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No public consultation

The public consultation process has been enshrined in our laws with regard to applications for environmental compliance certificates and the exploitation of our natural resources. Even small-time riverbed quarrying is subject to the social acceptance principle to make sure that development is always balanced with public welfare and sustainable utilization of natural resources.

Hence, it came as a big surprise, and shock, for me when I learned that the private port development project of the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. in barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City did not go through a consultation with residents of the area. In an arrogant manner, Atty. Ana Lea Uy, chief legal counsel of the company, told local officials that the endorsement made by the City Council for this project four years ago was compliance to the public consultation requirement.

I’m sorry to tell Atty. Uy that it fails to satisfy that requirement. In fact, the city council should review its passage of the resolution because it was apparently done without much forethought about its long-term effects. The resolution was “muscled through” upon the intervention of a hefty politician from Iloilo City at the height of his power. Now, the short-cut taken by La Filipina Uygongco is coming back at them.

That’s because residents of Barangay Ingore are now up in arms over the anxiety and sleepless nights the hauling operations of the Uygongco company has brought upon them these last two years or so. Apparently, La Filipina Uygongco Corp. must have felt it was immune from public criticism now that they have the permit to operate the port.

That’s a wrong way of viewing the situation. The residents may have kept quiet for a while. But their suffering must have reached breaking point, and with the leadership of former Punong Barangay Ernie Poral, they filed a formal complaint before the City Council regarding the noise and road vibration during hauling operations. The issues raised are valid, and the City Council decided to convene as a Committee of the Whole to hear the complaint.

Several points were unearthed during the hearing on Thursday, July 12, 2018:

  • The company’s application for a Miscellaneous Lease Agreement (MLA) has as yet been approved. This is the legal instrument that would grant La Filipina Uygongco Corp. authority to utilize the 8,447 sqm. covered by its application and build a private port. Now it’s clearly of the cart before the horse. The port is finished and operating while the MLA application is still pending.
  • The PPA had issued a certificate of registration and temporary permit to operate to La Filipina Uygongco Corp. on January 14, 2017. But the port began operations in 2016, according to its own executives who attended the hearing. The company representatives claimed the PPA issued a provisionary permit to operate. They failed to present it during the hearing.
  • Company executive Francis de la Cruz insisted that the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) had given them a passing grade on the noise level in the area. He also said he has slept in the vicinity and didn’t experience sleepless nights. When asked exactly where had he slept, de la Cruz answered that it was inside the port complex itself, and not in the barangay where heavy trucks rumbled through the night.
  • A DENR official said just recently, Secretary Roy Cimatu had issued a policy that nobody will be allowed to enter an area subject of an MLA application until such time that it is approved. The company insisted that it was already given provisional authority to enter and develop their port.
  • And most important of all, this project obtained the requirements for the construction and operation WITHOUT PUBLIC CONSULTATION. This is a requirement enshrined in our laws. Just on that basis, I think Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR should disapprove the MLA application and for the PPA to rescind the permit to operate. The PPA should then take over the operations of the private port. La Filipina Uygongco knew the risks of proceeding without fulfilling the requirements, especially the public consultatoin. It will have to pay for its gamble.

The City Council must take the first step of asserting the rule of law and protecting the welfare of its constituents. I would urge its members to withdraw the endorsement given to the project four years ago which was obtained through political strong-arm tactics. As concession, La Filipina Uygongco can be given preferential rights for docking, but the PPA should run it, and allow other foreign vessels chartered by other companies to dock there.

 

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Duterte continues to enjoy people’s trust

Pulse Asia disclosed just today that President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys the full trust of 87% of the Filipino people.

Pulse Asia survey June 2018

The survey was conducted during the period June 15-21, 2018.

VP Leni Robredo’s trust rating was a far 56%.

Here’s the full report of Pulse Asia (just click on the link below).

http://www.pulseasia.ph/june-2018-nationwide-survey-on-the-performance-and-trust-ratings-of-the-top-national-government-officials-and-the-performance-and-trust-ratings-of-key-government-institutions/

Uygongco’s private port

It was only two weeks ago that I discovered there’s a private port now operating offshore of Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City. I was talking with Atty. Eduardo Jalbuna, who is the lawyer for cement and hotel entrepreneur Boy So (of the La Carmela de Boracay fame), about the congestion at the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex in Barangay Loboc.

This congestion was made apparent during a trip by pumpboat to Buenavista, Guimaras recently. I saw three or four foreign vessels laying at anchor on the Guimaras Strait. I have heard about importers hurting badly from the demurrage they have to pay to owners of chartered vessels for delays in unloading their cargo. Owners of chartered vessels also don’t like making Iloilo a port of call because their schedules are turned topsy-turvy.

Uygongco private port

This is the private port built and operated by the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. offshore in Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City.

Definitely such a situation does not augur well for Iloilo City, especially as it now positions itself as the new hub for trade and commerce in Central Philippines. And the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is fully aware of this handicap of the ICPC being inadequate for the city’s growing needs for shipping. If Iloilo City wants to become a major player for the export market, its port facilities should be upgraded to accommodated more and bigger ships.

As far back as 20 years ago, I have heard PPA talk about building a longer berthing pier and reclaiming land for cargo handling at the ICPC. But it’s obvious its efforts to achieve that goal has fallen behind the growth of cargo ship traffic. The number of vessels laying at anchor and charging demurrage to importers is enough proof of that. That failure directly affects the ability of the city to fulfill its potential. It cannot grow fast enough without bigger and better port facilities.

ships at anchor off iloilo port

Foreign vessels lay at anchor in the Guimaras Strait to wait for berthing space to be vacated at the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex. Each day that these ships wait at anchor cost shippers demurrage charges of $2,500 per day of delay.

Hence, the construction of this private port by La Filipina Uygongco is detrimental to the interest of Iloilo City’s economy. What is objectionable isn’t the fact that the flour maker built its own port; it has every right to do that. But building it in the expansion area for the ICPC is what makes it wrong. The private port is sitting right on where the expansion of the ICPC should be.

The PPA has a lot of explaining to do on this issue. My sources told me that Uygongco has long attempted to get a certificate of no objection from PPA, but was always turned down. Then, in 2014, somebody so powerful in the Aquino administration twisted arms at the PPA to force its top management to drop its objection to the private port. It’s that simple. A powerful politician who claims he wants Iloilo City to grow and prosper is also the same person who thwarted it.

I have asked the DENR to provide me with a copy of the Miscellaneous Lease Agreement (MLA) that would give it authority to build the private port in the foreshore area. My sources told me the MLA application is still pending approval. If this is true, then why did the Uygongco flour company just go ahead and build the private port? That’s putting the horse ahead of the cart. And that would put PPA officials involved in the grant of a permit to operate (temporary) in deep, deep trouble.

 

 

MIWD poised to file criminal, administrative raps vs Iloilo City mayor

The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is set to file criminal and administrative charges against Iloilo City mayor Jose Espinosa III next week over the appointments — illegally, it asserted — he issued for five individuals as members of the Board of Directors in the last week of May 2018.

This was revealed last night (July 6, 2018) by Atty. Roy Villa, corporate legal counsel of the MIWD, in an interview over my radio program, “Maayong Gab-i, Iloilo” over 89.5 Home Radio and simulcast on Facebook Live.

“The complaints are ready, and we are just waiting for the board resolution authorizing the MIWD general manager to sign them,” Villa said. He expects the authority to be signed by Monday, July 9.

Villa said the MIWD will charge Espinosa with two counts of usurpation of official function and violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 which punishes a public official or employee for causing undue injury to the incumbent board members and giving unwarranted benefits to the five-person board he appointed.

At the same time, Espinosa will be charged administratively for grave misconduct for making these appointments in defiance of an existing court order granting such authority to appoint to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

Villa said the Supreme Court decision handed down on December 16, 2016 which partially struck down Section 3 (b) of PD 198 as it applies to the Metro Cebu Water District and gave it to the City Mayor of Cebu did not create a vacancy in the MIWD board.

“In the first place, the dispositive portion of the decision clearly referred only to the appointing authority for the MCWD,” he said. If ever, Espinosa should have filed a petition in court to reverse the decision of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 24 in 2013 that gave such power to the provincial governor of Iloilo, he said.

And even if Espinosa wielded such power, he should have waited for a vacancy to occur, and allowed the MIWD corporate secretary to solicit nominations from the concerned sector, screen the nominees and submit a list for him to choose from, Villa said.

He pointed out that the power to appoint given to local chief executives does not carry with it the power to remove.

“Such power ends after an appointment is issued, and the local chief executive cannot remove any member of the board,” he said.

The incumbent board of directors of MIWD is composed of Teodoro Robles as chairman, Juanito Acanto as vice chairman, Josephine Beata Abad-Caram, Ramon Cua Locsin and Jessica Salas as directors.

Espinosa signed appointments to Ronald Raymund Sebastian (educational sector), Antonio Sangrador (professional associations), Felicito Tiu (business sector), Ray Celis (civic oriented clubs) and Rebecca Maravilla (women’s sector) in the last week of May 2018.

Villa said the MIWD was not even aware about the appointments until it was asked by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to file a comment on the matter on June 18, 2018.  The MIWD submitted its comment last June 29.

It may be recalled that sometime in December 2017, Espinosa issued a “cease and desist notice” against the incumbent board and demanded that they vacate their positions.

The MIWD board simply ignored the action of Espinosa as it had no enforceability in the first place.

But with the appointments made last May, the MIWD is compelled to take action and protect its interests, Villa said.

Villa is inclined to believe that these actions of Espinosa to forcibly oust the management board of MIWD is being orchestrated by the Villar family, which owns the Prime Water business. Espinosa belongs to the Nacionalista Party which is also led by former Senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar and his wife, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar.

“It belongs to realm of speculation, but there is basis to believe that,” he said.

 

 

Smoking gun vs EJK?

For so long, the alleged involvement of the government in the killings of suspected drug personalities have remained allegations. There was never any concrete evidence that would back up that claim.

But that might now change with the botched ambush of an Iloilo City policeman who is allegedly an active pusher of shabu last Tuesday afternoon.

PO1 Dorben Acap was driving home after his regular tour of duty ended at 4 p.m. on June 26 when gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire at him at close range. Luckily, Acap had sensed something was going to happen and ducked inside his car as a hail of bullets smashed into it.

He was hit in the left arm. He managed to stop his car in the middle of the road. His attackers stopped their motorcycle about 5 meters away, apparently preparing to finish him off.

Acap, who is left-handed, quickly got his firearm and took aim with his right hand. He fired seven rounds at his attackers who could not see him because of the heavy tint on his windshield. He saw one of his attackers fall to the ground, wounded.

The driver of the motorcycle helped his wounded companion get up from the pavement, got him to sit on the bike and fled.

That wounded gunman was later identified as PO2 Melvin Mocoro, who was last known to be assigned in the ARMM Regional Mobile Battalion of the Philippine National Police. He was supposedly on sick leave from his unit.

Mocoro was hit in the chest and leg when Acap returned fire. He was taken to the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City for treatment. At first, police investigators told media Mocoro was wounded in a gunfight in Pakiad, Oton. He was taken to the hospital by a tricycle driver who was stopped by his companion near the Circumferential Road near Mandurriao.

However, Acap, without hesitation, identified Mocoro as the gunman he had hit in the exchange of gunfire when policemen from the Arevalo police station where the ambush took place showed him his picture. Mocoro wasn’t wearing a helmet when the shooting happened, and Acap said he got a good look at him when he fired back.

“It’s definitely him,” Acap said, adding that as a guard assigned to the gate of Camp Delgado, he frequently saw Mocoro get in and out of the regional PNP headquarters in Fort San Pedro. “I didn’t know his name, but I know him to be a policeman.”

Mocoro was placed under hospital arrest by the Arevalo PNP following this positive identification made by Acap.

It’s not known who was the other gunman who was driving the motorcycle, but this identification of Mocoro suddenly gave a face and name to the apparent rub-out activities targetting drug personalities.

On June 24, masked gunmen barged into the cottage occupied by Remia Prevendido-Gregori, barangay captain of Bakhaw, Mandurriao and peppered her with bullets. She died on the spot along with a female helper who was nearby. Her husband, Bonifacio Gregori Sr., was wounded. Mrs. Gregori was the sister of slain drug group leader Richard Prevendido.

The following morning, uniformed policemen stormed several homes owned by the Odict family and their known associates in Tanza Esperanza armed with search warrants for loose firearms. Andrew Altas, a brother in law of Melvin “Dragon” Odicta who was also gunned down in August 2016, was killed after he allegedly fired at the troops, forcing them to return fire. Noel “Nene” Odicta, whose third and last term as barangay captain ends June 30, was arrested and charged for allegedly keeping an unlicensed cal. 45 pistol and a hand grenade in his house.

Then came the ambush on Acap on Tuesday afternoon.

The PDEA and police said Acap was considered a high value target for actively peddling shabu in Iloilo City and southern towns of Iloilo province.

Acap was demoted two years ago after he was caught being in a house raided by the PDEA where illegal drugs were being sold.

Acap has denied his involvement in illegal drugs.

This series of violent attacks on drug personalities has already caused panic and fear among other suspected drug personalities. One of them is Keith “Dabing” Espinosa, wife of alleged Odicta drug group lieutenant Jesus “Jing Jing” Espinosa, Jr. She is now believed to be in hiding even while her supporters hold prayer vigils every night outside her residence to stop any police raid.

Mocoro remains under hospital arrest. The City Prosecutor’s Office conducted an inquest into the frustrated murder charges filed by police against him at his hospital bedside. He remains tight-lipped about the whole episode and refused to answer questions from police investigators.

The PNP Regional Office No. 6 has also issued a statement that Mocorro could not be linked to the murder of Gregori in San Joaquin last June 24. The police is apparently trying to connect her murder to rivalries between drug groups in the city.

But there is growing evidence now that Mocorro was one of the gunmen who tried to kill Acap, and suspicion is building up as well he could have been part of the group that killed Gregori.

He could be the missing link that would finally establish the involvement of the government, or at least of the police, in the spate of extra judicial killings involving drug personalities in the country.

Frank Drilon with Kap Dabing

Senator Frank Drilon should have been aware about who Kap Dabing Espinosa was. She is the wife of Jing Jing Espinosa, alleged right hand man of the slain Melvin “Dragon” Odicta. Last year, police raided their house in Barangay Monica Blumentritt, Iloilo City and recovered shabu and firearms. Surprisingly only Jing Jing was charged although the house is conjugal, and she happens to be the Barangay Captain of the place. Why wasn’t she charged? Do these pictures have anything to do with it?

This story published on the Facebook page of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo show that Dabing Espinosa surrendered to the police on May 26, 2017. Her husband, Jing Jing, was incarcerated on October 4, 2016 after his conviction for the shooting of a neighbor was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Drilon with Kap Dabing

Kap dabing with drilon

 

Armed to the teeth

Back when drug lords were still demi-gods in Iloilo City, pictures of goons under their payroll were often posted on social media to boast about their power and closeness to political leaders.

barangay-monica-boys