MAC: Mines and Communities

Two anti-mining advocates shot in the Philippines

Published by MAC on 2011-01-31
Source: Bulatlat, Inquirer, GMANews, others

Recent days have seen two more attacks on opponents of mining in the Philippines.

The killing of Dr. Gerry Ortega, a well known environmentalist and journalist on the island of Palawan, has rightly received a huge amount of press support and condemnation. The fact that his killer was caught "red-handed" means that the much talked-of link to his anti-mining stance should become public knowledge during the subsequent court-case.

There was also an attempted assassination of a tribal local official in a remote part of the southern island of Mindanao, where again the motive appears to be his pro-environment and anti-mining stance.

Both acts deserve to be denounced. Both demand justice for the victims, their friends and families, and the causes they have supported.

** Updated on 14th February 2011 - Although Dr Gerry Ortega has now been buried (and more of the conspirators have been arrested over his murder), his death continues to inspire anti-mining sentiment. A new petition has been launched to raise 10 million signatures against mining on his home island of Palawan ( The Director General of the IUCN has written to the President of the Philippines to express her concern.

Meanwhile a campaign has been launched to lobby UNESCO to protect Province, after it was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1990.


Groups Urge Noynoy to Act on Killing of Palawan Environmentalist-Broadcaster

By Ronalyn V. Olea and Ina Alleco R. Silverrio


25 January 2011

NUJP challenged President Aquino to make good on his pledge to solve the killings of journalists while others say authorities should go beyond the robbery angle that the police initially announced, considering that Dr. Gerry Ortega was also an environmental activist.

MANILA - Various media groups, environmental and youth organizations denounced today the killing of Dr. Gerry Ortega, athe 47-year-old environmentalist and broadcaster who was shot dead on Monday by a gunman after finishing his radio show in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Dr Gerry Ortega of the Philippines
Dr Ortega - Source: Cathnews Asia

The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to ensure justice for the killing of Ortega and for all 141 journalists killed since 1986.

"Once again, we say, if you, Mr. President, truly wish to make good on your pledge of good governance, order all the media killings solved and the masterminds arrested, prosecuted and convicted," the NUJP said in a statement.

The NUJP also challenged Aquino to acknowledge that the State should be accountable, not only for all media murders, but for all extrajudicial killings and human-rights violations committed by its agents, or to admit that the State and his administration cannot or will not fulfill its most basic duty, to protect its citizenry.

The group said that "an honest-to-goodness effort to solve the murders of journalists in this country will reveal that behind most of the cases are powerful political interests that rule through intimidation or use of assassins' bullets and corruption money."

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that Ortega's killing was an "act of savagery." It expressed total support to Ortega's family, friends and journalist colleagues, and urged Philippine authorities to disclose swiftly the motive for the murder and the circumstances surrounding it.

"The organization is horrified by this act or savagery and calls once again on the government to guarantee the protection of journalists," the press freedom body said.

"It is time that the promises of Benigno Aquino, president of the Philippines since July 2010, who announced better security for journalists in his country and an end to the culture of impunity, become a reality. Impunity remains the chief evil corroding the country."

Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said in reports that he would personally focus on the case to identify the mastermind and bring him to justice. He said would meet with local journalists and come up with a plan or program to more media killings in the province.

Kalikasan PNE, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines and the League of Filipino Students also expressed outrage over the killing. The LFS said Ortega was an alumnus of the LFS chapter at the Mindanao State University in Marawi. The groups held a candle-lighting program at the Boy Scout Circle in Quezon City Monday night to condemn the killing.

Ortega is the 142nd media worker to be killed since the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. The NUJP said if it is proven that Ortega's killing is work-related, he would be the second journalist to be murdered during Pres. Aquino's administration.

The National Press Club, meanwhile, demanded that the Philippine National Police-Task Force Usig (PNP-TFU) and the Death Investigation Division of the National Bureau of Investigation (DID-NBI) take over the investigations. It said that the police authorities should take Ortega's alleged killer, identified as Marvin Alcaraz, into their custody.

"The PNP and the NBI should ensure Alacaraz's safety. He might very well be the next target of those who may have hired him to kill Ortega," the press club said. Alcaraz was arrested moments after he allegedly shot Ortega. Police initially said it was a robbery case.

But the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) expressed doubt that robbery was the motive behind the murder of Ortega.

The AHRC noted that there was no evidence to show the use of force and resistance on Ortega's part that would have resulted in the shooting.

"It is incomprehensible and devoid of logic to be the gunman's motive to kill Ortega," the Hongkong-based group said, referring to the robbery angle.

"To trivialize the murders of journalists, human rights and political activists, has been a common police practice at the early stage of investigations in the Philippines," the rights group said, citing the murder of Bishop Alberto Ramento inside his convent in Tarlac City on October 3, 2006. Authorities also claimed that the killing was a result of robbery, not a targeted attack on activists.

"There is a political context and benefit of publicity on the part of the government as to why this type of murder would rather be reduced to plain robbery. When a murder is trivialized as purely motivated by robbery, the state responsibility and accountability is also reduced. It creates a false sense that the ongoing extrajudicial killings are not systematic, widespread and targeted, to gloss over the country's human rights record," the AHRC pointed out.

The AHRC further said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) already had a starting point in their investigation that they must continue with effectively and thoroughly. The group said the police needs to focus on Ortega's work as the motive and to identify the people behind his murder.

The group noted that before he was murdered, Ortega had informed the police about receiving death threats on his mobile phone. "Therefore, the police station who recorded his testimony should explain what action they have taken to protect him and the result of their investigation in identifying the persons who made the threats. It needs to be ascertained as to how the policemen took action on his report. If there was neglect on the part of the police, this must be investigated and they must be held accountable," the AHRC said.

"Ortega's murder reaffirms the already known fact that the perpetrators have no qualms about murdering their targets in broad daylight, at anytime, anywhere. The presence of hundreds of potential witnesses no longer hinders them. Ortega was shot in open public view, in a crowded market place and in broad daylight. The perpetrators no longer fear being arrested and prosecuted for murder. In most cases they will get away with it," the AHRC said.

The group also said that Ortega's murder "demonstrates the ugly reality of the loss of value of human lives in the Philippine society."

"The value of human lives has become only an idea rather than fact because the system in which lives should have been protected is either deeply flawed or nonexistent in its real sense. It is the people who protect themselves in their own system; they do not rely on the government. The murder and the ongoing impunity is a byproduct of the rotten state of the investigation and protection mechanism," it said.

Palawan police charge 5 in Doc Gerry's murder

By Redempto Anda

Philippine Daily Inquirer

27 January 2011

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY-Police Wednesday filed murder charges against a former government official and four other men in the shooting death of hard-hitting radio commentator Gerry Ortega.

Charged were former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias, the confessed gunman Marlon Dichaves, his alleged lookout Dennis Aranas, Jun-Jun Bumar and Armando Noel Loria.

Seratubias, who served as provincial administrator under former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes, denied any involvement in the killing.

Bumar, who was earlier described as an aide of a former governor, gave Dichaves and Aranas a P10,000 down payment for the P150,000 hit job, according to the charge sheet. Loria was said to be a contact person of the hit men.

Only Dichaves is detained. Subpoenas for an inquest were to be issued to the four others.

Ortega was shot dead while shopping at a used-clothing store in Puerto Princesa City on Monday after his daily radio talk show. Dichaves was caught moments later with the help of passing firefighters and bystanders.

Colleagues believe Ortega, 47, may have been silenced because of his work. The anchor of a morning show on Palawan's dwAR radio station had criticized provincial officials linked to corruption and opposed the operation of mining companies in the resource-rich island province.

Ortega had criticized Reyes for alleged misuse of royalty funds from the Malampaya natural gas project in northern Palawan. Carreon constructed a new provincial capital building during the Reyes administration.

Ortega was also well-known in Palawan as a practicing veterinarian who ran a crocodile-breeding farm and headed a local environmental project.

Senior Supt. Rolando Amurao, the city police chief, said Dichaves had confessed that he and Aranas were promised P150,000 for the hit job and that each of them received a down payment of P10,000.

Amurao said that the .45 cal. pistol used in the shooting was registered in the name of Seratubias, who later surrendered and confirmed he owned the gun but that he sold it on Jan. 15 to a certain Percival Lesias, a day before the killing was planned in Pagbilao town in Quezon province.

Dichaves said he and Aranas were contacted by Bumar to kill Ortega. He said Bumar was an aide of former Marinduque Gov. Jose Antonio Carreon.

Politics, vengeance

Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said the case involved "politics and vengeance killing" and authorities were still looking for the mastermind.

Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer for Reyes, in a statement urged police, media people and "interested personalities" to "refrain from jumping to conclusions and making comments which generate more smoke than light."

Topacio said the Reyes family had no history of violence. "It is deplorable that they are now being besmirched with innuendo and allusions," he said.

Signature campaign

The killing of Ortega has sparked indignation in Palawan.

On Wednesday, Catholic Church leaders, local officials and civil society groups vowed to solicit 10 million signatures in a bid to convince President Benigno Aquino III to issue a special order exempting Palawan from mining activities.

Leading the campaign were Hagedorn, ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Gina Lopez, running priest Fr. Robert Reyes, Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo and the Palawan NGO Network Inc.

The campaign was formally launched during a symposium at Ortega's wake in a local church attended by sympathizers and supporters of the late broadcaster.

The group hopes to raise awareness in Malacañang that mining is destructive to Palawan because of its narrow topography and vulnerable forests.

"Most places in Palawan are key biodiversity areas," said Lopez, who heads ABS-CBN's Bantay Kalikasan and Bayan ni Juan Program.

She urged the national government to adopt the development model of Puerto Princesa City, which has banned all types of mining and has instead promoted ecotourism.

Hagedorn said the campaign was inspired by Ortega's advocacy against mining.

"We will make sure his death will not be in vain as it will only strengthen our resolve to oppose the destruction of our forests," he said.

"There will be no more silence from us from here on. There will be more noise and clamor to stop mining. This is the fight that Gerry Ortega died for."

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Ortega was the 142nd journalist killed in the country since democracy was restored in 1986.

The Philippines is considered one of the most dangerous places for reporters.

In the single worst killing of media workers in the world, 32 journalists and their staff were gunned down with 25 other people in an elections-related attack in Maguindanao province in 2009. With a report from Associated Press

Ortega murder sparks calls to review mining policies in Palawan

Paterno Esmaquel II


28 January 2011

Anti-mining and environment activists in Manila and Palawan are calling for a review of mining policies following the murder of prominent civic leader and radio commentator Gerardo Ortega, who had firmly opposed destructive mining in the province.

"Is it appropriate to have mining in a place like Palawan?" environment lawyer Antonio Oposa said in an interview with GMANews.TV after a press conference organized by activist groups Tuesday, a day after a lone gunman killed Ortega in Puerto Princesa City.

Ortega had collaborated with Oposa, who has won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for his work in environmental advocacy, on various issues in Palawan. The slain Ortega, a veterinarian popularly known as Doc Gerry, served as director of the crocodile farm in Puerto Princesa for many years.

In his morning program at DYAR, an affiliate of Radyo Mo Nationwide, Ortega often criticized mining operations in the province and local officials who provide permits that allow the destruction of Palawan's natural resources.

A day before the killing, he had helped facilitate the creation of Save Palawan Movement - a coalition of NGOs or non-government organizations, community groups, indigenous peoples, youth groups, the church, and local media - to oppose mining in the province.

"Gerry had the same dream as all of us - a Palawan free from wanton destruction by vested interests; to hold accountable those who, instead of ensuring Palawan's patrimony for future generations of Filipinos, facilitated the entry of destructive mining in the Philippines' last ecological frontier," according to a statement issued by the group.

The group noted that a United Nations body has declared Palawan as a Man and Biosphere Reserve. It is also the site of two World Heritage Sites - the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and the Tubbataha Reefs National Marine Park - and was recently named by the National Geographic magazine as one of the world's top 10 destinations for 2011.

"The Save Palawan Movement" will carry on this dream of preserving the Philippines' ecological treasure that is Palawan," their statement said.

Permits from PCSD

In Tuesday's press conference, Oposa noted that Ortega had been critical of the alleged leniency of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) in endorsing the operation of mining companies in the province.

The council was created in 1992 to implement Republic Act 7611, better known as the Strategic Environment Plan (SEP) law for Palawan.

"Nababalitaan ko na itong PCSD ay kara-karang nagbibigay ng titles, permits," Oposa told the press conference. "Ito ‘yung nilalabanan ni Gerry."

Oposa said the SEP, which is designed to protect and enhance Palawan's natural resources, is only "good on paper" and has not been fully implemented.

He compared the council's actions as tantamount to drilling numerous holes on the face of Palawan: "I will ask them, kung gagawin ninyong sungkaan ang Palawan, ‘yan ba ay angkop sa batas?"

Another environment lawyer, Gerthie Mayo-Anda of the Palawan-based Environmental Legal Assistance Center, observed that the PCSD was "highly politicized" with nine seats for the Palawan governor, two congressmen, the Puerto Princesa city mayor, and other officials from the local and national government.

"The economic and political interests that these politicians carry can shape the discussions in the PCSD," she said in a separate interview with GMANews.TV.

Anda said the appointments of non-government representatives in the PCSD, such as those from NGOs and indigenous groups, have to be approved by the council's politician-members.

She said the politicians in the PCSD have not spared unique ecological niches in Palawan, giving their endorsement to two large-scale mining firms, MacroAsia and Ipilan Nickel, inside the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape even though the SEP law prohibits any type of activity "that will imperil the protected area."

To solve this problem, she said the PCSD needs "more non-political representatives" including academics, women, farmers, and scientists. "That would be a better way of shaping the discussions there," Anda said.

Legal suit against mining ops

Meanwhile, Manila-based groups have expressed their support for the environmental movement in Palawan.

"We urge the people of Palawan and fellow environmentalists to continue the anti-mining advocacy of Dr. Ortega," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, in a statement issued Tuesday.

Bautista said his group is "studying and will eventually file a legal case to stop mining operations in Palawan on the grounds of environmental destruction."

League of Filipino Students (LFS) national chairperson Terry Ridon, meanwhile, said his group is prepared to push through with a signature campaign against mining in Palawan that the LFS had planned with Ortega.

In a similar message to Ortega's killers, Oposa said, "Your act may have snuffed his earthly life, but we assure you that it has not snuffed the flame of our collective commitment and passion."

He added, "Kung akala n'yo tapos na ang laban, nag-uumpisa pa lang." - With reports from Yasmin Arquiza/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Editorial : Another hired gun

Philippine Daily Inquirer

28 January 2011

Moments after Marlon Recamata Dichaves killed environmentalist and radio anchor Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa last Monday, he was caught and detained by passing firemen, concerned citizens and a responding policeman. The firemen, on board a truck, heard the gunfire and then saw Dichaves run from the scene and throw a handgun into a trash can. Using a loudspeaker, the firemen pointed Dichaves out to pedestrians. In the chase, the policeman was able to grab Dichaves and detain him.

The killer confessed to the crime, alleging it was a contract hit for P150,000. The gun he used, too, was immediately recovered.

The circumstances of the killer's arrest make this an open-and-shut case. In other words, only the Ombudsman can manage to lose it.

That last sentence, unfortunately, is not a joke. Filipinos have been known to indulge a morbid sense of humor, but in fact we are deadly serious. Part of the reason why so many journalists, especially hard-hitting crusaders in the provinces, have been slain-142 since the end of the dictatorship in 1986, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-is that the justice system has failed to work as designed. Especially in the Arroyo years, when the number of journalist killings surged, the lack of visible progress in the many cases filed showed that the system could not serve as a deterrent. In fact, it can be argued that the ineffectuality of the system as a whole encouraged the enemies of free speech to resort, repeatedly, to violence.

We hear the phrase "culture of impunity" used again-that convenient shorthand (at least in the English language) for a society where the obviously guilty go unpunished. That is what connects the murder of the gallant Ortega with the outrageous plea bargain arrangement that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and her prosecutors entered into with ex-general Carlos Garcia, or with thousands of other instances where the law has been distorted to serve personal need rather than the public weal. (The "win-win" rationalization offered by Garcia's supposed prosecutors does not define victory from the point of view of the concerned public.)

Thus, if powerful interests even in a progressive province like Palawan think they can get away with murder, then they think nothing of hiring contract killers like Dichaves of Taguig. How can we stop them?

The murder of Ortega, a veterinarian and sometime politician who used his daily radio show to rail against corrupt politicians and the insidious influence of what he identified as mining interests, marks the second time a journalist has been killed during the second Aquino presidency. We have no doubt that President Aquino will exhaust all efforts, not only to place those who masterminded the killing behind bars, but also to put an end to the killing spree.

But can he? It requires an enormous amount of work, including rededicating the country's security forces to the task of arresting those involved in previous slayings, of recommitting the prosecutors of the Department of Justice to the goal of filing airtight cases and securing irreversible convictions, above all of reinventing the government as an institution where the rules apply to high and low alike. But, to give only one example, when the indifferent incompetence of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim during the hostage-taking incident at the Luneta last August becomes plain during the post-incident investigation, and he is rewarded for it through Malacañang's kid-gloves' treatment, that completely mixes up the signal that the new administration is out to end the culture of impunity.

It seems possible, even probable, that Ortega, known as "Doc Gerry" to many, was killed because his passionate advocacy of anti-mining causes rubbed powerful politicians the wrong way. That is something that the police investigators and the public prosecutors must explore. Murder, like all politics, is inextricably local. But Ortega's death is also a warning to the new administration. The "culture of impunity" can be defeated only by the emergence of a completely new culture of total (not selective) accountability.

Village chief opposed to illegal mining shot in Zambo City


23 January 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/22 January) - A barangay chairman who is said to be vocal against the illegal small-scale mining activities in his village was reported to be in critical condition after he was shot early Friday.

City police director Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo said the incident took place shortly after 6 a.m. Friday in Sitio Mantayabas, Barangay Baluno.

De Ocampo identified the victim as Felix Custodio, barangay chairman of Baluno. He sustained two gunshot wounds in the head.

Investigation showed Custodio was walking home from the barangay hall where he slept the night before when shot with a caliber .38 revolver, the police official said.

De Ocampo said two persons could have attacked Custodio since the responding policemen recovered a shotgun and a slipper a few meters away from the crime scene.

He said the motive of the incident could be the victim's opposition to the illegal small-scale mining activities in his barangay.

Baluno is said to be rich in minerals such as ore, zinc, lead and copper and was a mining site of the defunct Zambales Base Metal Incorporated (ZBMI) in the 1970s.

The ZBMI opted not to renew its 25-year mining lease contract paving the way for the entry of illegal small-scale mining.

Mayor Celso Lobregat recently formed a task force to probe the theft of minerals in Baluno following reports of unabated illegal mining in the area. (MindaNews)

Village chief survives attack in Zambo

Jewel Reyes

ABS-CBN Zamboanga

21 January 2011

ZAMBOANGA City - A village chief was critically wounded after an unidentified assailant shot him in the head Friday morning.

Felix Custodio, 47, is a Barangay Chairman of Baluno. He was brought to a private hospital for treatment.

Custodio's 8-year-old nephew found him sprawled on the ground and bloodied while the boy was on his way to school.

Police said a lone assailant accosted Custodio, who was coming home from the Barangay Hall.

Custodio usually spends the night in the Barangay Hall due to the distance of his house from the main road.

However, reports said that his escorts only brought him to the highway, leaving him alone to walk the rest of the way to his house.

Residents and colleagues said Custodio is known to be strict in prohibiting trucks and other small-scale miners to get into Sitio Zambales, an area which is known for its minerals. The area was a mining excavation before closing down in the 1970s.

Police are also studying the possibility of a gun-toting incident where the official was seen mediating recently this week.

A shot gun was found near the scene of the crime but authorities discounted it as the crime weapon.

Police had difficulty looking for the empty shell in the crime scene because of the mud and bushes in the area.

Residents expressed shock over the incident since their village is known to be peaceful.

Mourners vow to nourish cause of Doc Gerry

Redempto Anda

Inquirer Southern Luzon

31 January 2011

ABORLAN - Palawan-A 21-gun salute and hundreds of white balloons set off Gerry Ortega to his next journey, the afterlife.

Thousands of mourners joined the short funeral march from a jam-packed public gymnasium through the decrepit and unkempt streets of this rural hometown to his final resting place beside that of his father, who years ago was also felled by an assassin.

Doc Gerry, as he was fondly called, emerged from his radio booth as a commentator to a rallying symbol for the environment and good governance. Since he was shot and killed by hired goons a week ago, his persona has become a symbol for all things good and worth fighting for in Palawan.

"Now, he's more alive than ever. Akala nila mapapatahimik nila si Daddy. Akala nila mawawala si Daddy. (They thought they could silence Daddy. They thought Daddy would be gone). Now he's more present than he was before. What they did was to create their own mob against them," said Mika, his eldest child.

Ten million signatures was the target that Gina Lopez and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn vowed to deliver "in record time" to convince the national government to exempt Palawan from mining. It was a cause that Doc Gerry fought and died for.

"We will nourish this cause with Gerry's martyrdom," Bishop Pedro Arigo said.

Doc Gerry's causes

The antimining campaign, which Doc Gerry, the broadcaster/commentator, had championed in his daily prime-time show, just got an unplanned boost.

A new Internet website created for the signature campaign,, was immediately deluged with hundreds of signatures the day after it was put up, calling on the national government to heed the antimining call.

"Gerry will want it this way, that we not only focus on who did it, that we continue to fight," his friend and confidante, lawyer Joselito Alisuag, said.

Doc Gerry's wife, Patty, held her tears as his coffin gently slid into its resting place, a countenance that she said she had to bravely put up. She was in deep prayers.

"I am a wife and a mother to our children. I could have stopped him doing what he was doing but I did not. My attitude was that you should do it if you have to, otherwise you will live a pathetic life," Patty said.

Doc Gerry's life was far from miserable. He had the time of his life, spending a good three hours each day in his radio program doing what he had to do.

"Hindi mo kailangang sirain ang environment (You don't have to destroy the environment), that you can ease the life of people by also taking care of your world," Patty said.

Toward dusk here on Sunday, the throng of people who had gathered to pay tribute gradually thawed until it was just the family and a few friends left. They offered a silent prayer and vowed to continue Doc Gerry's fight.

Ortega slay solved, says Hagedorn

By Marvyn N. Benaning

Manila Bulletin

8 February 2011

MANILA, Philippines - On the day Palawan mourned Doc Gerry Ortega and tributes were paid at his wake, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn pledged swift justice.

He said "that he will leave no stones unturned and will do everything within his power to haul to court everyone involved in the senseless killing of Ortega, principally the masterminds."

In 14 days, Hagedorn redeemed his solemn vow by solving the murder.

Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn says the surrender and confession of Rodolfo Edrad Jr. has solved the assassination of Dr. Gerry Ortega last January 24 and brought to light the conspiracy that could have also cost the life of another journalist.

Hagedorn added that Edrad, a close-in security aide of former Gov. Joel Reyes, tightens the noose on the conspirators, including the man whom Edrad claimed gave him P150,000 at the lobby of Marriott Hotel in early January to execute the plot to kill Ortega.

After the murder, Edrad met with a town mayor who handed him another P500,000.

Hagedorn stressed the disclosures of Edrad also implicated several high-ranking provincial officials of Palawan to the killing, which jolted peaceful Palawan and stirred a spirited campaign to stop logging and mining operations on the island province.

"We have redeemed our pledge to solve this dastardly crime in two weeks. We have Edrad who gave a blow-bly-blow account of the plot to kill Ortega, including the roles played by former provincial officials and their cohorts," Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn said he is also awating the confession of Nonoy Regalado, who was implicated by gunman Marlon Recamata as the contact of his group from the time he arrived on January 19.

Regalado was described as another close-in aide of Reyes.

"I ask all of Ortega's relatives not to fear, or be threatened, by the big names involved in this crime. Justice will be swift since we have the evidence to nail all the suspects, with one testimony corroborating another, and all the circumstances related to the assassination falling into place," Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn thanked the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the NBI, Quezon Province Police Force and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Puerto Princesa City for the quick resolution of the crime.

He asked the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the judicial system to ensure the prompt prosecution of the case.

Hagedorn said "it was fortuitous that Recamata was captured immediately, the gun used was recovered and the suspects cooperated. The softness of Edrad's heart also led to the identification of the mastermind."

The mayor emphasized that the disclosures of Edrad would devastate the defense mounted by the masterminds and settle once and for all the guilt of those who masterminded the plot, those who contributed to it by way of finances and other material support, and those who may yet wage a campaign to wriggle themselves out of this mess.

Ortega was shot dead inside a used clothes store after his morning radio program but the gunman, Marlon Recamata, was arrested by the police after a chase that involved a fire truck and police cars.

Charged in the Ortega murder are Recamata, a certain Armando Noel Loria, former Palawan administrator and lawyer Romeo Seratubias, owner of the cal. .45 pistol used in the killing, and a lookout.

With Edrad's disclosures, charges may also be filed against Palawan provincial and municipal officials.

Edrad surrendered to Hagedorn and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after negotiations with his family and his lawyer.
Hagedorn allayed fears of a whitewash of the case, saying the forensic and documentary evidence, in addition to the testimonies corroborated several times over, would be sufficient to make the conspirators rot in prison

Guardians or opportunists?

By Gina Lopez

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7 February 2011

MANILA, Philippines - On the launch of a 10-million signature campaign for "No To Mining in Palawan," I could feel the cleanliness of the air, the splendor of the environment. But I hear stories-and documented facts-about the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and I literally turn nauseous.

My head feels hot, but I have to stay cool. This campaign has to be done on a high level-not in anger. That is hard, but I want this to be successful, so I am going to give this my best shot.

The PCSD was created in 1992 through the Strategic Environmental Plan to ensure the sustainability of Palawan. This obviously means social acceptability, preservation of nonrenewable resources. Sustainability is holistic by its very definition.

Let's look at the track record of the PCSD.

• Under the PCSD, Palawan has actually lost 16 percent of its forest cover compared to other provinces. I actually thought that it was supposed to protect Palawan because of its biodiversity. And yet, among the provinces in the country, Palawan appears to be the most ravaged. What is worse is that the 16-percent decline was recorded before the Mining Act was passed. I cringe in apprehension about what the real figure is.

• The PCSD has consistently altered zones to accommodate mining applications. Instead of protecting Palawan, it is just another bureaucratic level, which acts like a political tool. Mining applicants go through the PCSD to get an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In fact, Environment Secretary Mon Paje told me that in the law, the PCSD has precedence over the DENR. It seems to me that the setup was to protect Palawan from corruption at the top, but this has dismayingly worked the other way.

Disappearing forests

Proof? Core zones are areas that should not be touched! It's a primary-growth forest and it has endangered species. Primary-growth forest means the trees are not planted by man, they grow naturally because of the demands of the ecosystem.

So what did the PCSD do? A core zone which was 1,022 hectares in 2006 was reduced to 510. That's half! To accommodate a mining application? That's disgusting, and actually sickening.

But that's only the beginning. In Brooke's Point, another core zone of 2,411 ha became 287! That's a 90-percent reduction! In this age of climate change and global warming, we have an institution sacrificing our trees and biodiversity by manipulating laws and ordinances.

I can't even begin to say how much angst this causes, in a place as lush and beautiful as Palawan. This is not just a crime; it's a sin! It's a sin to wreck havoc on God's creation. It's a sin to rape and abuse divine blessings on this country and its people.

I am not a lawyer, but I know right and wrong. And this is wrong. And it's just the tip of the iceberg. One wonders why there is flooding in Palawan? Now I can really feel the pain of the natives who said they made our children lawyers, but they took away our mountains.

One native says: I am poor. I have not even reached Grade 1, but at least I fish in the sea. I have trees, water and these are free! Mining takes away all of these from me.

So the PCSD, please explain to the readers how this is sustainable and view the pictures of these children in a mining area and tell your countrymen with a straight face that you care.

Cyanide fishing

PCSD activities extend to fishing, to tourism. Mangroves are being cut to accommodate resorts, permits are given for catching live fish without adequate monitoring if it is done with the use of cyanide. The list goes on. And the documents are all with the council.

Are you testing if fish are caught with cyanide or not? Who submits the fish for testing? The shipper? If that is so, something is wrong with that system.

The PCSD is actually a beautiful concept. It is participatory governance in terms of procedure and structure with sectoral representation. It's the clear example that laws are laws, and concepts are concepts. But in the hands of the unscrupulous, what could be beautiful turns things to sludge.

Social acceptability? In Brooke's Point, a consultation was held in two barangays where one of the mining companies was going to operate. And "No To Mining" won the vote. But the PCSD proceeded with the project.

Act now

I wonder what happened to will of the people. So sad. I feel a wound in my heart, but the fire in my belly tells me that this must stop. The church, the NGOs, the communities say this must be stopped. How much longer do we have to wait? The time is now. There is no better time than now. So many have resigned in frustration. Perhaps, it's time their voices are heard.

Enough is enough. Our country deserves a better future. I know I have been quite emotional. But, hey, this is our future. And transgressions like these cannot and should not be taken lightly. If you want more information, get in touch with the Environmental Legal Assistance Center in Palawan ( or contact the Palawan NGO Network Inc. (

There are documents and technical evaluation papers that you can get from the PCSD: Gov. Baham Mitra (chair); vice chair Dave Ponce de Leon, who is a civilian so has no right to be there; Joel Reyes, a former governor who I am told is very much pro-mining.

Whatever you do, please join the 10 million signature campaign to keep Palawan free from mining forever and help move the Philippines to a brighter future. Website is

Philippines: UNESCO stands by as forests and livelihoods are destroyed on Palawan

28 January 2011

He worked for the protection of his island, its people and natural treasures - but he could not win in his lifetime. Environmental campaigner and radio journalist Gerry Ortega was shot dead on 24th January, just as he was leaving his radio station DWAR Palawan. His friends and colleagues from Palawan's environmental and human rights organisation ALDAW are in no doubt: Ortega was murdered because he had publicly and repeatedly spoken out against the government's mining plans, which would destroy the officially protected tropical forests of Palawan and the livelihoods of indigenous communities and lowland farmers.

Palawan is the third largest island group in the Philippines and a biodiversity hotspot, home to 49 animal and 56 plant species which are threatened with global extinction according to the international conservation organisation IUCN.

UNESCO declared the entire Province of Palawan a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1990 - a diverse natural landscape with tropical rainforests, montane forests, mangroves and coral reefs. The spectacular Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

The southern part of the main island is home to the indigenous Palawan, some of them are living in partial isolation. Their livelihood is based on swidden cultivation, hunting and gathering, and commercial collection of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). Lowland Palawan also engage in cultivation of coconuts and processing of copra, as well as in animal rearing. In 1992, a Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (SEP) was drawn up through massive support from European Union, which is to promote sustainable development, under consideration of nature conservation and the livelihoods and consent of the population. It also demarcates core zones which are to be absolutely protected and other zones, where activities are restricted and controlled. The SEP Programme has been supported by the European Union, which has also invested 17 million Euros in the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Programme (PTFPP). PTFPP is a 7-year special project, which started in 1995 with the objective of assisting forest preservation in Palawan through catchment approach, with sustainable development strategy implemented by the communities. Nevertheless, many people on the island complains that most of the money was used to pay disproportionally high salaries to foreign consultants, project directors/managers and government officials and that, ultimately, the project has left behind little tangible evidences of success.

In spite of all conservation efforts and investments, the Provincial Government of Palawan seems to favour the intensification of mineral exploitation on the island, in compliance with the policy of mining revitalization passed in 1995, during the former administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. MacroAsia Mining Corporation, Ipilan Nickel Mining Corporation and LEBACH are making claims to protected zones and cultivated land, where they have already excavated test-pits and made deep drilling-holes. Specifically, this has also occurred in the upland forests of Brooke's points, which are home to indigenous communities, and in the Gantong Watersheds. Further south, Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) has already built roads across the Bulanjao mountain range, thus undermining the integrity of a unique biodiversity hotspot. All of this has been documented by the indigenous network ALDAW with photos, GPS and a videos.

Very soon, the Governor of Palawan and Chair of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development will make a crucial decision on whether to give the green light to MacroAsia, Ipilan Nickel and LEBACH to pursue their mining activities in forested land.

UNESCO must act immediately, so as not to lose their reputation as a respected protector of natural and cultural heritage. They must not allow the unique habitats of Palawan and the livelihoods of the population to be sacrificed by short-sighted policy makers and greedy companies. The work of the murdered journalist Gerry Ortega must not have been in vain.

Director-General Mrs. Irina Bokova
Unesco Headquarters, Paris

Director Mr. Natarajan Ishwaran
Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences?Secretary
Man and Biosphere Programme
Unesco Headquarters, Paris

Deputy Director Mr. Rob Lee
Regional Science Bureau for Asia & Pacific
Specialist for Environmental Sciences
Unesco Office Jakarta, Indonesia

Dear Director-General Bokova,
Dear Mr Ishwaran,
Dear Mr Lee,

Palawan Island is one of the most biodiverse regions in the Philippines. In order to preserve its biodiversity, UNESCO declared the whole Province a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1990. Included are two World Heritage Sites: The Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. UNESCO set up the Man and Biosphere Reserve programme in order to protect people's ancestral lands and culture as well as the diversity of flora and fauna from exploitation and destruction.

The importance of this measure in Palawan is demonstrated by the fact that 49 of the animal and 56 of the plant species living there are globally threatened with extinction, according to the international conservation organisation IUCN.

The Man and Biosphere Reserve programme, however, appears to be failing - despite the full knowledge of the responsible UNESCO Commission. The Philippine Government is planning to massively expand mining as well as oil palm plantation on Palawan Island.

On 28th January, the Governor of Palawan plans to make the final decision about Macro Asia's and INC's mining concessions inside the protected area. I therefore call on you to use your influence in order to stop the plans for mining and oil palm plantations inside the Palawan Man and Biosphere Reserve, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan.

The Macro Asia Minisnt Corporation and Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) already hold concessions for land belonging to indigenous Palawan communities, some of whom are living in voluntary near-isolation. Those concessions for mining nickel and chrome lie partly inside the officially highly protected core zone of the Man and Biosphere Reserve, as well as in areas where activities are restricted. Those regions are supposed to be protected from exploitation under the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan (SEP). Mining inside these regions will destroy the livelihoods of the communities and the land on which they depend for their survival.

The Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation is building roads through the Bulanjao highlands, a biodiversity hotspot. Road construction is causing severe harm to the environment, such as health problems and harm to livelihoods of indigenous Palwawan communities as well as lowland farmers. Affected communities have not been consulted, even though they have a right to participate in decisions under national and international law.

The national indigenous peoples' network ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) has recently submitted clear evidence for the destructive activities carried out by mining corporations. Their data, which rely on geo-tagging, and video prove that Macro Asia and INC are carrying out exploration inside protected core zones, primary forests and watersheds: and

National and international protests by environmental and human rights campaigners have so far failed to make the Governments of the Philippines and Palawan Province see sense. People on Palawan who are working for the protection of their natural treasures are facing major threats. A shocking example is the murder of radio journalist and human rights activist Gerry Ortega on 24th January. Ortega was an official voice against the mining companies.

ALDAW has repeatedly called on the UNESCO Commission to act but has never received a reply. I therefore ask you: Has UNESCO got no instruments for guaranteeing the protection of their Biosphere Reserves? Are those declarations not backed by effective measures?

Please use your influence in order to stop the plans for mining and oil palm plantations inside the Palawan Man and Biosphere Reserve, according to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan.

Yours faithfully,

Letter from IUCN Director General

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino
President of the Republic of the Philippines

3 February 2011

Your Excellency,

I am writing on behalf of IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in relation to the recent killing of Radio Mindanao Network DWAR Radio journalist Gerry Ortega. While the exact motive behind his reported assassination will be the matter for an official investigation, Mr. Ortega was well-known as an outspoken critic of mining on the island of Palawan, a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve that is home to isolated and vanishing indigenous communities and over 100 plants listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM. Prior to his being killed, it had been widely reported in the media that Mr. Ortega had received numerous death threats in connection with his antimining stance.

In the wake of this tragic event, numerous environmental and human rights groups have condemned Mr. Ortega's killing, and several have reached out for support to international organizations that are actively involved in nature conservation, mining and indigenous peoples' issues, including IUCN.

As you may know, IUCN is the world's oldest and largest environmental organization which brings together over 1,000 Members, including States and non-governmental organizations, as well as over 10,000 scientists and experts in its six Commissions. In particular, our Philippines-based Member, the Ecological Society of the Philippines, as well as members of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, which includes representatives of the ALDAW (Ancestral Land Domain Watch) Network, have expressed grave concern over the killing. IUCN's World Conservation Congress Resolution on "Support for environmental defenders" expressly calls upon me, as Director General, to speak out publicly and forcefully in support of environmental advocates who are suffering harassment or persecution. I therefore wish to convey to Your Excellency and to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines IUCN's deepest regret for and condemnation of the killing of Mr. Ortega, and to express our strong hope that those responsible for this deplorable act will be brought to justice.

IUCN believes that discourse and debate on development and environmental sustainability should be conducted in an open, frank and non-violent way. Everyone should have the right to voice their opinion on these issues without feeling threatened. I take this opportunity to urge the Government of the Philippines to take all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent the recurrence of this type of violence against environmental advocates and to do its utmost to ensure that the environmental and cultural heritage of the Palawan Man and Biosphere Reserve is preserved for future generations.

Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre
Director General
CC: Members of IUCN Council
Dr. Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant

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