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/

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DA sets off coco water processing project in CamSur

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- Coconut water, traditionally a farm waste, is heading its way into becoming a lucrative venture for farmers in Camarines Sur.

“Gagawin nating pera ang coco water sa inyong lalawigan (We will convert coco water in your province into money),” was the inspiring message delivered by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala before hundreds of farmers in the province who witnessed the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) which formalized the takeoff of the project.

A statement reaching here Monday from the Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur, said Alcala, who signed the MOA in behalf of the agency, acknowledged the province as one of the country’s top coconut producers where some 2.4 billion liters of coco water could be obtained from matured nuts over time.

Among the other signatories to the MOA are Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) director for Luzon B Shandy Hubilla and Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) executive director Rex Bingabing, Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director, said in the statement.

Under the formal agreement, PRDP provides an amount of Php7.3 million to the project called Village Level Coconut Water Processing System under its Investments for Rural Enterprises and Agricultural and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component.

The MOA covers all expenses to be incurred in implementing the pilot-testing project from October 2014 to September 2015, including the construction, study of the prototype coconut water processing machinery and operation.

PRDP is a foreign-funded undertaking being implemented nationwide by DA as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture.

PhilTech, which is an attached agency of the DA that spearheads efforts toward a globally competitive and sustainable agriculture sector through farm mechanization, on the other hand, agrees to make its newly-developed coco water pasteurizer-chiller available to farmers enrolled as beneficiaries of the PRDP to make them more productive.

Bingabing has described the equipment as another innovative machinery his agency has designed for farm-level use adaptable to the needs of copra producers in response to a call for help from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) towards enabling coconut farmers collect coco water at the farm level, bring it to the processing centers and turn it into a profitable product.

Another signatory to the MOA is Dr. Georgina Bordado of the Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) with campuses in Pili, Camarines Sur, which is doing a comprehensive research on the coco water-processing technology such as shelf-life testing and nutrient analysis.

“Nutritious, natural and safe are the qualities of coconut water that will be produced out of this profitable undertaking that would establish village-level processing units capable of producing quality bottled drink which will later on be integrated into a bigger volume of production for export,” Bragas said.

The DA Agribusiness and Marketing Division (AMAD), he said, has been tasked to conduct market studies in anticipation of the project’s full commercialization.

According to Bragas, this technology will convert to cash for coconut farmers—around 300,000 of them in Bicol—the coco water that they just throw away in the traditional process of copra making.

“This is in response to President Aquino’s directive that “inclusive growth should be felt even by the poorest of the poor in the rural areas,” he said, adding that the new project will serve as show window to coconut producers to encourage them to venture into coco water processing whose finish products are of great commercial prospects and health benefits.

Citing a PCA report, he said about 3.7 million liters of coconut water were exported by the Philippines in the first quarter of the same year, showing a significant increase from the 796,000 liters exported during the same period in 2011.

Latest reports say that coco juice demands from The Netherlands and Australia alone have reached 189,800 liters and 65,219 liters, respectively.

The same reports explained that these enormous demands are owing to coco water’s being rich in vitamin B such as thiamine which strengthens the muscles, delay fatigue and maintain normal heart function.

It is regarded as a good source of electrolytes and glucose and has been found suitable for intravenous rehydration.

Bragas said coconut water, as established by laboratory studies, is probably the healthiest liquid that one can ever take in his entire life as it has much more than the health benefits that a commercially-produced thirst quencher can give.

Weight-conscious people can drink coco juice as much as they can without worrying about ingesting a lot of fattening agents because it is very low in fat.

It can also help them feel full, thus, decreasing their cravings for excessive foods.

Coconut water is rich in a lot of nutrients that are required by diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels in control and it has more hydrating properties than the average tap water so drinking it can certainly help digestion well, thus, enabling absorption of food nutrients better. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

MGB hails Camarines Norte police for crackdown on illegal mining

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional office for Bicol here has commended the Camarines Norte police office for its intensified crackdown on illegal mining in the gold-rich province.

MGB Regional Technical Director Theodore Rommel Pestaño on Monday said that reports furnished his office by the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional headquarters at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, at least 78 suspected illegal miners have been so far arrested in the province this year.

Cases have also been filed against these suspects—all small scale miners, Pestaño said, citing police reports.

Senior Supt. Moises Pagaduan, the Camarines Norte provincial police director, in his recent report to PNP regional director Chief Supt. Victor Deona said those arrested had been caught doing small-scale mining in the municipalities of Paracale which is known for its rich gold deposits.

Police operations that led to the arrests, Pestaño said, were accompanied by MGB anti-illegal mining operatives based in Daet, Camarines Norte’s provincial capital.

Since time immemorial, Pestaño said, small miners have been working on these mineral deposits for a hand-to-mount subsistence but since the province has not established a Minahang Bayan, all these workers, under existing laws, operate illegally while braving the penalty of imprisonment from six months to six years as provided under the law.

Defined as the people’s small-scale mining areas, Minahang Bayan is a suitable on-shore site identified by a particular local government unit (city or provincial) for small-scale miners organized into a cooperative that could operate under the monitoring of the MGB.

It is established as a government-designated and regulated area to bring small-scale miners away from danger zones, concessions already delineated for large-scale operation, and prohibited sites such as government reservations and protected areas and those that are assigned to tourism activities and agrarian reform programs, among others.

This means that small-scale miners cannot operate just anywhere, Pestaño explained.

It is also a government measure to regulate small-scale mining activities that were blamed for dumping mercury and cyanide to the waterways and the underground.

Small-scale mining, as defined under Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment and requires only a small capital investment.

Small-scale miners, on the other hand, according to RA 7076, are Filipino citizens who voluntarily form a cooperative duly licensed by the DENR to engage, under the terms and conditions of a contract or license in the extraction or removal of minerals or ore bearing materials from the ground.

While it is very clear that only Filipino small-scale miners, organized as a cooperative, can operate in a Minahang Bayan, a limitation however, was set forth by the same law that they can only mine gold, silver, chromites, kaolin, silica, marble, gravel and sand and clay in an identified mineralized area, Pestano said.

To establish a Minahang Bayan as an effort to give importance to small-scale mining that is responsible for about 70 percent of the gold mined in the country, Pestaño said, Camarines Norte as well as the other five provinces of Bicol should create and reconstitute their own Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).

Under RA 7076, he said, the PMRB is tasked to implement the policy of the state to promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth and natural resources.

This law aims to achieve an orderly, systematic and rational development of the small scale mining, Pestaño said.

He said his office has since been coordinating with chief executives of the six Bicol provinces for the creation and reorganization of PMRB, including the establishment of Minahang Bayan in each province to end illegal small-scale mining operations.

So far, only the provinces of Masbate and Sorsogon have created their respective PMRBs while Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur are expected to follow suit, Pestaño said.

Having this mining regulatory body activated, the first two provinces, he said, are one step ahead of the other four towards establishing their Minahang Bayan but still, no area has been established nor identified so far for review of the DENR.

Pestaño explained that under the new rules, only the PMRB can identify and determine an area within its jurisdiction that is suitable for small-scale mining operations subject to the review of the DENR secretary through the regional executive director which will put it under national government monitoring. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

New lava flow ceases from Mayon - Phivolcs

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) -— The new lava spotted flowing from Mayon Volcano's crater has stopped, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Monday.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivocs resident volcanologist, said like what happened on October 12, the 350-long lava flow was viscous, that's why it cannot flow continuously.

After the aerial survey conducted at 7:25 a.m. Monday, Laguerta said the 400-meter-long lava flowed from the west side of the lava dome.

“The lava flowed at the west side of the Bogña channel,” he said.

The Phivolcs official described Bogña channel as part of the southeast quadrant of the volcano, which is facing the Legazpi City and municipalities of Daraga and Sto. Domingo.

Due to the lava flow, new ash deposits have been noted at the slopes of the volcano.

Laguerta believed that the magma that has come out is still part of the old deposit of the previous eruption.

“If it is a new magma, it must not be viscous -- a new magma is not sticky,” he said.

He said the lava flow can be an indication of an imminent eruption, just like in 1984 -- after the lava flow had been spotted, in two weeks, the volcano erupted.

Meanwhile, in the Oct. 20 bulletin, the Phivolcs said, a faint crater glow was observed Sunday night while the agency's instruments recorded two volcanic quakes with a sulfur flux of 272 tons per day on October 19.

Mayon Volcano's status was raised to alert level 3 on September 15, which means eruption is imminent within weeks. (PNA) LAP/FGS/AMM/CBD/utb

3 poor Albay towns get new projects from GPBP

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- Three of Albay’s impoverished towns have been given by the national government fresh funds worth a total of Php10.4 million to finance farm productivity support projects.

The funding comes from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) through its Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), DAR Regional Director Luis Bueno Jr. on Monday said.

Bueno identified the projects that would benefit 10,500 farmers, some of them beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as the construction of a 1.5-kilometer farm-to-market road in Jovellar town; 35-linear-meter concrete footbridge in Rapu-rapu; and 100-linear-meter spillway in Libon.

The Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) regional office in Bicol based here said these three Albay towns are part of the 79 local government units (LGUs) in the region that were assured of Php45 million in extra funding for three years from the national government’s GPBP.

The fund that would come in the amount of Php15-million yearly wi be used in GPBP-driven initiatives such as projects which include agri-livelihood projects, farm-to-market roads, irrigation and other agri-infra facilities, among others.

Formerly known as the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB), the 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.

The 79 Bicol LGUs that are considered early qualifiers to the fund are composed of five of the region’s six provinces—Albay, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon; six of the seven cities--Naga, Iriga, Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao and Masbate; and 73 of the 105 municipalities.

Of these municipalities, Albay, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes have 11 each; Camarines Sur, 16; Masbate, 10; and Sorsogon, nine.

These LGUs automatically qualify to the GPBP for having met the requirements, such as being the recipient of DILG’s Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) and implementation of Public Financial Management Improvement Plan (PFMIP) as determined by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DILG Regional Director Eluisa Pastor said.

Introduced in 2012 by the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo before his death in a plane accident in August of the same year, SGH is an award system to LGUs that successfully met the requirements of full disclosure policy, have exemplary standards of front-line services and procurement and proven to have no adverse or disclaimer audit findings by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Starting this year, the DILG is scaling up the SGH into the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to cover a much wider LGU performance such as good financial housekeeping, disaster preparedness, social protection for the basic sector, business friendliness and competitiveness, environmental compliance and law and order and public safety.

The Bicol list of early GPBP qualifiers is not final though, as further evaluations are undergoing for others that have not been included in the roster based on the SGH and PFMIP criteria may still be added when results become favorable to them.

The evaluations include the budgeting process and the selection of Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams (LPRATs), consisting of both LGUs and civil society organizations and the updating and validation to form the basis for the Local Poverty Reduction Action Plans (LPRAPs).

After the consolidated list of projects are validated and reviewed by the Regional Poverty Reduction Action Team (RPRAT) through the DILG regional office, it will be submitted to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and the Regional Development Council (RDC) for endorsement to the GPBP oversight agencies.

The list of approved projects will be downloaded to the respective Sangguniang Bayans for approval, as the LGU are required to provide counterpart funds, Pastor said.

Earlier, DILG Sec. Mar Roxas announced that the national government has allocated this year Php20 billion to fund various poverty-alleviation projects that were identified by LGUs in coordination with civil society organizations in their communities under the GPBP.

The amount has been allocated for 19,533 projects identified through the GPBP in 1,226 LGUs nationwide, according to Roxas. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

SMC-controlled Albay power distributor faces rough sailing
By Marilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -- Almost a year after taking over management and control of ailing Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), San Miguel Energy Corp. has remained in rough sailing as it continues to face strong resistance from the Aleco Employees Organization (ALEO), which has called for a boycott of electric bills payment from the more than 230,000 power consumers.

But newly designated general manager Manuel Imperial of SMEC-created Albay Power Energy Corp. (APEC) said the SMEC is not withdrawing its contract with Aleco as floated by its detractors, saying its corporate social responsibility is aimed at giving life to the Albay power firm described by the National Electric Administration and Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda as a problem cooperative.

The APEC has strongly refused to honor the return-to-work order (RTWO) issued by the Department of Labor (DOLE) last February to 80 regular Aleco employees who were involved in a series of protest rallies that began in early 2013 after SMC won the Aleco concession contract in a public bidding, besting four other giant power firms.

Following typhoon “Glenda” on July 15, APEC announced it would complete power restoration in the province by September but failed, as 30 percent of the province' barangays still remain unlighted, according to the ALEO.

Imperial succeeded Alex Marchan, a manager who never faced the media during his stint as APEC general manager amid the issue of severe frequent brownouts, non-delivery of electric bills, sudden high power rate, questionable billings wherein many small-time consumers claimed to have received electric bills that are 20 times higher than their average monthly consumption.

Salceda himself, who fought for Aleco privatization and rallied behind SMC after winning the concession contract for Aleco in a bidding, also questioned the strange high rate being charged by APEC, saying his average monthly consumption of Php10,000 in his residence in Daraga town suddenly rose to Php30,000.

He supported the ALEO boycott move -- limited, however, to the months of April and May only.

In August, APEC admitted having spent already Php800 million for the energy supply from SMEC during its eight-month operation against a collection efficiency of only 50 percent, which was drastically reduced to 40 percent as of September, according to the ALEO.

Imperial said in a radio interview that APEC has terminated the services of the USI Manpower Agency for failing to provide the right service in its automated meter-reading scheme covering the first eight months of its operation.

The USI has been replaced by the UN Manpower, which would initially resort to manual meter reading, he added.

The new APEC general manager said consumers with unpaid and questionable electric billings shall pay only the average monthly consumption until August, saying APEC is expecting to deliver correct monthly billings to consumers starting the month of September.

Consumers who were on vacation for a month or more under the first eight-month operation should clarify matters with APEC collection offices.

ALEO spokesman Ephraim De Vera said the unreliable and inaccurate billings were never experienced under the Aleco management for more than 30 years of operation using the manual meter reading system.

He said the APEC-hired USI Manpower had resorted to both automated and table meter reading after many consumers complained of the abnormal billing bills they received that two small-time consumers were surprisingly billed Php1 million each.

The Aleco privatization was pursued by the NEA in support of local officials and the Albay five lawmakers in a bid to give life to the dying power cooperative.

According to Imperial, SMC won the Aleco bidding after declaring it would assume Aleco’s Php4 billion and continue the Aleco rehabilitation.

The NEA-created Aleco interim board headed by Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi formulated the privatization during its one-year deliberation in 2012 in what they called the Private Sector Participation (PSP).

With the dilemma facing consumers, ALEO members continue holding “silent protest rallies” every Sunday in front of the Albay Cathedral here, calling the attention of the failed Aleco interim board members headed by Baylon and the Department of Labor (DOLE) for failing to enforce the RTWO it issued nine months ago, saying the 80 involved employees who have not been paid of their salaries have families to feed and now suffering from hunger with their children’s school obligations terribly affected.

This Sunday, Oct. 19, is the 12th silent protest rally held by the ALEO.

Protest rallies against the pursued privatization began as early as 2013, resulting in frequent disruptions in the province’s power supply and prompting the Aleco, under NEA supervision, to decide to withhold the salaries of striking ALEO employees since September 2013.

The worst protest rallies came in December last year as APEC was readying its final takeover in January that after more than 100 days of continued daily strikes, the DOLE in February declared assumption of jurisdiction after it issued the RTWO.

De Vera said more than 80 permanent employees were covered by the RTWO, which APEC has refused to recognize, saying APEC prefers the separation of the involved employees while the employees prefer to return to work.(PNA) CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/pjn

New, wider lava flow seen coming down from Mayon crater
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -- A wider lava flow was seen early Sunday morning coming out of the Mayon Volcano, Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist, said during the media briefing on Mayon status at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office operation center on Sunday morning.

Laguerta said the lava flow was seen along the Bonga Gulley at the southeastern quadrant of the volcano.

The flow was about 100 meters wide and about 300 meters long from the crater of Mayon.

On previous Sunday, another lava flowed down the volcano up to 350 meters down along the side of the same gulley.

“The flow this time has more volcanic materials compared to that of last Sunday’s,” Laguerta said.

He disclosed that the subsequent Sunday flows of lava confirms the magma is continuously rising towards the summit of Mayon, although its ascent is very slow.

The Phivolcs official said the materials ejected by the volcano is part of the old volcanic deposits as there was no gas emission, that was why the flow was not continuous.

Aside from the deposit that is being vomited is viscous, which means that the volcano is still discharging the old magma, there was no gas.

“While there was a crater glow, it was faint and could not be seen by our naked eyes because of thick clouds,” Laguerta added.

He said, however, that the glow at the summit would become intense once the magma is near the summit.

Although the volcano’s ground inflation decreased, he said, this does not mean that the activity of Mayon weakened and instead, he warned the public as the magma is nearing the crater compared to the condition in the previous days of monitoring of their agency.

“In this connection, the condition of Mayon will become critical if their seismograph registers continuous harmonic tremors or vibrations of the ground, accompanied by an intense glow and lava fountaining, which means the magma is near Mayon’s crater,” Laguerta said.

This, he stressed, means the volcano is about to erupt.

The veteran volcanologist claimed that if this condition occurs, all activities of will be fast.

"Expect rapid changes and within days, explosive eruption may occur," Laguerta said.

During the past 24-hour observation period, the Mayon’s seismic network recorded two volcanic earthquakes while there was a moderate emission of white steam plumes drifting west and northwest.

Sulfur dioxide flux was measured at an average of 269 tons per day on Oct. 17 while ground deformation data on Oct. 14-16 showed deflation at the base of the edifice relative to Oct. 4-10 precise leveling survey although the edifice remains inflated compared to baseline measurements.

Tilt data also indicate continuous inflation at the base of the edifice since August.

All the above data indicate that the volcano is still in a state of unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/ssc