementing the peace accord are fully functional so that the next administration will be in a good position to carry forward the full implementation of the agreement,” Ferrer said. (PRC-PIA)

World: Journalists And Media Staff Killed 1990 -2015: 25 years of contribution towards Safer Journalism

3 February 2016 - 2:45pm
Source: International Federation of Journalists Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, World, Yemen

AT LEAST 2297 JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA STAFF HAVE BEEN KILLED SINCE 1990 : IFJ REPORT

The International Federation of Journalists today published its 25th report on journalists and media staff killed since 1990. The report lists 2297 media fatalities due to violence in journalism, including 112 killed in 2015 alone. From double digits at the start of these publications, the figures reached three digits in eleven years, peaking to 155 killings of journalists and media staff in 2006, the deadliest year on record, according to the IFJ reports.

“This milestone publication charts the trajectory of safety crisis in journalism and bears witness to the IFJ’s long running campaign to end impunity for violence against media professionals,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “These annual reports were more than just about recording the killings of colleagues. They also represented our tribute for their courage and the ultimate sacrifice paid by journalists in their thousands who lost their lives fulfilling the role to inform and empower the public.”

The IFJ report says that killings span the entire globe where wars and armed conflicts, while accounting for many cases of loss of life in journalism through targeted killings, bomb attacks, cross fire incidents and increasingly violent kidnappings, are not the only justification for the grim numbers.

“There were other reasons, often removed from the war theatre, for targeting journalists, many of whom are victims of organised crime barons and corrupt officials,” Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary who delivers his first annual report on journalists and media staff killed since his appointment last November. “It is a recurring finding of our reports that there are many more killed in peace time situations than in war-stricken countries.”

This finding is reflected in the ten top spots of the most dangerous countries in the report which feature places which suffered war violence, the breakdown of law and order as well as crime and corruption. These are Iraq (309), the Philippines (146), Mexico (120), Pakistan (115), Russian Federation (109), Algeria (106), India (95), Somalia (75), Syria (67) and Brazil (62). Last year, France (10) shared with Iraq (10) and Yemen (10) the top position on the list of countries with the highest number of killings, following the massacre of journalists and media personnel by the terrorists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Asia Pacific region recorded the highest death toll of 571, followed by the Arab World and Middle East with 473 killings, one more that the Americas (472) . Africa comes in the fourth position on 424 victims ahead of Europe with 357 dead.

In 2015, the Americas had the most fatalities (27), followed by the Middle East (25).

The other finding which is borne out of the report is the scant consideration to the levels of violence against journalists around the world, with just one of ten killings being investigated. The IFJ says that the lack of action to eradicate the impunity for killings and other attacks on media professionals continues to fuel violence targeting them.

The report also provides details on the campaign waged on many fronts over the years by the IFJ and its affiliates to make journalism safer. They include the initiatives by the Federation such as the creation of the International Safety Fund to provide assistance to journalists in need and the setting up of the solidarity centres in Algeria, Colombia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to monitor crisis situations and distribute assistance. There were also practical tools to provide advice to journalists on dangerous assignments such as the adoption of the international code of conduct for the safe practice of journalism and the publication of Live News, a survival guide for journalists covering war zones.

Furthermore, the Federation took a leading role in building coalitions within the press freedom community and media industry to protect journalists through the creation of organisations such as IFEX and INSI. The IFJ also developed partnership with inter-governmental organisations, including UNESCO on the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, the Council of Europe on its Online Platform for the promotion of journalism and the safety of journalists. It has worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross to facilitate journalists’ access to its Hotline in case of need for emergency assistance.

The IFJ stresses that these reports served the purpose of raising the alarm against violence in media and of promoting the protection for journalists and the importance of mitigating risks to their safety and security. The report says that this is a shared responsibility, including the role of journalists and their employers to educate themselves in risk assessment, avoid reckless assignments and take all necessary precautions while working in dangerous environments.

But, in the word of M. Bellanger “This starts with the understanding that everyone, governments’ officials, security and military officers as well as others who come into contact with journalists need to respect their independence. It requires governments to comply with their international obligations by investigating journalists’ killings and bringing those responsible to justice, thus deterring future violence. It depends on the willingness of the United Nations and its agencies, as the custodians of international instruments which enshrine the right to physical integrity all human beings, to enforce these guarantees for the benefit of journalists and other media personnel.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries

Philippines: Pintakasi: A review of shelter/Wash delivery methods in post-disaster or recovery interventions

3 February 2016 - 11:32am
Source: Catholic Relief Services Country: Philippines

Catholic Relief Services conducted an in-depth study to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and appropriateness of the modalities for delivering shelter and Wash assistance in its Typhoon Haiyan Recovery Program. This study, Pintakasi hopes to contribute valuable lessons learned and share best practices from the program with the shelter/WASH recovery communities of practice in the humanitarian sector as a whole.

The study focused on the efficiency (time, cost, quantity/scale), effectiveness (quality, beneficiary satisfaction) and appropriateness (vulnerability, dignity) of a cash-based approach to delivering shelter /wash solutions, compared to in-kind/direct-build construction, in the context of recovery after Typhoon Haiyan.

Philippines: Violence fears in Philippines after Muslim peace setback

3 February 2016 - 3:55am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Philippines

Manila, Philippines | AFP | Wednesday 2/3/2016 - 08:45 GMT

Philippine lawmakers failed Wednesday to pass a crucial bill aimed at ending a decades-long Muslim insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, igniting fears of fresh violence.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino, whose six-year term ends in June, had lobbied hard for the passage of the bill, which would have granted the nation's Muslim minority an autonomous southern homeland.

However he was unable to muster enough support in the lower house of Congress to even secure a vote by Wednesday, the final day of parliament before it adjourns ahead of national elections in May.

Failure to pass the bill means it can not be passed under Aquino, who is limited by the constitution to a single term, with no certainty over whether his successor will even pursue a peace deal.

Asked if the failure to pass the bill could spark violence, chief government peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told AFP: "That's the danger, that's why we are taking steps, calling for sobriety."

The nation's largest Muslim rebel group, the 10,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), signed a peace accord with Aquino's government in 2014 to end its struggle for independence, which began in the 1970s.

Under the accord, the rebels would have only given up their arms after the law was passed creating the autonomous homeland and a regional government was elected. The vote was meant to take place alongside the May general election.

After the collapse in 2008 of the last attempt to seal a peace deal with the MILF, hardline rebels raided Christian farming villages, triggering fighting that left more than 400 people dead and 600,000 displaced.

Chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Wednesday the rebel leadership was working hard to avoid a repeat, and vowed to continue working for peace with Aquino's successor.

He told ABS-CBN television there could be a feeling of "repression" within the MILF ranks, but the leadership was countering with "massive engagement".

"We just explain to them that here lies the problem in the peace process. We will never cease engaging in the peace process," he told ABS-CBN television.

Most political analysts say Aquino lost lawmakers' support for the autonomy bill after a police raid in MILF territory last year killed a Malaysian bomb maker on the United States' list of most-wanted "terrorists".

However the raid led to a day of intense fighting with the MILF and other rebels that left 44 police commandos dead.

jfg/kma/psr

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

World: 2015-2016 El Niño: WFP and FAO Overview (as of 2 February 2016)

2 February 2016 - 3:21pm
Source: World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, Food Security Cluster Country: El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Somalia, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, World, Zimbabwe

Globally, millions of vulnerable households are at risk of increased hunger and poverty due to droughts and floods as a result of a climatic occurrence: El Niño. This phenomenon is not an individual weather event but a climatic pattern which occurs every two to seven years and lasts 9-12 months. No two El Niño events are ever the same and it is thought that this particular occurrence could be the most powerful on record. The strongest El Niño in 1997/1998 killed some 21,000 people and caused damage to infrastructure worth US$ 36 billion. According to the World Bank, El Niño is likely to have a negative impact in more isolated local food markets, and many countries are already facing increased food prices. Food Security Cluster partners have implemented preparedness activities and are responding in countries where the effects of El Niño have materialised, such as Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, Malawi and throughout Central America. In Southern Africa, many areas have seen the driest October-December period since at least 1981, and some 14 million people in the region are already facing hunger, which adds to fears of a spike in the numbers of the food insecure later this year through 2017. The global Food Security Cluster is providing support to stakeholders through continuous monitoring and dissemination of relevant data to stakeholders, ensuring that country level coordination mechanisms are well organised and advocating on behalf of affected countries.

World: CrisisWatch No. 150, 1 February 2016

2 February 2016 - 7:09am
Source: International Crisis Group Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, China - Taiwan Province, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Western Sahara, World, Yemen, Zimbabwe

The month saw an intensification of Yemen’s war, amid heightened regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia and Iran complicating prospects for peace. Political tensions increased in Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Moldova, where protests over endemic corruption and a lack of confidence in the government could escalate. In Africa, Boko Haram’s deadly attacks increased in northern Cameroon, and Burkina Faso was hit by an unprecedented terror attack. On the nuclear front, in East Asia, North Korea’s announcement that it had carried out a successful hydrogen bomb test was roundly condemned, while nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were rolled back in accordance with the July 2015 deal.

World: AHA - Annual Disaster Report

1 February 2016 - 11:46pm
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

The Column AHA Centre News Bulletin Volume 13, February 2016

General Conclusion

The year 2015 saw a marked decrease in the number of disasters that occurred in the region. The number of incidents in 2013 and 2014 were 322 and 290 respectively, declining to 114 in 2015. Corollary to this decrease is the decrease in the number of affected people. From 39,820,535 and 17,883,714 in 2013 and 2014, respectively, to 6,514,427 in 2015. Despite the considerable decrease of incidents over the past three years, January still continues to generally be the month when most disasters occur in the region since 2013. Flooding too, remains to be the most disaster causing natural hazard. In 2015, 65% of disaster incidents are accounted for by ooding events.

This decrease in disaster incidents is coincident with the occurrence of one of the top three strongest El Niño events ever recorded in history. It should be noted that scientists have already shown that the number of climate-related disasters like oods, storms, droughts and others that occur either in an El Niño, neutral or La Niña years are statistically not different from one another (Goddard and Dilley 2005).

Nonetheless, El Niño and La Niña are important as their occurrence make hydrometeorologically induced disasters more predictable urging decision makers to take the necessary precautions. Moreover, an El Niño or La Niña may last until to more than a year, affecting rainfall and temperature patterns for far longer, leading to accruing societal impacts.

World: The Column AHA Centre News Bulletin Volume 13, February 2016

1 February 2016 - 11:40pm
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

On this Edition

  • AHA Centre Emergency Response Organisation Exercise
  • Annual Disaster Report
  • INSIGHT
  • Steps for Continuous Improvement in
  • Emergency Operations at AHA Centre

Philippines: Typhoon Haiyan: Portraits of resilience

1 February 2016 - 2:28pm
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization Country: Philippines

When Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) swept through the central **Philippines** on 8 November 2013, the storm affected some 14.1 million people and caused more than USD 700 million in damage to the agriculture sector, severely threatening the country’s food security.

The typhoon’s record intensity destroyed crop fields, orchards, fishing boats and gears—virtually all productive assets that rural and coastal families base their livelihoods upon. With one-third of the country’s population relying on the agriculture sector for their livelihood, it was crucial to get people back on their feet as quickly as possible and assist them in rebuilding their lives.

Supporting government-led efforts

Building more resilient livelihoods was a key focus of FAO’s Typhoon Haiyan Strategic Response Plan. In the immediate aftermath of Haiyan, FAO complemented Government efforts to restore the livelihoods of farmers in time for the imminent planting season, while enhancing local and national capacity to avoid or reduce the adverse effects of future hazards.

During the recovery and rehabilitation process, FAO worked closely with the Philippines Department of Agriculture and related government agencies at all levels, as well as local governments units, in addressing priorities identified in the Government’s Damage and Loss Assessment and Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda Plan.

FAO’s overall Haiyan response

FAO’s overall **Typhoon Haiyan** response comprised 22 projects benefitting more than 230 000 households (some 1.1 million people) of the most vulnerable agricultural and fisheries communities. Thanks to donor support of nearly USD 40 million, FAO provided assistance in four critical areas of intervention:

  • rice and corn farming;
  • coconut-based farming systems;
  • fisheries and coastal communities; and
  • coastal/mangrove forest rehabilitation (this cross-cutting component was integrated in various coconut-based farming systems and fisheries projects).

FAO placed Accountability to Affected Populations at the core of its emergency and rehabilitation programme cycle. In line with this, the views of communities were taken into account, so that both the process and what was being delivered addressed their needs, especially for the most vulnerable.

Two years after the typhoon ravaged coastal and farmland communities, the people who survived the storm—the farmers and fishers—are well on the road to recovery. This book is a tribute to their **resilience** and our work together to build back better their agricultural livelihoods after suffering such devastating losses.

World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 30 - January 2016

1 February 2016 - 1:08pm
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, World, Yemen, Zambia

This bulletin examines trends in staple food and fuel prices, the cost of the basic food basket and consumer price indices for 69 countries in the fourth quarter of 2015 (October to December). The maps on pages 6–7 disaggregate the impact analysis to sub-national level.

Global Highlights

• During Q4-2015, FAO’s global cereal price index fell by a further 15.2 percent year-on-year because of abundant supplies and sluggish demand. The index returned to the level seen before the food price crisis of 2007-08.

• The real price of wheat dropped by eight percent over the last quarter. It fell by more than 25 percent compared with Q4-2014 mainly because of world record production and higher ending stocks.

• The real price of maize remained constant compared with Q3-2015. Despite lower than expected production forecasts for 2015/16, global supplies were comfortable amid above-average closing stocks.

• During Q4-2015, the real price of rice decreased by two percent. As in Q3, prices were 15 percent below 2014 levels. However, global rice supplies may tighten in 2015/16.

• In Q4-2015, the real price of crude oil dropped a further 12 percent compared with Q3-2015 and reached its lowest level in the past eleven years.

• The cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) during Q4-2015 in nine countries: Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Turkey. High increases (5–10%) were seen in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Yemen. In the other monitored countries, the change was low or moderate (<5%).

• Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), were evident in 19 countries, particularly in Ghana, Haiti, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Syria (see the map below).3 These spikes indicate crisis levels for the two most important staples in each country, including beans, cassava meal, maize, millet, potatoes, rice, wheat, sorghum and sugar.

Philippines: P4.8-M evacuation, crisis center soon to rise in Negros Oriental

1 February 2016 - 7:57am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

In an effort to strengthen assistance for women victims of violence and families affected by disasters, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has partnered with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the local government unit of Amlan in Negros Oriental for the construction of a women’s crisis center cum evacuation center in the town.

The construction of the two-storey building will entail the amount of P4,842,950.58 coming from the combined resources of the DSWD which allotted P2 million through its Bottom-up Budgeting (BuB) process, DILG, and the LGU of Amlan.

BuB aims to ensure that funding requirements for the development needs of municipalities and cities are included in agency budget proposals. It promotes inclusive participation in community development by empowering civil society organizations (CSOs) to be engaged in the budgeting process.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman and Amlan Mayor Bentham de la Cruz led the recently-held groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.

“We are happy with this new development for Amlan as this will help us strengthen our campaign to end violence against women and children (VAWC) and reduce the risks during disasters,” Sec. Soliman said.

For his part, Mayor de la Cruz said that the soon-to-be constructed facility is the realization of a dream to have a center that will cater to victims of violence from the town.

The facility is expected to be completed by middle of this year.

Indonesia: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (26 January - 1 February 2016)

1 February 2016 - 3:50am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Myanmar, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands

INDONESIA

Between 28 and 31 Jan, flooding was reported in both Sumatra and Java. Approximately 2,600 houses were inundated for days and at least six bridges connecting villages in Aceh were damaged. This is in addition to the 4,900 houses that were inundated the previous week and where water has now receded.
Local authorities reported no casualties and provided basic relief assistance.

2,600 houses inundadated

On 28 Jan, the Head of the East Flores District Government, East Nusa Tenggara Province reported severe drought as a result of prevailing El Niño conditions. Around 96% of the 250 villages in the district have experienced harvest failure. The East Flores Government confirmed the current drought conditions are comparable to the severe drought experienced in 1997. Local authorities have provided some water pumps as well as water trucking, focusing on water for community consumption.

240 villages with harvest failure

MICRONESIA

Forecasters are warning that El Niño drought conditions are developing across Micronesia affecting parts of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the northern Marshall Islands. In the Marshall Islands, assessment teams are being dispatched to the outer islands to verify reports and identify needs. In the Federated States of Micronesia, authorities are attempting to verify reports from Yap and Chuuk States suggesting water shortages are being experienced.

SOLOMON ISLANDS

Investigations are underway into 17 deaths which could possibly be related to a recent rotavirus outbreak which now appears to be passing its peak. 3,660 cases of diarrhoeal disease have been identified in the Solomon Islands since the start of November, however the number of new cases being detected has decreased in recent weeks. The country’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services has been working to curb the spread of the virus with support from partners including WHO,
UNICEF and the Red Cross.

3,660 cases of diarrhoeal dissease

PHILIPPINES

The agricultural losses in Zamboanga City attributed to El Niño rose to almost US$272,000 affecting over 700 farmers and 14,900 metric tons of crops including rice, corn and assorted vegetables. Out of over 700 hectares of agricultural land affected, some 650 hectares have no chance of recovery.
Cloud seeding operations to mitigate the effects of the persisting dry spell will commence in February with support from the country's weather bureau.

700 farmers affected

PRECIPITATION FORECAST

Drier than normal conditions are likely to ease over much of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. However less than average rainfall is very likely for the Philippines, Micronesia, and mainland SE Asia, which even during normal conditions, receives very little rainfall this time of year. Dry conditions are also predicted for Sri Lanka.

Philippines: Persistent humanitarian aid to the typhoon victims in Philippines

1 February 2016 - 1:26am
Source: Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Country: Philippines

In November of last year, Typhoon Koppu hit the Philippines hard, especially in the province of Nueva Ecija. Then Typhoon Melor in December brought yet another wave of disaster and some of the onion seeds Tzu Chi gave were damaged. So, Tzu Chi volunteers mobilized once again to distribute more onion seeds, ahead of the planting season.

After the typhoons, volunteers’ care from Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in Philippines never stopped. They not only brought along rice and supplies, but also hope to the farmers. And the first batch of seeds distributed, having endured the typhoon, also sprouted.

This time, a total of 282 families have received supplies and the locals have heard about Tzu Chi's coin bank program. So, they also brought PET bottles with saved coins inside as a sign of love and their most sincere gratitude.

In Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija, most residents are tied to their farmlands to survive. An endless expanse of loam, sandy soil flanks the highway leading to and from the agricultural town at the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Farmers and their livestock toil all day, rain or shine, just to earn enough for their families.

Taking away their farmlands, whether by natural or manmade causes, basically takes away the hand that feeds them. In Bernie Balbido’s case, it’s also the hand that pays for his son’s college.

“I was forced to borrow money when the seeds I planted were washed out,” says Balbido, whose half of his life has been tied to the farm. “With my son in college, I do everything I can to give him good education.” His son currently takes up Customs Administration at Midway Maritime Foundation in Cabanatuan City.

Fortunately, his farmlands in Barangay Calabasa have been cleared of the mud and ready for planting the onion seeds he got from Tzu Chi earlier in the day. Around the time of Tzu Chi’s distribution of onion seeds on January 8, only three hectares of affected farmland in Barangay Calabasa have yet to be cleared and prepped for the onion season.

“Also today, we’ve begun clearing farm lots in Barangay Bagting,” says Gabaldon mayor Rolando Bue. “Hopefully, and I’m praying, by the next week or two, we’ll be able to finish the clearing operation.”

A total of 282 beneficiaries received two 400-gram cans of onion seeds from the foundation. The onions are of the Super Pinoy variety, a hybrid version of the red creole variety that has a larger yield and can withstand more adverse weather conditions. Farmers who have planted and harvested such a variety say that fully-grown onions weigh 10 to 20 grams more than the average red creole. The extra weight matters, considering that onions, like any other produce, are priced by weight.

“We, farmers, are thankful to Tzu Chi Foundation,” says Balbido. “The work put in our farmlands alone is a big help to us. Instead of thinking about buying some seeds, much less food for our families, the foundation came and gave us all sorts of help, especially the onion seeds.”

Costly loans

Life has been tough for the farmers of Gabaldon after Typhoon Nona (Melor) left destruction in its wake. They try to do what they can to clear their lands; but without heavy equipment helping them, it’s impossible to clear them before the onion season ends. Every second their farmlands remain under a layer of mud is every second they grow wearier of looking for alternative sources of income.

Michael Tabago, 39 years old of Barangay Calabasa, places his hopes on the bulldozer rented out by a private consortium to clear his farm lots fast. But it’s a fuel-hungry piece of machinery, with the hourly rent pegged at Php3,200. Hiring its services for three hours alone has cost him and his fellow farmers dearly. They have to borrow money just to afford its services, but by doing so presents another problem: paying 10 percent in interest.

“We were forced to borrow money,” says Tabago. “It’s a good thing there are still some who allow us to borrow. But it’s hard on us because of the 10 percent interest. For Php10,000 we borrow, we have to pay Php1,000 in interest every month.”

In the end, their loans can do little to even cover other things for farming or other uses, while their carabaos can only get them so far.

“If the bulldozer is unavailable, what we do in our barangay is we gather our carabaos and help each other in working on our farm lots,” Tabago adds. “We eat and drink a little in the afternoon just so we can finish tilling the lands.”

Others like Aurora Dimayas, who represented her husband during the distribution, aren’t as lucky. The 76-year-old is one of 16 beneficiaries that were either absent from the distribution or waived their share of onion seeds. Getting seeds is pointless if the recipient doesn’t have any land to plant them on.

“Our problem right now is that we’re unable to pass through the road leading to our farm lots,” says Dimayas. “The water needs to be drained from our lands. Even my brothers-in-law living near us have the same problem.”

Mayor Bue hopes for more seeds of goodness in the coming weeks. He feels the pain of seeing the farmlands that built Gabaldon from the ground up is currently in utter ruins.

“Perhaps the phrase “Thank you” might not be enough, but this is the only way we can express our gratitude to Tzu Chi Foundation for their continued help for the town of Gabaldon, namely in Barangay Bagting and Barangay Calabasa,” says Bue.

As a final note, the humble mayor also asks Gabaldon’s farmers to take this time to “appreciate the opportunities” Tzu Chi gave them.

“I mentioned in my earlier message to the farmers that these onion seeds should be planted, not put away in the closet or cabinet and, much to my fear, be sold to other farmers,” he says. “I strongly urge them not to do these things and instead, appreciate the aid and strive to recover because if not, efforts made by groups like Tzu Chi Foundation would go to waste.”

Tzu Chi volunteers are set to convene in the coming days to plan for the future of the farming town.

Philippines: Philippines: Aquino’s Doubtful Legacy on Rights

31 January 2016 - 3:56pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Philippines

No Real Progress on Justice for Serious Abuses

(New York) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s six-year term in office will end in mid-2016 without achieving his promised goal to significantly improve human rights in the country, Human Rights Watch said today in its _World Report 2016_. There has been little accountability for the killings of indigenous leaders, activists, and journalists, and other serious abuses during his administration.

In the 659-page _World Report 2016_, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive DirectorKenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.

“Since his election, President Aquino held out the promise of a rights-respecting Philippines for which he has sadly been unable to deliver,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. “While the number of serious violations has declined during Aquino’s administration, ongoing killings of prominent activists and the lack of successful prosecutions mean there’s nothing to prevent an upsurge of abuses in the future.”

In the first eight months of 2015, Philippine military and paramilitary groups allegedly killed more than a dozen tribal leaders and tribal community members, local rights groups reported. Military operations in areas in Mindanao, heavily populated by indigenous peoples, contributed to the displacement of 243,000 since January, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). Many of those displaced faced inadequate food, shelter, and health care.

Nine journalists were killed in 2015 – three of them over 10 days in August. Only one suspect was reported arrested in these attacks. Killings of alleged petty criminals, drug dealers, and others by “death squads” or contract killers in several cities continued unabated. In some cases, the killings were publicly encouraged by local officials such as presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Children throughout the Philippines face a wide range of human rights abuses. As a September 2015 Human Rights Watch report documented, in small-scale gold mining, children are exposed to extremely hazardous work conditions, working deep underground, diving underwater to dig for gold, and processing ore with toxic mercury.

Armed conflict prevented children in a number of areas from attending school, and paramilitaries raided several schools, killing a school administrator in August. In Manila in November, authorities detained hundreds of poor and homeless, among them many children, to clear the capital of street dwellers during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, a practice previously used during high-profile events.

“While Aquino’s presidency has had a mixed record on rights issues, ultimately he has failed to make the institutional reforms to ensure a lasting positive human rights legacy,” Kine said. “The Philippines’ next president must be prepared to tackle deep-seated impunity for abuses by state security forces and the corrupt and politicized criminal justice system.” 

Philippines: Gov’t. provides assistance to former rebels

31 January 2016 - 1:14pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

ROXAS CITY, Capiz, Feb. 1 (PIA) – The government has released P1.3-million livelihood assistance to 20 former rebels in Capiz last year.

Under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), the 20 former rebels here have already started their lives anew after they ended their arm struggle and decided to go back to the fold of the law and embrace a new life.

Of the 20 rebels of whom 14 are male and six are female, 16 former rebels are from Tapaz, three from Jamindan and one from Maayon town.

In December last year, 12 former rebels each received a P65,000 livelihood assistance under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) which is spearheaded by the DILG as part of the government's peace and development efforts across the country.

The assistance aims to aid the former rebels in their transition back to mainstream society.

Capiz Governor Victor Tanco with representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and DILG handed over the said check.

In April, eight former rebels also each received the same assistance from the government.

The CLIP implementation is in partnership with the local government units, AFP, Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development and civil society organizations that demonstrates the Aquino administration's commitment to pursuing peace and development amid the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (JCM/JBG/PIA6)

Philippines: Philippine leader says Muslim peace bid to continue after his term

31 January 2016 - 1:58am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Philippines

Manila, Philippines | AFP | Sunday 1/31/2016 - 06:45 GMT

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered special efforts to ensure a peace agreement with Muslim rebels is implemented even after his term ends this year, his spokesman said Sunday.

Congressional leaders have said they are unlikely to pass the peace bill before the president's term ends in June.

Aquino had ordered "consultation and meetings with the stakeholders as well as meaningful action so we can continue the peace process", his spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters.

Aquino had hoped to pass the bill to seal a peace accord with the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But opposition from some legislators had delayed its passage despite his lobbying.

Aquino's chief peace negotiator Teresita Deles had told him that her office would be meeting concerned parties especially the MILF to firm up the mechanisms and the transition for when the peace deal is implemented, Coloma said.

"We need to do all that is possible to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement... beyond this administration," he quoted Deles as saying.

The draft law is aimed at ending a Muslim separatist revolt in the main southern island of Mindanao that has claimed over 100,000 lives since the 1970s.

The law would create an autonomous area and grant a measure of self-rule to the Muslim minority in the south of the largely Christian nation.

Aquino wanted it passed this year but the timetable was set back severely following public outrage over the death of 44 police commandos in an encounter with Muslim separatist guerrillas last year.

Adding to the time pressure is parliament's scheduled adjournment in February before the campaign for presidential and other elections in May.

str-mm/sm

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

Philippines: El Nino damage in Kidapawan City exceeds Php30M

30 January 2016 - 12:52am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Jan. 29 (PIA) — The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) here has proposed placing Kidapawan City under state of calamity due to the continuing dry spell brought about by the El Nino phenomenon.

This following report of the City Agriculture Office that based on their January 16-26 damage assessment, crop damage has already exceeded Php30 million.

At the meeting of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Thursday, the City Agriculture Office reported that the dry spell has affected at least 266 hectares of rice, corn, banana, vegetable and high value crops involving over 500 farmers.

Mayor Joseph Evangelista, who is also the chairperson of the CDRRMC, said he will submit the resolution to the Sangguniang Panlugsod for its immediate action.

Once state of calamity is declared here, the local government unit could appropriate a portion of the Quick Response Fund for initiatives that could extend assistance to affected residents.

While waiting for the response of the SP on the matter, Mayor Evangelista has directed the City LGU to coordinate with the Metro Kidapawan Water District to ensure provision of potable water to communities that may experience inadequate drinking water.

The city LGU will also carry out a Food-for-Work program where workers will be provided rice as payment for their work in the city’s anti-dengue drive in preparation for the onset of the rainy season. (DEDoguiles-PIA 12 with report from Kidapawan City Information Office)

Philippines: Disaster preparedness is part of K-12 program

30 January 2016 - 12:47am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

Leonard T. Pineda

ILOILO CITY, January 30 (PIA) --- The Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Iloilo City said that disaster preparedness has been integrated in the basic education curriculum of the K to 12 program.

Clarissa Zamora, OIC Schools Division Superintendent of Iloilo City Division, underscored the importance of including disaster risk reduction in the school curriculum to boost disaster resiliency in the country.

Zamora, who spoke to student leaders during a symposium on disaster preparedness held Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Diamond Jubilee Hall here, said that it is important for students to develop prudence of what eventuality may take place and also apply skills on disaster preparedness in their daily lives.

According to DepEd, Disaster Readiness and Risk Reduction is a core subject for Senior High School in the K-12 Basic Education Curriculum.

The course will focus on the application of scientific knowledge and the solution of practical problems in a physical environment and is designed to bridge the gap between theoretical science and daily living.

Through this course, students will be able to: explain the meaning of disaster; differentiate the risk factors underlying disasters; describe the effects of disasters on one’s life; explain how and when an event becomes a disaster; identify areas/locations exposed to hazards that may lead to disasters; and analyze disaster from the different perspectives.

Meanwhile, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said that preparing children and students for disasters is one of the priorities of the city government.

He said that students can be tapped to lead in disaster readiness activities and promote greater consciousness about disaster risk reduction in their respective communities. (JCM/LTP/PIA-Iloilo).

Philippines: Flood-control structures to be constructed in S. Leyte

30 January 2016 - 12:45am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MANILA, Jan. 30 -- Based on a report from the DOST’s Project NOAH, it was found out that 15 municipalities in Southern Leyte were susceptible to flooding. The Department of Public Works and Highways put up more than a hundred million pesos to install and repair flood management projects in the area.

In a report from the DPWH in Region 8, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Fund amounting to P126.6 million will be used for the construction and rehabilitation of flood control structures and drainage canals in Southern Leyte, prioritizing those areas previously hit by typhoons and vulnerable to flooding.

The fund will be used to rehabilitate drainage canals and flood control structure projects along major roads of Southern Leyte, particularly along Daang Maharlika, Liloan-San Ricardo Road, Himay-angan-Silago-Abuyog boundary road, Leyte-Maasin-Macrohon-Sogod-Daang Maharlika with allocation of P17.94 million, P35.95 million, P35.79 million and 36.92 million respectively.

The projects were already bid out and civil works will commence soon. (DPWH)

World: El Niño: Overview of Impact and Projected Humanitarian Needs and Response as of 29 January 2016

29 January 2016 - 6:43pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Angola, Argentina, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brazil, Burundi, Colombia, Cook Islands, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Mozambique, New Caledonia (France), Nicaragua, Niue (New Zealand), Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Vanuatu, World, Zimbabwe

60 million PEOPLE WILL BE AFFECTED BY EL NIÑO IN THE FOUR MOST AFFECTED REGIONS

2.8 million PEOPLE REQUIRE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IN GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS

10.2 million PEOPLE IN NEED OF EMERGENCY FOOD IN ETHIOPIA

14 million FOOD INSECURE PEOPLE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA – EXCLUDING SOUTH AFRICA

El Niño status

A strong El Niño persists, but ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific are showing a gradual cooling. Climate models suggest El Niño will decay over the coming months, with a likely return to neutral conditions in the second quarter of 2016. However, recent tropical cyclone activity in the central tropical Pacific has produced strong westerly winds along the equator which may temporarily slow the decline of El Niño. The 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon is one of the three strongest since 1950. The current El Niño has already affected millions of people in countries in Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and Central and South America.

Countries globally continue to feel the effects of El Niño which include below average precipitation during the rainy season, more intense cyclones in the North-Western Pacific and potentially more frequent cyclones in the South Pacific over the coming weeks. Droughts in Southern and Eastern Africa continue to contribute to a declining food security, nutrition and health situation. El Niño’s protracted effects and the possibility of a severe La Niña event mean millions more are at risk of hunger, disease and water shortages in the months ahead.

Although El Niño has started to decline in strength, this does not mean that the danger has passed. The ongoing impact of El Niño and the possibility of a subsequent La Niña may continue to affect different parts of the world, especially health and food insecurity, for as long as two years. In Southern Africa, El Niño has led to severe drought conditions, which is expected to significantly affected the April 2016 harvest and have a devastating impact on food security over the coming 12 months. East Africa, Southern Africa, the Pacific Islands, South East Asia and Central America have the greatest risk of adverse weather affecting their rainy seasons.

La Niña

La Niña is associated with cooler-than-normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean, unlike El Niño, which is associated with warmer- than-normal water temperatures. Global climate La Niña impacts tend to be opposite to those of El Niño. Historical patterns show that a La Niña sometimes follows an El Niño and that it has an even greater overall humanitarian impact on average, as coping capacities are eroded. Neutral and La Niña states are about equally likely for the second half of 2016.

First Quarter Precipitation Overview

AMERICAS
Drought conditions persist in Central America, the Caribbean and parts of South America.
Wetter conditions in southern Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru.

AFRICA
Drought conditions persist in southern Africa.
Extended wet conditions in the southern Horn and eastern equatorial Africa.

ASIA-PACIFIC
Drought conditions persist in the northern and western Pacific, Indonesia and Philippines.
Wetter conditions in eastern China and central Pacific.

WHO releases a Global Overview on El Niño and Health Impacts – 22 January

Severe drought, flooding, heavy rains and temperature rises can lead to food insecurity and malnutrition, disease outbreaks, acute water shortages, and disruption of health services. The health implications are usually more intense in developing countries with fewer capacities to reduce the health consequences. Thus far, requests for financial support by seven high-risk countries (Ethiopia, Lesotho, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda) facing the health costs of El Niño have reached US$76 million. In the Horn of Africa, the devastating drought has been followed by unusually heavy rains causing a high risk of vector-borne disease and communicable disease outbreaks, especially among displaced populations and those with high levels of malnutrition. El Niño caused heavy rains and flooding in eastern Africa which could cause cholera outbreaks in Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to spread, and other countries may experience cholera outbreaks.