Friday, December 21, 2012

Bicol DOLE reminds employers on 13th month pay

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 21 (PNA) –- The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here has reminded private employers in the region on provisions of the law which makes the payment of 13th month pay to employees before the end of the year as mandatory.

Presidential Decree 851, otherwise known as the 13th Month Pay Law, provides that all employees of a private company occupying whatever position, designation or status of employment should receive the benefit in cash equivalent to one month of their monthly salaries especially when they have been employed for not less than one month within the year.

Under the law, all employees should receive half of their 13th month pay before the start of the current school year or before June, and the other half before December 24, DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra on Friday here said.

Government employees who also work in privately-owned companies including private schools be it in full or part-time basis are entitled to such benefit, Lacambra said.

He said employees who would not be paid the benefit before the specified dates could come to the DOLE so that they are assisted in claiming the amount from their employers.

During the December holidays, Lacambra also announced that private employees are entitled to 100 percent of their daily salary for the regular holiday on December 25, the Christmas Day and an additional of 30 percent for the special non-working holiday on December 24 should they report to work on the same day.

“We are warning all private employers in Bicol from not complying with this lawful provision, otherwise, the DOLE will be compelled to file charges against them,” he added.

Lacambra issued the warning following apprehensions aired by various private employees over violations that their employees tend to commit. “We already received reports that some private employers in the region have told their employees not to expect 13th month pays this year,” he added. (PNA) PDS/DOC/CBD/

Albay launches zero casualty from firecrackers

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 21 (PNA) -- The province of Albay is aspiring for a zero casualty environment in the coming Christmas celebration as another way of achieving the Millennium Development Goals for health, peace and order.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda led a caravan consisting of firetrucks, military, police vehicles and ambulances that started to move around the province of Albay since early Friday morning and the official launch of the "Iwas Paputok 2012" project.

“We need to do this to heighten the awareness among the Albayanos of the dangers of firecrackers specially mishandling them that usually cause damages to health, properties and even lives of those directly involved and worse, those that are just victims of irresponsible practices,” Salceda said.

The "Iwas Paputok" for zero casualty goal is part of the month-long "Karangahan" Green Christmas celebration of Albay.

After the caravan, a lantern parade is slated to be a part of slew of events to be participated in by inter-barangay provincial and inter-barangay of Polangui town at the Culinaria Grounds at the Albay Penaranda Park here.

Display of lanterns for a more colorful night will accompany the night’s reading of Executive Order to Provincial Employees, LGUs and Barangays with their corresponding signing of commitment.

Also supporting the activities are the Philippine National Police (PNP)and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). (PNA) PDS/RMN/CBD/

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Salceda bats for lower power rates, more infra projects to cut unemployment

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) -- The country’s jobless growth should serve as a wake-up call to the administration’s economic managers to lower power rates and accelerate implementation of infrastructure projects to encourage more domestic and foreign investment in the country, a top economist said.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the missing link to addressing the increase unemployment is clearly the non-entry of investment especially foreign.

He said the surge in unemployment rate was mainly due to the lack of jobs and value the business sector has created despite the confidence it has given to the Aquino administration.

Jobless growth remains a challenge of the Philippine political economy despite the remarkable growth in the country’s Gross Domestic Product by 7.1 percent in the third quarter of this year.

To address the problem on unemployment, Salceda urged the government economic managers to reduce electricity prices and pursue and accelerate government infrastructure program.

These economic scenarios would encourage more domestic and foreign investment, thus creating more jobs for hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in the country, Salceda said.

The October labor survey of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Services (BLES) indicated that jobs loss of 882,000 has pushed unemployment rate to 6.81 percent despite the 7.1 percent GDP growth in the third quarter of this year.

Labor force participation rate this year went down at 63.9 percent or 40,419 versus 66.3 percent or 41,937 last year, meaning less people looked for jobs despite higher consumer and business confidence, the study said.

“Possibly, the BLES study is the first real bad news of the Aquino administration since coming to office it represents a significant deviation from its avowed goal of inclusive growth,” Salceda said.

“Let’s not cry over spilled milk. Rather, help P-Noy (President Aquino) achieve our national aspiration,” he said. (PNA) LAP/MSA/CBD/

DA urges farmers to expand organic rice seed production

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture regional field office in Bicol has urged farmers to expand the production of rice organic seeds specially those aromatic varieties.

Emily Bordado, information officer, said the Pecuaria Development Cooperative Inc., (PDCI) is the single producer of organic rice in Bicol region and certified organic collaborators chosen by the Department of Agriculture in the country for its project – Development of National Organic Rice Seed Production Systems.

“Organic rice is more nutritious and we encourage farmers to promote and spread the production of this varieties,” Bordado said.

Aside from Bicol region, other four certified organic farms are the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija, Kahariam Realty and Farms Inc. in Batangas, the Negros Island Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Foundation Inc. and Bios Dynamis of South Cotabato.

The PDCI is producing aromatic rice varieties such as JM 2, Basmati and MS 16, and traditional varieties RC 18 and RC 160 which are being developed in a one-hectare demo farm in the more than 800-hectare Pecuaria Rice Central in Lanipga Bula, Camarines Sur and were harvested during said field day.

The project is being implemented by the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry and funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research to support the Philippine Organic Agriculture Law.

The seeds produced from this techno demo will be procured by the DA and will be distributed as starter seeds to farmers engaged in aromatic rice production.

Bardado noted that NSIC RC 160 is a high yielding variety developed in CLSU, while the MS 16 (Maligaya Special) developed by PhilRice has good eating quality. He emphasized the continued support of the DA National Rice Program to the Filipino farmers and promised to revitalize organic agriculture in all areas of the country.

Bicol region is contributing 44 percent of the country's organic crops production and for contributing 74 percent to the total organic palay production from January to September this year. (PNA) LAP/MDR/CBD/

Team Albay takes over operation of lone hospital in DavOr

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA)-- Veteran emergency response group Team Albay recently took over operation of the only existing local hospital as base of medical relief operation for a well-coordinated medical relief for victims of super typhoon "Pablo".

Albay governor Joey Salceda said the Cateel Emergency Hospital services five other towns, two of them hard hit Bangaga and Boston. It was listed as "damaged" by the Department of Health following the devastation, but still basically serviceable.

The 72-man team was among the first groups to rush to this Mindanao province three days after the devastation, sent by governor Salceda, who also sent P500,000 relief assistance. A similar amount was also given by Albay to Compostela Valley.

Team Albay, headed by Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), first pitched camp in the flattened town of Boston, where the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) unit had immediately provided 17,500 liters of potable drinking water to victims during the first two days.

Team Albay’s medical group, headed by Dr. Eric Raborar, on the other hand pushed farther and took base at the neighboring town of Cateel, with mobile medical units began treating villagers in isolated areas in the absence of established evacuation centers.

From there, the team was allowed to take over the Cateel Emergency Hospital, to maximize health services, and as a staging point of other medical missions in nearby areas. Team Albay membership, all experienced in disaster risk reduction management and well-trained in emergency response, are broken up in the engagement area according to their expertise.

Salceda said Team Albay will continue to serve in these areas, where victims needed their help. He had earlier called for the setting up of a national coordinating group for relief and early recovery and rehabilitation of these areas to ensure effective mobilization, fair allocation and efficient utilization of resources and coordinate private sector engagement.

Davao Oriental is Team Albay’s 80th mission since its organization in 2009, its fourth so far this year. It has received 11 Bayaning Likas awards this year for its emergency response feats.

Salceda said team is also set to conduct psycho-social care for children in Davao Oriental; trauma is one major impact the effects of which will continue to be felt by survivors long after the areas were already rebuilt.

Team Albay operates with the Office of Civil Defense V, and includes representatives from the Apsemo, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, the PHO, the Albay Provincial Engineering Office (PEO), the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH), and the Philippine Army based in Albay. (PNA) PDS/MDR/CBD/

DA launches USAID Bicol Agri-Water Project
By Mike de la Rama

NABUA, Camarines Sur, Dec. 19 (PNA) - The Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office in Bicol and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have launched the Bicol Agri-Water Project recently to address the problem of flooding and drought of the three most vulnerable municipalities in the adjoining provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur.

The Project, "Water Security Under Climate Risks: A Philippine Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Agriculture Sector" or "Bicol Agri-Water Project" will be implemented for within five years in the three flood and drought- prone municipalities of Nabua, Buhi in Camarines Sur and Polangui in Albay.

In a statement, Dr. Agnes C. Rola, project director and concurrently dean of the UPLB College of Public Affairs said the objectives of the project was to introduce climate risk management techniques, to improve water security and enhance climate resilience in agriculture at farm level, among others.

The UPLB Foundation, Inc. represented by Dr. Rola, the Project Director, was the NGO grantee of the USAID which shall supervise the project implementation.

DA regional director Jose V. Dayao also said the project was within the framework of and complements the two other foreign assisted projects on climate risk management and disaster preparedness and enhancing capacities for Disaster Risk Reduction currently being implemented in the region.

He explained that three adjacent municipalities were chosen because these areas are most prone to flooding . The waters from Lake Buhi and from Polangui would overflow and settle to Nabua which serves as the catch -basin.

To lend support to the project are the following: Columbia University, Central Bicol State University, Bicol University, College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF), PAGASA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) NAPOCOR; the provincial government of Albay and Camarines Sur and the LGUs of Nabua, Buhi and Polangui.(PNA) GHG/MDR/CBD/

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Police charges 2 Drug pushers in Albay and Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- Two notorious drug pushers were charged in Albay and Sorsogon following their arrests in separate operations by elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bicol.

PDEA-Bicol director Archie Grande identified those charged as Cyramil Goyena alias Cyra, of Barangay Oro Site and Fernando Buenconsejo, of Barangay Pinontingan, Gubat, Sorsogon.

Grande said Goyena managed to escape from the PDEA’s set up dragnet but some 50 grams of suspected shabu placed inside 11 plastic sachets with estimated street value of P330,000 was recovered in her safe house. Goyena was listed as one of the notorious drug pushers in Albay.

Buenconsejo on the other hand was collared by the PDEA agents in a buy-bust operation near his residence at Mabini Street in Barangay Pinontingan in Gubat.

Operatives confiscated from Buenconsejo nine sachets of substance believed to be shabu.

The two were charged for violation of Section 5, Article II of RA 9165 before the respective prosecutors’ offices.(PNA) GHG/SMT/CBD/

(Yearender) 2012 was bright year for IPs in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja & Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) --- Year 2012 marked the beginning of sensible government undertakings directed toward putting an end to the long history of marginalization and neglect experienced by many indigenous communities in Bicol.

Through the year, the Aquino government has been implementing sustainable programs and projects in response to the need to effectively deliver basic services like housing, education, medical care, livelihood and protection of their culture and traditions, among others, that the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the region badly need.

As of June 2007, government records show that there are about 215, 000 IPs called Agta in the region that were subdivided into the sub tribes of Tabangnon, Cimaron, Itom and Taboy that were scattered in the uplands of the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon and the Kabihugs of Camarines Norte.

In Housing

The Kabihugs have been used to isolating themselves deep in the mountains of Capalonga and Labo towns of Camarines Norte.

By nature, this group is itinerant--moves from one place to another that is why they don’t settle permanently. They take shelter in makeshift dwellings framed in wood, roofed with leaves and floored by the hard ground. They sleep in improvised beds.

During typhoons and heavy rain, they would huddle under big trees for refuge making their way of life miserable and almost devoid of dignity.

Because of this isolation, the Kabihugs have also lost the network of intertwining familial and kinship ties among the Agta tribes that use to provide assistance, privileges and protection to its members.

To end this sad plight, the government has entered the scene for a rescue, starting with the housing project put in place by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to provide these indigenous families with a decent dwelling point they could call their own.

In partnership with the Camarines Norte provincial government and the municipal government of Labo, the DSWD regional office based here has implemented early this year its Core Shelter Assistance Project (CSAP) now initially benefiting five Kabihug families.

The other 18 Kabihug families that have so far signified their intentions to avail of the program and be relocated to a permanent site are now ready to become the next beneficiaries.

Kabihugs have their own history of contact with the dominant society and the DSWD wanted them placed somewhere on a spectrum from “isolation” to “acculturation.”

In fact, these people have long been dreaming of having permanent homes and send their children to school.

This time at last, because of the deep concern expressed by the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III over the plight of IPs, that dream is becoming a reality.

The provincial government of Camarines Norte and the local government of Labo have been very grateful to the national government, through DSWD, for providing the initial housing units and optimistic that the remaining Kabihug members who now appreciate owning a house to stay at would soon be provided with the same benefit.

Education

Thousands of IPs in Bicol will benefit from the education agenda being pushed by the Department of Education (DepEd) as the Aquino administration looks in the way of the country’s IPs.

The DepEd’s IPs education agenda would end the long history of marginalization and neglect experienced by many indigenous communities in education, according to the education department’s regional office for Bicol here.

DepEd is targeting for the undertaking about 50,000 IPs occupying a total land area of 74,000 hectares in Bicol, with Camarines Sur having the widest area proclaimed as ancestral domain.

This time at last, because of the deep concern expressed by the Aquino administration over the plight of IPs, that dream is becoming a reality, DepEd regional director Orfelina Tuy said in announcing here such development.

Civil society groups and other stakeholders is helping DepEd in building a nationwide network of support groups to push forward an education agenda for the country’s IPs which was tackled during the recent celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month in October.

Health and Medical Care

The DSWD had also been processing the enrolment of indigenous families in Bicol with the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) whose implementation this year includes the IPs.

The program would require them to avail of health services provided by the government and send their children to school so that their integration with the mainstream is more fortified.

Under the CCT, these households would be compelled to avail of health services which include pre and post natal care of the newborn and have birth delivery in the presence of a trained health professional.

Children ages 0-5 years old must also receive regular preventive health check up and vaccines, among others as required for them to continue receiving cash subsidy under the CCT amounting to a maximum of P1,400 monthly.

Also, in an effort to provide maternity health care facilities for the tribal communities in Bicol, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) held the "Run for Mother and Child" event to generate funds in pursuit of achieving universal health care for the IPs.

The activity targeted an amount of P3 million for the establishment of a model community that will be built will provide shelter to the tribesmen and a facility for the carrying out of health programs of the government.

An initiative called Indigenous Peoples Development Plan (IPDP) that outlines the measures to be taken to maximize the engagement of IPs in the planning and implementation of various interventions in their areas and come up with culturally-sensitive and appropriate strategies in improving their access to maternal and child care had also been put in place.

It lays out a general workplan to ensure that IPs are informed, meaningfully consulted and mobilized to participate in the various stages of project design and implementation as they are seen as an important stakeholder.

The IPDP aims to ensure compliance with the Philippine Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371) and the World Bank’s OD 4.20 on Indigenous Peoples, as reflected in the project’s Indigenous People’s Strategy.

In line with the overall project objectives, the IPDP aims to increase the access of IP women of reproductive age in Bicol to acceptable, high quality and cost-effective reproductive health services and enable them to safely attain their desired spacing and number of children in a manner compatible with their practices and situation.

This is envisioned to eventually result in the reduction in both maternal and infant mortality rate in the region.

Related to this, the plan aims to attain 100 percent PhilHealth coverage of IP women; double the number of births by IP women in a health facility; have 80 percent of births by IP women delivered by health professionals, either in a facility or at home; and improve awareness and acceptance among IP women of reproductive age on birth planning, and Family Planning services.

Under IPDP whose initial implementation was for the Agtas in Sorsogon, the local government units (LGUs) cause the enrollment of all indigent IP households with the PhilHealth’s Indigent Program.

Tribal chieftains were oriented on basic documentary requirements of PhilHealth like marriage certificates, birth certificates so that these can be disseminated to their constituents. For those lacking the required documentation, the concerned LGU provides the required assistance to obtain such.

Both the Municipal Health Offices (MHOs) and the municipal tribal chieftains keep a listing of IPs covered by the PhilHealth and provide timely feedback on changes, updates, availment or issues related to this program.

Livelihood

The regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here has allotted this year an amount of P13 million for the implementation of its employment program through livelihood projects in the region whose beneficiaries include the IPs.

The package of benefits contains short period training on production skills with entrepreneurship and business management; learning reference materials on production, entrepreneurship and business management skills; livelihood tools, equipment, material and inputs and; continuing business advisory and consultancy,

The beneficiaries are also will be required to enroll themselves in social protection service like Social Security System (SSS) and and Philhealth.

The implementation of the Focus Food Production Assistance to Vulnerable Sector Project of the European Union (EU-FPVAS) in Camarines Norte aimed at enhancing food security and reduce poverty in vulnerable sectors in the locality had also included IPs as beneficiaries.

Its final beneficiaries are distributed in the uplands with 9,683 Indigenous Peoples (IPs); in the lowland with 18,196-household rice farmers; and in the coastal areas and inland waters with 4,880-household fisher folks.

Related to this, the project also identifies and document indigenous practices used by farmers and fisher folk that help conserve resources, understand and mitigate the risks and effects of climate change phenomena and, develop strategies and plans to help reduce its impacts especially on agricultural production, he added.

Community building and participation in governance

And owing to the attention being accorded them now by the government, the IPs in Bicol are getting more involved and participative in community activities, doing their share in community building.

They were also provided with disaster preparedness and oriented on early warning system for different calamities that are very useful especially that these people like the Kabihugs travel from one place to another.

What is remarkable now is that these IPs have finally realized that there is more than life off the mountains, outside the woods and within the mainstream of the enlightened society.

In Baao, Camarines Sur, tribal communities have join joined the pleasure in promoting local tourism by way of staging their own festival that attracted hundreds tourists last October.

The one-day festivity dubbed as “Katribo Ka (You Belong to the Tribe)” and the first of its kind in Bicol was aimed at recognizing the rights and privileges of the IPs and ensure their participation in the affairs of the local government.

Katribo Ka was coined from the slogan “Kaburunyugan nin mga Tribong Agta-Tabangnon para sa Kauswagan (Union of Agta-Tabangnon for Development)” which drew the participation of seven local communities of cultural minorities represented by 300 tribesmen who paraded the main thoroughfares and converged at the town plaza here in their best tribal costumes for the merrymakings.

KATRIBO Ka is a federation of indigenous peoples comprising the Agta-Tabangnon communities in the upland barangays Antipolo, Caranday, Sta. Teresa, Nababarera, CristoRey, Tapol and Iyagan of Baao.

About a thousand of delighted tourists and visitors came and joined the tribesmen who performed tribal dances, religious rituals, healing demonstrations and other cultural performances in celebrating the affair graced by House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada and Congressman Teddy Baguilat, House Committee Chairman on National Cultural Minorities.

In gracing the affair, Tañada said IPs should also be recognized as an important facet of local governance. “We will push for the recognition of these indigenous groups and we would like them to feel that the government is also doing something to address their appeals, particularly their needs in terms of education, livelihood and their need for a safe sanctuary. (PNA) FPV/DOC/CBD

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

55 Naga City police personnel sent to Masbate

NAGA CITY, Dec. 17 (PNA) -- Fifty-five members of the Naga City police force left Monday morning for a temporary assignment as the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional command organizes a task force to go after private armed groups(PAGS) in the island-province of Masbate.

Police Supt. Ferdinand Raymundo, head of the Police Community Relations Office, said the members of the Naga City police force are to be deployed first at regional command before they are sent to Masbate.

Raymundo said the order of temporary assignment came from Chief Supt. Arne De Los Santos, PNP regional director, who ordered last week the creation of "Task Force Masbate", a special group assigned to secure Masbate during the mid-term elections next year.

Raymundo said the number of police personnel left to maintain peace and order in the city was reduced to some 300 personnel.

Among the 15 election hotspots in the country, at least six PAGs were identified operating in Masbate.

De Los Santos said the "Task Force Masbate" will be composed of 240 police personnel from different units of the regional command with the primary task of going after the PAGs and to recover loose firearms in that province.

He said there are at least 2,000 undocumented firearms in Masbate as he identified 38 members of two PAGs that belonged to the Arizobal and Villaruel groups.(PNA) PDS/JME/CBD/

DOST projects, to speed up PHL growth via ICT

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 17 (PNA) --- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has introduced a program that is expected to speed up the country’s economy towards substantial growth via information and communications technology (ICT).

Called “Smarter Philippines”, the program will use ICT as enabling tool to provide more efficient and reliable services in some priority industries in the country, Alejandro Melchor III, the deputy executive director for ICT Industry Development of the DOST’s Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) in a statement said here Monday.

The program, Melchor said has several components such as Smarter Governance, Smarter People, Smarter High-Tech Industry, Smarter Computing, Smarter SME’s, Smarter Agriculture World Development, Smarter Environmental Healthcare, Energy and Transport, Smarter Disaster and Mitigation Public Safety and Smarter Cities.

“DOST with the ICTO intends to transform every aspect of society through technology innovation. Smarter Philippines is a new program that will fuel growth to the ICT industry and create tremendous demand for engineering, content development and domestic ICT industry,” Melchor said.

Although the program is yet to be launched, he said some of its components that included initiatives in governance, disaster risk reduction, and bringing Information Technology-Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) investments in cities in the countryside are now in operation.

"One component that is now working is the iGovPhils, a landmark program that aims to enhance the e-capabilities of the government in addressing the government's call for transparency, by putting relevant mechanisms to implement interactive, interconnected, and efficient government collaboration.

Another is Program NOAH, DOST’s banner project that sets up a more responsive disaster preparedness system to reduce, if not eliminate, human casualties from rain- triggered natural hazards.

Still another component is the Next Wave Cities Program, which creates career opportunities in the countryside by promoting different areas in the provinces as suitable BPO destinations.

As this developed, ICTO had also launched its newest project called ICT Industry Mapping in collaboration with the Statistical Research and Training Center (SRTC). This underscores the importance of formulating industry mapping to be able to understand the dynamics within the sector as well as its linkages outside the sector towards to a wider economy is emphasized.

Under the Domestic ICT Industry of ICTO, this project seeks to obtain information integral to the development of strategic industry programs to help increase the potential of the ICT industry in pushing the country’s socio-economic development.

The project will come up with a description and examination of the state and performance of the ICT industry as a whole and by segments. It will also measure employment and income contribution and identify the sector or segment needs that have not yet been addressed by government policies and programs, Melchor said.(PNA) GHG/DOC/CBD/

Arms cache found in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 17 (PNA) -- A joint Army soldiers and policemen recovered over the weekend an arm cache in a interior village in Masbate City, a Philippine Army officer said Monday.

Joint elements of Army soldiers from the 9th Infantry Battalion and Philippine National Police (PNP) Task Force Masbate where on security patrol at about 7 p.m. over the weekend when they received an information about hidden firearms in a house in said village, according to Army Major Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division (ID)spokesperson.

After validating the report, the team swopped down the house in the village, but found no one in the house instead discovered an arms cache hidden at a basement, Guzman said.

Inside the arms cache were an M16 rifle, Baby Armalite, a .45 caliber pistol, two .38 caliber handguns, eight homemade shotguns, three anti-tank landmines, five improvised claymore mines, 30 Molotov bombs, ammunition, six switches for improvised explosive device (IED) 20 meters electrical wires, a binocular, a radio and three backpacks containing personal belonging.

Probers could not yet determine if the arms cache belongs to the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels or private armed groups (PAGS) operating in the island province of Masbate, Guzman said.

Government forces have intensified its security operations against members of the communist movement including two private armed groups (PAGs) with around 50 heavily armed members belonging to the Arizobal and Villaruel groups.

A Task Force Masbate of PNP was recently created to hunt down PAGs and recover thousands of loose firearms in connection with the upcoming May midterm election next year.

PNP in Masbate estimated that there are still close to 4,000 firearms that needs to be recovered.

Masbate had been tagged as an election hot spot every election time because of intense political rivalries among clans, including related violence that killed hundreds of people.(PNA) FFC/MSA/CBD

Bicol communities submit 500 proposals for Kalahi-CIDSS funding
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 17 (PNA) --- Bicol communities identified the most pressing need in their villages and submitted 500 community proposals under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS.

“People living in the communities know more about their current local conditions and making them identify their priorities is important in the formulation of development plans,” Bicol's Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)director Remia T. Tapispisan said.

Tapispisan said that the community proposals were made by a group of trained community members called the Project Preparation Team (PPT).

Elected by each of the barangays during the Barangay Assembly (BA) for the validation of the identified needs in the community, the teams were taught the key processes and tools to identify, select, and design appropriate solutions to address such problems, she explained.

“Community proposals are presented during the prioritization activity where the community volunteers, municipal and national governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs) and other groups and individuals within a municipality are gathered. This is called the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum- Participatory Resource Allocation (MIBF-PRA) in which community proposals are prioritized for funding,” Tapispisan said.

MIBF is a criteria-based allocation of development investments where all barangays within a certain municipality decide what community proposals should be approved for funding.

The grant a municipality may receive is equal to the total number of barangays multiplied by P450,000. These funds are directly downloaded to the community accounts once the community proposals are approved for implementation.

George Borja, a community volunteer from Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon has celebrated with the villagers of Tupaz as their barangay submitted a community proposal to buy motorized bancas amounting to P1.2 million.

“I would not only thank those who voted for our project but also those people who understood where we are coming from. I hope that we keep our compassion towards one another because this will take us to the road of development],” Borja said.

As part of its expansion in 2012, Kalahi-CIDSS is currently being implemented in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate with a total of 19 municipalities.(PNA) GHG/SMT/CBD/

Albay cops intensify anti-criminality campaign for the holidays

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 17 (PNA) -- The Albay Philippine National Police (PNP) has deployed hundreds of policemen in the urbanized towns and cities of the province in connection with the observance of the Christmas season, a ranking police official said Monday.

The deployment of additional policemen would beef up the present police force assigned in the 15 towns and three cities of the province, Police Supt. Paulino Belga, PNP provincial deputy director for administration, said.

Belga said they are gearing up their campaign against criminal elements who might victimize residents celebrating the Christmas season.

He said they are fielding additional uniformed and plain clothes policemen in places such as malls, hotels, churches, airports, seaports, terminals and tourist destinations.

Police visibility in these places of convergence would directly discourage lawless elements from committing crimes against persons and properties.

Belga took note of the crime statistics in Albay, saying mostly committed during this period are theft, robbery and physical injuries. (PNA) LAP/MSA/CBD/

Friday, December 14, 2012

PNP deploys tracker team to disarm, disband private armies in Masbate
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) -– An elite contingent of police operatives has been deployed in the province of Masbate to track down, disarm and disband private armed groups (PAGs) that could undermine the conduct of the midterm elections in May next year.

“We have already identified at least two PAGs -- the Arizobal and Villaruel groups that are composed of about 50 armed goons hired by political warlords to sow terror and ensure the victory of their local candidates,” Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos, the regional PNP director based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here announced on Friday.

Apart from these two groups, De los Santos said the Masbate PNP provincial office under Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit is also monitoring the organization of four more groups which as of latest information were still being armed and activated.

So far, he said it is only the Arizobal and Villaruel groups that were reported to be active in activities like harassment and intimidation of barangay to town level political leaders and followers of certain candidates.

The PNP is expecting the activation of more PAGs in Masbate as the campaign period and elections draw near.

“We are employing the fullest of our authority and resources to disband them and prevent the disruption of the peaceful, honest and orderly conduct of the May 2013 elections,” he said.

Since Masbate is considered a “high risk” area in connection with the forthcoming electoral exercise and one of the areas in the country listed as “hotspots”, a police Regional Special Operations Task Force was recently formed by De los Santos to focus on the implementation of the PNP’s “SAFE (Secure And Fair Elections) 2013” in the province.

Apart from targeting PAGs, the Task Force is also tasked to go after loose firearms and fugitive criminals in the province, he added.

Based on police intelligence reports, there are about 4,000 loose firearms in the hands of private individuals and criminal elements including PAGs in Masbate. There also over a hundred wanted local criminals that the police are tracking down under its “Manhunt Charlie” operations.

Also part of the preparations of the Bicol PNP in ensuring a peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections in the province is the training in handling of complicated election-related cases wherein 50 police officers have been made to undergo a special training recently.

The training that served as a refresher course will ensure that these police officers are armed with the capability to handle election cases, prevent violence and protect voters and candidates from any form of harassment and intimidation, said De los Santos.

All the PNP station chiefs and investigation division heads in the 20 municipalities and one city of Masbate attended the two-day training which was also participated in by selected members of the Police Special Action Force, Regional Police Special Battalion, Provincial Police Safety Company and Provincial Support Unit.

The special training course also called for the enforcement of the gun ban and conduct of checkpoints, among other matters necessary, to make a difference in the conduct of elections in Masbate that in the past have been marred with violence and bloodshed, the Bicol PNP director said. (PNA) LAM/DOC/CBD/

(Update)Albay suspends classes in elementary and secondary levels

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) --- The provincial government of Albay has suspended all the classes in elementary and secondary levels on Friday.

This developed as the Bicol disaster authorities were on high alert as moderate to heavy rains pummeled the region since Thursday spawned by the prevailing tail end of the cold front (TECF).

Bernardo Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and Bicol Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) chairperson who said that a cumulative 18 mm rainfall was dumped early Friday morning in Albay and neighboring provinces.

He explained that the rainfall of this intensity could cause flooding and landslides.

Meanwhile Albay Gov. Joey Salceda advised local disaster councils in the 15 towns and three cities to strictly enforce the “No crossing of rivers and flooded waters” rule in their respective areas.

At the same time, the RDRRMC issued an advisory to communities near river channels and mountain slopes to be on alert for flash floods and landslides.

The RDRRMC also warned fisher folks not to go fishing due to strong wind prevailing in the eastern seaboards of the Camarines provinces, Albay and Sorsogon which could create 3 to 4 meters high waves that are dangerous for small sea crafts.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD/

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Task Force Masbate to hunt down private armed groups

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 12 (PNA) --- The Philippine National Police (PNP)in Bicol has formed Task Force Masbate(TFM), a special action group to track down political armed groups (PAGS) in Masbate, an official of the PNP said Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos, Bicol police director said the creation of a special task force was in preparation for the 2013 mid-term election.

He said the task force led by Police Senior Supt Arnold Albis will be dispatched to Masbate, tagged as among the 15 election hot spot areas in the county.

TF Masbate is composed of some 240 policemen from various units of the police regional office.

The task force will be dispatched to Masbate on Monday to undertake special operation against PAGS and the recovery of loose firearms.

He said that there were two active private armed groups in Masbate that belong to the Arizobal and Villaruel groups with 38 members.

The campaign against loose firearms was gearing up as it targeted to recover some 2,000 undocumented firearms by the end of the year, he said.

Masbate had been consistently been tagge as election hot spot in previous elections because of the intense political rivalries among clans, including election related violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD

CSC promotes honor graduates eligibility grant in Bicol colleges, universities
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 12 (PNA) --- There are only three universities in Bicol so far that are accredited into the government’s program on granting automatic civil service eligibility among honor graduates and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) regional office here wants more among the about a hundred higher education institutions in the region.

“We are urging universities and colleges in the region to apply for accreditation in order for their honor graduates to be granted with eligibility to work in the government for first and second level positions,” CSC regional director Cecilia Nieto on Wednesday here said.

The Commission had already issued recommendations to these schools following the issuance of revised policies on the grant of Honor Graduate Eligibility (HGE), she said.

Presidential Decree 907 allows CSC to grant eligibility for all summa cum laude, magna cum laude or cum laude graduates from any school regardless of the number of years of completion from school year 1972-73 and thereafter.

There had been revisions in this policy however whose implementation took effect last Novermber 3.

Under the revised policy, Nieto said school must first be accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) that requires academic institutions to have Level III or IV accreditation status for both state and local state universities and colleges.

It is the CHED that is mandated by the government to set and enforce minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning and at the same time, monitor and evaluate their performance.

The revision, according to Nieto intends to uphold, preserve and safeguard the integrity, credibility and intent of the HGE which specifies that the honor graduate must complete their degrees from colleges and universities of good standing.

In the Bicol region, she said only Bicol University (BU), Catanduanes State University (CSU) and Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) have the accreditation for a only a number of courses that qualify an honor graduate to avail of the HGE.

For BU, the biggest state-owned university in the region with main campuses here, graduates with degrees in Nursing, Industrial Teacher Education, Elementary or Secondary Teacher Education and Fisheries are the only qualified applicants for the grant.

For CSU which is formerly the Catanduanes State College (CSC) based in Virac Catanduanes, degrees with Level III accreditation status are Elementary and Secondary Teacher Education, AB Economics, AB Political Science, Industrial Technology and Nursing.

CSC has been elevated into a university through a law recently passed by Congress and signed by Pres. Benigno Aquino III last October 19.

For the CBSUA with its main campuses in Pili Camarines Sur, graduates of Elementary and Secondary Teacher Education, Agriculture and Agricultural Engineering are qualified into the HGE, Nieto said.

Also included in the new policy is the scrapping of the grant of eligibility for honor graduates of master’s and doctorate degrees and honors or distinctions for Bachelor degrees other than the Latin honors of cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude, Nieto said.

The Aquino government, through the CSC and CHED wants to expand the coverage of this eligibility grant to honor graduates so that these young professionals with outstanding academic performances and achievements are given the opportunity to start with their career advancement in public service, she said.

This would also allow the government to make use of the brains, acquired knowledge and talents of these honor graduates in governance, the CSC regional chief added. (PNA) CTB/DOC/CBD/

New book tells of different facets Robredo's life
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) --- A compilation of writings on the late Jesse M. Robredo provides a peek of the different facets of his life as told by people who know him up-close.

Launched on Dec. 8 at the Ateneo de Naga University, the 104-page book entitled “Jesse Robredo Proud Nagueño Memories” published by Anvil Publishing is a tribute to the most beloved son of Naga City who died in a plane crash last August.

Prof. Paz Verdades Santos, who co-edited the book with her husband Judge Soliman Santos Jr., said "the book draws an up-close-and-personal picture of what Robredo was to the people of Naga City, whom he was proud of, whom he served well, whom he loved, and who loved him in return.”

Santos explained that the book is a “festschrift” or a volume of writings by various people collected in honor of somebody including essays, poems and other literary forms about Jesse Robredo.

She said, originally, she was compiling a book entitled, “The Naga We Know” with a piece on Jesse Robredo but he died unexpectedly in the plane crash which resulted in the outpouring of grief for his loss.

“When I proposed the book on Jesse Robredo to Anvil Publishing, Karina Bolasco (publisher) asked instead for a virtual scrapbook to remember him by. She said she also wanted it before the end of September,” Santos revealed.

She said despite their busy schedule, she and her husband took on Anvil’s challenge with lawyer Leni Robredo’s approval.

“After all, it’s what we do as an avocation, write, edit, write. We are also based in Naga, have done some work with Jess, and admired his achievement,” Santos mused during the launch.

She said the situation just fell in place during the Peñafrancia fiesta as they talked with several people who knew Jesse Robredo especially his classmates in Ateneo de Naga High School Batch ’74 who were having a reunion.

Santos interviewed Jesse Robredo’s brother Butch, Leni and her daughters and his friends that included Jun Lavadia, Francis Soler, Joel Cadiz, Noemi Bien, Noemi Flor Halili and Salve Cadag.

She said many more were involved to share their essays about Jesse Robredo including Inquirer Southern Luzon correspondent Jonas Soltes’s essay that came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Santos also included poems of Vic Nierva and France Clavecillas and testimonials from Boy Carpio, Caloy Agawa, Luis Ferrer, Mac Pavia, Butch Priela, Roy Bautista, Frank Peñones and Abet Perfecto.

“So we get a more rounded or holistic view from different perspectives and angles. For example, you have anecdotes of diligent childhood, brotherly protectiveness, persistent courtship, a work ethic, family and work balance, and of his famous frugality even in providing simple snacks at important meetings,” she narrated.

Santos was struck by Frank Mendoza’s story of how exactly Jess curbed corruption of contractors, starting with those identified with him.

She quoted Jesse Robredo’s nuggets of governance wisdom: “Our experience, and that of many others, have shown that if we cannot do it at the national level, we can begin at the local level. Collectively, successful local governments, driven by constituencies who are well-informed, constructively engaged, and willing to share the burden of community building, can build our country.”

Santos said that explains the rationale and concept of the book and provides a special perspective, special to Jesse Robredo himself, the Nagueño perspective from below of a good local leader who has been given to the larger nation.(PNA) FPV/JME/cbd/

Albay is Filaria Free province

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) --- The Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Albay as Filaria Free province.

Dr. Gerry Bayugo, DOH Assistant Secretary bestowed the Filaria Free certificate to the province during a ceremony held at the Albay Capitol building on Wednesday.

Dr. Chito Mendoza, provincial health officer said they have sustained health campaigns to make the province also free from leprosy, DPT, missiles, malaria and recently filaria.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda expressed his gratitude to the DOH and WHO and lauded the local health authorities for carrying out an effective campaign against Filariasis, a mosquito born disease.

Salceda said that declaring Albay as Filaria Free is another flying honor to the province's health program.

"It proved that Albay is (one of the most) livable provinces in the country,"he said.

Dennis Romerick Tuazon, WHO representative said that among the six Bicol provinces, Albay and Sorsogon have been declared as Filaria Free provinces.

Tuazon citing WHO statistics said 44 provinces across the country have widespread cases of filariasis of which only 12 are filarial free this include Albay and Sorsogon.

Mendoza in an interview said provincial epidemiologist recorded cases of filariasis in 2002 with 28 people afflicted with the disease in the towns of Manito, Daraga, Tiwi, Sto Domingo, Pioduran and Polangui.

"With the campaign intervention, the cases went down to six in 2009 and with no new cases reported this year. This was the bases for declaring the province filarial free," Mendoza said.

He also explained that aside from the Zero Casualty Goal in times of disasters, the province has aimed for a Zero Incidence in terms of health, environment concerns.

Salceda cited that his advocacy campaign on the “No to mining, plastic, smoking, fireworks,” has gained headway in achieving the targets set by Millennium Development Goal (MDG), Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate change Adaptation.

“Meeting the MDG target, we would like to attain a quality old age with a life expectancy of 78 years old,” Salceda said.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD/

DA leads implementation of USAID-funded project vs agri water problems in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 13 (PNA) – Solutions to flood and drought problems confronting key agricultural areas in two Bicol provinces are underway via a United States Agency for International Cooperation (USAID)-funded project to be implemented through a multi-agency collaboration led by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The project dubbed "Water Security under Climate Risks: A Philippine Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Agriculture sector " or the "Bicol Agri-Water Project" will be implemented for a period of five years in the three flood and drought- prone municipalities of Nabua and Buhi in Camarines Sur and Polangui in Albay.

To be funded by the USAID, the undertaking is a special project recently launched here to put together various government and non-government stakeholders and key players in addressing agricultural maladies brought about by flood and drought, DA regional executive director Jose Dayao over the week here said.

This new project, Dayao said, is within the framework of, and complements the two other foreign- assisted projects on climate risk management, disaster preparedness and enhancing capacities for disaster risk reduction (DRR) currently being implemented in the region.

He was referring to the World Bank (WB) funded - Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) and the European Union (EU)-funded Enhancing Capacities for Disaster Risk Reduction in Agriculture (EC-DRRA).

PRDP is a six-year national government platform for an inclusive, value-chain oriented and climate resilient agriculture and fisheries sector expected to raise close to P28 billion from a loan portfolio of the WB and equity share of national and local government units.

This program to be implemented in the six provinces of Bicol is the "upscale" version of the successful Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP).

It has four components--Investments in Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program Planning at the Local and National Levels ( I-Plan), Intensified Building-up of Infrastructure and Logistics for Development (I-Build), Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) and Implementation Support (I-SUPPORT).

The EC-DRRA, with funding support from the European Union through its Disaster Preparedness- European Commission's Humanitarian Office (DIPECHO), on the other hand, will be implemented for 18 months in three Bicol provinces--Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes.

Its objective is to enhance livelihood resiliency of small-scale farmers and fisherfolks in disaster-prone areas through institutionalization of DRR in agriculture.

The project builds on the outcome of "Strengthening Capacities for Climate Risk Management and Disaster Preparedness in Selected municipalities of Bicol Region," an earlier Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project successfully implemented in Bicol from 2009 to 2011.

The EU-funded project would include institutionalization of capacities and tools for better planning and implementation of DRRA; dissemination and replication of good DRR and management practices; enhanced climate information products for agriculture; and improved methodology for agriculture including web-based application software.

The three Camarines Sur and Albay municipalities placed under the USAID-funded project were chosen because these areas are most prone to flooding, according to Dr. Elena de Los Santos, the DA regional technical director for operations and extension.

During rains, waters from the upland areas of Polangui would overflow to Lake Buhi in the nearby town of Buhi and settle in the next town of Nabua that serves as the catch basin, De los Santos, who serves as the project co-director said.

Dr. Agnes Rola, the project director, who is also the dean of the University of the Philippines- Los Baños (UPLB), College of Public Affairs said the Bicol Agri-Water Project is designed to introduce climate risk management techniques to improve water security and enhance climate resilience in agriculture at farm level.

The UPLB Foundation, Inc. represented by Rola is the non-government organization (NGO) grantee of the USAID which shall supervise the project implementation.

It would improve water resource management under climate change at the watersheds or sub basins scale through development and validation of decision support tools and build capacity of local government units (LGUs) for effective water governance, Rola said.

At the same time, she said the project would promote, design and implement climate risk resilient water resource management policy by working with and supporting national level agricultural policy makers.

Supporting the project are the Central Bicol State University; Bicol University, College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF); Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Adminstration (PAGASA); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); National Power Corporation (NPC); the provincial governments of Albay and Camarines Sur; and the LGUs of Nabua, Buhi and Polangui. (PNA) FPV/DOC/CBD/

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rizal's first monument revisited

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 12 (PNA) -- While the whole Filipino nation pays homage to national hero Dr. Jose Rizal on his day of martyrdom, this quaint town of Daet, capital of Camarines Norte, is abuzz with activities around its own Rizal monument.

Known locally as the "Bantayog", this 20-foot stone pylon named after the hero is bereft of intricate design, but is in every way special because it is the first-ever Rizal memorial marker in the country.

Situated by a river park, construction began on Dec. 30, 1898 in compliance with the 1898 decree of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, then President of the Revolutionary Government, to observe Dec. 30 as a national holiday in the "Free Philippines."

It was completed in February, 1899, shortly after the outbreak of the Filipino-American War, antedating by about 14 years the monument in Luneta, which was inaugurated only in 1912. By virtue of this act, Camarines Norte has become the first province to celebrate Rizal Day.

The monument was built through the financial contributions of the townsfolk of Camarines Norte and the Bicol region, with Lt. Colonels Antonio Sanz and Ildefonso Alegre of the Republican Army leading its construction.

In a strange twist of fate, the stone used came from the old Spanish jail where many revolutionaries were imprisoned, and was subsequently demolished when the old colonizers were vanquished.

Designed by Sanz, the monument is composed of a three-tiered stone pylon, its square base surmounted by a two-level triangle, the last one tapering off to a point. The front face contains a black metal slab from the National Historical Commission when it was declared a historical landmark in 1961.

Inscribed on the square podium are Rizal's popular novels—"Noli Me Tangere", "El Filibusterismo", and "Morga", a tribute toAntonio de Morga, author of "Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas" in 1609, an important book on the early history on the Spanish colonization.

On both sides of the topmost triangle is an eight-rayed sun, a five-pointed star and the phrase "A Jose Rizal" (To Jose Rizal). But unlike other monuments, it does not have any of his sculptured image.

According to oral accounts, the base contains a time capsule containing the list of contributors to the construction of the monument.

It is also a widely-accepted belief that Masons had an important role in putting up the pylon because of its pronounced Masonic elements. Add to this the fact that both Aguinaldo and Sanz were Masons.

Masonic historian Reynold Fajardo wrote in the bimonthly periodical Cabletow, "the monument is unquestionably Masonic, the base is a square and is surmounted by a triangle; on the sides of the triangle may be seen the five-pointed star and at the top used to be the all-seeing eye."

"The First Rizal Monument is a source of pride, not only for the townsfolk but also for all Bicolanos. It also attests to the people's reverence for Rizal and his ideals," says Daet Mayor Tito Sarion.

Sarion added that Rizal's life and ideals inspired Daet's political leaders and citizenry in declaring the municipality as a "character town" in 2002 which upholds universal values as guiding principles in governance and public life.

Government officials and employees will lead in the wreath-laying and commemorative rites. They will be joined by members of the Knights of Rizal, Masonic Lodge, youths from various schools and organizations, and representatives of civil society groups. The participants will also renew their pledge to keep the libertarian ideals of Rizal alive to help contribute in nation-building. (PNA) RMA/BLS/MMG/UTB

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Salceda calls for creation of National Coordinating Group to oversee relief operations in Mindanao

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 11 (PNA) --- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Tuesday proposed the creation of a National Coordinating Group to speed up[ the relief and rehabilitation of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley devastated by typhoon "Pablo."

Salceda said the national coordinating group would be tasked to effectively manage resource mobilization, fair allocation and efficient utilization of assistance given by international community in response to the United Nation (UN) appeal for aide to Typhoon Pablo’s disaster stricken provinces in Mindanao.

He said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)calls for private assistance for helicopters to assist in the fast tracking of relief goods in afflicted areas was indicative of the special and complex assistance needed in the ravaged tows.

Salceda explained that the relief, recovery and rehabilitation efforts should be managed centrally.

He noted that the flow of relief to Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are still hampered by physical constraints such as destroyed road networks and bridges.

The group would mobilize resources including non-traditional means (trade assistance) and focus on the UN flash appeal, and a special pledging session in the upcoming Philippine Development Forum.

It will also be a mechanism to optimize private sector commitment, he added.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD

DOLE assists workers displaced by closure of illegal Paracale mines

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 11 (PNA) --- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)regional office has deployed a Quick-Response-Team (QRT) to provide assistance to displaced workers in Paracale mining site in Camarines Norte recently shut down by the government.

The death of three small-scale miners who were buried alive when a tunnel collapsed prompted the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to order the closure of the mining site. It was also charged as operating illegaly.

DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra said "the assistance is needed to prevent the workers from going back to the illegal operations."

“They may not be considered formal workers and in fact considered illegal, but they still deserve help from the government and the DOLE is embracing such responsibility of helping them,” Lacambra said.

Most of the displaced workers numbering over a thousand, have been earning a living through initiating on their own mining operations in the gold-rich sites of Paracale since time immemorial.

"Others were funded by some financiers and the MGB ruled that both operations were illegal for not having permits from concerned agencies of the government including local government units (LGUs)," he added.

Lacambra said the DOLE QRT is conducting skills assessment and needs analysis of the displaced to workers to know the type of assistance that would be provided to them.

“We are considering them into the Emergency Wage Employment Assistance (EWEA) or alternative livelihood our Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP),” the DOLE regional chief said. (PNA) GHG/CBD

Masbate City’s coastal management entry is finalist in 2012 Galing Pook Awards

MASBATE CITY, Dec. 10 (PNA) – This young city is one step away from winning a slot in the Galing Pook Awards’ Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs this year.

City Mayor Socrates Tuason over the weekend said the city government’s entry to the Awards has been chosen into the 16 finalist following a rigorous screening process and site validation conducted by the Galing Pook Foundation (GPF) secretariat.

The process was based on positive results and impact, promotion of people’s participation and empowerment, transferability and sustainability and efficiency of program service delivery.

The city’s entry deals with its coastal management program that successfully addressed urgent social and economic problems confronting the fisherfolk community and the local marine fishery resources.

It involved measures undertaken by the local government in curtailing illegal activities in the city’s coastal waters particularly blast fishing to save local marine fishery resources from further deterioration and preserve the fish habitat.

At the same time, the program provided the illegal fishers decent sources of livelihood.

Since time immemorial, Tuason said illegal fishing activities largely with the use of dynamites have been killing the healthy ecological life of the local waters so that when he assumed the city’s mayoral seat in 2001, he convinced the fishermen to abandon their illegal practices and instead serve as the vanguard of the local waters towards the restoration of its natural wealth.

“From nemesis of the sea, the city government converted these once illegal fishers to protectors of their turf,” the mayor said.

The program worked as in about a decade, the sea corals and other properties of the marine habitat have been restored and fishing using the conventional hook and line and other tolerable methods had once again become effective.

Under the program, the city government declared a total of 250 hectare of the local waters as protected fish sanctuaries now called the Bugsayon and Buntod Reef Marine Reserves that ocean biologist had adjudged as the best coastal waters in terms of climate change resiliency.

According to the study recently conducted by the Angelo King Center for Research and Environment Management of the Siliman University (SU-AKCREM) based in Dumaguete City, the Bugsayon and Buntos Marine Reserves bested the other 16 fish sanctuaries in Central Philippines.

Bugsayon and Buntod sanctuaries located at the Masbate Pass are the most livable for fishes and other marine species compared to the rest, the SU-AKCREM study shows.

Masbate Pass is one of the various fishing grounds making the island province among a top contributor to the country’s fishing industry. It is located at the northern side of this city and separates the mainland of Masbate from Ticao Island.

Accounts on the historical background of Bugsayon and Buntod gathered by the study have it that the marine reserves were only an algal community seven years ago.

The nurturing and protection provided by the city government enabled it to develop into a fish sanctuary with a 40 percent live hard coral cover and moderate fish biomass of 40 metric tons per kilometer.

Tuason said the study results confirm the good outcome of his administration’s initiatives toward the protection and preservation of the local fishing industry resources as part of its environmental care, climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation programs.

“We have with us our coastal communities as without their participation and cooperation, this endeavor would never earn any positive result. Illegal fishing such as the use of dynamites, toxic chemicals and other prohibited methods had been stopped owing to this campaign,” the city mayor said.

He stressed it is important that marine sanctuaries within municipal waters are looked after by local governments and coastal communities so that its resources are developed and preserved to become sustainable sources of fish and other marine products for food security and livelihood.

Part of the program for the protection and preservation of the local marine reserves is the establishment of a mangrove ecosystem support project which is now the Pawa Mangrove Park, a 300-hectare wildlife park serving as the city’s largest area of natural mangrove growth.

It provides a vast breeding and feeding ground for marine life and at the same time an eco-tourism destination for its exciting wildlife.

Under this project, two organizations, the Pawa Women’s Mangrove Guardians Association Inc. (PWMGA) and Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway (SAMAPUSI) have been granted funds to be used in coming up with tourism services in the area and in maintaining the natural wonders of the three marine life reservations.

Apart from its effectiveness in environmental preservation, the coastal management program also addressed the problem on poverty confronting local communities.

Since the fishing ground surrounding the marine reservation area had already became a top contributor in the local fishery industry, the city’s poverty incidence had dramatically improved from 41 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent in 2009.

With this improvement, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said the city posted the lowest rate of poverty incidence among the seven cities of Bicol to comfortably land in the 97th place in poverty incidence among the country’s 149 cities.

Given all these circumstances around the city’s entry to the Gawad Pook Awards this year, Tuason said being chosen as among the 16 finalists vying for a slot in the 10 best local governance programs is already a great honor for the city.

Beyond the awards, winning programs become models of good governance promoted for adoption in other communities. They provide useful insights and strategies to find innovative solutions to common problems.

More importantly, the programs affirm the community and the local government’s commitment to good governance.

The Galing Pook Awards was launched in 1993 as a pioneering program that searches and recognizes innovative practices by the local government units and finalists with outstanding initiatives are carefully selected and winners are recognized in a very prestigious awards ceremony.

The award this year will be conferred by the Pres. Benigno Aquino III next month. (PNA) FPV/DOC/cbd/

P150-M PAMANA road projects completed in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 10 (PNA) -– Four of the five farm-to-market road (FMR) projects in Camarines Norte implemented through the funds provided this year under the Payapa at Masagamang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) have already been completed.

Paul Escober, OPPAP area manager for Bicol, on Monday said the four completed projects were the concreting of the Sta. Rosa Sur-San Rafael road section in Jose Panganiban town worth P20 million; concreting of Malibago-Maligaya in Labo town worth P40 million; concreting of Bakiad-Sta. Cruz-Fundado also in Labo town worth P10 million; and the concreting of Pambuhan to Lanot Road in Mercedes town worth P20 million.

The remaining project, the concreting and graveling of the Exciban farm-to-market road in Labo town worth P50 million is 80.72 percent complete as works being initiated by the Camarines Norte Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) are still on-going.

Escober said the five projects were allocated this year a total of P140 million from the stimulus fund of President Benigno S. Aquino III that was channeled through the OPAPP for its PAMANA program.

PAMANA is a priority government program being undertaken by the OPAPP towards the attainment of economic progress in conflict affected areas (CAAs) in line with the Aquino administration’s peace agenda geared at ending internal armed conflicts.

Camarines Norte is among the three Bicol provinces placed under its coverage. The others are Masbate, which was given P50 million; and Sorsogon, P39 million; for various community development and peace building projects.

Masbate is Bicol’s poorest province based on the assessment of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Camarines Norte is second poorest and Sorsogon is the most insurgency-troubled according to the military.

Escober said the PAMANA program will help attain economic progress for these provinces as its objectives are based on initiating reforms and development projects in conflict affected areas in line with the national government’s peace agenda and ending internal armed conflicts.

The projects communicate among communities the initiatives of government in building the culture of peace and development in the countryside to make them resilient against the anti-government whims of the insurgency being carried out by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Following the completion of these FMR roads in Camarines Norte, Escober said another set of PAMANA projects for funding this year had already been identified to include the water system in Labo worth P9 million, farm-to-market roads in Jose Panganiban worth P7 million and environmental projects in Capalonga worth P4 million for a total of P20 million.

The amount will be provided by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and release of the funds are just awaiting the completion of necessary documents.

For funding next year are more projects worth a total of P105.5 million to be implemented in the towns of Basud, Capalonga, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Sta. Elena, and Mercedes, all in Camarines Norte.

The projects include water system, construction of bridges, farm-to-market roads, corn and pineapple production and construction of new and improvement of existing irrigation systems. Funds for these will come from the DILG and the Department of Agriculture (DA), Alcober said. (PNA) LAM/DOC/cbd/

Sorsogon-based AFP officer gets military award for heroic achievements
By Danny O. Calleja

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur, Dec. 10 (PNA) – A military officer, who delivered severe blows to the anti-government communist organization in Sorsogon, has been awarded with a Military Merit Medal for meritorious and invaluable service to the country’s defense force.

Such medal, pursuant to paragraph 1-6l, Section II Armed Forces of the Philippines Regulations G 131-053 dated July 1, 1986, wass awarded to a military official for heroic achievement or meritorious service during, or in support of military action against an enemy.

Recipient of the award is Col. Felix J. Castro Jr., who was commander of the 903rd Infantry (Fight and Defend) Brigade (IB) under the 9th Infantry (SPEAR) Division (9ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Castilla, Sorsogon from January 2011 to November 2012.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Calizo, the commander of the 9th ID, who pinned the medal on Castro over the weekend here, said the military award was in recognition of his (Castro) deep sense of responsibility, outstanding leadership, professional competence and managerial acumen.

“The sterling performance of Col. Castro served as the hallmark of honor and prestige, thereby contributing immeasurably to the accomplishment of the 9ID mission,” Calizo said during the awarding ceremony.

Castro, during his term as 903rd Brigade Commander, ably supervised the successful conduct of the 23 brigade-size, 62 battalion-size, 97 company-size and 12,026 small unit operations.

These operations resulted in the neutralization of 43 NPA personalities with 23 of them killed in action, 10 wounded, nine captured and 11 surrendered and the seizure of 106 firearms that included a Cal .30 light machine gun, nine M16, nine Cal.653, two AK47 and one M14 rifles. At least 67 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also recovered.

Among the more significant operational accomplishments of the Brigade under Castro’s leadership included the death in an encounter of Andres Baja Despi, alias Tisoy, the vice commanding officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Sorsogon and the arrest of Vanjie Herrero, alias Vivian, a Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA executive committee member in Masbate province.

Command operations under Castro also resulted in the death in an encounter of Luis Gonzaga, alias JP, an NPA commanding officer in Masbate and the capture of NPA unit commander Felix Marcaida, alias Megs, who was CPP-NPA execom member in Sorsogon and the 3rd highest member of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) of the CPP.

Castro is also behind the establishment of the Barangay Defense System (BDS) in Sorsogon that is now serving as community forces against NPA atrocities that has been proven effective in liberating various barangays in the province from the influence of the insurgents. (PNA) RMA/DOC/cbd/

Salceda fears financial knockout for Pacquiao, advises ring icon to invest more
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 10 (PNA) – Albay Governor Joey Salceda on Monday said here the knockout loss of Manny Pacquiao to Mexican boxing champion Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday (Sunday in the Philippines) was not just a boxing knockout but a financial downfall.

“Seriously, as a financial analyst, I wish Pacman well but after a boxing knockout is a bigger kind - financial knockout,” said Salceda, who is a noted economist and financial analyst.

Immediately, he said it begins with a slowdown on promotional revenues. Then, obviously, a possible retirement, if not a sabbatical one, which means lower fight prizes and price per view (PPV) earnings.

“But, he has built up enough resources from prior fights which could be invested for modest returns, but no more jackpots,” Salceda said of Pacquiao who is also known in the boxing world as the “People’s Champ".

So, the bigger risk of a financial knockout lies in the spending habits of his family (including himself), the governor said.

“After Sunday’s loss, the biggest challenge that would be is reining in Jinky (Pacquiao’s wife) and Mommy Dionesia, his mother, and whatever excesses they may have developed during the good times,” he said.

“Still, I pray for Pacman - grateful for his contribution to national pride,” he added.

Pacquiao was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round of their fourth face-off at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sunday but promised that he’ll be back to fight another day.

“To all my fans, I would like to thank you for your prayers and assure you that I am fine. I am looking forward to a nice rest and then I will be back to fight,” he said in a statement released by his camp shortly after recovering from the fight.

Financial analysts covering the fight estimated Pacquiao’s windfall from it to reach as much as P1.2 billion including PVV proceeds. (PNA) LAP/DOC/cbd/

Friday, December 7, 2012

DSWD extends subsidies to more beneficiaries in CamNorte

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) – Some 500 new beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the government have started receiving their subsidies during the week, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)in Camarines Norte announced recently.

The beneficiaries were from the Daet, Mercedes; Talisay; San Lorenzo Ruiz; Talisay; and Basud, DSWD regional director Remei Tapispisan said.

They were among the 28,813 poorest families from the 12 municipalities of Camarines Norte which were provided cash subsidy to help improve their health and nutrition and facilitate education of children aged 0-14.

Also called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the program had already enlisted a total of 140,000 households in the six provinces of Bicol including Camarines Norte as beneficiaries based on the 2011 count.

Tapispisan said her office has targeted an additional of 56,000 more households living in poverty in 41 local government units including various Indigenous People (IPs) communities of the region to bring the total number to 199,500 or about 20 percent of its household population based on the 2007 census.

The region’s poverty incidence according to the latest statistics released by the NSCB was at 36 percent.(PNA) GHG/DOC/CBD/

Road projects to boost tourist arrivals in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol was optimistic to achieve its target of 15-million foreign and domestic tourist arrivals by 2016 with the construction of a two big road projects in Albay in 2013.

The target, presented during the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) meeting at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) was based on the new tourism road map corridor of Albay Masbate Sorsogon tourism alliance (ALMASORTA) of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The DOT's optimism came following the approval of the construction of the P1.42 billion Albay West Coast Road that will connect the main port facilities of Albay 3rd district to the ports of Sorsogon and will shorter the sea lane routes to Masbate province.

Another tourism road projects approved worth P1.48 billion was dubbed as the Convergence Program on Enhancing Tourism Access (CPETA) in Bicol.

Road projects for tourism development under CPETA are devoted to the first district towns of Albay and the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and the island-province of Catanduanes.

The two road projects will connect all the six Bicol provinces in tourism promotion and development.

The Albay West Coast Road project has been assured completion at four annual allocations; P56 million in 2014, P328 million in 2015; P427 million in 2016 and P331 million in 2017.

The other project was set for implementation by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as "priority" billion road project next year.

Roads under CPETA included: the P591-million improvement of Tabaco-Malinao-Buhi Road in Albay; P450-million President Cory Aquino Boulevard, inclusive of the construction of two bridges in Camarines Norte; P368-,illion Iriga-Buhi Road in Camarines Sur; and, the P75-million Virac-Pajo-Antipolo-Igang Road in Catanduanes.

Strategic approaches have been initiated and pursued by RDC to include the Catanduanes-Camarines Sur-Camarines Norte Tourism Link (CCTL).

DPWH and DOT have been pushing for aggressive program on providing quality roads and bridges to trigger tourist influx in Bicol.

This year alone, the DPWH-DOT convergence projects for roads leading to tourist destinations amounted to P849.7 million. This includes P409.5-million in Camarines Norte, P250.3-million for Camarines Sur and P190- million for Sorsogon.

DOT said over three million tourists arrived in Bicol last year. With the roads completed in 2016 and ALMASORTA and CCTL in full swing, the target number of tourist arrivals according to DOT and RDC officials “is very much attainable.”(PNA) GHG/ALV/MMG/EBP

Phivolcs wants forced extraction of resettled residents returning to Mayon danger zones

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) -– Resettled residents who returned to the slopes of Mount Mayon within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone (PDZ) and the eight kilometer hazard zone have to be extracted by force with or without threats of typhoons.

In the pre-typhoon Pablo disaster mitigation plans, resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) observatory station at Lignon Hill, this city recommended forced evacuation of people encroaching at the PDZ and its nearby perimeters under perennial hazards of rock falls, avalanche, ash puffs and steam-driven explosions.

Although Albay has been spared from the wrath and collateral damages of “Pablo”, Phivolcs has sustained its proposal to prevent human presence and activities within the PDZ, the area being declared a “no man’s land”, especially on the southern segment of the volcano below the tilted crater lip.

The northern segment slopes remain teeming with vegetation and the ground is more compacted and is free from threats of possible lahar, according to Phivolcs.

Phivolcs’ ocular and ground inspections revealed renewed human activities in the danger zone and nearby areas. Residents who had been awarded housing units at government relocation sites had put up huts and went on with farming, animal raising and orchids gathering in the restricted areas.

The long lull in volcanic activities has been probably taken advantage of former residents and trekkers in the area to return and resume activities.

The area is rich in grasses and wild fruits for livestock, swine and poultry feeds. Also with flora such as giant pitcher plants and other orchids which resident gather for sale in the urban centers.

Since October, officials from barangays within the 10-kilometer radius reported seeing residents frequenting the slopes gathering shrubs used in making Christmas trees that are sold in down towns and public markets.

The absence of typhoons directly hitting Albay since January has so far boosted the resurgence of human activities on danger areas and upper slopes of the volcano.

Since March 2010, Phivolcs has maintained an Alert Level 1 disaster warning along Mount Mayon. Alert Level 1 means there is no imminent eruption to occur.

Until recently, Phivolcs declared a normal level of Mayon Volcano after it ceased to exhibit abnormal seismicity such as crater glow, ground deformation, volcanic quakes and sulphur dioxide emission, which mean that no explosive eruption is foreseen in the immediate future.

Ground deformation monitoring using Precise Leveling (PL) surveys on the northern and eastern flanks, combined with recently emerging patterns in ground tilt monitoring, indicated a minimal ground deformation and according to Laguerta, it were not volcanic related but due to movements of minor faults around Mayon.

Even the quakes recorded on the average of five per day are confirmed fault-related. “There’s not much movement at the surface of the volcano related to magma intrusion,” said Laguerta.

However, sudden pressure-driven ash explosions might still occur and pose threats to life of residents in the area.

Also, confirmed on recent ground and aerial surveys was the reactivation of river channels that were spared during the 2006 massive lahar flows during the 2006 onslaught of super typhoon “Reming” and torrential rains may trigger floods in these areas which recent slope visitors and habitants do not know about.

During “Reming”, some channels were clogged by earth dams composed of volcanic debris and silts pushed by massive lahar flows and its overflowing from river banks in the upper slopes of the volcano.

The torrential rains and flooding episodes from January this year have somehow scoured the clogs and reactivated the channels, Laguerta said.

Below the tilted crater lip at the southeastern quadrant of the volcano is the Mabinit Channel, the major flood and lahar course which volcanologists consider a special case, having confirmed a recent avulsion occurring in the area.

In the February 2, 1993 major eruption, a nue'e ardentes-type, about 80 farmers and residents in declared danger zones died from ultra-hot steam cascading from Mayon’s crater.(PNA) LAP/ALV/MMG/UTB

Bicol's Tabang MindaNow humanitarian relief mission off to Mindanao

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 07 (PNA) -- Disaster authorities here are sending a 72-man humanitarian relief mission on Saturday to Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental a disaster stricken provinces in Mindanao, according to Bernardo Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) chairperson.

Alejandro said the mission dubbed as "Tabang MindaNow" will hold a medical, sanitary and relief mission on Dec. 8 to 18 this year in the towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston in Davao Oriental and the town of Bataan in Compostela Valley, the areas ravaged by Typhoon Pablo on Wednesday.

Alejandro said the Albay-OCD team would assist in the medical, sanitary and relief operation efforts of the local governments in the affected areas.

The team will bring along a water purifying machine capable of producing thousands of liters of potable water for distribution to residents.

The humanitarian mission is a joint undertaking by the OCD, provincial government of Albay, DOH, PNP, Army, Navy, and the Air Force. (PNA) LAM/MSA/cbd/

UNFPA responds to victims of 'Pablo'

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) -- The United Nations Population fund Philippines Country Office has prepositioned non-food supplies and deployed humanitarian team to the areas hardly hit by typhoon "Pablo" in Mindanao.

UNFPA's immediate support to victims of Pablo is the provision of the Minimum Initial Service Package, addressing the health needs of the displaced families in Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces in eastern Mindanao, the most affected so far.

In a statement , UNFPA said that the impact in Palawan was not yet known as the government and the humanitarian community jointly assessed the most affected areas.

The most pressing humanitarian needs in the region are food, water and shelter, according to the authorities; Response efforts are underway but debris and damaged infrastructure hamper access in some areas.

To address the health needs of pregnant and lactating women, non-food supplies have been prepositioned, including 3,500 hygiene kits, clean delivery kits for 100,000 people, clinical delivery assistance kits for 300,000 people, and other reproductive health supplies for 300,000 people.

An additional 30,000 dignity kits for pregnant and lactating women in affected communities will also be available.

Meanwhile, Albay province has sent the humanitarian team composed of search , rescue and medical teams. The medical team will cater to treatment care and support to evacuated families. (PNA) RMA/MDR/CBD/

Albay’s ‘City of Love’ takes pride of eco-friendly cabs
By Danny O. Calleja

TABACO CITY, Dec. 6 (PNA) –- On all thoroughfares of this economically successful place called the “City of Love”, three-wheeled pedal-driven vehicles locally called “padyak” (pedicab) are all around, serving as the city’s primary means of public transportation.

It is ecological, environment-friendly, cost efficient and provides a good form of exercise to its operators. The scene had become one of the most “fun” ways of enjoying this young city resting at the foot of the majestic Mayon Volcano.

Padyaks are locally assembled lean and light vehicles that for almost a century now have been here serving as the easiest and awesome way to go green around the city. They are quick and the drivers, mostly impressively muscled men, young and old, are courteous.

“This form of public conveyance had been a part of our tradition that even the popularity of fuel-burning motorcycle-driven cabs has failed to sidetrack,” according to city Vice Mayor Reynaldo Bragais.

In fact, the number of pedicabs in the city had been steadily increasing that from only about 1,500 10 years ago, “we now have more 3,000 of them” that are providing a good source of income to its operators given the wide public patronage it has been enjoying.

Bragais said these padyaks are even patronized by tourists who are awed by its being eco-friendly and economical.

Because of that, he said the city government had been preserving its presence and putting it at the front line of tourism services the local government is offering.

“We see to it that its drivers are disciplined and courteous. We orient them from time to in dealing with tourists and visitors the nice way,” he added.

The city’s pedicabs, the vice-mayor said, has earned fascination from candidates of the recent Miss Earth international beauty pageant who were ushered to a tour of Albay’s historical landmarks and eco-tourism attractions last November 16 and 17.

The candidates rode the padyaks as they toured Saint John the Baptist Church, a national historical treasure in the city as declared by the National Historical Institute and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The church’s bell tower is a focal point in the city’s landscape, being visible from almost anywhere in the city that despite the rising heights of modern buildings, the church belfry remains an imposing structure.

“One can only imagine how much more impressive it was centuries ago, in a bare landscape,” the vice mayor said.

The artistry and ingenuity of the padyak’s design, its contribution to the economy and support for clean and healthy environment amazed the Miss Earth candidates that they even tried driving the cabs themselves, Bragais said.

City Mayor Krisel-Luistro said in recognition of the contribution of padyaks to the burgeoning local economy and tourism growth, the city government has been staging an activity that is included in the holding of “Tabak Festival”, a yearly tourist-oriented merry-making presenting the local historico-cultural heritage.

Tabak Festival is also a celebration for the city’s cutlery industry which had made the locality famous for its “tabak” (machete) and other cutting tools and bladed iron crafts.

Called the “Padyak ng Tabaco” the activity put together the city’s over 3,000 pedicab operators to a “fiesta” of their own sponsored by the city government to give them a much-needed break from their daily grind, she said.

“This people in the padyak sector are part of our everyday lives. They are part of making of Tabaco as what it is now—a prosperous, economically matured, peaceful and live-able city,” Luistro said.

For centuries, the city has served as a strategic access point to both the Bicol region and the country through its international seaport which was one of the first international ports of entry in the Philippines.

The Tabaco International Port is a key to national and regional trade and as such, it is an indispensible harbor for the traffic of goods entering and exiting the city and the region. It is a natural harbor and is located on the eastern side of Albay facing the island province of Catanduanes and the Pacific Ocean.

Tabaco City, Luistro said is the ideal place for settlement and recreation and making a living in business and production.

Cost of living in the locality, she said is relatively inexpensive given the abundance of locally produced fresh agricultural and marine products.

“Finally, transportation around the city using the ever-dependable “padyak” is economical and environment-friendly,” she added. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD/

Officials express optimism over Bicol’s economic gains
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 6 (PNA) -- Optimism have grown endemic among Bicol officials over sustainable gains in the tourism and agriculture industries that are steering the region towards a resounding economic growth.

“Of course, these economic gains are bolstered by government programs implemented under a situation that places corruption further down a tamed position,” according to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, a topnotch economist and financial analyst who heads the Regional Development Council (RDC).

The region’s tourism industry had gained ground and continues to compete in the national and global market while the agriculture sector has improved with available irrigation facilities and other support services.

From 2.6 percent in 2011, the first full year of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Salceda said Bicol’s economic performance this year had strengthened by about threefold or seven to eight percent.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in its latest report, the region’s 2.6 percent economic growth in 2011 doubled its performance in 2010 with Services sector as the largest contributor accounting for about 2.1 percentage points.

In emerging as the region’s biggest economic contributor to the output at 55.5 percent, the Services sector grew at a slightly faster rate of 3.9 percent from 3.7 percent the previous year, the NSCB report said.

Within this sector, Transportation, Storage and Communication that are largely attributed to tourism, grew at an accelerated rate of 6.5 percent from an anemic 1.0 percent rate in 2010.

Industry, dominated by agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishery (AHFF)-based activities, according to the NSCB contributed a total of 0.6 percentage point.

Salceda said the increased output in energy generation through the region’s Tiwi and Bacman (Bacon-Manito) geothermal plants in Albay and Sorsogon respectively; lagged impact of the disbursement acceleration program into the first half of 2012; and continued implementation of public outlays in roads and irrigation are also doing well for the regional economy.

Sharing Salceda’s optimism is the regional office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) which had expressed confidence it would be able to hit this year its collection target of P5.7 billion.

Esmeralda Tabule, the BIR regional director over the weekend, said that although the bureau’s P4,714,368,943.79 collection in 2011 fell short from our P4.996-billion target, it posted an improvement of 8.55 percent or more than P374.4 million over the collection in 2010.

With its continuously improving regional economy, Tabule said “we are confident that this year, we would be able to achieve our collection goal in Bicol”.

The collections would come mostly from remittances made by tax withholding agents in the region and from annual registration payments of regular suppliers of goods and services by the top 5,000 to 20,000 individual and private corporations including large taxpayers, Tabule explained.

The Excise Tax return for sale of gold and other metallic mineral products by small scale miners to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was additional contributor, she added.

Another inspiring factor for the BIR to be optimistic is the ascending trend in tax remittances it was able to establish owing to the economic growth, thus, the region's spectacular achievement, particularly generated by its booming tourism industry and pouring in of investments in mining, agribusiness, malls and business outsourcing, among others.

This growth has been sustained in 2010 and even scaled up in 2011 with the industry sector remaining as Bicol’s strongest performer for an 18.3 percent average expansion that catapulted the region to the top among all the other regions of the country in terms of growth, Tabule said citing NSCB data.

Key indicators of this growth, she said, are improved peace and order situation, enlivened tourism industry, friendly business climate and agricultural productivity.

“We are taking advantage of these magnificent economic performances of the region in our tax collection target and one of our major campaigns is to instill to the buying public the importance of asking for a receipt for every purchase they make to ensure that the corresponding tax is paid,” Tabule said.

According to Salceda, Bicol had already been able to shed off its “poorest region” image with its leaping economic growth which is considered the highest so far among other regions and even surpassing the national growth rate.

The economic landscape of Bicol looks different and the momentum of growth it had taken had been decisive, he said.

In Albay, Salceda said focus is on addressing high power costs, which the governor describes as “the biggest single stumbling block to faster, more sustained and more inclusive economic growth.”

Rising power costs have emerged as the biggest disincentive to more domestic and foreign investments, he stressed.

While Albay had been providing Luzon with cheap geothermal energy of almost 464 megawatts while getting virtually nothing, under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), the province is now compelled to purchase the same power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for about P10 per kilowatt-hour,” he lamented.

Anyway, he said, Albay is determined to become Bicol’s economic driver particularly in tourism with the nearing completion of the P3.4-billion Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) now ongoing construction at Barangay Alobo, Daraga town.

The SLIA is seen to uplift the economy and position of Bicol on the global tourism map, Salceda said.

“We had also put in place tough defenses against natural disasters with our calamity preparedness and climate change adaptation program that is making every Albay community outstandingly calamity-resilient,” the governor said.

This way, both man-made and natural disasters would not be able to disrupt the economic momentum that we have gained, achieved and continuously achieving, he added. (PNA) CTB/DOC/cbd/

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Albay-OCD to send humanitarian mission to Comval, DavOr

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 6 (PNA) -- The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional office based in this city and the Albay provincial government will dispatch teams to conduct preliminary damage assessment and needs analysis (DANA) to the disaster-stricken provinces of Compostela Valley (Comval) and Davao Oriental (DavOr) worst hit by typhoon "Pablo."

The teams will be composed of OCD officials and representatives from the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO). The teams are tasked to gather statistics that will be the basis as to the types of assistance they will extend to the two provinces.

The provincial government, through Gov. Joey Salceda and Vice Gov. Harold Imperial, has been holding successive small group discussions with OCD for final consultation with the Department of National Defense.

Albay top officials assured the willingness to allocate P500,000 each for relief operations in ComVal and DavOr.

The teams are tentatively to leave this city for the humanitarian mission on Dec. 8.(PNA) FFC/ALV/MMG/EBP

P1.4B road project seen to boost Bicol as premier tourism hub

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 06 (PNA) --- The Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) has approved the P1.48 billion tourism road projects in four Bicol provinces, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, RDC chairperson said on Thursday.

The same project has been endorsed to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) board.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will implement the "priority" billion road project dubbed as the "Convergence Program on Enhancing Tourism Access" in Bicol next year.

Salceda, in an interview, said the Regional Development Council (RDC) had already endorsed the DPWH and Department of Tourism (DOT) convergence program.

Projects under the program include the improvement of Tabaco-Malinao-Buhi Road in Albay amounting to P591 million; President Cory Aquino Boulevard, inclusive of the construction of two bridges in Camarines Norte, with P450M allocation; Iriga-Buhi Road in Camarines Sur, with P368M; and, Virac-Pajo-Antipolo-Igang Road in Catanduanes, amounting to P75M.

These road projects will provide safe, efficient, convenient and easy access to tourism-identified areas fortifying Bicol’s tourism road map for development.

Salceda said he has initiated and has been pursuing the strategic approach, through the Albay Masbate Sorsogon Tourism Alliance (AlMaSorTA)and the Catanduanes-Camarines Sur-Camarines Norte Tourism Link(CCTL), to accelerate tourism development and enhance the attractiveness of Bicol as a tourist destination.

Salceda further cited that the clusters need the completion of several priority projects with the likes of infrastructure development to make the region fully accessible for its external market access.

DPWH and DOT has since been pushing for an aggressive program on providing quality roads and bridges that will encourage tourist influx in Bicol.

“Increase in tourist arrivals will certainly step up economic opportunities not only in rural areas but also in urban centers,” Maria Ong Ravanilla DOT regional director said.

For the current year, P849.728M is allotted for roads leading to tourist destinations wherein P409.460M is allocated for the province of Camarines Norte, P250.268M for Camarines Sur and P190M for Sorsogon.(PNA) PDS/MSA/CBD/