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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Entrepreneurship program being eyed in ARMM

COTABATO CITY - The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is considered as among the poorest regions in the Philippines is hoping that a program on entrepreneurship can spur more economic activity in the area.

Regional Board of Investments chairman, lawyer Ishak Mastura, who also heads the ARMM cabinet cluster on economic growth and linkages, announced the program to develop entrepreneurship in the region after attending and representing the country at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization conference in Austria recently.

"As we transition to a post-conflict environment with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels) earlier this year, we believe that fostering Bangsamoro entrepreneurship ensures peace will become sustainable by seeing to it that whatever post-conflict funds that will pour into the region from both the government and foreign donors will lead to self-reliance, which is what entrepreneurship is all about, and not dependency," Mastura said.

He said that currently there is a proposal from ARMM for UNIDO to extend its Entrepreneurship Curriculum Program or ECP, which he hopes can be realized next year at the earliest upon donor approval.

According to UNIDO, the ECP is a cost-effective investment in the development of entrepreneurial capacity of young people. ECP is inclusive since it reaches out to both girls and boys in rural and urban areas. It lays the ground for private sector development.  Entrepreneurship is introduced as a subject in general secondary schools or technical and vocational schools.

Young people acquire personal qualities such as self-confidence,  innovation and creativity, the ability to take initiatives, as well as the willingness to take calculated risks and to collaborate. They learn to save, invest and grow. These competencies help them select and shape their career path as employees or entrepreneurs.

The curriculum is action-oriented: more than 50 per cent of the program's time consists of practical research in identifying business opportunities, assessing resources for setting up and steering a business, and learning from successful entrepreneurs in their companies and in the classroom.  (Mindanao Examiner, RBOI)

Joint humanitarian relief efforts launched in Sulu

SULU – The Philippine military donated 200 packages of assorted goods to villagers who fled their homes due to the fighting between security and Abu Sayyaf forces in the southern Sulu province, officials said Thursday.

Officials said the Joint Task Group Sulu through the 2nd Marine Brigade based in Sulu turned-over the relief goods to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center headed by Fazlur-Rahman Abdulla.

Also present during the turn-over of goods was Alkisar Alih, of the Talipao Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center.

“The said relief goods were intended for the 35 families who were affected by the law enforcement operation against the Abu Sayyaf group in Talipao town,” said Col. Maximo Ballesteros, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade. “The distribution of goods is the AFP’s response to the members of the community who evacuated in a safer area to avoid being caught in the crossfire.”

Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan also ordered the distribution of relief goods in Talipao and for social workers to immediately attend to the villagers to ensure their welfare.

The joint humanitarian relief efforts are in coordination with Office of the Governor, Office of the Vice Governor, Sulu Area Coordinating Council, , Office of the Civil Defense, Red Cross, D’ Alert Lupah Sug (radio club), the police, Joint Task Force Group Sulu, Integrated Provincial Health Office, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Talipao municipal government. (Franzie Sali)

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New bombing in Philippines injures several people

 Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang inspected troops at the headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division under Major General Edmundo Pangilinan on Thursday, November 20, 2014.  (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Mark Navales)


COTABATO CITY - A bomb explosion late Thursday has injured several people in Cotabato City in southern Philippines where security forces are battling separatist rebels in the restive region.

Initial reports said the blast occurred near the Petron gasoline station in downtown Cotabato and that at least 2 students were wounded in the attack. The wounded were rushed to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

Other reports said several more were slightly injured in the bombing near Sinsuat Avenue. The blast occurred just as people were returning home from work.

Captain Jo Ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division, said a 60mm mortar exploded along Sinsuat Avenue, injuring Leslie Encina, 18, and Kristel Mae Uy, 20.

She said an unidentified man hurled the improvised explosive. Soldiers on a passing military truck witnessed the incident, she said. "According to one of the soldiers, he saw a person throw a package which eventually exploded," Petinglay told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

She said the police were investigating the blast.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police and military have previously blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters for the spate of bombings and ambuscades in the troubled Muslim autonomous region.

The attack occurred as Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang inspected troops at the 6th Infantry Division in nearby Maguindanao province.

Rebels also ambushed three soldiers on November 18 in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao and killing an army major and two privates who were travelling in a car. The soldiers also lost their weapons to the rebels. Their identities were withheld by the 6th Infantry Division.

It was the second attack in recent days in Maguindanao when some 500 rebels also assaulted the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in the village of Sapakan in Rajah Buayan town. The attack sparked a six-hour firefight that wounded Corporal Charlie Dilangsoy. (Mindanao Examiner – Mark Navales and Ely Dumaboc)

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Cebu to host 12th APEC Energy Ministerial Meeting

 Cebu Governor Hilario Davide with Energy Undersecretary Loreta Ayson and other officials during a recent meeting over the upcoming APEC Summit in Lapu-Lapu City. 

CEBU – The beautiful and bustling province of Cebu is hosting the 12th Energy Ministerial Meeting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit which will held at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City next year.

Governor Hilario Davide and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza are now preparing for the historic meeting by international leaders. Energy Undersecretary Loreta Ayson has recently met with the two officials to discuss the preparation of the summit.

“We request support and cooperation from the local government officials which we are already getting from them. They’re very cooperative and supportive,” Ayson said, adding, energy ministers from 21 APEC member economies are expected to come in October.

These countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.

“Dakong dungog ni para sa (This is a great honor for) Cebu and a big opportunity for us to attract investors, especially with the coming of many foreign delegates for the meeting,” Davide said.

A dialogue between energy ministers and business leaders, and international energy exhibit will be held simultaneously with the 12th Energy Ministerial Meetings. Site visits and cultural shows are also being prepared for the visitors.

The Philippines was one of the discussants during the 11th APEC Ministerial Meeting held on September 2-3 in Beijing, China. The use of clean energy remains a priority among APEC member economies subscribing to the aspirational goal of doubling the share of renewables in the APEC energy mix, including on the power generation, from 2010 levels by 2030. (Lianne Llesol)

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hindus outrage over tag

HINDUS are outrage over the alleged labeling of gypsies as liars and cheats by a Spanish dictionary.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner, said that branding the entire community of about 15-million gypsies as liars and cheats was racism and highly prejudicial and such attitudes should have no place in 21st century Europe.

Zed was referring to the recently out 23rd edition of prestigious Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary of the Spanish Language and he said that labeling gypsies as liars and cheats is appalling.

Describing “gypsy” as synonymous with cheating and lying was highly hurtful, offensive and damaging to gypsy communities who had been in Europe since ninth century CE, Zed pointed out.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated that Academy should offer public apology over this issue; and recall all the printed, electronic and digital copies of the dictionary and come out with a revised version.

He also urged His Majesty the King Felipe VI and Her Majesty the Queen Letizia of Spain not to associate with such an Academy which was attempting to legitimize stereotypes and marginalize an already highly persecuted community in Europe through its dictionary.

Zed urged Pope Francis to come out strongly against this belittling of the entire community of gypsies as one of the main purposes of religion was to help the helpless and that European Union should also intervene.

Renowned Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Espanola), headquartered in Madrid, is considered to be the ultimate authority on Spanish in Spain and other Spanish speaking countries. Jose Manuel Blecua is the Director. This reference work of the Academy is said to be already in the bookstores in Spain and other countries, according to Zed. (Mindanao Examiner Foreign News)

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Housing project resumes in Zambo village attacked by rebels

 One of the housing units in the village of Santa Catalina in Zamboanga City. And Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar during her typical day at work. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The construction of housing units for victims of rebel attacks here last year has finally resumed Wednesday after it was suspended due to substandard materials used in the project.

The project in Santa Catalina village is under the so-called Z3R or Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction.

The suspension in the construction of 51 housing units was lifted after the National Housing Authority has committed to comply with the recommendations of the local government.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said the recommendations were based on the results of joint inspections conducted by the City Engineer’s Office, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator, NHA, the BillRay Construction Company and Santa Catalina village leaders.

Foremost in the recommendations of the local government is for the housing contractor - through NHA - to comply with the requirements for the issuance of appropriate permits for the project implementation and to retrofit the 51 units of houses.

The retrofitting of the housing units was also suggested by the contractor on the condition that it will submit an affidavit of undertaking that in the event there is a failure in retrofitting, it would be solely responsible for it.

The contractor is also to reconstruct the demolished housing units and those that were identified as beyond repair and that appropriate plastering would be undertaken on the walls, to include field density testing on the soil bearing capacity, compliance to appropriate construction methods and, soil compaction of the housing area and assurance that construction materials will be in good quality and sourced from accredited suppliers.

Salazar ordered the suspension of the construction and ordered a review of the housing project after discovering the use of substandard construction materials. The subsequent suspension order was issued by the NHA, the project’s implementing agency.

She also assured that the local government will do everything it can to ensure compliance of all engineering standards to the best interest of the beneficiaries. “‘We cannot sacrifice quality with quantity,” she said.

Several congressmen also inspected the area and were shocked to personally see the poor quality of the housing units and the substandard materials used in the construction. It was unknown why the NHA failed to immediately discover the use of substandard construction materials in the housing units.

Residents in the area said they noticed cracks on the housing walls and the poor quality of the construction with some officials even saying the defects were caused by an accident after a backhoe hit some of the units resulting to the collapse of the beams. It was unknown if there were sanctions or fines imposed on the contractor of the housing project.

The project is intended to residents in the area whose houses were destroyed during the siege of Moro National Liberation Front here that lasted three weeks. The street battles killed and wounded over 400 people and displaced some 120,000 people. The attack was in retaliation to the government’s peace talks with rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Mindanao Examiner)

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DBM wants additional P23-Billion for various Aquino projects

CEBU - The Department of Budget and Management said it is pushing for a P23-billion supplemental budget to ensure sufficient funding support for crucial development initiatives, including various infrastructure projects for post-Typhoon Haiyan rehabilitation in the Visayas and government preparations for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the National Treasury has already certified the availability of funds to support the projects, but these appropriations must likewise be supported by proper legislation.

"With the proposed 2015 National Budget already subject to Senate deliberations, we need the support of the House of Representatives to pass a supplemental appropriations bill to fund these projects," he said.

He said a total of P16.4 billion — comprising the bulk of allocations under the supplemental budget—has been earmarked for new priority initiatives. Of this amount, the post-Haiyan reconstruction and rehabilitation program will get P9.5 billion.

Another P1.44 billion will support key projects in preparation for the APEC Summit, which the Philippines will be hosting next year.

He said the supplemental budget will cover liabilities arising from obligated infrastructure projects worth P1.85 billion under the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Abad said total of P5.08 billion will also be coursed to a number of priority projects under various government agencies. The funds will account for the budgetary requirements of priority projects that were partially implemented or previously approved for implementation this year.

The breakdown of the supplemental budget is as follows:

New urgent projects and programs, mostly for post-Haiyan reconstruction and APEC Summit - P16.4 billion; obligations arising from infrastructure projects of the DPWH worth P1.85 billion, projects previously approved but have not been implemented or have been partially implemented - P5.08 billion.

"Most of these projects have already been completed, are on-going, or are urgently needed to sustain our socio-economic development. The passage of the proposed supplemental budget will allow us to allocate funds accordingly so we can complete these projects right away," Abad said.

But opposition politicians fear the supplemental budget would be used to fund the political propaganda of the Aquino government in preparation to the upcoming national polls in 2016. (Cebu Examiner)

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Cebu prays for inclusion in historic Papal visit

Pope Francis (Catholic News)

CEBU - Mayor Michael Rama of Cebu City said he will write the Vatican to appeal for the inclusion of his city in the itinerary of Pope Francis' visit in the Philippines in January next year.

Rama also appealed to the media, especially the Internet bloggers, and even the provincial government to appeal to the Pope to include Cebu - which is hosting next year's International Eucharistic Congress - in the historic visit.

He said Cebuanos were also victims of twin calamities - the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and the Super Typhoon Haiyan - thus "we also be deserving of such visit."

The Papal itinerary also does not include Bohol which was also devastated by calamities. 

The Pope's visit - from January 15 to 19 - was already announced by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, and this included  Manila and Tacloban City, and Palo town in Leyte where he will say mass. He is also expected to mingle with typhoon survivors. (Cebu Examiner)

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'Maguindanao massacre' witness niratrat!

  Ilan sa mga biktima ng massacre sa Maguindanao province na naganap noon November 23, 2009. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

COTABATO CITY – Isa umanong witness sa Maguindanao massacre na nakatakdang magbigay ng kanyang testimonya sa korte sa Maynila  ang binaril sa bayan ng Shariff Aguak – ang lugar ng Ampatuan clan na siyang itinuturong nasa likuran ng brutal na krimen limang taon na ang nakalipas.

Sugatan si Butch Saudagal at patay naman ang kaibigan nitong si Dennis Sakal matapos silang tambangan sa sentro ng Shariff Aguak habang nakasakay sila sa motorsiklo.

Hindi pa mabatid kung sino ang nasa likod ng pagpatay o kung sino ang nagpatira sa kay Saudagal, ngunit ayon sa mga ulat ay 6 katao ang sabit sa krimen. Niratrat umano ng M16 automatic rifle si Saudagal at Sakal.

Naging palaisipan rin kung bakit at papaanong nakatakas ang mga salarin gayun ang daming checkpoint sa nasabing  bayan. Hindi pa malinaw kung bakit nakagala ang 6 salarin habang bitbit ang kanilang M16 rifle.

Ang nasabing bayan ay lugar ng Ampatuan clan na akusado sa massacre ng 58 katao, kabilang ang 30 mamamahayag, noon November 23, 2009. Kabilang sa mga nasasakdal ay sina dating Magundanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. at mga anak na sina dating Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. , dating ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan. Ang mga ito ay nakapiit sa Camp Bagong Diwa sa Taguig City at kabilang sa 197 akusado sa kaso. (Mindanao Examiner)

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Police hold 14 people in Sayyaf lair

 Police forces in Sulu province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police authorities are holding 14 people, including two women, who were intercepted by soldiers near an Abu Sayyaf stronghold in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.

Police were investigating them to determine whether they have links or members or supporters of the Abu Sayyaf group. “They are subject for questioning by the police since all of them were at the encounter site in Talipao town. We handed all 14 of them to the police,” said Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command.

Muyuela said among those being held for investigation are two women. “They were no arrested and are just being questioned by the authorities on why they were in the Abu Sayyaf area,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Troops were still pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands of Sulu where a recent encounter in Talipao town killed and wounded over 50 people from both sides. Just recently, soldiers also recovered a pile of solar panels left behind by fleeing rebels. The solar panels were used by rebels to recharge their cell phones and laptop computers and even radio transceivers.

Soldiers also recovered pots and pans, blackened by soot, and clothing, and rubber boots abandoned by rebels as they escaped a massive military operation in the hinterlands of Talipao and Patikul towns, known stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the province, according to Muyuela.

Despite the on-going military operations, Governor Totoh Tan hosted the congressional public hearing and consultation on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law attended by thousands of people in Patikul town. The event was one of the series of consultations that Congress launched in Mindanao about the House Bill 4994. (Mindanao Examiner)

Rebels ambush 3 soldiers in Maguindanao province

 BIFF rebels during a clandestine interview with the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO – Suspected rebels ambushed three soldiers on Tuesday in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao province in the troubled Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the attack killed an army major and two privates who were travelling in a car and their identities were withheld by the 6th Infantry Division.

The army quickly blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the ambush. The soldiers also lost their weapons to the rebels.

It was the second attack in recent days in Maguindanao when some 500 rebels also assaulted the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in the village of Sapakan in Rajah Buayan town.

The attack sparked a six-hour firefight that wounded Corporal Charlie Dilangsoy, according to First Lieutenant Jethro Agbing, of the 45th Infantry Battalion.

He said troops under Second Lieutenant Mike Vergel Concepcion, and pro-government militias headed by Kagui Teng Lumenda repulsed the rebels.

It was unknown if there were casualties on the side of the BIFF.

“The 45th Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Bautista III, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole, together with the support of the local populace, remain steadfast in maintaining peace and order to counter adverse intentions and future atrocities of the BIFF, and to give what the people of Maguindanao truly deserves, a harmonious and peaceful community free of elements who want to destroy the peace in Central Mindanao,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner - Rose Muneza and Ely Dumaboc)

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Police capture gunman in deadly Koronadal pawnshop heist

TACURONG CITY – Police captured Tuesday a prime suspect in the deadly pawnshop heist following a chase that ended in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said Misuari Bansil was cornered in the village of Didtaras in Lambayong town. Bansil was among three gunmen that killed a security guard of the Agencia Brillantes in Koronadal City during a robbery on September 18.

Bansil, a native of Maguindanao province, was first spotted in Tacurong City by informants who tipped off the police about his presence. But Bansil fled on a motorcycle after seeing policemen and this triggered a long chase that involved police forces in Koronadal and Tacurong, and in Lambayong.

Officials said policemen also seized a .45-caliber pistol and a magazine from Bansil, including a talisman. Bansil’s companions remain at-large and are being hunted down by the police. (Rose Muneza)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who murdered Leyte Vice Mayor Claudio Martin Larrazabal?

CEBU – Who killed Leyte town Vice Mayor Claudio Martin Larrazabal? Was it a hit by the New People’s Army or political killing? These were the questions asked by many following the recent murder of Larrazabal, of Villaba town.

Larrazabal, 48, was fatally shot by two motorcycle gunmen on November 17 just outside his resto-bar. He died from a gunshot wound in the chest.

Police are still investigating the killing of the politician, who also served as a mayor of Villaba and in 2013 ran and won as vice mayor.

The motive of the killing remains unknown and his family has not released any public statement about the murder, but his supporters and followers condemned the violent slaying.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the killing of the politician, who was a cousin of former elections commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal. (Cebu Examiner)

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Filipino environmentalists protest coal policy forum

Environmentalists protest coal policy forum in Makati City.  

MAKATI CITY - Environmentalists held a rally on Tuesday outside the New World Hotel in Makati City to protest and condemn the ongoing Coal Policy and Business Forum.

The forum aims to gather operators of power plants and other industrial heavy users of coal, coal producers or suppliers, policymakers, legal and tax experts, investors and stakeholders to discuss the role of coal in the energy industry.

Leverage International, a consultancy company for foreign investors, organized the forum in collaboration with the Department of Energy along with the ASEAN Forum on Coal, the Philippine Chamber of Coal Mines and the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association.

“We condemn this gathering of disaster designers as it considers coal as an essential part in the development of the country. There is no space for coal in the energy industry now and in the future,” said Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice or PMCJ.

“What is more unforgivable is that after retreating from the fiasco of emergency powers, the government, especially the Department of Energy has supported this event,” he said, adding, that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was even the keynote speaker.

Pastora Diana Morales, of Coal-Free Bataan Movement, said in the recent UN Climate Summit held in New York, President Benigno Aquino boasted that the Philippines is now treading a climate-smart development pathway and that it continues to take steps to maintain and even improve its low-emission development strategy and the trajectory of the energy mix of the country.

“By taking part in this forum, this administration is showing its unwavering support for climate change-drivers such as coal and other dirty-energy projects. This is contradictory to what the President claims in international forums,” Morales said.

Morales said under the Aquino administration, at least 26 coal-fired power plants across the country with approximately 9,000 MW generating capacity have been approved despite massive opposition from various groups and the devastating effect this has in the environment and human health. These power plants are expected to dominate the energy mix of the country by providing 70% of the electricity generation by 2035. 

“Behind the closed doors of forums like this, communities like ours continue to suffer the negative effects of coal. Our lives and our future is at stake but the government continues to push for projects which will cause our death,” Morales said.

According to the Clean Air Task Force report, coal kills about 400,000 people annually.

“We reject this forum because continued investment in coal will put additional burden upon the people. Coal will become more expensive based on market signals, especially as more countries pledge to phase out coal and increase the renewable energy (RE) share in their electricity mix,” Kathryn Leuch, Energy Campaigner of PMCJ, said.

Only recently, China announced its target to increase the share of non-fossil fuels energy to 20% by 2030. Furthermore, China’s demand for coal is expected to peak by 2020.

Furthermore, burning of coal accounts for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

“Coal is a climate buster. It has no space in our world if we want to limit global mean temperature rise to 2 degrees. With our experience with the Typhoon Yolanda, unless we limit our emissions, stronger typhoons will happen and more Filipinos will be condemned to death,” Leuch said.

Energy Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada said that the DOE is aiming to award to private sector investors the areas for coal exploration and development under the Philippine Energy Contracting Round 5 by December 18.

But Arances said the government needs to focus to achieve its original target of 50% renewable energy in the electricity mix as stipulated in its original plan. He said the government must lay the basis for more funds for renewable energy and not waste its time giving more impetus to a "killer" and dirty industry such as coal.

“The government has no business taking part in a forum that brings death to its people and the climate,” Arances said.

In Zamboanga City, the Alcantara and Sons is also building a coal-fired power plant in San Ramon. It recently opened a coal-fired power plant in Sarangani province.

And Aboitiz and other firms are also operating coal-fired power plants in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

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