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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Departing OFW held at Saudi Airport for carrying copper

 

AN official of Filipino migrants’ rights group, Migrant-Middle East, today firmly reminded fellow OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other Arab states to keep themselves away from risky situations and never give the authorities to find fault to avoid being nabbed or imprisoned.

 

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, issued the advice after a departing OFW was nabbed by Saudi immigration authorities on December 11 at the King Khalid International Airport for carrying 150 kilos of copper inside his baggage.

 

“The Riyadh-based brother of OFW Vicente (not his real name) called me on December 11 asking for help for his brother who has been held at the King Khalid Airport, though he failed to mention the reason why his brother was held by the immigration police,” Monterona said.

 

Monterona added hours later, the brother called him again saying OFW Vicente has been transferred to Azizia jail in Riyadh as there are 150 kilos of copper in his possession inside his baggage.

 

OFW Vicente, 30 years old, from Haen, Nueva Ecija, works as a ‘furnish’ operator for a Riyadh-based molding shop which primary material used is copper. After completing his 2-year contract, he resigned from his work and is about to leave on December 11 when airport authorities held him and was investigated for carrying copper inside his baggage.

 

“On the same day, I have endorsed his case to the attention of the Philippine embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section (ANS) and have requested to sent a staff to provide representation to the subject OFW and to immediately inform his employer-sponsor,” Monterona added.

 

Yesterday, it was known that he is still staying in Azizia jail and the police is about to file a case of theft against him. “The police are just waiting for the decision by his employer-sponsor,” Monterona added.

 

Monterona said he had advised his brother to get in touch with their Human resources or administration manager to inform their employer-sponsor and ask not to file a case against his brother and let him go home.

 

“We are again reminding our fellow OFWs to avoid doing things that would put themselves at risk especially when it comes to the local laws and prohibitions imposed by the host government,” Monterona ended.

 

DRILON LAUDS PRESIDENT'S SIGNING OF 2011 BUDGET

 

 

 

Senator Franklin Drilon has lauded President Benigno S. Aquino III’s move to sign the 2011 government spending plan into law Monday, a development which paves the way for an operational budget by January 1, 2011.

 

“This is the first time in over a decade that the General Appropriations Act would be effective on the first day of the year,” said Drilon, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, noting that the last time the government had an operational budget by January 1 was in 1999.

 

“We hope to continue this cooperation between the President and Congress for the sake of our people,” the senator added.

 

Both houses of Congress swiftly moved to avert a reenacted budget next year, with the Senate ratifying the expenditure plan last December 13—the earliest that the chamber passed the budget measure since the 8th Congress—and the House of Representatives a day after the Senate approval.

 

“We thank our colleagues for the support that they have extended for the first Aquino budget. This is touted to be a reform budget and we will monitor closely its implementation, particularly the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program,” Drilon added.

 

In announcing the Senate’s approval of the budget earlier this month, Drilon said that the P1.645 trillion outlay contains key investments in social services to tackle poverty and basic education to bring more kids to school—both programs stiffen the resolve of the Aquino administration “to move the country forward in the next 12 months.”

 

The CCT program—a direct cash grant of the Aquino administration with a P21.1-billion allocation in the budget next year—seeks to cover 2.3 million household beneficiaries or half of the estimated 4.6 million poor families living below the poverty line. The CCT program targets each identified family with a stipulated amount of cash, subject to conditions such as sustaining children’s education, regular health check-ups and vaccines for 0-5 years old, among others.

 

The program as initiated by the previous administration, currently covers 1 million beneficiaries or about 25% of total poor families and the Aquino administration wanted the coverage to be increased further to 50% or an additional 2.3 million families by next year.

 

“We fully support the President’s programs as indicated in the national budget to make an impact on lives of the Filipinos,” Drilon said.

 

“Let us give this administration a chance to prove its worth and if after one year they have not proven their worth, we will be less sympathetic,” Drilon said of the CCT program. “But in the mean time, this administration has been less than six months old. Let’s give it a chance to succeed.”

 

Drilon likewise said that it was the first time in over a decade that debt service—a source of congressional insertions—was not included in the budget, as it is by law automatically appropriated.

 

A P12.5-billion allocation for public-private partnership is also included in the budget, a landmark policy of the Aquino administration to create new funding avenues for projects particularly on infrastructure.

 

 

Sick OFW gets assistance from Filipino migrant groups

A sick OFW in Saudi Arabia today received help from Filipino migrants groups said by Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

 

OFW Josefino Fabianes Atencio, 55 years old, from Lucena City, Quezon province, and last month he suffered a mild stroke at work. Since then, he could not work and needs medication. Thus, with the help of fellow OFWs and friends, he sought assistance from the Riyadh-based affiliate of Migrante, the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (OFW fellowship in the Middle East).

 

On March 2009, he arrived in Saudi Arabia to work for a construction company named Saudi Stico Co. Ltd. He was deployed by Nouras recruitment agency with office address at Malate, Manila.

 

After 6 months working for the company, he and other fellow OFWs who complained of not being paid of their salary for months by their employer, they run away, and thereby became an undocumented a year after their Iqama (work permit) expired.

 

“He and his fellow undocumented OFWs were able to find jobs with other companies but since they are undocumented they could not get a contractual term employment being absconder from their original employment,” said Joseph Valenzuela, KGS welfare officer.

 

Valenzula said KGS-Migrante had already endorsed his case to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Overseas Labor and OWWA office (POLO-OWWA) and had already filled up a form requesting for his repatriation.

 

Yesterday, officers and members of ABC Group, an OFW organization of ballroom ‘ageless’ dancers, handed over to OFW Atencio 600 Saudi riyals (P7,000) for his foods and medicines.

 

Headed by its President Elvira Palares and Andy Don, both ABC Group officials, they visited OFW Atencio along with KGS welfare officer Joseph Valenzuela on his rented room to personally give to him their “small but from the heart” Christmas gift.

 

OFW Atencio, though looked frail and sick, was able to express his sincere gratitude to his visitors.

 

On his part, Monterona said Migrante chapters along with the ABC Group and other OFWs organizations in Riyadh will be discussing by Friday to put up a ‘support fund for distress and undocumented’ in support of the like of OFW Atencio.

 

“The main purpose of putting up a Support Fund for Distress and Undocumented (SFDU) is to help our fellow OFWs in distress and undocumented especially sick OFWs for their medication and daily subsistence, while we are pressing hard the concerned government agencies like POLO-OWWA to provide on-site services to them,” Monterona added.

 

Monterona appeals to the generosity of our fellow OFWs and their organizations to help us raise a Support Fund for fellow distress OFWs and undocumented who needs help and assistance.

 

“We welcome our fellow OFWs contribution, in any amount or in goods, so that we could continue helping the distress and undocumented OFWs even if it is not Christmas; helping would be great if it’s done whole year round,” Monterona ended.

 

For donations, OFWs and their organizations may call John Leonard Monterona, or through this site.

 

 

Scientists blast ‘Rule of the Mob' in raid on Bt eggplant testing site in UP Mindanao 

 

 

biolife news service.jpg

 

 

The forcible uprooting of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant planted at the UP Mindanao campus has earned the ire of academics and scientists who were appalled at the "invasion," saying it amounts to an "assault for the quest for truth."

Ostensibly, the raid at the Bago Oshiro campus was justified on the ground that there was no consultation with the local government when the test sites were planned and experiments set up in the UP MIN campus.

Mayor Sara Duterte has apparently been swayed into allowing the raid, which was carried out to the complete surprise of biotechnology advocates who were working on environmental safety and risks assessments associated with cultivation of Bt eggplant.

Dr. Candida B. Adalla, chief of the Biotechnology Program Office (BPO), was dumbfounded upon learning about the raid, which was pushed by Greenpeace and other purported environmental groups opposed to any form of test on Bt eggplant, also known as Bt brinjal in India.

Six Indian scientific institutions have also affirmed the safety of Bt eggplant and dismissed allegations that it is a "monster crop."

Dr. Eufemio Rasco of UP Mindanao, an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), had been engaged in a bitter debate with rabid opponents of Bt eggplant, which is now on field trial in seven sites nationwide.

He had supported the tests and said those who oppose it should remember that Bt is the same organic bacterium used in their Bt sprays commonly used in Mindanao and is also the same bacterium that is present in the soil .

Bt has been used to fortify the local eggplant variety to allow it to manufacture a protein that can protect the eggplant fruit by killing the dreaded fruits and stem borer that feeds on the country's most popular vegetable.

In spite of the fact that the insecticidal properties of Bt had been known since 1901 and it had been used in a number of products spanning several decades, Greenpeace and other still would not want any developing country to avail itself of the benefits from the bacterium, which inhabits the soil and is not pathogenic.

Adalla stressed that the field tests of Bt eggplant has been approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) and subjected to rigorous assessments by the appropriate regulatory bodies and independent scientists before the tests were carried out.

As such, she argued, the test is legitimate, consistent and compliant with the government set guidelines noted as "one of the strictest in the world" and it is being use as reference by nearby Asian countriesnasnthey develop thir own policy for GM testing.

She expressed regret that "UP's academic freedom to do independent research was assaulted / violated, a tradition that UP holds so dearly. The uprooting of a scientific experiment is an assault to scientific inquiry and independence of responsible scientists in quest for truth. This is the first time it happened to the university, touted as the bastion of scientific research and technological innovations.

Sometime ago, Rasco (also a UP professor and scientist) had been criticized by the rabid opponents of Bt eggplant and any other genetically modified organism (GMO) but stood his ground and secured the support of UP students who had lauded his principled stand.

"Why are they so afraid of these tests? Even the Vatican itself had expressed support for research into biotechnological options to improve the quality of crops, raise the food inventory and assure farmers of better incomes. It seems they do not want facts.

They only want superstition to rule the food chain. Are we back to the Dark Ages?" he asked.

Since Bt was first used in 1901, there has never been a single case in which the friendly bacterium contaminated anything nor did it cause any disease.

In fact, organic farmers use Bt for their sprays but Greenpeace and other groups did not raise any howl, biotechnologists complained.

Going by their meterstick, the environmentalists want no intervention on plant genetics, Rasco said, but they should also train their guns on Fr. Gregor Mendel, the geneticist who opened the door for durable crops that they eat today.

He expressed fears that if these environmental groups can resort to the rule of the mob without being sanctioned, "then there would be no hope for science in agriculture and we might as well return to the rule of the jungle."

 

Christmas & New Year Greetings from Migrante-Middle East

 

 

 

Compulsory insurance can't protect OFWs from abuse, maltreatment

 

Challenging the implementation of compulsory insurance for Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a Filipino migrant rights group based in the Middle East today said the provision for mandatory insurance as mandated by the Migrant Workers Act as amended (Republic Act 10022) is not a guarantee that OFWs will be protected from abuse and maltreatment.

 

“Compulsory OFWs insurance or an insurance package for OFWs is not a protection mechanism or a ‘tool’ to prevent abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices, rather, it’s a form of reparation totally different from safeguarding the well being and rights of every OFW,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

 

Monterona said it is misleading and a deception when the DoLE, POEA, and OWWA and other concerned government agencies telling us that with insurance or if insured, OFWs will be protected.

 

He added: “OFWs insurance, like any other insurance, is the compensation or amount of money or benefits an OFW would get after the damage or injury has been inflicted due to any cause, it maybe by accident or due to abuses and maltreatment by erring employers.”

 

“Of course, everybody wants reparation. But there is no amount of money that could compensate the loss of life of an OFW victim, or his rights violated, and his well-being degraded,” Monterona added. 

 

He cited the case of murdered OFW Romilyn Eroy-Ibanez, which until now the culprit has not been charged and remains scot-free.

Sometime on November, Eroy-Ibanez was found soaked on her own blood at her employer’s house in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia and was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead hours later due to several stab wounds and acid ingestion.

 

“Do you think if she has been insured, what happened to her, being a victim of abuse and maltreatment, would be prevented? Certainly, not,” Monterona declared.

 

Monterona further said: “The main point of what we have been repeatedly raising is the protection of OFWs against abuse and maltreatment which both governments, sending and receiving, are duty-bound to uphold and defend.”

 

“But if OFWs sending and receiving governments merely pass on their obligation of providing protection for migrant workers to recruitment agencies, and private entities, then rampant cases of abuses and maltreatment won’t stop, or at least, minimized,” Monterona ended.

 

Migrante chapters in the Middle East will be launching a signature campaign against the implementation of compulsory insurance and is considering the option of seeking a temporary restraining order in court.

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Update: 32 Undocumented OFWs nabbed by Saudi authorities as it intensify crackdown

The Philippine Labor Overseas Office (POLO) in Al-Khobar confirmed that there are 26 women and 6 men, all are undocumented OFWs, have been apprehended by Saudi local police

 

As the Saudi government intensifies its crackdown campaign against overstaying and undocumented migrant workers, an alliance of Filipino migrants right group in the Middle East today said there are already 27 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that have been apprehended since yesterday night.

 

Receiving reports from its chapter in Al-Khobar, Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator said Saudi authorities started raiding various accommodations of migrant workers in suspicion that there are overstaying and undocumented expatriates.

 

Yesterday night, a composite team from Jawasat police and mutawa (cultural police) started the crackdown by raiding accommodations and houses at Tukbah, Al-Khobar, where suspected undocumented migrants are staying.

 

We appeal to the Saudi government to respect the rights of undocumented migrants, including OFWs in the conduct of its intensified campaign to hunt 'illegal' and undocumented migrants,” Monterona averred.

 

Monterona said Migrante, as an organization advancing and defending the rights and welfare of migrant workers, is urging the Saudi government to consider granting a general amnesty that would cover illegal and undocumented migrant workers.

 

He also calls on the attention of the Philippine Embassy under the leadership of Charges de Affairs, Ad interim, Ezzadin Tago to make the same appeal to the Saudi government and properly represent those apprehended.

 

We also calls on the Aquino govt. through the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay and the Department of Foreign Affairs to lobby to the host government the legalization of all undocumented OFWs, giving them the option to be repatriated or to stay, and find job in the Kingdom,” Monterona added.

 

Last October, the Saudi government granted a Royal pardon but it was known later that it applies only to pilgrims and holder of visit visas who already lapsed and overstayed.

 

The Royal pardon would end until 31 March next year.

 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

MIGRANTE sa Taiwan Dismayado sa Pahayag ni Congressman Walden Bello

Kagyat na Itigil ang mandatory insurance!   

 

Taiwan – Mariin ang pagkundena ng Migrante Taiwan sa panawagan ni Congressman Walden Bello na hayaan munang ipatupad ang nasabing mandatory “FORCE INSURANCE” na nagkakahalagang P6,500.00 

 

Ang panawagan ay ginawa kasunod ng mga ulat na nabawasan ang demand sa mga migranteng manggagawa makaraan itong ipatupad noong Nobyembre 8.

 

Sa panayam ng media nitong Martes, sinabi ni Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, pinuno ng House committee on overseas Filipino, masyado pang maaga na ibato ang sisi sa naturang batas sa pagbaba ng demand sa mga OFW ng hanggang 52 porsiyento.

 

“It is too early to extrapolate from the trends. Let's give it a few months before jumping to conclusions," pahayag ni Bello.

 

Sinabi sa mga local recruiter, kinukuwestiyon ng mga bansa na nagkakaloob na ng insurance sa mga kinukuha nilang dayuhang manggagawa – tulad ng Hong Kong, Taiwan, at mga bansa sa Middle East, ang bagong batas para sa compulsory insurance.

 

Tiniyak naman ni Bello na kikilos sila para amyendahan ang batas kapag napatunayan na ito ang dahilan kaya nabawasan ang demand sa mga OFW.

 

“Obviously, if the insurance scheme ends up hurting our workers, we will have to repeal or modify it. But let's wait and give the trends a chance to emerge clearly," pakiusap ni Bello.

1. Brokers’ service fees – NT$1666

2. Airfare – NT$222 – 333

3. Alien Residence Certificate – NT$83

4. Medical Check-ups – NT$222

5. Income Tax – NT$950(6%) but if enter Taiwan from July 2-Dec 31 need to pay 20%

6. Placement Fee – NT$1806 – NT$2778

7. Board and Lodging Fees (for non domestic workers) – NT$5,000

These totals NT$11,844 a month if we include the medical and labor insurance fees “If you add the insurance as required by Republic Act (RA) No. 10022, this would grow to NT$12,026 a month. The minimum wage in Taiwan is NT$17,280 and the OFW is left with only NT$5,436 in monthly earnings,” Chang said

Nanawagan ang MIGRANTE Taiwan Chapter na magsagawa kayo ng mabilisang pag review sa mga bayarin na nagpapahirap sa migranteng Pilipino. Naniniwala kami na ang mandatory insurance na ito ay panibagong “pangongotong” sa aming mga migranteng Pilipino.

Inaasahan naming na bilang kongresista, dadalhin mo ang interes ng mga migranteng Pilipino at hindi ang interes ng insurance company. Alam naming na malaking halaga ang involved sa insurance na ito. Kung pagbabasehan lamang natin ang minimum na umaalis ay 3,500 migrante sa loob ng isang araw na magbayad ng P6,500.00. ito ay tumataginting na P22,750,000.00 bawat araw. 

 

Nakasaad sa batas na hindi makakakuha ng employment certificate sa Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) ang isang OFW na nilalakad ng recruiter kung wala pa itong certificate of insurance coverage.

Subalit malinaw na sa kalakaran sa atin at sa Taiwan na ang dagdag pangongotong na ito ay kami(migrante) ang syang pinagbabayad ng broker at agency sa Pinas.

Itigil ang Labor Export Program!

Itigil ang pangongotong, Itigil ang mandatory insurance!

 

 

In support of Morong 43, Migrant alliance to wear black, to join hunger strike

 

Migrante-Middle East, the progressive alliance of OFWs organizations with chapters in mid-east countries, today said it supports and will help intensify the campaign to free the Morong 43.

“This morning, the Morong 43 and their relatives have staged a hunger strike to press hard the Aquino III government for their unconditional and immediate release, Migrante chapters will support the Morong 43 till they have been freed and gain freedom,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

On recorded message of support posted on Migrante Middle East Facebook page and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c44-50bR8Fo), Monterona said as a manifestation of their support to Morong 43, Migrante chapters in the Middle East will launch various forms of protest actions.

Migrante members will wear black shirt and armband starting tomorrow till December 6,” Monterona added.

He added that Migrante officers and members will also join the hunger strike on December 6.

We are challenging Pres. Aquino III to seriously face and heed on the calls of the people, various human rights organizations and the families and supporters to free the Morong 43 and other political prisoners without delay and conditions,” the Saudi-based OFW leader ended.

 

Mga Awit ng Pag-ibig sa Inang Bayan

 

 

 

 

“Magkasama, magkasabay, magkatono.”   Quezon City Vice Mayor and Congressional Spouses head Joy Belmonte-Alimurung at the Gatpuno Andres Bonifacio Music and Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (GABMPRFI) and the National Commision on Culture of the Arts' presentation of  “Mga  Awit ng Pag-ibig sa Inang Bayan,” featuring the Andres Bonifacio Choir held in celebration of Bonifacio’s 147th birthday at the Philamlife Theater. 

 

 

FW: KITE FLYING FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE



Manila
– Green groups with their families had fun flying kites while bringing their message across – no to deadly energy and ban coal.
 
“It’s a family day and we want to enjoy it in this open field while participating in a global day of action against coal and 12 days of action for climate justice” said Judy Pasimio of the Legal Rights Center (LRC-KsK-FoE Phils).

The “Kite Flying for Climate Justice” at UP Academic Oval on Sunday (December 5, 2010) was attended by members of various groups including the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Focus on the Global South, Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), Miriam Environmental Planning Organization,

Pasimio stressed however that the kite flying is more than just having fun but also aims to “tell the world that coal is the deadliest and dirtiest form of energy that pollutes our seas and dirties our skies”

“Let us tell the government to stop coal mining and to stop building coal-fired power plants. Let us push for clean, community-based sources of energy” Pasimio added.

Kites across the nation

Kites also flew in Maasim, Sarangani Province as symbolic protest against the proposed $450 million Southern Mindanao Coal Fired Power Plant (SM200) and coal mining in the region.

Sr. Susan Bolanio, SCAN spokesperson said that studies have already proved that coal is the dirtiest and dangerous source of energy.  “Coal is the leading source of global warming and pollution” she said adding that the purported power shortage will be caused by the huge demand of mining industry.  While it may be true that the Socsksargen region would need additional power, we believe that SMI-Xtrata’s Tampakan project will be requiring more than the actual energy needs of the people in the region.  That explains the plan to establish at least two coal-fired power plants here,” she added.

Said power plant will consume hundreds of tons of coal daily, which will be sourced out in the coal rich Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

“We went to Indonesia and witnessed the destructive impacts of coal mining.  We don’t want the same to happen to us in Lake Sebu.  Our lands and produce will be taken away from us for the benefit of the few,” said Yellen Zata, chairperson of Hublag Kontra Mina (HUKOM). HUKOM and the Taboli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO) are leading the resistance against coal mining projects in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu.

In Cagayan de Oro City, environment rights groups led by the Legal Rights Center also brought their kids at Velez Extension Rotunda to fly kites.

“There might come a time that our skies are so dark, dirty and deadly enough due to coal burning that even kite flying is no longer enjoyable. I want my children and the future generations to enjoy our relatively clean air right now and we echo the same call – stop burning coal” said Ma. Zherwinah Mosqueda of LRC-KsK/FoE Phils. Cagayan de Oro.

Religious too

Fr. Romeo Catedral, Social Action Director, disclosed that the Diocese of Marbel will also hold a  Kalembang sa mga Kampana event to express the church’s solidarity with coal-affected communities in the region and across the world. 

“Around 25 parishes will hold solidarity masses and at exactly 12 noon on December 5 and church bells will be ringing through-out South Cotabato and Sarangani.   We want this administration to know that we are extremely disappointed over its decision to continue with the plan to increase the number of coal-fired power plants in the country,” he said.

In Pagadian City, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – Western Mindanao Conference also supported the calls of “No to coal! No to dirty technology!”.

In a sermon delivered by Rev. Diosdado Marquez, UCCP Conference Minister and Chair of the FDC in Western Mindanao Region (FDC-WMR), “Turning our coal reserves into projects for profits is a classic example of the commoditization of our natural resources. We must remember that God entrusted to us the environment to use it responsibly”.

Moro communities are also in support of the non-use of coal as energy source in coherence with the climate justice call. “Imams” or Islamic leaders delivered sermons in various mosques at 12:00 noon in Pagadian City and Zamboanga del Sur.

A global call for climate justice

The GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST COAL is participated by indigenous peoples, communities, peoples’ organizations, support groups and non-government organizations from various parts of the globe to demand among others the immediate phase-out  and abandonment of coal as energy source.

This activity is part of the 12 day of action of the Philippine Movement for Climate justice (PMCJ), a series of coordinated actions in key cities and provinces nationwide dubbed “Depensahan, Taumbayan at Kalikasan”. These actions will run directly in parallel throughout the period of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’ sixteenth Conference of Parties (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10, 2010.###

Vatican scientists make good case for biotech crops

 

 

Vatican scientists have made a pitch for biotech crops, arguing that it is the moral duty to help the world’s poor by promoting genetically modified (GM) crops.

Last month, members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences criticized the opposition to GM crops, particularly in rich countries, and asked advocates to relax "excessive, unscientific regulations" for approving GM crops, saying that these prevent development of crops for the "public good".

            As early as May 2009, 40 international scientists held a week-long closed meeting at the Vatican under the leadership of Ingo Potrykus, a member of the Pontifical Academy based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, to come up with a position on the matter.

Potrykus developed "golden rice," a variety engineered with extra vitamin A to prevent blindness.

            Seven members of the academy approved a statement supporting GM crops, including academy chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

In 2000, the academy expressed provisional support for GM crops but today, its members believe they have more confidence in the technology with more confidence.

The academy likewise called for a revision of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which was signed in 2000 to regulate the movement of GM organisms between countries.

            Since the perceived environmental risks did not materialize after the protocol was signed, the academy said it was now time to review the regulatory hurdles that make it more expansive for researchers to develop crops benefiting the poor, like drought-resistant cassava and yams.

            Potrykus and other academy members said the allegations of GM foes are “outdated” and that “there has not been a single documented case of harm to consumers or the environment."

            Some theologians have argued that new forms of interventions in the natural world should not be regarded as “contrary to natural law that God has given to the creation.”

Strict regulation militates against the poor countries who need food most, not the wealthy nations that focus more on hypothetical risks.

"The possible evolutionary risks of genetic engineering events cannot be greater than the risks of the natural process of biological evolution or of the application of chemical mutagenesis," the academy stressed.

            It asked the opponents of GM crops to evaluate their position. "We urge those who oppose or are sceptical about the use of genetically engineered crop varieties and the application of modern genetics generally to evaluate carefully the science, and the demonstrable harm caused by withholding this proven technology from those who need it most," it added.

            "There is a moral imperative to make the benefits of genetically engineered technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations who want them, and on terms that will enable them to raise their standards of living, improve their health and protect their environments," the academy concluded.

 

 

 

 

AES Watch and CenPEG at House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms_December 6

 

 

 

 

RELEASE DOCUMENTS, BEFORE RETIRING

 

Release vital election documents unconditionally, including the source codes used in the automated elections of May 2010 as directed by the Supreme Court last September 21, before any Commissioner of the COMELEC is allowed to retire or resign and before Smartmatic leaves by end of the year!

 

This is the urgent call of AES Watch, a broad independent coalition of non-government, private and civil society organizations working for transparent and peaceful elections that includes industry and academic IT experts and professional groups as it presents its assessment of the automated elections before the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr, on Monday, December 6, 1:30 p.m. at Room 7, Mitra Hall, House of Representatives in Quezon City.

 

AES Watch led by convener Alfredo Pascual, newly elected President of the University of the Philippines (UP), has again called on the Commission on Elections to exercise transparency and be inclusive in dealing with independent citizens’ groups monitoring and conducting their own assessment of the country’s first automated elections. Pascual said transparency is best practiced by allowing the citizenry free and unconditional access to public information on transactions of national interest like the elections.

 

Presenting their assessments to the committee are other AES Watch conveners Angel Averia, Jr, IT consultant of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) and Rachel Roxas, PhD, Dean of De La Salle University’s College of Computer Studies

 

The CenPEG Report released at the AES Watch post election summit last October 5 revealed findings that the computer program used for the Smartmatic-provided automated elections was “full of bugs and errors” ranging from critical, major to minor but was nevertheless certified by the US-based SysTests Lab because these did not manifest during the testing done in the US.

 

According to Evita Jimenez, CenPEG executive director, “If news reports are true that the Comelec plans to conduct its own post-election evaluation with its senior field officials on December 14-15 at Subic, Zambales, it should include the observation and monitoring assessments of independent groups nationwide, as well as allow scientific studies on the computer programs and hardware of the Smartmatic-propelled election technology.”  This way, “Comelec will know what really went wrong and went right… and improve on their weaknesses,” Jimenez added, in reference to Commissioner Gregorio Larazabal’s remarks in a press interview yesterday.

 

The full CenPEG Report and, the AES Watch Assessment which integrates the reports of other conveners will be submitted to the 15th Congress through the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee chaired by Senator Miriam Santiago and the House Committee on Suffrage on December 17 during the Affair to Celebrate…gathering of AES Watch conveners. #

 

For reference:

AES Watch secretariat:

Mary Joy Lopez

Telefax: +632-4344200

Email address: aeswatch.2010@gmail.com; www.aeswatch.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filipino scientists determine exact dates for planting corn to maximize benefits

          Filipino scientists have determined the best dates for the planting of corn in Isabela and Bukidnon using climate simulation and weather prediction systems.

Next to rice, corn (scientific name--- Zea mays L.) is the country’s most important cereal but it is most sensitive to climatic aberrations, with resulting reduction in yields.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) bankrolled the study of Dr. Felino P. Lansigan of the Institute of Statistics (Instat) of the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) in 2008 and 2009 to find out how corn growing in the two provinces could overcome these aberrations and find out when is the best to plant corn.

Lansigan coordinated with UPLB-School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) in assessing the risk due to climatic variability in corn production systems in Isabela and Bukidnon. 

His team analyzed potential corn production systems strategies that could help corn producers overcome climatic variability and explore the use of advanced seasonal climate information in crop forecasting.

            Lansigan’s team used the CERES-Maize model and SIMMETEO to simulate the effects of climate variability on corn grown in the two provinces.

Through CERES, corn yield is simulated on the basis of the combined effects of crop phenotype, soil and weather as well as crop management system. 

SIMMETEO simulates weather based on monthly observed data.

            The models were used to predict possible yields for IPB 911 corn variety under three planting scenarios in the two provinces.

These scenarios were normal year (average year), dry year (El Niño year) and wet year (La Niña year.)

            Climate variability affected crop yield in the two provinces differently, with the climate system in Isabela is different under the wet and dry scenarios, resulting in varying crop yields. 

There were no significant variations in corn yields in Bukidnon since El Niño did not affect the province.

            Through the mean variance analysis, the researchers determined optimum planting dates for the normal, wet and dry years. 

Mean variance analysis assumes that risk is measured by variance, and that the standard should be to minimize the variance given expected return, or to maximize expected return for a given variance.  Planting dates then were determined based on dates that will give the highest possible yield with the lowest possible variance.

            Corn is planted in Isabela from June to July for the wet season (WS) cropping and from November to December the dry season (DS).  For WS, the best planting date during a normal year is July 9, according to the risk analysis, with a mean projected yield of 2.831 tons/ha. 

During La Niña year, the most risk-efficient planting date is May 20 as well, with mean yield of 3.5 tons/ha.

For DS cropping under normal and El Niño years, the best planting date is November 12, with a mean projected yield of 2.6 tons/ha and 1.4 tons/ha, respectively.  Under a La Niña year, it is best to plant corn on November 22, which would potentially result in a mean yield of 2.8 tons/ha.

            For Bukidnon, corn is planted during August to September for the WS cropping and February to March for the DS cropping.  During the WS cropping, August 28 is the best planting date under a normal year, with a mean yield of 4.3 tons/ha.  Moreover, it is best to plant corn on September 17 under an El Niño year, producing a mean yield of 4.1 tons/ha.

            During the DS, it is most risk-efficient to plant on January 23 under a normal year with a mean yield of 4.2 tons/ha.  Under an El Niño year, the best planting date is on March 4, with mean yield of 4.8 tons/ha.  For a wet year, it is best that the corn be planted on March 14, with mean yield of 4.5 tons/ha.

 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Over a hundred distress, run away OFWs in Saudi seek help to be home by Christmas

With some days to go before Christmas and hoping to be home by then, over a hundred distress and run away Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), all women, today seek help from the Saudi-based Filipino migrant rights group advocating the rights and welfare of OFWs.

 

John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator for Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said he has been receiving several calls direct from distress and run away OFWs who are now under the care of Saudi's Social Welfare agency (SWA) in Dammam, eastern region of Saudi Arabia.

 

“One of them told me that they are over seventy staying at SWA, but since there were those who have been apprehended last week during local police raids of illegal and undocumented migrants, they're now totaling to about over a hundred staying at SWA provided temporary shelter,” Monterona quoting one of the distress OFWs.

 

Monterona added according to some, they have been staying for more than 6 months at SWA, while others said they have been there for a year already.

 

“Though there are about 10 of them who have said that they have already their air tickets, still there is no guarantee that they could be sent home before Christmas as a staff of the Philippine post often visited them and follow their individual case,” Monterona added.

 

It was known that there is only 1 staff of the PH embassy through the PH overseas labor office in Al-Khobar who had been attending the cases of over a hundred distress and run away OFWs.

 

Monterona disclosed that during several case dialogs with PH embassy and POLO-OWWA officials in Saudi, PH officials expressed that they could not properly attend OFWs cases because they are under-staff in relation to the numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, and rampant labor malpractices.

 

“We have been constantly calling, and in fact sent a request to the DFA, DoLE and OWWA to consider the deployment of additional staff so that they could properly attend the distress and run away OFWs, including those in jail and ensure that their rights as migrant workers are protected and respected,” Monterona averred.

 

“But with 'austerity' measures taken by the Aquino III government cuttingg the 2011 budget for OFWs legal assistance (LAF) and assistance to the nationals funds, and slashing the DFA, DoLE-OWWA budget, it seems that our calls for additional deployment of staff will not be heard,” he added.

 

Monterona said OFWs and their families could not understand that while the government continuously hails OFWs for their contribution to the economy through their billions of dollar yearly remittances, the government are not giving them serious concerns by implementing various welfare programs, on-site services and protection.

 

“So far, OFWs and their families have been assured by the Aquino govt. empty promises and lip service,” Monterona ended.