Monday, October 27, 2014

Mayon behavior very tricky -- lady volcanologist

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The current restiveness of Mount Mayon is considered by a lady scientist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) as the trickiest within a period of 50 years.

“It’s very tricky for us and anytime soon, the Mayon volcano could change because magma is there and pre-positioned already,” Ma. Antonia V. Bornas, chief of volcano monitoring and eruption prediction division, said on Sunday.

Bornas said their study showed that the magma beneath the volcano is not only ascending towards the conduit but also expanding in the volcano’s base called magma dike, causing the surface inflation to accommodate bigger volume of magma buildup.

So, the volcanologist said, they cannot bring down the alert level status of Mayon from level 3 to level 2 because the magma is there already and anytime soon, it will explode.

“So we need to make our best judgment as scientists just like what sir Ed Laguerta said,” Bornas explained.

In 2001, the lava dome showed up for five months before an explosion took place. But before the explosion took place, Bornas said, an oozing lava trickled down the slopes of the volcano; subsequently a big bang followed where a deadly pyroclastic flow as hot as 1,200 degrees Celsius rolled down.

“While in the sky, a 10 to 12-kilometer high cauliflower-type ash clouds rocketed and blanketed the province in broad daylight, causing apprehension among the residents living near the foot of Mayon,” she added.

Laguerta, Phivolcs senior resident volcanologist in Bicol, earlier on Saturday said it was very dangerous to interpret on a day-to-day basis the behavior of Mayon as the pressure within the volcano may go sky-high, with the magma being on the verge of the crater rim.

“Once the magma’s static pressure becomes stronger than the tihostastic pressure—meaning, magmatic pressure should overcome the lithostatic pressure or the confining pressure -- this will lead to explosion,” Laguerta said.

Unlike the typhoon or pregnant woman whose due date or landfall is easily predicted, the volcano eruption is like an earthquake that could not be determined as it may happen even without precursor, claimed the veteran volcanologist who has spent most of his time and career monitoring Mayon’s daily activities.

With this, Laguerta reiterated to the public to stay away from the six to 8-km extended danger zone to prevent untoward incident should Mayon explode.

He also asked the public to listen only to the authorities as to the advisory regarding the restive situation of Mayon as even without alert level the volcano could erupt without warning.

Laguerta’s timely warnings on the activities of Mayon have saved the lives of thousands of Albayanos in the past eruptions of Mayon.

A few impatient individuals, however, have questioned the scientifically-based warnings of the Phivolcs official who has explained that whatever bulletin comes out daily from the agency its the cumulative report of the heads and representatives of the various departments and units composed of experienced and expert scientists.(PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/PJN

DOLE gives out Php 9.3-M livelihood assistance to poor beneficiaries in Catanduanes towns

LEGAZPI CITYY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has granted funds worth Php 9.3 million in livelihood project assistance to poor beneficiaries in seven municipalities of the island-province of Catanduanes.

DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra on Saturday said the grants were turned over to the municipal governments of Virac, the provincial capital, which received a total of Php 3.6 million; San Andres, Php 1.5 million; Viga, Php 1.48 million; Bato, Php 1.43 million; Panganiban, Php 653,491; Gigmoto, Php 480,000; and Pandan, Php 166,250.

The Virac local government unit (LGU) will use the amount to finance fishermen’s fish cage projects as well as in peanut production and processing projects by farmers.

Both projects will benefit a total of 545 poor families, according to Lacambra.

The San Andres LGU, on the other hand, is using the grant to fund its Integrated Project for People Empowerment through Enriched Resources (IPPETER) involving 250 beneficiaries while Viga will acquire 80 units of pedicab to be distributed to an equal number of pre-identified recipients under its Padyak Pangkabuhayan project.

The Bato LGU has allotted the fund to the provision of farm inputs to be distributed to 160 farmers in support of their farm productivity projects; Panganiban LGU for its crab modular cage production involving 108 beneficiaries; Gigmoto, for the acquisition of 20 brand-new diesel-fed fishing boat engines for 80 fishermen; and Pandan, for a fish processing and recyclable scrap materials trading involving 40 beneficiaries.

Lacambara said the total amount of Php 9.324 million granted to Catanduanes LGUs came from DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (DILEEP) and Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP).

The DILEEP is the DOLE's contribution to the governments' agenda of inclusive growth through massive job generation and substantial poverty reduction and reduce the vulnerability to risks of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized workers.

It particularly seeks to contribute to the Aquino administration’s intention of reducing poverty among the vulnerable and marginalized workers through transitional emergency employment and promotion of entrepreneurship and community enterprises.

Formerly known as the Bottom Up Budgeting (BuB), GPBP being applied by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is a somewhat modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

It seeks to make the national budget more responsive to local needs, provide incentives for local good governance, strengthen the devolution of basic services delivery, create a conducive environment for people’s participation and generate demand for good governance at the local level.

This scheme also provides the opportunity for grantees to be involved in setting their own goals and expectations for a given financial period and gives them ownership of the decisions, motivating them to meet budgetary constraints that otherwise might seem unattainable or unrealistic if they were delivered by someone without as much understanding of their day-to-day operations.

All the 11 municipalities of Catanduanes are qualified to received such grant. However, Lacambra said the three other towns -- Bagamanoc, Baras and Caramoran -- were unable to submit their project proposals and other requirements on time, thus, their delayed inclusion in the fund releases.

The DOLE regional chief though has assured that these remaining three LGUs will get their shares once the requirements are satisfied.

He said the distribution of the checks representing the grants was done in time with the jobs fair organized by the DOLE Catanduanes field office in collaboration with the provincial government as part of the events during the province’s holding of Catandungan Festival last week.

The jobs fair was participated in by 15 big private firms which offered more than 2,000 vacancies, where 245 of the 512 local applicants were qualified for hiring with 44 hired on the spot, Lacambra said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes’ lone congressional district disclosed that the national government’s 2015 Php 2.606-trillion budget includes huge allocation for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that would provide job opportunities for Catandunganons and enhance the local economy.

Among these projects, he said in a statement reaching here Saturday, are the Php 170-million improvement of the Virac airport -- consisting of the Php 130-million asphalt overlay project for the runway and Php 40 million for the refurbishing of the airport terminal.

These projects, according to Sarmiento, are in line with the government’s initiatives for inclusive growth through the promotion of the tourism industry of the province that is confronted by four key issues -- power reliability, health services, education and employment -- insofar as its economic development is concerned.

Viable solutions are now being explored to address these issues, anyway, he added, citing that on the supply of electricity, the National Power Corp. (NPC) has already sent in to the province three generator sets each with a capacity of 1,000 kilowatts.

These new generator units, Sarmiento said, are part of NPC’s efforts to improve its Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) program that provides electricity to island-communities that are isolated from the country’s main power grids.

It is part of the agency’s mission to not only energize the remotest islands in the country but also to improve its facilities to better serve the customers by way of minimizing power outages in off-grid areas, he added.(PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DSWD says Bicol has Php 4.5-B anti-poverty fund until 2018 from Aquino administration
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- Bicol, one of the country’s poorest regions, has been allotted by the national government fresh funds amounting to Php 4.5 billion to finance a poverty-alleviation program that will run even beyond the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

This fund allocation is in continuation of efforts being exerted by the Aquino administration to free the region from the bondage of extreme poverty, Arnel Garcia, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional director here, said on Saturday.

These efforts, he said, have been proving effective as from 36.5 percent in 2009, the region was able to trim down its rate of poverty incidence among families to 34.1 percent in 2012 and climbed to the seventh from fourth poorest among the country’s 17 regions as recently reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

The region was ranked fourth poorest in the first semesters of 2006 and 2009. In 2012, it has overtaken, in terms of ranking the Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Central Mindanao and Caraga regions.

This Bicol gain in poverty alleviation was distributed among four of the region’s six provinces, with Camarines Norte registering the highest reduction in poverty incidence among families from 32.4 percent in 2009 to 24.7 percent in 2012; followed by the island-province of Masbate, 49.8 to 44.2 percent; Camarines Sur, 37.2 to 33.5 percent; and Sorsogon, 34.3 to 32.1 percent.

Albay and Catanduanes, on the other hand, posted increases at 36.1 percent in 2012 from 33.9 percent in 2009 and 27.1 percent from 20.3 percent during the same period respectively, NSCB records show.

Each of Bicol’s provinces is given equitable shares in this new fund allotment for anti-poverty projects this year up to 2018 under the National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP) being implemented by his office through the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive-Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI CIDSS), Garcia said.

Camarines Sur, according to him, gets the biggest share in the amount of Php 1.888 billion, followed by Masbate, Php 941.078 million; Sorsogon, Php 657.173 million; Camarines Norte, Php 459.157 million; Albay, Php 304.884 million; and Catanduanes, Php 247.146 million -- for a total of around Php 4.5 billion.

The amount that Albay is getting, he said, is over and above the Php 211 million received by the provincial government early this year for its being chosen as one of the three pilot provinces nationwide in the provincial local government unit (PLGU)-led implementation of the KALAHI-CIDSS, which is a scaled-up mode from its municipality-based approach.

Albay was chosen as pilot province in the KALAHI-CIDSS-PLGU Engagement program, along with Leyte and Compostela Valley, for its being consistent with its support to the CIDDS implementation.

This support, Garcia said, was by way of providing Php 36.1-million in local equity to the Php 191.6-million investment provided to it by the national government from the very start of the program way back in 2003, Garcia said.

For the KALAHI-CIDSS-PLGU Engagement program, the province provided an amount of Php 75 million in counterpart to add up to the Php 100 million funding granted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the DSWD.

An additional amount of Php 36 million was also provided as counterpart of the six municipalities — Oas, Polangui, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Tiwi and Manito -- with each providing Php 6 million, being recipients of the projects funded by the program.

These municipalities were chosen into the program based on their location, poverty incidence, good housekeeping, active linkages and logistical readiness, Garcia explained.

The NCDDP, he said, scales up the community-driven development (CDD) strategy, which was proven effective in the past 11 years of KALAHI-CIDSS implementation in the Philippines.

CDD is a strategy that puts the power back in the hands of the people by giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions on locally identified options for development and manage resources to implement sub-projects that address needs identified by communities themselves.

Under this approach, community members consensually decide on what type of poverty-reduction projects they need for funding.

Under the supervision of the DSWD, KALAHI-CIDSS has been implemented in all six provinces of the Bicol Region since 2003, addressing the most pressing need of a village with the collaborative efforts of local residents and their local government units (LGUs).

Common projects include: public goods or access projects such as pathways, farm-to-market roads, health centers, water systems, day care centers and school buildings; community enterprise projects such as solar dryers, fishery, rice mills and community markets.

From 48 municipalities, NCDDP is expanding the program coverage in Bicol to 101 out of the total of 107 municipalities in the region from 2014 to 2018.

This year, 92 municipalities are implementing projects under it and the remaining nine towns will do the same in the succeeding years, Garcia said.

Start of the implementation of the program was formalized during its recent launch here highlighted by the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the DSWD and mayors of the 101 municipalities.

After the signing ceremonies, they released balloons as a symbol of rise from poverty and stamped their hand prints on the commitment board with the project’s tagline, “Kaya natin ang pagbabago kapag magkakapit-bisig tayo (We can achieve reforms if we have our arms linked)!” (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

PCA validates Sorsogon nursery as source of seedlings for export quality cacao beans
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has validated the huge cacao nursery established by the COOP NATCCO Partylist here as source of quality seedlings that could produce superior cacao beans for export.

The validation is required by international buyers, Vladimir Frivaldo, the project coordinator, told the Philippine News Agency on Saturday.

The validation team, headed by PCA’s Belen Ruiz and accompanied by Kennemer Foods International (KFI) representative Mervin Estolinio, inspected over the weekend the nursery located in a two-hectare lot at Barangay Macabog that is now in the process of producing over one million high-quality cacao seedlings, Frivaldo said.

These seedlings will be distributed to farmers to jump-start the massive production of the high-value crop in the province under the contract-growing program introduced by Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo in partnership with KFI, a foreign-invested agri-business operating in the Philippines whose specialization is the trade and export of cocoa.

“We are using in our propagation root stock and graft scions supplied by KFI under a partnership deal with the COOP NATCCO Partylist and the South Luzon Federation of Cooperatives (SLFC),” Frivaldo said.

In the contract-growing operation, participating farmers and cooperatives will be provided with planting materials, technology, training and a guaranteed buy-back of harvest linked to world prices.

The program is also being implemented in partnership with the regional offices for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and PCA which will provide technologies in cacao intercropping with coconut and pili.

The DA’s Regional Integrated Agricultural Research System Training Center (RIARTC), on the other hand, will equip farmer-cooperators with new technologies on cacao growing and processing through training.

Such training falls under DA’s application of Republic Act No. 7900 or the High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995 that allots funds for providing assistance for production, marketing, and processing of cacao and other high-value crops to steer farmers towards generating more income.

In DA's High-Value Commercial Crops Program (HVCDP) formulated and now ongoing implementation in line with this Act, various forms of assistance to producers concerning crop insurance, credit, postharvest facilities, good seeds and planting materials and fiscal incentives are also provided.

Under the contract-growing scheme, farmers are guaranteed additional income estimated at Php 60,000 per hectare by producing quality-grade fermented dry cacao beans from about 500 trees per hectare.

Frivaldo said the program is seen to revitalize the cacao industry of the country with Sorsogon and Bicol region playing a vital role, given the region’s climatic appropriateness for the same crop.

The DA said Bicol’s climatic conditions and soil characteristics support cocoa growing and the agency is taking advantage of these in increasing interest in production among local farmers by way of training them on latest technology and informing them on the local and international demand for cocoa products, whose world prices have been constantly favorable.

The tropical weather and volcanic soil in the region is suitable for cacao farming but, unfortunately, this important high-value commercial crop has not been given due importance by Bicolano farmers in the past, thus, the COOP NATCCO initiative, Frivaldo said.

Through this initiative, he said, cacao would come as another sunshine industry of the region -- next to abaca, coconut and pili.

The promise of good income from this crop now occupies the interest of Bicolano farmers and farm owners owing to an intensive campaign of COOP NATCCO and DA to promote its benefits both in terms of economic and health gains.

So far, he said, agencies involved in this undertaking have already been able to develop warm acceptance of the smallholder cacao production approach among farmers who have renewed their interest and willingness to collaborate for the promotion of sustainable cacao production.

Apart from these, he said, the DA is identifying more suitable areas in Bicol for cacao production, and maximizing the presence of markets that could be organized into workable production-market system.

Bicol is highly suitable for growing and producing quality cacao beans which is seen to be a lucrative agri-business enterprise, considering the strong domestic market and established access to export markets, according to Frivaldo.

Widely called as the “foods for the gods,” cacao bean is a major agricultural commodity traded worldwide with the reported health benefits of dark chocolate as the main driver in current market growth.

Studies say chocolate and cocoa derive their health benefits from flavonoids, which are plant pigments capable of acting as antioxidants to counteract some of the cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow in humans.

In a national scene, Frivaldo said, cacao production in the Philippines yielded an estimated 5,000 metric tons (MT) of beans in 2007 and could possibly reach 100,000 MT in 2020, provided that good and quality beans are produced. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Legazpi works for more after series of national recognitions for excellence (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

EGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -– On the surface, this city’s familiar landscape shadowed by the beautiful looks of Mt. Mayon does not make it a distinct Philippine metropolis.

Two other Albay cities—Ligao and Tabaco -- share the same profile blended with imposing new and old-fashioned buildings that rise against a scenery of stunning agricultural and forested fields.

Judging from these looks, however, could be deceiving as the extraordinary trademark of governance distinguishes this city from its typical counterparts.

The city is one of the few places in the country where its mayor, without bodyguards in tow, moves around to attend to the needs of his constituents even in the wee hours of the night when his chief of police is already in deep slumber.

It is one of the few local government units (LGUs) run by a mayor who personally supervises public works, directs traffic, helps in clean-up drives, run for physical fitness with people from all walks of life and visits barangays to consult with villagers and community leaders on their pressing needs.

This is also home of a sweeping law that forbids tobacco use in places other than private abodes; an ordinance that religiously enforces solid waste management; guaranteed clean air quality; sea waters classified as among the cleanest in the country; and best-maintained tourism attractions, making it known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure.”

The city sits at northeastern tip of the Bicol, a region at the southern end of Luzon whose precious geothermal resources, fertile soils, abundant minerals and huge fishing grounds have been failing to supplement majority of its people towards a living above the poverty line.

Plagued by a high unemployment rate placed by statistics authorities at 7.5 percent, based on latest surveys and a 34.1-percent poverty incidence among families, Bicol is seventh in the ranking of most impoverished among the country’s 17 regions.

Legazpi, is a second class city based on the 2008 income classification of the Department of Finance (DOF). With a population of 182,201 as per survey conducted in 2010, it is Bicol’s largest and most populous urban locality.

Serving as the regional administrative center, the city is also considered as Bicol’s center of tourism, education, health services, commerce and transportation.

According to the DOF rating, the city’s leap from being a third-class to second-class status in terms of income and services was engineered by Mayor Noel Rosal, who has institutionalized public accountability, transparency, service and sound fiscal management in his governance.

He also worked on massive urban development, vigorous tourism promotion, hands-on peace and public safety measures and community resilience against disasters through effective risk reduction management.

This management style that realized incomparable impacts in favor of the local economy described by the influx of investments, tourist arrivals, infrastructure developments and agricultural productivity, among others, did not only make the city one of the most livable in the country today but also among the most awarded for its excellence in local governance.

Those gains have transformed the place from just a sleepy fishing settlement originally called Sawangan that occupied what is now the Legazpi Port District, whose inhabitants were mostly fishermen and farmers, to a sparkling metropolis which now occupies a very prominent place in the tourism world.

And since the tourism growth the city has achieved over several years of back-breaking works enlivens trade and commerce, the local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities have gone broader and more fortified.

In 2006, Legazpi City was recognized as one of the “most competitive cities in the Philippines” by the Asian Institute of Management and cited in 2011 as the “most business-friendly city” for South Luzon by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In the same year, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), then under the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, also named the city as Bicol’s “most business-friendly local government unit,” citing its effectiveness and efficiency in paving the way for the place to become haven of investments.

Early this year, the city government won another Seal of Good Housekeeping—the second awarded by the DILG since this kind of recognition for excellence in the field of good governance measured by administrative, social, economic, environmental and other forms achievements that benefited both the community and its constituents -- was introduced in 2011.

It was followed by an award given by the National Disaster risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC) and the Department of National Defense (DND) last March, which honored the city government as last year’s national champion in the Gawad Kalasag Awards.

Just this month, the city government was awarded three more national championship accolades that came in a row within a week's time—the Most Livable City Award, Galing Pook Award and Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) Award for excellence in the implementation of Public Governance System (PGS).

The Livable City Award was the result of this year’s Livable Cities Design Challenge organized by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 National Organizing Council NOC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction (ASSURE) and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The Galing Pook Award was given by the Galing Pook Foundation in recognition of the city government’s excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The SGT Awards was from the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA), a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform their policymaking process and bureaucratic structure.

“While we take pride in winning all these awards, citations and recognitions, we always maintain humility and prudence in carrying out the daily operations of the city government. We use these accolades as our inspiration to work more and achieve more for a more vibrant city,” Rosal told the Philippine News Agency on Sunday.

Asked if he is already contented with what his administration has achieved, the city mayor said: “We have not even reached the halfway of our journey. We want to win top spots in the country’s tourist destinations and convention capitals rankings and pursue more developments to further make the city the best in this part of the world.”

Nonetheless, he added, the city is booming with all the big investments, tourism growth, urban development, disaster risk reduction efforts, peace and security guarantee, impressive delivery of local government services and sound environmental management, among others, that are summed up as a reward that Legazpeños deserve for being a people of distinction. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC

A debate is on: Cagsawa buried under lava or abandoned for ruin (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, Oct. 26 (PNA) –- Vintage photographs that tend to disprove teachings about Cagsawa Ruins have surfaced, stirring a debate whether Cagsawa Church was indeed buried under lava or abandoned for ruin.

History books have taught many Filipinos that the church built after 1724 by Franciscan friars in the former small town of Cagsawa was engulfed by volcanic debris spewed by Mayon Volcano when it recorded it strongest eruption on Feb. 1, 1814, killing around 1,200 people who sought refuge in it.

The same historical accounts say that only the bell tower of the church was left standing on the surface protruding from the ground following that massive eruption described by volcanologists as of Plenian type characterized as ejection of massive amount of pumice and extremely powerful gas blast eruptions.

Until today the belfry stands to become the most photographed tourist attraction in Albay with the imposing perfect cone shape of Mayon’s edifice at the backdrop, owing to its harrowing history as described by old teachings.

Old photographs of Cagsawa church recently made public over the social media by multi-awarded Filipino novelist, historian and poet laureate Abdon Balde Jr., however. stirred a hornet’s nest into sparking an emotional debate.

Balde is currently a member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and director of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (Writers' Union of the Philippines).

In his Facebook posts, Balde, 68, who presently works as consultant to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, said that “as seen from the 30s, this was what was left after the 1814 Mayon eruption that devastated the town of Cagsawa,” referring to one of the photographs.

“As existing photographs would put it, the already unstable facade of the structure probably collapsed in the 1950s, leaving the bell tower as the most prominent structure in the complex ruins. The remnants of the toppled facade may still be found scattered in the area,” he said.

Contrary to claims implanted on many people’s belief by historical write-ups citing Cagsawa church was buried under volcanic debris during the 1814 eruptions, Balde said there was no significant flow of lava or lahar.

“The church’s combustible materials were burned. The bell tower stood because it has a massive base and no combustible material. The rubble of the fallen façade are right there beside the bell tower. Nothing to excavate but the church floor,” he said.

Balde explained that the façade and portions of the walls of the church fell on the ground over time because the complex where it stands was abandoned for over 120 years.

“Today, the remaining walls continue to crumble gradually because of inaction,” he added.

In an article dated Oct. 13, 2014 and published in the online news of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), its author Raymond A. Sebastián, said “most Filipinos had been taught it was buried in lahar following Mayon’s 1814 eruption, leaving only the belfry, but a few vintage photographs of the Cagsawa Church give clues that may prove otherwise.”

While the building is obviously in ruins now, Sebastian wrote that a concerned Bicolano (referring to Balde) is bent on setting historical records straight, pointing out that its destruction was gradual, and not so much as caused by the volcano itself as by the people’s reluctance to save it.

Despite strong documentary evidence, he said in the write-up, not everyone was convinced.

Sebastian quoted Jose Briones as commenting, “As a tourism officer and now retired, I never disputed this historical fact as it was written—that it was buried in 1814. Who is more correct, the historians of today or the historians of yesteryears? How can this historical ‘fact’ be disproven?”.

“This to me is what happened: that Cagsawa was buried in 1814. And no one can change this, not by anyone who wants to disclaim and push a controversy around it,” Briones, who once worked with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and later as Albay’s provincial tourism officer, said as quoted by Sebastian.

Balde, according to the CBCP writer, answered: “The first workable camera was invented in 1816. The first patented camera was by Wolcott in 1840. Eastman patented his camera in 1879—which means these photographs of the ruins were all taken after the 1814 destruction of Cagsawa.”

“This is a picture of the church in 1928 before it was cleaned in 1936. The church was still standing. The caption says the church was buried, but the picture shows the façade still standing beside the bell tower. Also seen on the left are the façades of the Casa Real,” Balde stressed in the article, adding that the pictures will not tell lies.

The same story saying that “contrary to what we learned as school kids, Albay's famous Cagsawa Church wasn't buried when Mayon Volcano erupted in 1814” as Balde asserts with photographs to prove it” was run on television by GMA news last Oct. 15, drawing more people into the debate.

“It is lamentable that these information are coming out these days because it appears that our tour guides have been taught to tell lies; our school kids learned the wrong history; as well as the historical marker that the government displays at the Cagsawa Ruins Park heralding the false claim,” according to Rosalina Ortiz, a 90-year-old retired public school teacher from Daraga, Albay.

Looking closely at Balde’s old photographs, Ortiz said, she is familiar with the image because she remembered seeing the actual structure during her childhood days.

“I grew up in Barangay Culiat which is just about a kilometer from the old Cagsawa Church complex and I know the photographs are authentic. We use to go there to gather wild vegetables like gabi (tarot) and pako (fiddlehead ferns),” she recalled.

Anyway, Ortiz said, history is history and most of those accounts that have been written about it carry lies, inconsistencies, flaws and some sort of fabrications, depending on who or whose party would benefit from it.

Arguing on history is senseless like what different religious groups are doing in endlessly debating on those written in the Holy Bible, with each insisting on its own interpretations, she said.

“Concerning Cagsawa Ruins, let us just leave it the way it is now—a marvelous landmark that tourists love to visit for its impressing landscape, shadowed by the beautiful Mayon Volcano.

Measuring its contribution to history to disprove its teachings might compromise Albay’s tourism industry,” Ortiz added. (PNA)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Official clarifies that Mayon daily bulletin is combined report of expert scientists
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 23 (PNA) -- The daily bulletin being issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on the condition of the Mayon Volcano or any volcano in the country is the result of a thorough study and findings of all the divisions and departments under the agency which are manned by experts in their own fields, Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta stressed in an interview Thursday.

Laguerta, who has spent most of his time and career watching Mayon's activities for the safety of the Bicolanos, is apparently reacting to critics who have broached the idea of having a second opinion from private experts on the condition of the volcano.

The veteran volcanologist once abandoned a study grant in the United States, although he had just started, to immediately return to the Philippines because Mayon was erupting.

He clarified that the results announced in the bulletin are a product of a long process and careful deliberations of the expert representatives from all concerned departments of the Phivolcs like those of Volcanology, Seismology, Geology, Volcano Monitoring and the Office of the Director.

The process being done by these experts, he said, involves long and deep discussions and each department representative is asked to defend their unit's findings and studies.

"During the discussions, there are debates among the experts before the body can make a comprehensive result or decision for the sake of the public, especially towards the zero-casualty goal of the province of Albay," Laguerta added.

He gave as an example the present condition of Mayon that before they raised the alert level to 2 and 3, the whole Phivolcs council members are being called, wherein the entire body deliberates before raising the alarm on the volcano.

He stressed that each decision and move of the Phivolcs that is reflected at the bulletin is very vital as it has significant implication on the local government unit concerned like the province of Albay, including its towns and cities around Mayon.

"We deliberate much on the effect on the public, especially on human lives," Laguerta stressed.

He added that calling for a council meeting on the raising of the alarm status on a volcano is a difficult move on their part.

"All revolves around the science of the Mayon Volcano," the veteran volcanologist said.

In this connection, APSEMO chief Cedric Daep said their decisions are science based and that they depend on the expertise of Phivolcs scientists.

Daep said public safety is their primary concern. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Climate walkers arrive in Albay after four-week foot travel
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -- After enduring for four weeks the 500-kilometer journey on foot from Manila to Bicol via the Maharlika Highway where buses and truckers reign supreme, climate advocates set foot in Albay on Tuesday afternoon.

The climate activists, led by Climate Change Commissioner Yed Saño, were warmly welcomed in Polangui town by municipal and provincial officials of Albay led by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, military and police officials and personnel and climate advocates.

Saño has been pushing for great reduction in carbon emission as well as allocation of funds for countries vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change.

His group had just come from Naga City, where some 1,000 people from all walks of life joined the climate walk before gathering at the Jesse Robredo M. Robredo Coliseum then proceeding to Albay, passing by Baao town in Camarines Sur.

Like the number of Christ’s apostles, there are no less than 12 walkers comprising the core group that started in Manila to complete the advocacy journey to Tacloban City.

Salceda had earlier ordered government employees and municipal officials to join hands with the climate walkers.

The Climate Walk started at “Kilometer Zero” in Rizal Park, Manila, from where Saño’s group would walk 1,000 kilometers for 40 days up to Tacloban City, an area transformed into ground zero by super typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) on Nov. 8 last year.

The group is timing their arrival on that same date, exactly a year since the super typhoon first made a landfall.

The Climate Walk, dubbed as “A People’s Walk for Climate Justice,” has urged world leaders to “walk their climate talk.”

The climate advocates or warriors are asking government officials to do their fair share in keeping global warming below the tipping point to save the Filipino people from the worst impacts of climate change.

The walk was launched a week after two landmark events in New York: The People’s Climate March wherein 400,000 people marched to call for an urgent climate action, and the United Nations Climate Summit, wherein over 160 world leaders announced their commitment to solve the climate crisis.

“If world leaders do not respond, the people will take action. That is where we put our trust in our advocacy. I have no illusion that world leaders will change their minds but if the people express and strengthen their voices, I think we have a fighting chance," Saño said in his social networking account.

Based on the 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the Philippines is ranked 9th in the most vulnerable or at risk country in the world against the adverse impact of climate change due to global warming or increasing temperature; while the country’s capital, Manila, is regarded as the third most “extreme risk” city in the world from the impacts of climate change within the next 12 years.

The Climate Walk: A People’s Walk for Climate Justice is part of the global mobilization being done to raise awareness on climate change, mobilize people in demanding world leaders to take climate action and hold those responsible-- big industry polluters to be accountable.

It seeks to highlight the people who are behind the growing movement for climate justice.

The walk is all about how leaders – locally and internationally –should take urgent action to avert the climate crisis.

As stated in its official website, one of Climate Walk’s aims is to encourage world leaders to take action to deal with the issue of change by highlighting how vulnerable countries are affected by it.

It is dedicated to all people in the Philippines and around the world who confront the reality of climate change.

It further aims to empower communities and help them become resilient to the impacts of disasters and climate change, Saño said.

He also asked President Benigno S. Aquino III to ban coal projects in the country as it is affecting the communities.

Environmentalists also demand the Aquino administration to ban new coal projects and phase out the old ones, and abandon emergency powers as it will help the sprouting of more coal projects in the country, resulting in higher electricity rates. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Legazpi wins 2 national championship awards for good governance
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -– Its exceptional performances in local governance once again put the city government here in the limelight for winning two national championship awards in a row this week.

In early afternoon last Tuesday, City Mayor Noel Rosal, along with Vice Mayor, Vitorrio Roces and all members of the city legislative council, received the Galing Pook national championship award for this year given by the Galing Pook Foundation.

The awarding ceremony, graced by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa -- representing President Benigno Aquino III -- was held at the Edsa Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

This Awards Program is a joint initiative of the Local Government Academy–DILG, the Ford Foundation and other individual advocates of good governance from the academe, civil society and the government.

In late afternoon of the same day, the group was at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City for the selection of winners in this year’s Public Governance System (PGS) awards of the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA) where this city won the most-coveted Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) award for excellence in local governance.

The city government garnered a score higher than 8.5 in the public revalida or performance report in accomplishing the Compliance Stage in ISA’s program for institutionalizing its PGS-- thus, the SGT award that made it the only winner among the country’s local government units (LGUs) this year.

Such accomplishments, which over years generally lifted up the city’s inclusive growth and development through effective local governance, overwhelmed the ISA panel during its presentation made by Rosal in the revalida.

His presentation was focused on the city’s achievements in local tourism developments that last year gained a 32.6-percent growth in tourist arrivals compared to the previous year as well as on its campaign to capture a slot in the country’s five top convention centers.

Other winners out of the 10 agencies and LGUs which pre-qualified to the awards were the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

ISA is a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs and national agencies, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform its policy-making process and bureaucratic structure.

“When we introduced the system in the city government under the principle that good governance is a shared responsibility, we worked with a broad-based community group to design specific public policy goals, an action plan to accomplish them and performance metrics by which to measure progress,” Rosal told the Philippine News Agency here on Wednesday.

By institutionalizing the input of community groups and business associations in the policy-making of the city governments, he said, the PGS process encouraged democratic participation which, in turn, strengthened the incentives of public officials to improve transparency, foster economic growth, and improve the quality and reliability of public services.

The city’s PGS program consists of four stages -- initiation, compliance, proficiency and institutionalization -- which translated its vision into specific and quantifiable strategies and time-bound commitments with the objective of realizing breakthrough results, he said.

In the search for the 2014 Galing Pook awards, the city government was among the 10 winners recognized for excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The PPP program won for the city the Galing Pook Award under the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs as it was able to show positive results and impact, promotion of people's participation and empowerment, innovation, transferability and sustainability, and efficiency of service delivery.

The Rosal administration’s flagship project implemented through PPP the Legazpi is the Central Grand Terminal, a P300-million deal which was completed without the local government spending even a single centavo being done under the build-operate and transfer (BOT) scheme.

Located in a 3.9-hectare prime site owned by the city government, the facility developed by LKY Development Corp. and whose construction was completed in 2009 now serves as an integrated bus and other public utility vehicles terminal serving as the major transit point of the city.

The terminal has grown into one of the country’s best terminal, being a big boost to the local tourism industry and, together with the newly renovated Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR), the site has also been developed into a central core for leisure and recreation.

The PPP program won for the city the Galing Pook Award under the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs as it was able to show positive results and impact, promotion of people's participation and empowerment, innovation, transferability and sustainability, and efficiency of service delivery.

“This Galing Pook Award would further give rise to a relatively young and dynamically growing demographic of the city and demonstrates the determined and persevering character of Legazpeños as they live under the shadow of Mayon Volcano,” Rosal said in acknowledging the award. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ << Back

PNP Bicol chief says they knew all the while that CamNorte gov's wife was not abducted

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Police Regional Office (PRO) 5 director, said that even at the very start they already knew that Josefina Tallado was not abducted but her being missing was due to a family problem.

Tallado, wife of Camarines Norte Governor Edgar Tallado, has surfaced and claimed that she was not kidnapped but left their home to avoid a marital problem allegedly due to the womanizing of her husband who, she claimed, had threatened to kill her.

"I was not missing and I was not kidnapped. I voluntarily left because I knew I was no longer safe in our house,” Tallado was quoted as saying.

Deona said that after they formed Task Force “Josie,” they found a witness who said the wife of the governor was not missing but voluntarily left home.

Due to the request of Gov. Tallado, who called for a press conference on Monday and said he wanted to find his wife, Deona said he immediately formed the special investigation task group that would concentrate on finding Mrs. Tallado.

“If they had problem, they should have not involved the media and the PNP.

They should have settled their marital problem privately and not in public,” the police official said.

If Mrs. Tallado, however, asks for protection, the PNP Bicol is willing to give it due to the threat in her life, Deona said.

Gov. Tallado has not issued any statement yet after his wife surfaced. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/