All posts by durianburgdavao

Journalist from Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines

Impact of ban on aerial spray yet to be assessed


banana industry?

By Roger M. Balanza

Despite the ban of aerial spraying of fungicides in banana plantations, the issue of its impact—both in terms of export earnings and livelihood—remain a subject discussion.

The banana industry has elevated the question of the legality of a Davao City ordinance banning the practice to the Court of Appeals after losing its case in the regional trial court.

The industry is waiting with bated breath the outcome of its appeal at the CA to junk the ban that could open the multi-million dollar earning Cavendish export banana from the deadly black sigatoka, the leaf disease that aerial spraying could have addressed to maintain quality and volume of the bananas.

We have yet to know how local export bananas are coping without the ban but what we heard is that retrenchments may be imposed soon by independent banana growers and large companies as the industry is forced to convert to ground or boom spraying which is more expensive and not fast enough to catch up with sigatoka onslaught.

It is unfortunate that the court heard more the alleged risk to health of aerial spraying—denied by no less than the city government and the Department of Health—without taking serious consideration on its impact on the dollar earner and job opportunities for locals.

At any rate, a local banana grower, Santos S. Chua, continues to lament over the ban. In a letter, Mr. Chua says:

I live in Davao City. So does my family. As a grower, I have a house near a banana plantation. I am as concerned about the issue on aerial spraying as the city or the banana plantations themselves.

The problem with issues of this nature is that it attracts attention and tends to polarize public opinion whether for good reason or otherwise. We see the active involvement of advocacy groups. As such, issues are discussed not simply with a dispassionate, neutral and factual mindset, but with advocacy. Sometimes, wittingly or not, facts are lost in layers of advocacy propaganda. And it appears that facts are substituted with doomsday predictions.

On the other hand, when big business is involved, any position taken by such companies is readily dismissed as nothing more than a bid to protect or preserve profits. The lives and health of those around them are seen to be subordinate to the financial interests of those at the corporate headquarters at the other side of the globe. After all, whatever problems that may ensue are far from their backyard.

What have been said are prevailing biases and perceptions. As of today, however, the ban on aerial spraying is a legal issue and biases and perceptions such as those I have mentioned have no place in the legal scrutiny of whether the ban on aerial spraying is valid or not. The issue is not to be decided based on the number of supporters, or who is the loudest in the streets, but on evidence. The tens of thousands of people directly and indirectly supported by the banana export industry should also make us think twice. Where would these people and their dependents go?

I understand that the concern of Davao City is the alleged adverse effects on health of the substances used in aerial spraying. If this be the case, then, rid of the pre-conceived notions for or against big business or advocacy groups, the matters to be determined for practical persons like myself, are: first, whether, in point of fact, medical evidence show that residents near the plantations have illnesses shown to have been caused by the agricultural chemicals aerially sprayed; second, if so, what are these chemicals; and third, if the chemicals are the problem, then why not ban the chemicals instead.

Aerial spraying has been done for 4 decades already. If aerial spraying causes cancer, or other sickness, I venture that we would not even have this case since thousands of people would have been sick already in the City and the whole Province – a fact that would have been undeniable, if such were the case. Outbreaks upon outbreaks should have occurred week after week, month after month, year after year – for 4 decades. Yet, there has not been any.

My most obvious concern is, if the chemicals are the problem, why was the solution – the ordinance – not geared towards the chemicals, but only to a method of spraying? Even with the ban, the same chemicals are still used, is it not? If I put in water and spray it, will it cause cancer? I am not a doctor but I guess it would not; which brings to the fore the fact that aerial spraying may not be the problem.

Davao City is Mindanao’s biggest revenue earner

City’s mid-year revenues

hit P2 billion mark


Davao City’s tax collection at mid-year netted P2 billion, leading to rosy speculations annual revenues for 2007 could breach the P4 billion mark.

In a City Treasurer’s Report released last week, total tax collection ending August was pegged at P2.1 billion, nearly a fourth of the revenue propped up by Business Tax.

The large Business Tax haul could be credited to new investors lured to pour capital by current efforts to sell the city as an investment haven.

Tagged as one of few Billionaire Cities in the country by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the tax haul consisted of P1.2 billion in Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) or nearly half of the mid-year tax bonanza.

Earlier, City Administrator Wendel Avisado said a more efficient tax collection system backed by partial computerization set in place this year could push annual revenues for 2007 to the P4 billion mark.

If the targeted tax figure is realized by year-end, 2007 would be a landmark in the tax collection efforts with the local government breaching for the first time the P4 million ceiling. The past three years, annual revenue had tangoed at the P3 billion to P3.5 billion levels, with city economic planners pushing incentives and benefits to lure investors in a bid to push revenues higher.

Local business had credited Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s peace and order campaign and tax incentives to inflows of new investors for the largest contribution ever by Business Tax, which accounted for P414 million or about a fourth of the mid-year tax haul.

In the report released by City Treasurer Rodrigo Riola, the other big tax haulers were Real Property Tax (P128.8 million), Franchise Tax (P38.2 million), Markets (P31.9 million) and Other Services Tax (P31.9 million).

Pitching much-needed dough to up the city coffers are Permit Fees at P29 million, Other Permit Fees and Licenses also at P29 million; with Amusement Tax and Community Tax each contributing P21 million.

The tax pile is ballooned further by Garbage Tax, implemented only last year, which netted P 21 million.

Bizarre twist in 12-year old girl’s suicide



An autopsy on the body of 12-year old Mariannet Amper yesterday took a bizarre turn with the medico legal saying the 6th grader was raped before allegedly killing herself by hanging inside their house in Maa in Davao City on November 2.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself bared the shocking news after an examination on the body of the girl whose death was widely played up as triggered by extreme poverty.

Duterte immediately ordered police to invite for questioning Isabelo Amper, the girl’s father, as a suspect. The Amper family lives outside of Yniguez Subdivision in Maa. Isabelo earns a living as a construction worker and his wife works in a noodle factory.

Murder or parricide

Duterte said he sensed murder or parricide but left hanging the question of Isabelo’s guilt.

Duterte bared the medical findings on local television hours after the medical examination that showed the girl had been penetrated.

The examination has established that Mariannet had been raped, said Duterte, who earlier had ordered the body exhumed to establish the real cause of death and the possibility that she had been violated. Duterte said the medical examination showed the girl had been penetrated as shown in her lacerated hymen.

I cannot imagine the girl only played with herself, he said.


The mayor said he has ordered Talomo police precinct commander Matthew Baccay to investigate Isabelo possible involvement in the rape and the girl’s death. Latest report last night said police are still hunting down Isabelo.

Duterte said the police investigation would climb a level higher than determining whether the girl killed herself or not.

The investigation now zero in on murder or parricide, he told ABS/CBN’s TV Patrol and GMA’s Testigo last night.

Duterte said he ordered the exhumation of the girl’s body to provide answers to a two-pronged riddle that had placed the local government at the receiving end: what could have driven Mariannet to kill herself and if the suicide was indeed triggered by poverty.

Duterte said it was premature to pin Isabelo in the rape of her daughter, but the investigation should start with him.

Unanswered riddles

He admitted he was inspired to suspect rape by the reporting of the girl’s death to police only on November 6, or four days after she was found dead by his brother Reynald; and by media reports quoting Reynald as saying Mariannet had torn a page from her diary whose contents she said could lead to the break-up of her family.

There were speculations in media about rape being committed and that the contents of the diary page that Mariannet hid could lead to a split between her parents, Duterte said.

Mariannet, whose death has been lapped up by media and cause-oriented groups as a symbol of national poverty, had left a diary detailing the family’s ordeal against economic hardship.

Poster girl

Tagged by some as the “poster girl of extreme poverty in the country,” Mariannet sparked commentaries that her death could be blamed on the Duterte administration’s failure to address local poverty.

Hurt by the accusation against the Davao City government, a consistent winner in the national search for the Most Child Friendly City and the Best in Nutrition Program, Duterte himself scanned local programs on anti-poverty, nutrition and health to determine if the local government missed the mark in addressing poverty.

All the programs of the City Health Office and the City Nutrition Office are in place, he said. There is no hunger in my city, he adds.

That allegations Mariannet killed herself due to poverty is even denied by her family, said Duterte, adding the family had resented media reports portraying them as mired in extreme poverty.

Duterte did not hide his frustration at media commentaries heaping blame at his administration for Mariannet’s death.

Melodramatic treatment

The medico legal findings of rape demolished the “melodramatic treatment by media” of the case that could have been avoided if media waited for results of this investigation, said Duterte.

In the ABS/CBN report, Duterte lashed at Domingo Panganiban, chair of the government’s National Anti-Poverty Commission (NPAC) for heaping blame on the city government for Mariannet’s death.

“We are not wanting in addressing poverty in my city. Panganiban is speaking with his foot in his mouth,” said Duterte.



N    E    W    S    B    L    O    G

NOVEMBER 10, 2007 



In his IT TALKS in Sunstar Davao (October 31, Bloggers Summit: Technology for Peace) superblogger Oliver Robillo wrote about the 1st Mindanao Bloggers Summit (MBS1) last October 27 in Davao City that drew 97 bloggers from all over Mindanao.

Themed “Spotlight Mindanao: Blogging for Culture, Identity & Understanding,” MBS1 was a unique bloggers’ event, which invariably focused on the technical and pecuniary aspects of blogging, according to Robillo, one of the organizers of the first-ever event that was the brainchild of Davao City councilor Peter Lavina.

Technicalities and the economic potentials of blogs aside, the summit also tackled how blogs could be used as a technology for the betterment of Mindanao’s global image, said Robillo.

I sorely missed the rare event of bloggers gathering for a common cause but I salute Robillo and the gang, and Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, one of the major resource speakers.

Robillo in his column said Fr. Alejo challenged the summiteers to use their blogs not only to present to the world Mindanao’s true cultural, social and historical makeup but also as tools in the pursuit of peace in Mindanao.

And there is more to blogs than meet the eye.

Blogs too can play the role of ombudsman to expose graft and corruption, according to the padre, an anti-corruption fighter.

“Fr. Alejo, an advocate of anti-corruption efforts through the Ehem! movement, encouraged summit participants to write about, and expose, corruption. By the power and very nature of blogging, information dissemination on the blogospheric scale will most certainly help in eventually quashing corruption, which is a form of violence,” writes Robillo.

For me this is the best part of Robillo’s column.

Sometime ago, I wrote a story detailing corruption by a group of government officials involved in shaking down a housing developer seeking approval of its application to reclassify a land into a housing subdivision.

The story came into flesh—the facts provided by very reliable sources—came just a few days after a government official threatened to slap a libel charge against me after I reported certain anomalies in his office.

Fear. That’s the devil that forced us to keep the story from publication. When something goes wrong, it will go wrong. We fear a libel threat is too much to be followed by another one in just a span of a few days.

Now I am intrigued by Fr. Alejo’s dare for bloggers to use their tools to expose corruption.

Remember, the good padre was calling on bloggers, not just one or two bloggers carrying on a lonely fight against the corrupt.

Which inspires me with an idea about testing blogs as tools to fight corruption.Now I have company.

 I have been losing sleep over the story for more than a month now, feeling guilty I lost my old courageous balls by keeping the story to myself without the wrong being exposed in a publication.

So can I please ask you dear bloggers, in difference to the call of the good Padre Alejo, in exposing this anomaly? Who knows we could be the first bloggers in the world to be charged with libel for exposing graft in the internet. Or be credited as the first bloggers to have exposed corruption and send grafters to jail. Cute, di pa no?

But let us play it safe.

I am printing the story in toto, but without the names of the devils and other pertinent information, to avoid identification of the dirty players, which is one of the elements for libel.

I suggest however you make your own research and if you are strong enough to face libel—and name the scalawags—then I could not stop you to publish the full details in your blogs.

Here goes:

Who were the city councilors who shared in the P2.6M payoff from the housing developer?                         

Four ________City councilors, who voted for approval of the ________ housing project in a highly-protected area, stand as primary suspects to have received a P2.6 million pay-off from the housing developer seeking permit from the city government.            Records of the proceedings of the regular session of the _________Council, show that the application for reclassification of the 15-hectare area lost the vote in the regular session of _________, 2007 with 19 against and only the four city councilors voting for approval.           

The city councilors who voted for the controversial reclassification were councilors _____________, ____________, _____________, and _________.            Councilor ____________ leads the 8-man “minority bloc” in the council whose votes are crucial in achieving a ¾ votes or 21 votes required for applications for reclassification to pass.           

Without the minority vote, applications could never be passed as the “majority” has only 19 votes or two votes shy of the required ¾ votes.           

Riding on this requirement, the minority could effectively hold hostage a favorable action on any application for reclassification and could easily shake down developers by using their number to stall approval.             

Majority councilors—the 19 who voted against the application, said this is the anomaly used by the ____________ group in fleecing the applicant in the deal brokered by Ms. ____________, a senior female officer of the housing development company, a week before the developer’s application was deliberated upon—and then junked.           

The pay-off surfaced after the ____________ group—which reportedly kept P2M for the minority composed only of 7 councilors—offered P600,000 to be split by the 19-member majority. The amount was rejected outright by a majority city councilor—either for reason the amount was too small or the pay-off too dangerous—who was approached by one of the councilors from the  _____________ group.

The councilor would later play whistleblower to spill the beans about the payoff and the city councilors involved in the shakedown, to other members of the majority bloc.

As a consequence, the 19 majority councilors of the _______________Council voted against the request by _______________to develop the housing project.

Sources said if the deal was carried out smoothly, each councilor would have received P100,000 each from the developer. The moolah, however, was unevenly distributed with the 7-man minority getting a hefty P2 million of the amount and the 19-man majority getting a measly P500,000 to divide among themselves. 

Did I hear the good Padre Alejo saying that bloggers who would not expose corruption would go to hell when they die? BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

BAD MORNING: MY VIEWS BY roger m. balanza


NOVEMBER 8, 2007



I woke up this morning to be greeted by Senator Pia Cayetano in a front page photo in the Mindanao Insider Daily with a pack of Marlboro made in Thailand in hand, painted over with the photo of a man suffering from neck cancer caused by smoking.

The photo made me puke I had to reach out to my pack of cigarettes for another stick to blow away my anger at anti-smoking campaigners who are pushing us smokers to the brink of extinction.

The Cayetano pic was shot during a press conference in Manila where she urged the same packaging be adopted by local cigarette manufacturers to terrorize smokers about the ill-effects of the habit.

I thought I had enough of broadcaster Edgar Delivo of ABS/CBN, now Herbal Doctor Delivo of the herbal medicine promoter Alternativo, who had strung in front of their clinic in Matina in Davao City, a large ugly poster of a naked human body illustrated from head to foot with all kinds of diseases that one could get from smoking.

I am angry at Pia and Edgar for intruding into the private matter of how some people choose the method of killing themselves.

I am in a bad mood, so here goes….  


Key officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas in Davao City have thrown their loud support to radioman Roel Sembrado in filing a case against Compostela Valley Provincial Board Neri Barte at the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao in Davao City.

This flip Barte in the company of his wife and daughter of the same frame of mind as the newly-elected ComVal official manhandled the Radyo Natin broadcaster inside the announcer’s booth on October 24.   

Sembrano reportedly was in the middle of a program lashing at Barte’s meddling in the barangay elections when the Barte gang arrived and grabbed the microphone from the poor mediaman.

After the female members of the family of goons pinched, slapped and scratched the face of Sembrano—he also reportedly endured a hail of coffee cups, staplers, forks and spoons and anything the itchy females found in the booth—the super goon Barte took over the air lanes for about 15 minutes.

Hooray to the NUJP and KBP!

But I envy Sembrado.We were also a victim of a top Comval politician—who miserably lost in the last May elections with her daughter politician—who instigated his wife to file libel against us but the NUJP was a no-show in giving us support.

Barte also figured in a gun-poking incident involving a female broadcaster of Radyo Natin inside a videoke bar in Nabunturan learly this year. We never heard any condemnation from NUJP or KBP to perk up the spirit of the broadcaster who had to fight her own battle alone against the same terrorist who tormented Sembrado.

Sometime ago, an official of a national government agency called for a press conference to assail a report about possible anomalies in his agency that was published by the Mindanao Insider Daily where we are the Executive Editor.

In attendance were several members of the local chapter of NUJP working for other local papers who tried to inspire the official into suing us in court for libel even as the official was clear about the presscon being held merely to air the side of the agency.

Can media truly rely on NUJP for support when press freedom is threatened?

My case shows the kind of people behind NUJP: the day after the press conference, the other local dailies—in stories bylined by the NUJP members—headlined the official’s plan to sue me for libel!! 


Karapatan led by Kelly Delgado trooped to the Regional Trial Court on Thursday to help a mother file a writ of amparo to force the military into releasing an abduction victim, her son.

It turned out that on the same day, Luisito Bustamante, who said he was not abducted but only invited to shed light about his being a member of the New People’s Army—not by the military but by an anti-communist pastor—would surface to deny he was in the hands of the military.  

A few hours after the show at the RTC, local television would report that Bustamante is not missing. Pastor Noli Ubat, the anti-communist pastor who snatched Bustamante he claimed is a member of the New People’s Army, is also turning his victim not to the courts but to the victim’s mother.

Pastor Ubat abducted Luisito Bustamante on October 27 in Malabog in Davao City.

The family of the 21-year old Malabog resident has suspected Ubat worked for the military, which was denied by Col. Alex Ambal, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion operating in Paquibato.

So the family went to Karapatan—a communist front if we believe Task Force Davao commander Col. Allan Luga—to seek help.

But Ubat has no ideological bent to kidnap Bustamante: He has a score to settle with the NPA and snatched Bustamante he suspected to be in the rebel band that ambushed him and his wife.Ubat was ambushed last year while driving home on a motorcycle to Malabog. His wife died in the attack he blamed on the NPA.

GMA Testigo on Thursday five days after the abduction tracked down Ubat in sitio Balogo where he had kept Bustamante.But Bustamante said he was treated well by Ubat and was not harmed.I want to inform my mother that I am not missing, he told GMA Testigo.Ubat said he was inviting Mrs. Bustamante to come to Balogo to fetch her son.

What now Karapatan? 


The Davao City media find city councilor Leonardo Avila’s comments on the death of Marianeth Amper incredible. Why? 

The 11-year old Six Grader killed herself by hanging “due to poverty” inside their house outside of a housing subdivision in Maa, Davao City on November 2.

The death has drawn far-ranging comments on the state of poverty in the country, gaining wide media attention nationwide after the tragedy was featured by nationwide televison and the national dailies.

Avila says: Amper’s suicide was a symbol of extreme poverty and I appeal to the government to address the problem which is a violation of human rights.

Avila is the author of the Davao City Children’s Welfare Code. He is a key actor in the Davao City Children’s Welfare Council and is a member of various groups espousing child welfare and development. Is it admitted he first won a seat in the Davao City Council on the basis of his campaign to protect street children.

Then why is he incredible?

Because until the Amper suicide, Mr. Avila has never been heard commenting on children and how poverty could drive them to extreme decisions, despite children welfare being the political platform that placed him in the local legislative body.Of late, he has been talking and talking about nothing but the preservation of the marine sea turtle.

As chair of the Pawikan Conservation Council—a local body supervising a marine turtle sanctuary in Punta Dumalag—Mr. Avila is now Mr. Pawikan, whose priority is more inclined towards the sea animals than the poor children of the city—an old cause of his that has been buried in the catacombs of his forgotten memories.                                                                                                                                        

Water conservation a serious concern


for World Water Summit

MYNEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA            

Davao City councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling is currently in South Africa to attend a world summit on water conservation upon the invitation of the United Nations Economic and Cultural Cooperation (Unesco).           

The weeklong summit (Nov. 4 to 9) is organized by the Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP), a Unesco-funded project based in Australia assisting Third World countries on water conservation.           

The South African trip is the second foreign travel for Cabling, who as chair of the Davao City Council committee on environment and natural resources authored the landmark Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance.           

In August, Cabling with councilor Leonardo Avila III, also on invitation of HELP, toured Australia to observe water management programs.           

Cabling is joined in the International HELP Symposium dubbed as “HELP in Action-Local Solutions to Global Water Problems” by Engr. Cristeta Gallano of the Davao River Initiatives and Dr.Ruth Gamboa of PCEEM/UP and HELP Network Davao.           

In the summit, Cabling would present local efforts on watershed conservation and water conservation and the state of Davao City rivers conservation efforts.