Items filtered by date: Thursday, 08 June 2017

Flee mercury-tainted villages, residents told

Community members split as many are unwilling, unprepared to abandon homes, livelihood

By: Redempto D. Anda - Correspondent / @demptoandaPhilippine Daily Inquirer

The pit lake where wastes from the operations of a defunct mining company in Puerto Princesa City were dumped is considered ground zero of mercury contamination in two villages. REDEMPTO D. ANDA

 

 

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Gerry Valena, a longtime resident of Barangay Sta. Lourdes and head of the local village council’s environment committee, never imagined his community transforming itself into a ghost town, with homes and farms deserted.

Valena had known for a long time about the perils of mercury poisoning and the dreaded Minamata disease, but it was only recently that he and other local officials had been confronted by a most compelling evidence—a recent study by the Department of Health (DOH) indicating that their community was slowly being poisoned with mercury even after mining operations there stopped more than 30 years ago.

Representatives of the DOH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) met with city officials recently to reveal the outcome of tests quantifying the level of mercury contamination affecting the population of roughly 10,000 in the villages of Sta. Lourdes and Tagburos.

The study established that most of these residents had varying levels of poisonous mercury in their bodies.

“Evacuation was proposed during our meeting with national government agencies. Geologists explained the gravity of the situation by pointing out that evacuation must be done now. We were told that areas along the banks of Tagburos River were contaminated with mercury,” Valena said in Filipino.

The national government is recommending an immediate relocation and treatment of residents from selected areas.

Plans are being discussed among city and barangay officials to relocate an initial batch of 80 families that are most exposed to the ground zero of mercury contamination here—
an old mining pit formerly owned by Palawan Quick Silver Mines Inc. (PQMI) and abandoned since 1975.

“If there’s Walking Dead Part 8, it might be here in Sta. Lourdes,” he said in portraying Sta. Lourdes as a possible ghost town, referring to the setting of a popular zombie TV series.

The city government has yet to form a comprehensive response to the recommendations of national government agencies.

However, it has been working with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on a mine rehabilitation program that involved the relocation of residents around the pit lake and the area’s conversion into a “forest park.”

Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates, in a letter to Mayor Luis Marcaida III, urged the creation of a crisis committee to deal with the situation, citing its health and social economic implications.

“The city government needs to have a concrete plan of action. We need to show that we are prepared to do what needs to be done to resolve the PQMI issues for good,” Socrates said.

Lawyer Carlo Gomez, city environment and natural resources officer, said he endorsed the recommendation for evacuation of the area around the pit lake.

Valena said village officials asked the city government and national government for help to undertake a comprehensive medical treatment program for residents, which he said would cost from a low of P30,000 to a high of P200,000 for each patient.

Not all residents, however, are willing and prepared to leave their homes and livelihood.

Many remain unperturbed by the magnitude of the problem, already described by authorities as “reaching crisis proportions.”

“We thought the problem of mercury contamination has already been solved. You see, trees here have grown and we believe that traces of mercury have been flushed out,” said Manuel Dicar, head of the local tour guiding association, Hobbai Inc., in Sta. Lourdes.

Dicar was referring to the rehabilitation done by the government at the wharf, a land feature artificially formed from tons of mercury ore dumped at the bay by PQMI in the 1970s and which now hosts a community of over 300 households, including government-owned structures.

“The economic impact of relocation will be big,” he said.

According to Dicar, people here largely depend on tourism activities around Honda Bay, the second biggest natural attraction in Puerto Princesa City, next only to the famous Underground River.

Dicar admitted, however, that residents living along the coastline of Honda Bay continued to gather marine products that had been identified by the DOH study as a major source of mercury poisoning.

“Many people continue to consume fish harvested from the bay. Our problem is no one bothers to focus on stopping them; people continue to fish and gather shellfish there,” he said.

Valena said the village council’s priority was to provide immediate treatment for residents found to have high levels of mercury in their bodies.

Most residents, he said, were never subjected to medical examination because only those who were identified through random sampling were tested for blood mercury.

“There are children in Sta. Lourdes who grew up showing symptoms of Minamata disease. But we don’t really know because they have not yet been tested,” he said.

A copy of the report’s summary released by the Puerto Princesa government enumerated symptoms of the Minamata disease common among residents tested. Among these are gingivitis, discoloration of gums, nervousness, numbness, headache, palpitations and difficulty in sleeping, difficulty in concentrating, memory loss and respiratory problems.

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Bohol mayor shot dead, thrown into sea; husband arrested

2 others nabbed by police
By:   -
 
 
 
 
 
Bien Unido Bohol Mayor Gisela Bendong-Boniel (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

First published: 2:58 p.m., June 8, 2017

CEBU CITY — Police on Thursday started scouring the waters off Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City to find the body of Mayor Gisela Boniel of Bien Unido town in Bohol province, who was shot dead by her captors on Wednesday night before she was thrown into the sea.

Bohol Board Member Niño Rey Boniel, the mayor’s husband, his cousin Kevin, and Randel Lucas, a driver, were arrested on suspicion of being involved in the killing.

READ:  Bohol board member detained over wife’s disappearance

Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal, head of the Regional Intelligence Division of the Central Visayas Police Regional Office, which is based in Cebu City, said the search started in Punta Engaño because the police received reports that Gisela’s body was dumped there.

The mayor’s husband declined to issue any statement to reporters on Thursday, saying his lawyer would take care of the matter.

But Cabal said Niño Rey Boniel told investigators that it was his cousin, Kevin, who shot and killed Gisela.

Niño and his companions were detained at the Central Visayas police headquarters here after Gisela’s friend, Angela Leyson, and Gisela’s relatives sought police help.

“I just want to get her body,” Leyson said. “I want that person (Niño) to rot in jail, including everybody [involved in this crime].”

Leyson said she, her 17-year-old son, and Niño were invited by a certain Wilson to stay at a resort in Bien Unido on Tuesday. They were later joined by Gisela.

“We were asked to go there because there were documents that needed to be signed (by Gisela),” she said.

Leyson said Gisela, a commercial pilot, wanted her marriage to Niño annulled. She said Niño and Gisela had an earlier fight over financial matters.

“She (Gisela) really wanted to leave. She was a pilot. She had a career of her own. She was planning to resign (as mayor), although she wanted to resolve all issues first,” she said.

Bien Unido, Bohol Mayor Gisela Boniel and Bohol Provincial Board Member Niño Rey Boniel (Photo contributed by Nestor Daarol to leoudtohan.blogspot.com)

Leyson was with her 17-year-old son at the time.

That was the last time Leyson saw Gisela.

Leyson said one of the perpetrators pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she would report the matter to the police.

Leyson said they were led out of the room and were brought to Tubigon town before they were released.

But she reported the incident to the police who then arrested the abductors – Niño; Randel Lucas who served as driver; and Kevin “Etad” Boniel, Niño’s cousin.

Senior Supt. Jonathan Cabal said investigation showed that Niño’s cousin, Kevin, shot dead Gisela.

Leyson said Niño and Gisela had a fight over financial matters.

The couple’s friends in Bohol said Niño got angry at his wife when he learned that she loaned a watch worth P2.5 million.

Earlier, the regional police office said Niño Rey Boniel was arrested on Wednesday night on suspicion that he kidnapped his own wife.

Cabal, head of the Regional Intelligence Division (RID), said the provincial board member was taken into custody based on the complaints of the mayor’s relatives.

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Bien Unido, Bohol (Google maps)

Gisela was elected mayor in May 2016, replacing Niño who won as board member in the second district of Bohol.

Leyson said she went to the resort with Wilson on Tuesday after the latter assured them that they would not be harmed.

“I told myself, ‘This is so fishy.’ I’m keen at sensing danger. But he (Wilson) told me that it was not what I felt,” she said.

Leyson said they arrived at the resort at 8 p.m. An hour later, Leyson, her son and Gisela had dinner before two women arrived and gave them a massage. Leyson said she fell asleep and woke up at 11 p.m.

“I said there was really something wrong,” she said.

Leyson and Gisela shared a room while Leyson’s son was in another room.

At 2 a.m. Wednesday, a group of at least six men barged into her and Gisela’s room.

One of them covered Leyson’s mouth with duct tape and tasered her in the neck, causing her to slowly lose consciousness.

As her vision was about to dim, she heard Gisela telling her husband: “In-in (Niño’s nickname) ayaw si Lalay (Angela) kay naa ang iyang anak sa pikas room (In-in, don’t include Lala because she is with her child).”

“I was half-awake but I could see them. I could see In-in punch (Gisela) in the stomach,” Leyson said. That was the last time Leyson saw Gisela.

Leyson said Niño told her not to report the matter to the media or the police or else he would kill her.

One of the suspects told Leyson not to intervene because it was a couple’s fight.

“And I replied, kausapin niyo lang siya nang maayos (just talk to her properly),” she said.

Leyson said another pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her if she would report the matter to the police.

Leyson said she and her son were taken to Tubigon town where they were released. /SFM /rga /atm

 

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Mautes nabbed in Davao transferred to Manila

By: Philip C. Tubeza - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

 

Maute group top leader Cayamora Maute, 67 years old, who was intercepted at Sirawan Toril checkpoint by Task Force Davao is escorted by Regional Director Supt. Manue Gaerlan, PNP PRO XI, after a press conference at DCPO Conference Room on June 6, 2017. ARJOY M. CENIZA

 

 

Four arrested members of the Maute clan, including patriarch Cayamora Maute, were transferred from Davao City to Metro Manila on Wednesday evening, acting Interior Secretary Catalino Cuy said on Thursday.

Cuy said the father of Maute terror group leaders Omar and Abdullah is now detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.

Cayamora was arrested with his second wife Kongan Balawag, daughter Norjanah, son-in-law Benzarali Tingao and driver Aljon Ismael. Ismael was later released.

“They were transferred for security reasons. They are relatively safer here,” Cuy said.

Checkpoint arrest

Cayamora was arrested on Tuesday morning at a checkpoint in Sirawan, Toril, Davao City. Task Force Davao discovered a grenade and a .45-cal. pistol in their vehicle.

“It’s confirmed that those arrested at a checkpoint in Davao are now in Manila. They were turned over to the BJMP at around 1 a.m. (Thursday),” said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson.

“They were transferred for their safety because we can guard them securely here. In Mindanao, we are implementing martial law and we might not have all the necessary forces to ensure their security. We can do that here in Manila,” he said.

Father’s support

Padilla said Cayamora was seen supporting activities of Maute rebels in Marawi.

“Because he is the patriarch, he supported some of the activities of the Maute group. And based on the report that we saw, he was seen in Marawi directing operations during the clashes there,” he said.

BJMP spokesperson Senior Insp. Xavier Solda said Cayamora and three relatives were brought to Camp Bagong Diwa after midnight on Thursday.

“I can confirm that they are now under our custody. They were turned over to us in the early morning hours for safekeeping,” Solda said.

Solda guaranteed Cayamora’s safety after a riot erupted at the Metro Manila District Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa on Tuesday, leaving two inmates dead.

“It is a [prison] complex and they will be detained in another area and not where the riot happened,” Solsa said.

The Maute clan members were brought to Manila on board a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane.

 

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Duterte 'ignorant' about drugs, says neuroscientist

By TJ DIMACALI, GMA News

 

Columbia University neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart hit back anew at the Duterte administration's war on drugs, calling the president "ignorant" for the latter's understanding of drugs and drug abuse.

"When you have a president making such ignorant comments about drugs (as if) he's a pharmacologist—and when society allows that? And the scientific community doesn't say it's wrong? They have much bigger problems," Hart said in an interview with PRI.org's GlobalPost.

"Duterte's ignorance is only surpassed by those who support him on this issue," he added. "He is way out of his league when he talks about drugs."

'Duterte's most abhorrent claim'

Hart, who chairs  Columbia University's Department of Psychology, challenged Duterte's claim that methamphetamine—locally called "shabu"—shrinks people's brains.

"A year or more of shabu use would shrink the brain of a person and therefore he is no longer viable for rehabilitation," Duterte said in his keynote speech at the Philippine National Police's (PNP's) 115th Police Service anniversary in August last year.

"This is the most abhorrent claim made by (Duterte). Millions of people around the world take this drug. For a variety of conditions. We don't see anyone's brain shrinking," Hart said.

Myth of shrinking brains

"We've never seen, in the methamphetamine doses humans take, any shrinking brains or destroyed brain cells. It's a ridiculous notion," he underscored.

Hart pointed out that brain shrinkage has not been seen in relation to most drugs other than alcohol—and even then, he argues, it only happened with extremely large doses and not as a direct result of the alcohol itself.

He said that with the very high doses used in lab experiments—as much as 80 times the normal dose—some brain damage can be expected, even from such a mundane drug as ibuprofen, an off-the-counter medicine used to treat fever and pain.

Medical uses of amphetamines

Hart said he is no stranger to the effects of methamphetamine on people.

"I've given out hundreds of doses of methamphetamine, approaching thousands. I've never seen anyone become violent," he said.

Hart stressed that methamphetamine is "essentially the same drug as" amphetamine, a medicine commonly and legally prescribed by doctors around the world to treat a wide variety of diseases including ADHD, depression, narcolepsy, and obesity.

"In the United States, (amphetamines are) the number one drug for attention deficit disorder—prescribed to children as young as five years old," he said.

"Amphetamines are used widely but you don't see all this violence that people are claiming. It's just a myth," Hart underscored.

Earlier brush with Duterte

This is not the first time that Hart has butted heads with the country's head of state over the drug war.

Last May, Hart flew in to give a talk on drugs and drug abuse at the University of the Philippines.

At the event, he maintained that shabu use alone does not lead to violence nor causes brain damage by itself. He also said that drug abuse should be countered by public education and alternative solutions for would-be drug abusers.

Hart's views were shared by United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, a move which prompted the Philippine president to snap back at the pair:

"She should go on a honeymoon with that black guy," Duterte said.

"They have prejudged shabu and announced—ewan ko kung scientific (or) not—(that) it is not a virulent chemical. Pagka ganon, wala na tayong pag-uusapan," he added.

Hart said that he had received death threats in the wake of his controversial talk and left the country shortly thereafter. — GMA News

 

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13 anti-drug cops axed for extortion

By Non Alquitran (The Philippine Star) 

 

At least 13 members of the Eastern Police District (EPD) drug enforcement unit were removed from their posts for allegedly demanding P100,000 to release two of four persons they arrested, an official said yesterday. File

 

 

MANILA, Philippines - At least 13 members of the Eastern Police District (EPD) drug enforcement unit were removed from their posts for allegedly demanding P100,000 to release two of four persons they arrested, an official said yesterday.

Senior Police Officers 2 Luis Fortun, Eric Baran and Peter Joseph Villanueva; SPO1s Ryan Escorial, Ronnie Aquino and Francisco Sasaluya Jr.; PO3 Erich Joel Temporal; and PO1s Marlon Ace Yalo, Jomar Manalo, Roger Abrenica, Gilbert Pascua, Joey Rex Tumaliuan and Franklene Guzman were transferred to the Regional Police Holding and Administrative Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office last Monday, said EPD director Chief Superintendent Romulo Sapitula.

According to reports reaching Sapitula, the lawmen staged a drug sting in Marikina City last May 5 and arrested Richel Adora, her sister, Bienvenida, Annie Beth Romero and an unidentified suspect.

However, the policemen released Bienvenida and Romero after their relatives paid P50,000 each for their immediate release.

Richel and her unidentified companion were charged and held at the Marikina City jail.

Sapitula ordered an investigation and confronted the police officers, who denied the allegations. He relieved the 13 police offices after securing the sworn statements of Romero and Bienvenida, who refused to file criminal charges against the policemen.

He urged other alleged victims of the police officers to surface and file charges.

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Fisherman escapes from Abu Sayyaf captors

By Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) 

 

Officials of Barangay Lagtoh in Talipao, Sulu rescued Roy Ramos yesterday morning, said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) commander, quoting Talipao Mayor Sitti Raya Tulawie. File

 

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A Filipino fisherman kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf bandits last year has escaped from his captors.

Officials of Barangay Lagtoh in Talipao, Sulu rescued Roy Ramos yesterday morning, said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) commander, quoting Talipao Mayor Sitti Raya Tulawie.

Ramos told barangay officials that he escaped on Tuesday and wandered for about two days before he was rescued.

Ramos and three other crewmembers of F/B Ramona were taken while fishing in Celebes Sea on Dec. 20. The bandits also took boat captain Noel Esconde, marine diesel mechanic Reyjim Rocabo and crewmember Roel Liones, all residents of Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur.

Sobejana said Ramos underwent medical examination at the headquarters of JTFS in Barangay Bus-bus, Jolo.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding more than a dozen foreign and local hostages, who they reportedly divided into groups to evade military operations.

Military officials expressed confidence they can beat the June 30 deadline to finish off the Abu Sayyaf, with the success of military operations and the surrender of more bandits. They said surrenderees provide information on the location of their cohorts.

On Wednesday, suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits kidnapped a nine–year-old boy in Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo, Sulu.

The family of the victim said they have yet to receive any ransom demand from the kidnappers.

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Maid arrested for P1.5-M theft

By Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) |

 

An image from a surveillance video shows Rachelle Cabe (inset) riding a tricycle with the vault in the tricycle’s cab. Image taken from ABS-CBN

 

 

MANILA, Philippines - A house helper was arrested in Quezon City Wednesday night for allegedly stealing a vault containing P1.5 million worth of jewelry and cash from her employer’s home in Las Piñas on Tuesday.

Rachelle Cabe, 25, was caught near a mall along Commonwealth Avenue at around 9:30 p.m. after a bystander sought police assistance when he recognized her face from the news aired on television.

Cabe is facing qualified theft charges for stealing from her employer, a doctor.

Police officers recovered three mobile phones, ATM cards, jewelry and P2,708 cash from Cabe, who admitted stealing the vault and bringing it to a house in Ibaan, Batangas.

Cabe and the recovered items were turned over to the Las Piñas police.

In an ABS-CBN report, Cabe’s employer said she gave the suspect another chance after Cabe allegedly stole from her even when she was employed for two weeks.

Cabe’s employer also said a neighbor’s caretaker helped Cabe load the vault onto a tricycle because 

the maid claimed it contained dinnerplates.

 

 
 
 
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Calida: Supreme Court should prevail on martial law

But for Solicitor General Jose Calida, Congress only has to convene in a joint session if it will revoke President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration

Lian Buan

MARTIAL LAW. Solicitor General Jose Calida answers questions on martial law during the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the Office of the Solicitor General in Pasay City on June 8, 2017. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler

 

 

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Thursday, June 8, that the Supreme Court (SC) should prevail on the issue of martial law, as it prepares to tackle 3 petitions regarding the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

"If there's an interpretation of the law, it is the Supreme Court that will prevail but also there are certain prerogatives of the other branches of government," Calida said on Thursday during the 116th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in Pasay City.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier said the 17th Congress would ignore any SC ruling on martial law, saying the legislative branch cannot be dictated upon.

Responding to Alvarez's remarks, Calida said: "There are 3 branches of the government – the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. In each sphere they have this political prerogative. Like in the case of the President, nobody can tell him [not to] impose martial law."

As the government's top lawyer, Calida was asked to come up with a legal scenario if the magistrates' ruling clashes with the lawmakers' stand.

"We will have to see. I'm not a prophet, that's why I cannot tell you what will happen in the future," the Solicitor General said.

But he acknowledged that a constitutional crisis is likely.

Alvarez had been adamant about ignoring the SC, saying: "O, mag-issue ng direktiba ang Supreme Court telling Congress, dictating Congress na, 'Uy, mag-convene kayo ng joint session.' Punitin ko 'yan."

(If the Supreme Court issues an order telling Congress to convene in a joint session, I'll rip up that order.)

'No need to convene now'

For Calida, Congress only has to convene in a joint session if it will revoke martial law.

"There's no need right now, it's already fait accompli. The sense of Congress is that it's already supporting the proclamation of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus," the Solicitor General said.

Section 18, Article VII of the Constitution states that: "The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President."

The Senate and the House of Representatives, in separate resolutions, earlier expressed their support for Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

SC petitions

Two petitions, one filed by the group of detained Senator Leila de Lima and the other by the group of former senator Wigberto Tañada, have been filed before the SC, seeking to compel Congress to convene. Both petitions cite the Constitution as being clear that the Senate and the House must hold a joint session.

SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said on Thursday that the two petitions seeking to make Congress convene will likely be consolidated.

There is also a petition seeking to nullify Duterte's declaration, filed by opposition lawmakers led by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman. The SC set 3 straight days of oral arguments for that petition beginning June 13.

Calida said he is prepared to defend the martial law declaration, adding that it is clear the situation in Marawi City is invasion and rebellion, and therefore clear constitutional basis to declare martial law.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, in an earlier interview, warned of a constitutional crisis if there is a clash among the co-equal branches of government.

As lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña explained, co-equal branches of government cannot tell each other what to do. The SC can declare that something is unconstitutional, but when the other branches "insist on doing something that's unconstitutional," that's when the problem begins. (READ: Duterte cannot ignore SC, Congress on martial law – senators) – Rappler.com

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200 Marawi students transfer schools

By John Paul Jubelag (The Philippine Star) | 

 

The Department of Education (DepEd) has reported that at least 200 affected students in war-torn Marawi City have enrolled in Soccsksargen region schools since the opening of classes on Monday. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

 

 

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) has reported that at least 200 affected students in war-torn Marawi City have enrolled in Soccsksargen region schools since the opening of classes on Monday.

DepEd Region 12 director Arturo Bayocot said the enrollment of the transferees was reported by local division offices.

He said in Cotabato province, there were more than 50 enrollees from Marawi City while 40 others transferred to Sultan Kudarat province.

The rest, Bayocot said, were accommodated by schools in Koronadal City, General Santos City and South Cotabato province.

Bayocot also claimed they would still welcome students displaced from Marawi City and Lanao del Sur until June 30, including those who do not have proper documents.

“Because of this, we are encouraging the parents who are in the evacuation centers to bring their kids to the nearest public schools for their studies,” Bayocot said.

He claimed that the region currently has 1,096,320 students in 1,746 elementary schools and 499 secondary schools.

Given this figure, Bayocot clarified that the interest of the students to go to school was not actually affected by the implementation of martial law in Mindanao after the Maute group attacked Marawi City last May 23.

Some 44 students displaced by the fighting in Marawi have been accommodated in various public schools in Central Luzon after the DepEd granted special waivers on the usual requirements for school transferees.

DepEd regional information officer Michelle Catap said the students are now enrolled in schools in Angeles City, Zambales, Tarlac, Meycauayan City in Bulacan, Gapan City in Nueva Ecija, Olongapo City and Aurora.

DepEd has estimated that around 20,000 youths have been displaced this school year by the conflict in Marawi, where recovery would take time due to damage to buildings and other properties.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones has said DepEd encourages everyone, including those fighting for their cause, to respect schools as zones of peace and protect children to ensure that their learning will be shielded from conflict.

New peace corridor

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) reported yesterday that the composite team of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has opened another peace corridor to ensure the safe passage of noncombatants from Marawi City to Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

OPAPP said that humanitarian aid flowed through the corridor to civilians displaced by the Marawi crisis, to the nearby towns of Malabang, Madamba, Bubong, Masiu, Marantao and Ditsain Ramain in Lanao del Sur.

Several organizations deployed yesterday vans and trucks carrying food, medicine and other aid.

The ARMM Regional Command Center facilitated the deployment of medical doctors and supplies of the International Committee on the Red Cross in Tamparan, Lanao del Sur.

The United Bangsamoro Humanitarian Assistance distributed food to evacuation centers.

President Duterte approved the creation of the peace corridor to establish a secure route so that humanitarian assistance could pass through.

The first peace corridor was established in the three-kilometer Banggulo Bridge to Quezon Avenue in Marawi City that paved the way for the rescue of 134 trapped residents last Sunday.

Irene Santiago, chair of the government panel for the Bangsamoro peace accords, said the peace corridor is a joint effort of the government and MILF peace panels.

The government and the MILF are planning another rescue operation for the remaining 2,000 residents trapped in conflict areas in Marawi City.

“We are aiming to go farther and get as many trapped civilians as we can,” said presidential adviser on the peace process assistant secretary Dickson Hermoso.

This is the second attempt of the government and the MILF through its Joint Coordinating, Monitoring and Assistance Centre (JCMAC) to rescue trapped civilians.

The JCMAC rescued the civilians after officials were able to convince the military and the Maute group to observe a four-hour ceasefire to allow the rescue operations.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo has assured families displaced in clashes Marawi City that the government would continue providing assistance to them.

Based on latest figures, more than 222,000 people have been displaced by the clashes in Marawi City that started on May 23.

More than 18,000 are currently staying in evacuation centers, while a majority stay with relatives in nearby provinces.

“Thank you to all those who continue to send their donations to the evacuation centers housing our brothers and sisters displaced from Marawi,” Taguiwalo posted on her social media accounts.

She said the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 7 is continuously replenishing its stockpile to send more food packs to Iligan City for the evacuees from Marawi. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Janvic Mateo, Evelyn Macairan, Ding Cervantes, Ben Serrano

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