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Rolly Peña: The Revolutionary as a Geologist

by Philippine Resources - February 20, 2020

In the morning of 04 December 2018, I received numerous text and viber messages from friends and colleagues from the tight-knit geoscience community informing me that Edwin Domingo, former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (“DENR”) Asst. Secretary, urgently wanted to get in touch with me. I thought that it might be a client referral. I was able to call Edwin and indeed he has a case for me. To my surprise, it was about Rolly Peña. A few days before, the community was abuzz with the news of Rolly’s tragic death from an accident involving a passing Grab motorcycle along a dark spot in Quezon Avenue. Edwin asked if I could volunteer to serve as legal counsel for Rolly’s daughter, Sybil Jade, in her forthcoming meeting with Grab. Edwin said that Dr. Manoling Ramos, a close friend and fraternity brother of Rolly, would be coordinating with me as Sybil, who was based in Germany as a doctor working for Médecins Sans Frontières(Doctors Without Borders), has yet to arrived in Manila for her father’s funeral services.

I whole-heartedly took on the opportunity to assist pro bono as my humble contribution to Rolly’s enduring legacy to the geoscience community. I have worked with him professionally on several occasions and considered him a stalwart in the resources industry. As fate would have it, I personally knew a high ranking executive in Grab and called him immediately. My friend in Grab was fully aware of the accident and he mentioned that his company was at that time trying to reach out to the nearest family member of Rolly. I disclosed that I was legally representing Rolly’s daughter and we discussed Grab’s offer of financial assistance.

I made arrangements for Sybil and I to meet with the Grab representative during the necrological service for Rolly at the National Institute of Geological Sciences (“NIGS”) in the afternoon of 06 December 2018. The meeting between Sybil and the Grab representative was initially frosty because while Sybil was obviously mourning the lost of her father, the Grab representative appeared to her as perfunctory in the discussions. To ease the tension, everybody decided to continue with the discourse after the memorial services.

When we continued our meeting, the Grab representative upon witnessing and hearing the eulogies given by Rolly’s friends, comrades, and colleagues, broke down into inconsolable tears. She was given a perspective on who Rolly was from the testimonials, his contribution to science and heroic struggle to fight for the oppressed. The parties finally came to an agreement and Sybil decided that she would use the assistance as seed money to preserve her father’s legacy.

Fast forward a year after, I attended the Christmas party of the University of the Philippines Geology Alumni Association held at the NIGS. I again saw Sybil and this time she was signing dedications on books. The book was a memoir of her father detailing his experiences in the Philippine communist revolutionary movement as an activist, guerrilla and political exile in China during the Martial Law years. It also contained poignant letters that Rolly wrote to Sybil when he resurfaced to the mainstream after leaving the underground movement. The last part includes a compilation of eulogies given during the necrological rites, newspaper editorials by colleagues, and articles written by people whose lives were touched by Rolly.

“Crossings - Portrait of a Revolutionary”

In the book, Rolando (“Rolly” or “Rol" to his close friends) Peña was variously described as a friend, mentor, comrade, linguist fluent in French and Mandarin, leftist propagandist, art and film lover, walking dictionary and encyclopedia, audiophile, bibliophile, poetry aficionado, rare book collector, lover of women, and supporter of women’s rights. Most of all, he was an affectionate father to Sybil despite growing up in Rolly’s absence.

After graduating with a geology degree from the UP College of Arts and Science in 1962 and placing third in the board exams, he worked as a geologist at the then Bureau of Mines. He juggled work and political activism, and put up newsletters for the underground left as an alternative to government-sanctioned newspapers. He was instrumental in setting up the “Liberation”, the propaganda mouthpiece of the communist movement.

Rolly finally joined the armed struggle and was tasked by Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (“CPP”) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (“NPA”), to do an important mission. At that time, China was exporting its proletarian revolution and sending arms to Third World countries that embraced the leftist ideology.

Rolly, who was presumed to know navigation as he was a geologist, was entrusted to lay the course for the MV Karagatan, a wooden hulled boat consigned to smuggle arms from Fukien, China to the Philippines in 1972. However, the arms landing was intercepted by the Philippine military in Palanan, Isabela and Rolly became a fugitive.

Despite the refusal of Deng Xiao Ping to fund further arms shipment to the Philippines, Chinese leader Mao Zedong approved a second arms landing in 1974, this time aboard the ship MV Andrea. The ship, again helmed by Rolly, hit the Pratas reef somewhere between Hong Kong and Taiwan. After the beleaguered crew was rescued, the Filipinos including Rolly, were brought to Hong Kong, spent some time in jail, and ultimately sought political asylum in China.

Rolly called his group of asylum seekers as the “Dirty Dozen.” During their sojourn in China, the group engaged in a wide array of military training and political indoctrination laid out by the Chinese communist party leaders. Their activities included naval warfare, revolutionary historical site visits, political studies in the Marx-Lenin-Mao thought, medicine involving surgery and acupuncture, Chinese language studies, fishing, integration with the peasants in state farms and communes, infrastructure, and factory work. Rolly was also able to get the approval of the Chinese government to work as a geologist in the Shinjiang oilfields to hone his scientific knowledge while in exile. Interestingly, Rolly already wrote about the brewing rift among the political exiles because of their disparate opinions on the leadership of the revolutionary movement they left behind. Amidst this internal strife, Rolly did his best to remain neutral. He was sent back to the Philippines in 1981 to continue his work in the armed struggle.

Back to the Mainstream

Rolly left the underground revolutionary movement in 1992. On his decision to leave the armed struggle, he wrote:

“Anyway, by 1992, I was feeling that I had no sense of achievement, and I decided to come out and get into something that was intellectually stimulating, where I could still learn something and apply a little learning to some ‘earthly’ problems.”

It was the late Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan, former director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology who was responsible for his return to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (“MGB”). He went back to the same job and position that he left when he joined the NPA, and wrote that he “still go to the mountains but to do fieldwork and research”.

He was seconded by the MGB in 1995 to work as a Technical Assistant on Mining Matters to DENR Secretary Victor O. Ramos. It was during this time that I met Rolly when I was working then as a newbie lawyer for Western Mining Corporation’s Tampakan Copper Project (“WMC”). WMC was a Melbourne-based Australian major mining house, which held a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement granted by the Philippine government. Rolly was our go-to guy and liaison at the DENR when we wanted to set an important meeting with either the DENR Secretary or the MGB Director. In fact my former boss at WMC, Project President Terence Gardner, fondly referred to Rolly as “the ghost who walks” because he was like a specter lurking in the shadows in our dealings with the DENR/MGB. He was a quiet presence but surely a strong influence in the mining bureaucracy.

Following the Marcopper mine accident in 1995, the DENR to address the growing public opposition to mining, decided to review and revised the implementing rules of the Mining Act of 1995. Representing WMC’s interests, I got involved in the process and attended the country-wide public consultations on the proposed Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Mining Act. In August and September of 1996, I joined Rolly and other DENR/MGB officials in stakeholder meetings in Baguio City, Cebu City, Davao City, and Manila.

Despite Rolly’s background, he was a staunch advocate of the Mining Act. However he wrote in his book that he was torn between his advocacy for responsible mining as a bureaucrat and the leftist ideology that was against the so called “development aggression” and exploitation of resource companies particularly the foreign mining firms. He narrated an event that I myself witnessed during a public consultation held at the UP College of Law:

“The leftist groups (Bayan and affiliates) were there but did not stay. They had placards, streamers and blistering statements for the repeal of the Mining Act. What we set out to do was to make it more responsive to the community and the environment. They don’t realize that if the Mining Act is repealed, we will go back to the old laws which are so worse.”

“But then I realized that they just have to take a hard stance, make denunciations, without really thinking of the consequences. But the NGOs which want a better deal for the community, for the indigenous peoples, the environment, did make proposals, many of which we have adopted. For some proposals, we just had to arrive at a middle ground since the mining industry would balk at them. Being in the government agency concerned with this matter, I find myself caught between the industry and NGOs. Still the demands of NGOs (except the extremists”) are easier to address than industry, especially foreign companies who count their dollars and want everything opened to them. This time, we are asking the industry to get the informed consent of the concerned indigenous people and communities before a permit is granted.”

It must have been extremely difficult for Rolly to transition from an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist ideologue to a government bureaucrat promoting investments in natural resources extraction to both local and foreign companies. Rolly did perform well in the bureaucracy and was eventually promoted to MGB Regional Director in 1999, a position he held till his retirement in 2006. In the meantime, Rolly finished his Master of Science in Geology degree from UP NIGS in 1998, a course he started way back in 1966 that was abruptly discontinued when he went underground.

Despite his prominent and active role in the mining industry, Rolly maintained friendly ties with his former comrades who were deeply divided into two hostile factions - the “Rejectionists” and the “Reaffirmists.” The division among the leftists groups happened in 1993 when Armando Liwanag — believed to be the nom de guerre of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison — issued a document in 1991 called “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward!”. The document sought to return the CPP to its founding principles of characterizing Philippine society as “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” and the waging of a protracted people’s war in the countryside to topple the government in accordance with the Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought.

Those who supported the document were called “Reaffirmists” while those who refused to accept it were called the “Rejectionists”, who advocated for less ideological rigidity and more openness towards other forms of political struggle, such as legal and parliamentary participation thus relegating the armed struggle to the backdrop. Many “Rejectionists” civil society activists joined the non governmental organization (“NGO”) sector, which expanded in the early 1990s due to both the massive influx of foreign funding and the readiness of successive post-Marcos governments to accommodate more moderate and reformist civil society groups.

The NGO sector was prominent in its opposition to the promotion of the mining industry as a development strategy by the Philippine government. They either actively opposed the Mining Act of 1995, clamored for strict provisions in the implementing rules and regulations making it difficult for companies to work under the present legal and administrative framework, or lobbied for a more “nationalistic” mining legislation devoid of large-scale mining and foreign capital. They also actively pushed for the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and encouraged local government units to veto mining and energy projects within their jurisdictions.

Contribution to Geoscience

After serving as regional director, Rolly returned to UP, which provided him a laboratory at NIGS where he resumed research work and generously made himself available for consultation to the private industry and students of geology. It was at this stage in his life that he made an enormous contribution to geoscience.

During his stint in the private sector, Rolly made two great contributions to the study of geology. He wrote the Lexicon of Philippine Stratigraphy (2008) and edited “The Geology and Mineral Resources of the Philippines” Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition (2004). The Committee on Stratigraphic Nomenclature of which Rolly was Chairman, formed under the auspices of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) helped Rolly finalize the Philippine Stratigraphic Guide while a committee of MGB geologists helped Rolly complete the Geology of the Philippines Volumes 1 & 2, Second Edition. The literatures became a bible of sorts for professionals and students of geology.

Noe Caagusan, a good friend of Rolly since their UP days, fraternity brother, and fellow geologist, in a fitting tribute wrote a scholastic review:

“While the compilers of the Geology of the Philippines (1981) succeeded in accounting for every bibliographer report, they also have unleashed a self-generative device that liberally established variant names of rock units, or even invalid nomenclatures that cluttered the stratigraphic column.”

“Rolly sensed these superfluities, as he knew personally many of those who had written the geological reports where the Geology of the Philippines were culled. He was familiar with the parochial bias of many writers and their penchant for “updating’ formational definitions and appending a new name as well.”

“Peña’s Lexicon identifies the geologic formations of various places in the Philippines based on layers (stratification) of rocks, their ages, evolution, and geologic events in hundreds of millions of years. Its deep data, both ancient and new, give historic numbers to corals, mountains, rock formations, seas, and volcanoes that tourists often describe as awesome, beautiful and unusual. It seeks to end the rampant and erroneous updating and renaming of Philippine rocks.”

“The GOP Second Edition Peña edited is about rocks in the Philippines, their names, classification, genesis, histories and geochemistry or mineral contents. The first edition of the GOP Volumes 1 and 2 was based on work done by earlier generations of foreign and local geologists which Peña read when he worked as a petrologist in fieldworks that lasted six to eleven months a year, from the ‘60s to the ‘70s.”

Benham Rise

Rolly worked and collaborated with a team of scientists from UP NIGS when the Republic of the Philippines filed its claim for Benham Rise in 2008 in compliance with the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Rolly was with a team that gathered hydrographic, geological, and geophysical data that showed that Benham Rise was part of the 350 mile-continental shelf that extended from the baseline of northeastern Philippines.

The Philippine Government based its claim on Republic Act No. 9522, also known as the Archipelagic Baselines Law (2009), and asserted that on the basis of seismic and magnetic data and other geological features, the region is an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf. This culminated in the full adoption of the Philippines’ submission for an extended continental shelf in the Benham Rise Region by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf of the United Nations on 12 April 2012.

Masungi Georeserve

Rolly also conducted the study and research needed to jump start the heritage interest in the Masungi geological formation resulting in the establishment of the Masungi Georeserve, a conservation area situated in the Southern Sierra Madre range, in Baras, Rizal. The Masungi Georeserve is a nature reserve characterized by rugged limestone karst peaks, steep slopes, and surrounding lush montane rainforests. The georeserve received multiple international awards from the United Nations Biodiversity Program, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Rolly’s contribution not only involved lending his geologic expertise but also engaging with park rangers, the local community, schools, landscape architects, biologists, government representatives, and other stakeholders, which elevated Masungi as a global best case practice.

Professional Interaction with Rolly

It was during my presidency of the Geological Society of the Philippines (“GSP”) in 2017 when I had the chance to work closely with Rolly. At that time, Rolly was the Chair of the Board of Geology of the Professional Regulatory Commission, a positioned he assumed in 2015. During my term as GSP President, we were able to obtain the registration of GSP as the accredited integrated professional organization for geologists through the able assistance and endorsement of Rolly and the other members of the Board of Geology.

I and my fellow officers and board members at GSP were amazed at the energy exhibited by Rolly in his many roles in GSP. Rolly was the editor of the scientific Journal of the GSP. In addition to being JGSP editor, Rolly also held several key positions such as Chair of the Geo-Heritage Committee and member of the Continuing Professional Development Council of the Board of Geology. He was also a qualified “competent person” for mineral exploration under the Philippine Mineral Reporting Code. We can always count on him in attending all the regular and special board meetings of GSP and consult with him on policy matters affecting the geology profession.

Rolly was also the GSP’s permanent representative to the Regional Congress on Geology, Minerals, and Energy Resources of Southeast Asia (“GEOSEA”). GEOSEA aims to foster an exchange of ideas, experiences, results, information and cooperation in geology, minerals and energy resources in Southeast Asia, bringing together the experts from academia and industry all over the world.

During my stint as GSP President, the Philippines applied and was chosen to host and organize the 2020 GEOSEA Congress in Manila. Rolly, who diligently attended the secretariat meetings, was instrumental in getting the nod of the geology associations from the other ASEAN member countries. The GEOSEA Congress, conducted every two years, is the “SEA games” of the ASEAN geoscientific community. The Philippines last hosted the GEOSEA Congress way back in 1995.

The official Philippine delegation attended in full force the GEOSEA Congress in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2018 for the turn-over ceremonies. Representing the Philippines were our chief of delegation, Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary and Phivolcs Officer-in-charge, Renato Solidum with selected officers of GSP including myself and Rolly. During that congress, I was a witness on how Rolly was treated with respect and high esteem by our counterpart foreign experts.

My Impression of Rolly

Rolly shared some unmistaken similarities with a quirky law school professor. Behind the unassuming facade and quiet demeanor, he held a treasure trove of accumulated knowledge and street-smart experience, you could only unravel if you dared to ask the right questions and gained his familiarity through personal interaction. I’ve heard about his radical past but I only got to know his fascinating life story after I have read his book.

From a generation not born of entitlement, Rolly possessed a patriotism that directed him to the only viable option for him to attain his ideals, the path of armed struggle. His road to revolution was the culmination of social unrests prevalent at that time, a fulmination of protests and mass actions whose catalyst was youth movements heightened by political consciousness in the early ‘60s. He took a storied route, initially joining underground cells while staying put in government service as part of the resistance, and ultimately embarking on the crucial decision of participating in the armed struggle.

Perhaps the same innate courage and patriotism that brought him to the movement made him return to the mainstream. His idealism and aspiration to gratify his need for more scientific knowledge not for personal aggrandizement but for the common good, which for obvious reasons he was unable to pursue underground, finally made him resurface and join the government he sought to overthrow.

Rolly was first and foremost, a geologist and a scientist, trained in critical inquiry in the rich tradition of creative, open-minded, empirical inquiry and evidence-based probing of nature’s secrets. Unfortunately in today’s settings, findings of science are now under siege from a variety of economic and political forces. These forces selectively dismiss, deny, and distort legitimate results of scientific research when such run counter to their vested interests. Political expediency has even denigrated the scientific process as mere “opinions” of scientists who are not “gods”.

I think more than anything else, the lesson we must take to heart in Rolly’s life is that science must be devoid of any political and ideological agenda. Rolly’s higher calling was to bring to the public the best available scientific knowledge in the hope that it nurtures and inspires the future generation of scientists.

Fernando “Ronnie” S. Penarroyo specializes in Energy and Resources Law, Project Finance and Business Development. He may be contacted at for any matters or inquiries in relation to the Philippine resources industry. Feel free to follow Atty. Penarroyo on LinkedIn (

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Philippine Resources - March 12, 2019

Defending our territorial rights through historical facts

By Marcelle P. VillegasOn 7 May 2009, China submitted the Nine-dashed Lines Map to the United Nations. Their map gobbles up large areas of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. China’s Nine-Dashed Lines Map shows that China is claiming 85.7% of the entire South China Sea. Their claim covers 3 million square kilometers out of the 3.5 million square kilometers surface area of the South China Sea. [1] This is the root cause of the South China Sea dispute, because China did not provide a legal basis for the dashes. The dashes also had no fixed coordinates. With that, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia protested against China’s claim. This story is more than about defending our territorial or maritime rights. It is also of geological significance and fighting for our own natural resources. In January 2013, the Philippines formally initiated arbitration proceedings against the PRC’s claim on the territories within the “nine-dash line” that include the Scarborough Shoal. [2]Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Senior Associate Justice of Republic of the Philippines Supreme Court, defended the Philippines’ right of ownership of the little islands within our territory to the international Arbitral Tribunal. His strategy in explaining our claim was simple – pointing out our legal rights through legitimate historical records. In his presentation “The South China Sea West Philippine Sea Dispute”, he enumerates several important facts about our territory.To begin with, what is the significance of the South China Sea to the world? There are US$5.3 trillion of ship-borne goods that travel through the South China Sea annually. This is almost one-half of the world’s shipborne trade in tonnage. A great percentage of the petroleum imports of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China pass through the South China Sea. The annual global fish catch from South China Sea is worth US$21.8 billion. Additionally, 2 billion people live in the 10 countries bordering the South China Sea where hundreds of millions of people depend on fish there for their protein. More importantly, maritime area that are close to the coast of the countries bordering the South China Sea are rich in oil and gas resources. South China Sea is also rich in methane hydrate which is a potential source of energy. [3] Over 250 small islands, atolls, shoals, reefs, cays and sandbars are located at the South China Sea. These small land area have no inhabitants. The features are grouped into three archipelagos namely, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal, Pratas Islands, Paracel Islands and Spratly Island. [2]How does the Nine-dashed Line Map affect the Philippines? The Philippines loses about 80% of its EEZ facing the West Philippine Sea. This includes the entire Reed Bank and part of the Malampaya gas field. This loss covers 381,000 square kilometers of maritime space and 100% of the Philippines’ ECS which covers an estimate of over 150,000 square kilometers of maritime space. In 2012, China seized Scarborough Shoal (Panatag) from the Philippines. It is a small ring of reefs that is located about 230 km from the Philippines, but 650 km from the nearest major Chinese land mass (southern island of Hainan province). Scarborough Shoal is rich in marine life where fishermen from the Philippines, China and Vietnam have been fishing for several years. It is in the Philippines EEZ. [4]Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Learn a little about your past, and you may end up with a pretty nice future”. Looking back in our history was indeed the winning strategy on how the west was won in this dispute. Here are some of the historical proofs and legal basis presented by Justice Antonio T. Caprio before the Tribunal.1. Official and unofficial maps of China from 1136 during the Song Dynasty until the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 show that the southernmost territory of China has always been Hainan Island, and not the areas of the Nine-Dashed Lines. On the other hand, there are various official and unofficial maps of the Philippines from 1636 until 1933 that consistently illustrate that Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines. Centuries ago, the name of Scarborough Shoal was “Panacot” according to the Murillo Velarde Map in 1734. This was published in Manila while the Philippines was still a colony of Spain. [5]2. The Franciscans arrived in the Philippines in 1578. In 1695, the Coronelli Map of Southeast Asia (entitled Isloe dell’ Indie) shows the Spratlys as part of the Philippines. The map was illustrated by the Franciscan monk, Venetian Vincenzo Coronelli. The map was published in Venice in 1695. Coronellie is well-known for his accurate atlases and globes, and as the Father General of the Franciscan Order.3. In 1899, the map “Islas Filipinas, Mapa General Observatorio de Manila” was published in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Coast of Geodetic Survey. This old map resembles the modern Philippine map that we use today.4. In 1898, when the Philippine Revolution was about to end in victory to end 300 years of Spanish rule, Spain secretly sold the Philippines to the United State of America under what is known as the 1898 Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States. This agreement did not include the little islands surrounding the main islands of the country, thus another treaty was made called the 1900 Treaty of Washington. 5. The Treaty of Washington entails that Spain had given to the United States “all title and claim of title, which (Spain) may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago, lying outside the lines” of the Treaty of Paris. Therefore this agreement clarifies that Spain ceded Scarborough Shoal to the United States under the 1900 Treaty of Washington (or the Treaty between Spain and the United States for Cession of Outlying Islands of the Philippines, signed November 7, 1900).6. Additionally, Secretary Cordell Hull of the U.S. State Department mentioned in his Memorandum of July 27, 1938 to Harry Woodring, Secretary of War: “In the absence of evidence of a superior claim to Scarborough Shoal by any other government, the Department of State would interpose no objection to the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to study the possibilities of the shoal as an aid to air and ocean navigation.”Finally, on 4 July 1946, the Treaty of Manila has been signed granting the Philippines full independence from the United States of America.7. Scarborough Shoal was also used by the United States and the Philippine military as an impact range for their warships and warplanes from 1960s – 1980s. The International Maritime Organization of the United Nations was notified of such activities. During those years, there were no protests from any country about these activities.In conclusion, “The Philippines today is engaged in a historic battle to defend over 531,000 square kilometers of its maritime space (EEZ and ECS) in the West Philippine Sea, an area larger than the total land area of the Philippines of 300,000 square kilometers. This huge maritime space is part of Philippine national territory since the Constitution defines the ‘national territory’ to include ’the seabed, the subsoil, and other submarine areas’ over which the Philippines has ‘sovereignty or jurisdiction’. Under UNCLOS, the Philippines has ‘jurisdiction’ over this huge maritime space. Can the Philippines prevent China from gobbling up this huge maritime space? All citizens of the Philippines - both government personnel and private individuals – have a solemn duty to prevent the loss of this huge maritime space. It is a duty we owe to ourselves, and to future generations of Filipinos. The Historic Battle for the West Philippine Sea.” [5] (From the presentation of Justice Antonio T. Carpio)On 12 July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) tribunal in Netherlands agreed unanimously with the Philippines. They concluded that there is no evidence and "no legal basis for China to claim historic rights" over the area within the nine-dash line. The tribunal also judged that the PRC had caused "severe harm to the coral reef environment" [6] and had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its EEZ by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration (such as restricting the Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal). PRC rejected this ruling. Their president Xi Jinping said that, "China's territorial sovereignty and marine rights in the South China Sea will not be affected by the so-called Philippines South China Sea ruling in any way", nevertheless the PRC would still be "committed to resolving disputes" with its neighbours. China afterwards sent more warships in the Scarborough Shoal. [7][8]Disclaimer: Regarding “The South China Sea West Philippine Sea Dispute” by Justice Antonio T. Caprio – The views expressed in the presentation are the personal opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of the Philippine Government.References:[1] “South China Sea Arbitral Award” -[2] South China Sea - Shoal -[3] Justice Antonio T. Carpio. “The South China Sea West Philippine Sea Dispute” -[4] “5 facts on Scarborough Shoal” (8 Feb. 2017) by Agence France-Presse and ABS-CBN News -[5][6] Perez, Jane (12 July 2016). "Beijing's South China Sea Claims Rejected by Hague Tribunal". The New York Times.[7] Tom Phillips, Oliver Holmes, Owen Bowcott (12 July 2016). "Beijing rejects tribunal's ruling in South China Sea case". The Guardian.[8] "South China Sea: Tribunal backs case against China brought by Philippines". BBC. 12 July 2016.


Philippine Resources - March 18, 2019

GEOCON highlights the role of Filipino Geologists

By Marcelle P. Villegas Highlighting the achievements and challenges in the field of geology, The Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) presented the 2018 Annual Geological Convention (GeoCon) last December 11-12, 2018 at The Manila Hotel. GSP is a duly accredited integrated professional organization for geologists. The theme for this event is “Building the Country, Securing the Future, The Role of Filipino Geologists”. The exhibit and convention was held at the hotel’s Fiesta Pavilion which had over 900 attendees from different parts of the country.The Welcome Remarks was given by Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Jr. who is the Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change of the Philippines, Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Mr Alberto P. Morillo, 2018 President of the Geological Society of the Philippines, introduced the keynote speaker, Honorable Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara, Senator and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Government/ Ways and Means.Senator Angara’s speech highlighted many important and critical topics surrounding the mining industry and the country’s Science and Technology (S&T) status in general. He started by thanking the Filipino scientists and S&T professionals for the important role they play in powering our economy forward. Then he wished them to have a long life and an appeal for them to stay in the country. "Sadly, people like them are fast becoming a rare breed here in the Philippines," he states."We continue to lose our best and brightest… We may be exhibiting among the world's fastest economic growth rates but we remain among the world's top labor-exporters, with close to 10 million of our people working in greener pastures abroad."He said that these migrant workers may bring important dollar remittance to the Philippines which keeps our macroeconomic position stable, but their talents and skills are utilized by another country rather than here where they are much needed."A 2017 ADB report found that of all the 2.79 million tertiary-educated ASEAN nationals who migrated to OECD countries between 2010 and 2011, around 1.55 million or 55.3% were Filipinos. Among ASEAN countries, we sent abroad the biggest number of educated professionals comprising a significant brain drain. In fact, we sent to OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries a little more than three times as many as the second largest labor-exporting ASEAN country--Vietnam with 539,000."Additionally, he noted, "By some measure, I am sure that such brain drain is also felt in the industries and research areas where the members of the Geological Society of the Philippines are involved."Sen. Angara discussed the following topics:1) Failure to create high-paying, S&T-driven jobs - He stressed the general inability of our economy to create high-paying jobs in the field of science and technology. For this reason, most professionals in the scientific field (like geologists, engineers, etc.) end up working in New Zealand, Australia, Canada or UK for more lucrative jobs.2) "But even government-research positions are unattractive." - The Senator stated that, "Our top scientists, engineers and researchers are forced to find opportunities abroad where their talents are well-compensated. A National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) July 2014 press release said that since the Scientific Career System was institutionalized in 1983, only 147 career scientists have entered the system -- or little less than 5 new scientists each year for 31 years. Worse, out of the 147, only 47 were actually active in government."Sen. Angara mentioned that they worked to respond to the issue by co-authoring amendments to the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers and Researchers (still pending in the House of Representatives) to counter this. He says that this entails removal of limits on honoraria or additional salary that scientists can receive from grants-in-aid projects, expanding the coverage to include non-DOST S&T personnel (such as the R&D employees of the DA), and granting five-year extensions to those up for mandatory retirement. 3) “This needs to be rectified soon because the lack of attractive S&T jobs in the country dissuades many of our youth from pursuing S&T courses.”4) “Such situation is unfortunate especially when S&T can play such a big role in solving many of the challenges we face today. Geologists and Geoscientists in particular could help the nation in any number of ways.”Additionally, he emphasised the significant roles of geologists in addressing more issues in the country such as, disaster risk reduction (in preparation for “The Big One” earthquake), infrastructure build-up, responsible mining, and energy security. Sen. Angara also emphasised the importance of making education available to all to provide opportunities to more children so they will be encouraged to pursue a career in Science and Technology. Several technical papers and studies were presented for the two-day convention. “Landslides in Itogon, Benguet: The Triggers and Causes” was discussed by M. Madrigal et al. Another interesting topic presented was the “Typhoon Ompong-Induced Landslides and Debris Flows in the Mine Claims and Host Barangays of Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc. in Itogon and Mankayan, Benguet Province: Emergency Preparedness Initiatives” by G. Rostata et al.The environmental issue in Boracay was discussed by R. Agot et al with their study titled “Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Investigation of Buried Pipes along White Beach and Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island, Municipality of Malay, Aklan Province.” Their presentation revealed photos which are striking evidence on how certain restaurants and resorts in Boracay have violated environmental rules and guidelines in managing their wastewater. For Session 5 of day 1 of GeoCon 2018, the special guest speaker was Ms Marites Danguilan Vitug, RAPPLER’s Editor-at-Large and author of the book “Rock Solid: How the Philippines won Its Maritime Case against China”. Atty. Fernando Penarroyo, moderator of Session 5 described the book, “‘Rock Solid’ narrates the complicated maritime dispute by providing previously unreported details on the developments before and after the July 2016 arbitral decision.” The author discussed her book during the event. Ms Vitug is a former editor of Newsbreak magazine. She won numerous awards such as the Philippine National Book Award in Journalism for her books “Power from the Forest: the Politics of Logging” and “Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao” with Glenda M. Gloria. She also received the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation (U.S.A.) for her work that exposes plunder of Palawan forests. Her book with Criselda Yabes titled “Jalan Jalan:A Journey through EAGA” was chosen by Asiaweek as one of the best books on Asia in 1999. Election for the 2019 GSP Officers and Trustees also took place during the GeoCon 2018. The induction of newly elected officers, trustees and committed chairs was held later in January 31, 2019 at PHIVOLCS Auditorium. This year’s GSP Officers and Trustees are the following: President: Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta (President), Dr. Teresito C. Bacolcol (Vice-President), Dr. Jillian Aira S. Gabo-Ratio (Secretary), Dr. Victor B. Maglambayan (Treasurer), Dr. Karlo L. Queaño (Assistant Secretary), and Trustees Mr. Ciceron C. Angeles, Jr., Dr. Rene Juna R. Claveria, Dr. Betchaida D. Payot and Atty. Marissa P. Cerezo.This year will be an exciting time for GSP as they prepare for the 75th year anniversary in 2020. GSP will also be hosting the GEOSEA conference on the same year. Acknowledgement:Thank you to Atty. Ronnie Penarroyo, Ms Marites Danguilan Vitug, Dr. Renato U. Solidum, Jr., and Ms Dianne Kay Orquina Namit.

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Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Philippines Unlikely to Fulfill China's Nickel Ore Requirements

Despite the resumption of many mining operations in the region, the Philippines is unlikely to fulfill China's nickel ore requirements, according to an S&P report. Philippine mined nickel production is expected to increase over the next five years, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence industry survey, as producers aim to satisfy Chinese nickel ore demand. However, S&P analysts said, “We believe that legislation will remain a major hurdle for restarts and new projects, therefore the Philippines will be unable to meet Chinese nickel ore demand over our forecast period.” Three nickel mines in the world that had been closed due to the coronavirus disease in 2019 were reopened in 2020 when the government turned to the mining industry to help offset the economic effects of the disease (Covid-19). These restarts and demand from current mining facilities, according to foreign analysts, are expected to raise Philippine mined nickel output from 340,000 tonnes in 2020 to 550,000 tonnes in 2025. “However, we believe that existing environmental restrictions on Philippine mining will limit the scope for further mine restarts or additional production from new mining projects in the medium term,” S&P analysts said. “This will prevent the Philippines from meeting China’s nickel ore requirements in Indonesia’s absence, driving Chinese primary output down from an estimated 715,000 tonnes in 2020 to 490,000 tonnes in 2025.” The Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) previously reported that the country's nickel export value increased by P1 billion from January to September 2020, compared to P24 billion in the same timeframe last year. According to a survey from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the Philippine nickel industry produced 18.5 million dry metric tons (DMT) in 2020, down 14% from the previous year's 21.6 million DMT production. MGB stated that the lower output was primarily due to the increased community quarantine imposed by Covid-19 from March to May 2020, during which mineral product movement was restricted across the world. The increased performance in export value for the nickel industry, according to PNIA President Dante Bravo, was primarily motivated by demand increases in nickel prices. China's consistent demand boosted the world nickel price in 2020.


Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Forecasts for PH Development in 2021 Have Been Reduced

Fitch Solutions, a London-based think tank, has slashed its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year, citing the return to tough lockdown measures in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is expected to dampen domestic investment in the short term. Fitch Solutions now expects the Philippines' actual gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 5.8% this year, down from the initial estimate of 7.6%, due to the government's capital spending push being derailed. “The surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines in March and lockdown measures imposed reflect the continued risks to the archipelago’s economic outlook,” the think tank said in a research note dated April 1. The government has reimposed curfew policies in Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces, affecting an unprecedented 24 million inhabitants, as it struggles to control the pandemic. Given the continuing increase in cases and the long-term effect on hospital capacity, Fitch Solutions expects the lockout steps to be extended beyond two weeks. “The likelihood of further outbreaks in other regions remains high and given the slow vaccination rollout in the country (less than 1 per cent of the population has been vaccinated as of end-March) we believe the Philippines’ recovery will continue to be hampered by the pandemic,” Fitch Solutions said. Regional outlook The think tank went on to say that its new estimate of 5.8% also had downside risks. It stated that its forecast for a moderate recovery this year was based on the assumption that domestic demand would steadily improve and the government's investment plans would be realized, resulting in a sharp increase in domestic activity. “However, the slow vaccine rollout and recurrent difficulties in containing outbreaks look set to stall the recovery further,” it noted. A survey of economists in the Asean-5 and India found that the Philippines' growth projection was 5.2 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent in the previous poll last December. Although Asian countries that carried out mass vaccination earlier, such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore, saw their near-term economic prospects boost, gradual inoculation tempered economists' growth aspirations for the Philippines, according to a poll released on Monday by the think tank Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER). Economists following the Philippines predicted that GDP will contract by 3.8 per cent year on year in the first quarter, up from 0.7 per cent a year before. GDP will rise 8.4% year over year in the second quarter, 5.6 per cent in the third quarter, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth quarter due to base effects from last year's low. Malaysia and Thailand, including the Philippines, have weaker growth forecasts for 2021. “Most economists see the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination as one of the most significant positive developments over the last three months and all three upward-trending countries have rolled out vaccinations relatively sooner. This may have improved economists’ outlooks. Delays in vaccination and the spread of COVID-19 variants are listed as factors that might damage the economies,” JCER said. Top concerns Faster dissemination of COVID-19 variants and delayed vaccination, or "corona shock," were described as top economic issues in the Philippines, but higher inflation was also identified as a major threat to the country's recovery from the pandemic-induced recession. According to analysts, headline inflation will average 4.5 per cent in the first quarter, 4.8 per cent in the second, 4.7 per cent in the third, and 4.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, averaging 4.5 per cent in 2021, way above the target range of 2-4 per cent. With a 6.1 per cent increase, Singapore is forecast to lead economic growth in the Asean-5 this year, led by Malaysia's 5.3 per cent and Philippines' 5.2 per cent. According to the JCER report, India will rise at a higher rate of 11.2 per cent in 2021. Economists predicted that the Philippines' average GDP growth will be 6% in 2022, up from 5.8% in December but still below the government's goal.


Philippine Resources - April 06, 2021

Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Expected to Open in June 2021

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is concentrating not only on the civil work’s development of the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge Project but also on keeping the workplace secure and clean. DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said, "that at 86 per cent and with just a few more days to fully complete the new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, we are mindful that a single case of COVID-19 in the project can lead to an interruption, if not total work stoppage" Secretary Villar recently issued revised guidelines in Department Order #30 for the implementation of ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, and MGCQ infrastructure projects, both public and private, during the public health crisis. "Although the bridge project is being rushed for completion in June 2021, it is critical that construction firms be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with the increased risk of illness from COVID-19," Secretary Villar added.  Emil K. Sadain, Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations, and UPMO Roads Management Cluster 1 Project Manager Benjamin Bautista checked the physical progress of the bridge project on Monday, April 5, 2021, and the contractor's compliance with protocols that cover prevention, detection, and rapid response to maintain construction work continuity as workers who have been living in the barracks resume work after the Lenten season. “Let’s get to work healthy to get the job done”, Undersecretary Sadain reminded the contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation citing the current health situation, particularly in the NCR Plus bubble.   In his report to Secretary Villar, Undersecretary Sadain reported that the project is more than 12% ahead of time, having completed all bridge substructure works for abutments A and B on both sides and piers of the Makati approach bridge; the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridge; concrete box girder for the approach bridge; and the V-shaped piers for the Main Bridg; and two (2) prestressed concrete box girder segments using the traditional approach. Post-tensioning and grouting works, formworks and rebar installation for the closure section in the side spans, formworks installation for the 2-meter closure section in the main bridge span, and preparatory works for approach road construction on both sides are now the focus of bridge construction activities. The new 506-linear meter bridge, funded by China and introduced by the DPWH UPMO - Roads Management Cluster 1 (Bilateral), would have a diameter of 21.65 meters, capable of four (4) lanes instead of two (2), and three-meter sidewalks on both sides. The P1.46 billion new Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2021, will handle 50,000 vehicles a day and minimize travel time between Mandaluyong and Makati to 12 minutes. The bridge will connect Estrella Street in Makati to Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, helping to relieve traffic congestion on EDSA by providing an alternative route for motorists.

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