Archive for the ‘Quezon’ Category

30,000 families to be relocated in Bicol train rehab

December 13, 2008

It’s like Rip Van Winkle coming out from sleep. At last, the plan to repair the Philippine National Railways (PNR) from Laguna to Legazpi City is alive again. For the project to push, it will require the relocation of 30,000 families settled on the 15-meter clearance of the train’s path.

The government plan is definite good news to Bicol, but it’s mind-bending why only now will repairs be undertaken. The train plying the southern end of Luzon is different from how it looked decades ago as it meandered in the craggy mountainsides of Quezon Province to the foot of Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur and Mayon in Albay. Huge numbers of people have already crowded the tracks, the 483-kilometer stretch from Manila.

Vital to travel in the Bicol region and the rest of the country, the PNR had been largely neglected. It practically operated in meager maintenance budget even if plans to extend the line, about 135 kilometers from Legazpi to Sorsogon had been on the works.

Wooden planks and metal supports on the transportation line were continual victims of thieves who used them as firewood or sell them as scraps. For many years, almost nobody took action for their upkeep, to the disappointment of Bicolanos. The yearly torrential rains caused infrastructure damage. The government did little to prevent people from building houses along the railway tracks.

This early the concern for the legal rights of the squatters has been raised. Human rights groups are pushing for standard eviction amenities. The enormity of the problem causes some interested investors to back out of the project.

“Jun de la Torre, Community Organization of the Philippines (COPE) assistant regional coordinator said they have strengthened their social preparation efforts in favor of the railway settlers by collaborating with 10-federation strong Bicol Urban Poor Coordinating Council (BUPCC) headed by Lorna Chavez to ensure that the rights of these affected settlers would not be derailed when the PNR rehabilitation project starts in the near future.” Bicol Mail, (12/12/08, Neola, J)

The project is rocked with questionable political deals. P17 billion has been allotted to remove the illegal dwellers on the dangerous tracks. It constitutes a third of the total budget of P52.19—the cost of the much delayed project which was earlier scheduled in 2005 to 2011.

It is uncertain when the money will come or if it is adequate. With the postponements that go with government projects, at this time, the railway rehabilitation remains a dream for Bicolanos. (Photo Credits: Orangedroplet; Alcogoodwin; Alcogoodwin; orangedroplet)=0=

RELATED BLOG: “Life on the railway tracks & the fate of Isadora Duncan” Posted on Friday September 12th, 2008


Archbishop Quevedo: The MOA-AD Can Bring Lasting Peace

September 7, 2008

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI has several deep takes on the MOA-AD. He is a respected peace advocate and knowledgeable observer of the Mindanao problem. His place, Cotabato City, is a melting pot of Christians and Muslims.

I will try to project some of his blogs to balance the knee-jerk reaction of some armchair pundits. His writings is an appeal to understand the history behind the MOA-AD and not to view it from the usual perspective.  I share his views. Here are some of the things he wrote:

“….the MOA-AD…is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I think the MOA-AD will bring lasting peace.

“The document should be read in the light of Bangsamoro history. This history is not (the) one that our Spanish and Filipino Christian historians have developed. Our history is a history written by (just) one party to the complex human encounter that we call Philippines history, written perhaps by “victors.” Bangsamoro history has largely been one of oral tradition and only in the last 400 years do we see that history written, but not from their point of view.

“But it is from that largely unfamiliar side of Philippine history that is also true and undisputable that the concepts of  ancestral domain and a Bangsamoro homeland must be understood….

“….the document is also remarkable from the angle of what Mindanao is today. Through successive waves of migration and public laws, the face of the population as well as of territories has changed. In less than 50 years beginning with the 1930s Christians now outnumber Muslims in the land once under the sway and influence of Muslim Sultans. The document recognizes this fact. And it is to the credit of the MILF that its vision today carries on the vision of its late Chairman, Hashim Salamat. He had said that his vision for the Bangsamoro people is framed in consideration of present realities. For this reason, the document speaks about the ARMM territory as the core of the of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Altogether the territory is much less than the original Bangsamoro homeland. The MOA-AD makes use of present realities as a basis for lasting peace.

“The balancing act between the Moro aspirations for self-determination and national sovereignty may be seen in the concepts on governance, concreticized in such terms as “associative relationships,” “shared authority,” and the idea of “central government,” and its responsability for external defense, etc….

“Perhaps concepts need to be clearer. They can be made so in future steps of the peace process as both parties move toward a Comprehensive Pact. But the MOA-AD need not be the document that should contain all the details that would resolve all the questions and doubts. The peace process will continue even after it is signed. With good will, patience and wisdom–and consultation–such further steps will surely resolve substantive questions.

“….if seen from the perspective of history as we know it as we know it from our own Christian writers (Spanish, American, Filipino), with no consideration to the enduring aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination in their homeland, the MOA-AD will not lead to peace.

“But if the document is seen from two perspectives, that of the Bangsamoro historical past and of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan present(-)day realities, and these two perspectives are somehow respected, then the MOA-AD can lead to lasting peace.”

A brief history why there are two perspective (my own exposition, not Archbishop Quevedo’s) or the genesis of the Mindanao problem.

President Manuel Luis Quezon, in his own words, wrote: “….there existed an international aspect of the Mindanao question, of profound importance to the Filipino nation. Unless we fully opened up, protected and settled, and thus made use of this great, rich, only partially developed island, some other nation might some day try to move in and make it their own. For the past twenty years, continued and successful efforts to colonize Mindanao from the north have been undertaken….Settlers from the north have poured into the rich valley of Cotabato….” 

It seems there is truth to MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari’s view that Mindanao have been colonized by Christians.

This is Archbishop Quevedo’s further exposition:

“What Changes Took Place Through The Years In the Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain?

“….the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over the ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away….The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain.

“….Successive wave of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900’s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people.

“The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP) with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Mindanao people, with a minority of Muslims and IPs….the Bangsamoro people became a minority in their own ancestral domain….”

The IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or RA8371 of 1997) tries to address this historical wrong.

Archbishop Quevedo: “The MOA-AD also follows the principle that the IPRA law grants to the Indigenous Peoples, i.e., that their ancestral domain is not part of the public domain.”

And finally, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was adopted on September 13, 2007 and to which the Philippines is a signatory says:

“Article 26

1. IPs have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied and otherwise used or required….”

Though not a legally binding instrument under international law, the UN says it is “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples….”