Today on Rappler.
- Typhoon Pablo, international name Bopha, wipes out entire town leaving more than 400 people dead, hundreds missing, and a quarter of a million homeless.
- Lawmakers supporting the Reproductive Health Bill predict it will pass Congress next week.
- 13 officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines are fired over 660 million peso behest loans to a company of Roberto Ongpin.
Story 1: DEATH TOLL FROM ‘PABLO’ CONTINUES TO RISE
Entire towns are wiped out by Typhoon Pablo, with an estimated quarter of a million people left homeless, without access to water and food.
Strong winds and flash floods flatten at least three towns in Davao Oriental – Baganga, Boston and Cateel.
Around two-thirds of the dead are found on the east coast of Mindanao while the rest were recovered in and around New Bataan and Monkayo in Compostela Valley.
Many are killed when cut logs, toppled trees, and debris from the mountains came crashing through homes and farmland.
Officials say many victims in New Bataan and Monkayo, both landslide-prone towns, work at unregulated mines in the gold rush area or large banana plantations.
In General Santos City, at least 300 fishermen and seamen are believed to be missing.
The death toll from typhoon Pablo continues to rise, with at least 327 people dead.
As of 1 p.m. Thursday, the National Risk Reduction & Management Council also reports 401 people injured and 378 missing.
Other estimates reach as high as 477.
More than 229,000 people across 7 regions were affected by the typhoon.
Surigao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley are all under a State of Calamity.
Despite the tragedy, there are stories of hope.
On Thursday, aid workers rescue a pregnant woman and her one-year old son from floodwaters in New Bataan.
They also save Carlos Agang, a farmer who was trapped in the mud for two days after raging waters wiped out his mountainside home.
Agang’s family is still missing.
Survivors continue to stream in to evacuation centers.
Pablo weakens as it moves west northwest.
It is expected to be outside the Philippine area of responsibility by Friday.
All storm warning signals have been lowered.
Story 2: COMVAL GOVERNOR: WE DIDN’T EXPECT THIS DAMAGE
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy says he did not foresee Pablo’s fury.
Critics say provincial officials underestimated Pablo’s strength and did not take enough measures to protect the people.
Compostela Valley is one of the hardest hit areas, with 184 people dead as of Thursday.
In the town of New Bataan alone, 85 are killed.
A landslide hit the town’s evacuation center which accounts for the high death toll.
Uy says the volume of water was unexpected and he wants the cause of the flooding investigated.
But Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno says some areas in New Bataan should not have been inhabited because these are disaster-prone areas.
As the death toll rises, the local government and rescue workers face another problem: finding funeral parlors.
Aside from the mud and debris, the stench of dead bodies make rescue operations more difficult.
Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the government’s disaster response system NOAH, says flood simulations for Compostela Valley on Wednesday showed New Bataan is flood-prone.
Lagmay says residents were advised to leave mountainous areas, but they did not know where to go.
President Benigno Aquino is set to visit Compostela Valley and Boston, Davao Oriental on Friday.
Story 3: HOUSE FAILS TO VOTE ON RH BILL THIS WEEK
The House of Representatives fails to vote on the Reproductive Health bill this week, despite the support of President Aquino.
But RH bill lawmakers predict the historic passage of the bill in Congress next week.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
The House of Representatives has turned into a battle zone.
CDO REP. RUFUS RODRIGUEZ, ANTI-RH ADVOCATE: This bill intends to spend 5 to 10 billion pesos to buy condoms contraceptives to be given even to Catholic women.
For 5 Congresses, different versions of the Reproductive Health bill were filed in the Philippine Congress.
It’s a long drawn out advocacy to provide reproductive health services – including free contraceptives to the poor — who can’t afford them.
ILOILO REP. JANETTE GARIN, PRO-RH ADVOCATE: Once and for all, in the past 14 years, we have been talking about RH. If we have the numbers then we will win. If we don’t, we will concede. It’s time for us to put this measure to a vote.
In a country where the Catholic Church is very powerful, leaders play safe and choose not to antagonize the bishops.
But President Benigno Aquino III is surpassing expectations.
If in the past he wavered on his support for the RH bill, he now gives it his full backing.
In a lunch meeting in Malacanang, he told the representatives, he wants a vote as soon as possible.
But it’s not an easy request.
BOYET GONZALES, MAJORITY LEADER: I’m sure the President will understand what we are undergoing. A difference of one week will not really make a lot of difference.
Critics of the RH bill are putting up a good fight, exhausting all parliamentary tactics to try to insert killer amendments to the bill.
But they are losing the numbers game.
ALBAY REP. EDCEL LAGMAN, BILL’S SPONSOR: The most important thing is we have tested the sentiment of the members and the sentiment is in favor of the bill.
SONNY BELMONTE, HOUSE SPEAKER: I am cautiously confident. More or less, we have had test votes.
The historic vote is expected to happen next week.
If it passes, the fight shifts to the Senate.
Pro RH senators say they too have the numbers to pass the bill.
Carmela Fonbuena, Rappler, Manila.
Story 4: COA CHAIR: COOPERATION KEY TO FIGHTING SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION
Commission on Audit chair Grace Tan says fighting corruption is a joint effort of government agencies and ordinary citizens.
The COA and the Ombudsman are setting up an investigation team to facilitate anti-corruption investigations in the bureaucracy.
Tan says cooperation is key to fighting systemic and endemic corruption.
GRACE PULIDO-TAN, COMMISSION ON AUDIT CHAIR: I think that it’s going to take generations because it is so endemic and systemic. I think that the value system has completely shifted and has been subverted by a lot of influences, there’s that culture of impunity…The response of the citizenry, the way they have been engaging with us has been so inspiring. One of the first things that I did is to set up some kind of a hotline in the COA where citizens can report whatever, about their barangay tanod or the president of the republic…I feel that I’m directly accountable to the people, pera nila ang binabantayan namin, and so I think that I should engage directly and promote that kind of engagement.
Story 5: 13 DBP OFFICIALS SACKED OVER P660-M LOANS TO ONGPIN GROUP
13 officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines are fired for granting 660 million pesos in behest loans to a firm controlled by former trade secretary Roberto Ongpin.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales says the loans made in 2009 are illegal.
The bank officials are involved in two separate loans to Delta ventures Resources, Inc., which a Senate committee probed in 2011 to early 2012.
The Ombudsman says the Ongpin group used the DBP loans to make fat profits from the trading of Philex Mining Corporation shares, while DBP did not.
Story 6: GREENPEACE: EXTEND TOTAL BAN ON TUNA FISHING
The Philippines wants to keep fishing tuna in an area near Papua New Guinea.
Environmental organization Greenpeace wants a total ban on tuna fishing.
Daniel Rudin reports.
This is the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza, and it is now docked in Manila.
Greenpeace is a participant in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission attended by delegates from 30 countries.
The meeting wants to find a solution to tuna overfishing in the Pacific.
Greenpeace is calling for an extension of a total ban on tuna fishing.
CARLY THOMAS, GREENPEACE REGIONAL TEAM LEADER: That’s to protect not only the ocean and the fisheries themselves, but also to make sure the fishing industry has a future, especially the Philippine fishing industry.
The WCPFC banned tuna fishing in certain pockets of the Pacific Ocean to protect the population of yellow fin and bigeye tuna.
But the Philippines was granted a special 4-month access to high seas Pocket 1–an area bounded by Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Indonesia.
The exemption aims to keep Filipino fishing vessels out of local waters to replenish the badly depleted stock of local tuna.
During the total ban in 2010, Filipino fishermen resorted to catching juvenile tuna within Philippine waters.
The Philippines wants to keep its access to Pocket 1.
BENJAMIN TABIOS JR, ASST DIR, BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES: If they don’t allow us to go to the high seas, we will continue to become an irresponsible fishing nation because we’re catching juveniles.
But Greenpeace doubts Philippine vessels will abide by the terms of the exemption.
Last month, Greenpeace caught the Filipino vessel, Sal 19, and two other Indonesian vessels illegally transferring frozen tuna to a Cambodian vessel.
Transshipment of fish from one vessel to another is prohibited in international waters.
Mid-sea fish transfers have been proven to aid illegal fishing.
Greenpeace believes the fishing exemption will only set the stage for more illegal transfers.
CARLY THOMAS: Earlier this year, one of these areas was reopened to the Philippines, and we’ve seen non-compliance by that fleet that is back in the high sees. So we want to see these areas closed, not just to the Philippines but all fleets.
Pew Environment Groups says there are gaps in the enforcement by the international fishing regulation body.
There is no comprehensive inspection scheme, no requirement for vessels to provide information before entering port, and no prohibition of port entry to illegal vessels.
It seems, the international commission doesn’t have the muscle to enforce any fishing ban in the Pacific, partial or total.
And as countries trade off short term gains for long term sustainability, tuna stocks dwindle in the Pacific.
Daniel Rudin, Rappler, Manila.
Story 7: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 2, The Philippines is a battleground—the frontlines in the fight against climate change.
A UN report says its 7,100 islands rank third in the world in terms of vulnerability and climate risk.
After destructive typhoons and unexpected weather disturbances, Filipinos are coming together with systems to cope.
Senior negotiator Bernarditas Muller tells the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha that she –quote “cannot sit here and allow only those interests of developed countries to prevail.”
At number 4, US officials tell NBC News the Syrian military is ready to use chemical weapons against its own citizens.
Precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, have allegedly been loaded into aerial bombs ready to be dropped on rebel strongholds.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issues a statement warning Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use chemical weapons, adding he would be crossing “a red line” if he did so.
At number 5, It’s Islamists versus secular protesters in Cairo as violence breaks out around the presidential palace Wednesday night.
Three senior advisers to Mohamed Morsi resign during the clashes, blaming the president for the bloodshed.
Morsi’s prime minister appeals to both sides to “dialogue.”
Periodic gunshots were heard, while both camps brandish makeshift clubs and some knives.
The violence casts doubts on the ability of Morsi’s referendum on December 15 to calm the factions.
Morsi’s secular critics accuse him of seeking to establish a new dictatorship.
And at number 10, The battle for your photos kicks into high gear.
Shortly after Facebook acquired Instagram, relations with Twitter began to sour.
On Wednesday, Instagram disables part of its users’ ability to display their photos on Twitter.
If you want to see the picture, you’ll be redirected to Instagram’s site.
Instagram’s CEO says, “We’ve decided that right now, what makes sense is to direct our users to the Instagram website.”
Story 8: VATICAN TO OFFER POPE APP SOON
Catholics around the world will have a new way to bring themselves closer to their faith.
The Vatican will soon release a new mobile application allowing users to view stories related to activities in the Vatican and video of papal events.
The Pope App will send out alerts and news links from Vatican news outlets, as well as video of papal events, streams from Vatican webcams and archived media featuring Pope Benedict XVI.
It will be ready for iPhones and iPads on December 10, with an Android version coming in January 2013.
Story 9: BLACK MARBLE: NASA’S EARTH VIEW AT NIGHT
Scientists on Wednesday unveil the newest composite image of the earth at night.
They call it the black marble – a new and unprecedented view from space of our home planet.
The image shows the contrasts between the earth’s built and natural environments.
Cities, towns, and other human-built phenomena glow, while most of the underdeveloped world and the planet’s undeveloped areas are dark.
The images that make up the composite photo were taken using a new NASA N-O-A-A satellite with a sensor that can detect even the faintest light of a ship at sea.
NASA says data from the images provide researchers with a variety of studies and events, such as hurricane Sandy back in November, and fog forecasting in San Francisco.