Marawi arise!
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2019 - 12:00am

I visited Marawi for the first time after the siege a few days ago, as part of a delegation of Red Cross people. I was in Marawi, then called Dansalan when I was a teenager, in the 1950s, and enjoyed the beauty of the place, the fragrant smell of pine trees, the streets clean, the people so friendly in their native attire. At this recent visit, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the total destruction of buildings in about 20 barangays. Your heart would break, as mine did, at the site of crumbled buildings. So this is now the once beautiful city, laid waste.

It was refreshing listening to Philippine Red Cross chair Senator Dick Gordon reaffirm PRC’s commitment to boost the recovery efforts for people displaced by the 2017 conflict in Marawi by providing access to income-generating activities.

In a field visit June 3, Chairman Gordon announced that the organization will provide sewing machines to over a hundred affected households as an effort to restore livelihood sources.

“The Red Cross is not just about deploying medical tents and providing relief. We are not a handout society. The Red Cross is an organization that enables. This is why it is important that we help people restore their livelihood sources,” Gordon said.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president Peter Maurer, who was with the senator, expressed admiration for the PRC’s concern. Maurer, who is in the country for an official mission, told a packed hall of Red Cross volunteers, majority of them women in colorful garb:

“Just like Chairman Gordon, I believe in the importance of empowering people and helping people help themselves. This is a philosophy that we both strongly adhere to. We will continue to do so until the parents can go back to work and the children can go back to school,” Maurer said.

Since day one of the Marawi siege, PRC has been closely working with ICRC to assist the affected communities from relief to recovery.

The PRC Manila media bureau said joint early recovery operations provided livelihood and shelter repair assistance for a total of 6,014 families from the most affected areas, including over 2,000 returnees who used the P10,000-cash grant to start small businesses.

In Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur, the PRC conducted hygiene-promotion activities and mobilized a network of volunteers to support the ICRC’s improvement of a water and sanitation facility that would benefit between 6,000 to 11,000 residents and displaced people.

* * *

In celebration of this year’s World Oceans Day (June 8) and Coral Triangle Day (June 9), feisty Senator Loren Legarda pushed for the promotion of gender equality in the sustainable conservation of our oceans and marine resources by encouraging more women participation in marine research, policy and decision-making processes, advocacy communications, and project management.

Legarda, as reported by her media bureau, said that “Gender and the Ocean” is the focus of this year’s World Oceans Day, while the message of Coral Triangle Day, a yearly celebration of the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity, which encompasses the seas of six countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, emphasizes ocean conservation under the banner of “shared waters, shared solutions.”

“We have polluted our waters and caused global warming, which are impacting much more considerably the women than men. It is precisely because of this vulnerability that we should regard women as valuable holders of knowledge and skills to prepare for and cope with these circumstances, as a means to learn on how better to protect and promote ocean health,” Legarda said.

Legarda quoted United Nations statement about oceans absorbing about 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced by humans, thus mitigating the impacts of global warming. However, human activities that cause pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats heavily affect as much as 40 percent of the world’s oceans.

Moreover, women and children are 14 times more likely to die or get injured in natural disasters due to unequal access to resources. Women only earn 64 percent of men’s wage in aquaculture and have less access to decision-making positions.

“Let this year’s celebrations of World Oceans Day and Coral Triangle Day place more emphasis on women participation in promoting ocean health. Let us not forget however that both women and men must take action to save our oceans and marine life and resources from further harm and degradation,” Legarda concluded.

* * *

Incidentally, the senator has been conferred the Award of Distinction by the European Union (EU) delegation in Manila led by Ambassador Franz Jessen for her contribution in strengthening Philippines-EU bilateral relations.

 The award was given to Legarda to honor her work as chairperson of the senate committee on foreign relations and her role in the process of ratification of the Framework Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the Philippines and the European Union (PH-EU PCA).

Legarda sponsored the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of 33 treaties when she chaired the foreign relations committee in the 15th and 17th congresses. Among the treaties are the PH-EU PCA, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States and the Philippines, the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Social Security Conventions with Spain, Germany and Sweden.

 The Award of Distinction was started by Ambassador Jessen in 2017 for individuals who have contributed to EU-PH bilateral relations. Previous awardees include former Secretary Jesus Dureza and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.

* * *

 If you’re a flower lover you should visit Bukid Amara in Lukban, Quezon for a breathtaking view of flowers. Tess Tumangan, a Rotary Club of Manila 109 governor and I spent one day standing below the splendor of baskets of many varieties of petunias, and walking along plots of marigold, cosmos, vincas, gysophyla, salvia, sunflowers, geranium, and osteospermium.

 Bukid Amara, believed to be the first flower garden in the country, is drawing hordes of local tourists. The garden is less than a year old, but thanks to the ministrations, i.e., tender loving care and organic fertilizers and pesticides of Mike Caballes, part of his 2.7 hectare farm in Barangay Malupak has been planted to brilliant-colored annuals.

 Mike, a UP-Los Banos agriculture graduate, majoring in horticulture, was president of Allied Botanical for 20 years. Last year, he went on his own, and veered away from selling seeds and growing vegetables. His choice, flowers, proved to be a source of personal satisfaction and income from tourists buying pots of flowers from his farm.

 His seeds are from Holland, Thailand and other countries. Germination is done in greenhouses, and made to grow on pots and plots. Mike and his farm hands water the annuals in the morning, and peer under leaves for possible insects.

Mike and his wife decided to name their project after the Quassia Amara flowering tree. “Amara is a nice name, short and sweet and easy to remember,” said Mike.

For visitors, a kitchen staff prepares a typical Lucban lunch of chorizo, broiled bangus and pancit (whose name I can’t remember). After lunch we made a tour of the place, as Mike recited the threefold mission of his farm: recreation (for tourists); sustainability ( using an integrated pest control system), and innovation (introduction of flowers not found in the Philippines).

For flower lovers, here’s Mike’s contact number: 0998-7312339.



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