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The Guerrilla Navy in Northern Mindanao

April 7, 2021

Two of the Second World War’s largest naval battles were fought in the waters off the Philippines. These were the Battle of the Philippine Sea on June 19-20, 1944, considered the largest carrier-to-carrier battle in history, involving 24 aircraft carriers, deploying roughly 1,350 carrier-based aircraft; and the Battle of Leyte Gulf on October 23-26, 1944, considered to have been the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history, with over 200,000 naval personnel involved. However, long before these two titanic battles happened, a different type of war was already being fought off the coasts of the occupied Philippines and Japanese garrison forces. Though minute  in scope and scale compared to major naval engagements between the US and Imperial Japanese navies, it was a constant, running battle in the country’s inter-island waters, and considering the odds against them, deserves a story of their own for our guerrillas’ valor in daring to engage elements of the Japanese armed forces, albeit on a much smaller scale.   Business as usual During the “3 taong walang Diyos” of the Japanese Occupation, Mindanao was still able to share food with adjacent areas in the Visayas, like Leyte, Cebu and Bohol. Slow-moving bancas were used to ply between Agusan and the Visayas.  In Lanao, periodic trips were undertaken by traders from Bohol, Negros, Siquijor, Cebu and Camiguin, bringing in sugar, garments, dried and salted fish, medicines and others. On their return trip, they brought with them rice, corn, and other food which were lacking in their places. Very often, these trips were undertaken by the ubiquitous Barco Dos Velas (Dos Velas means Two Sails in Spanish) sailboats. “Barco Dos Velas was a 2-masted sailboat common between Visayas and Mindanao during colonial times,” said Antonio J. Montalvan II, a Europe-based Filipino public writer, social anthropologist, university professor and heritage activist. “These were the sailboats which many Visayan immigrants took when they moved to Mindanao.” The Dos Velas were relatively large vessels and could accommodate up to one hundred sacks of corn, one hundred fifty kerosene cans of salted fish sauce (guinamos), and twenty men. With their huge sails, they were fast sailboats and together with the smaller bancas,  revived the inter-island trade interrupted by the war. They traded in salt, corn, rice, guinamos, dried fish,, sugar and soap. Normal trade relations existed between Lanao and Misamis Occidental. This trade relation, however, between these two provinces and from other islands in the Visayas, were at times paralyzed due to active Japanese patrols, both by land and sea. The daring viajeros crossed the sea at night and hid in island coves during daytime to avoid Japanese sea patrols that prowled Macajalar and Iligan Bays searching for guerrillas going to and from Col. William  Fertig’s headquarters at Misamis, Misamis Occidental. Fertig was the recognized overall guerrilla leader of the 10th Military District, United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. It was the usual practice of guerrillas going to Misamis to commandeer a sailboat, cross Iligan Bay at night to avoid Japanese motor launches based in Iligan, and arrive in Jimenez in the morning. When a banca was commandeered, its skipper was given a “Jefe de Viaje”(Safe Passage Pass) by the area guerrilla commander which guaranteed him safe passage through territories controlled by the guerrillas. However, savvy traders were also known to obtain similar safe passage passes from the Japanese (written in kana-hiragana) which they flashed when hailed by Japanese patrols. Of course, these were usually kept under wraps from the guerrillas. The Japanese often intercepted the sailboats at sea, confiscating their cargo, and took the crew prisoner. Because of this, business declined and later, markets and retail stores were closed. The sudden rise of commodity prices inevitably followed. (pages 47-49, Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army, by Jesus B. Ilogon)   Beginnings : The 110th Regiment ‘Navy’ It was evident at the very beginning that in order to organize all the small guerrilla bands in the eastern portion of Mindanao a fast and efficient means of water transportation was called for.  One of the guerrilla units which was most active in the littoral waters and the rivers and other waterways of Northern Mindanao was the  110th Infantry Regiment, charged with the area  from the Tagoloan River, Misamis Oriental to the Eastern border of the province. Activated early in November, 1942, it was composed mostly of various guerrilla bands which sprung  up in  Eastern Misamis Oriental during early September 1942: Balingasag and the surrounding towns led by Lt Pedro Collado; PFC (later 1st Lt), Clyde M. Abbot, Vicente Mercado and Sgt (later Lt.) Entique Carpio; Claveria under M/Sgt James McIntyre, U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC); Malitbog under M/Sgt. Alfred Fernandez, USAAC; and Talisayan led by PFC Fausto Omandang. The first commanding officer of this regiment was Capt. Pedro D. Collado who was designated on Nov. 1942, relieved by Capt. Francisco N. Luz on Feb. 1943, and succeeded by Maj. Rosauro P. Dongallo in June, 1943. (Memoirs of the Guerrillas: The Barefoot Army, by Jesus B. Ilogon) The regiment found two launches on the seacoast of Misamis Oriental: the “Rosalia”,  a light two masted banca powered by a 50HP diesel engine, and the “Treasure Island”, an inter-island passenger launch with a high superstructure and a 75 HP diesel engine. These launches were commissioned in February, 1943. With launches in operation, it was necessary to locate an oil supply to provide fuel.  Captain Cruz Ranario, Division Quartermaster, solved this problem by building a kilometer long pipeline from the oil storage tank of the Surigao Consolidated Mine at Siana, Surigao to Tubay, where the oil was placed in oil drums which were floated down the creek to Tubay River, carried by baroto down the river to Tubay, where the oil was picked up and carried to fueling stations.  It was estimated that this oil storage tank, which was never touched by the Japs, contained over 200 tons of diesel fuel which was more than sufficient to operate the 110th Division’s launches for two years.  An additional 60 tons of bunker fuel was siphoned out of the hulk of the SS Mayon sunk at Nasipit Harbor, but 52 tons of it was dumped by an American who thought bunker fuel was worthless. (Source: History of the 110th Division page 4, NARA, 110th Division, 10th Military District (MD) (PVAO Digitized Collection) )   Ammo Mission to Bohol During the last day of the Siege of Butuan (March 3-10, 1943) when it was evident that the guerrillas’ ammunition was running low, Captain William Knortz took the launch “Rosalia” and went to Bohol, where a reliable source had reported that a certain individual had collected a large amount of ammunition after the surrender, but was holding it in secret for the Bohol Force, because there was some kind of agreement between the two parties. Knortz contacted this individual and was able to obtain 8,000 rounds of ammunition and brought back the individual who knew the source. This ammunition was taken back and distributed to the troops. As Knortz was pressed for time, he was not able to get all the hidden ammunition from Bohol. Major Clyde Childress and Knortz decided to return to Bohol to get the remainder. In the meantime, the guerrillas had captured the “ Nara Maru” a 60-foot Japanese-made diesel motor launch which was converted to run on coconut oil. It was armed with a .50 caliber machine gun that was taken from a damaged B-17 bomber from the 19th Bombardment Squadron and had an improvised recoil mechanism made from rubber tubing. Upon arriving in Jagna, Bohol, Childress in the launch “Treasure Island” and Knortz in the “Nara”, it was discovered that the commanding officer of the Bohol Force had learned of the ammunition raid and was very angry about it, and determined not to lose anymore to the interlopers from Mindanao.  However, while a conference was held with the officers of the Bohol Force, men were sent up into the hills and managed to get another 2,000 rounds. The decorum of the Bohol guerrillas was such as to indicate that they could start shooting anytime, so the party from the 110th Division boarded their launches and departed post haste to Mindanao. The party stopped over at Mambajao, Camiguin, and heard from civilians that a submarine had landed at Misamis Occidental (actually in Lanao del Norte). Sending the “Treasure Island” on to Mindanao, Knortz and Childress took the motor launch “Nara” to Misamis Occidental where they met Commander Charles “Chick” Parsons, who had just arrived from Australia at the headquarters of Col. Fertig in Oroquieta. Parsons told them MacArthur had instructed the guerrillas to focus on intelligence gathering rather than attacking the Japanese garrisons. (Source: History of the 110th Division, page 5, 110th Division, 10th Military District (MD) (PVAO Digitized Collection) )   Athena Perhaps the most famous member of the guerrilla “navy” was the Athena, a two-masted Barco Dos Velas with outriggers, commonly used as commercial traders by Visayan traders from Panay, Negros, Siquijor and Bohol. She was skippered by Major Vicente Zapanta, the  legendary Butuanon of the Agusan River. Thought to be a US. Navy veteran of World War 1, he volunteered not only his service, but also his large sailing vessel with an auxiliary one cylinder diesel engine to the 110th Division in November 1942, turning his banca over to the army although he had been making a huge profit from it in the commercial trade.  Zapanta was commissioned as a 2nd  Lieutenant but rapidly rose to the rank of Major in the USFIP and proved to be a valuable man to the organization.  His banca was originally armed with a homemade muzzle loading cannon fashioned from a four-inch pipe which fired balls cast from melted fishing weights, but was later equipped with a 20mm cannon and .50-cal. machine guns, but never saw action on its many trips distributing supplies about the Visayan Islands and other coastal points in Mindanao. In addition, its 20 men crew were armed with Browning Automatic Rifles (BARs).  Athena’s major role during the war was to transport rice and other supplies to the various guerrilla-controlled towns, It also transported troops from one point of Mindanao to another. Zapanta was particularly helpful in delivering radio equipment to some of the coast watcher stations, Another mission was to bring evacuees to the next expected rendezvous with submarines such as the USS Narwhal.(page 110, Wendell Fertig and His Guerrilla Forces in the Philippines, Kent Holmes). On one of these trips on January 1943, it picked up a large amount of USAFFE supplies from a beach at Manapa, Agusan, sequestered from Talacogon by Captain Knortz and Lt. Money left by Capt. Chastaine at the time of the surrender. This included the radio transmitter of the Anakan Lumber Company, which consisted of the transmitter itself, a steel cabinet two feet square and six feet high, a generator and many other pieces of personal equipment such as packs, canteens, bayonets, etc. (Source; History of the 110th Division, page 3, 110th Division, 10th Military District (MD) (PVAO Digitized Collection)  On her seventh war patrol and ninth Spyron mission, Narwhal skippered by Lt. Cmdr. Frank D. Latta, entered Butuan Bay submerged at 0508 hrs on November 15, 1943. At 1605 hours, she sighted a launch flying the proper security signal. She surfaced and Colonel Wendell W. Fertig, commander of the United States Forces in the Philippines (USFIP) and head of the organized resistance in Mindanao, came aboard. Narwhal then proceeded to Nasipit Harbor. On her way in she ran aground on hard sand in the channel’s west bank, but managed to free herself quickly. At 1746 hours, Narwhal moored starboard side at the Nasipit dock as a Filipino band played “Anchors Away.” At 2330 hours, she completed offloading 46 tons of supplies. Early the next day, she embarked 32 evacuees, including POW escapees Shofner, Hawkins and Dobervich, women, two children, and one baby, and got underway. As Spyron Operations Chief, Lt. Cmdr. Chick Parsons left Narwhal with the harbor pilot. Remarks the Narwhal’s patrol report: “The very real need for any kind of stores in guerrilla occupied areas led us to transfer considerably more stores than were actually consigned as cargo. Additional arms and ammunition as well as foodstuffs were transferred to Col. [Wendell] Fertig. These supplies were distributed to the western portion of Mindanao and to others in the Visayan Islands on Zapanta’s “Athena”.   Albert McCarthy A machine shop was set up at Fort Lamon, Surigao, in the old Port Lamon Lumber Company’s yard, which was destroyed by the 1942 typhoon. At this shop were 2nd Lt. Richard B. Lang and Waldo Neveling. The purpose of this shop was the construction and repair of launches and bancas.  The first launch to be constructed in this shop was the “Albert McCarthy” named after the brother of Lt. Joe McCarthy, who was killed in an ambush near Surigao City while on patrol against the Japs. Capt. Knortz sailed this launch to the Division Headquarters at Linogus, Misamis Oriental (now Magsaysay), to get submarine supplies from Col. Fertig.  The supplies were received and the party returned, stopping at Balingasag, while Knortz in the launch, continued on up the coast.  A telephone call informed the Japanese had just landed at Gingoog and had taken control of the town. That same afternoon, Capt. Dobervich, USMC, arrived at Balingasag with a truck. A platoon of soldiers from the 110th Regiment Combat Company were sent immediately by truck to Gingoog to engage the Japs.  At Talisayan the M/L “Albert McCarthy” was found anchored and it was learned that Capt. Knortz and his armed party had proceeded to Gingoog on foot. The launch was unloaded and hidden, and the supplies loaded on the truck and sent to Medina where the Combat Co. troops unloaded and marched towards Gingoog.  It was learned that Knortz had entered Gingoog and killed eight Japs at close range with his tommy gun, and then had retired through the mountains. The troops arrived late and set up an outpost at Lunao crossing. During the night a large Japanese patrol attacked the outpost and broke through it. Lt. Fritz was killed when the truck with the supplies he was driving was ambushed by the Japs.    Sea Mishap The first Spyron operation in Northern Mindanao and seventh Spyron mission overall,  involved the Bowfin (SS-287) under Cmdr. J. H. Willingham on Sept. 3, 1943 when it embarked nine persons and  delivered seven tons of radio equipment and supplies at Iligan Bay, 1 ¼ mile east of Binuni Point (off present day Bacolod, Lanao del Norte). Four weeks later on Sept. 29, 1943, at the same location, Bowfin evacuated nine guerrillas, selected by their superior officers, to be transported to Australia. Capt. Knortz returned to Liangan, Lanao, arriving just after the Bowfin’s second shipment was unloaded and was able to get the largest shipment yet allocated to the 110th Division.  However, his small launch was overloaded with the 13 people in addition to the weapons, packs and supplies and sank midway between Camiguin and Punta Diwata. Knortz downed and only six Filipinos survived.   So What Waldo Neveling was a German national who was a  former mining engineer at the Mindanao Mother Lode mine in Surigao province. Initially interned and then released by the Japanese because of his German nationality, he became a “soldier of fortune” and joined Fertig’s guerrilla organization, where he was commissioned a Captain in the 114th Regiment. He had been out of Germany for over 20 yrs and was not affiliated with the Nazi Party. He hated the Japanese but said he would not care to fight Germans. At the Port Lamen machine shop, Neveling built a  50-foot two masted banca christened the “So What”, powered by a 25 HP diesel engine and mounting a 20mm cannon. It was fitted with circular saw blades on its gunnels that formed a sort of  “armor” for the boat. Its primary mission was to transport supplies to the guerrillas, raid Japanese shipping and protect the mouth of the Agusan River. With the 20mm cannon Neveling shot down a Japanese Betty Bomber, which crashed a few kilometers distant near Hinatuan. (page 110, Wendell Fertig and His Guerrilla Forces in the Philippines. Kent Holmes)   Captain Knortz When the Japs occupied Gingoog and Anakan, on the 1st of September  1943 they evacuated Butuan. Guerrillas found the Japs left a good river launch, a barge, and a 200-ton wooden lighter formerly owned by the Luzon Stevedoring Company.  The launch was easily repaired and christened “Captain Knortz” and patrolled Agusan River. The barge was also repaired and pressed into service. The lighter was used on December 3, 1943  and 4th of March, 1944 to unload a hundred tons of submarine supplies. For the December 3rd mission, the US Navy submarine Narwhal embarked seven evacuees – two soldiers, three civilian men, one woman, and one eight-year-old girl. She unloaded 92 tons of supplies, 300 gallons of lube oil, a small amount of hand tools, received three messages regarding the next phase of her mission, and used the portable radio station on the barge to send three messages. At 2205 hours, she got underway with Parsons aboard.     Bastard Another vessel in the Mindanao naval fleet, albeit not from the 110th Division, but  was the Bastard, a 26-foot whaleboat. Its skipper was Robert Kerr “Jock” McLaren, a captain in the Royal Australian army who was part of a group of POWs that escaped from a Japanese concentration camp in Sandakan, Borneo, made its way to Mindanao and served in the Tenth Military District in various capacities until the end of the war.  Australian military involvement in the liberation of the Philippines began in June 1943, when eight Australian Servicemen who had escaped from Sandakan in Sabah joined the Filipino guerrillas fighting on Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines. Two of the men were killed during fighting and three others returned to Australia in early 1944, while the three remaining soldiers were transferred to Special Operations Australia and continued to fight on Mindanao until the island was liberated in 1945. As part of ‘E’ Force, McLaren was among five hundred British and five hundred Australian prisoners transferred to Borneo in March 1943. The Australians were taken to a camp on Berhala Island, at the entrance to Sandakan harbour in British North Borneo. McLaren and Lieutenant Rex Blow made contact with Filipino guerrillas who helped them and five others to escape in June. Another Australian, already at large, joined the group which then sailed to the island of Tawitawi in the Philippines.  Attaching themselves to an American-led guerrilla force, the men sailed for Mindanao in October. McLaren had been promoted sergeant in July. He was to serve with distinction in the Philippines, receiving a field commission (January 1944) and the rank of temporary captain (April 1945) with the 125th Infantry Regiment and later with the 108th Division in Lanao. From September 1944 McLaren skippered an armed whaleboat off Mindanao. He attacked Japanese small craft and coastal installations with dash and aggression, qualities he also displayed when commanding combat patrols on land.  McLaren’s boat had a 20-millimeter cannon mounted in the bow, twin 30-inch guns amidships and a .50 caliber gun in the after part of the craft. Another unique feature was an 82-millimeter mortar in the craft’s stern. The boat would sail into Japanese-controlled ports in daylight hours, direct its automatic fire at the piers and fire its mortar at Japanese boats. It is said that its crew would even challenge the Japanese by sending them invitations. This craft was also effective against Japanese aircraft.  A last addition to the guerrilla navy was a group of small, fast sailboats and escort launches that had machine guns or 20- or 30-millimeter cannons. These small craft would protect the delivery of supplies that had been brought in by submarine. (page 110, Wendell Fertig and his guerrilla forces in the Philippines, Kent Holmes) On 2 April 1945 he and Blow headed elements of the guerrilla force’s 108th Division in an assault on the last Japanese stronghold in Lanao province. Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Hedges, the American divisional commander, recorded that the fighting ended with the capture of the garrison and the destruction of about 450 enemy troops.  For his efforts at sea and on land, McLaren won the Military Cross and was mentioned in dispatches. His M.C. citation read: ‘throughout the whole of his service with the Guerilla Forces, Captain McLaren displayed outstanding leadership in battle and had no regard for his personal safety. His cheerful imperturbability was an inspiration to all with whom he came into contact’. The Americans awarded him the Philippines Liberation ribbon.

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Go: Department of OFWs will end burden of Filipino migrant workers

July 22, 2019

In a phone-patched interview, over the weekend, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go explained the need to establish a new executive department that will focus on the needs and concerns of Overseas Filipinos particularly Filipino migrant workers or OFWs.       Go said that the functions of government agencies must be streamlined in order to provide fast, accessible and quality services to the Filipinos working or based abroad and to aid their families here in the Philippines.       “We need to streamline the functions of government agencies to provide (fast) services. Huwag natin sila ipasa-pasa sa iba’t ibang ahensya. Kung lalapitan nila ang Department of OFWs, ito na po ang makikipag-coordinate sa lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno para matulungan sila,” Go said.      Go added that President Duterte plans to certify as urgent the creation of the Department of OFWs so that Congress can act swiftly on the passage of the proposed measure.      Go noted that President Duterte would like to put an end to manpower agencies that demand excessive fees from Filipinos seeking jobs abroad and to protect Filipino migrant workers from abusive illegal recruiters. This will be one of the primary functions of the department of OFWs once it is established.       “Gusto pong iwasan ni Pangulong Duterte itong nangyayaring illegal recruitment. Marami pong nagiging biktima nito. Humihingi ng saklolo, gustong umuwi. Itong magiging bagong departamento na lang po na ito ang lalapitan nila,” Go said.       In line with this, one of Go’s first legislative measures filed on July 02 is Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.       Senate Bill 202 seeks to address these issues, such as the need to improve coordination among concerned offices, hence the proposal to put them together under one roof to avoid finger-pointing among agencies concerned with OFW affairs.       The Bill proposes that the following agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel will be transferred to the new Department to be established: (1) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); (3) Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO); (4) International Labor Affairs Bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and (5) National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).       The powers and functions of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and their officials under the DOLE will also be transferred to this new Department as stated in the proposed law.       “Itong Department of OFWs primarily para sa mga OFWs na lang talaga natin. Kasi alam niyo po, minsan kung saan-saan sila humihingi ng tulong at ng advice. Hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta,” he added.      Go also assured the OFWs that they will not pay anything in excess in able to avail the services of the proposed department once it is done. He, likewise, said that he and President Duterte would push for the passage of the law and the completion of the creation of the Department of OFWs by December.      “We will make sure na hindi po (dagdag na) gagastos ang ating OFWs sa gagawing bagong departamento. Nag-usap na rin kami ni Pangulo that he will certify it as urgent. Sabi niya kung maari by December maisagawa na ito,” he added.  Aside from the new department, Go said that President Duterte would also build hospitals specifically for Filipino migrant workers. The President is also eyeing to provide more livelihood assistance and trainings to migrant workers and those who wish to go back to the country as part of government’s reintegration program, the Senator shared.

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Filinvest’s power arm ready to serve Mindanao’s future steel industry

March 25, 2019

The Gotianun family-led FDC Misamis Power Corporation (FDC Misamis) in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental Province is ready to respond to the surging power demand on Mindanao island.     Earlier this year, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) released an information bulletin that by 2025 Mindanao’s current demand, which is around 1,600-MW to 1,700-MW, will increase by 500-MW to 600-MW.      Per the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), Mindanao’s current capacity reaches around 2,400-MW to 2,500-MW.     Although there is currently an oversupply of approximately 800-MW in the region, MinDa reiterated that Mindanao would still need an additional 100-MW per year to cope with rising power demand.     MinDa cited some of the major upcoming economic projects in Mindanao, which would be contributing to the demand for power, such as the Mindanao Railway System (MRS), new hotels and malls, and the entry of two giant foreign steel companies in Davao City and Misamis Oriental.    In Misamis Oriental, HBIS Group, China’s second-biggest steel producing company, plans to set up its facilities at PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate in Villanueva town anytime this year.     The said company is pouring in $4.4-billion in investments through a two-phase project with the objective of producing millions of tons of hot-rolled coil and 600,000 tons of slab annually in the first phase, and another eight (8) million tons in the following phase.      FDC Misamis President and CEO Mr. Juan Eugenio L. Roxas emphasized the company’s commitment to provide electricity to HBIS, as well as to existing and potential PHIVIDEC locators.    “Given the opportunity, we are very much ready to supply  our neighboring industries considering that we have the necessary advantage over other suppliers. We have proven the plant’s reliability since the start of its commercial operation in 2016. We are located near the steel plants’ proposed site which means less susceptibility to disturbance in the transmission system and, of course, minimal or zero line rental charge once WESM in Mindanao is operational,” said Roxas.  FDC Misamis Plant Manager Luis Lagarnia, Jr., confirmed the consistent performance of the coal-fired power plant for the past two (2) years.      “Facility preservation is key in sustaining our performance. We have avoided any unplanned shutdown through the conduct of diligent monitoring and maintenance on our major electrical equipment,” said Lagarnia.      FDC Misamis still offers one of the cheapest electricity rates in the entire Mindanao. “FDC Misamis remains true to its commitment in delivering sustainable power to Mindanao. Notwithstanding the current inflation, depreciation in the value of peso and current excise tax being imposed on coal, FDC Misamis is still among the cheapest and most reliable source of power in the region compared to conventional coal and diesel-powered plants,” Roxas said.      The power plant’s efficiency, FDC Misamis is very much confident that it can provide the power needed by its adjacent industries and any future investments in the PHIVIDEC area.

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Monetary Board Maintains Policy Settings

March 25, 2019

At its meeting on monetary policy today, the Monetary Board decided to keep the interest rate on the BSP's overnight reverse repurchase (RRP) facility unchanged at 4.75 percent. The interest rates on the overnight lending and deposit facilities were likewise held steady.     The Monetary Board's decision is based on its assessment that prevailing monetary policy settings remain appropriate. Latest baseline inflation forecasts show inflation settling within the target range of 3.0 percent ± 1.0 percentage point for both 2019 and 2020, while inflation expectations continue to stabilize within the target band. Inflation pressures have eased further since the previous monetary policy meeting, reflecting mainly the decline in food prices amid improved supply conditions.  Meanwhile, the Monetary Board observed that overall prospects for domestic activity continue to be firm, supported by a projected recovery in household spending and the continued implementation of the government's infrastructure program. However, there are risks to economic growth in 2019 if the current budget impasse in Congress is not resolved soon.   The Monetary Board also noted that the risks to the inflation outlook remained broadly balanced for 2019 even as it observed that further risks could emerge from prolonged EI Niño and higher-than-expected increases in global oil and food prices. For 2020, the risks lean toward the downside as tighter global financial conditions and geopolitical risks temper global economic activity and potential upward pressures on commodity prices.     Given these considerations, the Monetary Board is of the view that the within-target inflation outlook and firm domestic growth support keeping monetary policy settings steady at this time. Looking ahead, the BSP will continue to monitor developments affecting the inflation outlook to ensure that the monetary policy stance remains consistent with its price stability objective.

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Indoor pollution more dangerous to teenage girls, women

March 11, 2019

 Also places rural and informal settler communities to fire risks A non-government organization is launching a campaign to raise awareness on home or indoor pollution, a silent killer especially in rural and poor urban communities.     The Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (Pinoy Aksyon) seeks to raise awareness on home pollution and other risks due to essential home practices – like cooking.     “We hope to enlighten  public of these real risks and hopefully encourage behavior  change,” said Stan Salcedo, program officer of Pinoy Aksyon.     The group said they have thought of rolling out this behaviour change communication campaign after getting hold of alarming information of home or indoor pollution which is primarily caused by use of crude wood-based fuels for cooking and heating.     Last Saturday (March 9, 2019), the group held a seminar and workshop on Indoor pollution: Solutions and options at the Habitat for Humanity Multi-purpose Hall in the Pagatpat Sendong Relocation Site. Pinoy Aksyon has also rolled out an community information drive on indoor pollution.     “Knowing our culture, teenage girls and women are placed at higher risk to these pollutants as they are traditionally assigned to home cooking,” Salcedo added.     Exposure to indoor pollution from burning wood-based fuel results in higher risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.     It may also aggravate heart diseases and trigger strokes.     A study in 2016 by the World Health Organization reveal around 80 deaths per 100,000 Filipinos could be attributed to indoor air pollution. Cagayan de Oro which has a population of around 800,000, that is a staggering 640 lives a year.     The data does not include mortality due to fire. Most fires in rural areas, mostly beyond the effective reach of fire fighters, like those of the Bureau of Fire Protection, are unreported.     The latest recorded fire in the upland was in barangay Besigan when the dirty kitchen of Jocelyn Legaspi-Minister, mother of a family of seven was left unattended resulting in the burning down of their house around 9 pm last March 4, 2019. Minister sought assistance from the City Social Welfare and Development Office for basic household relief goods and other calamity assistance.     Several studies agree that using firewood and charcoal is the primary source of indoor or home pollution. There are also studies that indicate these fuels are actually more expensive than other cooking fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).     Pinoy Aksyon is rolling out their behaviour change communication project in the two biggest relocation sites in the city, in Calaanan, Canitoan and Pagatpat.     “We have chosen these relocation areas for this behavioral change communication project as these communities are still in the process of building and we hope to provide the community dwellers information and options more healthful and environment-friendly options,” said Pinoy Aksyon chairman BenCy Ellorin.     Another component of their project is an energy audit. Ellorin said the energy audit would give us a snapshot of the current sources and uses of energy. “This is in line with our advocacy for low carbon economy.| he said, further saying that awareness and education may hold key for low energy consumption like using less greenhouse gas emitting fuels and energy efficient appliances.     Pinoy Aksyon is an independent advocacy group and think-tank. It envisions itself as a platform where citizens can raise their issues, concerns and solutions to community and social problems.     Salcedo said they timed the roll out of their project this month because it is Women’s Month and Fire Prevention Month.

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9 out of 10 Pinoys want smoking in public places be prohibited

March 4, 2019

2019 poll candidates challenged to support stricter tobacco control legislation Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited.     This is according to the results of a national survey on smoking conducted by Pulse Asia from January 26 to 31 and commissioned by the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).    Presented during the launch of “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines,” an electoral campaign led by the PLCPD, the results of the nationwide survey also reveal that nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that the minimum age of those allowed to buy and use cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 25 years old.   “The results of this survey show that the Filipino public is very open and receptive to essential legislative reforms that can be done as regards tobacco control. May this piece of information have a deep impact on candidates for the 2019 midterm polls, for them to resolutely pursue measures that will contribute to a smoke-free Philippines,” said PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto.  1 in 4 Pinoys are smokers   The Pulse Asia survey also reveals that while almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) aged 18 years and above say they do not use tobacco, with 62% saying that they never used tobacco in their life, almost one in four Filipinos aged 18 years and above (24%) use tobacco, with 19% saying they are daily tobacco smokers.      “These figures show how deep the smoking problem is rooted in Philippine society. Despite recent strides our nation has taken to control tobacco use, we still have a long way to go. That is why we are launching the iChange campaign, a drive we are pursuing in time for the election season, with the specific goal of making this issue be at the forefront of electoral debates and garner support from incoming elected officials towards crafting and enacting stricter laws on tobacco control,” Dongeto explained.    Present during the launch of the iChange campaign were Dr. Charl Andrew Bautista of the Department of Health, who discussed the burden of tobacco use on Filipino health, and several other advocates from HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Social Watch Philippines, and Youth for Sin Tax. The groups highlighted the policy reforms needed by the country and why it is important to talk about tobacco control during the election period.   “The election period is what we call the noon for public clamor, as we all know that candidates running for public office are most receptive to public opinion during this period. That’s why advocates need to sound the alarms on tobacco use even louder at this moment in time. We also hope that voters will consider important issues such as health in making the important decision of choosing whom to vote,” Dongeto stressed.   The iChange campaign called on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying  and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and increase the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 to make cigarette prices prohibitive and to generate revenue to support the government’s universal healthcare program.     “Evidence of overwhelming public support for these amendments is here. Nine out of 10 Filipinos agree to stricter tobacco control laws. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Dongeto concluded.    After the launch on February 28, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign will hold a series of media events and voters’ education forums in Laguna, Albay, Cebu City, and Iloilo City.

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