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Villar Foundation bags UN award | The Philippine Star News Headlines.


Members of the Sagip-Ilog team use backhoes on barges to remove garbage along Las Piñas-Zapote River as part of the Villar Foundation dredging operations to prevent flooding in the area. Photo by Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Villar Foundation put the Philippines in the international spotlight once again when it bagged the prestigious United Nations Best Practices Award in recognition of its efforts to protect water resources in the country, and at the same time provide livelihood to hundreds of needy Filipinos.The Villar Foundation’s “Sagip Ilog” program bested 38 other countries for the award, as it met the criteria of substantially contributing to the improvement of the living environment on a sustainable basis, especially to the living conditions of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups; institutional frameworks and the sustainable management of water.

Villar Foundation’s founding chairman Sen. Manny Villar and wife Cynthia, former congressional representative of the lone district of Las Piñas and prime mover of Sagip Ilog, received the coveted award in Zaragosa, Spain during a special ceremony on World Water Day on Tuesday.

They were awarded for the category “Best Water Management Practices.”

The UN award-giving body promotes efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water-related issues by 2015 through recognition of outstanding best practices that can ensure the long-term sustainable management of water resources and contribute to the achievement of internationally agreed goals and targets.

This year, the award put special focus on the topic “Urban Water Management,” the primary thrust of the Sagip Ilog program.

Sagip Ilog first gained international recognition in 2006, when it was conferred the “Best Practice Award for its Outstanding Contribution Towards Improving the Living Environment” by the UN Humans Settlement Program and the Dubai International Award.

Since then, Sagip Ilog and the Villar Foundation earned several more prestigious tributes from international award-giving groups, including the AOIKOS International Award for Social Enterprise from River Rehabilitation and the International Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice presented by the Green Organization.

“SagipIlog is more than just a river rehabilitation program, it is an integrated system accompanied by several livelihood projects. Through years of involvement in community-building and the propagation of environmental projects, one major learning is that for the programs to be sustainable and successful, it should engage residents of the community and the best way to get them involved is to allow them to earn livelihood from their efforts,” said Cynthia Villar, who has devoted more than nine years in developing these green social enterprises.

The Sagip Ilog program is aimed at cleaning up the Las Piñas-Zapote River and addressing the worsening flood problem, which had been attributed to accumulated garbage as well as proliferation of water hyacinths (water lily) that clog the waterways.

Over the years, it has evolved into various comprehensive green social enterprises such as water hyacinth weaving, hand loom blanket weaving and the coconut coir and peat enterprise.

These green social enterprises encompass environment protection, waste management, livelihood opportunities, and even cultural promotion through the resulting products, such as handicrafts from water lilies and lanterns from bamboo.

Veritably hitting two birds with one stone, Villar also addressed the problem of water lilies by turning it into a livelihood program for residents of Las Piñas. Now, hundreds of Las Piñas residents earn a decent living by making baskets, trays, slippers and other functional and decorative items out of water lilies.

“This award is a testament to the foundation’s commitment not just to protect the environment, especially rivers and waterways, but at the same time provide livelihood to hundreds of poor Filipinos,” said Sen. Villar.

A non-stock, non-profit organization, the Villar Foundation was established in 1995. Aside from environmental protection, Villar Foundation’s advocacies and projects include OFW assistance, tree planting, development of culture and arts, health and social services, entrepreneurship and charities, as well as other poverty-reduction projects.

UN human rights experts study more than 200 cases of forced disappearances

UN human rights experts study more than 200 cases of forced disappearances.

Jeremy Sarkin, chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [file photo]

21 March 2011 – The United Nations human rights experts tasked with assisting families determine the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives examined over 200 cases during its recent session held in Mexico City, and is now conducting a mission to learn about Mexico’s efforts in dealing with the issue.

During its 15-18 March session, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances studied cases concerning Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Republic of Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Egypt, Georgia, India, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Yemen.

The five independent human rights experts also reviewed responses from various governments to its letters and appeals, and held meetings with representatives of Japan and Guatemala, as well as consultations with family members of disappeared persons and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

In addition, it examined allegations submitted by NGOs regarding obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and decided to transmit general allegations to various concerned governments.

Since its creation in 1980, the working group has dealt with more than 50,000 cases in 80 countries. By opening channels of communication between the families and governments concerned, it seeks to ensure that individual cases are investigated and to clarify the whereabouts of persons who have disappeared.

The group continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved. Its five expert members serve in their individual capacities, and not as representatives of their governments.

Immediately following its session, the group started an official visit to Mexico to learn about the country’s efforts in dealing with the issue of enforced disappearances. During the 18-31 March mission, the experts will collect information which may lead to the clarification of outstanding cases of enforced disappearances that occurred in the country.

The UN expert body will examine the phenomenon of enforced disappearance, the status of the investigations of old and recent cases and the steps taken to prevent and eradicate enforced disappearances.

It will also look at what is being done to combat impunity, as well as other issues concerning truth, justice and reparations for victims of enforced disappearances.

The fact-finding mission will be carried out by three of the group’s experts – Jasminka Dzumhur, Osman El-Hajjé and Ariel Dulitzky – and a report on the visit will be presented to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in 2012.

The other experts are Jeremy Sarkin, who serves as Chair-Rapporteur, and Olivier de Frouville.