Monday, May 2, 2016

Contractor readies reforestation of CamSur watershed via Napocor’s PHP2.7-M fund

DARAGA, Albay, May 1 (PNA) -- A Bicol-based private contractor awarded by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) with a PHP2.67-million contract to restore the forest cover of a watershed area in Camarines Sur has been readying implementation of the project, according to an official source.

An official of the Napocor Bicol Operations Division (BOD) based here, who requested anonymity being unauthorized to talk on the matter, on Sunday said the office is monitoring the progress of the project implementation and so far, preparations are within schedule.

The contract was awarded last October by the Napocor central office to the Bicol Upland Resources Development Foundation Inc. (BURDFI), a Camarines Sur-based entity officially registered as a non-profit organization that facilitates projects concerning natural resources and environmental protection.

The project covers the rehabilitation through reforestation of 30 hectares of open and denuded areas of the Buhi-Barit River Watershed in Barangay Cabatuan, Buhi, Camarines Sur, which is one of the various watershed reservations in the country under the jurisdiction of the state-owned energy firm, being source of hydro power.

Under Executive Order (EO) 224 issued in 1987 by then President Corazon Aquino, the Napocor has administrative management control over the 8,317-hectare watershed area of Buhi, including Lake Buhi, from where the energy firm draws water for its 2.8-megawatt hydroelectric plant.

The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) also uses the lake’s water to irrigate at least 18,000 hectares of rice farms located downstream up to the City of Iriga.

Lake Buhi is considered as a national treasure, being home to the world’s smallest fish locally called sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis).

The EO provides the energy firm the responsibility for the management, protection, development and rehabilitation of the area’s resources that include the forest, which is home to at least 25 rare and endangered bird species -- including the black-naped monarch, Philippine pygmy woodpecker, white-eared brown dove, elegant tit and the Philippine hanging parrot.

The Philippine Cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fasicularis) also makes its abode in the forests surrounding the lake, which showcases an enchanting beauty with its undulating mountain slopes and long stretches of shoreline as it rests in the valley formed by two ancient volcanoes -- Mount Iriga and Mount Malimas.

This formation, according to historical accounts, was created in 1641 when an earthquake caused a side of Mount Iriga to collapse, resulting in the creation of a natural dam that blocked the flow of nearby streams. Aside from the sinarapan, the lake is also home to seven other native fish species--irin-irin (Goby, Redigobius dispar), dalag (Snakehead murrel, Channa striata), atas (Climbing perch) and puyo (Anabas testudines), among others.

At least four fish species have been introduced to the lake in order to boost inland fisheries production -- Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), carpa (Cyprinus carpio) and Bangkok hito or catfish (Clarias sp.) that are now source of livelihood for thousands of families living around the area.

The Buhi-Barit reforestation project, according to an earlier statement from Napocor president Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita, is designed to bring back the forest cover of the area to improve its water-holding capacity, carbon sequestration and support to power generating plants.

Timber poaching and illegal cutting of trees for commercial and domestic uses are reported as major concerns in the watershed.

The Php2.67 funding for the reforestation project, according to Napocor is sourced through the Universal Charge (UC)-Environmental Charge (EC) as approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), NAPOCOR is authorized to file a petition to avail from the UC of the EC of Php0.0025 per-kilowatt-hour sales to be used for the rehabilitation and management of watershed areas, to be approved by ERC.

The UC refers to the charge imposed for the recovery of the stranded debts and stranded contract costs of Napocor, missionary electrification, stranded contract costs of eligible contracts of distribution utilities, environmental charge and other mandated purposes.

The contract with BURDFI, which has a duration of three years, it said, includes perimeter survey and mapping of the covered area; production or acquisition of some 55,000 planting materials of forest trees like narra (Pterocarpus indicus), pili (Canarium ovatum) and lamog (Planchonia spectabilis); plantation establishment; maintenance and operation; and plantation protection.

So far, the BOD source said, the preparatory stages of the project implementation like survey and mapping have already been initiated while production of the planting materials is underway as learned from the contractor’s president Renante Cano.

When completed, the project is hoped to revitalize the forest cover of the watershed and restore its lost significance as part of the natural resources of the area that also serves as home to 17 endemic non-dipterocarp species, including pili, a tree whose edible nut is a signature product of Bicol, according to the source.(PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

10 PDP-Laban supporters injured in accident on their way to party rally

LEGAZPI CITY, May 1 (PNA) -- At least 10 persons, some of them Muslim supporters of presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, including the driver and conductor of the passenger jeep they were riding in, were taken to Irosin District Hospital and then to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital for treatment of multiple physical injuries after they had an accident at a narrow and downward portion of the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Pange, Matnog, Sorsogon at around 12:30 p.m. Saturday., a police report said Sunday.

Senior Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, Police Regional Office 5 acting information officer, said the passenger jeep with plate number EVU-783 and loaded with more or less than 20 persons coming from different barangays was travelling from Matnog to Sorsogon Ciy proper to attend the political rally for Duterte's presidential campaign.

Upon reaching a descending curve portion of the road, driver Joey Garalde, a resident of Barangay Manjumlad, lost control of the vehicle due to mechanical failure or loss of brakes, collided and rolled upside down which resulted in multiple physical injuries of the victims.

The Muslim victims were identified as Aiman Hadji Carim, Norjannah Hadji Carim, Pangilaman Labuan and Saidomar Labuan while the conductor was known as Rosy Formanes of Barangay Naburakan.

They were taken to the Irosin District Hospital for first aid treatment but they were transferred later to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital.

Matnog Municipal Police Station members are still investigating the case for possible overloading violation of the driver. (PNA) SCS/FGS/JH/CBD/PJN

Naga City bags DA’s Rice Achievers Award

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 1 (PNA) -- Posting a tremendous growth in rice production last year, Naga, Bicol’s lone independent city, was recently crowned by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as one of the country’s top rice achievers among local government units (LGUs).

Surrounded by rich agricultural, forest and fishing areas, the city, more recognized as the region’s religious capital being home to Bicolandia’s patroness, the lady of Pe├▒afrancia, bested several cities and municipalities nationwide to get into the top rank in the Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards (APRAA) for 2015.

Elena de los Santos, DA’s regional office officer-in-charge based here, on Friday said that in securing the award, Naga City posted a rice production growth of 50.12 percent or from 6,298.94 metric tons (MT) in 2014 to 9,456.06 MT in 2015 with a yield growth of 28 percent from 4.05 MT to 5.20 MT per hectare.

The city was also able to increase last year its rice area by 16.84 percent from 1,555.7 hectares to 1,817.65 hectares as well as recorded over 64-percent increase in high-quality seeds utilization—which are among the bases of the selection of winners in the LGUs category of the yearly award, according to De los Santos.

In terms of budget allocation, she said, the Naga City government allocated to its rice program last year 25.39 percent of its Internal Revenue Allotment ( IRA) which was equivalent to almost PHP3 million and implemented 13 related projects in support to rice and agriculture programs.

With this, Naga City became the second Bicol city next to Legazpi and the fourth LGU of the region to win the prestigious agricultural achievement award in three years, with the latter. along with the municipalities of Polangui in Albay and Castilla of Sorsogon, getting the awards in 2014.

“We are proud of these LGUs and people in the local rice production sector as they are behind the region’s rice self-sufficiency achievements which started recording over 100 percent in 2013 and sustained as of last year,” De los Santos said.

Each year’s production rate since then had been equivalent to some 1.5 million MT for an average surplus of nearly 17 percent based on the annual regional rice consumption of around 824,000 MT.

It also improved Bicol’s ranking from sixth in 2013 to fifth among the country’s 16 rice-producing regions, she said.

De los Santos explained that APRAA awardees are being selected based on their incremental increase in rice harvest and average yield per hectare over the previous year’s levels; amount of budget allocated and disbursed to rice projects and initiatives; number of farmers benefited; degree of farmers’ technology adoption; and utilization of quality seeds.

For the win, she said, the Naga City government, during the awarding ceremonies at the Resort World Hotel in Pasay City last April 20, received a check worth PHP1 million representing the cash award and a trophy from DA Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Also awarded were last year’s top five rice-producing provinces--Ilocos Norte, Nueva Viscaya, Occidental Mindoro, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental which received Php4 million in cash prize and a trophy each.

De los Santos, who escorted national awardees from Bicol to the awarding ceremonies, said five exceptional irrigators' associations were also recognized and given Php1 million worth of project grant each, while each of the three outstanding Small Water Impounding Systems Associations (SWISAs) which won the national awards got PHP500,000, also in project grants.

Likewise, 398 selected Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) and Local Farmer Technicians (LFTs) from all over the country were recognized for their hard work and efforts in assisting farmers and facilitating transfer of improved technologies during the last year’s period of search for awardees.

De los Santos said that among them were 27 AEWs and five LFTs from Bicol who took home cash incentives worth PHP20,000 each.

The APRAAs, now on its fifth year, are conferred to LGUs and agriculture extension workers who significantly contributed in the effective and successful implementation of the Agri-Pinoy Rice Program which is one of the banner undertakings of the DA mainly concerned in rice farming and uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers.

The Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, guided by the principles of the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) framework, plays a key role in the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

With the vision of a food-secure society where farmers enjoy decent and rising standards of living, the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples.

Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing, and feeds through domestic production.

In the awarding ceremonies, Alcala, De los Santos said, acknowledged the efforts of the hardworking farmers and farm workers whom he considers “mga bayani sa lahat ng panahon (heroes of all times).”

The DA national chief also thanked the contribution of the LGU’s to the attainment of the 97 percent rice self-sufficiency level of the country despite the onslaught of natural calamities, she said.

“Our country’s rice production for the past five years under the Aquino administration has consistently surpassed 18 million metric tons, which earned our country the recognition by the Unites States Department of Agriculture Grains Authority of having posted the highest increment of harvest and fastest gains of 2.8 percent in rice production among rice-producing countries in the world for the past five years,” De los Santos quoted Alcala as saying during the same occasion.

Alcala, according to her, underscored that the government has slowly changed the usual image of Filipino farmers: wallowing in drudgery of pulling his stubborn carabao in the field as this time, the image of Filipino farmers is one that uses modern technology and mechanization.(PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Cops nab PAG head in Masbate town raid

LEGAZPI CITY, May 2 (PNA) -- Operatives of Task Force Masbate (TFM) arrested the leader of one of the private armed groups (PAGs) in the province at about 2 a.m. Sunday in Barangay (village) Pulang Duta in Balud town, Masbate province.

Police Senior Insp. Arthur Gomez, TFM spokesperson said the arresting officers cornered Oriel Avila Villaruel, who did not resist arrest, at his residence.

Villaruel is the suspected leader of the Villaruel PAG operating in the island-province of Masbate, Gomez said in a text message.

They found in Villaruel's possession a hand grenade and a .45-caliber handgun with ammunition.

Gomez said the suspect leads a 12-man PAG whose members are reportedly known supporters of the Kho and the Bilasano political clans.

He said 10 PAG members and two leaders have already been arrested since the start of the election period,and are now in the custody of the Masbate Provincial Police Office detention center.

The detained armed group members belong to the Arizobal, Villaruel, Del Rosario, Galvo and Velasco PAGs -- which all are affiliated with the Kho, Bilasano and Vertucio clans while the Tagkaru PAG is affiliated with the Lanetes, Gomez said.

He said they are still tracking down 20 other members belonging to six armed groups.

The TFM have so far seized 167 loose and surrendered firearms and eight explosives. (PNA) JMC/FGS/MSA/CBD/EBP

Friday, April 29, 2016

PDRP helps Albay develop camote industry into priority enterprise
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) through its Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component is helping Albay develop its sweet potato (camote) industry into a priority rural enterprise.

“We are now having our initial business planning for the crop following our conduct of enterprise identification and prioritization which determined the suitability, market potential, impact on the poor and rural women’s participation in the province,” Albay I-REAP head Rafael Nicoleta on Thursday said in this provincial capital.

The process, he said, enables proponents to come up with proposals that are responsive to the value chain analysis (VCA) findings and aligned with the proposed interventions identified in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP), a three-year strategic plan based on the value chain analysis of commodities.

Nicoleta describes PCIP as a rolling plan that rationalizes the interventions within the various segments of the commodity value chain and will be the basis in selecting eligible interventions and sub-projects for PRDP funding.

It also emphasizes on climate-smart agriculture as a way to achieve short- and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities.

“Through enterprise prioritization, meanwhile, we are able to have proper direction for the establishment of the business enterprise. Kumbaga, hindi bara-bara (In other words, it is not done in an aimless manner),” Nicoleta said.

The Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO), according to its officer-in-charge Cheryl Rebeta, has identified in its PCIP, submitted recently for assistance to PDRP, the development of camote into an industry that would help local farmers earn more and even put up self-run agricultural enterprises for additional profit.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund -- consisting of Php20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units (LGUs) and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In six years (2013-2019), the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20 percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services. With PRDP, Rebeta said, the PAO is moving up to value adding in the province’s engagement with climate smart agriculture by giving more attention to the production of sweet potato even as Albay is already contributing at least 7.17 percent to the country’s production of the crop.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the province, with its 1,675 hectares of effective area for sweet potato production, produces an average of 40,167 metric tons yearly.

According to Rocelyn De Vera of the PRDP South Luzon Project Support Office (PSO), sweet potato is a unique commodity because unlike other plants, it is less prone to diseases, drought-resistant and grows with minimal use of fertilizer.

Nonetheless, she said, Albay farmers must learn to explore other products from the crop and take the industry to the next level with the help of other stakeholders, including government agencies, to support its value chain in the province.

There are also recommendations that include the revitalization and strengthening existing nurseries, constructing warehouse near island port, providing access or linkage to funding agencies, intensifying Farmer Business School (FBS) and training on good agricultural practices, De Vera said.

Provision of farm, processing, and packaging equipment as well as construction and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads, ports, and bridges were also proposed in addition to a call for an updated research and development agenda on sweet potato and market study involving new products.

This project, when approved for funding by PDRP, Rebeta said, will certainly benefit more farmers in Albay, especially that its household population of 255,672, representing a total of over 1.2 million individuals as per official survey in 2010, has over 100,000 families that rely mainly on farming for their livelihood as recorded by the BAS.

These farming families are well within the 36.1-percent poverty incidence of the province as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on its 2012 survey.

The sweet potato (Pomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.

Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens and contrary to old misconceptions that it is a “poor man’s food,” sweet potato has now gained popularity among health conscious individuals from all walks of life because of its health benefits.

According to Organic Facts, a team of food and nutrition enthusiasts that aim to spread awareness and information about organic food and healthy lifestyle, sweet potato is rich in beta carotene, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, effective in relieving asthma and arthritis, a good facilitator for digestion, beneficial for curing stomach ulcers as well as cancer of the colon, kidney, intestines and other internal organs and helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels and water balance.

Hence, it is recognized as a very important cash and food crop in the province and all over the country that is highly marketable either as raw or processed.

With these potentials and health benefits, stakeholders of the proposed sweet potato industry in the province are convinced that the sarcastic advice when somebody is turned down from a job or found inefficient in work-- “to go home and plant camote”-- should no longer be taken as offensive but a push to engage in a productive and vibrant industry. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD

Albay solon belittles Bicol governors' change of support from Mar to Grace
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The transfer of support of Bicol governors from Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas and vice presidential bet Leni Robedo to the camp of Grace Poe has no effect, if not a little, at all since there are more remaining LP stalwarts in the Bicol Region.

This was the reaction Thursday of Congressman Fernando V. Gonzalez of the 3rd District of Albay to the defection of Bicol governors to Poe's camp.

Earlier, Bicol governors Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay, Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte, Migz Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate have reportedly jumped to Poe's ship while Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee has announced his support to Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Gonzalez said Lee's wife, Sally, is Roxas' candidate for mayor of Sorsogon City, while his son, Bobbit Lee Rodrigueza is running for governor under the LP.

In Camarines Norte, he said, the entry of Tallado in Poe's lineup has no effect as he had long been removed from the LP with which he had problems and the province has strong candidates who have full support to Roxas and have been helping the LP standard bearer a lot like the Reyes and Unico families.

Gonzalez admitted that since Salceda has been a good leader in Albay, there could be an effect but in the whole, he said, he and the other LP leaders in Albay can push Roxas and Robredo to victory in the province because they have no strong opponents.

He, for instance, has no strong opponent in the 3rd District of Albay while former congressman Edcel C. Lagman is a sure winner in the 1st District and Mayor Noel E. Rosal of Legazpi City is certain to retain his position.

Gonzalez said they also have the support of the candidates of their party in the cities of Tabaco and Ligao which have big numbers of voters.

If ever some candidates move from the LP to other parties, more strong candidates are transferring to LP from other parties, he said.

The Albay lawmaker said as officials and members of the LP, they are just the local political machinery for those running for national posts.

What is more important, he said, is the influence of the radio and television media through political advertisements which are being seen by voters in the entire country, especially the airing of the debates, which could give wider and stronger influence to the electorate in deciding whom to vote on the May 9 elections. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD