Wednesday, July 28, 2010

BFAR sees rise in fish production this year amid El Niño
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, July 23 (PNA) – With an estimated P20-billion crop mortality to the recent El Niño, the country’s agriculture sector is not a complete loser, after all.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said it expects the fishery agricultural subsector to demonstrate gains from the prolonged dry spell on domestic fish production as it is seen to increase by at least seven percent this year.

Pronounced increases in production of pelagic fishes specially sardines and skipjack tuna during El Niño is a Philippine experience as this phenomenon draws fishes into the eastern section of the country, Dennis del Socorro, the BFAR’s regional director for Bicol based here said over the week.

From ocean waters across the globe affected by the dry spell, these species tend to migrate to cooler and deeper waters like the Philippine Deep off Surigao del Norte spreading up to the eastern side of Bicol particularly Catanduanes, Del Socorro said.

Contributing to this projected growth, Del Socorro explained is this year’s 10 percent increase in aquaculture, three percent growth in commercial fisheries and a five percent expansion for municipal and inland fisheries.

Aquaculture, commercial and municipal fisheries account for about 45 percent, 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively of the country’s total fisheries production, he said.

With these developments, Del Socorro said, the country’s fisheries may surpass this year its last year’s five million metric-ton production performance.

Fisheries in 2009, he said once again topped all other agriculture sub-sectors in the over-all production performance to maintain its position as the main engine of expansion of the agriculture sector by posting 2.45 percent growth and contributing a hefty 26.4 percent of the total agriculture output.

That growth came from the 2.89 percent expansion of aquaculture followed closely by the commercial fisheries, by 2.67 percent, and municipal fisheries by 1.14 percent. The fisheries subsector generated gross earnings of P215.6 billion at current prices.

BFAR Director Malcolm I. Sarmiento, Jr. in a statement said he was satisfied that despite the damages and the losses incurred by the fisheries sub-sector following the spate of strong typhoons, the fisheries sub-sector still managed to break another record last year-- the five-million metric ton mark.

For the year-in-view, fisheries production totaled to 5.085 million metric tons of which 2.47 million metric tons came from aquaculture; 1.35 million metric tons from municipal fisheries and 1.26 million metric tons from commercial fisheries.

It be recalled that in 2001, the country’s fisheries production hit the 3.0 million metric ton mark after more than four decades of negative or flat growths and production nailed at 2.0 million metric tons, Sarmiento said.

In 2005 however and despite the persistence of a mild El Nino coupled with strong typhoons, fishers hit another milestone – the 4.0 million metric ton mark.

Sarmiento said that the continuing positive growth in fisheries production stems from the government‘s efforts to promote aquaculture or fish farming ventures vis-a-vis the protection and conservation of coastal and fisheries resources.

“The challenge for the fisheries sub-sector in keeping its lead is now becoming tougher and this new decade ushers in so much pressure-ranging from the global economic crisis, the new global trading order, and climatic change” Sarmiento said.

“The global economic crisis has affected our export production – with many of the major international markets reducing its order, if not closing down. This is further aggravated by the increasing cost of fuel and other energy inputs such as electricity and water resulting to high production costs," he said.

Sarmiento also pointed that in this decade more than ever, the consumers are becoming more demanding with regard product safety, are environment-conscious and demanding of social equity in the overall production cycle.

As such the international fish trade is increasingly being subjected to more stringent requirements which would surely affect national production, he added.

To be able to maintain the favorable balance of trade for Philippine fisheries, it is imperative that the country’s export of fishery products comply with the requirement of international management organizations and international markets including Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Procedures.

For this year, he said much of the plans and programs of the BFAR are hinged towards addressing the challenges of economic, global trade and climate changes.

He outlined the new programs that BFAR is aggressively pushing for this year which include the five-year development plan for high-value fish and other aquatic species and livelihood diversification from fishing to farming ventures.

Also included in the programs are improving the product quality and safety, curbing IUU fishing trough the full implementation of the vessel monitoring system and the conduct of the Fisheries Observer’s Program; the crafting of a disaster preparedness plan following vulnerability assessments and establishment of rapid alert system, among others.

With the P1-billion budget for mariculture this year, the BFAR is undertaking massive programs to address the pressing constraints that saddle the industry, Sarmiento revealed.

He said that with the network of 49 mariculture parks situated in strategic areas nationwide, the government is setting the stage for the next level of development of major ancillary infrastructure and manpower support systems.

Among the major interventions on the pipeline include broodstock, hatchery and post-harvest development, including technical capacity build-up.

Sarmiento said that the BFAR is collaborating with both local and international experts to help in the training and capability building of its personnel and interested private sector on new technologies in the breeding, grow-out and processing of farmed seafoods.

He also said that existing government hatcheries will be upgraded and made operational. Breeders will also be upgraded and if warranted, importation will be undertaken in order to improve the country’s brood stocks to supply the necessary requirements of all mariculture ventures.

Sarmiento disclosed that with the continuous rise in prices of inputs and production of fish such as bangus and tilapia, alternative species has to be considered in order to ensure its profitability and food security.

The farming of high species such as lapu-lapu, pompano, snapper, abalone, blue crabs, lobsters and many other commercially important indigenous species provides an important alternative as these would ensure also the creation of more jobs and livelihoods, he said.

The BFAR is drafting a five-year development program for these high value species and part of the roadmap is the development of breeding and grow-out technologies, establishment of hatchery, post-harvest, fish health and other ancillary infrastructures, conduct of research and development, conservation measures as well as the development of manpower skills and capacity.

He said, the bureau continues to intensify its efforts to convince fishermen to shift to fish farming instead of hunting.

“Traditionally, fishers use a trial-and-error checking method for catching species like lapu-lapu, which sometimes end up killing the fish. Right now, we are currently implementing a pilot brood stock development project in Dipolog,” Sarmiento said.

For this year, the Rent-A-Cage program is being expanded to include the Use-Now-Pay-Later Scheme for feeds and fish fingerling supplies in BFAR’s mariculture parks.

Initially, the bureau is making the necessary arrangement with private feed companies to provide the supply for a one crop cycle. The fingerlings may also be provided by the BFAR to qualified fisherfolk organizations.

The BFAR also intends to establish post-harvest and landing infrastructures in strategic places nationwide and priority on the pipeline is the Eastern Seaboard in Aurora to encourage local fishing vessels to fish in the Pacific-side which has been found rich in many commercial fish species.

Sarmiento said the Philippine as one of the member countries also had to comply with the conservation and management measures set by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission that is mandated to attend to the conservation and management of highly migratory fish socks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

BFAR’s intensified activities in promoting fish production is brought about by a steadily increasing demand for fish and aquaculture products, both for the local market and export destinations like the United States, Japan and the European Union.

Sarmiento said their recent projects focus on aquaculture practices that address the challenges of quality and safety in fisheries products, climate change and globalization, acceptability standards in international markets and efforts to increase the overall sustainability and productivity of fish farming communities. (PNA)

DILG to review Small Town Lottery operation in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 22 (PNA) - The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bicol said it would review the legality and operation of the Meriedien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC), a franchise holder of the Small Town Lottery (STL) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

The review was prompted by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo's marching order to stump out illegal gambling activities in the countryside specifically “jueteng”, an illegal numbers game that has been in operations for so many decades.

Blandino Maceda, DILG regional director, said his agency will look into the legal operation of the Meriedien following reports that the gaming outfit is operating as a jueteng front disguised as an STL gaming outlet.

Maceda said the agency would enforce legal and administrative sanctions once it has proven that the MVGC is operating under the disguise of Jueteng and violating PCSO established policies and standards.

The DILG will recommend to PNP to use its power to put an end to this illegal numbers game, he said.

Reports gathered that the Sangguniang Panalawigan of Albay, Camarines Sur and Norte and other cities, and towns have endorsed and approved the operation of Meriedien Vista Gaming Corp., an online jai-alai type betting game.

Meriedien registered and operates under the rules and regulations standards set by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) and the Local Government Code of the Philippines including the PCSO.

But reports said the CEZA has canceled the permit of MVGC after the Department of Justice issued an opinion against the gaming firm's operation.

CEZA, a government-owned and -controlled corporation established in 1995 is in charge of developing and managing the 54,000-hectare CSEZFP, an economic and tourism hub in Sta. Ana, Cagayan province. It has powers to grant licenses for casino and gaming operations within the economic zone.

At a press conference yesterday, Dondy Bilason, president of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Press Corps Bicol, told the DILG that unlike the legitimate STL operation, it draws bet collection directly from their outlets but in the case of MVGC, it employs collectors popularly known as “cobrador” soliciting bets in the streets and going house to house.

Bilason said STL outlets issue bet receipts while MVGC collectors do not.

He said that if indeed the game is legal, there is no need for bet collectors as the bettors will have to go to the betting stations since it is an online game.

Reports said MVGC is raking in tens of millions in pesos in daily draws in Bicol while hundreds of thousands in dividends are given to each local chief executive in weekly payoff.

In Albay, members of the SP are moving for the cancellation of MVGC permit to operate for the firm's failure to comply with the remittance condition as stated in the agreement.

MVGC had been operating in Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte for the past two years. (PNA)

Geologists map two fault systems in Virac
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, July 21 (PNA)-– Local disaster experts have mapped two fault systems in this capital town that is now being used in determining geologic hazards for implementing development projects.

One of the fault systems begins from the northern end of barangay Buyo and proceeding eastward, passing through the northern end of Barangay Hicming before touching the northern periphery of Barangay Danicop.

The other one crisscross the Dugui area leading to the San Vicente area barangays while majority of the poblacion barangays, particularly those along seashores and rivers, are susceptible to ground settlement as well as liquefaction during an earthquake, according to a recent report of Catandunes Tribune quoting local authorities.

These fault systems are now incorporated in detailed maps provided by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the planning and development offices of the capital town as well as the neighboring towns of Bato, San Andres and Caramoran.

With these maps according to Municipal Planning and Development Council (MPDC) chief Urgel Santelices here, the LGUs are now capable of advising residents and investors as to whether it would be safe to construct their projects in a specific area within these municipalities.

The fault mapping in Virac was a description digitization project started by Santelices in 2003, long before the DENR and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) came out recently with a project entitled "Risk Mapping of Key Urban Centers for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Bicol Region".

The 12-month project is now being implemented in the cities of Sorsogon, Legazpi and Iriga and selected municipalities in the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes since last June.

Santelices’ efforts resulted to overlain maps composed of lot maps superimposed on the geo-hazard maps prepared by the MGB. The maps can also be viewed on the computer as the majority of the town’s individual lots have been digitized or encoded using lot descriptions, the Tribune reported.

It said Santelices painstakingly labored to convert lot description data through the use of AutoCad software, completing the process last year.

The other three municipalities have yet to undertake the same work due to lack of skilled personnel and incomplete lot information.

With those series of maps, according to Architect Pepito Talan here, they can now identify specific lots that could be affected by an earthquake fault or is prone to landslides, flooding, ground settlement and subsidence or liquefaction.

Those intending to construct homes or implement development projects in Virac and three other towns can now find out whether their project sites are sitting on a fault line or exposed to possible geologic hazards, Talan said.

Last week, the MGB conducted an IEC Capacitation Seminar on Geohazard Awareness and Disaster Preparedness in the towns of Virac, Bato, San Andres and Caramoran, which would be recipients of the detailed geo-hazard maps to be developed by DENR.

It intends to assist government planners and policy makers in identifying areas prone to natural hazards.

The DENR-DSWD risk mapping project has a total cost of P3.5 million and the amount of P1.6 million comes from the MGB as its counterpart while the remaining come from the DSWD.

The MGB counterpart is be for salaries, computers and GIS software, traveling and other expenses while the amount coming from the DSWD about P1.9 has been intended for the acquisition of a hydrological or flood modeling software.

Under the agreement, the DENR, through the MGB regional office in Bicol produces 1:10,000 geo-hazard maps for dissemination to the targeted cities and municipalities for use in disaster risk management, land use planning and disaster preparedness.

Local officials and residents would be taught how to read and use the maps through the conduct of capacity building training in disaster preparedness, risk reduction and early warning.

Volcanic eruption, landslide, flooding and other geo-hazards are common in the Bicol Region and the project will help residents prepare and cope with these disasters, according to the DSWD.

The project is part of one of the subcomponents of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) funded "Early Recovery Program for Typhoon-Affected Bicol Region" with DSWD as the lead implementing agency.

The program will enable the poor and vulnerable groups to cope with the impact of disasters and other environmental emergencies.

The MGB Bicol submitted a project proposal to DSWD sometime in October of 2009 and the latter approved the project since it is in support to the government's efforts of reducing risks through geo-hazard assessment and mapping, risk assessment and information dissemination of geo-hazard assessment results to barangay and municipal officials.(PNA)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

DENR now ready to distribute residential public lands in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 21 (PNA)-– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office for Bicol here has announced that the agency has recently started accepting applications for free patents by occupants of untitled residential public lands who wish to own the property.

All applications should be submitted to Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) having jurisdictions over the cities or municipalities where the applicants live, according to Alfredo Araya, the DENR regional spokesman for Bicol.

This development, Araya said came in the wake of the approval last May 30 of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) that will implement Republic Act No. 10023, otherwise known as the Free Patent Act on Residential Lands.

Under R.A. 10023 which was approved in March 9, 2010, lands that are eligible for free patent applications include untitled public alienable and disposable (A&D) lands which have been zoned as residential and zoned residential areas in proclaimed town site reservations, Araya said.

The IRR defines residential lands as “all lands that have been identified and zoned as residential through the appropriate ordinance by the Local Government Unit (LGU) having jurisdiction over the area.

"These include residential lands within areas zoned as mixed residential and commercial or mixed residential and industrial.”

Alienable and disposable lands on the other hand as defined by the IRR are “lands of the public domain classified as agricultural that may be acquired through grant or confirmation of title.”

The Act provides that any Filipino citizen who is an actual occupant of a public residential land for at least 10 years may apply for free patent title, provided in highly urbanized cities, the land should not exceed 200 square meters.

In less urbanized cities, it should not exceed 750 square meters and in all other municipalities, it should not exceed 1000 square meters for as long as the land applied for is not needed for public service or public use, it said.

Zoned residential areas located inside a delisted military reservation or abandoned military camp, and those of LGUs or town sites which preceded Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law, are also covered by the Act, Araya said.

Residential free patent applications, he said shall be supported by the documents such as a plan based on actual survey conducted by a licensed geodetic engineer and approved by the DENR, technical description of the land applied for and supporting affidavits of two disinterested persons residing in the barangay of the city or municipality where the land is located.

Araya said RA 10023 also mandates the fast tracking of the titling process that will provide security of tenure to estimated 39 million Filipinos in the country occupying 7.8 million parcels of untitled lands classified as residential.

The application for a residential free patent filed at the CENRO shall be processed within 120 days to include compliance with the required notices and other legal requirements, Araya said.

The CENRO's recommendation of the application shall be forwarded to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO), which shall have five (5) days to approve or disapprove the application, he added.

In case of approval, the PENRO shall notify the applicant within 15 days and forward the patent to the Registry of Deeds while in case of disapproval, the PENRO shall notify the applicant within 15 days and remand the entire records to the CENRO for appropriate action.

The PENRO may disapprove the application without prejudice to re-filing on the grounds of non-compliance with documentary requirements.

The disapproval of the application by the PENRO may be appealed to the Secretary of the DENR though appropriate channels. (PNA)

6,000 poor patients treated in US-based doctors' two-month medical mission in Sorsogon

SORSOGON CITY, July 21 (PNA) – At least 6,000 indigent Sorsoguenos were treated for free during a two-month medical mission of 22 US-based doctors with varied specializations.

The mission, which treated 130 patients daily, ended over the weekend.

The six-year old mission is a yearly commitment to Sorsogon province of the Bicol Clinic Foundation (BCF), non-stock, non-profit organization founded about 10 years ago by Dr. Mich Schuster and his Filipino wife Marites Lacsa-Schuster of Bulan, Sorsogon.

“We were lucky to group together into the mission this year 22 American doctors specialized in different fields who unselfishly rendered free medical services to thousands of poor Sorsogueños,” BCF vice-president James Fishelson on Tuesday here said.

Some of these doctors were first timers in the mission but majority come almost every year as part of their vow to help the indigent communities in Sorsogon through the efforts of the BCF, Fishelson said.

“During this year’s two-month mission, we offered medical services treating minor to serious cases for free. We actually give general outpatient care, however, as per needed, we also conduct surgery, pre-natal and other laboratory services," he added.

Serious cases beyond their physical and professional capacity, Fishelson said are usually referred to a more equipped hospital and even provide them with financial assistance.

Currently, the BCF employs 20 doctor-specialists on call, aside from a midwife, registered nurse and permanent staff working on a regular basis in its clinic here from Monday to Saturday.

BCF also maintains close coordination with local government units (LGUs) and the Sorsogon Provincial Health Office for the improvement of health services here and in the province, he said.

The BCF, Fishelson said also looks forward to providing personal hygiene activities and lectures to patients and eventually develop its clinic into a full-grown hospital in the future.

He added that BCF encourages young people to be involved in voluntary works to serve the needy and start helping the poor while they are still young.

Dr. Edgar Garcia, the provincial health officer and chief of the Fernando Duran Memorial Hospital, formerly the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital, said BCF with the daily operations of its clinic here has been a great help in providing health services to the community. (PNA)

Dead sperm whale fished out in Rapu-rapu, Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, July 19 -- A dead 20-ton sperm whale was fished out on Monday off the waters of Carogcog village in Rapu-rapu Island in Albay, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said on Tuesday.

Fishermen said the fully-grown whale was already in a state of decomposition when found.

Dennis Del Socorro, BFAR regional director, dispatched a team of fishery technician to identify the exact species of the whale.

Ariel Tioquinto, BFAR Fisheries Emergency Response Stranding (FERS) team assistant leader, said the team confirmed that it was indeed a sperm whale measuring 15 meters long, 7.5 meters in diameter and 3 wide.

Tioquinto said that the dead whale might have been swept by giant waves from the Pacific Ocean at the height of Typhoon 'Basyang' and was drifted towards the coastal waters of Rapu-rapu island town.

He said the team has yet examined the whale to determine its cause of death.

The BFAR team brought the whale ashore on Tuesday following the agency standard disposal procedure. The team subsequently burned the whale so that it would not pose health hazard to the community.

The fictional Moby Dick was a sperm whale. It was named for the valuable spermaceti oil (wax) that this whale produces in the spermaceti organ (located in its head).

Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales. Adult males grow to be about 50-60 feet (17-20 meters) long, weighing about 40-50 tons (36-45 tonnes). Females are smaller, about 33-40 feet (11-13 meters) long, weighing about 14-18 tons. The four-chambered heart of the average sperm whale weighs about 277 pounds (126 kg) - about as much as two average adult human beings.

The skin is usually dark gray to black, but is occasionally light gray. It has a distinctive, prune-like texture.

Sperm whales have the largest head of any animal. It can be about 20 feet long , 10 feet high , and 7 feet across, and is about one-third of the whale's body length. The head has a distinctive box-like shape. The heads are frequently covered with circular scars that are made by the suckers of the giant squid that they hunt and eat.

It has 5-foot (1.5 m) long flippers that are about 3 feet (0.9 m) wide. There is no dorsal fin but there is a small hump two-thirds of the way down its back. There are also some ridges between the hump and the tail flukes.

Sperm whales are carnivores that mostly eat giant squid that live in the ocean bottom at great depths. They also eat fish , octopus, and skate.

An adult sperm whale can eat about a ton of food each day.

The sperm whale, while under water, can hold its breath for about an hour. (PNA)

LGUs promote organic farm inputs in Camarines Sur

IRIGA CITY, July 20 (PNA) – Local government units (LGUs) in Camarines Sur are now helping the Department of Agriculture (DA) in expanding the coverage of organic farm inputs in the province by way of training farmers on biofertilizer making and its correct application in farms.

“We wanted our farmers and vegetable growers to learn the proper techniques of producing quality crops with the use of organic fertilizers which are guaranteed to be not harmful to the environment and to people’s health,” according to City Mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen here.

At the Farmers Field School (FFS) organized by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit (RFU) based in Pili, Camarines Sur and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) in Barangay Santiago here, Gazmen over the weekend said most of LGUs in the province are already doing their shares in promoting organic farming in favor of the environment and healthful foods for local consumers.

The FFS aimed at making each community of Camarines Sur self-sufficient in quality vegetables was in cooperation the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and Rinconada Movement for Economic and Sustainable Agriculture (RINCOMESA).

It is also in line with the thrust of her and that of provincial governor LRay Villafuerte’s administrations of ensuring food security in the city and province at the same time providing the constituents an alternative source of income, according to Gazmen.

The DA-RFU in a report said 50 vegetable producers who are actively involved in the “Gulayan sa Barangay” project of the city government participated in the FFS that apart from learning the latest technology in vegetable farming were also taught vermin-composting that uses earthworms as medium for rapid decomposition of organic matters to produce biofertilizers.

New technologies to eradicate pests and diseases during the growing stage of vegetables were also introduced.

DA Regional Executive Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina said using chemical fertilizers these days is considered a “win-lose” endeavor as while it increases production expense, it also contributes to the planet’s decay at the same time jeopardizing human and animal’s health.

Biofertilizers or organic fertilizers, on the other hand, are consist of microorganisms that fix atmospheric nitrogen, solubilize phosphorous and promote uptake of immobile ions of zinc and other micronutrients that include bacteria such as Azolla, Azospirillum, Azotobacter, Rhizobium, cyanobacteria or bluegreen algae, phosphobacteria and Sesbania, she said.

Biofertizers also provide growth promoting substances like vitamins, hormones and amino acids to the plants.

In layman’s parlance, “bio” means life and the introduction of live microorganisms into organic fertilizers explains the term.

Several environment-conscious farmers are now using biofertilizers and Sta. Catalina said her office through the help of LGUs in Bicol is aggressively enjoining farmers to shift from chemical to organic fertilizers in growing quality crops for their own good. (PNA)

Army soldiers plant 800 trees at the slopes of Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur

Pili, Camarines Sur, July 19 (PNA) – In its desire to assist communities improved the environment, Army soldiers over the week end planted 800 trees at the slopes of Mt. Isarog a protected watershed area in Camarines Sur, a military official said.

Lt. Col. Erwin De Asis, the Civil-Military Operations Officer of the 9th Infantry Division, said that at least 100 soldiers participated in the tree-planting activity, which was also attended by representatives from CENRO-Camarines Sur, villagers and non-government organizations (NGOs).

“We planted at least 800 trees as part of the Army’s efforts in environmental protection. This is also done in observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month,” De Asis added.

Located about five kms. from Camp Elias Angeles of the Philippine Army, Mt. Isarog is the main watershed for Naga City and Pili town.

Several NGOs and government agencies had been exerting efforts to protect this 10,000 hectare watershed area which has a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

Considered by volcanologists as an inactive volcano, it rises in the heart of Camarines Sur. It is also the highest forested peak in Southern Luzon.

The lush forests of Mt. Isarog also serve as the site for the Army’s jungle and mountain operations training every year. (PNA)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

DA providing Catanduanes fishers state-of-the- art freezer

BATO, Catanduanes, July 19 (PNA) – A fisher folk organization in this fourth class fishing town will be recipient of a high-tech multi-function freezer worth about P4.6 million from the Department of Agriculture (DA) as part of the government’s efforts to provide farmers and fishermen access to modern postharvest facilities that will significantly boost their income.

To be provided by the DA’s National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), the machine is a mobile type freezer that could instantly freeze fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and preserve their freshness for as long as three days without ice.

Nabcor president Alan Javellana said here over the weekend the freezer that would occupy only about six square meters of land area uses the revolutionary brine immersion freezing (BIF) technology.

It will be installed this month and awarded to the Batalay Fisherfolks Association (BaFiA), a 400-strong group recognized by the DA as a People’s Organization (PO) committed towards the protection of the local marine resources and the promotion of the welfare of marginal fishermen in the locality, Javellana said.

The use of the machine, he said, would be demonstrated to the public including members of the BaFiA to orient them on its operations and show them how it instantly freezes and preserves fish, fruits, meat and non-leafy vegetables such as okra, kalabasa and string beans without the need for ice.

Javellana said this state-of-the-art freezer is among the 98 multi-functional machines using the BIF technology acquired by the DA from the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services Inc. (IRSSI) to be distributed to selected recipients.

“This would provide access to storage at lesser cost for farmers and fishermen of their products in order to boost their income,” he said.

Storage of fish or meat using the BIF freezers in fact could be extended up to six months or a year without affecting its quality and taste when another technology called “LQF” is applied, Javellana said.

He explained that the technology is patterned from the American and Japanese BIF quick freeze system which was improved by IRSSI and endorsed by Filipino inventor Dr. Hernando Decena to make it operate at a much lower operating temperature as much as minus 40 degrees Celsius.

IRSSI also made the machine more compact, more-cost effective, user-friendly and multi-functional.

The BIF is a "revolutionary method" in preserving aquatic products, meat, fruits and vegetables using super-conductive solution as secondary refrigerant which Decena developed, Javellana said.

He explained that BIF allows instant freezing, which, as a result, eliminates crystallization, thus preserving the freshness, flavor and texture of the frozen product.

"A superb feature of this technology is that the quality of the BIF-frozen fish stays the same after two to three days, so that it tastes as fresh or as good as newly caught fish when grilled or cooked any other way," he said.

Under the old conventional handling method, Javellana said that "we need to put ice to preserve fish and other perishable food items which leads to crystallization that alters the quality and freshness of the frozen product. Hence, the marked difference in the texture and taste of newly caught fish from those that had been stored in the freezer or in ice-packed Styrofoam boxes."

Moreover, it takes as little as three to 30 minutes, depending on type, size and volume of product to be process, to freeze a product using BIF, compared to the conventional method, which takes three to four hours to freeze a product using the air blast system, he said.

Another advantage of this technology is its mobility and easy plug-in feature.

"A BIF compartment, which has a wheeled stand, making it easy to transport and move around and plug into any available electrical outlet," Javellana said.

The old-type blast freezer or holding freezer on the other hand needs to be permanently put in place and requires large installation works and a massive separate electrical supply, he added. (PNA)

PRC establishes blood facilities in Catanduanes

VIRAC, Catanduanes, July 19 (PNA) – In this far away island at the middle of Pacific Ocean, a hoard of blood as a lifesaving stuff is a must especially that dengue epidemic in most parts of the country is offhand.

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said being an island that is four hours away by boats from Tabaco City in Albay, the nearest port linking it to the rest of Bicol, Catanduanes needs very much a blood bank that could stock at least 5,000 units of blood for a case of major disaster.

In a dengue epidemic alone, such an amount would be inadequate but could help a lot as each patient needs between six to eight platelets to survive, she said.

It is under this necessity that the PRC Catanduanes Chapter over the week formally launched the first and only PRC Blood Collecting Unit (BCU) and Blood Station (BS) in the province which was established at the PRC provincial chapter headquarters inside the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) compound here.

“This facility has been made possible for the purpose of supplying the province’s blood requirements for emergency patients,” Pang, who graced the inaugural ceremonies last week.

Much of the credit for the blood service facility’s establishment here, she said, belongs to the chapter board and management, which secured the assistance of the PRC National Headquarters through Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon for the acquisition of necessary equipment.

Hiring and training of personnel to man the facility were also provided by the PRC National Headquarters, while the provincial government initially extended its assistance by way of detailing personnel to augment the manpower to man its operations.

Pang expressed hope that the PRC office in the province would be able to upgrade the blood service facility into a Category B Blood Bank that would not only test blood but separate it into its vital components.

The blood collecting unit and blood station here, she added, is the 74th blood service facility established by the PRC nationwide, with 23 more slated to begin operation this year.

The facility, Pang said, is the first ever in the Bicol region to comply with the stringent requirements of the Department of Health (DOH) pursuant to Republic Act 7719 or the National Blood Service Act.

The law phased out commercial blood banks and mandated the voluntary blood donation along with the provision that all blood stations and centers operate on a non-profit basis.

The PRC Board of Governors has directed all its chapters to have a blood service facility by 2011.

As a licensed blood facility, the newly opened PRC BCU-BS is authorized to recruit and screen donors and collect blood as well as store and issue it for transfusion pursuant to the DOH guidelines.

It is allowed by law to collect a minimal fee limited to the necessary expenses entailed in the collection and processing of blood. The amount would reach P1,500.

Pang likewise sought the assistance of the province’s leaders in helping realize the Catanduanes PRC chapter’s dream of having a blood bank with screening laboratory so that blood samples would not need to be sent to the mainland for screening.

Pang also urged Catandunganons to become active blood donors so that the facility would operate on 100 percent voluntary blood donations and be able to sustain its operations.

Realizing its importance provincial governor Joseph Cua and Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the province’s lone congressional district both assured PRC of their support for the blood service facility and other projects intended to save lives.

Dr. Lubella Sanchez, the provincial health officer, said the facility would serve as evidence of the renewed alliance between the PRC and the EBMC particularly in the objective of promoting voluntary blood donation and doing away with paid blood donors.

This would also give local health authorities a sort of “peace of mind” opposite the headache that the absence of a legitimate blood outlet gives during emergency cases or any other situation that requires blood transfusions, Sanchez said.

PRC Blood Service Committee chair and BCU head Vietrez Abella said the facility will be able to supply all the blood needs on the island within five years without need of paid or replacement donors. (PNA)

Albay enforces strict compliance of no sailing during typhoon signal No.1

LEGAZPI CITY, July 19 (PNA) – Albay Governor Joey Salceda has ordered all barangay officials in all coastal areas throughout the province to strictly enforce the “No Sailing to Sea Policy” when the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) raises storm signal No. 1 over the province.

“The policy of the provincial government is to attain No Casualty effort,” Salceda said.

Salceda specifically issued the directive to barangay officials in the west and east coast to strictly implement this policy in their respective jurisdiction to avoid disaster.

The governor has also instructed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) stations in the province to strictly enforce this long-standing Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) guidance to passenger boats and fishing vessels in all the ports and coastal barangays in Albay.

In addition, the PCG and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are instructed to put in place a communications protocol that would relay PCG “back to shore” directive via text through barangay councils to fishing and passenger boats already at sea when the warning is issued and allow barangay councils to report to PCG or to the PNP on such fishing boats already at sea when the Pagasa warning is issued.

Meanwhile, the PDCC congratulated the PCG for its exemplary performance of its SOLAS (safety-of-life-at-sea) mandate in Albay during Typhoon Basyang where the province recorded no casualties-at-sea, no injured and no missing persons.

“A clear proof of implementation of this standing policy is the immediate media reports of stranded passengers and vehicles at the Port of Tabaco and Legazpi cities,” Salceda said. (PNA)

Basyang death toll in Bicol rises to 17 with 32 still missing

LEGAZPI CITY, July 19 (PNA) - The death toll in Bicol due to typhoon Basyang has risen to 17 while 32 are still missing, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the region said Monday.

At least 83 people have been rescued even as search and recovery operations continue for over a week now after "Basyang" battered Bicol.

OCD report said elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are continuously conducting search and recovery operations using air, sea and land assets in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

The same report indicated that AFP elements were able to rescue 83 people, many of them from Jose Panganiban town in Camarines Norte and some from Albay.

The OCD report also said recovered were 17 bodies - eight in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte; five in Vinzons, Camarines Norte; one in Paracale, Camarines Norte; one in Caramoan, Camarines Sur and two others from an unidentified area.

Most of the casualties were fishermen swept by giant waves spawned by typhoon Basyang when it passed the Bicol Region, the report said.

Raffy Alejandro, OCD director, said they have dispatched an Air force helicopter, Philippine Navy Islander plane, and sea vessels as well as Philippine Army trucks and Philippine Coast Guard sea assets to undertake rescue and recovery operations.

The list of people still missing includes 11 in Bagamanoc, Catanduanes; six in Caramoan, Camarines Sur; four in Lagonoy, Camarines Sur; two in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte; three in Mangcawayan, Camarines Norte; five in Pinagtigasan, Camarines Norte; and one in Banocboc, Camarines Norte. (PNA)

Preparations for Philippine Army anniversary

Lt. Col. John Oberio, (with microphone, lower photo) commanding officer of the 2IB Philippine Army, gives instructions as the team rehearses for their military squad challenge and other related activities in preparation for the PA anniversary on August 1 at 2IB headquarters, Ligao City, Albay. (PNA photo courtesy of Connie B. Destura)

Solon starts water pumps' distribution
By Connie B. Destura

VIRAC, Catanduanes, July 16 (PNA) -- Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento has started the distribution of jematic water pumps to 11 barangay in two towns in fulfilling his campaign promise to provide potable water to communities here in the island province.

The recipient barangays are Tamburan, Libod Poblacion, Guinobatan, Cabugao, Binanuahan and Marinawa, all in Bato, as well as in Danicop, Calatagan, Cavinitan, San Isidro Village, and Rawis, all in Virac.

Sarmiento personally supervised the installation and turnover of the pumps to the barangay councils.

The pumps were used to replace defective jetmatic pumps in the barangays.

The specially-made pumps, which bear the marking "I Love Catanduanes" and the initials "CS", were donated by a hundred friends of the congressman weeks before the start of the campaign period. One hundred jetmatic pumps will be delivered to recipient barangays, some of which got two each.

Sarmiento’s project is in fulfillment of his promise to help widen accessibility to potable water among the province’s 315 barangays, many of which do not have Level II or Level III water systems. His advocacy for water supply projects earned him the moniker "Mr. Tubig."

Over 8,000 hectares of Bicol River Basin area planted with trees - DENR

LEGAZPI CITY, July 16 (PNA) – Over 8,000 hectares of open and denuded land within the Bicol River Basin and Watershed Management Project (BRBWMP) site have been planted with trees as of June this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Bicol said on Friday.

Alfredo Araya, DENR Bicol spokesman, said the planting of thousand of tress of various species is an agency program designed to improve biodiversity and prevent flooding and landslide incidence in low laying areas along the BRBWMP area.

Araya, quoting DENR report, said of the 8.097 hectares, 5430 hectares are under upland reforestation, 1906 hectares are under assisted natural regeneration (ANR), and 761 hectares are in agroforestry areas.

The DENR report also stated that of the 5,430 hectares planted under upland reforestation, 4,380 hectares are in Camarines Sur, 540 hectares are in Camarines Norte, and 510 hectares are in Albay.

Under ANR, 1,034 hectares are in Camarines Sur, 631 hectares are in Camarines Norte, and 241 hectares are in Albay. Under agroforestry, 555 hectares are in Camarines Sur, and 206 hectares are in Camarines Norte.

The multi-million reforestation project funded in 2007 and the project actually started in 2008 were reported “completed and turned over”; while those projects funded by subsequent budget released in CY 2008 and CY 2009, were described as either “on-going protection and maintenance” or “completed or turn-over,” the DENR report further stated.

Aside from the BRBWMP, other watershed management and development component pursued were: stabilization of 111 kilometers of riverbanks, plantation maintenance of 650 hectares, rehabilitation of 48 hectares of mangrove, and construction of 2935 cubic meters of Gabion/checkdam, 2699 linear meter of ecoblocks, and 11 units of small water impounding system (SWIS).

The DENR is one of four agencies involved in the implementation of the BRBWMP. It takes charge of the watershed management and development (WMP) component of the project.

Under the WMD component, there are two sub-components, namely, plantation and infrastructure.

The major project/activities under plantation are upland reforestation, assisted natural regeneration and agroforestry; and under infrastructure, the activities are construction of Gabion/checkdam, eco-block and small water impounding system (SWIS). (PNA)

Cam. Norte braces for water shortage
By Ed G. Yu

DAET, Camarines Norte, July 15 (PNA) --The Camarines Norte Water District (CNWD) here is rushing the development of the water utility’s first surface water source located at San Lorenzo town to avert a possible water shortage in its service area in the province.

Maria Antonio Boma, CNWD general manager, said water shortage in some parts of the province is expected to get worse in the coming months starting July until November this year when surface water source reach a critical low level due to the effects of the long dry spell during the past summer months.

The San Lorenzo water source, when tapped, will supplement CNWD’s supply by an additional 6,000 cubic meters per day, Boma said.

Although the dry spell has been officially declared over by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the effects of El Niño are still evident in some areas in the province as water production from spring sources continue to decline, causing water shortage affecting the far-end and elevated points of the service area, she said.

Boma said that the shortfall in rainwater during the past months resulted to reduction of almost 50 percent of spring yields from the 24,000 cubic meters daily production to only 12,000 cubic meters per day that adversely affected the water supply in many parts of the seven Camarines Norte towns covered by the CNWD.

She said that other reason for the decline in water supply is aggravated by the recurrence of erratic water pressure resulting from air lock caused by half-filled transmission lines.

As this develops, Boma warned those who use unregistered water pumps that under Rule IX, Section 30 of Prohibitions and Penal Provisions of the Revised Utility Rules and Regulations Governing the Operations of the CNWD, it is specified that the installation of booster pumps, steam boiler, cooling and heating apparatuses or devices and such other appliances without special permits from the water district is strictly prohibited.

She added that using those apparatuses impeded the normal flow of water, thus affecting water supply in the neighborhood. (PNA)

Basyang leaves Bicol with 4 dead, 20 still missing

LEGAZPI CITY, July 15 (PNA) - The death toll rose to four while 23 of the 43 people reported missing were recovered as typhoon Basyang hovered and hit on Wednesday the provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines Norte, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol said Thursday.

OCD report said Basyang left four persons dead in Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur and the causes of death were either drowning or hypothermia.

The report said search and rescue operations are still going on for the 20 people reported missing in the coastal villages of Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

Most of the casualties were fishermen swept by giant waves spawned by typhoon Basyang when it passed the Bicol region, the report said.

Raffy Alejandro, OCD director, said they have dispatched Air force helicopters, Philippine Navy Islander plane and sea vessels, Philippine Army trucks including the Philippine Coast Guard sea assets, to undertake rescue and recovery operation that led to the recovery of 23 missing people.

The list of people missing and recovered were reported in the towns of Bagamanoc with 11 people missing;l Gigmoto with four; Caramoran, four missing with four recovered; Pandan, eight missing but all recovered in Catanduanes; Lagonoy , Camarines Sur with four; Malilipot, Albay - two, both recovered; Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte – 10 missing with 9 recovered.

Alejandro said 400 bags of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol were sent to Camarines Norte.

Report from the Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division (9ID) said soldiers were able to rescue 13 people in a coastal village of Pandan, Catanduanes and eight additional survivors who were fished-off in the waters near Butauanan Island in Siruma, Camarines Sur on Wednesday.

In Siruma town in Camarines Sur, Mayor Sandy Ondis, town mayor, reported that four other persons went missing as of Wednesday. He identified them as Julian Collada, Lito Orita, Eddie Orita, and Sisong Dy, who are said to be from Lagonoy town in Camarines Sur.

The 9th Infantry Division DRO platoon has been deployed to affected areas in Camarines Sur, Albay and Catanduanes to join in the search and rescue efforts.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan has placed all units on alert to provide immediate assistance to all victims of typhoon Basyang. (PNA)

Over 400 people stranded in Albay as storm 'Basyang' hovers over Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA) --At least 420 passengers were marooned in Tabaco port, as Tropical Storm "Basyang" hovers over five Bicol provinces, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Bicol said Tuesday.

Bernardo Alejandro, OCD regional director, said the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in Bicol suspended maritime operation after the weather bureau hoisted signal number one in Bicol on Tuesday.

OCD report said the suspension stranded some 420 passengers, 18 trucks, six cars, four buses at the Tabaco port in Albay.

Affected by the suspensions were hundreds of passengers bound for the Catanduanes. Sea vessels at the ports of Sorsogon bound for Masbate and the Visaya’s region were allowed to sail as there was no storm signal hoisted in Sorsogon.

OCD said temporary power outages were reported in Albay.

The report said all major roads and bridges across Bicol were passable to all types of vehicles.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said disaster councils were activated as public storm signal number was hoisted in Albay, suspending classes in the elementary and high school levels in all schools across the province.

Salceda said he directed municipal disaster councils to initiate evacuation of residents living in low lying areas in case water in river channels swells due to rains.

Salceda directed the various town disaster councils to closely monitor their respective rain gauges and check possible flooding and landslide in low lying areas as a precautionary measure to prevent loss of lives.

At 4 a.m. Tuesday, the center of storm "Basyang" was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 190 kms East Northeast of Virac, Catanduanes (14.6 °N, 126.2 °E), with maximum sustained winds of 115 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 145 kph. It is forecast to move West at 22 kph.

Basyang is expected to move towards Isabela, Aurora, Quirino, Polillo Island, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes. The rest of Northern and Central Luzon will have rains and gusty winds. The rest of the country will have mostly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the Northeast to Northwest will prevail over rest of Luzon and its coastal waters will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be moderate coming from the West to Southwest with moderate seas.

As this developed, the Philippine Army soldiers in Bicol expressed readiness to respond in the events of natural disasters anywhere in the Bicol Region, a senior military official said.

Brigadier General Marlou Salazar, Commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said that the brigade has teamed up with the various disaster response teams from other government agencies and local government units for the conduct of joint training of their personnel.

“With the coming of strong typhoons and heavy flooding in low-lying areas, I have facilitated the water-search and rescue (WASAR) training for my soldiers and also for personnel from other participating agencies,” said Salazar.

“With their basic military skills and survival techniques, soldiers can respond to an urgent call anywhere they are needed. This is what we refer to as ‘echeloning’ in disaster response wherein our units in the field can immediately deploy their soldiers to help the victims using their search and rescue techniques and available military equipment,” said Salazar.

Barely two months ago, the 9th Infantry Division created the Disaster Response Operations (DRO) Platoon, which was given specialized training such as combat life saver, rope course, water search and rescue, and mountain operations search and rescue.

Equipped with disaster response ‘mission-essential’ equipment, the 36-man DRO platoon is currently making rounds of disaster management training to all line units in the field.(PNA)

Activities listed for Peñafrancia International Pilgrims Congress

NAGA CITY, July 13 (PNA) - The International Pilgrims Congress (IPC) at the Peñafrancia Basilica here slated on September 16 and 17 will highlight the 300-year-old gift of devotion to Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

Over the centuries, the devotion to Ina has taken root in various parts of the country and of the continents. The IPC will be an opportunity for these devotees to know what has been going on with the devotion from its beginnings until this year.

The IPC is a pilgrimage, which means that the pilgrim is separated from ordinary concerns in society, is turned to the church-community of Christians like oneself, and is to be eventually reintegrated back to society, hopefully, now acting together vitally.

For the event to be a significant and fruitful experience, the IPC encapsulates the aims of the past three years of preparation, gratitude for the gift of devotion, renewal of devotion in faith, and sharing the faith of the church in society.

As the theme of the culminating celebration goes back to the general theme of the Tercentenary: “Thanksgiving, for growing in holiness under the manto of INA,” a particular goal for the IPC emerges, the gratitude in being given the responsibility to grow in holiness like Ina herself.

The particular goal for the IPC leads is specific (in accordance with the three-year preparation) – gratitude for the responsibility for holiness, like Mary, sharing the faith of the church in society. More simply put, the responsibility for holiness in society.

This specific aim puts the often-invoked “pueblo amante de Maria” in a Christian social context. This much Pope Benedict XVI has proposed in “Deus caritas est” as a “formation of heart” towards Christian solidarity. In another way, the specific aim of the IPC may be expressed in the Bikolano dialect as “Pakikihimanwa: Forming a heart of holiness for the country and the world.”

These goals indicate the means for IPC pilgrims to participate in the general celebration of the Tercentenary, to experience and express concerns (confirmations and challenges) to the devotion and the faith in their own contexts, and to contribute to common learning and commitment for the good of the church, through the devotion, in society.

On September 16 (Thursday) immediately after their arrival, the pilgrims will be presented and be treated to a fiesta activity from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. At 5 p.m., a novena Mass will be held at the Cathedral and an in-gathering celebration and cultural presentation will be made for the pilgrims.

Regional and continental groups are invited to render cultural numbers that can be meaningful for the spirit of the congress and fellow pilgrims.

At 10:00 p.m., a perdon procession will be held.

On September 17 (Friday), 8 a.m. there is an Enthronement of the Bible celebration to be followed by an orientation to the Congress and introduction of key note speaker who is Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P., D.D. He will speak on Urbi et Obi (Looking at Life and Listening to God) and on “ Pakihimanwa as forming a heart of holiness for the country and the world”.

A health break follows at 10:00 a.m. and reflection at 10:30 a.m.

Lunch break is at 12:00 noon and at 1:30 p.m., reports about the reflection will be processed. The second reflection follows at 2:30 in the afternoon.

At 4 p.m., the draft of the IPC Statement of Solidarity and Commitment will be presented.

After a short health break, the penitential rite and confessions as well as the Novena Mass to be officiated by Archbishop Legaspi and the Reading of Congress Statement of Solidarity and Commitment will follow.

The evening of the Congress will be capped by a barrio fiesta atmosphere with presentation by Group B regions and continents, and guest performers and the singing of Auld Lang Syne and Magnificat. (PNA)

Caceres revives Gainza trade fair
By Ed G. Yu

NAGA CITY, July 13 (PNA) -- The Bishop Francisco Gainza Trade Fair, redeemed from the dusty pages of the Archdiocese of Caceres, will have a revival launching for the first time in September this year and every year thereafter and promises to relive the concern of the clergy for the poor.

Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, in Circular No. 0026 addressed to all the faithful in the Archdiocese, declared that “as we pursue our mission as a Church, we engage in programs that respond to the realities of our faithful. One of these realities is the poverty of our people. We have consistently endeavored to find meaningful ways to help alleviate poverty. One way is by providing opportunities for entrepreneurship so our people, through their own industry, can augment their income and uplift their quality of life.”

According to the circular, with the Tercentenary celebration this year, and every year onwards, the Bishop Francisco Gainza Trade Fair will be conducted from Sept. 9 to 20, 2010 at the open parking space of SM City Naga from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The Archdiocese has invited Bicolano entrepreneurs and other institutions in the region to exhibit and sell their products during the trade fair. There will be daily trainings and seminars on entrepreneurship as well as nightly cultural presentations during the event.

Awards and recognitions will also be conferred on participating exhibitors for Best Booth, Most Promising Product and Most Innovative Packaging.

Bishop Legazpi ordered the clergy in the Archdiocese to announce in their respective parishes and institutions the launching of the trade fair in September and to encourage interested entrepreneurs to participate.

The Trade Fair Secretariat is headed by the Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal Foundation – Bicol with office address at the Madrigal Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Ateneo de Naga University. Its contact number: 473-6445.

Bishop Legazpi also urged the the clergy to identify entrepreneurs and encourage them to exhibit their products at the trade fair; to organize pilgrimage tour in September to include visit to the fair; to send participants to trainings and seminars that will be held daily at the fair venue and to invite participants to watch the nightly cultural presentations, also at the Trade Fair venue.

The fair is named in honor of Bishop Gainza who pioneered the first agricultural and industrial expo in Bicol in 1875. Bishop Francisco Escobas Gainza, O.P. was bishop of the Diocese of Caceres from Sept. 25, 1862 to July 31, 1879.

Born in Logronio, Spain on June 3, 1818 Gainza was appointed Bishop of Caceres at 44 and died at the age of 61.

Gainza, the 24th bishop of Caceres, was known to be responsible for organizing the first agricultural and industrial exposition in the Bicol Region in 1875.

The fair this year is envisioned to alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship and solidarity that promote integral development. It will serve as an avenue for poverty alleviation by promoting entrepreneurship in the region. It hopes to generate income for all the stakeholders by showcasing the best of Bicol products and business activities of micro, small, medium enterprises. It also hopes to boost products’ competitiveness.(PNA)

Sunwest 'Adopt a School Program' in full steam in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA)--- The Sunwest Care Foundation Inc. (SCFI) has adopted 24 public elementary schools and daycare centers in the provinces of Albay and Catanduanes as beneficiaries of its Adopt a School Program (ASP).

The SCFI, a corporate social foundation of the Sunwest Group of Companies (SGC) owned by Elizaldy S. Co, has at least 6,465 elementary school pupils as direct beneficiaries of the program.

Under ASP, the foundation provides the adopted schools and the pupils with educational materials, equipment and construction or of school premises.

The ASP is SCFI corporate social responsibility program aimed at adopting educational institutions by giving assistance to the less fortunate children enrolled in public elementary schools.

The foundation also seeks to extend assistance to villages where a corporate entity of the Sunwest Group of Companies operates.

As this developed, the foundation on Monday signed an agreement with the public elementary schools of Puro, Lamba, Victory village and Legazpi Port, formalizing the adoption of the program.

Anelyn Sumanga, SCFI managing director and Zorayda Revelo, Legazpi Port Elementary School principal, signed the agreement, which adopts 1,560 school children currently enrolled at the school as direct beneficiary of the ASP.

The elementary school is located in the area where St. Ellis Hotel operates. Ellis belongs to the chain of hotels owned by the SGC , which include Misibis Island Hotel Resort in Bacacay, Albay; Venezia Hotel and the Embarcadero mall.

Sumanga said that a number of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) would be formalize on July 22, this year with five public elementary schools in Virac, Catanduanes, to benefit some 1,465 elementary school children.

She said about 10 public elementary school in Legazpi City and towns of Bacacay and Malinao, Albay would benefit under the program. (PNA)

Naga City gears up for Penafrancia fiesta

NAGA CITY, July 13 (PNA) -- To help ensure a historic and memorable celebration of the 300th year of the Bicolanos’ devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia in September, this year, the Naga City government, led by newly elected Mayor John Bongat, has reconstituted a tercentenary executive council with its steering committees to coordinate with the Archdiocese of Caceres in preparing for what is expected to be the grandest Penafrancia fiesta ever.

Chaired by Bongat himself and co-chaired by Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado with the chairperson of the SP Committee on Tourism, Culture and Arts and representatives from the Archdiocese of Caceres, Naga City Peoples Council, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, as well as the chairs of the different steering committees as members, the executive council held its first meeting on July 8.

Bongat said collective efforts are necessary for all sectors concerned to ensure the safety and comfort of all guests, pilgrims and visitors during the two week-long celebration.

More visitors and pilgrims are expected to come on this very important event that will include religious dignitaries from Rome, top national officials and members of various Catholic congregations.

Already, the Bongat administration is making its hands full to spruce up the city that will include beautification and clean up drives on plazas, thoroughfares and establishments, establishment of pilgrim and visitors’ assistance centers, replacement of lampposts within the Cathedral-USI area and the inspection of bridges.

“This important milestone in the history of the Bicolanos’ devotion to the Virgin of Peñafrancia whom her devotees dearly refer to as Ina, the city government will give its full support to guarantee a meaningful celebration,” Bongat said.

Already, hotels have received advanced bookings this early even as many of them reported their rooms are already fully booked for the grand Peñafrancia celebration. (PNA)

Four Bicolanos vie in top mentors tilt
By Ed G. Yu

NAGA CITY, July 13 (PNA) --Four teachers from the Bicol region are among the 40 regional finalists in this year’s Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers (SOT).

They are: Conchita A. Ibarondo of San Antonio Elementary School in Iriga City for the elementary category; Judeza S. Puse of Jose Panganiban National High School (Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte); Ana E. Miraña of Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) in Pili, Camarines Sur for the secondary category; and Dr. Guillermo P. Gastelo of Naga College Foundation in Naga City for the higher education category.

Out of the 156 nominations received nationwide, the regional finalists consist of eight teachers from the tertiary, 16 from the secondary, and 16 from the elementary levels.

“Out of the qualified and deserving nominees across the country, 40 regional finalists stood out for their dedication to the highest standards of professionalism, competence, integrity, and their commitment to go beyond the four walls of the classroom through projects concerning their respective communities—qualities of outstanding teacher awardees in the making” Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto M. Sobrepeña said.

Twenty national finalists will be selected from the regional finalists, who thereafter will undergo the final selection process by a Final Board of Judges during the third week of July.

This year’s Outstanding Teachers will be conferred with gold medallions. They will also be presented with plaques and cash amounting to P300,000 each during the formal awarding ceremonies at Metrobank Plaza in Makati , which will serve as the highlight of the 48th anniversary celebration of the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company on Sept. 3, 2010.

Now on its 26th year, the search bestows honor upon the teaching profession by according special recognition to teachers who manifest profound commitment to the development of the youth through exemplary competence, remarkable dedication to their work, and an effective educational leadership.

The search has been awarded the Grand Anvil, the highest recognition during the 45th Anvil Awards given by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP).

Over the years, the search has become a sought-after award among educators as it earned the prestige of becoming a benchmark of excellence in the teaching profession.

To date, the search has produced 286 outstanding teachers, among them pillars in the academe, who continue to excel in their respective fields.(PNA)

Triathlon: 2nd Ironman race slated in CamSur

PILI, Camarines Sur, July 13 (PNA) – Preparations are shifting into high gear for the second staging of the Ironman 70.3 Philippines in Camarines Sur slated this August 22, where some 600 of elite multi-sport athletes from 30 countries have already registered to compete.

This year’s Ironman 70.3 is the second edition of the Asian series of the Ironman championships brought to the Philippines for the first time last year by the Camarines Sur provincial government under Gov. Lray Villafuerte, Alaska Milk Corporation CEO Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. who is himself a triathlete, and Asia Brewery, headed by its vice president Hubert Tan.

Terenzo Bozzone, who won the Men’s Professional championship in last year's race here, is still considered the man to beat in this year’s triathlon event.

An accomplished multi-sport athlete who thrives well in hot weather, the Philippines and his home country New Zealand coincidentally having similar tropical climate, Bozzone will have a distinct advantage over his rivals from Western countries.

Also registered to participate is Australian Pete Jacobs, a swimming ace who finished fourth in last year’s Ironman 70.3 Philippines as well as top-notch Hawaiian Bree Wee who also bagged fourth of the women’s professional division last year.

Other big names in the multi-sports who have registered are Kiwi now living in Australia; Paul Amey with his cap of colourful duathlon and triathlon triumphs; Fredrick Croneborg of Sweden, another power swimmer who finished sixth in the Men’s Pro category last year; Lance Watson, Olympic Gold Medal and Ironman Champion Coach; Leon Griffin, 2006 ITU World Duathlon Champion and 2nd in Ironman 70.3 Geelong 2010 in Australia; Justin Cole of Australia; Philippine based Wayne Dearing; and Erich Felbabel from Hongkong.

Rated women triathletes include Rachel Paxton of Australia and Magali Tisseyre of Canada.

Set on giving them a run for the money is the horde of 571 other triathletes including a large number of Filipino triathlon veterans as well as new converts who cropped up after the sensational race last year, aside from triathletes from United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, China, Vietnam, Hongkong, Sweden, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Germany, Japan, France, Mexico, Peru, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, South Africa, Korea, Northern Mariana Islands, Spain, Taiwan, Czech Republic and Singapore.

Homegrown athletes are led by veterans of last year’s race Nonoy Jopson, conceded the number one Filipino Ironman and Heracleo “Leo” Oracion, the first Filipino ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. Other multi-sport standouts are Senator Pia Cayetano, Tessa Valdez, Dyan Castillejo, and Wilfred Steven Uytengsu.

Host Camarines Sur will also field three relay teams sponsored by Governor Villafuerte consisting of two men’s team including top local swimming, running and cycling athletes and a women team that will include CamSur’s first lady Lara Villafuerte.

The Ironman 70.3 is a combination of three sports disciplines – 1.2 miles (almost two kilometers) of swimming, 56 miles (over 90 kilometers) of cycling 13.1 miles (over 21 kilometers) of running for a total distance of 70.3 miles of over 113 kilometers.

The swim segment will start at one end of Lago del Rey down the rounded end turnaround and back, transfer to the CWC Cable Lake going about three-fourths of the lake island before transition to the biking stage, which will run the southern course of the national highway, turn left at Anayan Pili to the Fuentebella Highway up to the town proper of Tigaon, turn to Sangay proper and another turn left toward the turnaround at Nato Port, then back to the CWC.

The run portion start at the bike transition beside the CWC, skirt a part of Lago del Rey towards Barangay Maycatmon down to the San Antonio, both in Milaor town, turnaround and back the same route to CWC for loop around the Lago del Rey towards the finish line. (PNA)

PPA now weighs cargoes loaded to ro-ro boats in Matnog

MATNOG, Sorsogon, July 13 (PNA) – Vehicles making use of the services of roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) vessels to hop between the ferry port here and Samar are now being weighed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to prevent excessive weight on board as part of measures toward safety at sea.

Acting port manager Francisquiel Mancile on Tuesday said this development came in the wake of the recent completion of the installation of the weighbridge provided by the PPA and whose operation was assigned to the Sorsogon Terminal Arrastre and Stevedoring Corporation (SOTASCO), the duly authorized stevedoring firm operating at the port.

Going through the weighbridge is mandatory among passenger vehicles, buses, cargo and container trucks, private cars and other motorized vehicles being loaded at the ferry boats under PPA Memorandum Circular No. 23-2009, Mancile said.

“At the very heart, the circular aims to ensure the safety of ro-ro passengers and the handling of outbound containers and sea vessels,” he explained.

The mandatory weighing would also save money on maintenance cost for the PPA brought about by premature rehabilitation of its facilities due to early damages caused by excessive gross volume weight of vehicles using them, Mancile said.

It is also to prevent the early deterioration of the arrastre's cargo handling equipment and avoid the likelihood of sea mishaps in cases where ferry vessels are overloaded with cargo containers and vehicles, he said.

The mandatory weighing is a product of thorough study conducted by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the wake of several untoward incidents involving the local marine transport industry traced from overloading not only of passengers but also of cargoes, the local PPA chief said.

Guidelines to see to it that the mandatory weighing of all outbound containers and vehicles through the ro-ro is strictly implemented in compliance with the Prescribed Gross Vehicle Weight have been issued by the agency, he said.

Mancile stressed that the guidelines give the responsibility of ensuring that the allowable weights and safe handling of ro-ro cargoes are strictly observed at the port to PPA-accredited Cargo Handling/Terminal Operators (CH/TO), in the case here, the SOTASCO.

"Overloaded vehicles will not be loaded onto the carrying ro-ro vessels unless its cargo is redistributed or unloaded," he warned.

He noted that the stripping unloading of excess weight or any other special services that may be provided by the CH/TO are for the account of the cargo or vehicle owner, adding that penalty for overloading will also be strictly imposed by PPA.

While waiting for the issuance of a uniform weighing rate to be determined by PPA for nationwide implementation, PPA Port Management Office here has already issued weight scale rates adopted for the Matnog Ferry Terminal, Mancile said.

All other major ports in Bicol, such as in the cities of Legazpi and Tabaco in Albay, Bulan and Pilar in Sorsogon, Masbate city, Pasacao in Camarines Sur and Virac in Catanduanes will implement this mandatory weighing of all containers andvehicles as soon as their respective weighbridges have been established.

Matnog Mayor Emilio Ubaldo hailed the cargo weighing policy implemented by the PPA at the ferry terminal saying it would address the overloading practices of unscrupulous ro-ro vessel operators operating in the route.

The Matnog Ferry Terminal is the busiest marine transport facility in the Bicol region being the main jumping board between Luzon and the Visayas and Mindanao islands. It operates on a round-the-clock basis catering to the needs of thousands of passengers and huge volume of cargoes daily ferried between the port of Allen, Samar and here.

Regional Director Danilo Manalang of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for Bicol said the PPA weighbridge here is a welcome development insofar as the maintenance of the Maharlika Highway is concerned.

The DPWH in Bicol has long-been asking its central office in Manila to provide funds amounting to at least P10 million for the establishment of a new weighbridge along this main thoroughfare connecting the region with the rest of Luzon and through the ro-ro services, with Visayas and Mindanao to be able to check on overloading of cargo trucks using the highway.

Manalang said, overloading has been a big headache of the DPWH in efforts to preserve the Maharlika Highway from premature deterioration resulting from excessive weights of cargo truck using it.

“At least, this PPA weighing policy would already help in checking on overloading and prevent haulers from transporting cargoes from Metro Manila in excess of their authorized maximum load capacity through the Maharlika Highway down to the Matnog Ferry Terminal,” he said.

It will relatively unburden the national highway of excess weights that cost the government millions of pesos in road maintenance, he added. (PNA)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Doppler radar system to rise in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA) - The disaster preparedness and response capabilities of various disaster councils in Bicol would be enhanced following the putting up of a Doppler radar system in the island province of Catanduanes.

The weather instrument is a P1.6-billion project granted by the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperating Agency (JICA) which involves the construction of three new Doppler radars in Virac, Catanduanes, Aparri, and Guian, Eastern Samar.

The radar system in Virac would be the first to be established and all three radars are expected to be completed in September 2012.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, who is also the Regional Development Council (RDC) chairman, said the weather equipment is one of the biggest technological boost to its disaster preparedness and response capability of various disaster councils.

He said the kick off of the JICA-funded doppler radars for the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) would allow for more advance warning on the rainfall content of approaching meteorological events.

Currently, Pagasa is able to provide warnings on wind strength and relies on detection for rainfall by the use of rain gauges.

The doppler radars are state-of-the-art technology which have four major components which are: meteorological radar system; meteorological data display system; meteorological data satellite communications system (VSAT) and a radar building.

The radar would be housed in an eight-storey concrete tower.

It has a low maintenance system with its transmitter needing change every 15 years as compared to every year for the Dopplers in Subic and Tagaytay which cost only P89 million each against the almost P350 million for the JICA project.

The Doppler radar system could detect rainfall before they fall giving disaster authorities more accurate information and more lead time to do preparedness measures.

He said since the Doppler radar would be installed in Catanduanes, it will give disaster authorities here a two-hour lead time to undertake mitigating disaster scenarios.

Salceda said “given our recent experience with PAGASA warning system, this would greatly enable our province to achieve our zero casualty goal during disasters while saving our province 32 percent in expenses for preemptive evacuation as we could more skillfully target our effort.”

The project is partly triggered by the Reming/Milenyo disaster in 2006 and accelerated by the Ondoy/Pepeng in 2009.

He said Albay has been vigorously advocating for this weather equipment even if the facilities would be located in Catanduanes.(PNA)

El Niño effects to be felt until 2012, gov’t expert says
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA)-– Although poverty incidence this year will score significantly against the economy, it may not be as high as previously predicted, a government expert believes.

Romulo Virola of the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) said here Tuesday he believes El Nino is the single biggest factor to affect poverty statistics unlike the 1997-98 figures wherein the Asian financial crisis scored significantly to the decline of the economy.

But for any consolation, Virola said poverty incidence this year may not be as high as economists previously predicted due to high spending during elections as well as measures to be implemented by the administration of President Noynoy Aquino.

However, El Nino is still a considerable segment during the hard times which Virola said beginning this year up to 2012.

Estimates by government agencies reveal that El Nino damages reached P20 billion and a report from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), about 753,606 hectares of lands had been affected, with an equivalent crop production loss of 685,485 tons, including 300,000 tons of palay production.

The El Nino phenomenon is caused by warmer-than-normal sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean which results to drought in Asia and Australia, world warming in South America and wet winters in the United States and in North America.

This phenomenon occurs every two to seven years.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pag-asa), El Nino has exacted its worst toll in the country thrice--in 1982-83 that left P700 million worth of damages to rice and corn; in 1992-93 where agricultural losses reached P4.1 billion and 478,000 tons of corn were destroyed; and in 1997-98 with damages reaching P8.46 billion.

Arsenio Balicasan, an economist from the University of the Philippines said the 2009-2010 El Niño reduced agriculture sector’s growth by three to five percent in the first quarter, noting that the damage is “serious”.

But what is scarier Balicasan said is the report by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) on the increasing poverty due to growing jobless rates particularly in the farming sector.

In the report, NEDA analyst Luz Lorenzo said agriculture, which accounted for 19.5 percent of gross domestic product in 1998, will now only account 18.1 percent of total economic input.

She added that agricultural workforce—accounting 40 percent of the country’s total labor force—will be the among the hardest hit, resulting to a dramatic rise of poverty levels and compromised incomes as production slows down.

It was also predicted that the delay in planting will extend until the second half of the year and the NEDA stressed that harvest delays would constrain food supply which might spark widespread crisis on food.

Overall, the country’s economic growth just stands at 2.6 percent to 3.6 percent for 2010. Worse, food inflation could reach 10 percent to 12 percent induced by El Nino due to harvest losses particularly in the countryside.

Further, Lorenzo said El Nino will affect utility prices and talk of power outages to conserve energy and possible increases in electricity prices will affect consumers’ already weakened purchasing power. The countryside will see the effects of higher poverty incidence, he said.

The El Nino has dealt a big blow to the country’s power supply since electricity is sourced from hydro-generated power plants.

Mindanao, the region groomed to be the nation’s food basket had been experiencing the worst of the power shortage, having eight to twelve hour brownouts daily.

Cynics claim that the government has underestimated the effects of El Nino as even as early as February 2009, the abnormal weather pattern is already showing signs of its rage, much worse than the 1998 occurrence wherein experts say the phenomenon was at its strongest.

However, the government sector, led by the DA on the other hand insists that they were primed up for its possible appalling effects.

It said an amount of P613.7 million for the corn, fisheries and commercial crops sectors has been made available for the construction of small irrigation facilities and cloud seeding operations.

Sen. Edgardo Angara has earlier said that although the P1.54 trillion budget this year did not take account for the possible ill-effects of the abnormal weather but the government could use the P12-billion funds set aside by the Congress for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of areas and infrastructure damaged by the typhoons last year.

He said P3 billion of the amount could be used for the repair of dikes and desilting of rivers even as the additional cost of implementing mitigating measures could result in the government “overshooting its deficit target” which is expected to hit three percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Sen. Manny Villar had also declared that the government has allotted P8 billion for irrigation while Senator Loren Legarda believes that the funds should have been released as early as February in accordance to the 2010 General Appropriations Act.

Farmers disclose that while irrigation facilities and tube wells were really distributed, it hasn’t been much of help since most of them were faulty, hence, drastically reducing harvest.

For instance, a 1.5 hectare rice farm could now only produce a measly 10 sacks of palay from the usual 120.

The lack of water has also resulted to massive deaths of livestock and poultry farms located on many areas where water supply once abundant, is now difficult to source.

The shallow wells could have been a tremendous help in quenching the heatstroke among animals.

Worse, farmers did not get any profit from the capital they borrowed. One farmer revealed that they have not received a single penny from the reportedly “allotted funds” and has been suffering so much that they are unable to attend to their basic necessities such as electricity and food. (PNA)

DENR-Bicol exec says RP beats Montreal Protocol’s phase-out deadline for pollutants
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 12 (PNA) – The Philippines is among the several countries that met their phase-out targets for pollutants ahead of schedule set this year under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official said here Monday.

These ozone depleting substances (ODS) are chloroflourocarbons (CFC), halons, methyl bromide, methyl chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, according to Gilbert Gonzales, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR for Bicol.

A primer on the ozone layer prepared by the Philippine Ozone Desk of the EMB, Gonzales said stated that ODS are man-made compounds containing chlorine and bromine that have the potential to react to and damage the ozone molecules.

ODS released into the atmosphere set off complex chain reactions that affect the ozone molecules and the process sets into motion a continuing cycle that results in the destruction of the ozone. One chlorine atom from CFC molecule can destroy hundreds of thousands ozone molecules.

CFCs are the most widely used ODS in the Philippines because of its extensive applications in households, industries and servicing sector.

They are used as cooling agent in refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners, propellant in spray cans, aerosols and metered-dose inhalers, solvents in computer and electronic circuits, blowing agents for making foam and other industrial applications.

Halon is chemical used in fire extinguishers, methyl bromide is a broad spectrum pesticide and methyl chloroform is a cleansing solvent, Gonzales explained.

Under the Montreal Protocol ODS phase-out agreement, CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride shall be totally phased-out by 2010 and methyl bromide and methyl chloroform by 2015.

The EMB Bicol director said most significant to the Philippines’ success for the Protocol is the enactment and implementation of Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 that enforced a comprehensive anti-pollution policy from the national down to the barangay levels.

“Almost everybody dutifully participated in the implementation of this law and to this, we owe our success for the Protocol,” he said.

Gonzales stressed that the Montreal Protocol is so far the most successful multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) for preventing global warming due to such large reduction of greenhouse gas.

It was ratified and participated in by government and societies around the world, making it achieve significant accomplishment over the past 22 years. It was signed by 195 countries on Sept. 16, 1987.

Its most important accomplishment is the phase-out of ODS known as greenhouse gases that contribute to the radiative forcing of climate change. The parties of the Protocol have phased out the consumption by over 95 percent of all of these chemicals, with consumption reduced by 99 percent in industrialized countries, Gonzales said.

Health benefits are also identified as effects of the Montreal Protocol. Damage to the ozone layer allows the entry of dangerous ultraviolet-B radiation from the sun which causes skin cancer, eye cataracts and weak immune systems.

Because of the Protocol, societies all over the world have avoided millions of cases of fatal skin cancer and cataracts.

Montreal Protocol protects the ozone layer and the world’s climate. With further implementation of the Protocol's provisions, the ozone layer should recover between the years 2050 to 2075, Gonzales said.

The ozone layer is a concentration of ozone molecules in the stratosphere, about 10 to 50 kilometers above the Earth's surface. About 90 percent of the planet's ozone is in the troposphere, the region closest to Earth. Ozone found on the Earth's surface is formed from pollutants, and is considered "bad ozone," because it is harmful to humans, plants and animal life.

The stratosphere ozone is a thin fragile shield that envelopes the entire Earth, which efficiently filters and screens almost all of the harmful ultraviolet rays, particularly, it blocks off 90 percent of the harmful ultra-violet-B and 100 percent of ultra-violet-C while allowing most of the beneficial ultra-violet-A to reach the Earth's surface.

Beneficial ultra-violet radiation from the sun is the primary sunlight used by plants to manufacture food and nutrients, and utilized by the animal species as its principal sources of energy.

Ozone molecules have relatively low abundance. For every ten million air molecules, there are only three ozone molecules. Ozone molecules are dispersed in the atmosphere, and therefore, the physical thickness of the ozone layer is tens of kilometers.

However, if all ozone molecules are brought together and uniformly distributed into a gas layer over the globe, the resulting layer of pure ozone would have a thickness of only three to five millimeters.

Due to reactions to ODS, the ozone layer is thinning and creating a hole in the sky or ozone hole allowing the entry of greater concentrations of ultra-violet-B, and putting all life forms at risk.

The ozone hole was first observed in the Antartic area in the early 1980s. As of September 2005, the size of the ozone hole is about 22 million square kilometers which is almost as big as the United States and Canada combined, Gonzales added. (PNA)

PhilRice bares new developments in rice research
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, JulY 12 (PNA)-– The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is now advancing the use of newly-developed varieties that could survive adverse environments resulting from climate change.

PhilRice which is under the Department of Agriculture (DA) is a government-owned-and–controlled corporation that aims at developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

“Adverse environments like sea level increases, intense temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns that could be frequently experienced due to climate change directly affect rice production reason why PhilRice and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed varieties adaptable to these situations,” according to PhilRice Plant Breeding and Biotechnology head Thelma Padolina.

In an article recently published on line by AgribusinessWeek, Padolina said that for rainfed lowland drought-prone areas, PhilRice recommends NSIC Rc192 or the Sahod Ulan 1, a newly IRRI-bred variety that has a maximum yield potential of 5.5 tons per hectare and matures in 106 days.

It said, the variety could be planted using the dry seeding, wet dry-seeding and transplanting methods.

For submergence-prone areas, PhilRice promotes the cultivation of NSIC Rc194 which is popularly called Submarino 1 which is a crossbred of the ordinary variety IR64 and an Indian variety with Sub1 gene. Submarino 1 can tolerate to days of complete submergence.

For irrigated lowland farms that are reached by swollen sea level, newly developed saline-resistant varieties such as NSIC Rc182 (Salinas 1), Rc184 (Salinas 2), Rc186 (Salinas 3), Rc188 (Salinas 4) and Rcl90 (Salinas 5) are recommended.

Padolina said, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed Salinas 1 while Phil-Rice bred the other four varieties that show good milling recovery and rice quality.

To achieve maximum yield ranging from 3.8 to 6.3 tons per hectare, she advised proper cultural management but warned that these varieties are susceptible to tungro.

Speaking of tungro that is one of major rice diseases that could cause 60 to 90 percent yield losses, Padolina said the Matatag varieties that are resistant to this disease are available.

Matatag varieties became popular in Mindanao even before the first variety was approved by the Philippine Seed Board in 2000, a few years before that serious tungro outbreaks occurred in North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Davao del Norte, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur, she said.

At that time, PhilRice-Midsayap was conducting field trials of IRRI’s first rice tungro disease line, IR 71031-4-5-5-1. Trials in farmers’ fields in 1998 yielded at least 3.5 tons a hectare.

PhilRice-Midsayap also started to produce seeds of the two lines as a stopgap measure in solving the serious outbreaks of the disease in Mindanao.

The Matatag seed production and distribution activities resulted in a dramatic decrease in tungro incidence starting in year 2000.

“The tungro-affected areas were significantly reduced as a result of the seed distribution under the leadership of Phil Rice-Midsayap,” Padolina said.

Lately, PhilRice has also produced its own Matatag variety, Matatag 6, which was released for commercial planting as NSIC Rc 120.

It should be noted, however, that although PhilRice has bred only one Matatag variety, it was the Institute that tested IRRI’s rice tungro disease resistant lines in the field and led in their nationwide testing before these were released as commercial varieties, she added.

At present, there are 16 Matatag lines and from year 2000 to 2007, more than 400 tons of seeds have been sold to major tungro hotspot areas in the country. Most of these areas are in Mindanao regions, Padolina added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Josie Valdez, president of Bulacan Agricultural State College, encouraged farmers to try the aerobic rice technology, which involves cultural management practices to produce more rice with less water.

According to Valdez, the aerobic rice technology can yield five tons per hectare during the dry season and four tons per hectare during the wet season.

He said the technology reduces water use for the cropping seasons by 30 to 50 percent, without reducing yield.

Encouraging farmers to be more progressive, Padolina urged farmers to consider varieties that respond to specific environment conditions.

“Certified seeds of a recommended variety contribute to 10 percent increase in yield. As such, farmers should try other varieties that could be better than the varieties that they are using now,” she said. (PNA)