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It’s Not Always the Case: Breaking Pedophilia Myths and Misconceptions

March 12, 2012 24 comments

by Isha Marie Maganis, Angela Louise Rosario, Dyan Eliza Sipcon

A pedophile is defined as an uneducated, poor, foreign, and mentally-retarded male. According to Merriam-Webster, pedophilia is the “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object,” while a pedophile is the “one affected with pedophilia.”

This is also how the society perceives pedophiles. However, in reality, this is not always the case.

According to Jannie, a graduate of family science and founder of http://www.Child-Safety-For-Parents.com, a qualified pedophile must “have repeated urges to be sexually involved with a child, fantasize to the point that relationships with other adults are damaged or destroyed, and be so obsessed that the person can’t function well in society anymore.”

Reported pedophilia cases in the previous years are noted in Baguio City blurring people’s perceptions of pedophiles.

Case # 1

“Carlo*” was a teenager at that time. He was staying at their house when he suddenly heard a knock. He went to the door to find out who it was. When he opened the door, he saw a group of alleged missionaries. They were going from one house to another, “spreading the word of God.” The moment they learned that Carlo was alone in the house; they pulled him in and raped him.

Case # 2

“Margot*” was five years old then. Her mother was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and she was not there to take care of Margot most of the time. Margot’s mother needed to hire a caregiver to look after Margot. “Macy*” was a male homosexual. He liked children and was known to be nice and close with the kids. With that knowledge, Margot’s mom was confident to leave her children with Macy. Macy took advantage of the situation and sexually-abused Margot. The mother learned of the situation but it was too late.

Case # 3

This case took place in a computer shop that happened last year. “Dino*” was a local government official, who was alleged to be walking around a computer shop at night, convincing boys to go with him to his house. Fr. Geraldo Costa, a Brazilian priest expert in child psychology and director of Sunflower Children’s Center, a center in Baguio dedicated for the welfare of children, believes that Dino has more than one strategy in getting the boys’ trust. Fr. Costa added that Dino played with them, gave them food, and such. Dino was giving what the boy needed at the moment, which was because he has the money to lure them. He pays for the boys’ gaming hours and then the latter will forget about their curfew.

*names have been changed for privacy

 Myths and Misconceptions about Pedophilia

Every day, people hear different news disseminated by media. People are already used to different facts due to the usual occurrence of news. People come up with misconceptions and myths, and develop their own definitions according to what the news tell them, without further understanding. This is the same with pedophilia.

1. If a person is normal, he is not pedophiliac.

People like to watch the news and comment afterwards. We always hear people saying, “If a person is in his right mind, he would not even think about doing such a thing.” They may not say it directly but people look at others in the shades of black and white. There is no compromise. In the case of pedophiles, people often perceive ‘normal’ people as ‘not pedophiliacs’ and ‘crazy’ people as ‘pedophiliacs.’

2. Pedophiles are always foreigners.

Media sensationalize news involving foreigners. The Philippines is a developing country that looks up to people coming from other countries. Having foreigners as violators or abusers is already a big issue for most media people. It has also been perceived that since foreigners have the money, they are the only ones capable to lure children.

3. All pedophiles are males, whereas all their victims are girls.

The Philippines is a patriarchal society. Male dominance is still evident in families, media, politics, and such. Although females of this generation try to equate themselves with males, what continues to emerge is the stereotype that they are physically, mentally, and emotionally weak. Thus, it makes males the qualified gender to be pedophiliac and seemingly impossible for females.

Also, in most reported cases girls are victims because they are perceived to be weaker and an easier target. They are also more vocal than boys.

4. All pedophilia cases include sexual activities.

Almost all reports in police blotters and in news accommodate pedophilia cases having sexual intercourse. When you say sexual pleasure, words such as intercourse and penetration of the genitals come to mind. Verbal abuse and other forms of abuse were not put into consideration because of its rarity. The general public was not completely informed of different cases wherein children can be abused. People also usually avoid talking about these conservative issues.

5. Pedophiles are usually middle-aged men.

Father figures like stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and whoever close to the victim were the ones usually reported as the perpetrators. Some were even described to be as Dirty Old Men.

6. Victims are always forced by pedophiles.

Their perpetrators are usually dominant and connected to being a father figure. As such, the victims were always perceived to be forced, that they did not want everything that happened between them and their perpetrators. The victims usually appear that they are sad and devastated, and that they are used, manipulated, and violated.

Breaking the Myths

Fr. Costa, generally described pedophiles as a person “…that is normal, heterosexual, with a partner, who is of the same age but at certain times he becomes a child abuser.” He also added that children are used for sexual purposes.

“Anyone can be a pedophile with enough psychological disturbances,” said Fr. Costa. A number of pedophile cases in Baguio City have been turned over to his care over the years. The worrisome fact is that these pedophile cases do not include incest cases.

People consider persons who have illnesses or diseases as not ‘normal,’ however, ‘normal’ is relative. As a reiteration of what Fr. Costa said, anyone could be a pedophile. A person can be sane even if he is pedophiliac. Pedophilia only develops when triggered by something he needs at the moment─ psychological, emotional, or physical needs. Reasons could be personal, like marital affairs, when the husband is no longer satisfied with his emotional and physical relationship with his wife. Pedophilia can also be triggered when he had experienced and witnessed abuse and violence in his early years.

People may think it is not normal, but pedophilia is a common deviation a person can experience. The act could be a release from stress.

Foreigners are involved in pedophile cases; however, reported cases in Baguio City also include local people. Surprisingly, these pedophiles are not only foreigners, but also the Filipinos’ own kababayans. The local media tend to sensationalize reports involving foreigners because they are the aliens of the community.

Another myth that people still believe is that males are the only perpetrators and girls are their victims. There are some cases that actually comprise women that were mentioned by a social worker, but the cases cannot be disclosed for confidentiality. Also, because the perpetrators are women, their identities cannot be revealed by media.

A news article entitled “Barriers to Solving Child Abuse in Community Cited,” published in Baguio Midland Courier last March 20, 2011, and written by Leia Castro discussed a forum that was held last March 16, 2011 at St. Louis University CCA Theater. The said forum, “Boys are Abused Too!” brought out the issue regarding the public’s lack of awareness on child abuse, especially on boys.

In an interview with Mrs. Liza Balao, Social Welfare Officer III of the Silungan Center, mentioned that there were no pedophile cases, having boys as victims, in Baguio City last year. She said that the only case reported was last 2007. The incident involved a foreign national and two minors aged 15 and 16. The boys were recruited by the foreigner from Mindanao, took them to different places in the Philippines, and eventually ended up in Baguio City. The foreigner promised them things in order to gain their trust so they would go with him. They rented a place somewhere in Baguio City. The boys were just staying in the house and the foreigner was the only one going in and out. He was the one who provided their needs. Their landlady noticed that something suspicious was going on and reported it to the police. The foreigner was charged for child abuse. He is in jail up to the present, however, according to Mrs. Balao, he is doing everything to be released. She added that he even filed cases against her and other social workers.

Another instance related to the abuse of boys was posted in the internet. That instance showed more reason to advocate awareness on the abuse. Bulatlat.com, an alternative online publication, posted a letter from Mr. Angelico Mercader, a former Department of Education (DepEd) officer. He narrated how his kids were sexually harassed by SM security personnel during an inspection. The incident happened last April 29, 2006. He stated in the letter, “After I was inspected, I saw the guard frisking my sons from the waist down to their private parts, one after the other. I freaked out when I saw what the guard did, as I also saw him smiling while my two sons were looking at me helplessly. I reprimanded him and said that he had just sexually harassed my children. Instead of apologizing, he argued that he was only joking and that he wasn’t gay and that my children were boys anyway.”

In the same letter, he mentioned about their advocacy against child abuse. During that time, people were still in denial and oblivious on cases involving sexually abused boys. Unfortunately, the incident was not taken seriously. SM Baguio did not do anything about it. Mr. Mercader filed a complaint to the police and continued the fight in court. He won the case; however, he believed that the court’s decision was not enough. The decision stated that the security guard was charged for crime of unjust vexation. He added that unjust vexation is a minor offense and, at that time, the fine was only Php 5 to 200 or imprisonment of 1 to 30 days. Another thing, if a case does not fit descriptions of a specific abuse, the case would fall under unjust vexation.

Penetration of genitals is not always present in pedophile cases. Fr. Costa explained the reason behind pedophilia. He said, “I believe that it is not sexual or genital pleasure. It’s power. That’s why in Europe there are several cases wherein they hide children in their houses (in the roof or a very secretive place). It is the power of handling. That’s why authorities, sexual related or political related, are very much into sexual abuse with children. You see the whole game of power. They are stimulated with the hold of power they can impose. To have a child or meaning individual completely under their control. It is a sickness. It’s a psychotic element. The individual thinks that he can do anything to that individual because he has him under full power.” Unknown to many, the sexual or genital pleasure they get is only a bonus.

According to Fr. Costa, there are people who are called, “consexuals,” “who get the trust of boys in difficult situations, usually in Maharlika area.” In the Urban Dictionary definition, consexual means, “a sexual identifier indicating a preference for mutually consensual sexual contact.” They blatantly express their sexual identity and preferences. They ask the boy to live with them and, in return, give them sexual favors.

In some instances, boys are willing to sell their flesh in the areas of Burnham Park and Maharlika. However, there were no reported cases in Baguio local police from 2010 to 2011. Most reported cases were boys as victims of physical abuse. The closely related case filed was unjust vexation. In short, there is a whole market of prostitution in Baguio City.

Conclusion

In the end, it all boils down to power. Power over another human being has becoming an addiction. Gaining power has become an achievement or a game to be won. The chase is the thing that stimulates the pedophile and sexual contact is just a freebie.

Fr. Costa stressed that a pedophile often attempts to get the boys’ trust through promising and/or giving things. Victims are usually from poor communities and, sometimes, with a history of neglect.

Fr. Costa stated that there is no medicine or permanent treatment for pedophilia because it is a psychotic tendency. On the other hand, the victims can undergo psychotherapy. The duration of the treatment depends on factors such as the extent of trauma and age of the victim. The younger ones are more resilient that the older ones. There were cases that the trauma comes back, most especially during their puberty stage. Sometimes, after the treatment, when another incident of sexual abuse occurs, trauma comes back.

According to Fr. Costa, the children sometimes tell the incident to their parents. However, the parents sometimes do not always pay attention. The child does not do anything anymore because he tends to think that he is wrong because his parents did not mind him. He felt that his parents did not trust him.

More advocacies are also needed to protect and promote peaceful youth of the children. Boys and girls alike are afraid to talk since their parents usually do not mind them. Another, to save the family’s reputation, the issue becomes confined and justice is not given to the child.

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Irisan Dumpsite: The Inconsistencies of the Government’s Plans and Actions

March 12, 2012 21 comments

by Francis Blaise Acorda, Jon Viktor Cabuenas, Carly Ymer Lemence

Rebecca Martin is a working woman in Purok 17, Irisan, Baguio City. She works as a garbage picker in the new Irisan dumpsite and she has already been working for 15 years. As the old dumpsite is now closed, Rebecca now works in the staging area to continue her work. Unlike others who take trash for granted, she earns her living from trash.

Rebecca, together with other family members, goes to the dumpsite as early as 5 o’clock in the morning every day. With the use of long sticks, they search within the trash for plastics and other biodegradable materials. They segregate everything they can find – bottles, plastics, wrappers, etc. At the end of the day, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, they sell everything they get to the nearest junk shops. They earn around 100 Php per day.

Although the Irisan dumpsite was permanently closed since the trash slide last August 27, 2011, Rebecca and her co-workers still feel glad about having a staging area in Purok 17, Irisan. According to her, this is the only place where they can work and the only place where they can earn money for a living.

Rebecca and her family are not the only ones who live near the Irisan dumpsite but they lucky, having not been affected by the trash slide. According to her, she has friends whose houses were buried in trash but the government helped them and gave them housing in Pacdal, Baguio City.

As a consistent observer in the Irisan dumpsite and the new staging area, Rebecca is aware of the everyday cycle of the garbage in Baguio City.

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Rebecca Martin, wearing the blue cap, with her fellow garbage picker.

(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

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The Garbage Pickers (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

 The Irisan Dumpsite then and after the trashslide

The Irisan dumpsite has already been the area for Baguio City’s garbage since 1972. Prior to being a dumpsite, the area used to be owned by the Smith clan, an American family. It was then passed on to a local family from Baguio, the Caguioa family who finally decided to give the land to the city.

Before the implementation of the Republic Act 9003 in the year 2000, the segregation of the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes was not strictly implemented, leaving an assortment of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste materials in the dumpsite.

After the trash slide that affected families from the residential areas along Irisan and Asin Road, Baguio City, Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti says that as far as he knows, the city government of Baguio is liable for 20,000.00 Php for every death incurred in the incident and another 20,000.00 Php for every household affected. As help, the barangay solicited funds and relief goods to the affected families.

Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan said that the affected families, including those whose houses were buried by trash, were not given relocation homes by the government. Tanawe added that some families resettled to their relatives living along Baguio while others stayed as they had no other place to go. According to Ruben A. Cervantes, Public Services Officer IV of City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), they are not responsible for giving these families resettlement homes as these families are informal settlers.

Ceferino Nariz, an Irisan resident, said he and his family have been staying in the area since 1982. He said that they have no plans of leaving their home as it is where they earn their living. When it comes to issues and concerns, Nariz said that they do not have any problems, even if they live just beside the dumpsite. His only wish is for the garbage to be permanently removed for the government’s plans of rehabilitating the dumpsite to push through.

Is the dumpsite permanently closed?

The dumpsite was only permanently closed on January 28, 2012 after the Supreme Court released an order for the area to be permanently closed. Although there are rumors that the dumpsite is not really closed, the residents along the dumpsite, the garbage pickers, and Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied this. Cervantes added that the old dumpsite is where the recycling machines are located. Biodegradable materials collected from the city are brought there to be grinded and converted into fertilizers.

Today, part of the Irisan dumpsite is now covered by soil and according to Kagawad Tanawe, in time the whole site will be covered with soil, serving as the first step in rehabilitating the dumpsite.

As the dumpsite is now permanently closed, the city government eyes total restoration of the land. By the process of retrofiling, all the trash left in the site will be covered up by soil. Development started last January 28 and as of now, the topmost part of the area is now completely covered.

Since the site is not evenly levelled, parts of the area will be terraced as to avoid landslides. Regreening of the area will also be imposed as the site is set to be made into an eco-park.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied rumors that the money for the rehabilitation of the dumpsite was given to the victim of Sendong in Mindanao. He said that the financial donation said to have been giving to these victims, is from the contingency funds of the city.

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The Irisan Dumpsite. Half of its top part covered with soil. (Photo taken by Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan)

Kagawad Tanawe said that the dumpsite has minimal possibility of erosion as it is no longer in a slope.

Implementation of R.A.9003 and the New Staging Area

Although the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act was implemented as early as the year 2000 during the term of Mayor Braulio Yaranon, people in Baguio City did not practice this. The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” was only implemented after the Irisan trash slide. Since then, garbage from different houses and barangays are to be segregated. If not, these are not to be collected

Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the “Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” states that “it is the policy of the State to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management.” Residents are to segregate trash between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials.

As the Irisan dumpsite is now permanently closed, the government opened a new staging area for the city’s garbage. This staging area is located in Purok 17 of Barangay Irisan.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO said that the city’s garbage is supposed to be dumped in the staging area for only 24 hours then transported to Tarlac but according to Kagawad Tanawe, the garbage stays in the staging area for about two to three days before being transported. Tanawe also doubts that the recycling machines are being used by the city government because according to him, the machine cannot process all the biodegradables in converting it into compost materials. According to Cervantes, these machines are still being used.

Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti said that for the garbage to be transported to Tarlac, it must first be transferred to larger trucks as the smaller trucks are not practical, being unable to transport large volumes of trash. Dumalti also believes that there is another staging area in Barangay Sanitary Camp but Kagawad Tanawe has contradicting information as he said that the Sanitary Camp is already clean and it only served as a staging area way before the Irisan dumpsite. Cervantes confirmed that Sanitary Camp is no longer a staging area and it now serves as a residential area.

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(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/06/12) Staging Area in Irisan

Now that the city’s garbage is currently being dumped in the staging area, residents along the site have different opinions and views.

Feliza Uyam, a resident living near the staging area said that she sometimes works in the site. According to her, the staging area is open for everyone who wants to work there as a garbage picker, as there is no contract. She said that most of the people who work there need to earn money to buy food for their families.

Uyam said that both biodegradables and non-biodegradables are thrown in the staging area. Some of the biodegradables are brought to the closed Irisan dumpsite where the recycling machines are located, some given and found by the garbage pickers for them to sell, and the remaining biodegradables are collected by the large trucks to be brought to Tarlac.

With the staging area just a few steps away from her home, Feliza said that she is fine with the staging area being close to her home as it gives her and her neighbours a place to earn money to be able to help their families.

A store owner whose store is also a few steps from the staging area said that according to the government, the site will only be used as a staging area for six months but up until now, the staging area is still operating for even more than six months, allegedly, while some of the residents in the nearby area do not have any idea what the government will do with the area and how it is going to operate.

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Residential Area near the Staging Area (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

Land used for the staging area: Owned by the BCNHS

The land used for the staging area in Irisan where the garbage is currently being held, was originally owned by the city government but the land was later given to Baguio City National High School. When the news broke that the city government was using the land of BCNHS as a staging area, Dr. Elma D. Donaal, BCNHS Principal IV, immediately called the attention of CEPMO. Donaal learned the news from media who asked her to comment regarding the matter. Although the land had already been given to BCNHS, the government did not inform Donaal about the plan of making the land as a staging area for the city’s trash. Although a bit taken aback on the matter, Donaal agreed to the plan of the government and thought that it was a way to help the city.

The staging area is the proposed site where BCNHS and the Philippine Science High School plan to construct buildings for the expansion of their schools. As funds are not yet available for BCNHS, they have leased less than 50% of the land to the Philippine Science High School which is set to construct their school building as soon as possible. As of now, Principal Donaal agreed with CEPMO for the city to temporarily use their land as a staging area. “I am not complaining because it’s for the good of the city,” she said.

Donaal explained that the city hall is not to be blamed because it is not only the government’s garbage but it is also the garbage of the citizens of Baguio.

The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” is now being strictly implemented in the city. Every day, 15 garbage trucks collect the trash once a day in the residential areas and thrice a day in the central business district of Baguio.

Rehabilitation of the Dumpsite

If the rehabilitation of the Irisan dumpsite and the planned eco-park pushes through, Barangay captain Dumalti wishes that the government prioritize the residents along the area, giving them jobs, as the government has now plans to make them leave the area.

A Notice to the Public: Baguio City Road Construction

March 12, 2012 30 comments

by Shiela May Aballa, Shekinah Angiwan, and Kimiyo Meadows

The Department of Public Works and Highways – Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (DPWH- BCDEO) stands by three principles:

(1) Right Cost – reasonable and fair budget allocation
(2) Right Project – constructions, rehabilitation and improvement where most needed
(3) Right Quality – durable and safe roads

Right Quality: Complaints on Road Construction

Salamat DPWH – Baguio is new “bungkal city” of the Philippines – Instead of the official page of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Baguio, this page is the first to appear if you search for “DPWH Baguio” on Facebook.

There are only two posts on this page. The first one is by Mark Anthony Molina. On August 27, 2011, he wrote:

can i know who is the officer in charge of the DPWH baguio!!! because last night i have accident i was running 20kph with my motor then suddenly i struck a gap on the road it is deep now my motor and my self flown away on the road my question is why do the DPWH construct a gap on the road and didnt coverd with cement that gap on the road is located at burnham road infront of ganza restaurant im the 3rd motorist who got accident in that area im lucky to survive and only minor bruises on my body is what ive got!!! can the damn DPWH fix that road u make people die!!!! im concern not only i got accident but im concern to my fellow motorist who are riding in that area!!!! baguio is on heavy traffic ryt now because of construction everywhere why do DPWH construct it on rainy season and during class season why dont they do it on summer times where baguio is not totally populated!!! WHY DPWH i need an answer!!! freaking road construction!!!

The DPWH is the first government agency that comes to mind when the topic is road construction. This is typical because the word “highways” is in the name and a responsibility of the department. But does this department accommodate complaints such as Molina’s?

Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato explained that many complaints were addressed to their department, but actually some complaints were not in their area of responsibility. Engineer Gallato clarified that their office’s concern is only the national roads in Baguio City. The Baguio City District Engineering Office (BCDEO) is not responsible for the complaints about the local roads, so not all traffic-related problems are their fault.

Engineer Gallato claims that they receive a lot of complaints, but when asked for the records of complaints, he said that they require a formal letter. Assistant District Engineer Romelda Bangasan did not show any record of complaints either, but she offered copies of the procedural response to complaints. The same reply can be found in local newspapers, they said.

When a taxi driver, who asked to remain anonymous, was asked to comment on the road construction in Baguio, he said that negative feedback is pervasive because of traffic and repetitive and simultaneous construction of the roads. He added that although they are upset, they cannot do anything about it. BCDEO claimed that they inform relevant agencies, like transportation offices such as the Traffic Management Branch (TMB), before a project is implemented, but the public utility drivers are not aware of this. The drivers also said that even if they were informed, it would still be an inconvenience.

Most of the time, “nagkikibit-balikat na lang kami,” one of the taxi drivers said. They passively live and work with what the higher offices implement.

“Paulit-ulit ginagawa ang Bokawkawan, halos yearly. Pero sabi ng engineer na kakilala ko, ‘pag concrete, tumatagal naman nang more than 10 years,” said another taxi driver. It is all about money because there are millions in the roads, he added.

BCDEO explains that they use a machine, Highway Development Management (HDM-4) System, to examine the roads and they base potential and ongoing projects on the results of the database. The treatment of the road depends on the level of damage to the road. Some roads need only a concrete or asphalt overlay. Others must be reconstructed completely.

One of the projects of the BCDEO for 2012 is to rehabilitate the bus terminal on Governor Pack Road. To accomplish this, the bus terminal will have to be transferred temporarily to the vacant lot beside Baguio Convention Center. One taxi driver said that the space in that vacant lot is not enough to use as a bus terminal and as far as he knows, that lot is property of another government agency.

Despite the criticisms that DPWH, especially BCDEO, faces, they still receive positive feedback. For example, Ayra Batore Laguitao’s post in the previously mentioned Salamat DPWH Facebook page from August 21, 2011, says “Please know first d reason behind it.” In addition to this, a taxi driver praised the contractor of the Marcos Highway project for finishing earlier than expected. He added that Marcos Highway is better now than before.

Many of the citizen’s complaints should not be directed to DPWH-Baguio. The residents and drivers are at fault as well in assuming that the DPWH is simply not doing its job.

Right Project: The Road Construction Process

When the public hears ‘DPWH’, they immediately think of Photoshop and shame, incompetence, and most of all, inconvenience. For the people of Baguio especially, because of the simultaneous road constructions during the rainy season, 2011 was both challenging and frustrating, resulting in what may have been maximum inconvenience for the travelling public. This is a fact, but maybe it’s time we understand the process involved in road construction, and maybe it might result in lenience for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) if it happens again.

The DPWH operates on national roads only. To most of the public, as long as it is a road construction, DPWH is behind it. But actually, the local roads are handled by the local government, under the City Engineer’s Office, with a totally separate process and budget.

DPWH gets its budget from the Regular Infrastructure Fund, which is supposed to be released at the start of the year. Last year, the Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (BCDEO) received a lot of complaints concerning the simultaneous road constructions conducted by DPWH-Baguio. The road constructions that were most disruptive, being simultaneous and in close proximity to each other, were on Bokawkan Road, Ferguson Road, and Quezon Hill Road. Not only were the road constructions simultaneous in the busiest parts of the city, they started the road constructions in June, which is the start of classes, and also the start of the rainy season.

There were articles about the typhoons delaying the road constructions, but then why start the road constructions at a time that is known to be prone to strong rains and typhoons? For last year, the problem lies in the release of the budget. The DPWH budget for 2011 was released in March, instead of January. According to Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato, it takes up to two months to finish processing all the papers required to start the road constructions. It is easy to put the blame on the national level, but Gallato and his office acknowledge that they were at fault as well.

DPWH had 10 projects in Baguio City last year. They were two projects at Magsaysay Avenue, Quirino Highway, Major Mane Road, Outlook Drive, Ferguson Road, two projects at Loakan Road, Bokawkan Road, and Quezon Hill Road. They have all been completed by the end of last year. Compared to last year, the minimum inconvenience and speed with which the road constructions this year have been finished is commendable. DPWH has 18 projects in Baguio City for 2012. They are the roads along the stretch of Abanao Road, Kayang Street, Harrison Road 1, Governor Pack Road, Government Center Road, Leonard Wood Road, and Marcos Highway. By February, seven road projects have already been completed. What made the difference between this year and the last?

Road construction is not an easy job. It is a long process and is never appreciated by the travelling public while it is ongoing, sometimes even after. Aside from allocating budget, DPWH has to do a public bidding for the contractors, and once a contractor has won the bid, they need a month for implementation, which requires testing the road and processing the contract and other papers.

Road constructions this year started in January. Some of the ongoing projects have been delayed due to the Panagbenga Festival and the anticipation of graduation, but unlike last year, DPWH was very much prepared for 2012 because of so much negative feedback from the travelling public. As early as November 2011, they conducted detailed engineering pre-construction activities, where they identified the projects that have to be done for 2012. In December 2011, they had already finished the papers for pre-construction, advertisement, notice of award, and notice to proceed. So come January 2012, when the budget was released, they started immediately.

DPWH can also be commended for the informational boards that they have put up at the sites of ongoing and impending road constructions. Now, not only do the public know the budget for the road construction, they also know who the contractor is, where the road construction starts and ends and how long the project might take. Apparently, the road signs and traffic signals are part of the budget given to the contractors, so the public can make a formal complaint if the site lacks these.

So why do we only now notice the effort that DPWH is making? While the road constructions are ongoing, DPWH gets so much negative feedback, but after the roads are done, they get practically no praise. DPWH has done a lot for our city. It cannot be denied that they could have done so much better last year, but it is apparent that they quickly learned from that and recovered. For example, they anticipated how their projects would affect traffic, so they finished the smaller constructions before the Panagbenga Festival. All that’s left now are their projects in Governor Pack Road, Abanao Extension, Chanum Street, Kayang Extension, Kisad Road, A. Bonifacio Road, two projects in Quirino Highway, M. Roxas Road, PMA Cut-off Road 1, and PMA Road.

If DPWH-Baguio can do it fast and with less inconvenience, why did they not do it that way in the first place? There are other factors that affect their efficiency. Some of them are: they do not control the release of the budget, or sometimes the contractors have to re-bid because they cannot comply with the government’s requirements, or there might be some unforeseen complications like the soil eroding or a sewage breaking, or sometimes the problem lies with the contractors, like if they lack materials or manpower.

Speed and minimum inconvenience may have developed late on the part of DPWH-Baguio, but as the saying goes, it’s better late than later.

Right Cost: Budget Allocation

The concerned public often asks, “Where do our taxes go?” This is justified by the fact that funds for government projects are partly comprised of citizens’ taxes, and naturally, these citizens want reassurance that they will get their money’s worth. In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), budget allocation is a matter given much serious consideration.

In the year 2011, the budget allotted to the DPWH amounted to Php 208 million. This year saw an increase of Php 3 million, bringing the total up to Php 211 million. The sum of money that the department receives yearly is based on a proposed amount from the central office of DPWH, but the amount given will not necessarily match the proposal. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether as much as is being asked is actually needed, based on the gravity and number of projects the department will undertake and the inflation of costs of raw materials and equipment.

How, then, is the money actually spent? For each project of the DPWH, a contractor must commit and sign an official contract before beginning actual road work. Contractors are not randomly chosen but enjoined in a bidding process for the project. The DPWH aims for the lowest price of labor and materials without sacrificing the quality (especially for safety and longevity) of road work. Once bidding is finished, the project is awarded to the winning contractor and the manual labor can begin. In sum, pre-construction activities take only one month.

For the year 2012, Engineer Gallato said, “We are allowed to conduct a pre-detailed engineering … as long [as] naidentified na ang project …. Last 2011 … I think that was October, we started the detailed engineering of this project, and … by the end of December, almost all our projects, natapos na ang bidding. Ready for implementation. Hintayin lang namin ‘yong pagdating ng pondo, ‘tsaka namin inaward dahil hindi kami pwede magaward ng project sa contractor kung wala pa ‘yong pondo.”

In the interest of the public who will use these roads, the payment for the contractor is withheld until the project is completely finished. However, if there is a lack of materials, the contractor may ask for partial payment in order to continue working without interruption. Complete materials and equipment of good quality are also important to road quality, hence the allowance of partial advance.

Another scenario in which the payment might be docked is if the team does not finish the job on time. Because of the urgency of their task, they may be asked for liquidated damages if they exceed the deadline agreed upon. The amount deducted depends on the contract. This is also the protocol for any other shows of poor performance. Contractors must rectify unsatisfactory jobs at their own expense.
Once the project is completely done, the contractor is asked to submit an accomplishment report to the Department of Budget Management for billing. This must include the statement for work and other supporting documents. Given that there are no discrepancies or any kind of problem with the paperwork, the full payment will be released 20 to 25 working days after submission. Savings from DPWH projects are utilized for the continuation of still ongoing projects or starting of new ones.

It is not commonly known that the DPWH-BCDEO is responsible only for national roads. Hence, not all road constructions going on in the city are under their command. Their efforts and funds are dedicated only to national roads. Any construction on roads besides national roads is the work of local government: the City Engineering Office (CEO). Both offices manage road construction, but because of the differentiation, the budget of the DPWH-BCDEO is separate from that of the CEO. Each agency also has its own set of officials and, depending on its scope, its own projects.

It’s Your Best Friend on a Platter

March 12, 2012 14 comments

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An Investigative Report on the Operation of Comiles Eatery II in Baguio City

By Christian Co, Ma. Arianne Fatima Gapac, and Hannah Kim

It was another chilly afternoon in Baguio City. Mang Louie (not his real name) was driving around Marcos Highway looking for passengers. Cold and hungry, he decided to enter Comiles Eatery II for his occasional “ulo ng aso,” the specialty of the house.

Upon entering the eatery, he saw Mayor Domogan seated at a table. This was not the first the time he had seen government officials in Comiles, as he had seen policemen and even judges on other days.

For Mang Louie, eating dog meat is a pleasurable habit as it makes him feel warm and energized. However, he eats dog meat dishes only from time to time to avoid high blood pressure.

“Malinis naman yan… basta niluluto. Siguraduhin mo lang na walang gudgod (scabbies),” said Mang Louie. He is not bothered by rumours of sanitary issues concerning rabies. “Kasi niluluto na rin nila kahit may gudgod.”

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Photo 1. Located below the ground level, Comiles stands among local eateries and sari-sari stores.

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Photo 2. Three streamers mark the entrance of the eatery.

“Basta Baguio, aso agad yan,” he said.

Mang Louie is one of the many customers who patronize Comiles and its dog meat dishes. Located at the underground level of an unpainted, cemented building, the eatery seems inconspicuous except for its large banners with the name COMILES EATERY II displayed outside. Able to accommodate around 50 people, the eatery is mostly visited by men. The employees, mostly female, would not serve dog meat unless asked for. There is no menu displayed, and the counter usually contains pork, chicken, and vegetable dishes.

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Photo 3. The counter usually displays pork, chicken, and vegetable dishes.

Comiles under scrutiny

In spite of its popularity among Baguio locals, Comiles Eatery has been put under investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), ans Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) such as the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF) under the International Wildlife Coalition Trust (IWCT).

Together with the PNP, Charles Wartenberg, President of the AKF, carried out a raid in Comiles in January 2010 wherein five people were arrested and 8.4 kilos of dog meat were confiscated. In Wartenberg’s published online report entitled “Licence to Kill,” the defendants acknowledged that they were selling dog meat but strongly contended that they should not punished. The defendants argued that “the law is based on one whole dog,” and that they served only parts of a dog. They also claimed that any virus of a rabid dog can be eliminated in the cooking process. They finally reasoned that the practice of eating dog meat is “customary and socially accepted.”

These reasons appear very questionable and irrational. For the defendants to say that they must not be punished for serving only parts of a dog is senseless. Dog meat is still dog meat even when they are in pieces. Does anyone expect a dog, a domesticated animal, to be served lechon-style on a large tray? There is no point of escaping the law with the matter of proportions or sizes, for stealing bread is the same as stealing cash.

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Photo 4. The spare parts of man’s best friend on a platter served in Comiles eatery.

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Photo 5. Chicken served on the right, dog meat dish on the left.

As for the defendants’ claim that viruses found in rabid dogs can be eliminated due to the cooking process, Wartenberg asserts that this is scientifically incorrect. He points out to the death of four-year old Ressia Mae Edoria who died after eating contaminated dog meat in Negros Occidental on December 13, 2005, which he calls “an avoidable death.” Wartenberg holds the death certificate which states that Edoria died due to rabies as a result of ingesting cooked dog meat. However, just like Mang Louie, many people are confident that the preparation and cooking process can get rid of the diseases the animal carries. They must have not heard that dogs, along with cats and bats, are the main carriers of rabies. Also, they probably are not aware of the gravity of the effects and the heavy possibility of dog meat being contaminated or diseased with not only rabies, but, as Wartenberg said, with E.coli, salmonella, hook worms, etc.

It is undeniable that the defendants and many dog meat eaters are convinced that culture justifies the practice of selling and eating dog meat. Just as Mang Louie said, Baguio City has become recognized as the center of dog meat trade. However, the city is not exempt under the law, particularly in Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act (Republic Act No. 8485), which states that:

It shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horsefights, kill or cause or procure to be tortured or deprived of adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreatment or use the same in research or experiments not expressly authorized by the Committee on Animal Welfare.

The killing of any animal other than cattle pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles is likewise hereby declared unlawful except in the following instances:

(1)   When it is done as part of the religious rituals of an established religion or sect or a ritual required by tribal or ethnic custom of indigenous cultural communities; however, leaders shall keep records in cooperation with the Committee on Animal Welfare (underlined for emphasis).

Restaurant eating is not equated to any religious ritual as far as dog meat is concerned. The sale of dog meat especially in restaurants is usually classified as for commercial use or plain business. Unless a religious group or sect holds a ritual which includes killing dogs and eating the slain dogs’ meat inside Comiles, it is clear that dogs should not be butchered even for the sake of eating. And so far, dog meat eating in restaurants is more of a routine rather than a cultural or religious practice.

What about government officials and policemen eating dog meat? The Anti-Rabies Act (Republic Act No. 9482) states in Section 7 that local government units (LGUs), in their respective localities, shall “prohibit the trade of dogs for meat.” They are responsible for overseeing that such operations do not exist, and yet they are also recognized as the clients of the operation itself. It is because they hold on to the idea that culture surpasses the law.

These government officials do not see that their cultural reasons plainly impede the law. Come to think of it: Comiles is still in operation since the case was dismissed due to “lack of probable cause.” In his persistence, Wartenberg promised in his report that the case would be taken to High Court under a new Baguio lawyer. According to Ms. Ivy Buenaobra of the AKF, Wartenberg will be coming on March 8 to follow up cases such as this.

Favour and legality

Comiles continues to operate in Marcos Highway and in Camp 7. Why does the city government tolerate such business? As mentioned earlier, the system of ordering dog meat was discreet; the dishes were given only upon request. When asked about her boss and the supplier of dog meat, an employee refused to reveal their names. Mang Louie is one of the male-majority customers satisfied with their dog meat dishes— from the dog head to the “spare” parts.

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Photo 6. A close-up of the “spare” parts.

As Wartenberg stated in his report from the National Meat Inspection Board (NMIB), dog meat was not acceptable for human consumption. What do the local health experts from the Department of Health- Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) have to say, considering that they may have cultural bias as they are based in the Cordilleras, a culture-bound region?

Mrs. Roselle Bani from the Information, Education, and Communication Center claims that there is no rabies in dog meat if already cooked. Rabies Awareness Coordinator Dr. Shelly Aral also says that dog meat consumption is “acceptable” due to IP culture. Surprisingly, she also takes up the AKF’s claim about “the (dog’s) virus being eliminated in the cooking process as scientifically incorrect” as “not true” by saying that the policies against dog meat focus only on the welfare of the dog. She stresses that rabies can be acquired through handling fresh dog meat, especially with open wounds, and not through ingestion.

The local health experts seem to favour the practice of dog meat eating. But does favour entitle legality? License Inspector II Peter Balinag of Baguio City Hall confirms that Comiles Eatery is licensed. Yes, Comiles is an establishment with a “license to engage in business.”

A “license to engage in business” is simply a business permit that requires the following:

  • mandatory requirements of Baguio City government: sanitary permit from Baguio Health Department (BHD,) barangay business clearance, sewer certificate from CEPMO, and fire clearance
  • national requirements: BIR clearance, SSS clearance, PhilHealth certificate, PAG-IBIG
  • other requirements appropriate for the business
  • requirements for the sanitary permit include health certificates from BHD and Health Services Office (HSO) and completion of the Food Handlers Orientation (schedule: Mondays 1-5pm, Wednesdays and Fridays 8-12am)

It seems that the sanitary permit is the only relevant requirement for the case of Comiles Eatery, being a restaurant that serves exotic meat. The Food Handlers Orientation is the only prerequisite to a health certificate for the documentation of the sanitary permit. It looks as if it is an inadequate process, since attending a seminar does not guarantee safety and proper food handling skills.

How is dog meat handled specifically? Are there certain procedures for checking whether a package of dog meat is viable for consumption? No. Mrs. Regina Lapitan of the Baguio Health Department’s Division of Sanitation insists that the Food Handlers Orientation does not discuss dog meat specifically, as it is not their duty to classify meat.

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Photo 7. A male customer enjoying the specialty of the eatery.

Dogs are not food animals

“Nobody is in-charge of inspecting restaurants serving dog meat because dog meat does not fall under the city government’s classification of consumable meat,” says Dr. Mary Jane Cabradilla of the City Veterinarian’s Office. No wonder the BHD is not duly concerned whether the meat certain restaurants handle are of dogs. The City Vet’s Office is one agency that does not favour the sale of dog meat such as that of Comiles.

In contrast to the statements of Dr. Aral and Mrs. Bani, Dr. Cabradilla claims it is possible to acquire diseases, not only rabies, from eating unhealthy dogs.

Interestingly, Dr. Cabradilla calls the Animal Welfare Act as a weak law because it only focuses on live dogs (eg. transportation). She sees Comiles as “safe” from being confronted because the driver or the owner of the vehicle carrying the dogs is the one who gets sued, not the one being supplied. In a raid conducted by the NBI and the Political Animal Lobby (PAL) with Mel Alipio on several restaurants, Comiles Eatery denied that they served any dog meat dish. Dr. Cabradilla was taken back when she heard that Comiles still serves dog meat. She assumed that the employees were warned beforehand about the raid.

The city government officials are aware of the laws; however, the faulty implementation of the policies on dog meat lies in the inadequacy of the laws. The suppliers of dog meat will continue to trade as long as Comiles Eatery continues to operate and to be tolerated by government officials and health experts due to the laws. These laws, especially the Animal Welfare Act, do not specifically target or cover dog meat. The only kind of meat that can be inspected are the consumable meat, or “food animals,”  which are cattle pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles as stated by the Animal Welfare Act.

There should be amendments of the law that would include inspections in restaurants that serve meat that do not come from food animals. By then, even those who sell dog parts and just not the “whole dog” must be punished since the parts do not belong to a food animal.

Inspections conducted in the restaurants seem to be only on the sanitation of the area, and not on the dishes sold. How will the people be assured that the dog meat is safe from diseases, aside from rabies, with these kinds of inspections? What if the dog meat served in Comiles Eatery has “gudgod” like what Mang Louie said? And why does the welfare of the dog end in its death and not when it’s in parts? The least that can be done for now is to have the food handling checked, since by now not everyone can be convinced that the dog is not a food animal. Until Mang Louie and people like the mayor start to be disgusted seeing man’s best friend served on a platter, dogs will forever and ironically be chased. #

The Greenwash Effect: The hypocrisy behind earthballing of full-grown trees.

March 12, 2012 2 comments

by Czarina Gracia Carriaga and Justin Rev Ino Tamang   

“Baguio is Baguio not because of what we have built but because of what we have left untouched,” said Karlo Altomonte of Project Save 182, a movement against the planned expansion of SM City Baguio which will endanger 182 trees within the mall’s premises.

Gray and black colors have changed the once green scenery. Rosalio Goze, a retired forester and a Baguio City resident, said that a lot has changed in Baguio City.

Aside from the sudden population growth, where Goze added that the city has reached its carrying capacity, one noticeable change in Baguio is its fewer pine trees. It is ironic since Baguio City is really known for its pine trees; lowlanders even often connote pine trees to Baguio City.

Now, there are more buildings and concrete sceneries than pine needles, pine cones, and pine tree scents. The climate has also changed; jackets and coats are usually left inside cabinets because of the noticeable increase in the city’s temperature.

So many environmental issues have surfaced — the air pollution, the problem about proper waste disposal and the Baguio sanitary landfill. Some blame the sudden changes to the developers and corporations that have built structures and invested in the city.

The latest environmental issue that the city is facing now is the planned earthballing of 182 trees in Luneta Hill, where the Sy-owned mall stands. This issue has stirred not only different environmental groups, but also the Baguio community. The truth is it had been an old issue, only that today it involves a giant developer/corporation.

The big deal right now

Project Save 182 is a manifestation of Cordillera Ecological Center head Dr. Michael Bengwayan’s petition to stop the uprooting and balling of 43 Alnus japonica trees, 97 pine trees, and 42 saplings to pave the way for SM City Baguio’s redevelopment. The redevelopment is set to create another building in Luneta Hill. According to SM, the expansion is certified by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

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Sentenced to death. Alnus japonica tree, one of the types of trees to be earthballed.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.pfaf.org

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Equivalent to Baguio.  The trees that have distinguished Baguio from other cities are in danger.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.rgbstock.com

Bengwayan said in his petition that the mall’s plan is totally unacceptable and callously insensitive to the importance of trees to the environment and ecology. The same petition stated that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has not fully understood the contribution of the trees because they granted SM’s request.

To their defense, SM said that the trees will be balled. Some of the trees will be transferred within the premises of SM while the remaining trees will be handed over to the DENR compound in Pacdal. SM also promised to replace each tree that will be cut beyond what is stated in the law. Instead of 20 saplings per tree, SM said that they will replace each tree with 50 saplings.

Bengwayan opposed SM’s statement and dubbed it in an interview as “greenwashing” and “social engineering.” His main question was where would they be planting all the saplings they have promised if the land area of Baguio is just 129 square kilometers, most of which are residential? He believes that it’s just a scheme to cover up for something worse to come.

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The Greenwasher. SM City Baguio’s model for its planned extension.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://smsupermalls.com/smsupermalls/smbg/

Information about the expansion spread like wildfire in social media and has triggered a mass street protest in which around 5,000 people from all parts of Baguio City’s demographic rainbow joined. As of March 6, 2012, the petition has had over 7,300 signatures and over 15,350 recommendations.

The mass protest has resulted in a series of public hearings about the issue. Until now, public hearings at the Baguio City Hall are still ongoing regarding the issue about SM’s redevelopment. It is funny and ironic though that during one public hearing, there were boxes of bottled water from none other than SM Supermalls just outside the session hall.

History might repeat itself

During the ’90s, around 500 grown pine trees were earthballed in Camp John Hay. News has it, however, that less than 20% of the trees survived and some show signs of deterioration until now.

Recently, in an interview, Dr. Bengwayan confirmed that only 17% of the trees survived. He said that he has staff members working there who check on the status of the trees. He also confirmed that many among these 17% show signs of deterioration while some have already died.

People who oppose the proposed expansion and redevelopment of SM City Baguio express fear that history might repeat itself, that the earthballing of the 182 trees might just be another Camp John Hay earthballing story. Bengwayan dubbed the planned redevelopment a “massacre” of trees that represent the culture and heritage of Baguio, the City of Pines.

It’s not all about the environment

In the public hearing last February 27, 2012 regarding the SM issue, Project Save 182 treasurer Marie Balangue spoke about the health risks that the loss of another forest patch in Baguio may incur, especially one that is in the central business district. She said that only 9% of the forest patches remain in the City of Pines, while 40% is needed to maintain clean air for the people in the area to stay healthy.

Balangue mentioned the microstress and microtrauma that lack of oxygen brings forth. Both pose a great risk for pregnant women as it increases the possibility that the newborn child has autism. Aside from the health risks that the loss of another forest cover may bring, Balangue also noted that “heritage counts.”

Many of the speakers in the public hearing defended that pine trees are part of Baguio City’s heritage; and as residents of Baguio, it is a must to protect these.

One of the speakers, Dion Fernandez, believes in what he calls “responsible capitalism.” For him, he believes that there is a third way — one that would benefit everyone without compromising too much. He points out that the trees can be used by SM to earn money and at the same time, preserve the heritage that is truly Baguio.

Mike Arvisu of the Kafagwayan, a movement that aims to preserve, rehabilitate, and develop Baguio’s cultural sites and public lands, said that Baguio people should “preserve what remains” of the forests in Baguio. He also questioned the legitimacy of SM’s claims such as the “experts” that would supervise the earthballing and their credentials, as well as the process through which they got the permit to ball that number of trees.

Arvisu said that the carbon dioxide absorption and the oxygen production levels that 182 trees provide are beyond what the green building with the sky garden could offer. He also said that the water reservoir planned in the expansion will hold just a fraction of what the entire Luneta Hill ground already absorbs.

The Kafagwayan member continued that SM is showing only what is above ground, but there are no details on what happens underground. He said that SM will be digging 3-6 stories underground. That said, where would all the soil go?

Veteran media man and environment advocate Ramon Dacawi said during the hearing that while from a legal perspective, SM has all the rights to go on with the project, there is no substitute to the natural. He points out that no “green” building with a sky garden could replace what 182 trees can give.

So, what about earthballing?

Earthballing, according to Rosalio Goze, is the method of transplanting trees.  In the Ecosystems Research and Development Service (ERDS) Research Digest, earthballing is defined as the process in which seedlings or saplings are lifted with earth around the root system. Before the balling is performed, there are five things that should be considered:

1.  Condition of the tree

2.  Condition of the soil

– From where will the tree be earthballed? To where will it be transplanted?

3.  The weather when it will be earthballed.

– It is ideal to do the earthballing process during the rainy season.

4.  Diameter of the tree.

– Research by the ERDS show that trees with trunk diameters that are below 20
cm have a higher survival rate when earthballed than trees with diameters of 20 cm above. Larger trees have a lower survival rate, and there could even be a chance that no tree will survive.

5. The care process after the earthball.

– There must be an assurance that the company or the group that requested for the
earthballing of the trees will take care of the trees and attend to the trees well. The tree,
especially its roots, are stressed because its roots have been moved. The trees need to be properly taken care of to ensure survival.

Oh wait, you need a permit to do that.

Earthballing cannot be done right away. According to Walter Aguirre, acting division chief of Forests and Watersheds Management Division (FWMD) of the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), in the government, earthballing is treated the same way as tree cutting. That said, it requires a permit from the city government and the DENR before someone can legally earthball a tree and the process in getting the permit is just the same.

In CEPMO, there are charts showing how to get a permit to earthball or cut a tree. It’s a two-part process. The first part deals with CEPMO. One must submit a letter of request to the city mayor’s office along with some other required documents (photograph/s of the affected tree/s, certification from the barangay captain, and photocopies of documents regarding land ownership).

If approved, the CEPMO will begin inspection and evaluation of the land area then a report will be submitted for approval by the mayor. There are respective fees for the process of getting the permit so the last stop of the first part is the city treasurer’s office.

So now, it is time for step two: the DENR branch of the region. It is similar to the CEPMO procedure. The difference is that the chief of the Forest Management Service (FMS) will be the one assigned to approve the request. After that, a forest ranger will inspect and evaluate the area, another report will be done, then it will be approved by the FMS chief. After paying respective fees at the bill collector, a certificate of verification will be released. The certificate or permit is limited to the tree specified in the request. Violations beyond the agreement within the permit are subject to sanctions of the law.

The charts indicate that the entire process of getting the permit should take a total of 14 working hours.

CEPMO or the city government and DENR also differ when it comes to the payment of the earthballing process. CEPMO requires P300.00 for every cubic meter or any fraction thereof affected by the earthballing. Aside from this, a performance bond of P250.00 per tree to be cut. For DENR, a one-time payment of P100.00 for the permit fee must be done. Like the city government, they also charge for every cubic meter affected by the proposed earthballing. For the DENR, it is P715.00 per cubic meter affected plus a bond deposit of P250.00 for every tree to be cut.

According to DENR-CAR CENRO bill collector Virginia David, forestry charges and permit fees go to the National Treasury of the Philippines while bond deposits go the trust fund of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the Cordilleras. David cleared that bond deposits may be withdrawn and returned to the applicant of the earthballing.

‘It defies all the scientific rationality.’

According to Dr. Bengwayan, earthballing of full-grown trees defies all scientific rationality. He reasoned out three main points: (1) the trees that are being cut in Baguio are very sensitive, (2) the country does not have the proper technology yet, and (3) the trees that they target to ball have grown in the wild and not in specialized nurseries.

Dr. Bengwayan went very scientific with the interview for his first point. He said that the roots of the trees that SM plans to ball are very sensitive because they are all taproots. Taproots have roots that grow vertically downward, unlike other trees that spread their roots horizontally.

Case in point, it is very difficult to transplant such trees because the roots will most likely be damaged. To successfully transplant taproot trees, the entire taproot (which could have grown very deep) must be uprooted as well. If the roots are cut, the entire transportation system of nutrients for the tree will be disabled.

Once this happens, the cambium of the tree or the area inside the bark which stores all the saps and nutrients for the tree will dry up. Once the cambium dries up, the tree dies.

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Behind the ‘barks.’ A diagram of the inside part of a pine tree. Includes the xylem and phloem that brings water and food  to the whole body of the tree. Both will not function if the roots are cut or damaged.

PHOTO COURTESY OF: http://www.pc.gc.ca

Bengwayan’s second point is about the equipment to be used in the earthballing process. In the Philippines, backhoes are used to uproot and transfer trees to other places. Bengwayan said that backhoes are not supposed to be used in such a delicate process. He even dubbed backhoes as “masters of disasters.” He also noted that a mud solution must be made when balling to simulate the soil from which the tree was balled to avoid transplant shock with the sudden change of the quality of the soil to which the tree was earthballed.

He connected the lack of proper equipment to his third point: the status of the tree that they plan to ball.

Bengwayan said that yes, modern countries perform earthballing, but that is because these countries have specialized nurseries for trees that will be balled. In these nurseries, interlink fences are set up in pits from where the trees will be balled. Then each pit will be filled with compost and soil before saplings are planted. After five years, a bulldozer will pull the interlink fence which will also include the soil, the tree, and all the roots of tree. Bengwayan said that this process does not harm the tree or its roots, thus, the tree survives. This is contrary to what is done in the Philippines where trees in their natural places are balled. He said that since these trees grew in the wild, these trees must not be earthballed.

 

If that’s the case, why is it allowed on full-grown trees?

Nobody has really answered this question yet. People from the DENR merely answered with their obscure smiles and smirks when asked why earthballing is allowed on full-grown trees even if it contradicts their own research that earthballing is only possible on young trees.

Goze even questioned why they still need to earthball the trees. They could just cut them since both processes will result in the death of the trees.

Paul Apilis of the DENR-CAR CENRO, however, hinted that it is because of the Executive Order 23 that President Benigno Aquino III signed. In E.O. 23, no tree shall be cut. But while cutting is prohibited in the order, earthballing is not.

When asked about his opinion on Karlo Altomonte’s statement at the public hearing that is “you (corporation and/or government) are doing this to earn more money,” Bengwayan answered with “there might be truth in it.”

He said that corporations are “now trying to own lands in developing countries” and they are also “slowly controlling the government.”

Dr. Bengwayan remains firm in his opposition of earthballing of full-grown trees because he said that it defies everything he has learned from other countries. He also said that, “You cannot recreate science even though you are a good engineer or scientist. We can create something but not something natural that is created by God.”