Archive for the ‘Iligan’ Category

Some Floodings Explained: The Conflict Between Man and Nature

January 16, 2009


These recent days heavy floodings have been reported in some parts of the Philippines–Northern Samar, the Agusan provinces (flooding due to the swelling of Agusan River), Cagayan de Oro (flooding due to the overflowing of Cagayan River of its banks), Iligan City and Linamon in Lanao del Norte, Capiz and Cagayan provinces.

The rains might have been frequent but not really that strong. And flood-prone areas like Metro Manila and Central Luzon were generally spared this time. But all know that during the habagat (southwest monsoons) those areas are almost always flooded when the heavy rains come.

If one will notice all of these now-flooded areas lie to the north of the island to where they belong. The floodings were due to the overflowing of the banks of their rivers which all flow northward.

Funny that the reporter in Lanao del Norte charged that “storm surge” was the cause of the flooding. What he meant was the rivers cannot empty to the sea (causing it to rise) because there’s a surge coming from the sea. A sea surge, yes, but not a “storm surge” because there’s no storm.

This sea surge fuelled by the amihan (northwest moonsoon) is capping the flow to the sea of these northward-flowing rivers. That’s why the river banks are being breached. And also why flooding occurs in the upper reaches of the rivers.

This is one relationship that people must understand. A strong amihan produce a southward-flowing sea surge capping the northward-flowing rivers thereby slowing their capacity to empty to sea and this in turn cause the river to overflow its banks. During habagat, the relationship is reversed. Southward-flowing rivers are bottled up by the sea surge going north.

If tropical cyclones or typhoons are not all bad so do this phenomenon. Storms and typhoons are the primary elements the sea and oceans have in order to cleanse themselves. Sea surges and storm surges have the capability to push back river flows. It is known that Manila Bay sea water even enters the Laguna de Bay through the Pasig River and these cleanses the lake. Flooding and the entry of sea water does the same for rivers.

But herein lies the classic confrontation between man and nature. In the olden days man will simply just give way to nature. But with ever-burgeoning population pressures and urbanization man now occupy nature’s former path.

And so disasters occur.

[Photo credit:Agence France-Presse]

The Proposed Libmanan Power Plant, Bicol’s Power Situation And Some Lessons

November 22, 2008




Last September 4, on her visit to Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced the proposed $28M Libmanan Biomass Power Plant (BPP). The proposed BPP is supposed to produced 10 MW. The government’s line is that it will help improve power supply in Libmanan and in Camarines Sur.

However, my understanding of the power situation in Bicol is that the power produced by the Tiwi and Bacon-Manito (Bac-Man) Geothermal Power Plants are well over the requirement of the entire Bicol peninsula. In fact, there is a proposal that the power to be produced from an incoming phase of the Bac-Man project, the Bacman-Kayabon project be reserved for the Bicol peninsula. It is estimated that its 40MW production should be sufficient to serve the current 30MW need of the Bicol peninsula.

It is not clear, however, how will the Bicol peninsula will be separated from the Luzon electricity distribution grid. The high system loss is the biggest reason for the high electricity rates in the region. This is ironic since the power it consumes come from region itself. And it is doubly ironic since the power is first sent out to Metro Manila (because they say it is too much for Bicol) and it is the return current which Bicol uses, causing low voltage and power fluctuation.

What they are not telling is Mega Manila is supplied ahead of Bicol because it is where the industries are located, it is the national center and it has a higher population base. It also produces half of the country’s GNP as compared to Bicol’s minuscule contribution. Talk about second-class treatment.

But this is just another manifestation of the regalian doctrine at work–that all natural resources belong to the national government and that they will decide as they see fit. It doesn’t matter to them that Bicol shares the cost of bringing the power to Mega Manila by paying the distribution cost the TransCo (National Transmission) charges for the whole Luzon grid including then inherent system losses.

An additional obstacle to the separation from the Luzon grid is that it is no longer solely an intra-government matter. The Bac-Man Geothermal Power Plant is already controlled by the Lopez group. Sell the electric cooperatives to Meralco? Well, there are precedents. Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite and portions of Laguna, Batangas and Quezon became service areas of Meralco because of the people’s demand who got fed up with the inefficient service and high charges of their old electric cooperatives.

Will the Libmanan BPP’s power production be separate from the Luzon power grid? The leaders of Bicol and the people should get together and resolve the problems mentioned above. This should not just be left to government functionaries.

Actually the idea of a separate grid (or maybe use the old grid and just pay for the cost of carrying the electricity) is a step in the right direction. If Bicol will study the experience of Iligan City, it might learn a lesson or two. When we arrived in Iligan, we were surprised that the rates there were only half of Manila’s. When we asked why, the answer we got was that there was an agreement that the power the Maria Cristina Hydroelectric Power Plant, which is located in Iligan, will be sold cheaply to the city. We even heard a story that Iligan is not charged the usual distribution costs (since anyway the plant is only a few kilometers from the city).

This might have basis since people of Lanao del Sur and two Muslim towns of Lanao del Norte are also clamoring for preferential treatment like Iligan. They cite that the water Maria Cristina uses comes from their lake which they consider part of their ancestral domain, the Lake Lanao. Further, they point out that most of the generators anyway and the water cataracts are located in their areas. This refused demand has caused several bombings of the towers of the power grid of Mindanao.

With low electricity rates, many industries especially those that are big consumers of electricity came to Iligan. Iligan experienced an industrial boom in the ’50s to the ’70s making it the Highly Industrialized City it is now. Even the famed National Steel Corporation came to Iligan.

This is the lesson that Tiwi, Bacon and Manito missed. But I hope it is not yet too late for Libmanan.

Do Ports Really Spur Investment?

November 18, 2008






When I first saw Kiwalan Cove east of Iligan City I was amazed. In its placid waters lay about 20 ships of various types and sizes, either anchored silently in the water or lashed to its dozen or more piers and wharves where some kind of activity is taking place. To a person like me who grew in the inland plains of Bicol imagining a dozen or so piers in a 5-kilometer stretch is unimaginable. Yes, I have seen a private port in the shape of Legazpi Oil’s wharves in Legazpi City. But I thought being the biggest copra exporter then in the world should have one especially since the old Legazpi port can no longer dock the bigger ships due to its shallow berth. Along my growing up years I always associated ports as government ports.

Chugging along barangay Recodo in Zamboanga City a few years later I saw three fish canneries lined up one after the other, each having their own pier. And right by them exists the biggest shipyard in Mindanao with over a dozen ships moored, beached or drydocked in various phases of completion, repair or refurbishing.

From Davao City going to Panabo City a sight similar to Kiwalan Cove is present. Several private piers can be found along the way with foreign and local ships docked. The government-owned Sasa port is one of the biggest in the country but I found out that two private ports are even bigger and busier than Sasa.

And, I didn’t know then that private ferry ports existed. But I saw my first when Daima Shipping constructed their private wharf in Mukas, Tubod, the capital of Lanao del Norte to service their RO-ROs crossing the Panguil Bay to Ozamis City, a move later matched by the Millenium Shipping of the Floirendos. Later, the government-owned pier in Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte died because of this.

Riding my first Mindanao to Bicol bus ride I came to know that the two ferry terminals being used in Allen, Northern Samar by RO-ROs crossing to Matnog, Sorsogon are private and owned by the RO-RO companies. The government-owned ferry port in San Isidro, Northern Samar lay unused and closed.

In my travels all over Mindanao I have seen the same pattern repeated, in a minor or major scale–private piers sprouting in places which is no longer within the city proper. I began to ask the question why. The answer I got is, “They (the companies) will buy where land is cheap and they will just construct their own pier and no longer go through the government-owned port; saves them handling and berthing costs.”

That’s when I suspected that the spiel I heard in Bicol that we need to put up government-owned piers to spur investment is probably just a mirage. A company will locate to a place simply because there is a reason for them to (for example the availability of cheap electricity like in Iligan City or the abundance of fish like in Zamboanga City). It is not the presence of a pier that will convince them to invest. After all it might not even use the government-owned pier.

Recently, three mining operations were highlighted because of some sectors’ complaints. In Catanduanes, Homonhon Island and Agusan del Norte these was strip-mining of the beaches for ores that will be transported for smelting in China. It struck me that those places don’t even have government-owned piers. The mining companies were just using shallow-bottomed powered barges to load their cargo.

So, it seems the explanation I heard is Mindanao is probably right.

[The ports shown above are not government-owned port.]

A Primer On Lanao del Norte Geography (Why The Christians Doesn’t Want To Lose Territory)

August 31, 2008

Iligan City serves as the gateway to Lanao del Norte on its eastern end. Approaching it by sea (Lanao has no plane flights) one will have the immediate impression of hills and mountains rising just from the water’s edge. Entering Lanao del Norte via Tubod (the capital and secondary seaport) or Mukas, Kolambugan (the gateway from Ozamis City) which are both located near its western end the impression of a visitor will be the same. Lanao del Norte possesses just one small coastal plain centered around the town of Kapatagan (what a suggestive name!) on its western end.

Lanao del Norte’s main road hugs its northern shore and it is part of the Cagayan de Oro City-Pagadian City highway. It passes through Iligan City, Linamon, Kauswagan (scene of the recent fighting), Bacolod (namesake of the city in Negros Occidental), Maigo, Kolambugan (another scene of recent fighting and the biggest Moro town in the northern Lanao shores before but now Christian-dominated), Tubod (the new capital after Iligan City), Baroy (the site of the provincial high school), Lala and Kapatagan (where surrendered Huks were relocated in the ’50s). All of the mentioned town are now Christian-dominated.

Another main road branches south from Iligan City connecting it to Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur. It passes through Balo-i (a half-Christian, half-Muslim town which is the site of the moribund airport and most of the generating plants of the Maria Cristina hydroelectric power complex) and Pantar (which is Muslim-dominated).

Outside of the highways the towns of Tagoloan (which is accessible during the dry season only using mainly 4-wheel drives), Poona Piagapo, Pantao Ragat, Munai, Tangcal, Nunungan, Sapad and Sultan Naga Dimaporo (formerly known as Caromatan and lair of the legendary Ali Dimaporo, the grandfather of the current governor and father of the congressman) which are all Muslim-dominated and needs “visas” (special permits from powerful persons) before one can visit. Aside from these towns the off-the main-road, half-Christian, half-Muslim towns of Matungao, Magsaysay and Salvador exists.

The Muslim-dominated towns normally provide the electoral cushion for the Dimaporos to continuously rule the province though the Muslim are the minority in the province. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Iligan City, as a Highly Urbanized City and 90% Christian doesn’t vote in provincial elections though it constitutes 36% of the population of the province.

The Muslim-dominated towns and the Muslim portion of the half-Christian, half-Muslim towns are also the strongholds of the MILF. But I will hasten to add that the Dimaporos and the MILF do not see eye-to-eye since the Dimaporos fought on the side of Marcos since he came into power. The roads to these towns are generally very rough. It is not an unusual sight to see weapon carrier-type of jeeps in these localities.

Aside from the towns centers, in general the flat portion of the province is only one barangay deep. And once the elevation climbs it is already Muslim territory. Hence, aside from the town centers and the small coastal plain of Kapatagan-Lala the Christian territory only encompasses the barangays alongside the main road that hugs the northern coast. And in many places along the main road especially along the mouths of the rivers (a historical gateway to the interior Muslim towns) a cluster of Muslim barangays exists, localities that they controlled since the Spanish times. In these enclaves it is usually the crescent flag that flies and some of the checkpoints are not government checkpoints. In times of fighting this is the reason why evacuees prefer the sea route in going to Iligan City or Ozamis City which are government strongholds.

If the MOA-AD is followed and the Muslim-dominated areas are transferred to the BJE it is clear that Lanao del Norte will lose about 80% of its territory and more than a third of its population (like in Iligan City which stands to lose 84% of its territory if its 8 upland barangays is transferred to the BJE). This is not as simple as it sounds since the size of the IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) is calibrated using the population size and territory as factors. In short it would also mean penury to the remaining entity and Lanao del Norte will probably look like a collection of enclaves in a map.

I suspect this will also be the situation in the other provinces where there is a sizable Muslim minority. They might be a minority in number but they sit on the bigger tracts of land. And in that bigger tracts of land probably lies the exploitable natural resources. And it seems  part of the vociferous opposition to the MOA-AD by Messrs. Lobregat, Pinol and Cruz resides in these.

(Map credit: globalpinoy)

A New Outbreak of Fighting in Mindanao

August 26, 2008

In Mindanao violence lurks just below the surface. Scratch it a little and violence will flare out. The government promised the MILF and when it seemed it cannot deliver tension emerged. Mindanao has simply too many unresolved conflicts for this not to happen.

Knowledgeable observers say the current Moro response is a show of frustration and a show that it is still a fighting force. I will add that a sizable portion of the Moro fighting groups is not comfortable with the peace talks thinking they will just be playing into government hands and that government cannot really deliver after all. 

Many know that Abdurahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo belongs to this mold. A former commander of the MNLF-BMA’s 2nd Division based in Ranao (their preferred named for Lanao), he transferred his forces in bulk to the MILF when Nur Misuari signed the peace deal in 1996. Known as the fiercest among the Moro commanders in Lanao, his territory, the mountainous boundary of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur remains unconquered up until this time, Erap’s war in 2000 notwithstanding.

If Kauswagan is the flashpoint in 2000 it remains so to this day. It was in Kauswagan where the Tacub Massacre happened in 1971 when a convoy of Muslim voters were waylaid in an Army checkpoint in Tacub, a big barangay of Kauswagan by suspected Ilagas, a Visayan paramilitary group. The number of dead is estimated to number as high as 60 and most were women and children, a crime that remains unsolved until today. As a consequence no Tacub resident will ever admit that he lives or he grew up in that place if Muslims are in the vicinity.

When MILF-BIAF forces occupied Kauswagan in 2000 in response to the AFP attack on their base camp (which the government subsequently edited so that it won’t show that it started the fighting) the homes of the Christians and government properties were left untouched except that they ransacked the police HQ. But when government forces retook the town after the MILF withdrew Christians burned some houses that belonged to the Muslims. Video showed in Iligan TV showed soldiers using blanket fire as they moved forward thus giving precise meaning to the term “clearing operations.” Thereafter, the 2000 Census will bear that a few Muslim barangays in Kauswagan showed zero inhabitants.

Christians in Luzon and Visayas will grit their teeth when news reports indicated that barbaric acts were done on the Christian population in Kauswagan. But knowledgeable, non-partisan observer in Mindanao will wonder who started the barbarism after all.

The military will claim that Muslim fighters occupied Muslim villages like what happened in Aleosan, (North Cotabato). But before we grit our teeth a word of caution first. We do not really know if those lands were Muslim land before Ilagas drove them out in the ’60s or when Muslims left their land during the war of the ’70s to find in the ’80s that their farms no longer belong to them and this is the usual sad story of Cotabato. Herein lies the reason why violence and fighting never really cease in Cotabato like what the singing group lamented in the ’70s.

They say that the MILF has no hold on their commanders. Partly true since basically Moro forces raise their own budget when OIC funding dried up. And maybe almost half of the Moro fighting forces are clan armies and not regulars. 

Christians in Mindanao will say that they will arm their own militias as if Christian militias didn’t exist before in the guise of the Ilagas, the CAFGUs and the CVOs. But most Christian militias are of platoon-size only and bearing light machine guns at the most while most Muslim clan armies fight at company- and batallion-level and heavy machine guns, mortars, recoilless rifles and rocket launchers are common in their inventory. In Mindanao it is known that Muslim clan armies can make mincemeat of Christian militias save for a few. In fighting between the two the AFP in all cases have to intervene in favor of the Christian militias. And if this happens it is natural that regular Moro forces will join the fray because after all they have relatives in the clan armies and Muslim clan armies are their force multipliers. And so the level of violence escalates. 

But this is not to say that all Muslim clan armies fight alongside the MILF and MNLF ranks. The Ampatuan, Dimaporo and Mangudadatu are among the big Muslim clan armies that fight alongside the government forces. But of course the goverment has to “pay” for these services with government positions, cash and arms.

They say in Iligan that if those 8 non-Christian barangays are included in the expanded ARMM they will lose over 80% of their territory. But in 1898 Iligan only consists of the present city proper now, being a mere Spanish fort and a part of Misamis Oriental. It was appended to Lanao so that Lanao will have a Christian port and site of government. Over the decades municipal districts emerged from the logging concessions when “peace” was established. Later these municipal districts were adhered to Iligan. But they never asked the non-Christians then if they want to be part of Iligan. But here comes “modernity” which says that all of Iligan must be asked now if they want out of Iligan. And there is no way that a minority (but once a majority) people will ever win a plebiscite. 

As long as Christians wave to the Muslims the Constitution and Certificates of Titles (Original and Transfer)  as their claim to “legitimacy” and “rule of law” there will be no peace in Mindanao. The peace that they chant is simply the peace of the conqueror. And the cycle of violence will just go on and on.