Monday, June 28, 2010

Business leaders grace Bicol Business Week opening

NAGA CITY, June 28 (PNA) --- Fifty-eight Manila and local investors attended the formal opening of the 6th Bicol Business Week (BBW), in this city over the weekend.

Along with other business leaders led by Regional Governor Henry Buban of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Bicol, the investors vowed to support the event’s future expositions which seek to put the region in the country’s business map.

BBW is an investments promotion initiative which has been institutionalized as an annual event by the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the city government of Naga.

Bringing in state-of-the-art devices and technology innovations, the Manila-based and local investors occupied at least 74 display booths to showcase their products and services.

Carla V. Kim, sales manager of Hotel Venezia and Misibis Bay in Albay’s Cagraray Island, hailed the event as a “significant undertaking wherein modern services and products are unfolded before the eyes of consumers.”

Echoing the sentiments of the majority of the investors, Kim said having Naga City as the venue for the traditional exposition places the event in proper posturing since Naga is Bicol’s recognized center for business, education, and culture.

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) elevated Naga City to the Hall of Fame as the Most Business Friendly City in the country.

In his opening rites message, Mayor Jesse M. Robredo said the annual event next year will find more appropriate venue to accommodate a bigger number of participants and exhibitors with the completion of the Naga City Coliseum.

The multimillion-peso facility is now 90 percent completed and will be inaugurated in September.

This year’s BBW exhibits and shows, which were formally opened to the public Sunday, include the information technology on agriculture and aquaculture, tourism and wellness, renewable energy, consumer goods, car and motor show.

A job fair is scheduled on Friday and Saturday, July 2-3, from 9-5 p.m. at the Activity Center of the SM City Naga.

Franchising seminars are to be held from June 28 to July 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the CBD 2’s Activity Center.

Regional tourism assembly catalyzing Bicol’s tourism growth through sectoral initiatives and coordinated leadership is also one of the complementing activities of this year’s BBW.

Seminars and trainings on mari-culture and seaweeds farming, food safety & quality, small enterprise, food safety and awareness, regional farmers’ forum are to start today until July 3.(PNA)

NPA rebels burned a mining firm facility in Camarines Norte
By Mar Arguelles

PILI, Camarines Sur, June 28 (PNA) -- For failing to give in to extortion demands, a building of a mining firm in Camarines Norte was set on fire over the weekend by suspected communist rebels, military report said.

Major Harold Cabunoc, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, said that at least five heavily armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned down the administrative a building of the El Dore Mining Corporation in Dumagmang village in Labo town.

Cabunoc said that no one was injured in the incident and that there was no estimated cost of damage reported.

“This could be another attack against business firms that refuse to give extortion money to the terrorist rebels. The 902nd Brigade is conducting a thorough investigation regarding this matter,” said Cabunoc.

Barely a month ago, the NPA rebels also burned motor graders owned by a construction firm in Camarines Sur and attempted to bomb a Globe cell site in Masbate province.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan has directed all line units to remain vigilant and implement countermeasures to preempt the attacks against "soft targets" such as government facilities, civilian-owned business establishments and unarmed soldiers. (PNA)

NPA rebels on rampage kills two civilians, brings to 14 people killed in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 28 (PNA) -- Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels went on a rampage killing two civilians in separate incidents in two Bicol provinces Sunday, military reports said.

Philippine Army (PA) report said the fatal attack on the two civilians brought to 14 people slain by the communist movement in the past five months this year, six of which are civilians.

NPA rebels gunned down on Sunday Maritess Toldanes a village chief of Pulang Daga in Balatan, Camarines Sur and Rodrigo Felonia, 35, of Poblacion Sur, Barcelona, Sorsogon.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Cruz, 42nd Infantry Battalion commander, said that Toldanes was gunned down by three suspected NPA rebels outside her residence at around 1:30 p.m. in Barangay Pulang Daga, Balatan town in Camarines Sur.

Toldanes succumbed to gunshot wounds on the head and chest. Army investigators found spent shells for Cal .45 pistol near the crime scene.

Prior to the killing, the victim received numerous death threats for her refusal to support the NPA rebels, who persistently demanded extortion money from the villagers.

In Barcelona Sorsogon, NPA rebels shot dead Felonia, a former militiaman, while on his way home in Barangay Poblacion, at around 9:30 a.m. also on Sunday.

Felonia died instantly after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds in the different parts of his body.

Responding policemen found seven spent shells for Cal .45 pistol and 15 spent shells for 9mm pistol near the scene of the crime.

Major Harold Cabunoc, 9th Infantry Division spokesman, said that Felonia and Toldanes are victims of extra-judicial killings perpetrated by the NPA.

Cabunoc said that the rebels had also killed one soldier and seven militiamen in the past two quarters of the year.

In 2009, the NPA rebels killed 52 people in Bicol. The list of the victims include 30 innocent civilians who were accused of being military informants and those who refused to pay the extortion demands. (PNA)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PCARRD says health-conscious people into chevron for lower fat
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 23 (PNA) -– Government experts said more and more health-conscious people are now into eating chevron or goat meat for lower fat content but given that its current supply does not meet the increasing demand as the commodity fetches a very high price in the market.

It is this situation that drew the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) into initiating measures to boost goat production in the country to ensure stable supply of goat meat in the future.

A PCARRD statement received here said several factors contribute to poor goat production. “First, a female goat generally only bears one to two kids per kidding. It then takes about eight months or more until a doe can produce kids, making goat breeding a slow process,”

Furthermore, it takes around eight months until a goat is ready to be slaughtered for its meat that weighs on 15 kilograms (kg) for native goats and about 30 kg. for upgrades and cross breeds, it added.

To boost goat production in the country, the PCARRD said in a statement that it has developed in 2007 the National Goat Science and Technology (S&T) Program that would be completed in 2011.

The program, it said, aims to produce a stable supply of good quality breeder and a uniformed slaughter goats that would meet the demand for goat products and provide livelihood for farmers.

It consists of five major programs that deal with enhancing productivity through improved genetics, proper feeding and nutrition, better health management and enhanced processing and value-adding of meat products, the PCARRD said.

As an initial result, the program has infused better genetics to backyard goat farms through joint efforts with the private sector and local government units (LGUs). “Generally, the goats in the project areas weighed heavier in every stage of growth compared to the figures gathered before the project was implemented.”

The birth, weaning and slaughter weights averaged 2.31 kg, 13.3 kg and 24.4 kg., respectively, while pre-weaning deaths also decreased to an average of six percent and the conception rate increased to 83 percent.

To improve breeding, PCARRD researchers developed leaf meal production sites and formulated semen extender mixtures in powder form. With extenders, more female goats can be inseminated with fresh or frozen semen and even with a limited number of quality breeder male goats, the quality and number of goats in the country can be increased, it said.

Later, the researchers developed cheaper alternatives to enhance goat health. For instance, they have generated the optimum ratio combinations for the mixture from “caimito,” “makahiya,” and “makabuhay” leaves that serve as herbal alternative to expensive synthetic dewormers.

The program also designed and fabricated a pelletizing machine that can produce 120 kg of pelletized total mixed rations (TMR) in an hour. These pellets can be stored and used as feeds during the dry season when fresh feeds are scarce. Growing goats fed with these pellets, made from “ipil-ipil” and rensoni leaves, increased in weight after 120 days, the PCARRD said.

Presently, it said forage feed-banks and food-feed modules are being studied to complement the biomass requirement for TMR as to how feed resources can be made available under different cropping patterns year round.

In the area of processing, the slaughter and carcass yields of goats at different ages and breeds are being recorded. Meat quality is being evaluated and meat cuts are being standardized, the Council added.

To elevate goat keeping into profitable enterprises, the PCARRD program also introduced innovative production systems that led to the adoption of goat-based enterprises in several parts of the country.

Because of this, significant improvements in farmer’s internal and social competencies were seen, which translated to improved farm productivity.

Considering these significant results, the program has been upscaled in 2009 with the target areas expanded and the number of farmer-beneficiaries increased, giving priority to the returning OFWs, displaced domestic and overseas workers, government retirees and soon-to-retire employees.

Other enterprises such as legume seedling, urea molasses multi-nutrient blocks and breeder goat production have been added to the goat-based enterprises in communities, it said.

The program also developed and promoted several science-based development projects. These projects encourage farmers to adopt the practices and technologies developed by PCARRD’s goat program.

Twelve S&T based farms (STBF) were implemented to showcase component technologies on goat production. These STBFs demonstrate the benefits of science-based interventions in goat farms. (PNA)

Community cited for PNP’s improved crime solution efficiency
By Jason B. Neola

NAGA CITY, June 23 (PNA) -- Four killings and two robbery cases here were solved by the Naga City Police Office (NCPO) with the help of the members of the community who provided the authorities with vital information that led to the arrest of the perpetrators.

According to PSSupt Jacinto Culver Nasol Sison, NCPO chief, the feat is “a clear manifestation of effective police-community partnership and teamwork.”

The cases involved the murder of Ka Popoy Lagman of Tabaco City and the Indian national who was killed in Naga three months ago by his compatriots.

The report was featured in the January-May 2010 briefer of the NCPO wherein the police were able to register an 82 percent Crime Solution Efficiency against the 80 percent of the same period last year.

The 45-minute briefing with Mayor Jesse M. Robredo was also attended by the members of the local media. Mayor Robredo encouraged the police personnel to further strengthen the police-community partnership “so that more impressive accomplishments will be achieved” in the future.

The police have chalked up 24.8 percent Average Monthly Crime Rate (AMCR) with a -53% variance against the 53 percent of the same period in 2009 when the 243 crime volume in January-May 2009 plummeted to 201 for the same period this year.

One of the murders that lawmen were able to solve thru the support of witnesses and victims was the killing of Ka Popoy Lagman when they apprehended and filed murder cases against a certain Edgardo Sevilla who was also charged for the slaying of Florencio Ona last April. Sevilla had a bounty of P1 million on his head.

The arrest of one named Melchor Asico, aka Tsogo, was also mentioned in the briefing. Asico was tagged by the police as the prime suspect in the killing of cigarette vendor Rodrigo Royol y Geronimo in Barangay Dinaga, here. The suspect’s arrest was carried out weeks after the crime was committed in April.

Francis Gomez Presnilla was also arrested through the cooperation of some residents who witnessed the killing of Eduardo Villanueva Agong, a member of the Civil Security Unit (CSU) of the Provincial Capitol. Agong was killed inside the Plaza Rizal on March 16.

Because of the victim’s cooperative attitude, the National Bureau of Investigation and the police were also able to arrest and charge in court the persons of Sikandeer Singh Grewal, Inderit Singh Grewal, Amandeep Singh Mondi, Freddie Belen and Roniel Rodriguez y Gonzalez for the March 30, 2010 killing of Kamal Deep Singh Brar, an Indian national.

After his power-point presentation, Sison vowed to the public to give the best that they can in solving crimes. He also appealed to the public to continue trusting them so that they can perform their duties expeditiously and thoroughly.

Sison said one of the factors why there are unsolved cases is the unavailability of witnesses or their refusal to help in finding solution to the crimes.

He said that the pieces of evidence found in the crime scene were not sufficient because direct testimonies of witnesses are more vital than them in solving a crime.

The prevalence of index and non-index crimes from January to May, this year, registered a number of 124 and 77, respectively, or a crime volume of 201 of which 165 were solved. (PNA)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Albay gov says SLEX toll fee hike illegal, petitions SC to stop its imposition

LEGAZPI CITY, June 23 (PNA) - Albay Governor Joey Salceda declared that the toll fee hike imposed by the South Luzon Tollway Corporation (SLTC) is illegal because the franchise given to them by Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) has expired and has not been renewed.

Salceda said the concession agreement between SLTC and PNCC commenced in May 2006 while the franchise given to PNCC expired in May 2007, without being renewed by Congress.

He said without a franchise granted to PNCC, the ongoing toll collection, grant concession to SLTC to increase toll fee are illegal.

Salceda said he has filed with the Supreme Court (SC) a petition asking for a restraining order implementing the 290-percent toll fee increase.

He said that he requested for a full review of the SLEX project.

Construction of TR-1,2 and 3 was supposed to be completed in August 2009. And this was supposedly triggered the turnover of operations. At least one year of cash flows from SLEX have been available to the concessionaire.

In June 2009, RTC Judge Tongco ruled that the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) does not have the authority to grant "administrative franchise" stripping PNCC of any legal camouflage for its toll fee collections, much more for its grant of concession.

Salceda, citing a SC ruling in November 2009 ruled on the Radstock case, that PNCC can not use its corporate assets or cash flows to settle with Radstock/Marubeni as the SC established that these now belong to the national government since its franchise expired.

Thus, he said, toll fee collections should be remitted to the Bureau of Treasury and thereafter any settlement with Radstock would have to be appropriated by Congress through the regular budget process - initiated through the budget submission of the executive, originated by the House of Representatives, approved by Senate and finally by ratified Bicam report.

This SC ruling has vast consequences on the SLTC concession and the TRB toll fee hike approval.

Salceda said in effect, those toll fees were illegally collected by PNCC since it does not have the legislative franchise and the remedy of TRB administrative franchise was struck down by the judiciary as non-existent.

PNCC becomes at best a collector of these toll fees for the national government and not for its own account.

Salceda said, "The cash flows at least from the expiry of franchise up to the actual turnover to SLTC or three years amounting to about P7.5 billion should: have been returned to the motorists, have been remitted to the national treasury in escrow for the paying public but apparently from reports - none have been received by the national government or, as our position on 'ginisa sa sariling mantika' should have been applied to the construction costs and, as far as TRB is concerned, these should have been deducted from the rate based upon which it computed toll fees."

If PNCC does not have a legislative franchise and an administrative franchise does not exist, then the STOA has no legs to stand on. Consequently the TRB approval of toll fee hikes becomes an ignominy, the governor pointed out.

He added that as a Latin statement said “Nemo dat quod non habet - You can not give what you do not have.” Thus, PNCC has no legislative franchise to grant a concession. Thus, its toll fee impositions are effectively illegal, Salceda stressed.

The SLEX project is not covered by a BOT agreement unlike the Skyway and NLEX, he added. Nonetheless, as a national priority project listed in the NEDA IPP, this could not been the subject of an unsolicited BOT proposal, thus, subject only to a Swiss challenge after publication in international and national media. (PNA)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two communist guerrillas fall in the hands of government forces in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, June 22 (PNA) -- Two communist rebels operating in the island province of Catanduanes fell on the hands of government forces, one was nabbed while the other surrendered to soldiers of the Philippine Army 83rd Infantry Battalion based in Catanduanes, a report given to PNA said.

Lt. Col. Danilo Aquino, commander of the 83rd Infantry Battalion, said that a squad of soldiers led by S/Sgt. Monico Buenavista arrested a certain Roderick Fernandez alias Nognog, a regular member of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebel Isla Pusa command, at around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday in Porot village in Pandan town.

Aquino said that Fernandez was attending a village fiesta when collared by the government forces. He did not resist arrest and volunteered to cooperate with the soldiers.

Fernandez even persuaded another member in the same barangay to peacefully surrender three hours after his arrest, said Aquino.

The surrenderor was a certain Noel Verano alias Jovan, who joined the rebel movement in 2006.

Through the persuasion of Fernandez, Verano was convinced to surrender to the government because of hardship he run into as a member of the rebel group.

“I am convinced that it is high time that we cooperate with the government. My family is not receiving the ‘suporta sa pamilya’ (financial support) promised by our leaders in the communist movement,” said Verano.

Major Harold Cabunoc, 9ID spokesperson, said that since August last year, the 83rd Infantry Battalion has persuaded 30 NPA rebels in Catanduanes to surrender and go back to the folds of the law.

Thirty seven of the former rebels all over Bicol Region were given their benefits under the rebel returnee program.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, has earlier directed all units in Bicol to prioritize the implementation of peace and development programs in the ISO campaign.

“I believe that winning the war without resorting to violence is on its peak as the enemy are starting to peacefully surrender. I will ensure that the surrenderors will receive the financial and livelihood benefits due them through the Social Integration Program of the government,” said Pabustan. (PNA)

Mayon crater glows intensify, volcanologists on alert

LEGAZPI CITY, June 22 (PNA) -- The crater of Mt. Mayon glowed intensely for several days prompting scientists of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to be on alert of the abnormal behavior exhibited by volcano in Albay.

Phivolcs scientists said the intense crater glow displayed by the 2,500 meters high volcano is still an indication that magma might be building up in the volcano’s vent.

The volcanologists said the volcano’s alert level status remains hoisted at level 1 since January 4. Alert Level 1 means that Mt. Mayon is still on an abnormal state.

Aside from the intense crate glow, Phivolcs instruments detected tremors on the volcano’s edifice due to molten rocks that cascaded down the volcano’s slopes.

Alex Baloloy of Phivolcs advised various disaster councils not to allow their residents and tourists to trek the slopes of the volcano since sudden rock falls may occur endangering their lives.

Phivolcs recommends that the public should not enter the six-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone and the seven-km Extended Danger Zone on the southeast of the volcano due to continuing threat from sudden explosions, rockfalls from the upper slopes and pyroclastic flows due to sudden collapse of unstable lava deposits.

Active river channels and those perennially identified as lahar prone in the southern sector should also be avoided, especially during bad weather conditions or when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall.

As this developed, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda directed the Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (APSEMO) to closely monitor the influx of tourist visiting the province to watch the majestic Mayon volcano.

He said as a pre-emptive disaster measure and to maintain a “Zero Casualty” goal, no residents or tourists would be allowed to enter the designated permanent danger zones (PDZ).

In order that no harm would befall foreign and local tourists visiting Albay, they would be guided by local tourist officers to designated view decks to watch Mt. Mayon.

Mayon volcano eruption that took the center stage in the last two months of 2009 has spawned tourist influx of 76,000 foreign and local tourist an unprecedented figure in achieving its annual target in just a month, Salceda said.

Records said the lava oozing out from Mayon crater summit for almost a month has triggered the biggest surge in arrivals in the history of Albay tourism achieving its annual figure of 76,000 in a month based on a 2,400 current daily tourist arrivals since December last year.

Salceda said that the Mayon spectacular quite eruption event has created a notable surge in transport terminal arrivals and in hotel, inns and restaurant occupancy.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said the Mayon eruption greatly impacted to the tourism sector with a hotel occupancy rate of 80 percent as compared to the 46 percent rate in December 2008.

Nini Ravanilla, DOT regional director, said Albay has 1,700 available rooms. Tourists arrival since the start of Mayon eruption event was almost 2,500 daily compared to less than a thousand daily in December 2008.

She said rough estimates of visitor receipt was placed at P800,000 daily with a job generation of 3,000.

Salceda however said the eruption event considered as disaster tourism is neither encouraged, promoted nor sponsored by the provincial government.

He pointed out that the disaster tourism incremental output does not match what was spent for evacuation of P1.5 million a day for 9,946 families housed in 29 evacuation camps. (PNA)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Army engineers complete P175-M infrastructure projects in Camarines Sur

PILI, Camarines Sur, June 21 (PNA) -– The Philippine Army (PA) engineers turned over recently 138 infrastructure projects worth P175 million which are part of the Kalayaan sa Barangay Program (KBP) projects of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a military officer said.

Major Harold M. Cabunoc, 9ID spokesperson, said that these projects were turned-over over the weekend to the local government officials of Camarines Sur during a simple rites held in the provincial capitol.

The completed projects include 28 school buildings, 31 water systems, 20 health centers and 41 farm-to-market roads, which were implemented in eight different municipalities in Camsur province by the 51st Engineering Brigade, said Cabunoc.

Barangay chair Jinet Delgado of Palsong Village in Bula town came to witness the turn-over ceremony. She was elated by the way the soldiers came to help construct additional classrooms in her village.

“I could not contain my happiness for the help extended to us by the Philippine Army. In the past, some of our school children were having classes under the shades of the trees, due to over-population in our public schools,” said Delgado.

Mayor Jeanette Bernaldez of Bato town shared her experience about the lack of roads in her hometown, saying “When I visit my constituents in my barangays, it was very difficult for me to travel due to the problem of inaccessibility of roads in the remote villages; but now, we are blessed to have these new roads constructed by the Army Engineers,” she said.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the 9th Infantry Division, said that the implementation of the Army’s peace and development programs is his top priority.

“We cannot defeat the communist insurgency with the use of guns alone, but with the KBP we can now address the various root causes of the problem, we are helping communities to have access to the basic social services that they need,” Pabustan said.

The Kalayaan sa Barangay Program (KBP) projects are part of President Arroyo’s flagship programs. It is aimed to achieve sustainable peace and development in conflict-affected communities through the accelerated, barangay-focused rehabilitation and development.

Unlike any other development projects of the government, the KBP projects are implemented by the Army engineers under the over-all supervision of the National Development Support Command (NADESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (PNA)

AKO Bicol gives scholarships to children of tribal communities in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 21 (PNA) -- AKO Bicol Party list vowed to give educational scholarship to members of cultural minorities living in hinterland communities in Bicol.

AKO Bicol specifically pledged their commitment to help indigenous tribes living at the foot of Mt. Asog in Iriga City, Camarines Sur.

Elizalde Co, Ako Bicol chairman, said “We, have decided to assist in the educational needs of children of our cultural minorities after watching their appeal for help on national television. It is unfortunate that these children could not even finish primary schooling due to extreme poverty.”

Co has directed his party workers to visit these communities and evaluate the needs of the children and see to it that no child of school age would be deprived of basic primary education.

To date, Ako Bicol has thousands of scholars enrolled in the different colleges and universities including vocational and technical schools in the region.

The AKO Bicol has only two Aeta scholars, Divina Nagrampa and Bernard Ballesteros, who are taking up midwifery and criminology courses, respectively. The two were given immediate scholarships after their tribal chief interceded on their behalf.

Ako Bicol is a regional political party which topped the elections for party list representatives with more than 1.5 million votes.

It has not yet been proclaimed due to a pending disqualification. (PNA)

Alert guards foil rebel cell site attack in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, June 21 (PNA) -- Alert security guards manning the Globe cell site foiled an attempt by communist rebels to set on fire the transmitter facility in Esperanza town in Masbate, military report said Monday.

Colonel Lope Dagoy, commander of the 85th Infantry Battalion, said that about five suspected New People’s People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked the Globe cell site in Poblacion, Esperanza town at around 11:30 p.m. over the weekend.

Dagoy said that the rebels lobbed at least four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the power generator but alert security guards fought-off by firing their shotguns at the attackers who were positioned outside the fence.

“The rebels ran away when the ‘blue guards’ started firing their weapons to defend the facility. The generator set suffered minor dents and the transmitter is still fully operational,” Dagoy said.

These civilian guards must be commended for their heroic actions because this acts of bravery must be the fine example to all other personnel in the security industry, said Dagoy.

Since January 2009, a total of six Globe cell sites had been attacked in the Bicol, Sorsogon tops the list with two attacked cell sites while the provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay and Masbate recorded one NPA attack each.

“The rebels are only capable of attacking ‘soft targets’ such as lightly-defended telecommunications facilities and heavy equipment used in the construction of infrastructure projects. Normally, they are attacking the facilities owned by businessmen who refuse to pay the extortion money to the rebels,” said Dagoy said.

The attack on the Globe cell site coincided with the harassment by five rebels at about 10 p.m. on the same day at the 85th Infantry Battalion’s company base in Uson town.

No one was reported injured in the five-minute firefight which ensued. Pursuit operations are ongoing to hunt the fleeing rebels.

In Albay, troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. John Oberio chanced upon three rebels while in the act of looking for food in Agpay village, Guinobatan, Albay at around 8:30 a.m. on Friday.

The rebels immediately fled towards the bushes leaving behind one bandolier with five steel magazines and at least 100 rounds of live ammunition. (PNA)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DA reiterates on children’s book ‘Popong Eats Brown Rice’
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jun 15 (PNA)-– A call has been aired for the cessation of debates over teaching elementary and high school children sex education so that proper attention is given to this excellent literacy support that serves as catalyst for discussions on the value of rice among children—the book Popong Eats Brown Rice.

The Department of Education (DepEd) is pushing on the controversial subject while the Roman Catholic Church is all out against it.

And as the impasse rages, the Department of Agriculture (DA) over the week stole a bit of the scene with a reminder that the book is a required reading material in all the country’s primary schools.

The reminder aired by DA regional executive director for Bicol Marilyn Sta. Catalina here was timed with the opening of classes Tuesday.

Book author Chat Garrido-Ocampo, in her latest children’s book “Popong Eats Brown Rice”, raises this challenge within a 24-page fully illustrated framework in much the same way that the main character finally discovered the value of eating rice—thanks to the rice prince—in the first book, Popong Eats His Rice.

Ocampo is manager of the Community and Employee Relations of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Now accustomed to eating well-polished white rice and excited about eating his lola’s yummy kakanin, Popong finds himself again in a bind, that of eating something unfamiliar to his palate.

What happens when a child does not eat brown rice?

In this book, the clone-like brown subjects of the rice prince tells Popong: “Don’t you know that white rice is not as nutritious as brown rice because when you completely remove the hull, which gives the rice that brown color, you strip off the vitamins and minerals that can help make you stronger and healthier?"

The book has elements of adventure, science, fiction, and fantasy. In fact, the effects of the brown subjects talking to Popong in a dream-like environment are apparent on every page. This gives child readers something to think about.

Science-driven, the book is an excellent way of introducing children to the quintessential staple that ensures that words like rice husk; rice bran; vitamins B 1, B3 and B6; manganese; phosphorus; fiber; and fatty acids do not disappear from the children’s awareness and vocabulary.

Ocampo employs simple words to ensure that she communicates to young readers, especially to her two sons—Anthony Manuel and Alvin Carlos—to whom she dedicates the book, in a pace that is fun, light-hearted, quick, and punchy.

This instructive writing style never changes throughout the book, which was made more understandable by the way illustrator Grace Dy splashed her illustrations with bright colors that carried the theme and tone of the whole story, according to an article published online recently by the AgribusinessWeek.

Dy, then a graduating Development Communication student from Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, rendered a signature, exuberant, and magical artwork that made each 32 pages of the book burst with energy.

The resultant pictures thus spark the imagination and allow young children to follow along the minimum number of words used by the author.

The story “lifts off” the page and, from a child’s perspective, illustrations and colors make perfect sense.

The illustrations thus present an uncanny way of building rapport as eye contacts between the book’s characters and readers are established, it said.

Thereupon, the book tells young readers why “planting rice is never fun”--from harrowing the soil, seedbed preparation, transplanting, growing, pest management, the need for irrigation, and harvesting to postharvest activities like drying and milling-a masterstroke in presenting a complex scientific process that young readers can easily understand and relate to.

Through the happy “voices” of the milled rice grains that excitingly wait for the day they are sold in the market and served on the dining table, the author and the illustrator combined their talents in capturing the rice production cycle.

In a manner of speaking, the book is written in the “mother knows best” tradition that is aligned with human values like love, understanding, responsibility, compassion, and safeguarding a child’s innocence.

The book is not only written for novelty’s sake but a dreadful reminder of what might have been in the face of the endemic “hidden hunger” called malnutrition among children in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world.

The author has appended at the end of the book nutritional facts about rice – brown and white – and multicolored activity pages that asks the questions: Where does rice come from? Where is Popong’s plate of rice?

The book is also a huge blessing for busy parents like the author as it provides more opportunity for them to have an open communication with their children.

Again, the book celebrates the special bond that shines through between mother and children and between grandparents and grandchildren by emphasizing the universal values of love, care, compassion and understanding.

Mothers and grandparents are usually right, and it was not long before Popong realizes their and the rice prince’s wisdom.

While the title itself readily gives readers a hint, this science-based book with an original plot and believable characters is well-crafted, very engaging, easy-to-read, an excellent read-aloud choice, and can serve as a good introduction among preschool, kindergarten, and grade schoolers to the wonders and benefits of eating brown rice.

By itself, the book is a “rite of passage” to the wonderful world of rice science, the article said.

The central message that the book contains almost spells like a universal advocacy in a world where malnutrition is written on the walls.

Popong Eats Brown Rice has great depths and great power to move and, perhaps, change people’s perception and appreciation of brown rice.

With advocates like the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), the book’s publisher, the Brown Rice Advocates (BRADS), the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF),the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Ocampo, among others, it is not surprising if this book becomes not only a required reading material in all of the country’s primary schools, but also a daily diet of Popong and his friends, it said.

Popong eats brown rice is simply an enjoyable gift of valuable information on brown rice for young and old alike, the AgribusinessWeek article added.(PNA)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

State troopers nab a communist rebel tag for the Presentacion blast that killed four soldiers
By Mar Arguelles

PILI, Camarines Sur, June 11 (PNA) -– Army troopers collared a suspected New People Army (NPA) rebel responsible for bombing using improvised landmine that killed four soldiers, including an Army officer in a village in Presentacion town, Camarines Sur, a military official said Friday.

Arrested was Noel Alarcon, a member of a local communist group operating in the area of Caramoan peninsula in Camarines Sur.

A group of soldiers securing a government construction project led by 1st Lt. Michael Morales, said that they were conducting security patrols in Brgy. Kinahulugan in Lagonoy town, when a local village official tipped-off the presence of the rebel at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

“I was told by a barangay official that one of the perpetrators of the roadside bombing that killed 2Lt. Miguel Logronio and three others in Presentacion town was mingling with the crowd in the village. I immediately rushed to the scene together with the tipster and arrested the suspect,” said Morales.

Morales said during the tactical interrogation, the suspect admitted of a plan to ambush the group of Morales and even brought the soldiers to the site where two improvised landmines were strategically positioned near the road in said village.

He said that Alarcon and his companions were supposed to ambush their troops, who were transporting some of their supplies three days ago. “We were lucky that we avoided passing through established pathways,” Morales added.

Alarcon admitted to have laid the bombs to ambush the soldiers who will pass by along that road. He refused to admit his participation in the deadly ambush in Presentacion town.

Col. Cirilo Teodoro Torralba, Commander of the 902nd Brigade, said that he has coordinated with the military’s legal officer to press charges against the suspect who was brought to Lagonoy municipal police station on Thursday.

“We will pursue a criminal case against Alarcon to seek justice for the death and injuries of my soldiers. Another case of human rights violations will be lodged before the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) as regards to the CPP-NPA’s (Communist Party of the Philippines) continuous use of the banned weapons (landmines),” said Torralba. (PNA, MS, Arguelles)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Agribusiness book by Filipino author explains why ASEAN is global food basket
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 10 (PNA) – A Filipino book writer has come up with a rare book that intelligently connects the dots and explains how the food that lands in every family’s dining table is intricately linked to countless farms all over the world.

Published by the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) in cooperation with the Comprehensive Initiative for the Transformation of Organizations (CITO) Foundation, the book written by Dr. Rolando Dy is entitled “Food for Thought, How Agribusiness is Feeding the World (With Special Focus on the ASEAN).

Launched at the UA&P on December 8 last year, the book of 258 pages has been described by the academic and business communities as “first of its kind that takes a broad look at agribusiness and reveals the extent of the sector’s global reach and significance,” according to the latest online publication of AgribusinessWeek.

Dy has spent more than 30 years of his life writing papers and giving lectures on agribusiness development in different parts of the world. As a consultant for various international and local organizations, he keenly observed how agribusiness has evolved and affected the lives of peoples in the planet, the publication said.

“Just when one thinks that with all his achievements, there is probably nothing else that he has done to further enhance his scholarly pursuits, the agribusiness expert, who humbly describes himself as the barrio boy from Davao, has surprised his followers by writing his first book, it said.

“I have been tracking agribusiness since 1983 and giving lectures on strategic economic programs for executives,” Dy was quoted by AgribusinessWeek as saying during a recent interview in his office at the UA&P.

“I also had an engagement in 2008 in Lima, Peru through the cooperation of the APEC where I also talked about Asian agribusiness. I had lectures on BIMP-EAGA. I talked about my experiences in Malaysia and in Thailand when I was still with the World Bank and I also had lectures in SEARCA. So I thought that as part of my legacy, I want to put everything in a book,” Dy told the publication

“Looking back, I have not seen a book covering the topics on global agribusiness. Who are the key players in the supply chain? Input supply, seeds, production, processing, packaging, commodities. I have not seen a book highlighting the ASEAN as a food basket. These are bits and pieces but, there’s no book that explains and explores the ASEAN agribusiness model,” he explained.

Dy said, it took him 15 months to put everything together — from conceptualizing to researching to writing every chapter of his book. “I’ve surfed virtually every conceivable website on agribusiness, read blogs on the topics, analyzed tons of data.”

“Even the title of the book took me a long time to finalize. I had about 25 titles in mind and through the help of friends, I was able to come up with one,” he added.

Indeed, the chapters of Dy’s latest opus is a gold mine of agribusiness information that takes its readers all over the world—from Cargill in the US to AB-In Bev in Belgium to Wilmar International Ltd in Singapore and the Del Monte Pacific Farms in Mindanao—he expounds why not one country can be totally sufficient in food, according to Marilyn Sta. Catalina, the Bicol regional executive director of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Cargill is the world’s largest supplier of food, agri products and agri services while AB-In Bev is the world’s largest brewer, she said.

“But more than taking the simplistic view of the fork-to-farm chain, Dr. Dy uses hard facts and comprehensive statistics to hammer important points on how government policies, infrastructure, misuse of public funds, etc. contribute to the general development and underdevelopment of nations, Sta. Catalina added.

Zeroing in on the ASEAN, Dy reveals why and how the region is considered as a global food basket and why the inter-regional trade will further grow under the AFTA starting this year.

The Philippine chapter, on the other hand, veers from the usual pedagogical narrative as Dy opted to face the issues squarely and answers 10 tough questions related to the country's dismal and chronic poverty situation, underperformance in agriculture and our misguided focus on becoming self-sufficient in rice.

Similarly, the epilogue, a very timely “Memo to the Next President” now that the new president has been proclaimed lists 10 suggestions to consider in crafting the vision for a better Philippines.

Former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo, Jr., chair of the CITO Foundation, who wrote the glowing foreword of the book said, Dr. Dy’s book is not a textbook. “It is a compendium of well-researched chapters that can be read on a stand-alone basis. It is meant for a wide range of readers: from analysts to students, from business executives to political leaders, and from professors to practitioners.” (PNA,DA Calleja)

Farmer’s coop opens own bank to fight loan sharks
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, June 10 (PNA) -- When 57 farmers here formed a cooperative as an Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) under the auspices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2000, little did they foresee that 10 years later they themselves would be bankers.

Named Batong Paluway Producers’ Cooperative (BAPAPCO) based in Barangay Batong Paluway, about 1.5 kilometers from the downtown of this capital town, the group is now proud owner of the very first thrift bank in Catanduanes, which was set up through an innovative program of the National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) under its Microfinance Innovations in Cooperatives (MICOOP).

Last May 25, a report of Catanduanes Tribune over the week said the BAPAPCO-owned First MICOOP Bank branch here was formally opened to the public and its drive to attract clients and depositors was buttressed by a P10-million capital provided by NATCCO-MICOOP and supported by the DAR.

BAPAPCO was first recognized by DAR in 2000, with its ARC People’s Organization organized on March 15 of the same year with 64 Agrarian Reform Beneficiary (ARB) members, and 13 non- ARB members.

Due to some out-migrations, deaths and other factors that affected the number of membership, the group was reorganized by DAR in February last year to consolidate its members. Since then and until now, BAPAPCO has been placed under the chairmanship of Tita Solero.

BAPAPCO’s first chairman, Gerardo Magno, told the Tribune that their first project, a sari-sari store, continued to earn profit for the coop even after it ventured into the manufacture of abaca rugs and carpets with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The farmers became weavers, he said, and the extra income allowed them to buy luxury items such as home appliances and mobile phones.

The enterprising coop took a risk with candle-making and sustained losses when it became apparent that its high cost did not deliver profits. It also tried swine raising and vegetable farming but the farmers stopped on the second harvest when the usual typhoons affected the vegetables, Magno said.

The cooperative and the DAR Catanduanes community may have to thank another entity aside from NATCCO.

Evelia Bardos-Tizon, MICOOP program manager, said that the miraculous image of Our Lady of Sorrow influenced the decision to choose Batong Paluway as one of the recipients of the program. "Malaki ang kinalaman ng Birhen sa pagkakapili ninyo (The Virgin had something to do with you being chosen)," she said.

Tizon said that under the program, NATCCO partners with cooperatives to help facilitate the setting up of micro-financing institutions.

With DAR putting up its equity, she said, NATCCO provided trainings for the technical staff, including two weeks of all-expense paid basic capability building and field immersion on existing MICOOP systems, policies and procedures in a farmers’ cooperative bank in Tiwi, Albay.

"We have the complete ingredients," Tizon said. "What we are trying to instill here is to start change in cooperative members’ lives through thrift and savings."

Noting that not only the coop but its members should grow, adding that BAPAPCO’s mission was not over as long as Bombay and other “five-six” money lenders thrive in Catanduanes.

Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Alex Teves agreed that the coop bank should have been realized years ago to provide bank-like financial services and make available easy credit to farmers and small entrepreneurs throughout Catanduanes.

Lawyer Cesar Sarmiento, the newly elected congressman for the lone congressional district of the province, vowed to strengthen cooperatives in order to give rural people more funds. He expressed hopes that the kind of politics in Catanduanes would change for the better in order for the province to develop.

"I would like to address the basic needs of the barangays because we are spending so much money on projects that do not translate to any improvement in our lives," he said in expressing total support for DAR and other government agencies in their development programs for the province.

Reelected Gov. Joseph Cua said he hoped BAPAPCO would serve to inspire others in sustaining cooperative development and the livelihood of many cooperative members.

It is too early to say whether BAPAPCO will capture its share of clients from commercial banks and other micro-finance institutions operating in the locality but, MICOOP bank branch Michael Alex Teves is optimistic that the products and services designed to respond to the needs of members would attract the target clientele of farmers and small entrepreneurs.

Among these include the micro-finance loans for both agricultural and non-agricultural purposes; salary loan /ATM loan (providential); small and medium enterprise (SME) loan; business loan; one-month emergency loan; regular savings at 3% per annum, tax –free; regular savings (micro); kiddie savings; and, time deposits.

The cooperative bank has three years within which to acquire the capacity to buy out the P10 million investment of NAPPCO, which will run the bank during the period. It would be up to BAPAPCO and its members to show banking as the future for the other cooperatives on the island. (PNA,DA Calleja)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Tourism industry still the economy booster in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 3 (PNA) --- The tourism industry in Bicol posted a positive growth rate generating some P365 million in revenues during the 1st quarter of this year.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol reported that the first three months of this year, it posted a 593,241 tourist arrivals with 13 percent growth rate compared to the 524,544 tourist arrivals during the same period last year.

During the 1st Quarter the DOT said 80 percent (454,016) of the tourist arrivals were locals while only 20 percent or 139,225 were foreign nationals.

Maria Ravanilla DOT regional director said the regions growth in tourist arrivals have been delivered by the three “icons” of tourism namely Mayon Volcano in Albay, CWC in Camarines Sur and Butanding (whaleshark) interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon.

Ravanilla said the province of Camarines Sur continue to bring in the bacon posting a 348,139 tourist arrivals generating P197 million in revenues, followed by Albay with 86,518 arrivals with P65 million revenue; Catanduanes – 31,432 arrivals/P35 million; Sorsogon- 31,049/P27.5 million; Masbate 49,061/P20.2 million; and Camarines Norte with 47,042 arrivals/P19.2 million revenues.

DOT data reveals that the industry continue to post an uptrend in grow receipts with P443.5 million in 2007, it surge by P782 million in 2008 and hit over a P1 billion mark last year.(PNA,MSA,cbd)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UN conference names Salceda ‘Senior Champion’ of global Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster Risk Reduction
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, June 2 (PNA) - The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN ISDR) has named Albay Governor Joey Salceda as ‘Senior Champion’ of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, in a three-day gathering of local government officials from all over the world in Bonn, Germany on May 31.

Albay, a calamity prone province that faces the Pacific Ocean where most typhoons of the year originate, joined the conference dubbed as Asia First World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change "Resilient Cities 2010" as a global model.

The UN ISDR aims to build disaster resilient communities by promoting increased awareness of the importance of disaster reduction as a component of sustainable development. It hosted the convention jointly with the Federal Government of Germany from May 28 to 30.

Governor Salceda pioneered the "zero casualty" policy through preemptive evacuation during disasters, and hosted the National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in two successive settings; first at the Albay Astrodome in Legazpi City Albay in 2007, and the second at the Diamond Hotel in Manila in 2009. Both were well acclaimed and attended by international crisis managers, scientists, businessmen and students.

Salceda said it is an honor to be recognized as an outstanding campaigner and implementer of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster risk Reduction (DRR) in a global gathering of that size since it puts the Philippines in the forefront of noble objectives.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), one of the organizers of the Bonn conference, proposed that Salceda be nominated to its Executive Committee.

“I joined the ISDR campaign for resilient cities as global role model for Asia for two reasons: first, Albay wants to learn from the best practices in the rest of the world; second, we want to push ourselves higher on standard to drive ourselves harder on this effort and to push the envelope on development through DRR and CCA,” Salceda said.

He explained that adaptation is an investment, not a cost: “It reduces risks, thus increases business returns. Albay has seen a surge in investments even after typhoons Reming and Milenyo, Mayon eruption and a spate of recent disasters. CCA and DRR allow development to proceed amid disasters”, since they don’t disrupt people’s lives since the provincial government takes charge of the disaster.

During the Bonn gathering, the Albay model was presented by Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Professor Saleem Jensua, a Pakistani national, using an independent field research on local adaptation effort in Albay as compared to other regions, cities and provinces also presented by a panel of adaptation researchers.

Salceda’s prepared presentation titled “Albay: Zero Casualty in the Midst of Escalating Disasters-Climate Change, Disaster Management and Good Governance” was distributed as a conference paper.

From Germany, governor Salceda is set to keynote the largest gathering of Bicolanos in the United States; the 30th annual Bikol National Association of America (BNAA) July 16-18, at the Marriott Houston Westchaste Hotel in Houston, Texas.

Guinevere Zalun, president of the host Houston Chapter of BNAA and Overall Convention Chair, in a letter inviting Salceda dated May 28, said the governor will be the keynote speaker during the gala night July 17 at Marriott’s Ballroom.

“This annual event features Bicolanos in the United States gathering together to bind again our minds, hearts and resources as we renew our commitment to a great cause – to uplift the lives of our less fortunate Filipinos particularly our fellow Bicolanos,” Zalun said.

Salceda said he looks forward to such an event, an opportunity to showcase the great strides in economic development especially the huge potential of tourism investments nd green energy in Albay. Albay's social infrastructure in health and education will also be highlighted in order to secure assistance from Bicolanos in America by way of medical missions, equipment donations for our provincial hospitals and BRTTH and fellowships, professorial chairs, IT and books for our universities especially Bicol University.

Houston, Texas is widely known as the Oil and Gas capital, city of Infinite Opportunities, Space city, the fourth largest city in the United States, a top Convention and Tourism destination, a leader in Business, Entertainment, and the Arts. (PNA,MDR,cbd)

Prices of agri-products in Bicol remain stable
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, June 2 (PNA) – Prices of agricultural products specially vegetables in Bicol region have remained stable despite the El Niño, according to the Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics (BAS).

“Farmers in the region were able to cope up with the effect of El Niño and the supplies of vegetables have been sustained since January this year,” Cathy Subido, BAS chief said.

She also assured that there will be no changes in prices of agricultural products specially during the opening of classes. “There is sufficient supply of agriculture products in Bicol region and it is enough to sustain the demand until September this year,” she said.

Subido said that even the prices of pork and chicken remained the same. “Swine and poultry growers were able to counter the effect of El Nino.”

However, she urged farmers to prepare for the La Nina starting next month.

The Bureau of Agriculture and Statistics has urged farmers to start partial harvesting in order to avoid possible damage brought by La Niña, which is characterized by excessive rainfall. (PNA,MDR,cbd)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Return to botanical pesticides, farmers urged
By Danny O. Calleja

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, May 31 (PNA) – Sorsogon Vice Governor Renato Laurinaria has urged farmers in the province to start participating in a nationwide drive against the extensive use of harmful agricultural chemicals particularly pesticides by way of returning to botanical pesticides.

“Let’s go back to the basics of using botanical pesticides in our farms and save lives while earning more profits from our crops,” Laurinaria told dozens of farmers from all over the province who visited his agro-tourism farm here over the weekend.

The two-hectare farm which the vice-governor started five years ago boasts of several species of high-yielding fruit trees, root crops, vegetables and other high value crops grown and maintained without the use of inorganic fertilizers and chemical pesticides.

“I go natural and organic, and you see, without worrying about chemical farm inputs that are poisonous yet very expensive, my harvest gives me more profit than those who rely on chemicals,” he said.

It is a common knowledge that modern agriculture produces high yields but is often not sustainable. Expensive farm chemicals eat into profit. Pesticides upset the natural balance between predators and pests and chemicals poison groundwater and rivers.

He cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) saying every year, hundreds of thousands of people are killed due to accidental poisoning by agricultural chemicals.

”Three people are poisoned by pesticides every minute around the world and all in all, about 10,000 die annually due to pesticides,” the WHO report according to Laurinaria.

The AgribusinessWeek in its latest publication reports said that 62 percent of pesticides sold in the Philippines are insecticides. Of these, 46 percent are applied to rice and 20 percent to vegetables. Insecticides had become one of the major expenses of farmers that account for about 40 percent of total production cost.

Experts say people who are eating chemical-laced vegetables are risking their lives since chemicals are not always dissipated. Generally, chemicals are accumulated in the human body.

The lack of regulation in most developing countries like the Philippines often accounts for the importation of banned pesticides. In some instances, farmers try to apply untested chemicals which they think could drive away insects and pest. In 1992, the illegal use of cyanide compounds by cabbage farmers in the Cordillera region provoked a public outcry.

In time, the use of botanical pesticides again gains wider acceptance among farmers. Botanical pesticides are derived from plants which have been shown to have insecticidal properties. Used widely until the 1940s, these natural pesticides were displaced by modern synthetic pesticides that at that time seemed cheaper, easier, and longer lasting.

The increasing awareness of the dangers posed by chemical pesticides to human health is prompting many Filipino farmers to use botanical formulations that they themselves are preparing, the AgribusinessWeek said.

Eric Vinje of Planet Natural in an article said “natural pest controls like the botanicals are safer to the user and the environment because they break down into harmless compounds within hours or days in the presence of sunlight.”

They are also very close chemically to those plants from which they are derived, so they are easily decomposed by a variety of microbes common in most soils, Vinje added.

Many plants have insecticidal properties. Extracts of these plants can be sprayed on the crop to either kill or repel insects. Take the case of atis, which is best used against aphids, ants, and other crawling insects. The seed of the fruit is crushed and mixed with water. The solution is sprayed against target pests, according to Laurinaria.

Manzanilla, on the other hand, he said drives away a wide range of insects. To use it as a pesticide, dried flowers are finely chopped and mixed with fine clay loam and water at the rate of six to seven tablespoons of dried flowers per gallon of water. The mixture is sprayed on infested plant parts.

Tubli, a wild vine, has an ancient reputation as a botanical pesticide. Ethnic groups in the Philippines have long been using it to poison unwanted fish. In Brazilian rivers, it is used to eliminate the deadly piranha.

Tubli’s insecticidal properties were discovered in 1848, when the plant was first used against the nutmeg caterpillar. It was patented for use as an insecticide in England during the late 19th century, and American farmers started using it in 1911.

Applied as a powder or spray, tubli is toxic to a wide range of insect pests–aphids, beetles, borers, the diamondback moth, fruit flies, thrips, cabbage worms, fleas, flea beetles, lice, loopers, mites, mosquitoes, psyllids, and slugs. It is recommended for application on bush and vine crops, too, Laurinaria said.

Another excellent botanical pesticide is kakawate. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that kakawate leaves contain coumarin, which can be converted into an anticoagulant “discoumerol” found to be an efficient rat killer.

“Anticoagulants are an efficient natural method of pest control because they reduce the protein prothrombin, a clotting agent secreted in the liver, and eventually cause death from internal bleeding,” the FAO noted.

Tests have shown that while the toxin produced by kakawate does not act rapidly, repeated doses lead to fatal hemorrhaging within a few days. “Unlike many other poisons, anticoagulants do not produce bait shyness, which rodents tend to acquire as soon as the first victims of other poisons are taken,” the FAO said.

Aside from rodents, kakawate also acts potently on insects. In many countries, its leaves are placed in chicken runs, or left to soak in hot water and used to eliminate fleas and lice on domestic animals.

In Ilocos region, a study made by the Mariano Marcos State University found out that kakawate leaves can be used to control diseases that attack garlic like purple blotch and bulb rot. To prepare the concoction, the leaves are pounded using mortar and pestle.

After that, one liter of water is added to a kilogram of pounded kakawate leaves. The mixture is filtered and sprayed to the plants infested by pests.

In the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija, organic rice farmers sprayed their crops with fermented leaves and twigs of kakawate and neem trees to control pests and diseases. Some farmers found it convenient and effective, also, to just allow the kakawate leaves to drift to their farm when they irrigate.

In Baguio, a botanical pesticide prepared from kakawate leaves and other herbals are used against pests that attack cabbage and broccoli like cabbage butterflies, diamondback moths, leafminers, and inchwoitits.

Many other plants can also be used to prepare extracts with pesticidal properties. A mixture of garlic, onion, marigold, and hot pepper can annihilate a wide range of insect pests.

To prepare the concoction, the following are boiled in water for 10 minutes: three to four garlic gloves, two handfuls of marigold leaves, two to three onion bulbs and two to three small hot peppers.

It is left to cool before diluting the mixture with water four to five times the quantity of the botanical materials. Stir thoroughly and spray on infested parts. The mixture is best used within two days.

“Botanical pesticides are one answer to the pest problem in developing countries,” says Gaby Stoll, a German agrobiologist and author of Natural Crop Protection. However, she sounds a word of warning: Not all botanicals are risk-free. “Some are as dangerous as chemical pesticides,” she warns.

But Stoll says the move from chemical to botanical pesticides is “an important step in the search for a balanced, self-regulating agricultural system.”

Another advantage of botanical products is that they are not very persistent. Most of them will break down quickly under influence of high temperature or sunshine. Therefore, they don’t have a long lasting contaminating effect on the environment. (PNA,DOC,cbd)

Smoke-free Legazpi gets Red Orchid Award
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, June 1 (PNA) - The city government of Legazpi has added another feather to its cap after it received the 1st Red Orchid Award of the Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO), a citation given to local government units (LGUs) for initiating an aggressive anti-smoking campaign.

The city together with Davao City and three other towns bested other LGUs across the country in the 100% Smoke-Free LGU category during the DOH-WHO sponsored 1st Red Orchid Awards ceremony at the Crown Plaza Ballroom in Ortigas, Manila on Monday.

The ceremony highlighted the observance of the World No Tobacco Day Celebration every May 31 of the year.

City Mayor Noel Rosal and his wife Gie Rosal, the incoming Mayor of this city, proudly received the award and felt greatly challenged and pledged to enhance and continue the city’s smoke-free campaign as part of an effective local governance program.

This is the 1st round of awards bestowed by DOH and WHO in its tobacco control initiative. The DOH also recognized hospitals and centers for health development/regional health offices nationwide.

At the program, the DOH announced that any LGU, Hospital or Center for Health and Development (CHD) that will consistently garner the award three times will be beneficiary of a grant as performance incentive.

Rosal approved the Comprehensive Smoke-Free Ordinance of Legazpi on August 12, 2005 but after five years of implementation, he admitted there are still a lot of things to be done as the strategies will have to be improved.

Geraldine Rosal, the incoming mayor said the city's smoke-free campaign will be pursued by her administration with more improvements and specifically on the enforcement aspect of the program that will make the city a smoke-free place indeed.

The revised smoke-free ordinance (007-2009) provides that the City Health Office of Legazpi is the lead agency in its enforcement and implementation. A Smoke-Free Unit was already established at the City Hall Compound.

Rose Olarte-Orbita of the non-government organization Adventist Community Team Services (ACTS), who initiated, supervised and assisted in the implementation of the campaign, expressed elation for the award.

“We never perceived our struggles will be magnified this way, we thank Mayor Rosal for his strong leadership, the Smoke-Free Committee members who devoted their time, resources and energy and we give the honor and praise to God. He continues to move the hearts and minds of our key officials to protect His children,” she said.

Legazpi City’s smoke-free experience and best practices will be shared and replicated in the different parts of the country, Orbita said. (PNA,MSA,cbd)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

BPRE wants P10B lost yearly to palay drying lessened
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, May 31 (PNA) – The Philippines produces an average of 16.2 million metric tons of palay per year but more or less five percent of it amounting to P10 billion is lost to improper drying, according to the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE).

“We want to lessen these billions of pesos of losses for our farmers that is why we have strengthened our promotion of the use of mechanical dryers, undertaking measures to reduce its cost and improved the flatbed dryer we have developed,” Ricardo Cahuela, BPRE executive director said in a statement here Monday.

The improved flatbed dryer is so far the most versatile technology for drying as it can be used also with other commodities like corn and root crops. Without using its biomass furnace, it can be used as aerator for onion. It has also an electronic grain moisture meter and a shed which is part of the storage, Cachuela said.

Now, through the mechanical drying support to farm clusters project of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Rice Program (GMA-Rice), the Department of Agriculture (DA) has been distributing improved flatbed dryers to qualified irrigators association identified by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

BPRE provides them access to grain drying facilities through its project Sustainability of Community-Based Grain Drying Center Established as public investment.

“We are trying to address the problems of the 37 key rice-producing provinces on drying. We are prioritizing them to ensure that their commodities will be dried and will not be wasted during the rainy season or through improper drying practices,” Cachuela added.

The Sorsogon Integrated Development Cooperative (SIDECO) based here is among farmers’ groups that have availed of the mechanical dryer program with its rice hull-fed furnace (RHF) designed by BPRE Director Ruben Manalabe that can dry 180 bags of palay in 14 to 18 hours, depending on the moisture content, Anthony Bravo, the cooperative’s operation officer.

For mechanical drying services, SIDECO charges P20 per 50 kilograms of palay and P15 for solar drying. “Solar drying is much cheaper. But during rainy days we have no choice but mechanical dryers to avoid wasting many of the farmers’ harvests,” Bravo said.

“We are one more unit of RHF and a flatbed dryer to accommodate the increasing number of farmers who wanted to avail of our drying services which they realized are more practical and economical,” he added.

In Camarines Sur, BPRE has situated a flatbed dryer at the Hinagyanan Integrated Farmers’ Association in Barangay Bonot, Calabanga town. The dryer can dry grains from 31 percent to 14 percent moisture content in six to eight hours. It has an indirect-fired multi-fuel biomass furnace, which utilizes rice hull and corn cobs as fuel.

The Association has 230 members and they cultivate 120 hectares of rice lands. “Since time immemorial, farmers in the province and elsewhere in the Bicol region have been into sun drying that during rainy seasons, the damp grains deteriorate resulting most of the time to wastage,” said Ernesto de los Reyes, the Association’s chairperson.

“Now, with the flatbed dryer, our grains are safe that is why we are really thankful to the DA and BPRE because we have been shared with projects like this,” De los Reyes said.

Compared to solar drying, the flatbed dryer produces good quality grains. Drying is also faster and easier as it accommodates large volume of grains.

So nowadays, even during heavy rains, the Calabanga farmers need not worry anymore about drying their palays for the flatbed dryer is within their reach, he added.

The BPRE has also developed other dryers, initiated the utilization of by-products, and developed a biomass furnace for rice and another for corn.

“Post harvest is very important in farming because it is the end point in agriculture. The final product of our commodities is under the auspices of the post harvest industry. If we mismanaged drying, no matter how good rice milling is, the farmers will suffer,” Cachuela said.

The losses incurred from milling, shelling and corn grits production are the effects of poor drying practices. Hence, Cachuela said, farmers and the BPRE should work together to reduce, if not eradicate, the five percent losses in drying. And to start with, farmers should adopt efficient drying technologies and practices.

Unfortunately, many farmers still sundry their harvested grains which is not always possible especially nowadays when rains occur during summer due to climate change. Worse, many of them sundry their grains along roads and highways resulting in 2.3 percent physical losses during the wet season and 1.3 percent losses during the dry season, according to a study by BPRE.

Since huge losses were incurred, this practice was banned through the initiatives of BPRE, concerned agencies, and local government units.

In Central Luzon, 90 percent of grain drying along national roads had been eradicated. However, there are still farm-to-market roads that are used as multi-purpose drying pavement.

It’s not because farmers don’t have mechanical dryers, but because they find this practice an easy way to dry their commodities. There are also rice traders who practice this because they want to lessen their drying cost, Cachuela said.

Now, with the massive provision of flatbed dryers by the DA in the rice clusters of 37 priority provinces of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program before the wet season, the BPRE said at least P180 million worth of palay are expected to be saved from post-harvest losses.

The flatbed dryers are equipped with rice hull-fed furnace to eliminate the cost of imported kerosene, which was earlier used as a source of heat. Thus, the cost of drying will be reduced tremendously.

Arnel Ramil Apaga, director of the BPRE training and extension department, said in a statement that drying is one of the most critical operations in minimizing postharvest losses, as it directly affects safe storage, transport, distribution, and processing quality.

Delays and improper drying practices downgrade grain quality, Apaga said.

Research findings at BPRE indicate that drying losses may reach as much as 8.7 percent. Unfortunately, existing drying facilities in the country cannot meet the drying requirements of farmers, especially during unfavorable weather conditions.

An initial 500 units of flatbed dryers with rice hull-fed furnace are expected to be provided as grants to registered irrigator’s associations in GMA rice clusters with a service area of at least 100 hectares each.

BPRE selects the recipients and train their operators on the operation and maintenance of the dryer, which has a capacity of six tons per drying batch.

Apaga calculated that with 500 dryers, a total of 360,000 tons of palay could be dried in 60 days. As a result of drying, 18,000 tons of palay would be saved from postharvest losses even if drying losses would be only five percent. When converted to cash, the amount of saved grains would be worth P180 million, he added. (PNA,DOC,cbd)

AFP now wants war on insurgency 'civilianized'
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now wants the war on insurgency 'civilianized'.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Cruz Jr., chief of the Civil Relations Service (CRS) of the AFP, said in a statement here Monday that realities on the ground suggest severe decline of the New People's Army (NPA) as military efforts have reduced the group's strength by 78.7 percent from its peak of 25,200 in 1987. In 2009, NPA strength is estimated at only 4,702.

“From 2001 to 2009, there has been an annual average of 10.8 percent consistent decline in NPA strength and its presence has also been reduced to only at least three percent rural barangays,” he said.

However, Cruz said, there is no absolute military solution to insurgency as considering the multi-dimensional nature of insurgency, there needs more synchronization of government efforts to strategically and categorically defeat the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA and even its political arm, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in this insurgency war.

The CPP-NPA-NDF had been waging an insurgency war in the Philippines for more than four decades already in an effort to topple the government and establish a Marxist-Leninist form of government.

“The best approach is the holistic approach that addresses the root causes of insurgency - injustice, deprivation and ignorance," Cruz stressed.

He cited Executive Order 773 or the "Further Reorganization of the Peace and Order Council", enacted in 2009, as an effective response to insurgency, aiming to achieve a unity of effort in all levels - strategic, operational, and tactical.

The National Internal Security Plan (NISP) under EO 21 also demands a "strategy of holistic approach", he said.

As supported by EO 773, local chief executives should be empowered and become more decisive to lead the government’s counter-insurgency efforts because it is then that the grievances in their respective localities are effectively address through the use of their development funds, Cruz explained.

"We need to civilianize this war, meaning, we must allow the non-military methods to dominate our strategy with local government units (LGUs) taking the lead role," he said.

He cited the case of Bohol as an exemplary paradigm of an LGU-led counter-insurgency program. Similar programs were adopted n the provinces of Aurora, Cebu, La Union, Marinduque, Quirino, Guimaras, Siquijor, Biliran, Apayao, Tarlac and Romblon that are now declared insurgency-free. Other provinces or LGUs are being evaluated for the same declaration.

Cruz explained that an area's declaration of being insurgency-free means that the rebel influence in the mentioned areas is non-existent or too insignificant to affect the lives of the residents.

"We believe that with the proactive participation of the LGUs and other stakeholders, driven by a sense of purpose and urgency, the CPP-NPA can finally be defeated," he stressed.

The AFP vows to uphold its main role to secure communities to allow development to thrive, while also sustaining its non-traditional duties such as its engineering civic actions through the National Development and Support Command (NADESCOM) and its Kalayaan Barangay Program (KBP).

The deployment of Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) nationwide to fast-track the delivery of government's basic services and localized dialogues; its support to literacy through the Army Literacy Patrol System (ALPS) and the adopt-a-school projects; among many others would also be continuing undertakings, Cruz said.

"Assigning more troops will never be enough to enforce lasting peace and sustainable development. The nation can always depend on our soldiers' unflinching courage, professionalism, and commitment. But we cannot win this fight alone,” he said.

At this point, Cruz added, the AFP enjoins all stakeholders to join the fight. “The mobilization of every sector shall serve as a powerful catalyst in securing democracy and ensuring sustainable peace and progress."

Sorsogon Vice Governor Renato Laurinaria agreed with Cruz as his hometown of Castilla, Sorsogon had momentarily attained an insurgency-free status during his last three years as mayor.

His declaration of an all-out war was motivated by relentless killings of civilians mostly through public executions by the NPA and massive abuses committed by its people.

“We’ve been fed up by the extortion victimizing businessmen including small sari-sari store owners and lowly tricycle operators, farmers and barangay officials,” Laurinaria said.

When Laurinaria was elevated to his present position as vice governor, the mayor who replaced him in Castilla abandoned the municipality’s anti-insurgency drive and the rebels regained their influence over several of its once liberated barangays, a military report said. (PNA,DOC,cbd)

Anti-narcotics agents raid marijuana plantation in Albay
By Mar Arguelles

LIGAO CITY, May 31 (PNA) -- Anti-narcotics operatives swooped down on Saturday a vast marijuana plantation and uprooted some 361 fully grown marijuana plants in Barangay Baligang, a village at the upper slope of Mayon volcano here, a ranking official of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bicol said Monday.

Joint elements of the PDEA, Philippine National Police (PNP) and Philippine Army (PA) also collared Orly Ocbian the suspected grower of the MJ plantation located within the designated six kilometers Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) area at the upper slopes of Mayon volcano.

Pedrito Magsino, PDEA regional director, said the raid was in response to a PDEA informant that there exist a marijuana plantation with fully grown marijuana plants ready for harvest in a hinterland of said village.

Magsino said he immediately formed and dispatched a composite team and sent them to the area.

The team raided the plantation at around 3 a.m. over the weekend and found the fully grown marijuana plants at the 850 square meter government land.

The raiding immediately uprooted the hundreds of marijuana plants and brought them at the PDEA office in Police Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in Legazpi City while the suspect was likewise detained awaiting the filing of appropriate criminal charges for violation of the comprehensive dangerous drug act. (PNA,MSA,cbd)