Category Archives: Philippines

Philippine women switch on solar to light their way in a storm

Virgilia Villaruel uses a solar-powered flashlight to light Tinabanan Cave, used as a storm shelter, in Marabut, Philippines, Oct 17, 2021. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Geela Garcia

MARABUT, Philippines, – When Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, smashed into the central Philippines in 2013, the town of Marabut in Eastern Visayas region suffered zero casualties.

More than 1,000 residents scrambled up 32 feet (9.75 m) of slippery soil and limestone to take refuge inside the Tinabanan Cave, known for providing shelter since colonial times.

Lorna dela Pena, 66, was alone when the super-typhoon landed on Nov. 8, killing more than 6,000 people nationwide and forcing about 4 million from their homes.

She remembered how everything was “washed out” by the storm, but despite being “lost in a daze”, she managed to evacuate.

“There still weren’t stairs to comfortably climb up to the cave. My grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs,” she said, noting they were finally put in after the Haiyan disaster.

While serving hot porridge to evacuees, dela Pena grasped how important local organisations are to helping communities become more resilient to fiercer weather, as the planet warms.

“It’s stronger when more people unite to help. What one can’t do is possible when everyone unites,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Following that experience, she worked with others in Marabut to build up women’s groups focused on different issues.

Now they take the lead in organising workshops on organic farming, hold discussions on violence against women, and educate and encourage other women to adopt renewable energy.

Azucena Bagunas, 47, and dela Pena are among “solar scholars” trained by the Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), an international nonprofit that promotes low-carbon development and climate resilience.

In an effort to prepare better for disasters after Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, the women learned to operate portable solar-powered generators called TekPaks, which they use during evacuations.

LIFE-SAVING TECHNOLOGY

The TekPaks light up the dark Tinabanan cave, making it easier to count the number of people seeking shelter there, and charge mobile devices to keep communication lines open.

For Bagunas, the most memorable use of the technology was when it helped save a life.

“We were able to use this TekPak to power a nebuliser when someone had an asthma attack,” she recalled.

Bagunas and dela Pena share their knowledge by teaching other women to operate TekPaks and making them aware of the benefits of renewable energy.

Now, whenever a storm is coming, women in Marabut ensure their solar-powered equipment is charged so they are ready to move their communities to safety.

Bagunas said harnessing solar energy was also cheaper than relying on coal-fired electricity from the grid.

“If we use (solar) as our main source of power in our homes, then we don’t even have to pay for electricity,” she said. “As long as you have a panel, you’ll have affordable and reliable power.”

Bagunas also prefers solar as a safer option.

In June, her brother’s house next-door went up in flames when a live electricity wire hit his roof, with the fire reaching some parts of her own house.

WOMEN’S WORK

According to 2020 data from the Department of Energy, about 60% of the Philippines’ energy still comes from coal and oil, with only about 34% from renewable sources.

But under a 2020-2040 plan, the government aims to shift the country onto a larger share of renewable energy such as solar, rising to half of power generation by the end of that period.

Chuck Baclagon, Asia regional campaigner for 350.org, an international group that backs grassroots climate action, said the ICSC’s efforts to bring solar power to communities would help expand clean energy at the local level.

Today’s model of a centralised power system reliant on fossil fuels does little to address energy poverty in remote island areas far from commercial centres, he added.

“The shift to solar energy dispels the myth that we can’t afford to transition,” he said. “The reason why fossil fuel is expensive is that it’s imported so it’s volatile in the market.”

Renewable energy sources like solar, however, are easier to build locally because they harness what is available and has the highest potential in particular locations, he added.

Leah Payud, resilience portfolio manager at Oxfam Philippines, said her aid agency supported initiatives to introduce solar energy in poor rural communities, especially because it helps women and children who are among the most vulnerable to climate change.

“During disasters, the unpaid care work and domestic work of women doubles,” she said, adding their burden is made heavier by having to find an energy source to carry out those jobs.

“Women don’t have access to a clean kitchen to cook their meals, and there is no electricity to lighten their tasks, for example when breastfeeding or sanitising equipment,” she said.

The direct benefits women can gain from clean, cheap and easily available energy mean they should be involved in expanding its adoption, she added.

“They are the mainstream users and energy producers – and without their involvement, renewable energy initiatives can become inappropriate,” she added. “There is no climate justice without gender justice.”

One good way to introduce women to renewable energy is by asking them to draw a 24-hour clock of their chores at home and identifying the energy they use to do them, Payud said.

They then consult with Oxfam staff on how switching energy sources could lighten their responsibilities, making it “very relatable”, she added.

The exercise has revealed that many women spend at least 13 hours a day doing unpaid family care work, a load that has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to home-schooling.

QUICK AND SAFE

On Suluan Island, a three to four-hour boat ride from the mainland, women are tasked with collecting water in energy-deprived areas, putting them at risk when they have to go out after dark.

They have found solar lights more reliable than oil lamps because they do not have to cross the sea to buy fuel for them.

Payud said solar was the best energy source during a disaster, especially when the mains power supply is cut and it is impossible to travel between islands.

After Haiyan, it took half a year to restore grid power in far-flung communities, but that would not have been the case had women had access to alternative energy such as solar, she said.

For dela Pena and Bagunas, women should be at the forefront of tackling climate change and energy poverty because they act as “shock absorbers”.

“Women oversee the whole family, and whenever there are problems, they are the ones who try to address it first,” said Bagunas.

https://news.trust.org/item/20211214082801-1zdy2/

Nuns’ retreat house, built by Muslim benefactor, signifies interfaith bond

House
Scripture text adorns a wall of the monastery for the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City, Philippines. Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer whose family has helped the community, constructed a new building for the Carmelite monastery, for free. (Charity Durano)

Zamboanga City, Philippines — A two-story retreat house built by a Muslim benefactor opened a new stream of income for a community of Carmelite nuns in the southern Philippines and is the most visible sign of long-standing ties between the nuns and their Muslim neighbors.

“Without waiting for me to finish the appeal he said that he would build it completely free,” recalled Sr. Mary Agnes Xavier Guillen of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, who meets with visitors from outside the community. She was speaking of Ibrahim Nuño, a Muslim civil engineer with roots in Zamboanga City, and whose family has helped the community of Catholic nuns in various ways. When the St. Teresa Hall next to their chapel needed urgent repairs to its roof, Guillen reached out to Nuño, who offered to construct a completely new building that was completed last year

“We have formed friendships with the Muslims through the years. They come to share their concerns, their problems and to ask for prayers,” said Guillen. She noted the common devotion of Christians and Muslims to Our Lady of the Pillar, patroness of Zamboanga City, one of the largest cities in the country. (The devotion to La Virgen del Pilar, originally brought by the Spanish colonizers in the 1700s, remains the most popular Marian devotion in the region, where she is revered as a miracle-worker and a guardian.)

“I remembered the kindness and the offer of our old friend to help if we needed anything,” said Guillen, who reached out to Nuño, president and managing director of a Luzon-based construction company known for malls, office and residential buildings.

“Carmel’s presence in Zamboanga is a witness to the value of prayer in the life of everyone, Christians or Muslims,” said Guillen.

Founded in 1956, there are 18 Carmelite nuns who make up the Carmel of Mary, Queen of the Universe and of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus in Zamboanga City. Their average age is over 60 years old, with the youngest member in her 40s. It is one of 23 monasteries of the Discalced Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, or OCD, in the country, seven of which are in the Mindanao region, including the one in Zamboanga City, according to the 2019 Catholic Directory of the Philippines.

For 49-year-old math teacher Ruth Guerrero, “the presence of a Carmelite monastery connotes a kind of spiritual assurance, that is, we have prayer warriors.” Guerrero, who teaches at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga University in the city and is a member of the formation team for first-year students, added, “whenever I happen to be around the area or pass by where their monastery is, even without entering their compound, I feel a quiet assurance of serenity.”

Guerrero still remembers how her mother offered prayers at the monastery when Guerrero took her board exams, as well as at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar. “The practice has always been there since we believe that is their vocation to devote time for prayer. It’s also like we want to make sure the Lord hears us.”

The Santa Teresa House of Prayer is the second project that Nuño has done for the Carmelite community. According to Guillen, “[Nuño] has expressed to us that building it is an honored privilege for him, one that will bring blessings to him and his family.”

The impetus to initially repair and then build a new retreat house came out of a need for extra space. Guillen said that diocesan and religious priests often ask to stay at the monastery for a retreat but they have had to turn down some requests because they only had two guest rooms.

The new house of prayer means that they can accommodate more priests and members of other religious communities in its seven guest rooms. The open space ground floor can be used by Catholic schools for gatherings for their staff, faculty and students. Guillen adds that it is another source of income for their community.

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/people/nuns-retreat-house-built-muslim-benefactor-signifies-interfaith-bond

British man and his wife rescued from Philippine militants

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Maj Gen Corleto Vinluan with Wilma and Allan Hyrons after their rescue in the Philippines. Photograph: Armed Forces of the Philippines/AP

Troops in the Philippines have rescued a British national and his Filipina wife who were abducted by gunmen at a beach resort last month and taken to the jungle hideouts of local militants allied with Islamic State.

The regional military commander said troops had located the Abu Sayyaf captors of Allan and Wilma Hyrons in the mountainous hinterlands off Parang town, Sulu province, and rescued the couple safely after a gun fight.

“There was a running gun battle. They left the two behind because they could not drag them any more. They scampered in different directions but our troops are in pursuit,” Lt Gen Cirilito Sobejana said.

The Hyrons were not hurt in the 10-minute battle, the military said, and no ransom was paid to their captors.

A picture released by the military showed the couple talking to generals and other army officers in Sulu. Sobejana said the couple would undergo medical checkups and be interviewed by military officials.

Gunmen abducted the couple in October as villagers watched in shock from their beach resort in southern Zamboanga del Norte province, triggering a massive search. They owned a college in the town of Tukuran, where they have lived for years.

Military offensives against ransom-seeking militant groups such as Abu Sayyaf have reduced abductions in recent years but they continue to occur.

Sobejana said three Indonesian fishermen abducted recently off Malaysia’s Sabah state, on northern Borneo island near the sea border with the southern Philippines, were in the hands of Abu Sayyaf militants in Sulu.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen have staged kidnappings in and around Sabah in the past, prompting a regional security alarm.

The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “I am pleased to confirm that both Alan and Wilma Hyrons are safe and well and being looked after by the Philippine authorities … Foreign Office officials have been in close contact with Alan and Wilma’s family throughout this ordeal.”

The rescue of the Hyrons came after the military had inflicted successive battle defeats recently on Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the US and the Philippines.

Troops killed a “high-value” but little-known Abu Sayyaf commander, Talha Jumsah, on Friday near Patikul in Sulu. Jumsah acted as a key Isis link to local jihadists and helped set up a series of suicide attacks in Sulu this year.

Five Abu Sayyaf militants, including two commanders, were killed by troops on Sunday in a separate clash in Sulu. One of those commanders, Sibih Pish, had been blamed for previous ransom kidnappings.

Abu Sayyaf emerged in the late 1980s as an offshoot of the decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency in the south of the largely Roman Catholic country.

After losing its commanders early in battle, Abu Sayyaf rapidly degenerated into a small but brutal group blamed for ransom kidnappings and beheadings. Most of its militant factions have pledged allegiance to Isis.

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/25/british-man-and-his-wife-rescued-from-philippine-militants

Bishop objects to death sentence for Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia photoSaudi Arabia flag. Credit: Hugo Brizard/YouGoPhoto/Shutterstock.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (CNA). A bishop in the Philippines is speaking out against the death penalty of a Filipino woman who has been condemned to death in Saudi Arabia.

“We turn to God in prayers that He may move the [Saudi] government to be merciful and grant clemency,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, head of the Filipino bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, in a statement this week.

“She has to be helped and assisted. Let us try everything to save her,” he said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

On Feb. 28, the Saudi Court of Appeals upheld the death sentence of an unnamed Filipino woman, who was convicted in 2017 for killing her employer. The woman claimed to have acted in self-defense against an abusive employer.

Santos encouraged the Philippine government to do whatever it can to save the woman and conduct a “thorough investigation” behind the woman’s arrival in Saudi Arabia. Reports suggest that she arrived in the country as a minor.

“Placement agencies should be made accountable for whatever happens to [Filipino workers] sent to other countries,” the bishop said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

He stressed that agencies and recruiters should be held liable for abuse of the employees they place.

ABS-CBN News reported that the case has also been directed to the chair of the Inter-Agency Committee Against Trafficking, which is part of the Philippine Department of Justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Friday it would do all it could to save the woman, who has so far been assisted by Consul General Edgar Badajos.

The department released a statement saying it “will exhaust all diplomatic avenues and legal remedies to save a Filipina in Saudi Arabia after the Saudi Court of Appeals affirmed her death sentence on Thursday.”

The case followed an execution in January, when a 39-year-old maid from the Philippines received the death penalty for a murder that took place in 2015. Details about the case were not released.

About 500,000 Filipinos are believed to be working in Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been accused of poor work conditions and inadequate religious freedoms.

In 2016, Bishop Santos had encouraged the Philippine embassy in the country to protect Filipino workers. That year, a Filipino woman had died as result of the injuries she received from rape, allegedly at the hands of her employer.

That same year, a mass execution of 47 men was carried out in Saudi Arabia in January. One of the men was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shi’a cleric and long-time activist for Shi’a rights in the country.

Princeton Professor Robert George, then-chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the execution of Sheik al-Nimr raised religious freedom concerns and did not meet capital punishment standards set by the international human rights law.

 

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-objects-to-death-sentence-for-filipino-woman-in-saudi-arabia-53659

The Philippines: stop the palm oil rush in Palawan

Rainforest Rescue

The proposal to convert further 8 million hectares of Philippine soil into oil palm plantations made headlines across the country and shed a harsh light on how Philippine authorities imagine their country’s development. Call on the Governor of Palawan to save the Palawan Man & Biosphere Reserve!

Deforested area in the Philippine island of PalawanNowhere to live: converting land into oil palm plantations
Deforested area in the Philippine island of PalawanNowhere to live: converting land into oil palm plantations

Palawan, also known as the ‘Philippines’ Last Frontier’, is witnessing one of the largest-ever conversions of land into oil palm estates. Existing industrial-scale plantations have already inflicted irreparable damage to precious environments and to the livelihoods of hundreds of communities. Continue reading The Philippines: stop the palm oil rush in Palawan