“The intertwining of fates of a woodcarving prodigy in conflict with the laws protecting the forest, and the millions of Catholics praying to a visible and tangible God.”
A documentary following the legal and environmental conflicts that a woodcarver is facing in his careful and scrupulous art of capitalizing on faith as business.
“The intertwining of fates of a woodcarving prodigy in conflict with the laws protecting the forest, and the millions of Catholics praying to a visible and tangible God.”
“Kaka-kompyuter mo ‘yan” is a documentary that tells the story of how a rising dota team was able to achieve their dreams through eSports. The documentary aims to shows its viewers that there is success in eSports and it is something that can be done for a living.
JOURNALISM professors and students from six journalism schools launched last week a network for civic and community journalism aimed at highlighting local stories and voices often ignored by the mainstream media.
The network will have an online platform to disseminate stories and videos on a weekly, if not daily basis, and will adhere to journalistic standards, said Felipe Salvosa II, UST journalism coordinator.
The Commission on Higher Education’s recognition of UST as a Center of Development in journalism gave the University’s journalism program the opportunity to reach out to other journalism schools, he said.
“We are not going to compete with the mainstream. We are not going to be a campus paper. And we are not going to do public relations for local governments or for our schools. We need to do honest-to-goodness journalism, observe ethical standards if we want to be taken seriously,” he said during the network’s launch last Feb. 22.
The inaugural members of the network are the University of the East Journalism Society, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Bulacan State University and its student publication Pacesetter, Lyceum of the Philippines University, and the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila.
The six schools signed a “Manifesto of Commitment” to civic and community journalism and agreed to meet annually to sustain the project.
It was the first time journalism societies from various universities met under one roof for a collaborative effort, Salvosa noted.
The launching featured a series of lectures, with Crispin Maslog, founding director of the Silliman University journalism and communication school and chairman of the Asian Media Information and Communication Center, delivering the keynote address.
Other speakers were former Batangas Press Club president Joenald Rayos and Alwyn Alburo, executive producer at GMA News.
The network’s guidelines were drafted by Leo Laparan II, journalism instructor in UST and Letran.
Heads of journalism societies said it was timely to launch a community news website as it would help improve journalism education in the country.
“The new website is a great opportunity [to learn] about community journalism and online writing,” Francis Felix Falgui, president of Lyceum’s Journalism Society, said.
“As [journalism students], we are dealing with real issues and not theoretical examples anymore. [It] could be a training ground for us,” said Carlo Ventura, president of Bulacan State University’s journalism society.
Francheska Viernes, student co-project head, said the UST Journalism Society wanted to link with other journalism societies.
“It is a new take on the usual news reportage of students because with this, they will be able to develop a nose for news and they will be able to be the voice for the voiceless,” Viernes told the Varsitarian in an interview.
Giselle Ombay, student project head, said the network would reach out to more journalism schools this year. —with reports from Julia Claire L. Medina
When times are hard, getting sick is not allowed.
From being a tagline of a popular multi-vitamin brand, the sentence above has morphed into a joke among adults who can barely make both ends meet
But for those who are worse-off, those who live below the poverty line – they constitute about a fifth of the Philippines’ population – it is a truism, a reflection of a harsh reality, a reminder of a grim possibility they choose to ignore.
For sure, the Philippine government has a health insurance program that seeks to provide poor patients access to quality health care. The program was established to provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all Filipinos, according to state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).
Ideally, poor Filipinos do not have to spend a single centavo for health care, a basic right. But because of rising costs of medicines and doctors’ fees, this is easier said than done. Doctors admitted the assistance given by PhilHealth could not cover all costs and some patients ended up being transferred to other hospitals.
Worse, there were instances when PhilHealth failed to immediately settle reimbursement claims, a situation that may force some hospitals to refuse non-emergency patients.
The National Health Insurance Program was envisioned to become the “means for the healthy to help pay for the care of the sick and for those who can afford medical care to subsidize those who cannot.” Under the system, employers deduct the monthly contribution from employees’ salaries and remit them to accredited collecting agents. PhilHealth is supposed to reimburse the charges deducted by hospitals from patients’ bills.
PhilHealth members are divided into seven categories. They are formal economy or those with formal contracts and fixed terms of employment; informal economy, which include self-earning and migrant workers; overseas Filipinos; lifetime members or those who have reached the age of retirement under the law and have paid at least 120 monthly premium contributions; senior citizens or those who are 60 years old and above and are not covered by any of the membership categories; sponsored members of those whose contributions are being paid for by another individual or entity; and indigent or persons who have no visible means of income, or whose income is insufficient for family subsistence, as identified by the social welfare department.
All indigents under government’s household targeting system shall automatically be enrolled and covered under the program. To ensure indigents’ access to medical services, PhilHealth has a “no balance billing” policy, which states that no other fee or expense shall be charged to the indigent patient. This means that indigents no longer need to pay for their hospitalization at any government hospital and selected private medical centers above or beyond the package rate.
But some government hospitals are having a hard time complying with the policy because the hospitalization fees costs more than the amount provided by PhilHealth for the case rate payment.
“PhilHealth will only pay us the case rate. That means, for example, if the patient is sick with pneumonia and the hospital spent P20,000, it will only shoulder P8,000,” said Primo Valenzuela, chief training officer of Rizal Medical Center in Pasig.
“In a complicated case like pneumonia, P8,000? I don’t know how they came up with their computations,” he added.
Each pneumonia patient is entitled to P6,000 to P8,000 PhilHealth case rate payment. Recent studies estimated that the hospitalization costs of patients aged 19 and older range from P25,000 to P90,000. The expenses cover diagnostic procedures, hospital confinement, treatment cost, accommodation, supplies, professional fees, and other charges.
Valenzuela said PhilHealth reprimands hospitals if they charge indigent patients, leaving them with no choice but to refer them to other health institutions, a situation that can be harrowing for patients.
“You will just rely on the PhilHealth claim. But if you ask him to buy something, you will surely be scolded by PhilHealth. What will you do? You transfer the patient to another hospital and that is what’s happening,” he added.
Insufficient case rate payment is not the only issue confronting patients and hospitals. If a patient is admitted to a private room, doctor’s fees would apply, making the treatment more costly.
“For instance, if you contracted dengue (virus), you have to pay P12,000 (plus) P3,000 because you have to stay in the hospital for more than a month. If you are under NBB (no balance billing balance) policy, PhilHealth will also pay the hospital P15,000 but the hospital cannot ask the patient to pay,” said Roderick Napulan, a development management officer of the health department.
Valenzuela admitted funding issues and limited resources are making it hard for government hospitals like to cope with the increasing number of patients.
“There’s just always so many patients, and its increasing consistently…The number of cases are unlimited but the resources are limited. I think that’s true for most government hospitals,” Valenzuela said.
Because of costly medical services, PhilHealth has incurred debts to private hospitals.
Previous reports have quoted Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, as saying that the state-run health insurer’s debt to private hospital has ballooned to as much as P10 billion. The debt was supposedly caused by PhilHealth’s failure to settle reimbursement claims from 2011 to 2017.
PhilHealth vice president for corporate affairs Shirley Domingo denied Jimenez’s allegation in a radio interview last November, saying the health insurer was only processing P338 million worth of claims from 63 hospitals.
In a statement released in the same month, PhilHealth denied it lacked funds to settle its obligations. It also reported a net income of almost P10 billion as of the end of September, higher than the P4.4 billion recorded in the same period last year.
PhilHealth said the financial performance had contradicted the “recycled claim” that it does not have the resources needed to pay the claims of its member hospitals.
“We have again proved to our members and stakeholders, and even to our detractors alike that their funds are not just intact but also performing well, thanks to our unrelenting campaign to improve collections; the growing number of members that religiously pay their premiums; and our performing investments as well,” PhilHealth acting president Roy Ferrer said in the statement.
Benefit payments remained the largest item in PhilHealth’s expenditure at P84.3 billion. Benefit payments refer to reimbursements for services that health care providers have rendered to PhilHealth members and their dependents.
PhilHealth will get P67.4 billion for its National Health Insurance Program this year, higher than its P54.1 billion outlay last year.
The Program is expected to benefit 15.4 million indigent families, 5.4 million senior citizens, 25,514 families under the PAMANA program and 22,709 families under the Bangsamoro health insurance program, according to the budget department.
As of March 2018, the country’s health insurance program covers 98.24 million Filipinos or 92 percent of the entire Philippine population.
“Looking back at the health agenda of the Duterte Administration, which is to continue widening the coverage of the health insurance program, we can see that we are definitely on the right track,” budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.
Last month, the Senate and House of Representatives ratified the Universal Health Care bill, which seeks to expand PhilHealth coverage to include free consultation fees, laboratory tests and other diagnostic services.
Funds for the expanded health care program will come from sin tax collections, charity fund Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, income from the Philippine Gaming Corp., members’ contributions, annual budget of the health department and government subsidy to PhilHealth.
Lawmakers have expressed hope that the law would solve all problems plaguing the health sector and enhance access to quality health care, a basic right that has remained a luxury for a significant number of Filipinos.
Annually, thousands of indigenous peoples (IPs) converge in Manila to assert their right to self-determination and access to basic government services. The protest has been dubbed as Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya. Among those who join are the Lumad, the largest indigenous population in the Philippines.
Because education was inaccessible to them, they established their own schools in 1980s through the help of civil society groups. Many of these provide alternative learning systems rooted within the community‟s culture, but have been accused of sustaining close ties with the New People‟s Army (NPA).
They have claimed that some of these schools are being attacked by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In his State of the Nation Address in 2017, President Duterte also declared that he will order the bombing of these schools. A day after, the Palace clarified that Duterte will not harm Lumad children as the government goes after the communist rebels, who, according to AFP, infiltrated the IPs.
Alleged NPA recruitment
The AFP uncovered “Taktikang Bakwit,” supposedly a campaign by left-leaning groups and the NPA to cause disorder in IP communities and to blame the government‟s legitimate peace and security operations.
“Two-fold ang gusto nilang mangyari doon. One, mawalan ng tao doon sa lugar. Pag nawalan ng tao, walang makakausap ang sundalo. Paano ngayon mae-explain na ang ginagawa ng NPA ay mali, „di ba? Pangalawa, drain the resources of the government. Kapag nagkaroon ng mga evacuees, anong gagawin ng gobyerno? Magbibigay ng pagkain, ng matutuluyan,” Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, operations officer of AFP Civil Relations Service said.
This was validated by an affidavit from Lumad leaders of Talaingod, Davao Del Norte. “Ang pinaka-issue ng tribu, „yung pag-take over ng NPA sa mga ancestral domain. Sila na ang nagpapatakbo sa mga community at pag ayaw mong sumunod, papatayin ka,” Datu Nestor Apasa, a Lumad leader, said in an interview.
The NPA also use Lumad schools for indoctrinating and recruiting new members, the AFP said.
Years ago, Asenad Bago, a former grade four pupil from Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Davao del Norte came forward to AFP to allege that in his school, he and his classmates were being taught to sing a distorted version of Lupang Hinirang. “Tinuturuan kami ng mga kantang pangrebolusyon. Kakantahin ko ang „Lupang Hinirang‟ ng kilusan…lupang sinira, bayan ng magigiting…may tilamsik ng dugo ang awit sa paglayang minamahal, ang pula ng watawat mo‟y tagumpay na nagniningning.”
Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Marie Banaag said in a press briefing that “there are three main groups of left-oriented IP schools” according to Department of Education (DepEd). These are Salugpongan; Center for Lumad and Advocacy and Services (CLANS); and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development. (Alcadev). These schools have various branches in Mindanao.
But DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones, in an interview last year, said her office has no direct information about the curriculum of these schools “because they are not registered.”
Registered or not?
The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, a non-government organization addressing attacks on Lumad, says otherwise. As he provided copies of government permits, SOS Mindanao Spokesperson Rius Valle said that Lumad schools in Mindanao operate legally, including those that are tagged by government as “left-oriented IP schools.”
The Indigenous Peoples Education Office (IPsEO) clarified that these are just temporary permits. For example, as stated in the documents, some branches of CLANS are only permitted to operate for 90 days since they have yet to submit all their requirements to DepEd Region 12.
According to DepEd, 83 out of 122 private schools serving IP learners are permitted to operate while 39 are classified as “recognized,” as of August 2017. Out of 55 branches of Salugpongan in the list, their branch in Davao del Norte has no permit. The Alcadev and CLANS were not identified in the list as either permitted or recognized.
Valle added that he, together with some Mindanaoan parents and their children, went to DepEd to prove that they have documents to operate. According to Valle, Briones has not been entertaining their request for a meeting.
However, DepEd said they are “relentless in its consultation and coordination with IP schools to enable them to properly comply with the requirements.” In 2017, DepEd facilitated a meeting with CLANS about their permit application.
Contrary to the claims of the AFP, Valle said that Lumad schools do not recruit NPA members. This is only a tactic of the Armed Forces to legitimize the military presence in the areas, he said.
He also warned AFP of the danger of “red-tagging” Lumad children. “The moment na sinasabi nila „yan, hinahayaan nila na malagay sa alanganin „yung buhay ng mga kabataan.”
Lt. Col. Garcia denied these accusations, saying that it is the NPA‟s scheme to turn tables and destroy the image of the AFP. He said that there‟s no reason for them to militarize Lumad communities because there is no war in the area. He asserted that their presence in the area has always been a response to NPA threats.
“Bakit ang NPA hindi nila pinagbabawalan? That is also militarization! Kaya itong mga community, nung pumasok ang NPA, wala silang reklamo. Nung nagresbak na ang NPA at nakikialam sila sa relief [operations ng gobyerno], nagsumbong na ang mga Lumad sa sundalo. Pumunta na yung mga sundalo, mga AFP,” he said.
Forced shut down?
Valle also claimed that the AFP forcibly shut down Lumad schools because they do not want IPs to become literate and to adapt sustainable knowledge in organic farming. Consequently, he claimed, that the government will profit from ancestral domains by allowing the exploitation of international mining and plantation companies.
Lt. Col. Garcia said that the AFP has no jurisdiction to shut down schools. “Wala namang kapangyarihang magpasara ang Armed Forces ng schools; it is DepEd. Bakit pinasara? May violation sila. Kung gusto nilang ma-accredit, gawin nila yung tama at tsaka yung curriculum, dapat sumunod sa DepEd,” Garcia said.
Lourie Victor, head of IPsEO, rejected to answer why some Lumad schools were shut down. She said she is not the proper authority to respond to the query.
According to the data from SOS, during the first year of Duterte‟s administration, 27 Lumad schools were forcibly shut down while 87 schools were attacked by the AFP, most of which are CLANS in Region 12.
DepEd said there were no reports from local government units to support these claims, but they reiterated that they condemn any form of violence committed against children.
“We are against any military activity. Actually hindi ko nga alam kung military is a correct term kasi hindi lang naman about guns. Kahit nga even stick, basta anything that will disrupt the classes or any learning activity, is a violation to the rights of the learners,” Victor said.
The Department is also tasked to report incidences of child rights violations and ensure the protection of children in armed conflict, as stated in DepEd Order 57.
The SOS claimed that they have submitted reports on child rights violations on children.
Human rights violations
The AFP challenged accusers to name the schools which were allegedly “militarized” and dared them to file cases in court.
Karapatan, a human rights group, asked the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of IPs to look into recent alleged state-perpetrated violence against Lumad, particularly the “massacre” of eight farmers tagged as communist insurgents in South Cotabato, and a “food blockade” of relief aid for evacuees fleeing military operations in Surigao del Sur.
In a letter to Victoria Tauli-Corpuz last year, Karapatan called for an “independent investigation.” Karapatan is affiliated with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, an umbrella group of national democratic activist organizations.
Lt. Col. Garcia criticized the intents and motives of Karapatan, saying that the group must act accordingly for the rights of all Filipinos.
“If they really pursue human rights of everyone and not a particular group or individual, pati yung mga violation ng NPA ay singilin din nila.”
Because of the clash of claims and counter-claims between the military and the leftist groups — the plight of the Lumad remains unresolved. If these opposing parties will continue to put the blame on each other, the Lumad will endure their unaddressed needs, including their right to accessible education and peaceful communities. —with reports from Halee Andrea B. Alcaraz, Jazzmyn Yza Jenovib L. Gestopa, Kimberly Kathreen Khaye P. Dave, Kristela Danielle S. Boo, Maryluz Jamella A. Blancaflor, Reuszchelle P. Fernandez
Protesters trooped in front of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on May 18 to demand an end to martial law in Mindanao, which intensifies the militarization and violation of human rights in the region, according to them.
The protesters, mostly Lumad, performed a ritual in front of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that symbolized the violation of human rights and the destruction of their communities caused by martial law.
According to Ryan Amper, spokesperson of Barug Katungod (Stand for Rights) Mindanao, there are 130 incidents of political killings under the Duterte administration, 76 of which happened under martial law in Mindanao.
“Habang in place ‘yung martial law, dadami pa ‘yung bilang ng pamamaslang. Dadami pa ‘yung bilang ng mga napipilitang mag-surrender dahil sa takot. Dadami pa ang bilang ng iba’t ibang porma ng harassment lalo na sa pag-atake sa mga magsasaka at manggagawa,” Amper said in an interview.
He said the series of bombings and attacks by the AFP caused displacement of hundreds of people in Mindanao, especially Lumad.
Amper said 70 percent of the government troops are deployed in Eastern and Western Mindanao commands. This means that 74 battalions are currently focused on areas which the AFP considers as New People‟s Army (NPA) areas.
The deployment is an increase of 14 battalions from 55 in 2015. There were incidents where the military tags Lumad in poor communities as members of the NPA and forces them to surrender of so-called “mass surrenders.”
“Ang nangyayari po, ‘pag sumurender, NPA. ‘Pag hindi naman sumurrender, NPA pa rin,” he added.
He cited the forced surrender of 517 individuals in two municipalities in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte that have turned them over out of fear from the military.
President Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23 last year after Islamic State (IS)-inspired Maute group attacked Marawi City.
The government extended the declaration in July and December last year, citing the need to secure the region from further terror threats. —with reports from Reuszchelle Fernandez and Jazzmyn Yza Genovib Gestopa
“Gabay” showcases the everyday life of a fortune teller, Aling Celing, and how she remains to be a Catholic despite the nature of her livelihood. This mini documentary tackles the irony of the continuing boom of the business of fortune telling in a predominantly Catholic country.
It was a bright, sunny second Tuesday in July when this team’s search for a story of courage brought its members to the sidewalk along Manila Bay.
The calming waves of the sea splashing to the shore and the heavy breathing of the cyclists and runners who were already drenched in sweat provided background to a really long, yet peaceful walk that in the initial hour gave nothing.
Then, as the seemingly fruitless walk was about to end, a song from the band Sugarfree blasted:
“Ikaw ang dulo’t, gitna’t simula (You are the end, the middle, and the beginning)…”
It was as if the song signaled there was finally something for the team.
At the end of baywalk, the team spotted sailors and boats with their supposed shelters that are made out of bamboo and tarpaulin.
And they were not just sailors; they were divers. They dive into the sea for a living.
Standing out from the crowd was Merlyn Manalo.
Nanay Merlyn, 53, is a native Kampampangan, a mother of five, a widow since 2002, and the only woman among the troop of divers.
Growing up along the banks of a river, she learned how to swim at age six. She catches and collects mussels as her way of living, but when luck strikes, she could binge for tilapia, bangus, banak, and tamban.
Reach the site to fetch for mussels takes more or less an and a half hour for Nanay Merlyn. These mussels can be found in the MV Captain Ufuk, a cargo vessel that carried smuggled guns and sank in 2016 after water seeped through a hole in the ship.
Oil spill and loss of fuel caused the ship’s sinking, according to Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.
Unlike the other divers who have boats when they go fishing, Nanay Merlyn uses her bare strength in breathing and muscles for her livelihood.
To fully understand her story, the team rented a boat and followed through Nanay Merlyn’s route. Kuya Junior, the bangkero (boatman) was kind enough to offer a ride to the team, which took about 30 minutes to arrive at the submerged ship.
The team was fortunate to travel on calm waters, as there were no waves during the the visit to the area where the mussels are caught then sold fresh to anyone who passes by Manila Bay.
Nanay Merlyn was with her close friend Jojo Ugali or Kuya Jojo, who is also a diver but with the capacity to stay under the water longer than the former could.
Wearing a smile that can brighten up anyone’s day, Kuya Jojo kept sharing with the team divers’ stories and life lessons.
“Ganito ang trabaho naming mangingisda. Maghapong sumisisid, kapag dating naman, ibebenta ‘tong mga huli namin, babaratin pa! (This is our life as fishermen. We catch fish all afternoon, and when it is time to sell them, the customers would still bargain for the lowest possible price),” he told the team while shaking his head and pairing it up with a smirk.
“Ang sabi namin sa kanila, bakit hindi kayo ang sumisid at kami naman ang mangbabarat (We tell the customers, why don’t you try what we do and we will be the one who would haggle)?” he added.
Small mussels sell for P30 per pile, while the big ones can go for as high as P50-P60 per kilo.
Nanay Merlyn’s lowest earning so far was P200, while the highest ranges from P500-P600.
When the team asked her about working on jobs that are not hard and risky, considering her age, she smiled and said, “Iyong nakapagtapos nga ng pag-aaral ay hirap nang humanap ng trabaho, lalo na kaming hayskul lang ang nagawang tapusin. Hindi naman dahil edukado ka, ibig sabihin no’n may trabaho ka na kaagad na mapapasukan (Those who finished their studies have difficulties in finding a job, what more people like us who just finished high school. Being educated doesn’t mean it would be easy for you to find a job).”
Nanay Merlyn even insisted to cook mussels – tahong in the vernacular – for lunch with the team even if it was still around 10 in the morning. She said that for the team to know what the mussels they sell tastes like, she sautéed her catch in garlic, onion, and ginger. She said that one no longer needs to pour water since the mussels already extracts natural water from their bodies, which gives a bit of sauciness to the dish.
Then came the most awaited part – “Tikiman time (It’s tasting time)!” just like what Chef Boy Logro usually says in his cooking show.
The shells were really closed and the mussels tasted great. The saltiness was there, as what Nanay Merlyn and Kuya Jojo said. The team members’ taste buds seemed to applauded after taking the first bite of the sautéd mussels right in the middle of Roxas Boulevard.
For some people, mussels are just ordinary food – they do not really stand out from the rest of the offerings in a menu.
But for people like Nanay Merlyn and Kuya Jojo, mussels are a way of life – catching and eating are never a joke. Risky, yet it is the only choice they have to prevent starvation.
“Kung hindi ka kikilos, walang mangyayari sayo (If you don’t move, nothing will happen to you),” Kuya Jojo said.
As the team bade goodbye to Nanay Merlyn, who said she would be looking forward to the members on television someday, she reminded everyone to not neglect studies, to do well in school and to finish what has been started.
Several projects have been launched here and there to help solve the lingering problem that is Pasig River, the latest being Trash Traps, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)’s effort to bring the “dead” waterway back to life.
Trash traps, which are placed in San Juan River, at the boundaries of Mandaluyong City and Quezon City, are meant to block more trash from flowing into Pasig River and to gauge where most trash are coming from.
The PRRC said it would monitor the trash collected from the nets in order to know how much trash accumulated.
The 27-kilometer Pasig River is the main waterway in Metro Manila, encompassing the country’s capital, Manila, and nearby cities of Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig, and Taguig.
Approximately 50,000 kilograms of trash are filtered out every day from the trash traps according to PRRC. The collected garbage will be delivered to the respective dumping facilities.
Companies, local government units, and individuals who will be caught polluting the body of water will face charges of violating Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management. Those found guilty may be fined P300 pesos or sentenced to prison for one to six years.
PRRC executive director Jose Goitia said they have already sent memoranda to individuals and companies, and together with the Laguna Lake Development Authority, they are ready to shut down establishments that contribute to the pollution of the river.
Goitia urged the residents to do their part and properly dispose of their garbage.
World War II paved way to a spike in population growth and infrastructure surrounding Pasig River that eventually led to its massive pollution.
By the 1990s, the river was declared “biologically dead” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which means that oxygen had been depleted in the water rendering it unable to support any marine life.
The major sources of water pollution in the country are inadequately treated sewage, agricultural waste water, and non-point sources such as rain and groundwater runoff from solid waste or garbage deposits, according to Greenpeace Philippines.
Each water pollutant brings different toxic and negative effects that can harm both human health and the environment.
Based on the 2006-2013 National Water Quality Status Report of the DENR, inadequate domestic wastewater treatment causes two major problems: water pollution and waterborne diseases.
Examples of waterborne diseases are diarrhea, cholera, typhoid B, dysentery, and hepatitis – most of which are also caused by untreated domestic wastewater.
Due to the vast water pollution and limited sources of clean water in the country, an estimated amount of 20,000 people die each year because of waterborne diseases according to the DENR report.
According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the Department of Health (DoH) and United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Diarrhoea has the biggest number of victims, killing 10,000 children each year, often aged five years old and below.
Water pollution caused by agricultural wastewater may not be as familiar to others, but it also causes great danger to people’s health and environment.
On the “Impact of Agrochemicals on Soil and Water Quality,” long-term use of pesticides to control pets and diseases may actually contribute to the contamination of soil and groundwater with their residues, according to a study by Leonila Varca, an Independent Environmental Services Professional.
The contamination of agrochemicals in the soils and groundwater will not only cause the plantations to be less productive, but it can also destroy the land itself.
Thus, food products coming from such plantations are not 100 percent safe, as they contain harmful chemicals from the pesticides.
Diseases found to be significantly associated with the overuse of pesticide are organochlorine poisonings, aplastic anemia, eye, skin, nail, pulmonary, renal, and neurological problems.
Rain and groundwater runoff from solid waste or garbage deposits contain harmful chemicals that industrial wastewater also contains.
Industrial wastewater contains varying degrees of contamination from various hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), an ingredient used to clean semiconductors and other electrical equipment, and heavy metals, according to a report released by Greenpeace.
VOCs are known to affect the kidneys, the central nervous system and the liver, and are potentially carcinogenic.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Environment Monitor said that industrial wastewater is also the common source of diseases such as gingivitis, skin discoloration, neurological disorders, and anemia, which are all caused by toxic substances.
Exposure to chemicals from industrial effluents may result in headache, nausea, blurring of vision, poisoning, male sterility, and immune system impairment.
Constant irresponsible disposal of garbage by residents living near Pasig river is the main cause of water pollution in the Pasig River, according to a local government official.
“It’s saddening because according to stories, before, the river was so clean. You can even take a bath in the crystal clear water,” Manuel Mendez, a barangay tanod (watchman) from Barangay 303, Escolta, Manila, said.
Most trash comes from nearby cities and districts, like San Juan and Quiapo, since the river runs along these areas, according to Mendez.
“When it rains, you’ll see different things floating at Ilog Pasig. Various things are obviously just thrown in the river,” he said.
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) personnel Abner Malasa said, however, that there is an annual river cleanup activity dubbed as Estero Bleach, mainly scheduled in the middle of the year.
“In the process of Estero Bleach, a floating tractor digs the dirt buried deep under the river,” he said.
Malasa mentioned that what he noticed was people who reside near the river sees it as a dumpsite, where they directly dispose of their wastes.
The barangay officials are still hoping for enough discipline among the residents to at least alleviate the problem that Pasig River is facing.
Meanwhile, a youth activist has called on the government to improve the implementation of water pollution policies to address the health hazard issues that come with the environmental problem.
Jonathan Austria, 22, believes that the worsening problem on water pollution stems from the government’s inadequacy to properly enforce the policies it is supposed to implement.
“There are methods or attempts to lessen water pollution and rehabilitate water bodies, but the problem is in the implementation,” he said.
Austria’s sentiment is evident in some environmental laws such as Republic Act 4850 or the Laguna Lake Development Authority Act of 1966, which, according to Austria has “not been successful” even up to the present.
The law was originally proposed to address the problems on waste treatment facilities and sewage system.
This act, according to Austria, had “potential factors” that could solve pollution; however, “no proper mandate as to what the act entails” is in place.
“The policy should strongly mandate to have proper sewage system and waste facility per town. Also, there should be control in terms of agriculture,” he said.
As a resident of Rizal, which surrounds Laguna Lake, Austria can attest first-hand to the consequences of the issue, emphasizing that the policies must also be “tailor-fit” to the conditions of water bodies.
In Laguna Lake, the main problem is on agriculture, according to Austria. The waste of animals from poultry farms are being thrown to the lake, which adds up to the reason it is called the “biggest waste canal in the country.”
As a waste canal, this also affects potable water, as well, which becomes “potentially harmful” to the people, thus, becoming a health hazard that urgently needs to be addressed.
To an extent, Austria demands the government to do something and to further implement their current actions to address water pollution.
He also stressed the need to raise awareness on the issue of water pollution among citizens.
“In order for awareness to fully succeed, we must also endorse information campaigns and petition campaigns,” he said.
Information campaigns include online infographics for a wider scope of audience, posters on every block, as well as flyers and/or pamphlets with pertinent details about the issue.
Meanwhile, petition campaigns could extend to formally writing letters to authorities, government institutions, and organizations that have the power to address water pollution, like the PRRC.
In addition, Austria recognized the need for the youth like him to actively participate in the campaign against water pollution, as it affects the society in general.
“They said “Where there is water, there is life” but how can we continue to survive when we neglect the very thing that we need for our own survival,” Austria said.
Lumad leaders condemned the apparent “silent collusion of government agencies” on the closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.
Pasaka Federation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao expressed this in a statement issued on May 23, exactly a year after the martial law declaration in Mindanao.
The group hit the government for the closure of 56 Lumad schools in Mindanao since it forced 2, 209 students to drop out, according to them.
The statement was signed by Pasaka Secretary-General Jong Monzon, Datu Kaylo Bontolan of Salugpongan Ta Tani Igkanogon, Bae Jenelyn Bueno of Sabokahan Women, and Datu Mentroso Malibato of Karadyawan.
They also lambasted the “shameless act” of the military of tagging 1,106 students, teachers, and parents as “rebel surrenderees.”
Last May 17, Lumad groups aired their complaints about President Rodrigo Duterte administration‟s alleged human rights violations in a video conference held with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.
Lumad groups told Corpuz about their continuing suffering from the government‟s “red- tagging,” resulting in extrajudicial killings and strafing of Lumad schools.
However, the military refuted the allegations and dismissed this as a “disinformation campaign” by communist groups.
“We challenge our accusers. Provide details: which schools, where, and when the alleged acts were committed,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said.
“Those are serious allegations of criminal acts. And they should file appropriate cases in court. They should not resort to deception and lies,” he added.
Arevalo said that the accusations were part of the disinformation campaign by the New People‟s Army “to win back public support.”
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, operations officer of AFP Civil Relations Service said that this Lumad group should present their accusations with “documentation,” he said. “We [AFP] do our thesis before we claim.”
Pasaka Federation addressed this counter-allegation of the military. “We are not dumb or slow-witted to the accusations hurled by this government that we are „brainwashed‟ by the Left or the NPAs,” the statement read.
“We are a community. We are a tribe that has practiced our culture and our own system of governance,” the group added.
Pasaka considers threats, especially those coming from the government, as dissolution to the future of their children.
Despite the heightened military activities in the areas of Mindanao which largely affects IP communities, Pasaka Federation said they will continue to defend their land and schools.
“We raise our demand to be heard by the public and government. We have the right to protect our schools and our ancestral land from militarization,” Pasaka said.
They also demanded the government to address the root cause of the conflict by resuming peace talks. —with reports from Halee Andrea B. Alcaraz, Jazzmyn Yza Jenovib L. Gestopa, Kimberly Kathreen Khaye P. Dave, Kristela Danielle S. Boo, Maryluz Jamella A. Blancaflor, Reuszchelle P. Fernandez