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President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of lawless violence few hours after a blast that ripped through a crowded night market here in Davao City Friday evening.
Speaking to the media early morning Saturday, Duterte said that the declaration would mean that there would be intense military and police presence and activities in accordance with the “orchestration of the national government”.

The last time a state of lawlessness was declared was back in 2003 after the twin bombings here in Davao City that hit the old Davao airport and Sasa wharf.

Duterte however clarified that the state of lawless violence is not a martial law declaration as there will be no curfews and no suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Duterte visited hospitals and funerals homes where the victims were brought and assured the victims and their families that the government would handle all their financial needs brought about by the explosion.

As of this morning, police authorities confirmed 14 deaths and 71 injuries from the explosion along Roxas Boulevard Friday evening. Ten died on the spot.

The Abu Sayyaf Group is reported to have claimed responsibility from the said explosion.

President Duterte admitted that they have been expecting retaliatory attacks from the Abu Sayyaf in light of the ongoing intense military operations in Sulu.

A doctor from the Southern Philippines Medical Center who requested anonymity claimed to have also received a text message warning him of an impending terrorist attack hours before the Roxas explosion.

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“Like a slave” was how Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad described his almost one year in captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza said Kjartan told him that there was not a single day that the Norwegian had dreamt of getting out from the clutches of his captors.

He said that Sekkingstad was not fed intentionally by the Abu Sayyaf to weaken him so he could not escape.

Thus, Dureza said, September 17 was a “final liberation” for Sekkingstad.

Dureza said they worked for the release of the four kidnap victims since day one of their capture on September 21, 2015. He lamented that of the four only two survived — Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor.

Robert Hall and Dureza’s personal friend John Ridsdel were beheaded by the bandits after the ransom demand was not met. The kidnappers demanded a P300 million ransom for each of the victims.

Dureza revealed that Ridsdel’s family offered money in exchange for his friend’s liberty. But the Abu Sayyaf did not accept it is was way below what they demanded.

Thus, Dureza said, he is not keen on believing rumors that the family of Sekkingstad paid P30 million ransom for the Norwegian’s liberty. The secretary revealed that the rumored ransom of Sekkingstad was just half the amount the Ridsdel family earlier offered but was not accepted by the ASG.

Dureza theorized that the real reason of Sekkingstad’s release was because the of the intense military operation against the ASG.

“Because of the military operation the ASG have to let go of their “baggage” (hostages) but also there maybe are other factors,” Dureza said.

Sekkingstad earlier admitted when interviewed immediately after his release that they have experienced numerous firefights between the ASG and the government forces. The kidnap victim said that one bullet even landed inside his backpack which he is keeping as a memento.

Dureza said that when he first met Sekkingstad, his only worldly possession was a backpack with an empty water jug and that the Norwegian was holding on to it like a treasured item.

Dureza said Sekkingstad would be traveling back to Norway but the Norwegian promised to return to Davao which he called home for the past 7 years.

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Three city councilors conducted an ocular inspection Wednesday morning in several wharves in Davao City to see if the sea vessel operators are complying with the law requiring all motorized seacrafts to have their passengers wear or hold lifejackets while on voyage.

Councilors Nilo “Small” Abellera Jr. of the Committee on Public Safety; Al Ryan Alejandre of the Committee on Tourism and Beautification; and Victorio Advincula Jr. of the Committee on Social Services first visited the Sta. Ana wharf where several sea vessels going to the Island Garden City of Samal are docked.

Before the three councilors arrived, they have already coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard stationed in Sta. Ana wharf. PCG personnel were already checking on the passenger sea vessels docked at the said wharf for compliance.

Mario Reta, owner of a boat plying the Davao and Isla Reta route, said that there is no need for the passengers to be wearing lifejacket as their vessel is a closed-deck vessel. He reasoned out that only the open-deck vessels are required to wear a lifejacket.When the councilors arrived in the wharf, they readily checked the passenger vessels and noted that Isla Reta passengers are not wearing lifejackets while waiting for the start of their voyage.

Councilor Abellera confronted Reta about their non-compliance that led to a heated exchange. This prompted Abellera to call Maritime Industry Authority 11 (Marina) director Felisa Orongan to give light on the issue.

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The air quality reading in Davao Region has remarkably improved over the weekend after two days of consecutive rains which lasted for almost an hour each.

The Environmental Management Bureau’s Air Quality Management Section said that the particulate matter reading last Sunday was less than 10 micrometer while the microgram per cubic meter registered at 43.

This is an improvement from the previous reading of 65-93 microgram per cubic meter from October 17-24. Health authorities said that once it reaches 155 and more, then then the air quality becomes dangerous especially to those who have respiratory problems.

The EMB said that the air quality has improved from fair to good. The agency credited the improvement to the northerly wind and the heavy downpour during the weekend.

Asked how long they expect the haze to stay in the country, the EMB said that it will totally depend on the source of the haze. The haze is believed to have come from the Indonesia fires.

For now, health authorities said, people can still do their usual normal activities in the open air.

Those who have respiratory ailments are however advised to limit any outdoor activities and to wear the appropriate mask, in this case a N95 mask, that would filter out contaminants in the air.

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Climbers wanting to scale the highest peak in the country, Mt. Apo, will be limited to only 1,000 this summer as the area is experiencing dry season and the threat of forest fire is high.

The Mt. Apo Natural Park Protected Management Board passed the resolution last week as a precautionary measure to protect the country’s highest peak.

The board, composed of officials from the towns, cities, and provinces surrounding Mt. Apo, have also agreed to implement a common set of trekking policies designed to “be consistent with the principles of biological diversity and sustainable development.”

Aside from a strict prohibition on smoking, the climbers will also be asked to bring their own garbage on their way down from Mt. Apo.

Kidapawan City Tourism Officer Joey Recemilla said the board fears a repeat of the forest fires that hit and damaged a large part of Mt. Apo in 1997 and 2003 thus the decision.

Recimilla said walk-in climbers will no longer be accommodated.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources 11 Park Operations Superintendent Edward Ragaza said the status of the Kapatagan trail of Mt. Apo was also assessed last week.

He said the grasses and trees in many parts of the mountain have turned from green to brown. The report, Ragaza said, showed that there are water sources that might eventually dry up if the dry spell continue.

Jhune Bacus, chairperson of the Mountaineering Federation of Southern Mindanao (MFSM), meanwhile welcomed the news.

He said that there really is a need to regulate the number of climbers this summer. He also appealed to those who will be allowed to go to Mt. Apo to be responsible.

Haze update in Davao

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The effect of haze brought about by Indonesian fires here in the Davao Region has somehow improved after a heavy downpour Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was not enough to totally eradicate haze throughout the region.

After Sunday’s rain, the haze somehow thinned down and patches of blue sky can already be seen.

On Saturday, a heavy downpour also happened in Tagum City where the 16th national jamboree of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines is currently being held with about 20,000 scouts from all over the country attending.

The heavy downpour also caused mudding in the camping area. The two consecutive days of heavy rain which lasted for less than an hour each, has contributed to the improvement of the effects of haze in the region.

Last Friday, health authorities said that the air quality in the Davao Region is still “good to fair” despite the presence of haze for weeks now.

Department of Health 11 senior health program officer Gloria Raut said that based on the latest air quality reading provided to them by the Environmental Management Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Davao air is still within the 0-54 and 55-154 micrograms per cubic meter range which means that the air quality is still “good to fair” or “healthy”.

There is still no health warning issued until now by the DOH 11. Those with respiratory problems and those who would not take chances are however advised to wear the prescribed N95 masks which are the same mask prescribed during the Sars-scare.

Upon checking at the weather this morning, we saw vast grey skies with still some patches of blue in the horizon.

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The air quality in the Davao Region is still “good to fair” despite the presence of haze for more than a week now.
Department of Health 11 senior health program officer Gloria Raut said that based on the latest air quality reading provided to them by the Environmental Management Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Davao air is still within the 0-54 and 55-154 micrograms per cubic meter range which means that the air quality is still “good to fair” or “healthy”.

GLORIA RAUT, Department of Health 11 senior health program office

Raut said that once it reaches 155 and more, then then the air quality becomes dangerous especially to those who have respiratory problems.

For now, she said, people can still do their usual normal activities in the open air. Raut said that the concern as of now is the haze’s effect on the airline industry which would usually affect the vision of the pilots landing their planes.

Asked what preventive measures they could recommend to the public, Raut said that it’s best to limit any outdoor activities and to wear the appropriate mask, in this case a N95 mask, that would filter out contaminants in the air.

It was learned that haze may contain air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter that can cause diseases.

GLORIA RAUT, Department of Health 11 senior health program
officer https://youtu.be/sYEf_t1585w

But aside from the airline industry, expected to be affected as well is the agricultural industry.
Maria FebeOrbe, Department of Agriculture (DA) Davao assistant regional director, said that according to studies haze can adversely affect the plants’ growth including agricultural crops.She said that considering that haze is a pollutant made of dust, soot, ash which can settle on plant leaves, its deposits will interfere the photosynthetic activity of the plant due to reduction of sunlight’s penetration to the crop”.

Add to that, she said, there are perceptions that haze can suppress rainfall.
“Due to the presence of aerosols which result to more clouds containing smaller droplets and are less likely to release rain,” she explained.

With this, Orbe feared that crops needing water to yield optimally will suffer reduction of production levels.
The agriculture department said that the crop that is most likely to be affected is rice especially those planted in non-irrigated lands.

For now, the Department of Agriculture could however not gauge as to whether there is a concrete damage to crops due to haze as early as now.

They are however considering the possibility of decrease in production levels. Orbe said they are already gearing up if such happens.

The Pagasa is uncertain as to when the haze will clear out in the region and the rest of the country but they assured that it will disappear soon.