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    By Marie Gay Alessandra V. Ordenes, VERA Files

    How much is the government really getting from mining? How about other extractive industries such as gas and oil? How much is the industry actually paying the government? And, most important, do such payments comply with laws?

    Filipinos should be getting the answers to these and other questions about the extractive industries after the government formed the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (PH-EITI) following the issuance of Executive Order No. 79.

    EITI members

    The Philippines was admitted as a “candidate” country by the EITI International Board on May 22 during the International EITI Conference in Sydney, Australia.

    The Philippines now counts among the 37 countries that have committed to implement or are implementing the EITI, a global standard of transparency begun in 2003 that requires extractive industries to publish what they pay to the government, and the government to publish what they collect from these

    Read More »from Transparency in the extractive industries
  • Grace Nono

    By Luisa A. Igloria, VERA Files

    Photo by Neal Oshima

    Drape used by Grace courtesy of Narda Capuyan

    Babaylan? I thought they were all gone,” a young student remarks, almost in the same way one might talk about an extinct species.

    Contrary to that common belief expressed by that student, the Philippine babaylan--- powerful shamanic figures from precolonial times and known by variant names throughout the archipelago such as bailan, anitera/o, diwatero/a, catalonan, mambunong---are very much alive.

    Their continued existence is documented in the latest book of singer, scholar, and grassroots cultural worker Grace Nono, titled “Song of the Babaylan: Living Voices, Medicines, Spiritualities of Philippine Ritualist-Oralist Healers.”

    In this book, Nono, who completed course work as a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at New York University, has gathered the voices of living babaylan. It's 10 major sections are devoted to babaylan using their own words to describe their chosen “genre” or main

    Read More »from Grace Nono’s book echoes voices of living babaylan
  • Conductor Prof. Thanos Adamopoulos in action.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Only one orchestra in the country can claim to have a historic past and that is the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) founded in 1926 by Dr. Alexander Lippay and Dr. Herbert Zipper.

    Thus, there is always something sentimental in MSO concerts.

    MSO was temporarily disabled in the late 80s with the formation of the CCP Philharmonic (now the Philippine Philharmonic) and the Manila Chamber Orchestra and other satellite ensembles carrying other impressive names but actually using the same musicians.

    In the late 80s, Zipper mounted a concert calling for the resuscitation of the MSO but by the time orchestra patrons and sponsors were already cornered by the newly born orchestras.

    In 2003, violinist and former MSO concertmaster, Basilio Manalo, reorganized it with young and dedicated musicians and now the rest is history.

    MSO trumpet soloist Manu Mallearts.Playing with distinguished soloists from Cecile Licad to Joseph Esmilla and Wilfredo Pasamba, among others, the orchestra found its old voice

    Read More »from MSO shines anew in Schubert’s ‘Great Symphony’
  • Balikatan exercises in Capas, Tarlac April 2013. Reuters in Yahoo

    By Lauro Baja, Jr., VERA Files

    The proposal for “increased” access to facilities in Subic and other places to US forces and those of other “allies” is a byproduct of US desire to upgrade their pivot in Asia and of the Philippines necessity to arrest the rampaging actions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

    The plan could either be a blessing or a curse for the Philippines.

    The decision to implement the plan should be guided first and foremost, and only, by a determination that it would be in our national interest. It would be a political judgment call by the leadership of the country. It should be operationalized within a strategic framework which will maximize security, economic and diplomatic benefits for the Philippines. As far as possible, the country must unite behind the plan if adopted. The first step is to lower the decibels about it.

    Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin put it in a simple, frank and direct manner why we need the increased access. We are helpless in the midst

    Read More »from The perils of pivot
  • China offers to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin shoal


    BRP Sierra Madre

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    Chinese Foreign Secretary Wang Yi made an offer yesterday during the Asean Regional Forum in Brunei that rendered the articulate Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario speechless.

    Del Rosario told reporters that Wang said "Scarborough and Ayungin were theirs, historically, and we were the ones sending ships, interdicting their fishermen, and the grounded ship has been there for so long.”

    Wang was referring to BRP Sierra Madre which ran aground at Ayungin Shoal also known as Second Thomas shoal (Ren’ai Reef to the Chinese) in May 1999.

    Ayungin Reef is 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan. It is about 21 nautical miles from Mischief Reef, which was occupied by China in 1995.

    Del Rosario said he told Wang: “We don't have money to move it.”

    Wang, del Rosario said offered “ to do it themselves.”

    Asked what was his reply to Wang, del Rosario said: “Nothing.”

    Asked what was the reaction of other participants, del Rosario said, “Nothing.”

    Founded in

    Read More »from China offers to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin shoal
  • By Reyan L. Arinto, VERA Files

    Tacloban City — It was a worthy last act.

    Leyte Ordinance creating PDAO

    Before the 15th Leyte Sangguniang Panlalawigan ended its term last June 30, the provincial board approved an ordinance creating the Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO).

    Considered one of the major laws passed by the legislative body, the creation of the PDAO authored by Leyte first district Board Member Ryan Lawrence P. Tiu will help the province properly handle all matters pertaining to the affairs and welfare of all persons with disability in accordance with Republic Act 10070 or the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability.

    “The ordinance is also in compliance with the mandate of the Department of the Interior and Local Government promoting the establishment of PDAO in every province, city and municipality,” Tiu said.

    The priority now is the appointment of a PWD with experience in providing services to fellow PWDs to head the body, he added. Among the duties of the PDAO head is to formulate and

    Read More »from Leyte creates disability affairs office
  • By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    The book is in Sr. Myrna's favorite color of lilac with an image of her favorite flower, lily of the valleyTo deeply know Myrna H. Francia is to love her like God to whom she gave a feminine and compassionate face and Jesus Christ who she considered her bridegroom.

    One emerges from the book The Party's Over: A Nun for Modern Times quite humbled by how she chose to carry out her vocation or her "thirst for perfect love" while not losing her essential pluck and spirited nature.

    She was, her brother Joseph writes , "a normal party-going woman who worked in the corporate world and was wooed by suitors before she decided to join the religious life."

    She didn't live in prayerful isolation from the world. Surprising friends and family, who knew her as not as a santa-santita but a fun-loving girl who wasn't above doing a mischief or two, she "disturbed the peace of martial law, joining picket lines and protest marches in the company of sweaty laborers."

    A true-life Sister Stella L, the activist nun Vilma Santos played in a Mike de Leon film, Sister Myrna was a more

    Read More »from A real Sister Stella L
  • Gazmin makes the Philippines look pathetic


    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    Never have I felt so  kawawa reading the statements of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin justifying his plan to allow American and Japanese military access to military facilities in the Philippines to deter China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea .

    Newspaper reports quoted Gazmin as saying: “We cannot stand alone. We need allies. If we do not (seek allies), we will be bullied by bigger forces and that is what is happening now. China is already there, staying in our territory.”

    Gazmin must be referring to the situation in Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal or Panatag,  off Zambales which is no longer accessible to  Filipino fishermen since April 2012 and Mischief Reef in the Spratlys , which  was China occupied in 1995.

    It is feared that China would take over Ayungin Shoal, some 25 miles away from Mischief Reef.

    Gazmin further said: “What will we do? We cannot attack. We are just going after them in court. But in spite of that,

    Read More »from Gazmin makes the Philippines look pathetic
  • Licad in action. By Eric Louie Bolante.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz (Dance of Death) are obviously not the ideal ingredients for surefire box office success of any classical concert.

    Whether we like it or not, Filipinos love Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky (not exactly in that order) but Liszt’s Dance of Death for a finale? Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 (the Funeral Sonata) at least has melodic lines enough to wipe out its association with the agony of death.

    Add to that Typhoon Signal No. 2 raised by the weather bureau you have a perfect formula for a concert not likely to be patronized on this rainy night.

    But last night, the country’s leading pianist, Cecile Licad, once again showed her almost hair-raising interpretative power by making something supremely beautiful and profound about Liszt’s intimation of death.

    After a suspenseful fifteen minutes of an unfamiliar but powerful reading of the Liszt Totentanz, Licad and the ABS CBN Philharmonic under Gerard Salonga got a rousing

    Read More »from Cecile Licad triumphs over typhoon Gorio
  • Boats parked in Pamilacan shore

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    Pamilacan Island looks like a mound of green dumped in the middle of the Bohol sea.

    Fine white sand line one side of the island while jagged cliffs the other. The serenity is broken only by waves lapping the shore and the bleating of goats.

    Beneath the air of bliss that impresses the visitor, however, the island is under stress as the residents confront the hard reality that the days of whale shark hunting is over while still in search of a viable livelihood alternative.

    An online search gives the impression of an Eden capitalizing on the boom of eco-tourism that made Bohol one of the top tourist attractions in the country. But the reality is that tourism supports only a small fraction of the local economy and poverty is very much part of Pamilacan’s landscape like its fine white sand and crystal blue waters.

    The residents’ main source of livelihood used to be whale sharks hunting. “(We) are traditional fishermen of mantas and whales,” says

    Read More »from Pamilacan: searching for a solution between survival and conservation


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