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Using mango seeds, Japanese creates forest in La Union

By:  - 



SAN FERNANDO CITY—One summer in the early 1970s, Osamu Nakagaki began to eat as many ripe mangoes as he could so he could retrieve good seeds he would plant at a denuded mountain in Barangay Cataclan here.

Only 25 at the time, Nakagaki was a volunteer of Japan Overseas Volunteer Cooperation (JOVC), an affiliate of Ja-pan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

“In April and May, I would eat ripe mangoes, then planted the seeds which were ready for replanting in December,” Nakagaki said.

Nakagaki and volunteers who came after him and their Filipino friends had to eat 2,000 mangoes to generate the seeds that soon grew into a mango orchard where the city’s botanical garden, established in 1995, is now located. The garden was opened to the public in 1998.

Former San Fernando City Mayor Mary Jane Ortega said the botanical garden was selected by botanist Ronaldo del Rosario of the National Museum precisely because of the full-grown mango trees there.

Nakagaki, now 71, was a horticulturist, who later served as Jica’s country director. He was initially involved in a project to raise tomatoes and other crops during rainy months. But during his travels, he noticed the balding mountains and decided to shift from planting crops to reforestation.

“I learned that people were practicing ‘kaingin’ (slash-and-burn). They burned the trees to plant crops, but they were destroying the forests in the process. I came up with the idea of a forest conservation project and told (then) Governor (Juvenal) Guerrero about it, and he was receptive,” Nakagaki said.

He chose Cataclan, which was accessible only by a trail, even though it was only 8 kilometers from the city center. “From the foot of the mountain to the site, we had to walk for two hours,” he said.

Nakagaki decided to plant mango trees, after observing that “residents seemed not to care about forest trees and tended to cut them down. But they didn’t destroy fruit trees.”

“They waited until the trees grew and bore fruits which they could eat or sell. But before we could plant, we had to eat mangoes to have seeds,” he said, chuckling.

Nakagaki arrived in La Union province in November 1970 and stayed until January 1974. It was in 1972 when he started the mango planting project.

When he left the country, three more JOVC volunteers continued the project until about 20 hectares were covered with the sweet fruit-bearing mango trees.

In 2002, Nakagaki returned to La Union as Jica country director and was surprised to find a forest where he planted seeds.

His bond with La Union has not ended. Three years ago, when JOVC celebrated its 50th year, Nakagaki and other former volunteers returned to the botanical garden, this time to plant guyabano (soursop) seedlings.

The place, where the garden is located, was named Sitio Hapon in honor of the Japanese who reforested the mountain: Nakagaki, Yoshiro Kodera, Hitoshi Naguchi and Akio Yamamoto.

Last week, Nakagaki visited the city with his son, Naruhito, bringing along Japanese friends who invested in information technology (IT) enterprises. They were interested in hiring IT course graduates.



Duterte rejects second-hand boats, military equipment from US

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos /

President Duterte said he will no longer acquire second-hand military equipment from the United States (US) for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Addressing troops of the army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade in Barangay Igsoon, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay Friday afternoon, Duterte said government forces will win over terror groups in Marawi City using the best military equipment.

He said that he is willing to spend more money than just settle for the surplus of the United States including firearms and boats.

“During my time, wala na akong secondhand mga barko-barko. It has to be brand new,” Duterte said.

“Hindi na ako tatanggap ng mga equipment ng military na secondhand. Iyong ibinibigay ng Amerikano, ayaw ko na ‘yan. Even if I have to spend double the money,” he added.

In a bit of pep talk, Duterte assured the soldiers they would triumph over terror groups.

“Dito naman sa extremism, mananalo tayo. But we will have losses, ganon lang talaga ang buhay. Pero sabihin mo matalo tayo, imposible ‘yan,” Duterte said.

“Kumpleto na ‘yung jets natin. Kung buhayin pa ako ng Panginoon, you will have about 24 jet planes. Mag-acquire pa ako ng 12. Subukan ko,” he added.

He revealed that the country has two sources of firearms, but stopped short of mentioning which nations these were.



Moro youth group calls to end Marawi airstrike

'The fact that the military made a mistake is enough reason to stop the airstrike,' says former human rights chair Etta Rosales 

Lian Buan

MANILA, Philippines – A youth Moro group called for the immediate termination of airstrikes over Marawi City on top of their pleas to lift martial law in Mindanao.

"Nananawagan kami ng 'no to airstrike' dahil nakikita naming pati kaming sibilyan ay kalaban na rin ng gobyerno, gusto naming ipaalala na ang tinutugis nila ay Maute lamang ngunit dahil sa airstrike ay sunud-sunod, nafi-feel naming mga sibilyan, pati kami kalaban na rin," said Sittie Janine Gamao of the Lanao-based Coalition of Moro Youth Movement.

(We are calling for an end to airstikes because we are seeing that even civilians are being regarded as enemies of the government, we want to remind them that they are hunting down the Maute Group only but because of the continuing airstikes, the civilians feel they're also the enemy.)

Gamao studied in Marawi and works as a government employee in Cotabato City. She goes home to Marawi City every weekend to her relatives. She has not been able to return since the declaration of martial law, but her relatives have managed to evacuate.

Gamao and fellow Maranaos, some of them displaced by the Marawi crisis, were in the capital to join several dialogues, including the martial law forum on Friday, June 2, led by civic groups, lawyers groups and representatives from the Commission on Human Rights.

"'Yung bahay ng mga kapatid ko doon sa mismong unang barangay ay 'yun ang inatake ng airstrike," said Norkaya Mohammad, an educator at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi. (My sibling's home is in the first village hit by the aistrike.)

Defense Secretary and martial law administrator Delfin Lorenzana said they are looking into suspending airstrikes due to the deaths of soldiers.

On Thursday, June 1, the military's airstrike killed 10 of their own because they missed their target.

The first plane hit its target accurately, while the second one missed its target by around 100 meters and instead hit the soldiers, said Lorenzana.

The military has repeatedly given assurances about civilian safety from their aistrikes but the recent error was used as an example by former human rights chair Etta Rosales during the forum to bolster calls to end the airstrikes.

"'Yung nagkamali na 'yung militar, that is more than enough reason to stop airstrikes. Stop airstrikes, lift martial law, because it's not doing them any good," Rosales said. (The fact that the military made a mistake is enough reason to stop the airstrikes.)

As of the latest update, there are 2,000 civilians that remain trapped in Marawi City, most of them in areas controlled by terror group Maute.

Some of the civilians who have not managed to evacuate reported their homes being hit by the airstrikes.

Martial law triggers

Gamao said that martial law in Mindanao is now triggering animosity among Mindanaoans victimized by the martial rule of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

"Nasa Mindanao ang halos lahat ng massacre na nangyari noong martial law, nariyan ang Palimbang massacre, Manili massacre, marami pong massacre," Gamao said. (It was in Mindanao where most of the massacres happened during martial law, there's the Palimbang massacre, the Manili massacre, so many massacres.) 

"Masyado rin naming tinututukan ang rape joke ni Pangulong Duterte dahil halos karamihan ng kababaihan na nagdaan sa martial law 'yun ang dinanas na karahasan," Gamao added.

(We're also focused on Duterte's rape joke because many women who experienced martial law experienced that kind of abuse.)

Gamao said that martial law may inadvertently lead young Muslims to join the radicalized groups.

These triggers, combined with what she said are "accumulated frustration" over the halted peace process on the Bangsamoro are being used as a pitch by recruiters.

Gamao said she encountered personal stories of this when they traveled to schools in rural areas in Lanao during the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

"Dito po namin nakikita yung entry point ng extremism. Sinasabi nila na wala na kayong mapapala sa gobyerno. Inaactivate nila ang frustration, disappointment na dinadanas ng mga tao doon para makapag-recruit sila," Gamao said.

(Here is where we see the entry point of extremism. They tell them not to count on the government anymore. They are activating the frustration and disappointment of the people there so they could recruit.)

Rosales said she is talking with officials and civic workers on the ground to formally organize and send their representative to the crisis committee in Marawi, so they could officially enter their position to call for the end of airstrikes.


Mohammad is one of the 71,000 people who have been displaced by the crisis in Marawi City. (READ: How to help Marawi evacuees through DSWD)

"Ang sabi sa mga taga-Maynila huwag kayong maniniwala sa mga taga-doon dahil wala kayo doon. Ngayon nandito na kami, tulungan niyo kami manawagan. Apat na araw bago ko iwanan ang cottage namin, inaanticipate namin na 60 days nandiyan ang martial law iraratrat nila ang bahay namin dahil walang tao," Mohammad said.

(They tell those in Manila to not believe what we say because they don't live there. Here we are now, help us call for help. It took me 4 days to leave my cottage and still we anticipate that if martial law lasts for 60 days, our homes will be destroyed because there's nobody there.)

Addressing the concern, Major Eduardo Espinas, chief of monitoring inquiry of the military's human rights office, called on Congress to pass the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) law.

Under the IDP bill, arbitrary displacement of people is penalized to protect the rights of IDPs.

"Dun po sa IDP bill makikita natin ang prohibited acts, ano po ang responsibilities ng different agencies at ano mga penalties, we ask for your support to call your congressmen para mapabilis ang proseso," Espinas said.

(In the IDP bill we'll know what the prohibited acts are, the responsibilities of different agencies and the penalties, we ask for your support to call your congressmen and expedite the process.) –


'Wonder Woman' grosses P48.39M on PH opening day

The movie breaks 2017's non-holiday opening day record in the Philippines


MANILA, Philippines – Wonder Woman has broken the Philippines' 2017 box office record for highest earning non-holiday opening day, according to Francis Soliven, general manager of Warner Bros Philippines. (READ: Movie reviews: What critics are saying about 'Wonder Woman')

Patty Jenkins' movie, which stars Gal Gadot, earned P48.39 million on its first day in cinemas, June 1. 

It beat the previous record holder, Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, which starred Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Beauty and the Beast earned P47 million on its opening day in the Philippines.

Beauty and the Beast was released in the Philippines on March 16 and later became the country'shighest grossing film of all time, with cumulative gross earnings of P667.46 million at the box office. (READ: What critics are saying about the new 'Beauty and the Beast')

Wonder Woman has received good reviews abroad, with many critics saying it's the best of DC Comics' previous live-action movies.

It's also the first female-directed live-action movie with a $100-million budget, according to CinemaBlend

Wonder Woman has been banned in Lebanon, as part of their boycott of Israel. Lead actress Gadot is Israeli, served in the Israeli army for two years, and represented the country in the 2004 Miss Universe pageant. –


Controversial Coron resort to push through–DOT

By:  -


No corals would be destroyed.

This was the only assurance that Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said was needed from the proponents of the Nickelodeon resort, which would be built on a 100-hectare area on Coron island, one of Palawan province’s top tourist destinations.

“They’re going to push through with it,” Teo said in a television interview.

“We are not going to destroy the corals,” Teo said. “We will preserve them.”

In a statement that followed the interview, Teo said the Department of Tourism (DOT), though “excited” about the project, would have to defer to “appropriate agencies” for the permits and approval that the project proponents needed to start construction.

“From a tourism perspective, the DOT is excited about the idea,” she said.

Not ‘underwater’

The developer, Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. (CWP), had clarified that the project was not an underwater theme park, but an undersea-themed project that would be land-based.

Teo said the project was not under the auspices of the DOT and that the developer was dealing with the local government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Teo said she had been convinced to support the project after the developer showed her maps and development plans.

Extra effort to explain


Local government officials, who had expressed opposition to the project, “probably did not understand it,” Teo said.

She said the developer had made an extra effort to explain “that’s why I got it.”

The project would feature a floating restaurant designed to have transparent floors to allow patrons to see the coral reefs underneath, Teo said.

She said proponents had thought of bringing the project to Indonesia but chose the Philippines instead.

The developer would also build hotels and condominiums, she said.

Nickelodeon project

Nickelodeon’s parent firm, Viacom, announced the project in January. Famous Nickelodeon characters, like “Spongebob” and “Dora,” would be features.

That statement had said “underwater restaurants and lounges will be located about 20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean.”

Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had publicly opposed the park, citing concerns about the marine ecosystem.

Netizens also launched an online petition opposing the project.



NAIA Expressway now fully open; 80K daily travelers seen




MANILA – A few minutes before midnight Friday (June 2), Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar announced the full opening of the NAIA Expressway, which will connect NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to Cavitex, Skyway, and Entertainment City. 

“A total of 17 off and on ramps have been constructed along strategic locations at Villamor Airbase, Resorts World, Naia Terminal 3, MIAA Road, Imelda Avenue, Cavitex, Seaside Drive and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard,” Villar said.

“The NAIA Expressway project is expected to benefit 80,000 travellers per day and expected to reduce travel time from SLEX to NAIA from 1 hour to 20 minutes,” he added.

The P20.45-billion NAIA Expressway Project is a four-lane, 12.65-kilometer elevated expressway (including ramps) and 2.22-kilometer at-grade road traversing Sales Avenue, Andrews Avenue, Parañaque River, MIAA Road and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard.

“With our growing participation in the infrastructure industry and the formal opening of NAIA Expressway, we can have a meaningful impact on the lives of millions of Filipinos. For SMC, this is the road ahead: One that leads to progress and prosperity for all,” Ramon Ang, President and Chief Operating Officer of San Miguel Corporation said.

The completion of the Naia Expressway Project is expected to provide easy access to and from NAIA Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 and will interface with the South Luzon Expressway through Sales Interchange, Manila Cavite Toll Expressway and Macapagal Boulevard.

“The opening of Ramp 1 and 17, which provides access to both Alabang and Makati area, is expected to complement the existing NAIA expressway road network, which already connected Macapagal Boulevard and Pagcor Entertainment City to NAIA Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and Skyway. The two ramps will be toll-free for 30 days,” Villar noted.




Duterte presides over joint AFP-PNP command conference


News5 | InterAksyon

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presided over the joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) Command Conference at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

President Duterte [center] at prayers before the start of a Command Conference with officers and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Photograph from the Malacañang Photo Bureau.Among those joining the Conference were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Interior and Local Government Acting Secretary Catalino Cuy, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Arthur Tabaquero, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Isidro Lapeña, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Monteagudo, Philippine Coast Guard Chief Joel Garcia, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go and other officials from various law enforcement agencies.


Fuel excise tax: inflation impact higher than DOF’s projection – experts


Beverly Natividad, Bloomberg TV Philippines | InterAksyon


MANILA – The House of Representatives has approved tax reforms the government claims are critical for its infrastructure effort, but some critics are looking to the Senate to reject planned tax hikes or at least tweak provisions to limit the impact on the public.

One example of a measure in the reform package that some experts say the government had underestimated the impact of: the higher excise taxes on fuel.

Economists from the University of Asia and the Pacific said that while they weren’t against the tax reform bill, the likely impact on inflation could be higher than that forecast by the government. They aired their views at a Senate ways and means committee hearing on higher excise taxes on fuel.

UA&P economist Ronilo Balbieran, said that “contrary to the results of the DOF [that it’s] within inflation target, we fear that it is being too close to the inflation ceiling of the 4% target inflation for 2018.”

He thinks the inflation target “will be breached if we’re going to push for the 3-2-1,” referring to the House-approved imposition of higher excise taxes on fuel that will be spread out over three years, supposedly to blunt the impact.

Balbieran thinks the inflation target will be breached “mainly because [there will be an] inflation expectation [when you shock the public in the] first year of implementation.”

Among others, the bill calls for a 6-peso fuel excise tax that will split into a 3-peso adjustment for the first year, P2 on the second and 1 peso on the third, from 2017 to 2019. 

The UA&P economists recommended that this be changed to P1.75 on the first year and P2 each for the next two years.

Transport groups also appealed to the senators for an exemption, claiming that privately owned cars far outnumber public utility vehicles.

Zenaida Maranan told senators their sector should be exempted from the higher excise taxes “because there are only 470,000 PUVs – the trucks, AUVs, taxis and jeepneys – as against 10 million private cars.”

If exemptions can’t be accommodated, transport groups asked the Finance department for help in modernizing their fleets.

Efren de Luna of ACTO proposed the conversion of a portion of the excise tax, say 50 centavos a liter, into a loan that they can use to modernize.

Department of Social Welfare and Development officials also spoke up against the bill, breaking with other government agencies that have expressed support for tax hikes.

Undersecretary Emmanuel Leyco said the poor would be particularly affected and planned subsidies to mitigate the impact would cost the government.

“We think that we can go and make corruption as an equally important goal of this government. With our experience, the Napoles scam alone is estimated to cost us more than P10 billion and tax evasion, tax leakages cost us billions,” said Leyco.

President Rodrigo Duterte certified the tax reform bill as urgent and the House of Representatives complied by approving the measure just before Congress adjourned this week.

Senators on Wednesday indicated that the government should expect major revisions in the House-approved package when their chamber finalizes their version.

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