Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Solon pushes agriculture modernization, revival of Bataan Nuclear Plant
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 23 (PNA) -- Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito stressed on the need to modernize agriculture by stopping smuggling and the use of nuclear power to address the country’s power needs during a recent visit here to hold a dialogue with the youth.

“We really need to modernize our agriculture but we need to cut on the smuggling first. Our agriculture is dying because of smuggling,” he told a press conference after the youth forum.

In same media conference, Ejercito talked on the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) which he said should be revived to address the country’s power needs.

The youth forum that delved on the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Law was held at the Ibalong Conference Room at the Legazpi City Hall compound here.

Ejercito, who is chairperson of the economic affairs committee in the Senate, introduced Senate Bill 2923 which gives stricter penalties on the illegal importation of agricultural products.

He said the measure, which provides for a fine of “twice the fair market value of the smuggled product and its corresponding amount of taxes, duties and other charges,” will be of great help to the Filipino farmers.

The lawmaker said the government should subsidize Filipino farmers so they could compete with farmers in Thailand and Cambodia.

Ejercito said by helping the farmers make the prices of their produce become more competitive their families will be helped.

He said when the Filipino farmers become more productive, the country could attain food security even with the adverse effects of climate change.

On the BNPP, Ejercito said it was a Marcos project but it is “completely owned by the Filipino people.”

He said the BNPP will help solve the country’s energy requirements as it is a source of the “cheapest and cleanest energy.”

The BNPP's construction was done between 1976 and 1984 and payment was completed in 2007 but its operation was put on hold.

In a report in January this year, rappler.com said the country had completed payment of the US$ 2.3-billion debt that had been used to defray BNPP’s construction.

The same news organization said that when former president Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986 and the government of Mrs. Corazon Aquino took over, assets of the nuclear power plant was transferred to the government but the latter did not operate it. In the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Russia, the BNPP has since been left in the backburner.

Ejercito said the BNPP was built similar to the world’s three running power plants--Angra I in Brazil, Krško in Slovenia and Kori II in South Korea.

“(South) Korea is now the top manufacturer in the world who has even surpassed Japan,” he said.

Ejercito said that by failing to operate the BNPP the government is unable to utilize the US$ 2-billion taxpayers’ money.

“If it will be utilized the cost of our electricity will drastically drop at P2 per kilowatt hour,” he said.

The BNPP has a 620-megawatt (MW) capacity that can supply 10 percent of the power requirement of the Luzon grid, said Ejercito.

He said the revival of BNPP could help the shore up energy requirements of the country which intermittently faces an energy crisis.

“It will cost about US$ 2 billion to revive it (BNPP) but the return of investment will be profitable,” Ejercito said.

Rappler.com, in its Jan. 10, 2016 report on the BNPP, said “for every year the matter sits in indecision alley, the government is spending P50 million (US$ 1.06 million) to maintain the mothballed plant.” The news organization was referring to the “matter” of whether to operate or not the power plant.

Despite endorsing its operation, Ejercito said that the “safety precaution must be followed” before the revival of BNPP.

Rappler. com said that since its near completion in 1984, the 31-year-old BNPP has lain dormant in a sprawling 389-hectare lot in Napot Point, Morong, Bataan. (PNA) LAP/GVR/RBB/CBD

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Albay solon eyes big dams to irrigate farmlands during dry spells
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (Third District) cited the need for big impounding dams that could be used for the irrigation of rice farmlands, especially during dry spells, particularly in the third district towns of the province or those located northwest of this city.

“The third district is considered the food basket or rice granary of the province where (such) irrigation system is most needed,” said Gonzales.

The third district of Albay covers the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon, as well as Pio Duran town, which is southwest of Legazpi.

“These are the things we have to study and further attend to so the plight of the farmers could be improved,” he said.

Gonzales said the need for sufficient irrigation systems to improve rice production and ease the poverty of Albay’s farmers came up during his discussion with Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bicol Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said 60 to 70 percent of the community in Albay are farmers who “directly or indirectly” depend on agriculture.

Gonzales said there is no need for farmers to expand their land production areas to get the highest productivity but what is needed is water to produce more cavans of rice.

“If there is sufficient irrigation system the province will have an increased rice production,” he said.

The Albay lawmaker cited that an unirrigated farmland with an area of one hectare normally produces 80 cavans of rice.

He said the same farmland if well irrigated could generate a harvest of nearly twice the unirrigated farmland, or from 120 to 150 cavans per hectare.

“During the rainy season the farmers do not have much problem in farming but during the dry season almost half of the land area cannot be cultivated because of the problem of water," added Gonzales.

He said the help of DA, National Irrigation Administration and Department of Public Works and Highways is needed for the construction of additional “big impounding dams” that could help farmers during El Niño or dry season.

Gonzales cited the peculiar situation in Albay, particularly in the third district towns, which serve as a catchbasin of floodwaters during the rainy season “but also have a big problem on where to get irrigation water during the dry season or El Niño.”

He said there is heavy flood in Albay when it rains but the excessive rainwater is not utilized during the dry season.(Bumabaha nga sa Albay kapag umuulan pero di naman nagagamit ang bahang ito...)

“So we have to balance it through a big watershed that will impound this water and use it in the coming days,” said Gonzales.

He said he has already allocated hundreds of millions of pesos for the farmers’ irrigation systems but there is need for “more comprehensive projects” by putting up big impounding dams like the Pantabangan Dam (in Nueva Ecija) and La Mesa Dam(in Quezon City).

Gonzales said the water in these dams could be used for irrigation, household and industrial needs.

He said there were watersheds constructed in Albay decades ago, some of them around 50 years old like the Bahamas dam in Nasisi Village in Ligao City and Ogson dam and Sta. Cruz dam in Libon town.

“There is also a need to dredge the silted watershed in the province as well as upgrade, modernize and retrofit it,” he added.

Gonzales said aside from adequate irrigation facilities the rice farmers should be helped in enhancing their production through technical help, new farming tools and equipment and provision of high value seeds.

“DA should give priority to helping the farmers increase their rice and corn production so the government could have sufficient stock and be able to rid of its importation program,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said during his discussion with Bragas they planned to have joint undertakings that will address the farmers’ problems not only in Albay but also throughout the Bicol region.

Cynthia Perdiz, director of the Philippine Statistical Authority, in a report made public early in August, said there was a “drop in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector” in 2015.

She explained this came about while notable growth was seen in the industry and service sectors that fueled Bicol’s growth rate of 8.4 percent and made the region the fastest growing among all regions in the country last year.

Perdiz said last year saw the onset of El Nino which affected the agricultural sector’s performance and reduced rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said DA is refocusing its thrust to the production of more food rather than the building of farm-to-market roads under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Piñol made the statement when he came to DA’s regional center in Pili, Camarines Sur last July 12 for a consultation with Bicol governors, congressmen and agriculture officials. (PNA) BNB/GVR/JH/CBD

Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara nominated as Regional Development Council chairman

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA)--Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara has been nominated as the new chairman of the Regional Development Council (RDC) at a special meeting at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) office here.

Majority of the chief executives of the provinces and municipalities and heads of various national government agencies in the Bicol region approved of Bichara’s nomination as the new RDC chairman during the selection process.

Some 32 of the 47 RDC voting members composed of Bicol governors, city and capital town mayors and regional directors of various national government agencies acceded to Bichara’s nomination by Masbate Gov. Antonio.

During the nomination, Kho requested the council to do away with the procedure of submitting to the President two nominees as council chairperson.

Under the rules, the council has to submit to the President two nominees for council chairperson and another two nominees for vice chairman from the private sector for RDC vice chairman.

Following these rules, the President would then select and appoint from among the nominees his choice for RDC chairman and vice chairman.

The council nominated two private sector representatives for vice chairman. They were John Abejuro, 51, who represented the business and fishery sector and Jose Medina Jr., 50, for the tourism sector.

Bichara would be RDC chair for a term of three years from 2016 to 2019.

Kho said Bichara was most qualified to head the Bicol RDC after he was elected chairman of the country’s governors’ league.

The Masbate governor said the consensus attained in nominating Bichara would demonstrate to the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte the Bicol leaders’ show of unity.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal welcomed Kho’s proposal to endorse the sole nomination of Bichara to the President.

“Why not give it a chance to nominate only one – in case the President would question this process, we could easily reconvene.”

Camarines Norte Gov. Edgar Tallado was second to give his motion nominating Bichara before it received unanimous approval from all the council members.

Bichara thanked the council members “for their support and the confidence” they gave him.

Showing his interest in leading the RDC council, Bichara immediately passed two urgent resolutions.

The first resolution urged the Department of Transportation and Communication to “review and revise” the technical flaws seen in the Bicol International Airport project plan.

Bichara said the plan “does not conform with international standards.”

The second resolution of Albay’s provincial chief executive seeks to transform the idle airports in Sorsogon and Daet into “community airports” that would cater to small aircrafts during tourism events and emergency operations.

The governors of the provinces of Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, Masbate and Albay and the city mayors of Legazpi and Iriga were present, along the with the regional directors of national agencies, during the RDC meeting.

NEDA in Bicol serves as the principal technical staff and administrative secretariat of the RDC, which is tasked, along with its committees, to support socio-economic planning and development in the region.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD

Friday, August 19, 2016

Albay solon eyes big dams to irrigate farmlands during dry spells
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (third district) cited the need for big impounding dams that could be used for the irrigation of rice farmlands, especially during dry spells, particularly in the province's third district towns northwest of this city.

"The third district is considered the food basket or rice granary of the province where (such) irrigation system is most needed," said Gonzales.

The third district of Albay covers the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon, as well as Pio Duran town, which is southwest of Legazpi.

These are the things we have to study and further attend to so the plight of the farmers could be improved,” he said.

Gonzales said the need for sufficient irrigation systems to improve rice production and ease the poverty of Albay’s farmers came up during his discussion last week with Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bicol Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said 60 to 70 percent of the community in Albay are farmers who "directly or indirectly" depend on agriculture.

Gonzales said there is no need for farmers to expand their land production areas to get the highest productivity but what is needed is water to produce more cavans of rice.I

"If there is sufficient irrigation system the province will have an increased rice production," he said.

The Albay lawmaker cited that an unirrigated farmland with an area of one hectare normally produces 80 cavans of rice.

He said the same farmland if well irrigated could generate a harvest of nearly twice the unirrigated farmland, or from 120 to 150 cavans per hectare.

“During the rainy season the farmers do not have much problem in farming but during the dry season almost half of the land area cannot be cultivated because of the problem of water," added Gonzales.

He said the help of DA, National Irrigation Administration and Department of Public Works and Highways is needed for the construction of additional "big impounding dams" that could help farmers during El Niño or dry season.

Gonzales cited the peculiar situation in Albay, particularly in the third district towns, which serve as a catchbasin of floodwaters during the rainy season "but also have a big problem on where to get irrigation water during the dry season or El Niño."

He said there is heavy flood in Albay when it rains but the excessive rainwater is not utilized during the dry season.(Bumabaha nga sa Albay kapag umuulan pero di naman nagagamit ang bahang ito...)

"So we have to balance it through a big watershed that will impound this water and use it in the coming days," said Gonzales.

He said he has already allocated hundreds of millions of pesos for the farmers’ irrigation systems but there is need for “more comprehensive projects” by putting up big impounding dams like the Pantabangan Dam (in Nueva Ecija) and La Mesa Dam(in Quezon City).

Gonzales said the water in these dams could be used for irrigation, household and industrial needs.

He said there were watersheds constructed in Albay decades ago, some of them around 50 years old like the Bahamas dam in Nasisi Village in Ligao City and Ogson dam and Sta. Cruz dam in Libon town.

“There is also a need to dredge the silted watershed in the province as well as upgrade, modernize and retrofit it,” he added.

Gonzales said aside from adequate irrigation facilities the rice farmers should be helped in enhancing their production through technical help, new farming tools and equipment and provision of high value seeds.

“DA should give priority to helping the farmers increase their rice and corn production so the government could have sufficient stock and be able to rid of its importation program,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said during his discussion with Bragas they planned to have joint undertakings that will address the farmers’ problems not only in Albay but also throughout the Bicol region.

Cynthia Perdiz, director of the Philippine Statistical Authority, in a report made public early in August, said there was a “drop in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector” in 2015.

She explained this came about while notable growth was seen in the industry and service sectors that fueled Bicol’s growth rate of 8.4 percent and made the region the fastest growing among all regions in the country last year.

Perdiz said last year saw the onset of El Niño which affected the agricultural sector’s performance and reduced rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said DA is refocusing its thrust to the production of more food rather than the building of farm-to-market roads under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Piñol made the statement when he came to DA’s regional center in Pili, Camarines Sur last July 12 for a consultation with Bicol governors, congressmen and agriculture officials. (PNA) JMC/GVR/JH/CBD

20 Legazpi villages cited for best practices in solid waste management
by Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17, (PNA)--The city government awarded with certificates of commendation 20 villages with the best practices in garbage collection during the first half of the year.

“Collection of garbage is the foremost item in the agenda of the city administration as a way of sustaining a healthy community and maintaining its image as an environment-friendly locality in the (Bicol) region,” said Mayor Noel E. Rosal.

He said the awardees were recognized for their “effective implementation of the city ordinance on solid waste management,” that is in accordance with Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The solid waste management awardees were grouped into the “large barangay” and “small barangay” categories.

Among the 10 winners in the “large barangay” category were the villages of Bigaa, Gogon, Puro, Bagumbayan, Arimbay, Bogtong, Bitano, Cruzada, Oro Site and Cabangan West.

Recipients in the “small barangay” category were the villages of Cabangan East, Sabang, Maoyod, Dap-dap, Tamaoyan, Sagpon, Binanuahan West, EM’s Barrio South, Bano and Cabugao.

Rosal said the city ordinance on solid waste disposal provides for the mandatory segregation of biodegradable wastes from the non-recyclable materials.

“The 30 percent of all the garbage produced by households, as well as commercial and other business establishments operating in this city, are deposited at the sanitary landfill,” he said.

Rosal said the remaining garbage are recycled as composts for use as organic fertilizer.

A flagship project of the Philippine and Spanish governments that was built in 2009, the 1.3-hectare sanitary landfill is located 20 kilometers away from the central business district of the city.

UPOPS

City Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Salve Corral said the awardees were evaluated on the basis of seven criteria set.

The criteria included “best practices of waste segregation at source, segregated collection, collection coverage, and cleanliness and orderliness of their garbage collection center, also known as ‘material recovery facility’ or MRF.”

CENRO also assessed the awardees as to how they maintain and operate their equipment on solid waste disposal.

Records of Cenro also showed the villages were monitored as to their “initiatives in recycling, composting and ‘plastic recovery’” and their documentation (filing and photos) of their management activities.

Rosal also urged the village officials to always inform the villagers on how to be “responsible in the dumping of their waste materials.”

“Throwing of garbage in rivers, canals, esteros and other waterways will cause heavy flooding in the city,” he said.

He added this will contaminate the river and make it hazardous to the people’s health in the community.

Aside from encouraging the proper collection of garbage, Rosal said the burning of waste materials is also forbidden.

The prohibition is meant to reduce the ‘Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants’ or UPOPS from waste materials,” he said.

Rosal said in recent years, the city government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources inked an agreement for the implementation of an anti-UPOP project.

Bicol’s first

Rosal said the city’s sanitary landfill, located in Barangay Banquerohan at the upper portion of the southern areas of this city, “provides two concrete cells where the non-recyclable materials and special waste were deposited and covered with soil.”

He said it was the first and only ecological solid waste management project established in Bicol pursuant to Republic Act 9003.

The engineered landfill was constructed through a PHP100 million fund granted by the Spanish government through Agencia Española Cooperacion International Para El Desarollo, commonly known as Aecid, to the Legazpi city government.

A memorandum of agreement was signed between Rosal and Spanish Ambassador Luis Arias Romero for the undertaking.

Rosal pointed out the landfill in Banquerohan has become a model in promoting a safe and sustainable environment.

He said other localities have shown interest in having similar facilities for the treatment of their waste. The city government monitors more than 70 villages around the city to effectively implement its ordinance for a healthy and safe environment. (PNA) FPV/GVR/EPS/cbd

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Albay solon seeks creation of independent authority to strengthen PHL disaster management
By Alan Tan

DARAGA, Albay, Aug. 16 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Jose Salceda (2nd District) is seeking the creation of a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, to be commonly known as NDRRMA, which will carry out the “complex responsibility” of disaster management in the country that is prone to natural hazards.

He said the proposal for an integrated framework in managing disaster work in the country considers the “institutional constraints” of the existing Republic Act No. 10121, known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010.

Salceda said RA 10121, which mandates the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as the main coordinating body of all local disaster councils, has been due for evaluation or “sunset review” by the congressional oversight committee five years since it was signed on May 27, 2010.

Among those that are up for review are the performance and organizational structure of the member agencies of NDRRMC and the “the issues and gaps in RA 10121” so that remedial legislation could be done to address the increasing challenges of DRRM in the country.

The lawmaker from Albay, a province which has been acknowledged internationally for its best practices in achieving zero casualty during disasters, said the NDRRMA will be constituted according to a proposed bill he will submit to the 17th Congress.

He said the proposed bill had resulted from “action research, sharing of experiences and dynamic discussions among various stakeholders from national and local government agencies, organizations and communities.”

Salceda said the planned bill is also a product of “comparable international experiences.” The lawmaker was recognized by the United Nation International Strategy for Disaster Reduction for his efforts to institutionalize DRRM when he was Albay governor.

After supertyphoon Yolanda (international name:Haiyan) devastated Eastern Visayas, especially Tacloban City, in November 2013 the Japanese International Cooperation Agency has expressed its support for the creation of an agency for the speedy rehabilitation of devastated areas.

“Team Albay” which the former governor organized was the first responder to the devastated city and region immediately after the supertyphoon made its landfall.

Salceda was also elected as the co-chair of the United Nations Green Climate Fund (UN GCF) Board in Paris, France in 2013, to become the first Asian and first Filipino to lead the Fund’s 24-member Board, which was created to help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change.

He said the aim of the bill is to create an independent NDRRMA that will monitor, serve as oversight, and ensure implementation of DRRRM objectives in all localities in the country.

“The NDRRMA will be equipped with the necessary competency and resources to engage new actors, particularly in the field of risk transfer and insurance, and built with the necessary structure to manage broader governance arrangements and oversee the implementation of DRRM efforts towards sustainable development goals,” said the Albay lawmaker.

He added that his proposed bill will designate and empower the NDRRMA as the lead agency and attached agency of the Office of the President for the implementation of risk reduction policies, programs and projects and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

“It has the authority ...to administer, mobilize, report, monitor and oversee the utilization of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, recovery and rehabilitation funds, and donations for DRRM,” he said.

NDRRMA, NDRRMC, OCD

Salceda said under the proposed bill, the NDRRMA will be separate from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), which will continue to perform its original mandate to administer a comprehensive national civil defense program, training of community volunteers and other mechanisms for local preparedness.

“The NDRRMC will now focus solely on policy-making and function as a platform for coordination of policy concerns with the NDRRMA organizing and managing the secretariat and operations center to support the NDRRMC,” he said.

He added RA 10121, also known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, was a landmark legislation for Philippine DRRM as it initiated a shift from the decades old DRRM polices on “reactive emergency management and preparedness” to one that is “proactive by prioritizing DRR, prevention and mitigation over disaster response.”

He said many years of intense advocacy work by stakeholders and two unfortunate large scale disasters—-Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng—-that hit Luzon and particularly hurt Metro Manila in 2009, finally compelled the passage of RA 10121.

Salceda said RA 10121 came after 32 years of the previous law that was crafted through Presidential Decree 1566 in 1978.

Innovations

Among the institutional innovations of RA 10121, Salceda said, was the establishment of permanent disaster management offices at all levels of the local government in contrast to the disaster management councils before “but which for economic expediency was maintained at the barangay level.”

Salceda said the practice of a permanent disaster management office was pioneered by Albay in 1994 through the creation of its Albay Public Safety and Management Office, more popularly known as Apsemo.

He said from the previous inter-agency body, known as the National Disaster Coordinating Council, it was radically expanded and transformed into the NDRRMC as it is now known today.

“The NDRRMC has been mandated to supervise and lead not only in emergency management but also in the implementation of disaster risk reduction through its ‘policy-making, coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring and evaluation’ functions,” said Salceda.

Supertyphoon YolandaSalceda said supertyphoon Yolanda, however, exposed the weaknesses of the institutional set up under RA 10121.

He said extreme difficulties were encountered in carrying out the “heavy responsibility of concretely integrating the disaster risk management framework in the national and local planning processes.”

Salceda said that RA 10121’s strength lies in its institutionalization of stakeholder participation in policy-making for DRRM, that was accomplished through the expanded membership of the NDRRMC.

He said however the law “failed to create an institution that is in a sufficiently high position to oversee the implementation of a streamlined DRRM policies nationwide.”

Salceda said RA 10121 failed to create an institution that has the necessary authority, mandate and resources to lead and coordinate the efforts of different stakeholders towards a more resilient nation.

He emphasized how the occurrence of superyphoon Yolanda and other large-scale disasters revealed the problems encountered in coordinating and implementing large-scale DRRM efforts.

In 2015, the Global Climate Risk Index ranked the Philippines as the fifth among the most affected countries within a 20-year period, from 1994 to 2013, with the most number of climate-related extreme weather events.

In the same year, the World Risk Index raised the ranking of the Philippines as the second most at risk country out of 171 countries in the world.

Salceda said the best form of response under an intensifying global warming is a “fast, well-funded and well-coordinated response under the NDRRMA.”

“The country’s policies should be able to reflect this,” he said.

Salceda said his proposed bill in Congress will be entitled: An Act Further Strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System by Institutionalizing the Framework and Plan and Establishing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, Appropriating Funds Thereof and For Other Purposes.(PNA) JMC/GVR/AT/CBD