Tuesday, August 31, 2010

LGU impressed with P-Noy’s Public-Private Partnership policy
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 31 (PNA) – The city administration here is optimistic over the policy declared by President Benigno Aquino III that gives importance to Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in the implementation of development projects of local government units (LGUs) in the country.

Geraldyn Rosal, the city mayor told the Philippines News Agency Tuesday that her administration is impressed with the President’s faith on the private sector as the city government always welcomes the participation of non-government enterprises in the implementation of development programs of the city government.

She cited as example the Ligñon Hill Viewdeck Park the development of which into a world-class tourism facility has been given to a private contractor. “Despite the fact that the city government would not spend a single centavo for this project, it will be earning income from the operations of the facility to be remitted by the private contractor later on,” Rosal explained.

The newly opened Legazpi City Central Terminal is another example of a PPP-initiated project undertaken by the city government as former Mayor Noel Rosal was completing his nine-year term before the May 2010 elections. The outgoing mayor then fielded his wife who is now the incumbent chief local executive.

A private contractor built the modern transport terminal for P300 million under a 30-year built-operate and transfer agreement.

“We also have Embarcadero de Legazpi, a P1-billion development project that is giving the city a classy touch with its sea front commercial complex that offers first-rate facilities to tourists and local shoppers,” she said.

It was developed by Sunwest Group of Companies, a local developer engaged in the establishment of luxurious tourist facilities and posh commercial complexes in most parts of the country.

“With the inspiration given us by President Noynoy, we will be more vigorous in pursuing PPP scheme projects,” she added.

Rosal’s statement came as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is urging LGUs to make use of PPPs as a mechanism to address financial needs for infrastructure and services.

NEDA regional director for Bicol Romeo Escandor said over the weekend LGUs should view PPPs as an alternative way to effectively and efficiently deliver basic services to its constituents especially the poor sector that needs more government attention.

To help the LGUs that are at the forefront in local development, Escandor said NEDA will provide a checklist or template on how to get into PPP-type arrangements in delivering basic services as it is important that the options available for the implementation and financing of local initiatives are clear to them.

In his recent first State of the Nation Address, President Aquino identified PPPs as a strategy to finance government projects like infrastructure and basic services through the assistance of the private sector.

It is important that the LGUs have already pre-identified projects for PPP, so that the more transparent solicited mode of procurement will be undertaken, the NEDA regional chief said.

NEDA is also currently crafting a National Transport Plan that will give policy directions for a complete network of transport infrastructure that will ease economic integration between and among regional growth centers, he said.

In the long run, it will open up areas in the periphery to economic activities and promote development in more vicinities of the country, Escandor added.

On the part of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), regional director for Bicol Blandino Maceda said his agency is coming out with a scheme that would institutionalize partnerships among local government units, civil society organizations and the private sector at the local level in undertaking development projects.

It is one of the priorities of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo to tap the active involvement and participation of non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector in order to effect responsive development projects at the local level, Maceda said.

"Sec. Robredo wanted to continuously harness the role that the people and the different sectors can play in governance as he fully believes that leadership is a shared responsibility," the DILG regional chief said.

As mayor of Naga City, Robredo established a strong public-private partnership with the institutionalization of the Naga City People's Council and the Naga city Governance Institute that share the city's leadership and governance toward sustained excellence in local government innovations, Maceda added. (PNA)

Local court junks Comelec ruling; disqualifies Catanduanes mayor

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Aug. 31 (PNA) – Claiming the Commission on Elections’ (COMELEC) manner by which it disposed of its cases is not worthy of credence, a Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge here disqualified from his post the mayor of Viga, Catanduanes, who was installed by the poll body after proclaiming him winner in the May 2010 elections.

In her decision handed down last week, RTC Branch 43 Presiding Judge Lelu Contreras said Viga town mayor Abelardo Abundo Sr. was already ineligible to serve as mayor, despite his May 10, 2010 elections victory, because it was against the three-term limit for local officials.

In fact, Abundo was not even a qualified candidate for the position as both the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 cleary prohibit a fourth term for a local official, Contreras said in the decision.

The decision was in response to a quo warranto petition filed by a certain Ernesto Vega, who claimed he was a registered voter but reportedly a supporter of Abundo’s chief rival to the post, former Mayor Jose Torres, according to a report of the Catanduanes Tribune.

In his petition, Vega declared that Abundo has been elected mayor of Viga in the 2001, 2004 and 2007 elections and assumed office and performed his duties and responsibilities for three consecutive terms, it said.

Vega said Abundo was even disqualified from running for another term and more from serving another term as mayor given the provision of the Constitution that states in Article 10, Section 8 state that: “The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.”

In her decision, Contreras also cited Section 43 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 state that: “(a) The term of office of all local elective officials elected after the effectivity of this Code shall be three (3) years, starting from noon of June 30, 1992 or such date as may be provided for by law, except that of elective barangay officials: Provided, That all local officials first elected during the local elections immediately following the ratification of the 1987 Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.”

“(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected,” the law said.

Abundo, on the other hand, said in his motion for reconsideration filed promptly after receiving a copy of Contreras’ ruling late last week that he did not serve the full term from 2004 to 2007 as he assumed office only after winning an election protest and serving for only one year and two months.

Legal opinions of the Comelec and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) he secured stated that he was qualified for re-election in the May 10, 2010 polls.

Last July, the Comelec’s First Division even dismissed “for lack of merit” the petition for disqualification filed by Torres against Abundo on ground it contended that the latter failed to serve the entire duration of the second term because his assumption of office and exercise of the functions thereof only commenced on May 8, 2006.

"The period from July 1, 2004 to May 7, 2006 served as a gap which renders the three-term limit inapplicable," the Commission’s First Division said in the ruling.

Contreras, however was not impressed by the poll body’s ruling as citing the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Simon Aldovino, Jr., et. al. vs. Commission on Elections, et. al. (G.R. No. 184836), she said Abundo’s assumption of office on his second term, no matter how short it was, was a service of the term covering the period from 12 noon of June 30, 2004 to 12 noon of June 30, 2007, the term for which he ran and was declared a winner in an election contest.

"The period from July 1, 2004 to December 12, 2005, during which the election contest was pending in court, is but an interruption in the exercise of Mr. Abundo’s powers as mayor but not an interruption of the term," Contreras declared.

Neither could Abundo’s situation during the period be considered akin to involuntary renunciation because the SC ruling in Aldovino is clear that it is severance from office or loss of title that renders the three-term limit rule inapplicable, the RTC judge said.

She said that Abundo did not lose his title during the period when the election contest was pending and, on the contrary, he was claiming title to office through the election protest that he filed against Torres.

She said that the Court could not be persuaded by the decision of the Comelec in dismissing the petition for disqualification against Abundo because of the conflicting and contradicting decisions in the cases involving Caramoran Mayor Agnes Popa as well as then Panganiban Vice Mayor Robert Fernandez against Mayor Gregorio Angeles rendered by the Second Division.

The Popa decision overlooked a procedural lapse in the filing of an election protest but three months later, the same Division ruled that Fernandez’s failure to state the votes per protested precinct, the very same requirement it overlooked before, was a fatal defect that results in the dismissal of the protest.

"How can this Court be persuaded by the cited decisions of the Comelec when the manner by which it disposed of its cases is not worthy of credence?" Contreras said.

In concluding that Mayor Abundo had already served three consecutive terms from 2001 to 2007 making him ineligible to run for the fourth time in 2010 election, the RTC noted that anyway, he simply won by plurality of votes and not by majority, which is 50 percent plus one.

It cited the Certificate of Canvass which stated that Abundo garnered 3,259 votes representing only 30.7 percent of all the votes cast while his closest opponent, Torres, had 3,040 or 28.66 percent.

On Tuesday, Abundo told the PNA that he remained the mayor of Viga and would hold on to the post until all legal remedies were exhausted.

“If the RTC would not grant my motion for reconsideration, I will elevate the case to a higher court and hope that a more objective decision is obtained,” he said. (PNA)

Albay townsfolk pray for P-Noy, hostage victims

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) - Roman Catholic churches' bells tolled and masses were simultaneously held across the province at 9:30 a.m. Sunday for the containment of the adverse impacts of last week's hostage tragedy.

In the Saint Gregory the Great Cathedral here, people from all walks of life, provincial employees, soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, local policemen, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel, elementary and high school students and teachers of Catholic schools responded to the call of Albay Governor Joey Salceda, a former seminarian, to pray as a community to stave off further aggravations from the hostage crisis.

Salceda said, “In this moment of national difficulty when many factors are beyond our control, we should rally around our new President and the best we can contribute is to pray for him.

"May God bless our President Aquino with the strength of will and wisdom in judgment to lead our people through this period of national anguish,” he said.

Salceda said “We must confront this as a nation because we will suffer or benefit from its consequences as a nation. We pray so all Filipinos will help in solving our anxieties and not add to the agitation and aggravation of the situation".

A simultaneous Holy Mass was held in 54 Roman Catholic parishes across the province to offer prayers and special intentions for the victims and survivors of the bus hostage crisis in the Quirino Grandstand at the Luneta Park in Manila last August 23.

The masses were organized by the Filipino-Chinese community of Albay, the Catholic Diocese of Albay, Catholic schools and the provincial government of Albay including the 15 towns and three cities of the province.

Salceda said the Albay masses gave special intention to the Filipinos who are still in grief because of the tragic event that unfolded last Monday where eight Hongkong nationals and the hostage taker, Police Capt. Rolando Mendoza, died.

Filipino and Chinese residents here joined hands and offered special prayers for the Hongkong nationals who perished and survived the tragedy. (PNA)

Politics behind ambush-slay of 5 in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) --- Political violence erupted anew in the island province of Masbate following the ambush slay of five people by suspected private armed group on Saturday in a village in San Pascual town in Masbate.

Police said the weekend afternoon attack killed Wenceslao Sinagpulo Jr., town councilman; Rolito Aragon, a baptist pastor; and Ronnie Orcales , Rael Ponte, driver, and Raffy Francisco, all residents of barangay Mapanique in San Pascual.

Masbate Rep. Narciso “Bong” Bravo said the victims were all his political allies.

Bravo, in a phone interview, said he has initiated an independent investigation and the result of which points that the carnage was “politically motivated” work out by his political enemies.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the dastardly killing of my political supporters here in San Pascual town,”.

Bravo said the ambush slay was done by PAGs employed by his political rivals who were determined to or bring him down.

Bravo said “I am 99 percent sure the killing were perpetrated by PAGs.”

In the 1st district of the province, intense political rivalries are common among the clans of the Bravo’s, Espinosa’s, Lanete, and Seachons on one hand and the clans of the Bunan’s, Evangelista and Bulanon’s who are close allies to Congressman Antonio Kho of the 2nd district and his wife Olga, the former Masbate governor.

Asked to identify the person he thought was responsible for the killings, Bravo positively identified a political enemy at the barangay level, a former town vice mayor and a mayoral candidate in the May elections.

He said these local politicians were identified as close allies of the Kho’s

Bravo said he would bring this matter to the attention of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) about the deteriorating peace and order situation in the province.

Bravo said the province was in the midst of political havoc, where killings frequently occurred and crimes were left unsolved.

“I will also bring this matter up in Congress for a congressional inquiry,” Bravo said.

As this developed, Mayor Jojo Rivera of San Pascual , said the incident was the second time that occurred this year, the first incident was the ambush slaying of a village councilman last March and this was followed by the ambush on Saturday where five people died.

Rivera in a phone interview said “ we are used to hear New People’s Army rebels initiated ambuscade against military and police this is a normal occurrence here but what worries us is the attacks on civilians by PAGs.”

He said he was with councilor Sinagpulo in Masbate City to attend two separate events on Saturday, the election of the Provincial Councilors League and the Mayor’s League meeting.

He said when they went back to San Pascual town, Sinagpulo with four others rode the owner type jeep owned by Cong. Bravo headed their way home in barangay Mapanique.

Police report said while the jeep was negotiating the road at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Sitio Landing, Barangay Bolod, San Pascual town, a 10-man armed group bearing M16 rifles and 45 caliber pistols attacked and fired at the victims, killing them instantly.

Police recovered at the crime scene empty shells from M16 and 45. Cal pistols, including a hand grenade that did not explode underneath the Jeep.

Rivera said the bodies of the victims were brought to the town clinic where they have been autopsied and awaiting to be transported to the respective residences. (PNA)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Selection of new CHR chair entices international concern
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 9 (PNA) – The selection by Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III of the next Human Rights Commission (CHR) chairperson had become an international concern just as issues of extrajudicial killings in the country were being commented abroad.

CHR regional director Pelagio Señar said that international bodies were urging the Aquino administration to establish a participatory process to choose and appoint the next head of the independent Commission.

Two human rights institutions abroad-- the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC) and the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) have commented in writing on the current vacancy for the CHR chairperson, Señar said.

Señar said thatRosslyn Noonan, the ICC president and chairperson of the New Zealand CHR,has written the Office of the President, that “it will be important that the appointment procedures you adopt can be held up as international best practices” so that the next CHR Chairperson “can start on a firm foundation.”

The ICC is recognized by the United Nations as the body that accredits human rights commissions according to their compliance with the standards known as the Paris Principles.

In the letter, Noonan told Pres. Aquino that “in fact the Sub-Committee for Accreditation noted the critical importance of the selection and appointment process of the governing body in ensuring the pluralism and independence of the national institution.”

The APF said in its letter: “The failure to undertake such a process may be seen as breaching the Paris Principles and lead to a review of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines accreditation status.”

“In this regard we note that direct appointment by the executive has in the past led to a review of the accreditation status of other national human rights institutions, and has been the subject of comment in United Nations for,” the APF letter said.

CIVICUS, an international non-government organization (NGO), in a separate letter, urged Pres. Aquino “to begin fulfilling your promise of a new path for the Philippines by protecting the victims of human rights abuses and bringing those responsible to justice.”

“We ask that you guarantee the independence of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines in line with the United Nations’ Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions,” it said.

Earlier, the Ateneo Center for Human Rights, Karapatan, the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) issued a joint call for the President to establish a process for the selection of the CHR chairperson.

They suggested that the panel that includes a mixed panel of decision-makers, open applications and consultations with stakeholders as required by international standards.

“A participatory and transparent selection process is vital to the CHR’s standing in the U.N. and other international bodies to speak up on the Philippine human rights situation and advocate for victims,” the local human rights groups said.

PAHRA Chairperson Max M. De Mesa said, “I agree that CHR sets the example for transparency in government processes.”

Karapatan Secretary-General Marie Hilao Enriquez welcomes the CHR’s initiatives for a multi-stakeholder call to President Aquino. “We hope the selection body includes representatives for human rights NGOs working on the ground,” Enriquez said.

As the new government tries to live up to its promises to stop extrajudicial killings, it also has the responsibility to protect the independence of the CHR and its standing – as the body that is most credible in addressing such rights violations, she said.

In the selection of the next CHR chairperson, Enriquez said that candidates should not have a problem with an open selection process when they have the credentials and long advocacy. In fact, with this process critics of candidates will have to make their negative statements in public, with some proof, instead of unsubstantiated comments to the press.

Rep. Erin Tañada , chairman of the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights, with his house Bill 6822 tried to institute an appointment process that complies with the Paris Principles in the draft CHR Charter but it has yet to go through the full legislative process, Señar said.

In a statement posted on the CHR website Commissioner and officer-in-charge Cecilia Quisumbing said: “If the CHR Charter had become a law, there would be no question as to the process. For now, there is no set process and we hope the President will implement international standards to protect the nation’s pre-eminent human rights protection body.”

Quisumbing said, the CHR has already been warned by the international accreditation body in its past review that the process of selecting its members does not meet with the Principles Relating to the Status of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI), also known as the Paris Principles, which were adopted by the U.N. General Assembly resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993.

Malaysia ’s human rights commission was downgraded from A-status to B-status in 2008 because it was not deemed to be compliant with the Paris Priniplces.

Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 permits NHRIs that are accredited by the Sub-Committee on Accreditation to exercise participation rights in the Human Rights Council and subsidiary bodies of the Council such as the committees that monitor each human rights treaty.

“It would be a shame to lose our A-status which is the highest level of independence and credibility, during the Aquino Administration, just when we’re all optimistic about a rights-focused government”, Quisumbing said.

The rating of commissions and institutions for human rights are determined by the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) for National Human Rights Institutions, the worldwide association of rights commissions and ombudsmen.

According to the ICC Statute, all NHRIs that hold an ‘A’ status are subject to re-accreditation on a cyclical basis. Noonan’s letter to Pres. Aquino noted that the sub-committee emphasizes as a transparent process, broad consultation throughout the selection and appointment process and advertising vacancies broadly.

It also looks into maximizing the number of potential candidates from a wide range of societal groups and selecting members to serve in their own individual capacity rather than on behalf of the organization they represent, Noonan said in the letter.

An A-status means that the institution meets all the criteria set out in Paris Principles. It gives the CHR the right to make statements at the Human Rights Council, to make reports and statements to U.N. Committees that monitor compliance with each human rights convention, among others.

Using this privilege at the 14 th Regular Session of the U.N. HR Council last May, Quisumbing called the world’s attention to the mis-steps in investigating and towards prosecuting suspects implicated in the November massacre in Maguindanao, including attempt by the Department of Justice to dismiss the charges against two members of the Ampatuan family.

Former CHR Chair Leila de Lima also used this status to discuss cases of torture, including the Manalo brothers case before the U.N. Committee against Torture last year.

The CHR is often the institution that victims and advocates turn to for their complaints and suggestions to be heard by domestic and international leaders. (PNA)

Filipino engineers develop rice analyzer to modernize grain industry
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Aug 6 (PNA)-– In an effort to modernize the country’s grain industry, agricultural engineers from the Bureau of Postharvest Research and Extension (BPRE) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) have developed a state-of-the art but low-cost computer vision system (CVS) for analyzing the quality of rice after its milling.

This was was realized through the “Quality Analysis of Milled Rice Using Computer Vision” project funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) in collaboration with the National Food Authority (NFA), according to DA regional executive director for Bicol Marilyn Sta. Catalina based here.

Behind the success of the project were Dr. Manolito Bulaong, Engrs. Ruben Manalabe and Jayson Carbonel all of BPRE and Dr. Oliver Agustin of Vera Equinox Technologies.

The low-cost CVS would replace the expensive digital cameras used by the NFA and private grain industry players in the conventional image acquisition, Sta. Catalina said over the week.

This new, she said CVS can compute the percentage by weight of both the good and bad quality grains as to their being broken, damaged, chalky, discolored, immature and red kernels.

It can also count the number of palay and measure the grain length and output of the grade of milled rice according to the specification of the National Grains Standard and it can do a complete analysis of a 100-gram sample in less than 30 minutes, the DA Bicol head said.

On the other hand, the conventional milled rice quality analysis, is a tedious, slow and expensive process.

The analysis per sample takes more than an hour and complete analysis costs P550 even as its result is subjective being affected by the skill and physical condition of the classifier, lighting, and other working conditions.

NFA regional director for Bicol Edgar Bentulan said his agency uses trained classifiers who visually inspect each milled rice grain based on size and color with each grain classified according to quality category it belongs.

The development of the low-cost CVS for milled rice quality analysis will ensure objective, accurate and fast results and will modernize the method used by the grain industry, according to Bentulan.

As the Philippines gears up for globalization, grains standardization is one of the strategies for modernizing the agriculture sector, particularly improving the efficiency and global competitiveness of the grains industry, he added.

In a related development, the Philippine Rice Research Institure (PhilRice) is coming out with a rice grading test kit that would determine the grain’s amyrose and gelatin contents for its texture using staining technique.

In a study “Field Amylose and Gelatinization Temperature Tests for Rice Classification”, PhilRice senior science specialist Leslie Roferos and senior consultant Bienvenido Juliano refined the rice classification test kit earlier developed by including test for both amylose and gelatinization temperature, a PhilRice statement published recently on line by AgribusinessWeek.

Amylose, the PhilRice said is the starchy component in rice that gives the soft texture of the grain. When mixed with iodine, the amylose in rice turns the cereal into blue.

The gelatinization temperature test – done by potassium hydroxide treatment – complements the amylose level test in the grain.

Using the amylose and gelatinization temperature test kit, consumers are assured on the quality of the rice that they buy; while rice-based food manufacturers can easily know what variety to use. In addition, it could help farmer demand a right price for his “class A” variety, the study said.

Result of the study enhanced the sensitivity of the field test in connection with the clustering of varieties to come out with the general classification.

Evelyn Bandonil, head of the rice chemistry and food science division of PhilRice, said in the statement that Class A of the kit is for soft textured type, Class B for intermediate textured, and Class C for hard textured.

A previous study showed that unscrupulous rice millers, to rake in more profits mislead consumers by mislabeling ordinary varieties as premium.

Mislabeling of milled rice in the market as Sinandomeng or IR64 varieties leads consumers to believe that they are buying rice of good texture and eating quality. Although there are instances when consumers are satisfied with what they bought, they are often disgruntled with these as these turned to be hard and fluffy when cooked.

The reason for this is that even as millertraders normally do not attain the right mix of quality rice, they still label them as Sinandomeng or IR64, two popular brands of rice in the market that command higher prices.

Normally, traders mix the grains of different varieties with seemingly similar physical attributes like size and appearance.

However, they do not have a way of determining the amylose content of their grains. Their primary goal is just to get as much profits as they could.

According to rice chemists, the amylose content of the rice grain determines to a great extent the texture of rice when cooked. Those with high amylose content are a lot harder than those with less content when cooked. (PNA)

JICA to finance construction of P480-M permanent evacuation centers in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 05 (PNA) ----Albay signed on Thursday an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to formalize the construction of six multi- storey permanent evacuation centers in the towns of Manito, Sto Domingo, Oas, Libon and Polangui and in this city.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, together with Nagaishi Masfumi, JICA country representative, signed a memorandum of agreement to jump start the construction of a P480 million risk reduction project composed of six permanent evacuation centers in Albay

Salceda said "the project is part of the disaster risk reduction program instituted by the Albay Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC), where the council plans to build six additional provincial evacuation centers bringing to a total of nine evacuation centers put up across the province.

According to the detailed plan, each of the project will cost P80 million to establish.

Salceda said the project was the biggest investment program in pursuing disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the country, specifically in Albay.

He said "the JICA project is a single biggest assistance given by the Japanese government in addressing the province "Zero Casualty" goal in times of disasters such as Mayon eruption, floodings, lahar flows and landslides.

Under the agreement, the JICA will finance the construction of six permanent evacuation centers which can be used as school classrooms in normal condition.

He said the edifice would be constructed in the towns and city central elementary schools of the Department of Education (DepEd). The center can accommodate 10 percent of the total evacuees expected to house in various evacuation centers in times of disasters.

Salceda said the three existing permanent evacuation center were put up in the towns of Daraga, Camalig, and Guinobatan, where two-storey type evacuation center edifice can accommodate some 250 families or 1,250 people.

He said the permanent evacuation centers had been a value added disaster mitigating measure funded by the Spanish government, through the AECID which had been completed and turned over to the respective local government units.

The provincial evacuation centers will declog the existing school building used as evacuation centers in times of calamities.

The strategy makes classes in all public schools in affected areas to continue smoothly and unhampered despite the influx of evacuees in time of calamities. This will combine safety and educational outcome, he said.

Salceda said that in normal situation, the building could also be converted into a 20-classroom type school building.

Some P660 million funding is expected to be spent for the construction of the nine provincial evacuation centers, with P180 million coming from AECID and another P480 million from JICA .

He said the construction would start next year following the completion of detailed engineering plan this year.(PNA)

Legazpi City taps private sector in local tourism industry development

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug 5 (PNA) –- With the majestic Mayon Volcano at the frontline of attractions thousands of tourists flocking to this city, the local government has renewed its drive to boost local tourism by opening more industry-related investment opportunities for the private sector.

“The devastation wrought by the two super typhoons 'Milenyo' and 'Reming' that successively hit the city in late 2006 undoubtedly choked the momentum established by the city’s tourism industry within the past two decades,” City mayor Geraldine Rosal told the PNA on Thursday.

That was because almost all government resources, activities and efforts have to be focused on the reconstruction of the damages, diverting the attention from tourism to rehabilitation, the neophyte lady mayor who won last May’s elections to replace her husband, Noel Rosal after completing a nine-year term last June said.

“Before I took the reign from my husband, he had already completed all rehabilitation efforts for the reconstruction of the damaged public infrastructures and installations and even rearranged the lives of the thousands of villagers displaced by the calamity,” she said.

That means, the lady chief executive said, “I started with a newly refurbished city that left nothing for me to do but return to where the city was before it was ruined by the super typhoons in terms of tourism and economic development.”

“Actually, following that four-year rehabilitation period, the city is better now than before the 2006 calamities. Today, we have new and additional roads, better drainage system, more lighted streets, healthier environment, cleaner rivers, more basic services delivery facilities, more businesses, improved peace and order, ample employment opportunities and better livelihood prospects,” Mrs. Rosal said.

Given all these, she said her administration’s focus is on restoring the city’s prominence in Bicol’s tourist arrivals aspect being home to Mt. Mayon, the region’s tourism landmark.

The city had new tourist facilities established hand in hand between the city government and the private sector and this partnership concept of tourism development is what her administration is promoting for a more cheerful industry, the lady mayor said.

As an initial effort, she said the city had lately awarded to a private firm the contract for the operation of a Ligñon Hill View Deck Park commercial facility that would offer world-class amenities and services to tourists and visitors who wanted to enjoy the ambiance of a place overlooking the city and offers a full view of Mt. Mayon’s edifice.

Ligñon Hill is a prominent spot in the northern sector of the city’s downtown that stands about 1,000 meters above sea level. It is situated between the city and Mayon Volcano and the Legazpi Domestic Airport sits beneath its hilltop viewing deck.

The property belongs to the Albay provincial government but its development into a tourist facility has been delegated by the province to the city government. A two-kilometer long winding concrete road has been constructed by the province from its foot up to the hilltop.

Mrs. Rosal said, the private tourist development firm that won the Ligñon Hill contract, JEDI Property Management would develop the area and operate the facilities to be established in a leasehold agreement with the city government.

In the agreement, JEDI will pay the city government P40,000 monthly for the first year of operations, P42,000 for the second and third year and P44,000 for the fourth and so on.

The private firm will also be in-charge of the maintenance of the entire park including the cleanliness of the pathways, parking area and view decks by way of employing maintenance workers from the city’s labor force.

The privatization of a portion of Ligñon Hill is more advantageous to the city government as it will no longer spend for the maintenance and improvement of the place, adding that the rentals will also be used for other local tourism projects in the area, Mrs. Rosal said.

Besides, it gives to the private sector the break to take part in the development of the city in line with its desire to attract investors that could open more businesses in the locality which serves as the commercial center of Albay.

The city’s booming commercial district also caters to the shopping needs of Sorsogon and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

Among the newly established commercial and tourist facility within the city is the Embarcadero de Legazpi, a posh complex that offers world-class services and amenities. It is a P1.5-billion private investment put up by Sunwest Group, a local firm engaged in real estate and tourism development.

With the aggressive tourism and investment promotion the city government is undertaking, the lady mayor said “we are confident to win back the city’s glory as the most tourist visited city in Bicol which it lost to Naga City during the past three years while it was so occupied by its recovery works.”

A Department of Tourism (Dot) report said Naga City in the nearby Camarines Sur posted the most number of tourist arrivals compared to this city during the latest three-year period because of the all-out tourism promotion drive it had initiated parallel with the establishment of its budding commercial district that now plays host to the SM Mall.

Besides, Naga is also venue of the Peñafrancia fiesta, a yearly religious celebration that draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, visitors and tourists who come for the feast day of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicol, the DoT report said.

This city on the other hand is jumping point towards the Misibis Residential Resort, a luxurious island destination that has been drawing thousands of foreign tourists for its first-rate eco-tourism facilities.

The resort that sits within the 40-hectare island of Misibis in Bacacay, Albay, is a 45-minute boat ride from the Embarcadero de Legazpi, its sister company.

Legazpi also serves as the take-off point and housing area for tourists visiting Donsol, Sorsogon for its whale sharks.

Almost all of those who go to that place for whale shark (butanding) watching or interactions house themselves in hotels here and not somewhere else because of the city’s proximity to the area.

“That makes us city a prime beneficiary of the Donsol tourism,” the city mayor added. (PNA)

PhilRice scientists develop rice hull into plant inoculant
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Aug. 5 (PNA) – Bicol’s agricultural sector is elated by the latest technology developed by scientists of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) that makes out of carbonized rice hull (CRH) an environment-friendly carrier component in making microbial inoculants.

The use of microbial inoculants such as Rhizobium in crop production is now being widely adopted by farmers in Bicol as according to the Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) here has resulted in increased yield and added profit.

The new technology reduced by up to 50 percent the application of synthetic nitrogenous fertilizer, DA regional executive director for Bicol Marilyn Sta. Catalina said over the week.

The CRH inoculants technology was an undertaking of PhilRice scientists Constancio Asis Jr. and Julie Elijay based in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, she said.

In explaining about Rhizobium inoculants, Asis, in an article recently published on line by AgribusinessWeek was quoted as saying “the atmosphere has 78 percent nitrogen but this is in inert form which is not readily available for plant use due to the triple bond connecting the two nitrogen molecules,” says Asis.

At this point, he said that the use of Rhizobium inoculant can be beneficial because the bacterium Rhizobium releases nitrogenase, an enzyme that cuts the bond between nitrogen molecules, making it available to the plants.

In other words, nitrogenase helps in fixing atmospheric nitrogen and converting it into ammonia, a form which is usable by plants, according to Asis.

When used to inoculate seeds, by coating the seeds prior to planting, Rhizobium induces the formation of nodules on the roots of certain leguminous plants, and this bacterium in the nodules fixes the nitrogen for use by the plant, he said.

To utilize Rhizobium, it is often necessary to provide dependable inoculants to ensure effective nodulation of the inoculated leguminuous crops.

Asis said that the commercially available inoculants use wood charcoal as the carbon source for the Rhizobium inoculant carrier. Other components include garden soil, rice hull ash and ipil ipil leaves. However, they consider the use of wood charcoal as not so environment friendly as it contributes to the cutting of trees.

“That is the main reason why I and Dr. Elijay thought of replacing wood charcoal with carbonized rice hull because the latter is also a source of carbon and rice hull is abundant in the Philippines as a waste product in rice production,” he said.

“CRH can be produced using PhiRice-designed rice hull carbonizer which costs only P800 per unit,” Asis said.

While charcoal needs a grinder that consumes higher energy before these are made available as carrier component, CRH only requires lesser energy because these are easily broken down into smaller form, he added.

In their research titled “Use of Carbonized Rice Hull as Carrier Component of Rhizobium Inoculants,” Asis and Elijay directly substituted the wood charcoal with CRH. They used two treatments which are CRH and CRH-acidic soil carrier mixtures, according to Sta. Catalina.

The inoculant carrier components in each treatment were pulverized, sieved, mixed in plastic bags and sterilized. Then the Rhizobium broth culture was prepared and aseptically inoculated into the carrier mixtures at room temperature for 120 days.

The researchers, Sta. Catalina said, adopted the MPN (most probable number method) to determine the Rhizobium population.

From the results, the researchers concluded that the CRH-based mixtures were comparable to wood charcoal in maintaining the viability of Rhizobial cells. This was after the carrier mixtures met the acceptable standard of viable Rhizobia per gram of inoculant at 120 days after inoculation, she said.

In the same AgribusinessWeek article, Asis revealed that their next step would involve the introduction of the technology to the mixing plants of Rhizobium inoculants in strategically located areas in the country.

One very successfully adopted microbial inoculant locally is the Bio-N which is effective for use in rice, corn and vegetables. It is now being produced by a good number of farmer-cooperatives nationwide with the help of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH) at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, he said.

Asis and Elijay, the article said also plan to work on the extension of the storage life of Rhizobium inoculant with CRH carrier component up to six months to maximize its benefits.

Aside from reducing environmental impact, the researchers said that the use of CRH as a carrier component for Rhizobium inoculant results in a cheaper product as processing does not require much energy.

Sta. Catalina said, this new usage of CRH further make use of the 2.5 million metric tons of rice hull that accumulate from the milling palay all over the country. Earlier, this waste material had been converted into a soil conditioner and bioorganic fertilizer.

A hydrophilic material made from the incomplete or partial burning of rice hull, CRH contains potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and other microelements needed for growing crops like garlic.

As soil conditioner, CRH replenishes air and retains water in the soil. Because of the heat it undergoes, it is sterile and thus, free from pathogens. As such, it makes an excellent host for beneficial microorganisms and an ingredient for bioorganic fertilizer.

CRH is also used to deodorize pigpens and its bio-activated version is effective in neutralizing odor of canals and speed up the decomposition of wastes.

This deodorizer was commercially developed into what is called now Fedgrozyme was introduced by Berlin trained industrial microbiologist Dr. Ronaldo Sumaoang who is also the president and CEO of the Novatech Group of Companies.

Fedgrozyme is manufactured by Novatech Vet and Biologicals, which also produces other veterinary and biological products.

According to Sumaoang, Fedgrozyme eliminates the odor of the manure by lessening the ammonia emitted by the manure.

Likewise, the protein that is still present in the manure continues to be degraded by Fedgrozyme microbial activity.

Fedgrozyme is actually a stabilized source of potent enzyme of microbial origin for animal use, and contains immobilized biological microorganisms, organic acids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phospholipids.

Making CRH is easy. In a dry and level area, make a fire and cover it with an open type carbonizer. Put 12-14 sacks of rice hull around the carbonizer until the mound reaches the chimney at about 1 meter high.

After 20-30 minutes, use a long-handled shovel to over-turn the mound and move the rice hull from below to the top of the burning mound. When the rice hull turns black, water is sprinkled to extinguish the fire to avoid over-burning that would turn the rice into ash.(PNA)

Military asks CHR to step into NPA use of children as human shields
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Aug 5 (PNA) –- The Philippine Army (PA) is “inviting” the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and all other groups advocating human rights to step into the reported use of children by the New People’s Army (NPA) as human shields during a recent clash with soldiers in Camarines Sur.

“Placing children on the firing line is a grave human rights violation more so that it was done for the purpose of using them as human shields like what the communist rebels did in a recent encounter with soldiers in Lupi, Camarines Sur,” Maj. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan, commander of the PA’s 9th Infantry Division based at Camp Elias Angeles here said on Thursday.

The CHR and all the other human rights groups working in the Philippine and keeping their eyes on the insurgency war should come forward into this matter so that once and for all, this conduct of the New People’s Army (NPA) in carrying out their terroristic activities is checked and prevented in the near future, Pabustan said.

“Perhaps, the left-leaning Task Force Karapatan that has been very vocal in condemning alleged human rights violations of the military should also look into this and at least in a ‘very brotherly’ manner, scold the NPA for that inhuman act,” he said.

In a report submitted to Pabustan, 1st Lt. Michael Castro, team leader of a PA contingent that figured in a clash with a band of NPA guerillas in Tible, a remote barrio of Lupi town last July 29 said the rebels used seven children including a three-month old infant to cover themselves from the assault initiated by the soldiers.

In his report, Castro said he and his team, acting on a tip by civilians about the presence of heavily armed rebels in the area conducted security operations and encountered the five-man guerilla band led by Sonny Custodio alias Ka Malik of the NPA-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)- National Democratic Front’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya 73.

The rebels who were resting while waiting to be served with food by the occupants of the nipa hut they took shelter at were caught by surprise and fired at the soldiers despite being warned to surrender triggering a 30-minute firefight, Castro said.

The first volley of gunfire unleashed by the soldiers killed Custodio on th spot while his four companions continued engaging the soldiers who were forced to cease firing on noticing the presence of children inside the house where the remaining rebels positioned themselves, he said.

At the middle of the violent engagement, one of the rebels grabbed two of the children and used them as body shield as he retreated towards the nearby woods. He was firing his gun while retreating and holding the soldiers at bay, Castro narrated in his report.

The rebel was able to escape leaving behind his three companions who continued hold hostage the five other children inside the house, he continued.

Following a brief negotiation however and after assurance that they will not be hurt, the three gave up and came out of the house holding their rifles up in the air.

“After securing the place, we carefully entered the house and found the children and their mother all surnamed Saporco safe and unhurt. At that point, we were relieved of the worries about the safety of the children and all the other civilian occupants of the house,” Castro said.

The two children aged seven and five taken as human shields by the rebel who escaped were recovered unhurt not far from the house. They were freed by their hostage taker after making it sure that he was not being pursued by the soldiers.

Castro said he decided to allow the escape of the other rebel as he gave preference to the safety of the two children.

He identified the three rebels who surrendered as Edwin Saporco, 40, Eduelo Alpore alias Ka Brix and Allan Llagas alias Ka Mark. They yielded three US-made M-16 armalite rifles and ammunitions. An M-14 assault rifle used by Custodio was also recovered.

Follow up operations conducted by another PA team led by 1st Lt. Rey Canlobo a day after the encounter led to the discovery of a cache of firearms hidden under the ground by the rebels in a nearby place in Barangay Tible, Pabustan said.

One of the three NPAs captured during the encounter guided the soldiers into the site where the arms cache composed of five cal. 5.56mm rifles, five M16 A1 assault rifles, two Cal.45 Thompson submachineguns and a cal 5.56mm Ultimax Squad light machinegun were buried, the PA commander said.

He added that the three captured rebels have been turned over to the Lupi municipal station of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for questioning and detention while criminal charges that could be filed by the government against them were being readied, Castro said.

Pabustan said he is also furnishing the CHR information about the hostage-taking and use of children as human shields by the rebels during the encounter. “It would be up to them if they would investigate to establish the human rights violation committed by the NPAs,” he said.

“For me and for the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, I condemn the act as the use of human shields is another case of blatant violation of the human rights provisions perpetrated by the NPA terrorist rebels. I hope that the human rights groups will be enlightened about this sad reality," said Pabustan.

The international human rights law protects a person be he a prisoner of war or a civilian from being used as human shield to deter attacks on combatants and military objectives, he said.

Perhaps, CHR officer-in-charge Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing or whoever would be appointed by President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino to head the Commission to replace now Justice Sec. Leila De Lima could take a closer look at this case and all other similar cases of human shield-taking being applied by the NPA in pursuing their violent anti-government activities, Pabustan added.

The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP-NDF has been waging an armed insurgency war for the last four decades in an effort to topple the government and establish a Marxist-Leninist form of government.

The conflict had already victimized thousands of lives from both the sides of the government and the rebels as well as civilians mostly in countryside villages who were either caught in crossfires or liquidated for various reasons, Pabustan said.

The deterioration of the peace and order situation in areas affected by this conflict had also resulted to the slowing down of the local economy burying the community into deeper poverty and life anxiety, he said adding that he welcome the offer of peace to the rebels made by Pres. Aquino during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week. (PNA)

Naga to acquire P4-M corn post-harvest processing center
By Jason B. Neola

NAGA CITY, Aug. 5 (PNA) --- The city government here asks the Department of Agriculture to grant the city’s corn farmers one Village-type Corn Post-Harvest Processing Center to help the farmers reduce their post harvest losses during rainy season.

In its one-page resolution, the Sangguniang Panlungsod informed Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala that the corn farmers were being drawn into deeper penury due to the wet climate, thus giving them difficulties to attain even the P13 per kilo support price of the National Food Authority (NFA).

“Such a price is only possible at 14% moisture content which is difficult to attain in the predominantly wet climate of the city by farmers relying mainly on concrete pavements to dry their harvest given the absence of mechanical dryers,” the resolution said.

City Councilor Salvador del Castillo, a farmer, said the situation compels many corn farmers to sell [their products] at a loss just to have money for them to start [planting] all over again.

In his letter to Sangguniang Panlungsod, Mayor John G. Bongat said the Village-type Corn Post-Harvest Processing Center with complete facilities such as corn cob dryer, corn sheller and a re-circulating dryer worth P3M will be used by corn farmers in the city and neighboring corn cluster areas.

A counterpart funding from the city government of Naga in the amount of P1 million will be released for the construction of a building to house the facility and the installation of three-phase electrical connection to power the equipment and related appurtenances.

Naga is one of the corn cluster areas in Camarines Sur with some 470 hectares of its agricultural land devoted to corn crops tilled by about 395 small farmers with an average harvest of 80 tons per hectare.

The city is adjacent to other corn cluster municipalities in the province such as Bombon, Magarao, Calabanga, Camaligan and Pili, all of which have direct access to the city and between them have over 2,000 hectares of corn areas.

Bongat said the national government’s corn program aims to alleviate poverty among farmers and attain corn self-sufficiency.

Farmers at their average yield of four tons per hectare need to sell their corn at no lower than P13 a kilo, the support price of NFA, in order to attain such objectives.

The processing center will be set up at the Naga City Nursery, which is strategically located in Barangay Pacol and accessible even to farmers coming from nearby towns of Bombon, Magarao, Calabanga, Pili and Camaligan corn clusters.

Bongat said that the project would benefit the corn farmers who for many years were, and still are, at the mercy of influential traders which pull down prices during bumper harvests, and raises them only when farmers were ready to sell.

“With this facility, which can dry corn to 14% moisture content, our farmers can avail of the NFA support price for corn when the market is depressed, and return to the open market when prices improve,” the city mayor said. (PNA)

Researcher suggests drip irrigation in farms to combat water shortage, climate change
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug 3 (PNA) – A researcher of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) has affirmed the efficiency of drip irrigation as a water-saving technology for agriculture to address the irrigation problem particularly in areas where water is a limiting factor.

Drip irrigation, also known as trickle or micro-irrigation is a method that involves the delivery of water through a pipe distribution network under low pressure and works by applying water slowly and directly to the soil.

A statement released here over the week by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said a research conducted by Dr. Victor Ella of the College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology (CEAT) of the UPLB shows drip irrigation as the most efficient method of irrigating crops.

Water soaks into the soil before it can evaporate or run off and second, water is applied only where it is needed most, Ella said as he enumerate the advantage of drip irrigation.

The research was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to find low-cost drip irrigation technology for sustainable vegetable agro-forestry system in the Philippines.

In his report to the BAR, Ella said drip irrigation has many advantages being adaptable to any crop, soil and topographic conditions, useable even with limited water supply and capable of providing relatively high water use efficiency.

Drip irrigation system is easy to install and operate and can reduce the incidence of leaf diseases caused by direct water contact on some plants. Drip irrigation can also facilitate liquid fertilizer application through fertigation or to fertilize or irrigate at the same time according to Ella.

He also emphasized the applicability of drip irrigation systems even for upland vegetable production areas in the Philippines.

As a matter of fact, Ella said field experiments conducted in Lantapan, Bukidnon, through the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (SANREM) research program showed that the crops irrigated with drip irrigation system gave significantly higher yield than the rainfed crops, given that the same production inputs were applied for both treatments.

For instance, the average yield of cabbage and tomato under drip irrigation system is 4.45 and 4.78 kilograms per square meter, respectively, compared to the average yield of the same crop at 3.38 and 3.93 kilogram per square meter under rainfed conditions. Drip irrigation also resulted in relatively higher plant height and larger sizes of produce, Ella explained.

Although the technology has been introduced to farmers in Bukidnon, Ella said that further research and continuous development of this technology is needed to maximize its potential.

Throught the BAR, he appealed to the government and non-government organizations for necessary institutional and financial support for further improvement and development of the technology.

He also recommended that this technology be considered as part of the food security and poverty alleviation program for farmers as well as part of climate change program of the government in the country.

Aside from the alarming issues of climate change, studies show that the demand for freshwater is increasing globally because of the needs of a growing population and associated urbanization that accelerates water consumption for drinking and other household uses as well as for urban and industrial uses.

However, the agriculture sector is still considered the biggest user of freshwater resource in most developing countries, including the Philippines.

With this drip irrigation technology, Ella said the country’s agricultural sector could reduce its dependence to conventional irrigation systems, such as channel irrigation and wild flooding that tend to waste water as large quantities are supplied to the field in one go, most of which just flows over the crop and run away without being taken up by the plants.

Micro irrigation he said is an approach to irrigation that keeps the water demand to a minimum. “It works so that water goes straight to the roots of the plants,” he stressed.

This technology however is aimed at the production of vegetable and horticultural crops only and not designed to irrigate cereals. To obtain benefits from drip irrigation, users need sustained technical and agronomic training and support, he added.

Typically, these commercial irrigation systems consist of a surface or buried pipe distribution network using emitters supplying water directly to the soil at regular intervals along the pipework. They can be permanent or portable.

Many parts of the world are now already using micro irrigation technology. Ella said the systems used by large commercial companies are generally quite complex with an emphasis on reducing the amount of labor involved.

On the other hand, small-scale farmers in developing countries have been reluctant to take up micro irrigation methods due to the initial investment required for the equipment.

Thus, the USAID, Ella said looked for ways to simplify and reduce the cost of micro-irrigation resulting in the approaches of drip system which he made research on.

Drip irrigation uses low-cost plastic pipes laid on the ground to irrigate vegetables, field crops and orchards. This technology was developed in the 1960s for commercial use. A US firm called Chapin Watermatics developed a low-cost system called bucket kits which use standard plastic buckets and lengths of hose that could be cut to the appropriate lengths.

Small holes in the hose allow water to drip out and keep the base of the plant wet without wasting any water.

The kits are low-cost, easy to assemble and manage. They do not need high quality water, provided the water is filtered.

A prototype of the system includes a 20-liter bucket with 30 meters of hose or drip tape connected to the bottom. The bucket is placed at least one meter above the ground so that gravity provides sufficient water pressure to ensure even watering for the entire crop.

Water is poured into the bucket twice daily and passes through a filter, fills the drip tape and is evenly distributed to 100 watering points. The multi-chambered plastic drip tape is engineered to dispense water through openings spaced at 30 centimeters.

Two bucket kits costing around P100 will produce enough vegetables for a family of seven and can last over five years. The system is most suited to kitchen gardens. (PNA)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

LIGAO CITY, Aug. 03 (PNA)---- Dental Mission doctor from 9ID together with Major. Narsan Obuyes. (Photo Courtesy of Connie B. Destura)
Abigail Rafaela foundation and Children World Aid Program Inc. distributes free toothbrush as part of the Medical and Dental Mission of 2IB in Ligao City Albay.
(Photo Courtesy of Connie B. Destura)
Medical and Dental Team of 2IB after it's successful mission on Sunday, together with CO Lt. Col. John Oberio (center) Major Narsan Obuyes (5th from the center to the left) Lt. Alexander Sazon (center from the front) and other volunteers. (Photo courtesy of Connie B. Destura)
Consulting doctor in uniform from 9ID, PA with Aling Rosario of Brgy. Tula-Tula, this city. (Photo courtesy of Connie B. Destura)

Medical and Dental Mission of 2IB,PA.

LIGAO CITY, Aug. 03 (PNA)----To start the medical and dental mission Commanding Officer Lt. Col. John Oberio claims one of the services offered by the team. As he smile for his normal blood pressure 110/90.(Photo courtesy of Connie B. Destura)

Bicol: One of the fastest moving growth area in RP

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- Fuelled by investment output in the field of energy, mining, tourism and agriculture, Bicol’s economy is moving in a accelerated pace -- making the region among the fastest growing regions in the country, the Regional Development Council (RDC) said on Thursday.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, concurrent RDC chair, said Bicol, erstwhile fourth poorest region in the country now appears to have seized the title of fastest growing regional economy in 2009, based on growth indicators and feedback from local businessmen.

Salceda, a former Arroyo economic adviser, estimated that the 2009 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of Bicol posted an 8.5 percent increase versus the national 1.1 percent real GDP.

In nominal terms, Bicol probably grew by 12.7 percent to P215 billion as compared to 3.7 percent for the entire country.

He revealed that among the six provinces, Albay, whose annual output in 2009 is estimated at P85 billion is leading the growth in regional output, principally driven by the increased output of Tiwi geothermal and full production at LG mining operations in Rapu-rapu, as compared to its sporadic operations in 2008.

Albay accounted for almost 48.7 percent of total industrial gross value-added of the entire region.

Another driver was the tourism surge given the combination of Camarines Sur CWC and Sorsogon Donsol Butanding interaction.

Agricultural growth also made way with Albay submitting the best performance in FIELDS in 2009 at plus 18.3 percent growth in rice harvest, despite the El Nino, and, Masbate, also experiencing bumper harvest.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) tax collection performance report of 29 percent growth in Bicol tax collections in first half of 2010 versus 12.2 percent nationally, strongly imply that, for the second year in a row, Region V is sure to retain its bragging right as the fastest growing economy of the Philippines.

According to Salceda he is proud of Albay accounting for 39.89 percent of the total BIR take during the period.

Moreover, Salceda earlier reported that Albay's electricity sales volume of local distribution utility Aleco have spiked by 27.5 percent in May and averaging 17 percent in the first five months of 2010.

On the other hand, in hydropower supply reductions, Aboitiz production at Tiwi has further increased, although Bacman contribution remains zero for the third year in a row.

Salceda said copra production increased, boosting local trade due to strong copra prices and robust output. This is at the back of the two major coco oil mills, Legazpi Oil, producing 300 metric tons per day and Global, also producing 300 mt/day.

Tourism also got another boost from Misibis and Embarcadero plus Magayon Festival, gaining market attraction on its third year.

Another demand booster would be the initial full implementation of AHECS universal college access worth P120 million on top of the regular P37 million scholarship subsidy.

Before AHECS, college enrollment has increased by 15 percent and college graduation rate by 34 percent.

Also to kick demand is the initial 5,000 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which would add another P84 million on an annualized basis to local liquidity.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, once fully implemented, would boost local consumption by P756 million, assuming the government targets the 45,000 families of school-age kids not in school.

Another critical factor to sustain Bicol's growth, given its natural advantage in tourism, would be the completion of the Southern International Airport in Daraga, Albay.

Trade would significantly expand if the Bicol Express rail transport would be fully restored and, better still, extended to Matnog, Sorsogon. (PNA)

Geothermal concepts integrated in school curriculum in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) - In support of its efforts to expand the use and development of renewable energy resources in the Philippines, Chevron Geothermal Philippines Holdings, Inc. (CGPHI) has been promoting the stewardship of geothermal energy resources among the youth in public schools.

CGPHI hopes to accomplish this objective with the curriculum integration of geothermal energy concepts in public elementary and secondary schools in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) in Albay, Aquinas University of Legaspi and Aquinas University Foundation.

Initially launched in Cale Elementary School, Biyong Elementary School, and Naga National High School in Tiwi, Albay, the pilot Geothermal Education (GeoEd) project aims to educate and foster a deeper appreciation for clean energy sources among students.

The three-year GeoEd project applies the education concept of integrated curriculum webbing. Geothermal concepts like heat energy, steam production, geothermal process, health, safety, security, and environment have been integrated into basic education subjects like Math, Science, English, and Filipino.

Under the supervision of DepEd’s core curriculum writers, Aquinas University Education Department and CGPHI technical staff, GeoEd lesson exemplars were developed, critiqued and finalized in a series of workshops in May 2010.

Pre-testing began this June; thereafter the lesson exemplars will be evaluated and adjusted through a series of workshops by the third quarter of this year. Target date of roll-out in other schools in Tiwi town and the province is 2013.

Through the GeoEd curriculum, the project partners hope to instill energy efficiency and environmental consciousness among the Filipino youth.

Chevron is one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide.

The company's success is driven by the ingenuity and commitment of its employees and their application of the most innovative technologies in the world.

Chevron is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry. The company explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and other energy products; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels. (PNA)

Army worms attack 50 hectares of ricelands in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29, (PNA) -- At least 50 hectares of ricelands, including vegetable crops, have been infested by army worms, prompting the Albay Provincial Agriculture Office to carry out contingency measure to prevent the spread of infestation in neighboring villages.

Ruben Limos, provincial agriculturist, said some 50 hectares of riceland tilled by 16 farmers in Barangay Miti in Camalig was attacked by the army worms destroying newly planted rice crops and other vegetables.

The worm infestation, if not stopped, would spread to 1,080 hectares of rice land in said town, he said.

Army worms are also called cutworm, or taro caterpillar is a nocturnal moth larvae that travel in multitudes, destroying any kind of vegetation including grass and grains in their path.

Camalig Mayor Carlos Baldo, asked the PAO to send a team of agriculture technician to assess the extent of damage brought by the worm infestation and undertake mitigating measures to curb the spread of the destructive farm pest.

As this developed, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda directed Limos to make a thorough assessment and institute measures to prevent the further spread of the pest.

Salceda said as soon as a complete assessment is made, a viable cultural and biological control measure be implemeted. And if the incident worsen, undertake massive insecticide spraying.

Limos said his office has made available insecticide for distribution to affected villages and towns once the infestation becomes widespread.

Limos in an interview said Army worms are most destructive during their larva stage and they destroy vegetation during nightime.

He said the control of the worms aside from the use of cultural, biological and insecticide are the cutting of vegetation and digging of shallow ditches.

PAO statistics indicate that the province has a total of 26,496 hectares of riceland.

The army worm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is part of the order of Lepidoptera and is the caterpillar which has a month long life stage before it metamorphosed into a moth.

It is regarded as a pest and can wreak havoc with crops if left to multiply. Its name is derived from its feeding habits. Armyworms will eat everything in an area and once the food supply is exhausted the entire "army" will move to the next available food source.

Army worms are locally known as “arabas” or “harabas,” and “tagustos.” The adult moth has dark purplish brown forewings with numerous spots and light-colored lines. The hind wings are whitish with wingspan of about 30mm.

The army worms live in all rice environment but are serious in upland rice as they need dry soil pupation.

The worms gobble rice plants at night and are usually found in the soil around the base of the plants.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol said reports of Army worm attacks were initially reported in the first district of Batangas, Cavite and Quezon.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has initially ordered the immediate distribution of P900,000 worth of knapsack sprayers and recommended insecticides in coordination with local government officials and agriculture technicians to control the spread of the army worms.(PNA)

2IB to hold medical, dental mission as part of activities to mark 40th anniversary
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, July 28 (PNA) - In preparation for the 40th founding anniversary of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) of Philippine Army on August 1, a medical and dental mission will be facilitated on Saturday, July 31 in the City of Ligao.

In an interview with Major Narsan C. Oboyes of 2IB, he said that estimated beneficiaries of the medical and dental mission will be 200 persons from four barangays within the city.

Services to be given for free include medical consultation, tooth extraction, medicines for adults and children, anti-rabies vaccination and feeding program for 200 malnourished children.

Three of the doctors will be from the Army's 9th Infantry Division and four will be volunteers from the city. Nurses and other community-based volunteers committed their time for the upcoming activity.

The 2IB was activated in 1970 headed by its first Commander Col. Medardo A. Malabanan who undertook the initial task of organizing and equipping the battalion which was then still based in Camp Capinpin, Tanay Rizal.

On July 1, 1971, elements of Bravo Company were sent to Mindanao for combat operations against the Bangsamoro Army (Blackshirts) and elements of an organized crime syndicate (Baracuda). On February 29, 1972, Bravo Company was pulled out from Mindanao and brought back to Luzon.

After the “February People Power Revolution and upon guidance from higher headquarters, the battalion was immediately moved to Bicol region on March 4, 1986 by air and by land transportation and its last elements arrived in Bicol region on March 7, 1986 and established its Tactical Command Post (TCP) in Barangay Matacon, Polangui, Albay on March 10, 1986.

The unit was given as area of responsibility the 3rd District of Albay covering the municipalities of Polangui, Libon and Oas and Nabua, Bato, and Balatan, all of Camarines Sur to include portion of Iriga City.

On January 19, 1990, the unit was transferred from Matacon, Polangui, Albay to Barangay Mabalod-balod, Tigaon, Camarines Sur in order to confront the atrocities staged by the communist terrorists.

On February 3, 1990, the Battalion Headquarters was transferred to Barangay Hiwacloy, Goa, Camarines Sur and returned to address the growing insurgency threats in the area. On April 15, 1991, the unit displaced Barangay Hiwacloy, Goa Camarines Sur and returned to Barangay Matacon, Polangui, Albay.

The unit recorded a total of 18 encounters, nine raids and two apprehensions from January 1, 2003 to June 31, 2004. Through massive combat operations, the unit recovered 25 high powered firearms and 23 low powered firearms and this resulted in the killing of 16 enemies.

From January to 31 December 2005, the unit recorded a total of 17 encounters, 10 raids, apprehension of 10 rebels and capture of 10 others. The unit through massive combat operations recovered 11 high powered firearms, five low powered firearms and also the recovery of two motorcycles and the neutralization/killing of two enemies

The current leadership of 2IB under Lt. Col John V. Oberio maintained the effectiveness of personnel bringing it to another round of victorious events in terms of triad operations and asserting the credibility of the AFP. (PNA)

DENR nears completion of RP’s geohazard mapping
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 28 (PNA) – It’s six more provinces to go and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would be wrapping up its Geohazard Mapping and Assessment Project (GMAP).

The GMAP would identify disaster-prone areas in the country as it helps chart a future with renewed national interest in geology as a science and as a career that would open new work opportunities for geology enthusiasts and other scientists with focus on the environment, Alfredo Araya, spokesman of the DENR regional office for Bicol based in Legazpi City said on Wednesday.

And when it is completed as expected soon, a master file for the entire Philippine archipelago which identifies areas that are prone to geological hazards such as landslides, floods, and tsunamis will be available for practical use at the local government level and for Philippine businesses as well as citizens in general.

GMAP, a 12-month program which was started this year is being implemented by the DENR-MGB in collaboration covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with a funding of P3.5 million.

With one of the world's longest coastlines and archipelagic features, the Philippines is naturally prone to geological hazards. Coastal areas are especially prone to coastal erosion, storm surges and sea level rise. Under the, coastal areas spanning 2,385 kilometers and 160 municipalities were also surveyed, Araya said.

The DENR and MGB believe that identifying such areas will reduce the loss of lives and properties brought about by natural disasters.

Araya explained that the program was designed not just to anticipate disasters but also to help people adapt to the geologic effects of climate change.

He said that climate change has also affected the severity and frequency of natural disasters.

In recent years, many have suffered and lost their properties and loved ones because of sudden landslides and floods. Suffering resulting from these tragedies could have been avoided if people had been warned earlier, Araya said .

GMAP, he explained, makes use of remote sensing studies to identify features that could indicate unstable areas or impending physical events. These remote sensing studies use air photographs, LandSat and Earth Resources Technology Satellite (ERTS). Radar images are used as well.

Data are also gathered through field surveys by geologists from MGB. These are stored, processed and managed under a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) platform. Information based on geographic location can be captured, stored and retrieved using the GIS platform. GIS can also be used for displaying information in form of layers of digital maps, Araya said.

The digital version of the geohazard maps, once completed, will be similar to the satellite imagery provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The map will contain various layers of images outlining the Philippines’ topographical, geological and coastal features.

Araya said that with the information becoming accessible, people will find out for themselves, with the help of experts and scientists, whether or not they are in affected areas, and whether they need to adapt to these geographic features to avert disastrous results.

“Time is truly of the essence in disaster management. MGB has been given up to the end of this year to complete the digital versions of the maps,” MGB-Bicol regional director Reynulfo Juan said.

MGB so far has successfully assessed 1,486 municipalities and cities out of a total of 1,618, completing 91.2 percent and aside from having assessed 73 out of 79 Philippine provinces, the bureau has also digitized 47 percent of the assessed output, Juan said.

“We were informed by the EMB central office that some provinces have not yet been assessed as of last week either due to unstable peace and situation or difficult terrain," Juan said.

He said areas still up for completion are provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), portions of Samar and Negros Occidental and other provinces whose geohazard assessments have yet to be completed.

With geohazard maps, local government units would be more equipped in helping their constituents prepare for possible disasters. Information gleaned from the maps will be incorporated into their Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).

The DENR and MGB are also working with various government agencies through the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in identifying possible relocation areas for calamity-affected families.

To educate citizens on geohazards, municipality and city-wide workshops on the results of the program will be held. Information materials will also be distributed in schools, barangay halls and other public places, Juan said.

“Knowing whether or not home and other properties stand on a disaster-prone area can save people a lot of money and heartache. The DENR believes that with proper use of information and planning, tragedies can be avoided,” Araya added.

The DENR-DSWD agreement provides that the former 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.

According to Juan, volcanic eruptions, landslides, flooding and other geo-hazards are common in the Bicol and the project will help residents prepare and cope with these disasters.

On the part of the region, he said, 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. (PNA)

Suspected rebel hit-men kills two people in CamSur

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -- Unidentified gunmen shot dead the other day two people inside a videoke bar in Lupi town in Camarines Sur, belated reports reaching Camp Simeon Ola on Tuesday said.

The report identified the victims as Ruben Idanan and Vicente Dulison, natives of Lupi town.

SPO2 Alexie Virata said at least three identified assailants stormed at around 10 a.m over the weekend Merly’s bar a videoke joint in Brgy. Mamalao in Lupi town and shot to death the two victims.

Virata said both victims sustained multiple gunshot wounds from a Caliber .45 pistol that killed them instantly.

Virata also said that Dulison was a former member of the Sta Rosa, Laguna police force but was dismissed from the service in 2005.

He said that initial investigation revealed that the victims did not have any known enemies in the area.

The report said that thorough investigation is on now going on.

Military authorities hinted that the communist movement is behind the killing of the two civilians.

Army Maj. Harold Cabunoc, Army Bicol spokesman, said the insurgents have so far killed at least five innocent civilians this year alone "for alleged crimes against the masses.” (PNA)

Construction of Catanduanes Doppler weather radar system on

BARAS, Catanduanes, July 26 (PNA) – Japanese contractors have started works here on the establishment of a Doppler Radar System designed to provide the state weather bureau a modern forecasting network that would boost preparedness and response capability among local disaster management authorities.

The constructions are being undertaken in Barangay Buenavista of this coastal town some 30 kilometers east of the capital town of Virac by Shimizu Corporation and its Filipino counterpart F.F. Cruz Construction Company, Eufronio Garcia, the local chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

The construction contract, Garcia said, officially took effect last July 12 and would be terminated after one year when the project is expected to be completed.

The Catanduanes weather instrument called Doppler Radar System equipped with the latest Japanese technology is part of the P1.6-billion forecasting system intended to replace the antiquated instruments still being used by PAGASA.

Its funding comes from a grant by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) worth a total of P1.6 billion that would also establish two similar facilities in Aparri, Cagayan and Guian, Eastern Samar. All the three projects are expected to be finished and made operational by September 2012.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, chair of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC), said the weather equipment is one of the biggest technological boosts to disaster preparedness and response capability of various disaster management councils in the region.

He said the PAGASA Doppler radars would allow for more advance warning on the strength, direction and rainfall content of approaching meteorological events.

Using its present setup, PAGASA is able only to provide warnings on wind strength and relies on conventional gauges for its rainfall volume detection. Forecasting typhoon directions is based only on tracking that sometimes becomes a “guessing game”, resulting in false warnings, the latest of which in the case of typhoon Basyang.

The Doppler radars are state-of-the-art technology which have four major components - meteorological radar system; meteorological data display system; meteorological data satellite communications system, Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and a radar building.

Modern Doppler radars for weather forecasting use the pulse-Doppler method to observe the motion of precipitations, estimate its type whether it is snow, rain or hail and forecast its future position and intensity.

This is done by transmitting radar signals and receiving them when it bounces back. Computers analyze the strength of the returned pulse, time it took to travel to the object and back, and phase shift the pulse.

This process takes place at about 1300 times every second. In the case the transmitted signal encounters an obstacle, like raindrops, a small part of the signal goes back to the antenna. The speed of the raindrop can even be measured. This effect was named after the Austrian physicist, Christian Doppler, who discovered it.

Doppler radar installations can produce different types of radar images for different analyses. They include base reflectivity, composite reflectivity, one-hour precipitation, and storm signal precipitation. The Doppler radar installation includes the pedestal, the transmitter, the received and the associated computer systems.

Doppler radars are also used by the aviation sector, where aircraft applications include weather radar, collision avoidance, target tracking, ground proximity, and other systems.

The Catanduanes radar system and other of accompanying sophisticated instruments would be housed in an eight-storey concrete tower at a highly elevated site overlooking Puraran Beach that is famous for its surf break called “The Majestics”.

The area featuring a beach cove with long barrel perfect waves was said to be discovered by an Australian surfer in the 1970s and since then became a favorite site for international surfing competitions.

The new Doppler radar, Garcia said has a low maintenance system with its transmitter lasting for 15 years unlike the old instruments in Subic and Tagaytay that require replacements every year costing Pagasa almost P350 million yearly.

The Doppler radar system with a range of 200 kilometers could detect rainfall before they fall, giving disaster authorities more accurate information and more lead time to anticipate.

Salceda said since the Doppler radar would be installed in Catanduanes, it will give disaster authorities in the mainland 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" and "Milenyo" typhoons in 2006 and accelerated by the Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. He said Bicol has been vigorously advocating for this weather equipment and PAGASA got the right place for it that is Catanduanes, the island with the longest wet season and considered gateway in eastern Philippines of typhoons.

Once in place, Salceda said the agency will be able to provide "faster and more accurate" weather updates.

He said the radar upgrades and acquisition of new radar facilities will complement PAGASA’s program on the full automation of its monitoring, evaluation and dissemination processes.

At the moment, PAGASA can provide weather bulletins only at six-hour intervals but once the radars and automated systems are fully operational, the agency will be able to perform at par with three-hourly bulletins of its Japanese counterpart.

This new Doppler radar system, is a result of a project proposal submitted to the JICA by PAGASA way back in 2006 to replace its existing network of weather surveillance radars acquired and installed about 20 years ago that have exceeded their life span and some parts already defective, Garcia said. (PNA)

P-Noy's SONA to set the phase in achieving RP's economic goal

LEGAZPI CITY, July 26 (PNA) -- President Benigno Aquino III's effective governance would set the phase in achieving the national vision in addressing debt reliefs, balance budget, corruption, poverty and economic growth.

This was the expectation laid down by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda in P-Noy’s first State of the Nation Address at the opening of the 15th Congress this Monday.

Salceda views Aquino’s SONA to set benchmarks for his national vision, goals and strategic thrusts by setting certain record straight on the country’s national debt, budget balance. This should provide the basis for the “shock-and-awe truth-telling exercises.”

“Before you ask the people to follow where P-Noy will lead the nation, he must tell them he knows where they are right now,” he said.

Aquino is expected to increase state capacity through efficient governance especially in revenue collection and administrative reforms. However, in pursuing the goal, no new taxes would be introduced except on sin products.

President Aquino should bring back investors' confidence to attain a higher track of growth of 7-8% in gross domestic product (GDP) through higher domestic private investments and quality public capital outlays and some foreign investments.

Job creation, and the full implementation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) coverage would lift the current 4.6 million poor families he inherited in 2010.

Salceda said this program would bring down poverty incidence from the current 29.7% to 14.8% by 2016.

Substantial increase in the education budget is likely to eliminate education backlogs in teachers, textbooks and classrooms in the first three years thus achieving Education for All (EFA).

The Aquino administration should set aside P1.5 billion per year for teacher training for the 598,782 teachers (405,558 ES an 193,224 HS) whose skills, knowledge and values surely need enhancement.

Automatic Philhealth coverage to 4.6 million poor families, and a P10 billion budget for the Department of Health (DOH) to maintain and upgrade provincial hospitals and rural health stations across the country.

Agrarian reform

Consummate the asset reform program by converting the 74% Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) into full titles; condonation of the P42-billion agrarian liabilities and lift the Landbank liens; full subsidy to farmer acquisition of the remaining 1.4 million hectares and full resolution of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. within President Aquino's first year term.

Review the implementation of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and lower cost of electricity by increasing new investments and heightening competition in the energy sector.

This should be targeted to support the growth of tourism and countryside development such as transportation infra and rural access roads.

With Robredo at DILG helm, P-Noy would seek the collaboration of local government units as well as communities in enforcing governance and in participating in his socioeconomic initiatives.

Consider DENR's position on alternative mining. Strictly enforce measures on Clean Air and Clean Water provisions.

Aquino inherited a population of 94 million and this would grow to 104 million by 2016, that would still be 15.42 million poor people or 3.0252 million families by 2016.

The President should clarify his position on reproductive health. But a statement on the nexus between big family size and chronic poverty should at least be considered. (PNA)

Albay tops in tax collection; emerges as investment hub in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 26 (PNA) - Albay is emerging as the economic hub in the region as it continuously leads and surpasses its internal revenue collection goal among the six Bicol provinces, the local Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) office said.

BIR report claimed that of the P2.4-billion tax collected for the first semester of this year, P901 million or 37 percent came from Albay, followed by Camarines Sur with P787 million; Camarines Norte – P257 million; Masbate – P197 million; Sorsogon – P180 million and Catanduanes with P103 million.

Lawyer Diosdado Mendoza, BIR regional director, said over the weekend the P2.4-billion tax revenue collected during the first six months of the year was P468 million or 23 percent above the target goal of P1.9 billion.

He said the tax revenues were derived mostly from withholding taxes from fixed income earners, business, professions, and value added tax (VAT).

Mendoza said P1.8 billion in taxes was collected last year, surpassing with P548 million or 29 percent against the 2009 target.

Mendoza said his agency is expected to raise some P4.4 billion this year, and half of the goal had been already achieved by the first half of this year.

Based on tax collection efficiency, Albay was consistent for several years as the leading in tax collection because of the industries and business centers set up here, making the province the rising business and economic center in the region.

Albay Governor Salceda said the province's economy is gaining grounds because of investors' confidence on the province's socio-economic platform that would firmly position the province in the country's economic road map for investment and tourism.

Salceda said the platform has 5 Es which stand for Economy, Education, Environment, Equity and Health. This, he added, would place Albay in the map of the country as trade, investment and tourist center.

“This should carry us into the next sequel of the Albay Saga to be called Albay Boom which should commence once the international airport is completed," the governor said.

Salceda, has committed to "attain development through low-carb, low-energy intensity, low-rise strategies compatible with the regeneration capacity of our environment so that future Albayanos will benefit not pay for the current entitlements."

The notable projects of 5 Es include, among others: the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA), Guicadale Business Platform, National Renewable Energy Program, Barangay Capacity enhancement, 4Pcs, Higher Education Contribution Scheme, Education Quality for Albayano (EQUAL), Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme (AHECS), Bicol University and the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital modernization and the Universal PhilHealth coverage.

Meanwhile, the BIR would intensify tax collection target in Bicol by launching tax campaigns that would run after tax evaders and cheats. Mendoza said they are in pursuit of P320-million worth tax evasion cases involving persons and companies with businesses in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco, Masbate and in Camarines Sur.

To further improve tax revenue generation and monitoring and prosecution of tax cheats, the bureau also launched campaigns such as “Txt-Tax Brigade”; Tax me Not campaign (Knowing the Limitation of Tax Exemption) and “Be inspired with Reward”. (PNA)