Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Phivolcs raises Alert Level 3 on Mayon; 72 rockfalls recorded
By Floreño G. Solmirano and Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 16 (PNA) -- The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Mayon Volcano’s alert status to Alert Level 3 at 10:00 p.m. Monday.

Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta said this means that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks.

“It is recommended that the six-km radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the 7-km Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank be enforced due to the danger of rock falls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows," he said.

Laguerta said the agency seismic network recorded 32 volcanic earthquakes and 72 rock fall events during the past 24-hour observation period.

He added that Intensity III (bright) crater glow was visible Monday night, although rain clouds prevented visual observation of the crater during the day.

“The rolling incandescent rockfall within the uppermost reaches of the Bonga Gully last night indicates that the summit lava dome is breaching the crater in its southeastern side, the volcanologist said, saying that sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at an average of 611 tons/day on Sept. 2.

Ground deformation data showed inflationary changes in the edifice from February based on precise leveling surveys on the third week of August, and edifice inflation from January 2012 baselines based on continuous tilt measurement. “All the above data indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma,” Laguerta said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has ordered the forced evacuation of at least 10,000 affected residents and the no-human activity order withing the six-kilometer PDZ.

Based on the latest aerial survey and after the raising of Alert 2, authorities noted the entry of about 300 residents withing the area although they had been evacuated already.

“There are residents who took advantage of the temporary lull in the volcano’s activity since its eruption in 2009,” Salceda noted.

Since Alert 2 was raised on Aug. 15, the province has been training officials in affected municipalities and barangays.

These local government units are the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao, and the towns of Guniobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Sto. Domingo and Malilipot.

Salceda also ordered these LGUs to conduct emergency meetings for the evacuation of the villagers withing the six-km PDZ to eight-km EDZ.

“We will enforce the cluster approach in the management of the evacuation camps, like what we organized and trained for such event in 2009,” he did.

The Albay governor said he recommended to the Department of Education to come up already with emergency plans for the affected schools and students.

Salceda said that during disasters, the rights of the evacuees are superior to the rights of schoolchildren as guidance.

“The province-owned permanent evacuation centers in Gogon, Daraga nd Guinobatan can no longer be used as classrooms starting today,” he said, adding “Moreover, there may be a need to use more schools to accommodate the evacuees from the 6km-8km EDZ.”

He has instructed the Deped to institute measures to minimize disruption of learning, instruction and schooling for those affected barangays and host schools.

“Those living in the area southeast of Mayon are advised to prepare moist cloths to cover their faces and noses in preparation for the ash falls,” Salceda said.

He ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Provincial Engineering Office and other members of the emergency team to ensure the availability of vehicles for evacuation and other activities needing transport and dispatch these to the Provincial Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council Operation Center for immediate dispatch in case of need.

The PDRRMC, Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office, and the mayors of the affected cities and municipalities will have an emergency meeting at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

In response to the Mayon Level 3 alert, the Guinobatan DRRMC has evacuted 28 families (120 persons) living within the 6-km PDZ in Barangay Muladbucad Grande Monday night, according to Mayor Gemma Ongjoco.(PNA)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Nigerian girl begs world for peace, food to eat and water to drink -- not war
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 11 (PNA) -- A Nigerian girl who experienced conflict in her childhood broke her silence during the 7th World Summit on Media for Children and begged for peace, food to eat, water to drink, medicine for hospitals and for children to be sent to school instead of exposing them to never-ending war.

Winifred Maduko, 18, from Nigeria, who attended the world summit on media for children, finally broke her silence shortly before the summit ended at the five-star The Royale Chulan hotel here after a Palestinian speaker tackled about children’s rights and potential as future leaders of the world.

On this instance, Maduko stood up, expressed her feelings for children and revealed that children in conflict areas like in Gaza can no longer go to school, have no food to eat and water to drink, and without hospital and medication.

“When they want to cry, there is no shoulder to cry on because their parents have long died during bomb attack. This is the life of the children in Gaza,” this was her powerful message that re-echoed in the hall where 1,000 delegates from about 100 countries stood in silence, obviously touched.

“As children, we all need to develop to the fullest. So we can live up to our expectations in the nearest future as the world’s future leaders. We all need to stand up and protect the rights of children no matter where we are, no matter what our continent is, or our culture or our language is. We should say 'no' to war because the children are the number one victims of war,” she said.

Maduko, who has personally experienced conflict, said that with the saga of war all around the world, the children are the most vulnerable.

“You will believe with me that no child can develop in such an environment full of dirt and perhaps, burnt bodies during a bomb attack and the least goes on and on. For us, the children, to survive, the world must learn how to live in peace and harmony -- loving and caring for one another; and finally, respecting the life of each other,” she said, adding "Our world leaders as we know are human beings like you but talking about what they can do, our world leaders should live in peace first. Preach peace and fight for peace to reign."

As a child, she said, she feels dust.

"Those other children are also experiencing war in their country and though I am not there physically, I know their feeling. They have no food, no water; they do not go to school. All these things happen to the children and even more. Let’s us all say 'no' to war and let peace reign,” she said in strongly reiterating her call.

Her appeal was lauded with a big applause by the delegates.

Maha Mostafa Akeel, a former journalist now serving as director of the information department of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and one of the speakers in the pre-summit workshop of the 7th World Summit on Media for Children before the official session, said it’s hard to provide children in normal living conditions with their rights for protection, education, health care, safe environment and good entertainment.

"Even their simplest rights are violated and jeopardized," Akeel said, adding “I’m here to talk about media’s role in promoting and improving children’s rights in the most distressing of situations -- war and conflicts. Imagine the effects of war on innocent children who do not understand why would someone bomb their house and kill their parents; why do they have to leave their home and their toys and their favorite blankets to live in tents; why they can’t go to their school which was destroyed or why there is no medicine or doctors to treat them in the hospital,” she asked.

Akeel said that children refugees in Lebanon account for half of the Syrian refugees, estimated at 1.17 million, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Of those children, around 400,000 are of school age but only 90,000 will be able to register in official Lebanese schools this year as these cannot accommodate more, being stretched to the limit.

Around 300,000 Syrian children in Lebanon will be enrolled in private schools or get some sort of regular education in their camps through programs and assistance from UNICEF and non-governmental organizations.

While in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had to flee to Kurdistan region in the north to escape the violence in addition to the thousands of Syrian refugees who also fled there.

Many of these refugees have been sheltered in schools.

The Kurdistan region, according to Akeel, is facing a big challenge of providing shelter and schooling to their children as well as the refugee children.

In Gaza, during the ongoing Israeli aggression, it is not only the children’s education that has been interrupted but also their life as based on the statistics, at least 581 children were killed in the brutal inhumane attack and 2,877 wounded.

The long-term and short-term impacts on children and their families are almost impossible to quantify, she said.

She stressed that the effects of war on children include death, injury, disability, illness, rape and prostitution for subsistence, psychological suffering, moral and spiritual impacts -- thus, social and cultural losses.

"It’s really a complete devastation on their lives and future," Akeel lamented.

“These are only a few examples where we are increasingly seeing how children are being affected by war. Not only in the death statistics but also through the exposure to the brutality of war can we see the devastating impacts on children’s lives, which will be felt even by the generations to come,” Akeel said.

While the media, according to her, generally tends to focus on issues such as education and health when reporting about the effects of war on children, they do not give much attention to the children's needs for social interaction activities for stress debriefing to lessen their suffering and divert their mind away from the devastating impacts of war.

She said that her office is working with the government and NGOs to address the needs of the refugee children.

Akeel also called on the media reporting from the conflict zones to protect children from exposing violence in media as they have enough of violent exposure.

“We need to be careful about the war images children are exposed to, whether those who are in the war zones and are already living and seeing the horrors of war or those far away from them in the safety of their own homes. There is already unfortunately enough violence in the world; we do not need to bring it in home to the children through video and computer games and televised images,” she said.

The communications officer saw the need to give home to children and teach them that violence is not a way to solve problems.

"Rather than the constant images of destruction, mayhem and death, let us help them see a better future for themselves and speak up against war,” she pointed out.

The 7th World Summit on Media for Children is a high-level gathering of delegates across a wide spectrum of broadcasters, regulators, academe and the international community from almost 100 countries across the globe.

Dr. Patricia Edgar, founder of World Summit on Media for Children, earlier said media in this digital age are very crucial to educate the children as the old paradigms are breaking down, following the introduction of information and communication technology in the 21st century. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Salceda: Local control of police will curtail police criminality, improve performance quality

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 11 (PNA) -- Placing the control of the police under the local government will reverse its dysfunction, optimize its resources, enhance its institutional capabilities and curtail the current uptrend in criminality involving lawmen.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, reacting to the recent spate of police criminality, said its surging incidence “should compel us to seriously revisit the logic for a national police force vis-à-vis local community control over the police.”

A localized police, Salceda said, will result in an open and constant engagements with the community, particularly the vulnerable and the needy, whom the institution is sworn to protect and serve.

Police officers agree that administrative partnership with LGUs can produce good results, as in the case of the Albay PNP headed by Senior Supt. Mario Meneses, which was recently given the Silver Trailblazer Awards, during the Performance Governance System last May 27, second only to Nueva Ecija.

The Bicol PNP Regional Command also recently ranked second to the Cordillera Autonomous Region among the 17 police regional offices in the country in the manhunt for wanted criminals, largely due to its partnership with LGUs in the Bicol Region, Salceda noted.

Creating the PNP and taking its control from the hands of local officials “was largely on account of the martial law regime phobia and is reflective of the mindset of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and the 1987 Congress,” he added.

Salceda pointed out such fear was proven largely baseless as in the case of Albay, where “under our own initiative called Team Albay, we managed to optimize and mobilize the institution, the capabilities and resources of PNP provincial office and seamlessly fused them in our strategic interventions.”

Under the PNP’s present set up, hiring, firing, training and promotions are all national prerogatives. Towns and cities have limited day-to-day operations supervision while governors impinge on police management in our territory only upon the need to pick among the choices for a provincial director position brought down from Camp Crame, he said.

National in character, and with overwhelming and expanded concerns, the governor said a policeman can lose his grasp with the community and his role as protector of the man on the street and the primacy of the lowly villagers’ safety.

Team Albay, formed by Salceda primarily as a disaster risk reduction and management group, has proven that the police force can draw strength from its own local concerns to become an indispensable component of the LGUs.

“I believe if expanded, local control over the police would significantly curtail and reverse the current uptrend in police criminality,” said the governor. Veteran and multi-awarded Team Albay has to its credit eleven major humanitarian missions, impressive records in preemptive evacuation, tree planting, coastal clean ups, actions for climate mitigation and activities for climate change adaptation.

Team Albay’s most recent activities include the provision of security arrangements for the Albay International Gateway as well as the conferences last May of the United Nations World Trade Organization and upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Conference.

Salceda said even without the expressed national blessing, the conscious local exertion and intellectual leadership together with the doctrinal approaches of the local provincial police resulted in the optimization of police resources and the consequent enhancement of its institutional capabilities and the constant open engagements with local communities, especially the vulnerable and the needy. (PNA) LAP/JCN/UTB

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Malaysian Prime Minister's wife asks media for quality information to educate children in 21st century
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept. 10 (PNA) -- In this digital age where information is just a click away anytime, anywhere by the children, Malaysian Prime Minister's wife Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor called for quality media information to educate the public specifically, the children, as the future leaders of the world in this 21st century.

Mansor, the keynote speaker, delivered her message before 1,000 delegates to the 7th World Summit on Media for Children from almost 100 countries held at the Royale Chulan Hotel here.

The summit for children focused on media’s role in education.

Mansor said that in this digital age, media can be creative or destructive, which might misinform and affect the development of the children, specifically in developing countries with 2.5 billion children or about one-fourth of the world’s population.

She believes that children are the most precious treasure of the world as heirs and future leaders in the next decade and should receive early quality education through the help of mass media in this digital era.

She said the contractive role of media with exponential power is very important as they could not only capture the imagination of the children but also shape the minds of the children at early life.

On the positive side, Mansor said, traditional media can harness education and inform the people, compared to social media which are without control of right or wrong information in this digital genre.

The 7th World Summit on Media for Children is a high-level gathering of delegates across the spectrum of broadcasters, regulators, academe and the international community from almost 100 countries across the globe.

Dr. Patricia Edgar, founder of World Summit on Media for Children (WSMC), said the challenges of media in this digital age is very crucial to educate the children as the old paradigms are breaking down, following the introduction of information and communication technology in the 21st century.

“The old paradigms are breaking down and old broadcasting models are fast becoming inappropriate and unsustainable. Traditional broadcasters and producers are no longer in charge. Control has shifted to new global players, and young people themselves who, enabled by technology, are reshaping the media landscape. They know what they want, how they will engage with content and they know where they can get it,” Edgar said.

“Our challenge is not such as bad thing if we reflect long and hard about the possibilities offered. The opportunity is exciting, digital technology allows for fresh ideas, new collaborations and new economic models to be tried and explored. It allows for merit to win through. Never before has content and creativity had the potential to free itself from entrenched broadcasting and producer interests,” she said.

“The future requires us to think and act differently, to be bold, imaginative and creative on behalf of children and young people. Long overlooked by broadcasters, learning has been the poor relation of entertainment. Creative and innovative use of media in education could transform teaching into a 21st century model of learning, the founder pointed out, she said.

This is just as challenging to schools as it is to the media industry but progress here is of fundamental importance for children across the globe—particularly in the developing world where 75 million children are not in school, Edgar lamented.

She said media could reach these children and help in their development.

"Media are also central to the process of breaking down education, social and cultural barriers to building tolerance and understanding across the globe. By giving children a voice, facilitating their access and means of distribution, we can assist them in building a new world fit for their future,” Edgar added.

Since the inception of the children summit 20 years ago in Melbourne Australia in 1995, the high-level panel of dialogue being held in Asia for the first time was organized by the Asian Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), World Summit on Media for Children Foundation and of Radio Television Malaysia (RTM).

Since then, the summits have visited the UK, Greece, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden.

This year’s summit is not only challenging traditional ideas and practices but welcoming new players, creating new networks and relationships about established thinking to its core.

"It is about helping ensure that a vibrant, creative industry remains relevant, true to its purpose and its child audience," Edgar stressed.

The world summit for children was driven by the belief that media have enormous power and potential to inspire, to educate and entertain and to bring the world together.

"Today’s summit put strong emphasis on the value of media in education, and in relation to social responsibility around issues like AIDS, child trafficking and violence.

The three-day 7th WSMC has for its theme "Media for 21st Century Children."

This stringer was tapped by the ABU to be one of the speakers for print media in the summit that started Monday with the pre-summit workshop to produce strong stories for strong children and how to write winning program proposals.

It stresses children’s media being at the core of public service media, social media trends and feature animation films.

Similarly, it tackles the need of storytelling in the digital age specifically that children are now not reading newspapers and books thoroughly; the uses and abuses of social media; interactive media and games; policy and regulation – in order to raise the profile of kids’ media, locally and internationally. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Salceda renews call for improved education
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 10 (PNA) -– “Find ways to improve the instruction, think of new ideas out of those already learned and outline the needed reforms and actions to uplift literacy in the province.”

This was the clear yet near-forceful challenge of Governor Joey Sarte Salceda as he renewed his call on stakeholders in education to continue pushing for programs that would improve the literacy rate in Albay.

The province is celebrating the Literacy Month this September.

Salceda issued his challenge even as he noted from the 2013 record of the National Statistics Office (NSO) that the literacy rate in Bicol Region is 98.5 percent, a bit higher than the national rate of 97.5 percent.

However, he said, the record only showed simple literacy (or the ability to read and write), and not “functional literacy” or the ability to read, write, count and understand both or all.

The Albay chief executive urged schools to give attention to functional literacy.

Since becoming governor of the province’s more than a million population, Salceda said, allotment for education has always been the highest in Albay in recognition of the value of its educated human resource as having the highest potential to becoming economically productive.

He disclosed that his administration focuses more on improving the instruction not only for students but also for workers or those already employed to become part of their continuous learning program.

“We witness how fast development is due to technology, with which we, Filipinos, should be at pace -- for us to be at par with other developed countries,” Salceda stressed in Filipino.

He also pushed for the enhancement of computer literacy among the teachers as records from the Department of Education showed only 14 percent of teachers are computer literate.

If the teachers themselves are not computer literate, how can they teach the students,” Salceda, a son of school teachers, asked.

This year’s provincial celebration of Literacy Month is capped with several activities such as read-a-thon contest and a literacy forum and an educational colloquium. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Massive family development sessions for 4Ps couples held
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 10 (PNA) -– A series of massive family planning development sessions (FDS) is being conducted province-wide for couples covered by the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as an integral activity that seeks to expand knowledge and enhance the skills of the beneficiaries.

Ryan Altavano, Albay population officer 1, said 4Ps beneficiaries are required to attend the regular FDS to help them appreciate and comply with health and education conditions.

“The focus of discussions in every session deals on health education, nutrition, disaster, livelihood, family planning and HIV/AIDS,” Altavano said.

He added that the objectives are to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) demand generation but not coercion and address the unmet needs of reproductive age.

FDS is a year round activity for all 4Ps beneficiaries with different modules not limited to health education and family planning.

In Albay, there are 76,939 households officially enrolled in the 4Ps who are regularly attending the FDS.

A Population Commission report said families with too many children have lesser income, savings and expenditures and the challenges facing Filipino families are unachieved fertility goals among women and access to family planning.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman recently said after the impact evaluation of the program that the challenge to the government is to sustain these improvements in the lives of the families from the program.

"It is important that it reaches its target of 4.3 million poor households by 2016, and that household beneficiaries stay in the program by continuing to comply with its conditions. Toward this end, a coordinated approach is necessary where national government agencies involved in poverty reduction coordinate their activities and interventions to maximize government's investment in human capital,” Soliman explained.

The Pantawid Pamilya, also widely known as the Philippine conditional cash transfer program, is a human development program of the national government and a social protection strategy that invests in the health and education of poor children age 0-14 years old.

As of July 2012, the program has 3,041,152 household beneficiaries in 1,400 cities and municipalities in 79 provinces in all 17 regions nationwide. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MDR/CBD

SPA backs Salceda’s opposition to Alabang endpoint for provincial buses
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 10 (PNA) -- In a show of unity and expression of solid support to Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Albay (SPA) on Tuesday passed a resolution strongly opposing the implementation of an order issued by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) limiting the entry of buses from Southern Tagalog and Bicol provinces in Manila and asking them to use the terminal in Alabang in Muntinlupa City,

Salceda had earlier expressed his dismay over the decision of the two agencies, saying it is highly disadvantageous to the commuting passengers from these areas, especially his province of Albay.

The SPA resolution, entitled “Defining the Metro Manila Endpoints of Provincial Public Utility Buses Originating from Southern Luzon, Bicol and the Visayas to Metro Manila as the Endpoints of their Current Authorized Routes and for Other Purposes" is authored by Board Member Neil Montallana and co-authored by all the members of the SPA, which ensured unanimous voting for its passing.

The move was prompted by the uproar created by residents coming from Southern Luzon, particularly from the Province of Albay, who regularly commute using buses and who said they would find more difficulties with the order.

Memorandum Circular 2014-15 of the MMDA and the LTFRB prevents the entry of provincial buses that were previously disembarking passengers in the Cubao terminal, in hopes of decongesting the worsening traffic in Metro Manila.

The SPA noted that the memorandum circular has caused severe inconveniences to travelers as they need to disembark at the Alabang station after being tired and weary from a long travel and are made to ride another public utility vehicle in going to their destination, resulting also in additional costs.

Earlier in the week, Salceda asked the Supreme Court to prevent the LTFRB and the MMDA from enforcing the memorandum circular. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DENR places forest fire damages in Bicol at Php20M

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 9 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has placed at Php 20 million the cost of damages inflicted on timberlands and forested agricultural areas in the region by the recent series of wildfires.

Some 2,518 hectares were affected by conflagrations that hit at least 12 areas in Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon last month or days after typhoon "Glenda" hit most parts of the region, Gilbert Gonzales, the DENR regional executive director, on Tuesday said.

The first fire was in Rapu-Rapu in Albay that started on August 1 and destroyed some 3,100 hectares of forested areas and threatened the densely populated downtown area of the island-town before it was put out five days later by the rain and water drop operations initiated by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) using bucket-carrying helicopters.

On August 4, the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) reported five separate but simultaneous forest and bush fire incidents—one in Cagraray Island of Bacacay town; another one at the Mayon Volcano Natural Park within the municipality of Sto. Domingo; Cayaban Mountain, Manito; Barangay Putan, Tiwi; and Barangay Guadalupe, Rapu-Rapu.

On August 7, a bush fire, triggered by the burning of garbage by villagers, destroyed a considerable area of grassland in Barangay Balading, Malinao, Albay, the Apsemo said.

On August 8, a fire also broke out at the forest of Mt. Isarog National Park along the municipalities of Calabanga and Tinambac in the province of Camarines Sur.

It destroyed around 150 hectares of woodland within the government protected park.

As fires raged in those areas, similar incidents were also reported in Sorsogon City and its nearby town of Casiguran that destroyed a total of about 100 hectares of cogonal areas, coconut plantations and root crop farms.

The Casiguran fire took place for three days in Barangay Inlagadian, which is situated near the foot of Mt. Bulusan, following the Sorsogon City incident that engulfed for five days a forested site covered by the Bacon-Manito geothermal energy reservation in barangays Osiao and Sto. Nino, both in Bacon District.

The Casiguran Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also reported that two more bush fires took place at the vast mountainous areas of barangays Sta. Cruz and San Pascual, destroying farms of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Gonzales said the most substantial damage was sustained by Rapu-Rapu, estimated at Php 11.5 million, and followed by the Cagraray Island forest fire placed at Php 7.4 million.

“We, along with the regional office of the BFP forming a joint technical working group after assessing the ground damage, are now drafting a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for the affected areas,” he said. Measures toward the prevention of similar incidents like the strict enforcement of some provisions of the law that prohibit “kaingin” system (slash and burn) of farming that is suspected to be the primary cause of forest fires are also being put in place, according to Gonzales.

“We are also now rushing up the formation of the Regional Forest Fire Respondent Teams that will be composed of special units called Leatherbacks from DENR field offices, BFP personnel and volunteers to be tasked to conduct round-the-clock monitoring and initiate quick response in case forest fire incidents occur in their respective areas of responsibility.

These teams that will serve as forest fire prevention and management vanguards will undergo intensive training on the purpose and placed on standby near areas of the region that are vulnerable to forest conflagrations.

To identify these areas, DENR is now preparing thematic maps and profile of timberlands and protected areas in the region which will serve as guide in the posting of the teams.

The maps will include trails and access roads, location of water sources and forest ranger stations.

Bicol has a total of 543,000 hectares of forest land, out of which only 155,689 hectares have remained forested as of 2011.

Of these forested areas, 86,931 hectares are in the province of Camarines Norte and 68,758 hectares, in Catanduanes.

Camarines Norte plays host to the Bicol National Park, a 5,700-hectare government-protected area which is considered one of the region’s remaining yet rapidly deteriorating natural forests even as it is among Bicol’s natural heritage sites for its endemic tree and wildlife species, pristine rivers and other ecological wonders.

In Catanduanes, the substantial forests which remain are all lowland dipterocarp in type and are the largest remaining forest block in the whole of Bicol.

The island-province is also the site of Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve that covers 26,010 hectares and now being proposed as a natural park with an expanded protected area of 49,000 hectares.

The DENR-BFP anti-forest fire undertakings, Gonzales said, “represent a pro-active stance in forest fire prevention for the reason that we are venturing into the most important investment the government has undertaken—the National Greening Program (NGP).” (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

PNP to conduct gun licensing in Masbate City

MASBATE CITY, Sept. 9 (PNA) -– The Philippine National Police has scheduled gun licensing activity on Sept. 16-18 at the Camp Bonny Serrano, here, the chief of the Masbate Provincial Police Office (MPPO) said Tuesday.

Supt. Carl Michael Car Reyes, MPPO OIC-provincial director, reminded gun holders in the province to avail of the gun licensing program of the PNP under the new gun control law.

Reyes earlier released a memorandum that processing for applications for License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF) and Registration of Firearms has been set within this month in the province.

He said the Firearms, Explosives, Security Agencies and Guards Supervision (FESAGS) Unit from the PNP regional office based in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola in Legazpi City will be visiting the province to handle the processing of licenses and give convenience to the applicants .

“In compliance with the Republic Act. 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, it does require gun holders to register and renew firearms the soonest as what the new law mandates," Reyes said.

The list of requirements is available at the MPPO. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NBT/CBD/UTB

Legazpi City eyes slot among PHL's Top 10 tourist destinations

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 9 (PNA) -- From 14th top tourist destination, Legazpi City is now eyeing to be among the Top 10 best tourist destinations in the entire country, City Tourism Officer Joan Encinares Jamisal said during the city's Corporate Planning Meeting on Monday at the Sambalas Restaurant in this city.

Jamisal said this possibility was relayed recently to her office by the Department of Tourism Bicol regional office.

She said her office recorded a total of 579,470 tourist arrivals from January to December 2013, an increase of 32.27 percent compared to the 438,100 tourists who visited this city from January to December 2012.

From January to June 2014 alone, the City Tourism Office (CTO) posted 352,318 tourist arrivals, an improvement of 12.42 percent compared to the recorded 313,388 tourist visitors from January to June 2013.

From January to March 2014, when this city was visited by a number of whale sharks, around 469 foreign tourists and 85 visitors experienced “butanding” interaction at the sea water in front of the city boulevard.

The CTO is targeting 700,000 tourist travelers in the whole year of 2014 and hoping to achieve the record of being one of the top five convention cities in the entire country this year.

Jamisal revealed that the adventure being provided by the majestic Mount Mayon is the primary reason why this city is always on top in tourist arrivals, compared to other localities and neighboring provinces in the region.

The excitement in the all-terrain-vehicle ride is also a reason many tourists want to come back here and spend their vacation.

Foreign travelers also want the taste of the city’s delicacies such as laing, pinangat, Bicol express, sili ice cream and other native delicious foods.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal said the open chartered flight from China’s Xiamen City to Legazpi City also gives a huge contribution to the increasing number of tourist arrivals.

The city, Rosal said, targets to achieve the 700,000 tourist arrivals this year.

He urged the CTO to push further the city’s tourism promotion program as part of informing all kinds of tourist travelers regarding the tourist destinations and other idyllic places in the city. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/UTB