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‘Malicious’ newspapers barred from int’l summit

/ 08:58 PM May 28, 2012

Newspapers with “malicious reports” against the Iloilo City government and an international summit on rivers will be barred from the summit venue, according to Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.

The the city government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are holding the First International River Summit on May 30 to June 1. The summit will gather experts and representatives from local governments, nongovernment organizations, private sector and the academe from Australia, Korea, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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But the move would not violate press freedom, Mabilog said.

“We have no reason to allow these publications. These will be confiscated because these are obviously meant to discredit the city and the summit,” Mabilog told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Sunday.

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He said the “malicious reports” were part of a “selfish political agenda of someone who has plans to run for public office in 2013.”

The mayor did not identify the newspapers and those behind them saying that “everybody knows what I am referring to.”

Mabilog has filed libel cases, including a P115-million suit, against the Iloilo-based newspaper The News Today (TNT) for reports alleging anomalies and corruption in government projects and organizations linked to him.

TNT is owned by businessman Rommel Ynion who is being touted as a mayoral candidate in next year’s elections.

Mabilog’s spokespersons have also repeatedly lambasted another Iloilo-based newspaper, Panay News, for allegedly being biased and publishing malicious reports.

But Junep Ocampo, TNT editor and one of those charged in the P115-million libel case, said in an earlier interview that the case against them, with the amount being sought in damages, was meant to harass his newspaper to stop it from publishing critical reports against Mabilog and the city administration.

Mabilog said the newspapers he was referring to would be barred only at the summit venue at Eon Centennial Convention Center in Jaro District.

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The summit will have parallel discussions on river basin governance, biodiversity management and ecotourism, climate change and disaster risk reduction, and water quality and water resources management.

President Aquino is scheduled to be the summit’s main guest on June 1, Mabilog said.

The Iloilo River, the city’s main tributary, is undergoing rehabilitation and development under a comprehensive program initiated by the multiagency Iloilo River Development Council. The measures include clearing the river of obstructions.

But groups including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the project was focusing more on beautification and river tourism rather than resolving the river’s pollution problems.

They cited the lack of political will to crack down on hospitals, restaurants and other business establishment which lack waste and water facilities and which they blamed for the river’s pollution.

The groups also cited the project’s impact on small fisherfolk who were dependent on the Iloilo River for their livelihood.

The river serves as a source of livelihood for fisherfolk and as a habitat and nursery of many important fish species. It is home to 22 of the country’s 35 mangrove species.

Mabilog said members of militant groups could participate in the discussions in the summit but would be barred from holding protest actions including rallies at the venue.

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TAGS: Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, First International River Summit, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Iloilo River Development Council, The News Today
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