Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aleco seeks court action to win back power coop from SMC
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- Member-consumers of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) have asked the court to stop the San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) from exercising control and jurisdiction over the cooperative.

In a 68-page civil complaint recently filed, the cooperative wants the Regional Trial Court (RTC) here to issue an injunction with prayers for temporary restraining order and temporary mandatory order against Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC), SMC Global’s subsidiary company now running the power distribution business of Aleco.

Filed by the complaining members, Aleco is asking the court to order APEC to, among others, turn over to the cooperative through its board of directors and president, Jaime Chua, the documents needed for the initiation of court-assisted rehabilitation; and to surrender to all cash items and/or assets taken over by APEC from the cooperative.

Other demands listed in the complaint are for the court to order a complete inventory of assets taken over by APEC and for the corporation to yield to Aleco the management and control of the business, franchise and other assets of the cooperative, on phase-in/phase-out basis, with minimum service disruption, under court supervision.

The complainants are also asking the court to restrain APEC from further operating Aleco’s electricity-distribution franchise in Albay; from encumbering or disposing of any of the cooperative’s assets or properties, including after-acquired assets reckoned as of February 26, 2014; and from entering into contract with government or private entities involving Aleco or its interests.

The complaining members also want the court to prevent the corporation from applying or pursuing applications for rate adjustment with Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC); from applying or pursuing applications with the ERC to collect “under-recoveries” from members-consumers; and from further implementing power-shedding program that causes needless service interruption or regular brownouts in the province.

They further want APEC disallowed from billing or collecting from member-consumers contributions for capital expenditure or reinvestment fund (RFSC) during the pendency of the case; from using, disbursing or spending any fund or money already collected by APEC from the members; conducting meter-reading; from issuing monthly bills and collecting any amount from the members; and from doing service connection to, or doing service disconnection against its members were also requested.

Aleco legal counsel Oliver Olaybal on Monday said that considering the absence of consent on the part of the member-consumers for the lease of the franchise and the assets of Aleco, the cooperative, under its new Board of Directors, filed the complaint assailing the right of SMC Global/APEC to exercise Aleco’s corporate powers, operate its franchise and utilize its assets.

After the legal issues are resolved affecting Aleco’s entitlement to exercise its corporate functions to the exclusion of SMC Global-APEC, “we shall address the coop’s financial problems,” Chua said.

Aleco’s business operations and management were taken over by SMC Global early this year following its privatization worked out by the National Electrification Administration (NEA), Department of Energy (DOE) and Albay Bishop Joel Baylon, the NEA appointed chairman of the cooperative’s interim board of director and supported by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The privatization was said to be intended to bail out the cooperative from its financial troubles amounting to around Php4 billion incurred over years of mismanagement, corruption and deep political meddling.

On long-term problem and long-term solution involving Aleco’s Php4-billion aggregate operating deficits, Chua said, the new board will address by way of filing a petition for corporate rehabilitation after the court is able to take away SMC Global-APEC from the scene.

“The court-appointed rehabilitation receiver shall prepare a rehabilitation plan, anchored on capital buildup through stock issuance, under Republic Act No. 1053 whose proceeds shall be deposited in the name of Aleco, but to be disbursed under court supervision. This means that payments to creditors on matured accounts shall be covered by court orders authorizing disbursements,” Chua said.

The court shall also issue a stay order preventing creditors from taking action against Aleco, including disconnection, he added.

APEC general manager Emmanuel Imperial on Monday declined to comment on the case as, he said, the company’s lawyers will handle it in the court. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

NBI-Legazpi gets 2 awards
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- The City Government of Legazpi awarded a plaque of appreciation to National Bureau of Investigation Special Investigator Manuel Marlo B. Lanuza on Monday at the Office of Mayor Noel Rosal.

The award was given by Rosal, Vice Mayor Vitorrio “Bitoy” Roces and City Administrator Pecos Intia.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima had earlier named Lanuza as one of the best NBI special investigators.

The NBI Legazpi City District Office was also recognized as one of the best offices in the entire country during the 78th NBI Anniversary on November 13 at the NBI Central Office in Taff Avenue, Manila.

Rosal said this recognition is a clear manifestation that the city’s NBI District Office is a very effective partner of his administration in maintaining the tranquility of every individual in the community “that resulted in our city being recognized as one of the peaceful places to live in.”

He said the NBI has conducted several investigations and researches not only in this city but also in the entire province that resulted in the arrest and filing of charges against suspects in theft of motorcycle, akyat-bahay operations and other similar cases done by some organized syndicate groups.

The city also gave another certificate of recognition to the family of the late Julio Villanueva of Barangay Victory Village for his trying to save the life of 65-year-old Salvador Ormenita when they were both swimming along the city boulevard’s breakwater on November 1.

rmenita asked for help because the strong current pulled him far away from the shore and Villanueva responded to save him but unfortunately, the latter’s good intention to save the life of Ormenita caused his death.

The awards were proposed by City Councilor Rolly Rosal who passed two resolutions during the 37th Regular Session of the 13th Sangguniang Panlunsod on November 11, which were subsequently approved by Rosal on November 18.

Resolution No. 0294-2014 commended Lanuza for being chosen as the best Special Investigator of the Year in the entire country while Resolution No. 0293-2014 commended the NBI District Office of Legazpi for being chosen as the Best Office in the entire country. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/EDS

Singson sacks 2 Bicol district engineers
By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) – Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson sacked two of his district engineers and two assistant district engineers in Bicol.

Ordered relieved are Masbate 2nd district engineer Edgar M. Curativo, Albay 1st district engineer Teodoro Castillo, assistant district engineers Gil Balmadrid of the Catanduanes District Engineering Office (DEO) and assistant district engineer Romeo Cielo of the Sorsogon 2nd DEO.

Ironically, Castillo who is barely a year in his Albay assignment, will be replaced by controversial former Camarines Norte district engineer Simeon Arias who was sacked by Singson last March on alleged bidding irregularities and other corruption charges.

Castillo is a full-fledged district engineer higher than a division chief in the regional office and who has the rank of Engineer V.

Arias, according to his records, is only Engineer !V and fit for assistant district engineer post and officer-in-charge only.

He has not passed the Civil Service Commission–DPWH promotional exam which Singson has boasted as the only basis for appointment.

Arias had been on a floating assignment at the regional office here and under investigation following the collapse on Sept. 18 of the concrete Kabuluan detour bridge in Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, built last year.

Gov. Edgardo Tallado has said that the bridge, built at a cost of Php27 million by Benmar Construction, collapsed following heavy rains because, he said, it was substandard.

Sta. Elena Councilor Artemio Sendon Jr. claimed he had also written Singson that the DPWH Camarines Norte under Arias had allegedly paid 60 percent for the Phase 1 construction of the Php27-million Kabuluan permanent bridge without any accomplishment as confirmed by DPWH records.

The CSC-DPWH promotional test was a brainchild of then Sec. Gregorio Vigilar and revived by Singson after it was irregularly imposed by Vigilar’s successors on account of politics and discouraging passing rate ratio.

Qualified to take the promotional test are engineers III and above.

It was learned that under Singson, only three from Bicol hurdled the promotional test in 2011 out of the more than 400 examinees nationwide -- 70 of them were from the Bicol Region.

Early in September, Singson sacked Bicol Regional Director Danilo Dequito for miserably failing to hurdle the mission test given to him during his four-year stint to professionalize the DPWH Bicol office, dubbed as a man-made calamity-stricken region.

Dequito was replaced by Regional Director Melvin Navarro who was pulled out by Singson from Region 2.

It was not clear where Curativo and Castillo will be assigned.

Curativo’s relief reportedly concerns the many projects under contract with the Ormoc City-based Yakal Construction that have been allegedly suffering with too much negative slippages.

The contractor is touted to have a strong connection with one of Singson’s undersecretaries that a Php436-million asphalt overlaying project of the regional office that started in January this year and is supposed to end by December barely has a 30-percent accomplishment only, according to documents. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/

Unhealthy lifestyle of Filipinos causes high premature deaths
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- The unhealthy lifestyle of the Filipinos -- such as smoking, alcohol drinking and eating of highly fatty, salty and sugar-rich foods -- is advancing the premature deaths of multi-million Filipinos, an official of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology said.

Dr. Zenaida V. Narciso, FNRI chief science research specialist, told members of the Department of Science and Technology-Nutrition Communication Network (DOST V-Nutricomnet) here over the weekend that smoking and alcohol drinking are the most dangerous and unhealthy forms of lifestyle of the Filipinos that trigger premature deaths, especially at prime age.

The DOST V-Nutricomnet is a group of national government agencies and private media practitioners with specialization on science and environment.

Narciso said 25 percent of 100 million Filipinos are smokers while one of two Filipino adults is alcohol drinker.

She cited a study that showed that 7 in 10 male adults are drinkers and 3 in 10 female adults drink.

For the smoking habit, one in four Filipino adults is smoker and topping the list are males.

“If you love yourself, don’t start smoking. If you love your family, stop smoking because your family is at great risk as second-hand smokers where the effect is graver due to second-hand exposure. Twenty-five percent of Filipino adults are smokers,” Narciso said.

She added that more than nine million of all deaths considered premature occur at prime age or before 60 years old.

“Ninety percent takes place in low and middle-income countries. The global trend for non-communicable disease (NCD)-caused annual deaths showed that cardiovascular diseases ranked first with 17.3 million annually; followed by cancer, with 7.6 million; respiratory diseases, 4.2 million, and diabetes, 1.3 million,” Narciso said.

The risk factor of NCDs, according to her, is personal behavior or lifestyle, environmental exposure or inherited characteristic associated with increase occurrence of condition.

Narciso said the risk factors to NCDs in Philippines based on national nutrition survey from 2008 to 2013 showed that 67 percent of total deaths in 2012 were due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory illnesses and diabetes. She said that five in 10 Filipino adults have borderline-to-high-cholesterol levels wherein more males went to ashes early due to unhealthy lifestyle compared to females.

It said two in 10 Filipino adults have high blood pressure even at early age or 20 years old.

Among the reasons why NCDs are increasing in the country are high consumption of unhealthy foods, smoking, alcohol drinking, obesity, high consumption of foods rich in sugar, fat and salt but with insufficient physical activities and low fruit and vegetable intake.

Globally, more than 36 million people are killed each year due to NCDs and this occurred in low and middle-income countries with 29 million deaths.

She explained that the risk factor that cannot be reduced or controlled by intervention are age, sex, race and family history.

“But the NCDs' chronic conditions can be modified if only the people will be physically active, avoid tobacco use or smoking, lessen alcohol intake and avoid unhealthy diets,” the DOST official advised.

In 2020, about 44 million people globally, she said, will be gone into ashes due to increasing number of NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes specifically in developing countries, including the middle income countries, if unhealthy lifestyle will not be checked. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD

Friday, November 21, 2014

PNP vows to eradicate crime gangs in Masbate
By Norman B. Tamar

AROROY, Masbate, Nov. 20 (PNA) -– The Philippine National Police (PNP) Masbate provincial office on Thursday vowed to eradicate crime gangs in the province.

This, after joint operatives of the Aroroy Municipal Police Office, Masbate Provincial Public Safety Company and Masbate Provincial Intelligence Section raided the hideout of a notorious gang in this town at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Supt. Carl Michael Car Reyes, PNP-Masbate provincial director, said the police operatives were armed with Search Warrant No. 2014-81 and coordinated with the local barangay officials.

He said the gang members engaged the raiding team in a fire exchange.

Reyes said that when the raiding operatives were about to enter the premises, they heard gunshots coming from inside the house, which were allegedly fired by more or less five gang members.

He said the group escaped in confusion and spread to the hinterlands in the boundary of Barangay Malubi and Barangay Pangle of this town after its members noticed that they were outnumbered by police forces.

No casualty was reported on the side of the raiding team while an undetermined number of casualties was noted on the gang's side.

The authorities recovered fired cartridges and slugs and one steel magazine of .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven live ammunition.

The suspected gang leader was identified in the search warrant as Richard Amican alias Toto.

Police record showed Amican was the alleged leader of the Arcavado-Amican group involved in a robbery-holdup and killing incidents in Aroroy town and neighboring municipalities, Reyes said.

He warned people involved in criminal activities that they are in close watch of them and that would they soon fall in the hands of authorities.

“Our message to people involved in criminal gangs is that we will use everything we can to stop their activity,” Reyes said.

The police official added that the intensified focused police operations against groups engaged in criminal activities in the province form part of their relentless campaign to control and eradicate crime. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NBT/CBD/EDS

DENR-Bicol orders crackdown on fishponds encroaching on protected sites
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 20 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered a region-wide crackdown on fishponds that illegally encroach on protected foreshore sites.

“We are now in the process of establishing that several fishponds across the region have been constructed within swamplands and mangrove forests which have not been released by the DENR for such purpose, hence, considered illegal,” DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales on Thursday said.

The process is being done through field inspections, inventory and verification of Special Land Use Permits (SLUPs) covering such commercial structures which when found illegal, will be immediately dismantled, Gonzales said.

SLUP is a privilege granted by the government to a person to occupy, possess and manage in consideration of specified return, any public forest lands for a specific use or purpose.

Certainly, there are some and DENR is applying due process so that the crackdown on this illegal use of protected areas is implemented with diligence, the DENR official stressed.

Initially, the process is now in progress in the island province of Catanduanes where at least eight fishponds in Panganiban and Viga towns have been reportedly developed and operating illegally for either encroaching on swamplands, mangrove forests and timberlands or entirely within the same prohibited sites.

Mangrove forests and swamplands are government protected areas because they serve as spawning ground of marine life and developing the same for fishpond use destroys such habitat and compromises the existing ecosystem.

These eight fishponds in two Catanduanes towns have already been evaluated by a special task force and were said to be developed decades back have pending applications for SLUPs with the DENR, Gonzales said.

There have been at least 18 SLUP applications for aqua-silvi projects filed with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR in Catanduanes as early as the middle of 1970s, some of them covering these illegal fishponds but only one has so far been approved but has already expired about six years ago.

The task force, however, has recommended that such applications be denied and its operators have already been advised to desist from introducing more improvements or from expanding their fishpond to give way to the restoration of the mangrove forests and rehabilitation of the swamplands that were illegally converted to fishponds, he said.

The rehabilitation and restoration process will first involve the dismantling of the illegally constructed structures, then the on-site forest management to protect, develop and conserve the mangrove forests and swamplands through arrangements with concerned local government units (LGUs) and other agencies.

Filing of appropriate criminal complaints against the fishpond operators and other persons directly involved in the construction that resulted in destruction of mangrove forests and swamplands in violation of forestry laws has also been recommended and being considered by his office, Gonzales said.

“After Catanduanes, we are going around all the other five Bicol provinces—Masbate, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Albay -- for the purpose of clearing out our protected coastal areas of illegal fishponds and other installations,” he said.

As soon as these illegal structures are demolished, the DENR and all other public and private agencies concerned with environmental protection and conservation, including LGUs, will follow up with restoration and rehabilitation aimed at reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities from the impact of climate change, among other purposes, the DENR regional chief said.

The climate change era makes it high time for everyone in Bicol to insist on the development of various ecosystems within the region so that its resistance to natural calamities -- like typhoon, flood, landslide, tsunami, earthquake and volcanic eruptions -- is enhanced, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS