TUBBATAHA REEFS NATIONAL MARINE PARK, Palawan — Since 1995, park rangers have relied on aging government equipment and meager funds to protect this remote atoll in the middle of the Sulu Sea from poachers and illegal fishers who have ravaged its resources.
But with the help of foreign grants and increasing tourism revenues, the country’s most favored scuba diving destination has reversed the trend. Park rangers are getting improved facilities and proper training, and Tubbataha’s marine resources have recovered significantly.
PUERTO PRINCESA SUBTERRANEAN RIVER NATIONAL PARK — The future of the Philippines may well hang on places like this — a mountain with a majestic canopy of virgin forest and a coastline fringed with towering stands of mangrove trees.
As the country reels from yet another disaster linked to large-scale deforestation and politicians search for ways to appease public outrage about logging, the most workable and sustainable solutions — involving communities in the struggle to preserve the environment — are once again being ignored.
THE LAST time Lina Macaurog visited her youngest child Fatima, the four-year-old was running a fever and had cried violently when her mother was preparing to go. “I had a hard time leaving,” recalls Lina. But she had to go home to Culiat in Quezon City, where she works and lives with her two older daughters.
THE HEART of the government’s procurement system lies on the banks of the Pasig, just across the river from Malacañang Palace. But it is not a gleaming edifice that houses the state agency wielding considerable power over multimillion-peso government contracts. Instead, the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) sits on one part of a huge warehouse that is filled to the rafters with all sorts of government supplies.
CAMP BAGONG DIWA, Bicutan, Taguig — Deep inside this police facility is a smaller camp that is home to the Philippine National Police’s commando force. Here, men and women in camouflage uniforms and black berets roam, many of them veterans of the most dangerous missions — running after rebels in Mindanao, pacifying private armies in Abra, or facing off mutinous soldiers at the Oakwood hotel in nearby Makati.
LUXURY VEHICLES are not uncommon at the Bureau of Customs (BOC), where officials and employees like to drive fancy cars, even if most of them cannot explain how they bought these, given the salary scales at the BOC.
But assistant customs section chief Ildefonso Almero does not even have a car. Just five years away from retirement, he also does not own a house, but rents an apartment where he lives with his family.
MARIKINA CITY — As a young boy, Vic Sabiniano never had to worry about spending money even if his family was poor. If his pockets were empty, all he had to do was go to any neighborhood shoe factory in Marikina and offer to help — for a fee, of course.
WHEN NEW Customs Commissioner George Jereos appeared before a Senate committee hearing on smuggling last September, he made no mention of technical smuggling, which the agricultural and industry sectors say is fast killing them. Instead, Jereos talked about traditional or pure smuggling, in which imported goods do not pass through the Bureau of Customs and enter the country illegally via private ports.
BONGABON, NUEVA ECIJA — In 1987, Carlito and Lita Bayudan, both New People’s Army guerrillas, came down from the hills to begin a new life in this quiet farming town northeast of Manila. About to become parents for the first time, they traded their rifles for hoes, venturing into onion farming, the occupation of 80 percent of Bongabon residents. The young couple knew they would have to work hard, but they looked forward to a simple and peaceful life.
DONATELA is a lyrical Italian name, and when I reach past the pain and bitterness of my childhood, I can see how perfectly it fits my beautiful mother. For many women, beauty begins fading quickly almost as soon as the first flush of youth ends. But my mother, who just turned 70 this year, has been lucky, because there are still more than traces of the physical radiance and attractiveness she once possessed, most of her well-chiseled features on a Castilaloy face defying time and a past filled with heartaches.
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