While massaging my injured calf muscle, I came upon a blog about the history of the Clean & Green Foundation which is the main sponsor of the past 8 editions of the Pasig River Heritage International Marathon. Before coming up with my critique with the last Sunday’s Philippine International Marathon: A Run For The River, I think my readers and those “newbies” in this Marathon Race should know the history of the Clean & Green Foundation that started the Pasig River Marathon Race and its advocacy.
I hope that the ABS-CBN Foundation would be transparent enough to inform the public if they received some assets or funds from the defunct Clean & Green Foundation or open their “books” since the Foundation took the responsibility of cleaning the Pasig River.
Enjoy reading the following article.
(Source: C&GFI Blogsite @ www.cleanandgreenfoundation.wordpress.com)
THE CLEAN & GREEN FOUNDATION INC. CLOSING DOWN????
On the Labor and Organizational Problems
Presently besetting the Clean & Green Foundation, Incorporated
Prepared by the Clean & Green Foundation Incorporated Employees Union
02 April 2008
In January 1994, the Clean & Green Foundation was created with then first lady Amelita M. Ramos as founder and chairperson. The board of trustees were initially composed of industry leaders and famous persons to be personally close to her. Joining Mrs Ramos in the board were then Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation bigwig Ricardo S. Pascua, Aurora Arnaez of the Social Security System, Jaime Paredes of Apo Hiking Society, Doris Teresa Magsaysay-Ho of Magsaysay Shipping, among others. The board was later to be joined by Angel Ramos-Jones and Ms Boots Anson-Roa. Ms Roa would later resign from the Board. First gentleman Attorney Jose Miguel Arroyo was a one-time honorary chairperson.
In its incorporation papers filed before the Securities and Exchange Commission (Numbered ANO94-000388), the Foundation declared that its first objective is to “Formulate, initiate, undertake, promote, sponsor, assist, finance projects, programs, activities to cleanse, improve, rehabilitate and develop the environment, and to maintain the environment in a clean, healthy and sanitary state.” It also declared that “The Term for which the Foundation is to exist is 50 years…”
The Foundation’s first project was The Orchidarium, a garden in Rizal Park. In an agreement with the National Parks Development Committee, an underdeveloped hectare was loaned at no cost to the organization to develop and operate as an orchid garden. It then became a private garden where visitors have to buy tickets to enter. Functions such as wedding receptions are charged P30,000 for use of the garden. Grants from private companies were used to enhance the garden.
In March 1995, the River Rehabilitation Secretariat of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources gave the Foundation a one million peso seed money to operate Piso Para sa Pasig. PPP was originally a project of the RRS-DENR. Its first objective was to raise fifty million pesos as trust fund for succeeding Pasig River rehabilitation advocacy projects.
Through high profile income-generating projects and activities such as vanity car plates, concerts, grants, collection cans, among others, PPP was able to raise forty million pesos in cash and about ten million pesos worth of donations in kind (oil paintings, Persian rugs, vehicles, free office space, and many others.) The proceeds were deposited into two trust funds (a peso and a dollar fund account) with then Far East Bank and Trust Company and later was transferred to the Bank of Philippine Islands when the latter took over the former. It was originally planned that only their interests and incomes were to be used as operation and project funds of the CGFI.
No doubt, Mrs Ramos’ status as first lady was instrumental in the fund-generating PPP project. Even without being asked, some companies would call up the CGFI office to inform the secretariat that checks were ready for pick up. But it can not be denied that humble Filipinos, school children, common pedestrians, professionals, workers, the faithful in various churches, and many others contributed to the fund through the many ubiquitous donation cans distributed everywhere. They all believed their monies would be properly spent for the rehabilitation of the Pasig River. C&GFI never disabused the public of this belief. Even Foundation employees believed this pitch.
From 1997, when the PPP fund-raising period ended, to 2005, the Foundation indeed spent its incomes, the interests from the funds and parts of the principal amounts to various river rehabilitation advocacy programs. Among these were a Pasig River painting contest, an essay and cartooning contest with student publications, an annual concert, an annual symposium attended by various stakeholders, the Pasig River Heritage Marathon which was first in 2000 and later later became the International Philippine for the Pasig River, among many others.
But breaking from its declared modus operandi, the Foundation used part of the funds to buy two solid waste collecting boats that easily cost 15 million pesos in all. The boats have been turned over the MMDA but is now gathering rust behind Malacañang Palace because the government does not have funds to operate them. The Foundation also spent for the enhancement of Roxas Boulevard in time for the APEC Meeting in the country during President Fidel Ramos’ term. CGFI also spent for the enhancement of at least two bridges spanning the Pasig as part of its Project Bridges that benefitted nine of the existing 13 bridges of the river.
Mainly because corporate sponsorships have dried up after the Ramos administration, money was harder to come by starting from 1998. In 2005, CGFI president Ricardo Pascua said that C&GFI’s may only have another five years if belts were not tightened and expenses far outweigh the income generated. Mrs Ramos then recommended a retiree from International School to join C&GFI as Finance and Administration Manager—Estrella Villegas – primarily, as Mrs Ramos said, “to fix the figures.” Curiously, the “fixer” was allowed to collect more monetary benefits that if computed along with her basic salary are more than what the executive directors received. More employees were also hired to assist Ms Villegas. Their inclusions among the employees were therefore not belt-tightening measures.
In the years 2004 to 2006, CGFI failed to properly report its finances to the SEC and was adjudged “delinquent” by the Commission.
Still, CGFI was losing money from its various projects such as the marathon, The Orchidarium, and the National Ecolabelling Program-Green Choice Philippines-which it is implementing in behalf of the DENR and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Mainly through the efforts of former executive director Imelda P. Sarmiento, grants were approved to turn around the organization’s financial bleeding. From Nokia, the Orchidarium was given 5.33 million pesos. From Mitsui Company of Japan, CGFI’s Trees4Life program would receive a total of 18 million pesos—7.8 million pesos of which was already received. From Cemex Corporation, Green Choice received 1.5 million pesos. Around the same amount was separately received from Unilever Philippines and Pride Detergents for Green Choice. Four million was received from Samsung for the marathon. Three hundred thousand pesos was received from Ford Motors for Trees4Life. Another million was received from the DTI for Green Choice and another three million is expected.
In June 2004, Senator Ramon Magsaysay pledged 1.5 million pesos for the Orchidarium from his PDAF. Because the end-beneficiary was an NGO, the fund was coursed through the City Government of Manila. In November 2005, the full amount was given to CGFI. Ms Villegas spent a few hundred thousand pesos to repair leaky roofs at the Orchidarium but majority of the amount was invested in the money market.
In July 2007, Mr Pascua unceremoniously fired Ms Sarmiento as executive director. Ms Sarmiento is contesting the move as illegal dismissal. CGFI offered to settle for practically twice the amount of her original separation pay but Ms Sarmiento turned it down, insisting on a public apology from the board as part of the deal.
In the period between July 2007 to January 2008, Ms Villegas, as officer in charge of the CGFI secretariat caused the dismissal of orchid consultant Jun Golamco, project director Norby Bautista, project director Raymund Villanueva and other rank and file employees, all of whom she perceive to be loyal to Ms Sarmiento. Ms Villegas also threatened to decrease the wages and benefits of the rank and file employees befitting their status as gardeners, security guards and messengers. All of the employees thus threatened were vocally loyal to Ms Sarmiento who believe her dismissal was unjust.
On 3 November 2007 the rank and file employees organized the Clean & Green Foundation Incorporated Employees Association as a reaction to Ms Villegas and Mr Pascua’s decisions regarding their rights and employment. It was promptly federated with the Association of Democratic Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment. The union also promptly asked Mrs Ramos and the rest of the board for a meeting. They were turned down and ignored each time by Mrs Ramos, Ms Ho and Mr Pascua.
On 25 January 2008, dismissed project director Raymund Villanueva filed an illegal dismissal case against Mrs Ramos and Mr Pascua before the National Labor Relations Commission.
On 9 January 2008, the new executive director, presumably acting in behalf of the board and Ms Villegas, categorically stated that the only way CGFI would be prevented from closing down is for the union to dissolve itself. Various forms of harassments to apply pressure on the union to do just this to no avail, led by the likes of project director June M. Alvarez and others.
On 21 January 2008, Mrs Ramos resigned as chairperson and member of the board.
On 26 February 2008, Mr Pascua informed DOLE of the board’s intention to dissolve CGFI because of Mrs Ramos’ resignation from the Clean and Green Foundation, Inc. Effective date was 31 March 2008.
On 7 March 2008, the union filed a union busting case against the board before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board of the DOLE. They believe that the reason cited by Mr Pascua was “in bad faith” and that the real reason was to bust the union. They said that the foundation does not cease to exist with the resignation of a board member. There have been three hearings so far.
On 31 March 2008 the Clean and Green Foundation is already effective close to the public and other transactions.
For CGFI to close shop after it learned of the formation of the union and after failing to influence it to dissolve itself is clearly union busting;
The CGFI board of directors are eminent persons in Philippine society while they are violating the most basic rights of humble persons such as clerks, gardeners, drivers, messengers and guards;
CGFI can not just close shop without accounting for the public funds awarded to it by the government, such as the River Rehabilitation Secretation seed money, the Ecolabelling budget from the DTI, the PDAF grant from Senator Magsaysay that it kept in the banks instead of using it.
CGFI must also justify why it is abandoning its Pasig River rehabilitation advocacy when it led millions of Filipinos to believe that their Piso Para sa Pasig was for this cause.
CGFI must account for the hundred million pesos it was able to amass during its 13-year run.
CGFI must face the illegal dismissal labor charges filed against them.