Monday, December 20, 2010

Mayon and 'butanding' on P100 bills good for tourism but won’t cushion SLEX toll hike brunt - Salceda

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 20 (PNA) – Bicol regional tourism director Maria Ong-Ravanilla is very jubilant and expecting the newest currency to further rouse potentials for eco-tourism industry of the Bicol region

“The P100 bills featuring ‘Butanding’ (Whale shark) and Mayon Volcano is a very good tool for promotion. We expect that its output is more tourists for Bicol in 2011 onwards,” Ravanilla told the Philippines News Agency.

However, Regional Development Chairman and Albay Governor Joey Salceda told PNA on Monday that featuring them on peso bills is way too far from cushioning the anticipated economic impact to Bicol, of the 250-percent toll fee hike on the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).

Nevertheless, Salceda expressed gratitude to President Benigno Aquino III and the leadership of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). “We are most grateful to the BSP for featuring Mayon Volcano and the butanding in the more prolific currency - P100,” he said.

As early as May, BSP authorities have indicated to Gov Salceda about this positive development. “Surely, it is a big boost to our tourism promotion effort. Thank you to the entire Monetary Board,” Salceda said.

“Relentless efforts to push it in the international tourism community via the new seven wonders of the world, postcards and websites further highlighted by the recent development is so welcome that every Albayano is openly elated about it,” Salceda told the PNA upon learning that the volcano’s picture would be used in a new peso bill design.

“I truly thank the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas chief and am immensely pleased by this development,” he said.

For her part, Dorothy Colle of the Albay Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office said featuring Mayon Volcano on the Philippine currency will be an opportunity to promote the province as well.

She added that local and foreign tourists will become more familiar with where Mayon is and it may boost the province's tourist arrivals of 235,000, a far second to Camarines Sur's roughly one million tourist arrivals in 2009.

"It's a privilege, a testimony that indeed Mayon and Butanding are both premier tourist attractions of the country," Colle said. (PNA)

Friday, December 17, 2010

DoH to field roving sterilization teams in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 16 (PNA) – The Department of Health (DoH) in Bicol is fielding next year itinerant teams that would provide voluntary surgical (VS) sterilization procedures as part of the health department’s intensification of the delivery of family planning (FP) services to make up for its unmet needs in the region.

These roving VS teams are trained in No Scalpel Vasectomy, a permanent family planning method that is superior over the standard technique because it eliminates fear of surgical incision, according to DoH regional director Nestor Santiago Jr.

In a statement Thursday, Santiago said this sterilization technique for males can be performed far more quickly and involves fewer complications.

“This new technique differs from the conventional one in the approach to the vas deferens as the former results in lower complications rate - as seen from the over eight million vasectomies performed worldwide, Santiago said.

Bicol is among the five regions of the country with high unmet need for permanent family planning methods so that apart from bringing VS services nearer to the community, information campaign on FP will also be intensified through the installation of Community-Based Management Information Systems (CBMIS), Santiago said.

The other regions are the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), Eastern Visayas, National Capital Region (NCR) and Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

FP services in Bicol according to Santiago would be intensified even as the region improved its population growth rate from 1.68 percent in 1995-2000 down to 1.23 percent between 2000 and 2007 which was lower than the country’s 2.04 percent growth rate.

Bicol’s total population reached 5,109,798 in 2007 and having the fourth lowest population growth rate among the 17 regions, its share to the country’s total population decreased from 6.3 percent in 1995 to 5.7 percent in 2007, records of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) regional office here said.

Catanduanes has the smallest population, current growth rate, and population density. The population of Camarines Norte was the second lowest, but it grew the fastest at 1.57 percent.

Camarines Sur, the biggest province in terms of land area and population, had a population growth rate of 1.22 percent and population density of 321.6. Albay, the province with the second largest population, was the most densely populated at 466.5, the NEDA records show.

Half of the population was below 19 years old. There were 104 males for every 100 females. Assuming a constant population growth rate of 1.23 percent, Bicol’s population is expected to double in 56 years, it added.

An increasing population, coupled with a high dependency ratio, puts pressure on the household to satisfy basic human needs and compels the government to provide adequate social and economic services. It also strains the capacity of the environment and natural resources to support human activities, according to NEDA regional director Romeo Escandor.

The vicious cycle of poverty has pervaded Bicol for a long time. Taking out the poor from their dismal state has been the aim of most programs and projects but still the number of poor families has been growing over the years, he said.

Past interventions have not been significantly translated into improvements in the quality of life of more than half of the population, Escandor said.

In results, he said Bicolanos have become poorly educated, unproductive and socially indifferent. Their’ capacity to contribute to the economy and sustained development of the region has to be greatly improved as the level and pace of regional development depends on the strength of its human resources.

“The region needs Bicolanos who can ably manage and utilize other resources through their innovative skills. The educational system shall have the primary responsibility to elevate the status of Bicolanos into educated, productive and civic minded citizens,” he aded.

Santiago explained that FP is a health intervention program that is an important tool for the improvement of the health and welfare of mothers, children and other members of the family. “It is a mandated priority public health program towards the attainment of national health development.”

The program, he said is anchored on the basic principle of responsible parenthood which means that each family has the right and duty to determine the desired number of children they might have and when they might have them.

Beyond responsible parenthood is responsible parenting which is the proper upbringing and education of children so that they grow up to be upright, productive and civic-minded citizens.

And because the 1987 Constitution states that the government protects the sanctity of life, the CHD Bicol chief stressed that FP is intended only for birth spacing or interval between pregnancies to enable women to recover their health and improve their potential to be more productive, realize their personal aspirations and allow more time to care for their family.

The CBMIS, according to Santiago would be useful in the generation of demand from the community for VS and other FP services as well as in identification and masterlisting of potential clients in both permanent and temporary FP methods.

While promoting these methods, the CHD, Santiago said will also be involved in the mainstreaming of natural FP in the public and non-government organization (NGO) health facilities.

Under this intensified FP program implementation, the CHD chief said frontline participation of DOH-retained hospitals will be maximized so that VS with emphasis on No Scalpel Vasectomy get more closer to both urban and rural poor communities.

These FP services will also be made part of medical and surgical missions of DoH-retained hospitals while those that are under local government units (LGUs) will serve as VS sites under a partnership that would be formed with the itinerant VS teams, Santiago said.

In the FP services strengthening program, he added that the cove rage of the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) Corporation will be expanded to include health centers and Rural Health Units (RHUs) providing VS services including No Scalpel Vasectomy to undertaken by the itinerant teams.

Birth control pills, injectables and intrauterine device (IUD) will be included in the expansion of PhilHealth benefit package. (PNA)

BU engineers make ‘salabat’ easier to prepare
By Danny O. Calleja

POLANGUI, Albay, Dec. 16 (PNA) -– Four engineers from the research department of the Bicol University (BU) extension campus here have invented a portable machine capable as a multi-purpose post-harvest implement designed to multiply the value of farm produce for higher earnings of the farmers.

The invention is a washer-peeler, juice extractor, crystallizer and a mill rolled into one to be called the multicrop processing machine that also works well as a component of a processing system for the mechanical production of arrowroot starch and flour.

When customized into a washer-peeler, the machine peels outer skin or cleans and removes undesirable debris of ginger rhizome, sweet potato, potato, arrowroot, radish, carrot and other rootcrops.

As a juice extractor, it extracts juice from ginger, lemon grass, pandan leaves, arrowroot, herbal plants, vegetable leaves among other crops while as a crystallizer, it cooks ginger juice to produce powdered ginger tea.

As a micromill on the other hand, the machine dries and grinds product meal of various crops into finer materials suitable for food processing or as flour.

According to Engr. Arnulfo Malinis, leader of the research team that developed the machine the ginger brew, ginger powder, arrowroot starch and flour it produces are of high quality but half cheaper compared to commercially available products of their kinds in the market. He said the crops should be fresh upon processing to obtain the best results.

It can process ginger rhizomes at a rate of 80 kilogram (kg) per hour, pandan leaves at 20 kg per hour, lemongrass leaves at 25 kg per hour and arrowroot tubers at 80 kg per hour. It is powered by a one-horsepower motor and can be attended to by only one operator.

Malinis said the Agricultural Machinery Testing and Evaluation Center of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (AMTEC-UPLB) had recently completed the standards for fabricating and testing of the machine for commercialization.

Funded by the Technology Innovation for Commercialization Program of the Department of Science Technology (DOST) and coordinated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), the project developed and tested standards for four multicrop machines.

The standards have been endorsed to the Bureau of Products and Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Board of Agricultural Engineering Professional Regulation Commission for adoption as National Standards.

The policy would require DA-attached agencies to be guided by the standards in their procurement of machines. Machine manufacturers from the private sector, on the other hand, can use the standards in design and fabrication works.

Malinis said that there are now around 15 units of the crop processing machine sold in Bicol region and nearby provinces. BU has partnered with a local fabricator for the manufacture of the machine that costs P95,000 per unit.

All of those who already have the machine are using it in processing ginger powder which had wide demand in the local market for the preparation of salabat or ginger tea, a refreshing and healthful beverage that is famous not only in the Philippines but more abroad, Malinis said.

Generally, he said the tea is prepared by boiling peeled and sliced ginger that offers spicy and stimulating flavor. “With this multi-purpose machine, it can now be more enjoyed as an instant drink using ginger powder,” he said.

Ginger tea is usually used to prevent colds and to aid digestion, and also as a home remedy for nausea and sore throats. It also has a remedial effect on diarrhea and stomachache due to low body temperature. It is purported to aid blood circulation.

It’s this very fiery characteristic of the ginger root that gives it much of its medicinal properties, both in its dried as well as raw form. The dried ginger root is a thermogenic, expectorant, laxative, appetizer, stimulant, as well as an effective cure for stomach disorders.

Hence, the dried ginger root is ground and used to cure a whole range of ailments like coughs, vomiting, diarrhea, inflammations of the joints, flatulence, motion sickness, colic, cholera, asthma, headaches, and even anorexia. Raw ginger is also a thermogenic and is also an anti-flatulent, digestive, appetizer and a laxative.

Ginger is also used extensively in aromatherapy. An essential oil is extracted from steam distilling the unpeeled, dried and ground ginger root. Ginger oil is used by combining it with the oils of cedar wood, sandalwood, and patchouli, which renders a spicy and woody scent to the mix.

The active ingredients in ginger oil are oleoresin and terpenes, which are responsible for its lymph cleansing, antiseptic, mild constipation relief, and circulation-stimulating qualities. Researchers have shown that ginger reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the liver and blood, thereby lowering blood cholesterol.

It has also been found that ginger blocks the effects of prostaglandin, which is a substance that is responsible for the inflammation of the blood vessels inside the brain, which is what causes migraine.

Ginger’s property of being a digestive aid is largely due to the shogoals and gingerols that it contains. These help to neutralize the acids in the stomach, stimulate the secretion of digestive juices and tone the digestive tract muscles.

According to Chinese culture, its powerful yang energy is what warms the lungs and stomach. Ginger tea has been used in China for 2,500 years to treat sore throat, nasal congestion and sinus pain.

Malinis explained that the development of the machine helps address the need for appropriate agricultural postharvest processing facility in the countryside to enable farmers to raise the value to their crops and sell it at higher prices.

In recognition of its significance as a new technology towards agricultural development, the machine was awarded as one of the Most Outstanding Invention in the 2009 National Invention Contest being initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The awarding was held at the Philippine Trade Training Center in Pasay City last month.

Apart from Malinis, the other members of the research team that developed the equipment were Engrs. Eleanor Balute, Estrella Calpe and Herminigildo Lizano. (PNA)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

PDRRMC CamNorte readies for disaster, calamities

DAET, Camarines Norte, Dec. 16 (PNA) — The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) has approved the plan and the budget for the implementation of programs for disaster preparedness and mitigation in the province.

PDRRMC chairperson Governor Edgardo Tallado said that the council should implement the 10121 known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

He said the province should anticipate calamities that might affect it before the year ends and in preparation for next year.

The plan includes: capability building like trainings in Water Safety and Rescue (WASAR), high angle rescue, road emergency response, outbreak response, search and rescue on collapse structure, basic and advance first aid, fire fighting and salvaging, orientation/seminar on DRR community based information drive and others.

There will be fire and earthquake, tsunami, bombing and hostage-taking drills while competition on disaster and related skills and first aid and basic life support skills as well as the search for the local Kalasag award.

PDRRMC members also agreed for the purchase of equipment, supplies and other related facilities for disaster preparedness and necessary medicines for disaster victims.

The plan also included the construction of warehouse for stocking and pre-positioning, disaster resilient infrastructures and standard evacuation center.

They will also provide financial assistance to accredited community disaster volunteers, insurance and incentive for emergency responders and financial assistance to disaster victims.

The meetings, maintenance and operation as well as the data gathering and profiling included in the plan.

The Council approved the allotted more than 55 million from the five-percent Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Funds for the implementation of the said plan. (PNA)

P-Noy appoints Salceda as Bicol RDC chairman

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) – President Benigno Aquino III has appointed Albay Governor Joey Salceda as chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) to ensure continuity of flagship projects that propel countryside economy counting on major infrastructure, education, basic government services and Disaster Risk Reduction ultimately fulfilling the Millennium Development Goal.

Based on a two-page Onmibus Appointment Letter (list) forwarded by Secretary Cayetano Paderanga of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Salceda leads the maiden list of RDC chiefs appointed by Aquino.

“On behalf of all Bicolanos, I would like to thank P-Noy for the confidence in re-appointing me as RDC chairman of Bicol Region. I humbly accept his challenge to secure economic modernization in prompting real and sustained improvements in the lives of the poor,” Salceda told the Philippine News Agency.

Salceda also was immensely pleased as he counts on the current administration to pursue his dreams for an investor-friendly Albay amidst safety for its people despite the regular typhoons, lahar threats, flash floods, landslides and volcanic eruption because of DRRs that are already in place and are working properly.

One of the flagship projects of Salceda is the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Alobo, Daraga, Albay which is envisioned to decongest traffic at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for overseas Filipino workers and tourists in Bicol, the Eastern and Northern Visayas provinces.

Among others, the appointees were Victor A. Tanko Sr. for Region-6; Agustin Ramon M. Perdices for Region-7; Carlos Jericho L.Petilla for Region-8; Evelyn T. Uy for Region-9; Lawrence LL. Cruz for Region-10; Sara Duterte for Region-11; Darlene Magnolia Antonio-Custodio for Region-12; and Joel Baac for the Cordellera Administrative Region (CAR). (PNA)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eco-waste advocates
LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 15 (PNA)--- DENR Regional Executive Director Joselin Marcus Fragada (left) addresses the local media in press conference hosted by Environmental Management Bureau Regional Director Fernando Quililan (right). Fragada puts emphasis on alternative means to comply with Republic Act 9003 so that local governments can avoid fines and penalties. The DENR through the EMB will provide technical and other capability assistance and support to the LGUs.(PNA)

Albay turns to camote amid high rice price

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14(PNA) -- Albay is widely infested by rice back bugs, threatening productivity side-by-side escalating prices within the next few months, but farmers are not afraid for as long as this pesky insects don’t mind Albay’s second staple food-camote (sweet potato)

Albay Agriculture Rehabilitation Officer Jojo Elvira told this writer that governor Joey Salceda is cultivating ties with Japanese investors and scientists to bolster marker for both food consumption, winery and industrial use of camote.

“It is a popular plant that saves Albayanos dring past crises especially during the height of rice hoarding and natural shortage from calamities,” Elvira said.

Camote is a popular plant grown in the countryside which is edible both the nutritious leaves and fiber-rich root bulbs.

“Camote scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas, has been Albay’s second staple food, as well as a good source of income of local farmers here, and it has a huge potential for industrial-scale of planting and propagation,” Salceda told this writer Monday.

The Nutrition communication Network (Nutricomnet) here has also revealed that Camote contains more vitamin C than apple, based on the thorough research of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Camote is also rich in protein and potassium, while the yellow flesh variety camote is rich in vitamin A.

Considered as vegetable and staple emergency (secondary) staple food especially during lean months and typhoon seasons Elvira said that a group of Japanese businessmen along with scientists involved in wine manufacturing have visited several camote farmers in San Antonio village Tabaco City to look into the plantation and manner of harvesting method.

Once belittled by some people, Camote’s potential hay yet to be harnessed and its export can generate huge income for even the small farmers as it easily grows alone, can be intercropped with other vegetables.

“It even doesn’t bother farmers during typhoons because they are not affected by wind as they grown flat on the ground and can grown upland without the need for irrigation during its growth period and can grown anytime of the year for a minimal 30 – 50 cm annual rainfall rate.

Albay consumes 310,000 metric tons of rice but can only produce 150,000 metric tons, thus camote as a second option has been an adaptation practice among upland farmers here.

Aside from the Japanese, Korean wine makers also showed interest and keen look at how Albay farmers grow camote without use of chemicals and have discovered promising varieties such as the ‘tres colores’ and the orange-colored camote for fries.

With this, Salceda also instructed Elvira of Agri-rehab office work closely with Clarita Lapus of Mama Sita for them to develop camote-based products.

Elvira said that the Kirishima Shuzou Co., Ltd., one of the leading alcohol beverage makers in Japan operating for over 90 years personally visited Albay to look closely the manner of camote plantation and harvesting system.

With this, Albay province is positioning to be the largest producer and exporter of camote.

With Albay as the country’s top camote producer, the Philippines ranks eighth in terms of sweet potato production worldwide next to China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Uganda, India, Japan and Rwanda.

Solutions are being put in place, according to Elvira to free farmers and producers from low productivity because of inefficient production and low adoption of technology.

Camote development must also hurdle past the usual pests and diseases, limited sources of planting materials for large-scale and intensive production system, inadequate post harvest facilities, tools equipment and lack of farm-to-market linkages.

“These are the things we are working on now,” Elvira explained. (PNA)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Scientist says PHL’s coconut lands help ease climate change
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) – The Philippines can cash in on its extensive coconut plantations as carbon emission reduction credits from industrialized countries based on the provisions of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, according to a government scientist.

That is feasible given the fact that the country’s vast coconut lands make the Philippines one of the tropical countries with high potential to ease climate change, Dr. Severino Magat, the Extension Department manager of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said.

In his review and advisory notes entitled "Productive and Sustainable Coconut Farming Ecosystems as Potential Carbon Sinks” in Climate-Change Minimization, Magat outlined the important role of the coconut lands against the negative impacts of climate change.

Magat said the review, copy of which obtained by the PNA over the weekend, was initiated to present a better understanding of the past events and current developments in coconut production research and practices done in the country and elsewhere that were associated with climate change.

Like forest lands, the country’s expansive coconut plantations of about 3.2 million hectares, with at least 325 million fruit-bearing trees, could be developed for income generating carbon sequestration projects and carbon credit market.

Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate-Change (UNFCCC), industrialized countries have committed to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other green house gases or engage on emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of their gases.

In the Clean Development Mechanism of this protocol, they can meet part of their target in reducing CO2 emission to the 1990 levels over a five-year period (2008-2012) by purchasing emission reduction credits from developing countries like the Philippines in the form of planted forest, which is achievable in the country due to its vast tracts of open land for the establishments of plantations, Magat said.

The coconut tree, a woody perennial with single main stem meets the Food and Agriculture (FAO) criteria of “forest” while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already included coconut as a reforestation crop through Administrative Order No. 2005-25 effective Nov. 17, 2005.

Generally, climate change is widely blamed for the global warming, unpredictable rainfall patterns, floods and droughts that impact on food security and agricultural productivity affecting the capacity of a country to feed its people and generate adequate quantity and acceptable quality of crops.

As agriculture is both a cause and victim of climate-change, the solution depends on selecting the best agriculture or farming practices to provide the cost-effective agricultural production system with minimum adverse effects on the environment, particularly its resultant climate, Magat said.

He noted that the coconut plantations or farm ecosystems could be used in many ways to capture carbon in the crop-soil system such as substitution of fossil fuel using biodiesel or biomass from coconut oil; sequestration of carbon in coconut plantation, mono-crop or with intercrops; enhancing carbon sequestration through coconut plantation management; and conserving carbon sink in coconut farms.

He said that the excessive emissions of green house gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous Oxide (N2O), for the past several decades had been claimed to trigger and intensify global warming in recent years.

Atmospheric CO2 gas is fixed or absorbed by terrestrial plants and converted to biological mass or biomass (the plant dry matter) via the biological process called photosynthesis, but this gas is also released or emitted back to the ecosystem via another biological process, respiration.

The CO2 intake by plants and crops is considered as carbon sequestered and stored in different parts of the plants such as forest and coconut trees.

Carbon stored in plant parts other than the stem wood or trunk are generally decomposable biomass which eventually becomes a part of the soil organic matter (SOM) of which the more stable component is the 50 percent soil organic carbon (SOC).

Therefore, in coconut, similar to most tree crops, he said, carbon is stored or sequestered both by the biomass and the soil of the ecosystem, indicating that the biomass and the soil are the main carbon sinks of atmospheric CO2. These “sinks” could be regulated and managed to a great extent by following proper cropping practices, Magat said.

A short term two-year study in the Philippines reported the rate of annual carbon sequestration in local Tall variety coconut crop of 4.78 tons carbon per hectare, which is equivalent to 17.54 tons of CO2 per hectare, according to Magat.

In Vanuatu, South Pacific, he said a longer study (2001 - 2007) showed a carbon sequestration rate of a 20-year old plantation grown to coconut hybrids under optimum conditions ranging from 4.7 to 8.1 tons carbon per hectare per year.

As an indicative potential cash value of the annual coconut ecosystem sequestration, assuming an average of 5.1 tons carbon per hectare of stable biomass and 15 tons carbon per hectare from the sequestered SOC, the estimated cash benefits, Magat said, amounts to at least P 14,170.50 per hectare per year or P 14.17 million per 1,000 hectares coconut land used in the climate-change mitigation.

If coconut lands are intercropped with fruit trees and other perennial crops, highly capable of carbon sequestration in their plant biomass and the soil, obviously, this value could easily double, he said.

Coconut agro-ecosystem is one of the major agricultural systems in the country since the post-Spanish regime. Coconut farming composed then the Philippine landscape from the seacoasts to elevated uplands and low mountains.

Today, Magat said, the country’s agro-ecosystem had been dominated by rice lands, corn lands and coconut lands covering around 3.3 million hectares while its natural and managed plantations forest lands had been reduced from over 10 million hectares many decades ago to a low of at least one million hectare.

To take the best advantage in using coconut production and its ecosystem for judicious environmental management and social and economic benefits from the Climate Change Clean Development Mechanism-Mitigation Component through the Kyoto Protocol, he suggested that more formal and scientific collaborative studies by coconut producing countries and agencies concerned should be done.

“These should be focused on achieving acceptable methodologies and empirical data for the holistic and site-specific evaluation of the certified emission credits (CERs) applied for by developing countries for project carbon credits and subsidies from developed or industrialized countries referenced to sustainable development activities on climate-change mitigation required by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC),” Magat said. (PNA)

Smart links Bicol school with energy technologies
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 13 (PNA) – A premier secondary school in Bicol is now capable of providing interactive learning processes on technologies involving renewable energies for its students, personnel and surrounding communities via the facilities provided by Smart Communications, Inc.

This undertaking, which is in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Philippines, is under the “Project Connect: Linking Environment, Education and Technology”, an advocacy program on environment being spearheaded by the giant communications firm.

In full support of this endeavor are the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) thru the Environment Management Bureau (EMB).

Smart-WWF Project Connect, launched at the CSNHS pavilion here over the week, is a collaborative project which aims to educate elementary, high school and college students on energy efficiency and conservation and renewable energy technologies via interactive workshops, said Marieson Dychinco-Regondola, SMART Communications' Community Care area manager for Bicol.

The workshops include interactive video and slide presentations, environmental games, arts and crafts and environmental presentations, among others.

Regondola said the project was geared towards raising the awareness of students, teachers, non-teaching staff and even the communities where the Camarines Sur National High school (CSNHS) sits here, in better understanding of their roles as caretakers of the environment.

“With climate change's negative effects taking its toll on our environment, today, while it is not completely late becomes an opportune time to start efforts to save it, and starting it off with the school and students is one surefire way to keep the ball of change rolling,” Regondola said.

“This is also part of Smart’s environment advocacy for schools in line with its corporate social responsibility thru the company’s community service program dubbed Kabalikat sa Kalikasan."

CSNHS was chosen as venue for this project in recognition of its being one of the recipients of the 2009 National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools pursuant to Republic Act 9512, the Act to Promote Environmental Awareness thru Environmental Education.

The law requires all public and private schools to integrate environmental education in their curricula.

The awarding to the winners in the yearly Search held last Nov. 19 at the SM City North EDSA in Manila was part of the activities for the observance of the National Clean Air Month and the National Environment Awareness Month being held every month of November.

CSNHS was among the three pilot sites in the Philippines, where SMART chose to implement Project Connect. The other two schools were the Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa, Palawan and Peñablanca East Central School in Tuguegarao.

All three schools were winners of the 2009 Search, a joint activity of the EMB-DENR, DepEd, CHED and Smart that aims to recognize schools that promote and implement earth-friendly programs.

Regondola said that highlighting of school programs in partly complying with the mandates of RA 9512 will serve as an inspiration for the kids and the students to implement the same in their own homes.

"The teachers, being looked up also by these students as their second parents, could serve as their role model in safeguarding the wealth of our environment," she added.

School principal Nely Abad said CSNHS, the oldest, biggest and most populated secondary school institution in Camarines Sur with a current student population of about 7,000, won the award for its successful implementation of policies toward safe, clean and orderly environment.

“In here, we obtain knowledge, form desirable attitudes and imbibe moral and spiritual values for understanding the nature and purpose of a human person,” Abad said.

CSNHS whose sprawling campus is located at the heart of this prime Bicol city which is the Religious Capital of the region was established by the Thomasites in July 1902. (PNA)

DOLE provides 'hotlines' vs non-payment of 13th month pay

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here on Monday said it would be running after employers that would refuse to pay their employees the mandatory 13th month pay before Christmas Day.

And to effectively monitor the compliance of employers with this mandate, DOLE regional director for Bicol Alvin Villamor based in this city, said his office has put up hotlines where affected employees could call.

“We are under instructions from Labor and Employment Sec. Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz to give due attention to complaints against non-payment of this year-end bonuses as she reiterated that it is the obligation of employers under Presidential Decree No. 851, to pay the 13th-month benefit to all workers and employees,” he said.

The putting up of telephone hotlines was also ordered by Baldoz as she urged workers in the private sector to call the DOLE if employers refuse to comply with their obligation to release them the benefit, he said.

“If they are not paid, they can call our hotlines and tell us so.” The hotlines for Bicol are numbered (052) 4803058 and 4805831, all installed at his office, Villamor said.

For the other regions, Villamor said workers in the National Capital Region (NCR) can call 3392016; 3392017; and 4006242. At the DOLE central office, they can also call the DOLE Call Center at 5278000 or 9082917. They can also dial the Center at Globe 2917.

The other telephone numbers in regions are as follows: Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), (074) 4240824; Region 1, (072) 700 3879 and 7003122; Region 2, (078) 8445516 and 8440133; Region 3 (045) 4551613 and (045) 4551619; Region 4-A, (049) 5457360; Region 4-B, (043) 2881485; Region 6, (033) 3228026; Region 7, (032) 2549309; (032) 2535156; Region 8, (053) 3255236; Region 9, (062) 9912673; Region 10, (088) 8571930; Region 11, (082) 2274289; Region 12, (083) 2282190; and Region 13 (CARAGA), (085) 3455212.

The Secretary had instructed all DOLE national and regional officials to ensure that the above-mentioned hotline numbers should be manned by competent staff to answer all calls from workers and even the general public, according to Villamor.

All rank-and-file employees, regardless of the nature of their employment and whatever the mode of payment of their wages and who have worked for at least one month during the calendar year are covered by the 13th month pay requirement, he said.

The minimum amount of the 13th month pay should not be less than 1/12 of the total basic salary of the employee.

For purposes of computing the 13th month pay, the basic salary shall include all remunerations or earnings paid by the employer for services rendered but does not include allowances and monetary benefits which are not considered or integrated as part of the regular or basic salary, the DOLE regional chief explained.

These allowances and monetary benefits include cash equivalent of unused vacation and sick leave credits, overtime, premium, night differential and holiday pay, and cost of living allowances.

However, Villamor said these salary-related benefits should be included as part of the basic salary in the computation of the 13th month pay if by individual or collective agreement, company practice or policy, these are treated as part of the basic salary.

Employers are required to pay the 13th month pay not later than December 24 of each year. They, however, may pay one half of the 13th month pay before the opening of the regular school year and the balance on or before December 24.

Resigned or terminated employees are entitled to the 13th month pay in proportion to the length of time he worked during the year, reckoned from the time he started working and up to the time of his resignation or termination, Villamor added. (PNA)

DOLE to employ victims of Mt. Bulusan's restiveness
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol will employ starting this week some 100 jobless residents displaced by the Mt. Bulusan eruption from three affected municipalities in the province as part of the emergency employment program of the agency.

Raymund Escalante, DOLE regional information officer, said that that the emergency employment is one measure to augment the loss of income of 100 residents from Casiguran, Juban and Irosin towns in Sorsogon.

The three municipalities are greatly affected by the series of ash fall and lahar from Mt. Bulusan, threatening the lives and livelihood of the residents. Heavy ash falls and lahar prevented the residents of these municipalities to till their land, rendering them 'jobless' since Mt. Bulusan started erupting.

According to him, Alvin Villamor, DOLE regional director, announced that a total of P400,000 is earmarked by their office to fund the emergency employment program designed to provide salaries for the 22-day work period that each of the beneficiary will render.

Breakdown of the resident-beneficiaries include 80 families in Juban, being the most affected town, and 30 each for Irosin and Casiguran towns.

The emergency employment program will be handled by DOLE Sorsogon Provincial Field Officer Imelda T. Romanillos while DOLE Bicol will exercise direct administration and pay the wages of the displaced workers.

According to the DOLE official, this is only an emergency response measure because they cannot start rehabilitation yet since Alert level 1 is still hoisted over Mt. Bulusan.

Escalante said that perhaps, early next year, if the volcano has calmed down, they can pour in livelihood assistance on these municipalities as a long term intervention.

The P400,000 emergency employment fund and the 1,000 pieces dust masks were released last December 6 at the DOLE Bicol office to form part of the "Singko sa Singko", the 5-in-1 anniversary event of the agency. (PNA)

4Ps aids 85,000 families in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has so far placed 85,395 poor families in Bicol under the coverage of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a multi-billion peso poverty reduction program of the government, since its inception two years ago.

Next year, over 200,000 more families are being targeted for coverage by the program now named Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) whose nationwide implementation was given a P21-billion appropriation under the government’s 2011 national budget, Remia Tapispisan, the regional director of the DSWD for Bicol on Monday said.

“This target may be still a small figure compared to the total number of families in the region that are considered poor but reducing poverty by that number will already create a good impact,” the DSWD regional chief said.

Based on the 2007 figures of the National Census and Statistics (NCSO), Bicol had a population of over 5.1 million divided among 1.024 million households, 422,278 of them representing 2.6 million or over half of the total number of regional population classified as poor.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said that Bicol is the second poorest among the 16 regions of the country.

A recent report of the News Service of the Philippine Information Agency regional office here said that since the beginning of its implementation in August 2008, the 4Ps had already covered 59 municipalities or 571 barangays of Bicol.

The 85,395 families that benefited from the 4Ps in Bicol are in the provinces of Albay with 11,869 families; Camarines Sur, 9,078; Masbate, 52,309; Camarines Norte, 2,026; Catanduanes 1,387 and; Sorsogon, 8,726, it said.

This scope of coverage it said will certainly be expanded next year with the approval of the P21 billion budget for the program now being one of the center piece programs of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Tapispisan said that the 4Ps has so far paid out a total of P717,855,762.00 to Bicolano beneficiaries as of September 30, this year.

Each beneficiary family that complied with the requirements set by the program received a maximum of P21,000 in yearly cash assistance representing P6,000 a year or P500 per month for health and nutrition and P3,000 for one school year of 10 months or P300 per month per child for a maximum of three children or a total of P1,400 per month or P15,000 yearly.

The 4Ps beneficiaries are the poorest families identified through the use of the Eligibility Check (EC), a statistical formula that estimates household income through the use of proxy variables indicated in the household survey forms, Tapispisan said.

She added that the 4Ps is designed to hit the goals set in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in the areas of poverty reduction, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and promoting gender equality and empowering women.

The CCT program provides that the beneficiaries comply with certain conditions to be able to maintain and receive the monthly allowance, Tapispisan said.

These requirements are as follows: Pregnant mother must avail of pre- and post-natal care and be attended during child birth by a trained health professional; Parents must attend responsible parenthood sessions, mother classes and parent effectiveness seminars;

Three to five years old children must attend day care classes or pre-school classes 85 percent of the time; 6-14 years old children must attend elementary and high school classes at least 85 percent of the time and; 6-14 years old children must receive de-worming treatments twice a year, Tapispisan said.

Compliance with the requirements of the beneficiaries so far, she added could be rated as satisfactory given that fact that attendances of pregnant mothers to rural health services and responsible parenthood seminars conducted in their respective barangays have been reported to have increased significantly, Tapispisan said.

Enrolments in elementary and secondary schools have also increased and the rate of dropouts reduced to very remarkable proportions, she added. (PNA)

Sorsogon’s poor man’s school gaining fame in academic excellence
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) – The Sorsogon State College (SSC) in this 10-year-old city at the southernmost tip of Luzon is proving that poverty, in rare times plays the role of a blessing, in disguise.

During the latest civil engineer licensure examination conducted by the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC), SSC obtained a 75-percent passing rate with two of its graduates among the 10 topnotchers.

Melito Andrew Doma Daro III sealed the second place with his 96.30 grade while Russell Benoza Herno, with his 94.75 shared the fifth slot with another passer coming from the University of Rizal System-Morong.

Daro and Herno who both belong to the batch 2010 SSC civil engineering graduates were among the 2,040 successful examinees out of the 5,028 who took the examination last November 20-21. Results of the examination were released three days later.

Of the 20 SSC civil engineering graduates that took the same examination, 15, including Daro and Herno passed, posting a 75 percent passing score for the school.

“Poverty is the key factor towards our success in the board examination,” according to Daro in an interview over the weekend.

A native of Prieto Diaz, a town at the southeastern coast of Sorsogon province, Daro said his being a son of a poor farmer and his desire to liberate his family from economic difficulties pushed him to strive hard to graduate and pass the board examination.

Our poverty was my inspiration and SSC that we consider the "poor man’s school’ was my stepping stone,” he said.

Herno, a son of a fisherman from Magallanes, Sorsogon agreed with Daro. “If my parents have the money, I would not be studying in SSC but in a more prominent school in Legazpi City or in Manila. That perhaps would not take me to the glory of landing in the top 10.”

“It was the school factor not the review center factor that sent us to the topnotchers’ row because the latter only refreshes us of what we learned from the former. Without the learning we got from our school, the review center would have nothing to refresh in us,” he said.

Most of them SSC graduates who passed the civil engineering examination, according to Herno did not enroll in review centers because of financial constraints. “We relied on self-review making use of the inputs we got from our five years under the noses of our instructors and professors,” he added.

Asked about their career plans, both Daro and Hermo said they prefer landing on local employments. “We wanted Bicol to be our first workplace so that we are able to help our own community first before the other. We gain experience from our backyard first before competing in the bigger field.”

SSC president Dr. Antonio Fuentes said Monday that the academic excellence of SSC started to gain recognition in 2006, 13 years after its official birth with the notable performance of its graduates during that year in the board examinations for engineers, teachers and master electricians.

Fuentes said Emmanuel Liwag made history for the school by landing in the top 10 of the board examinations for electrical engineers in April 2006. With an overall rating of 89.40, he placed eighth among 1,357 successful examinees.

In the board examination for master electricians during the same year, Christian Meralpes got the fourth place among thousands of examinees nationwide. A 100-percent passing percentage was also obtained by the 2006 civil engineering graduates while their mechanical engineering counterparts scored an 80 percent passing mark.

For the education undergraduate program, 73 percent of SSC’s 2006 graduates hurdled the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) with English and chemistry majors garnering a 100-percent passing rate. Overall, its performance in the LET from 2001-2005 consistently surpassed the national passing percentage, Fuentes said.

SSC was established in 1907 as the Sorsogon Provincial Trade School, an elementary school meant to train boys and girls with aptitude in the trades for immediate employment. Situated in a two-hectare campus, the school initially offered woodworking as the only trade course for intermediate pupils.

In school year 1926-1927, the school began offering secondary education and eventually phased out its elementary program. Then in 1950, it opened its doors to girls who could take food trades, cosmetology or dressmaking for specialization.

By virtue of Republic Act 704 enacted on May 14, 1952, the trade school was renamed the Sorsogon School of Arts and Trades (SSAT) limited only to short term courses that included architectural drafting, building construction, electricity and furniture and cabinet making.

In 1977, the school’s conversion into a tertiary institution to be known as the Sorsogon College of Arts and Trades (SCAT) was approved by the Department of Education and Culture and with its new status, it began to offer Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology.

From the late ‘70s through the early ‘90s, SCAT functioned as an institution under the Bureau of Vocational Education until December 30, 1993 when then Pres. Fidel V. Ramos signed R.A. 7666, converting it into what it is now.

Presently, new directions for SSC are embodied in its Medium Term Development Plan for 2007-2011, in order to ensure relevance and quality assurance. This is to attain the greatest effectiveness and efficiency in its mandated functions and laying out the foundation for universityhood, Fuentes said.

Consistent with its mission of providing quality and relevant instruction, the SSC offers academic programs and courses that can help propel the development of Sorsogon as a predominantly agricultural province.

The objective is to push for the province’s agri-industrialization through the offering of courses that make use of its indigenous materials and locally grown resources.

“That makes SSC a non-classy higher learning institution that is not attractive to moneyed students. We don’t care about that. Never mind if our students are barrio folks belonging to the poor sector provided we strive hard for relevance and excellence,” Fuentes added. (PNA)

Legazpi LGU pushes to strengthen social housing for informal settler

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) -- The local government of Legazpi is pushing for a comprehensive social housing for informal settlers especially those within the business district of this city.

Mayor Carmen Geraldine B. Rosal said the local government has set a policy for a proper housing program intended to informal settlers.

"This administration is focusing on housing program to resolve the informal settlers within the business district of Legazpi," she said.

The mayor said the LGU has set an annual fund for housing program.

"I also seek the support of private sector and other stakeholders to achieve our goal in this city which is - eradicating informal settlers," she added.

Rosal explained interfacing is very important to address the situation of the informal settlers towards the right direction of the housing program.

"The planning office is tasked to conduct an inventory this year to determine the actual number of informal settlers in the business district of Legazpi," she said.

Rosal noted the situation of informal settlers is very manageable but she also urged the LGUs and other government agencies involved in housing program not to wait for the long lee way of the solution but "all we need to do is to work together to quickly plug the loopholes of the problem in social housing for the benefits of all of us".

On the other hand, DILG secretary Jessie Robredo during his recent visit here, commended LGUs in Bicol region for conducting regular dialogues to address the informal settlers in the region.

Legazpi City, for instance, he said is taking seriously to ensure the safety of their constituents in compliance with the Urban Development Housing Act regarding the resettlement program of LGUs, saying that informal settlers residing along danger areas will transfer them in the safety relocation sites.

Meanwhile, the HUDCC has urged LGUs to submit the list of inventories of idle Government lands and their beneficiaries to help them by way of providing necessary technical assistance.(PNA)

Albay sponsors 2nd leg of LGU Summit +3i in Visayas
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay is set to sponsor the 2nd leg of Local Government Units summit +3i Visayas for Climate Change Adaptation on December 15 to 16, this year, in Iloilo City.

Nong Rangasa, executive director of Center for Initiative Research for Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) said the LGUs Summit is a gathering of local elected officials and other stakeholders initiated by the provincial government of Albay to advocate for a more LGU participation in shaping measures to ensure sustainable programs on climate change.

This project is a joint program of Millennium Development Goals Fund 1656 Climate Change Commission, League of Cities of the Philippines, in cooperation with the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Rangasa said this event was first introduced in Luzon area by the Provincial Government of Albay through CIRCA. "The event is an advocacy activity for LGUs on climate change adaptation given their critical responsibility in shaping and implementing measures that would ensure continuity of development and provide safety nets for highly vulnerable groups at the local level."

"As significant partners in the implementation of local CCA measures to address climate variability and extreme, your participation during the event would be valuable in broadening collective action to develop the resilience and adaptive capacities of local communities to the adverse impacts of climate change," he said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay is the guest of honor in this summit and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country director Renaud Meyer is also set to give a statement on UN's support to Climate Change Adaptation and Risk Reduction in the Philippines. (PNA)

15 Army soldiers hurt in road mishap in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 10 (PNA) - At least 15 Army soldiers were hurt Friday when their truck crashed on a mountain slope and fell on its side while negotiating a narrow downhill road in Barangay San Jose, San Andres town in Catandaunes, a military officer said.

Army Lt. Col. Danilo Aquino, commander of the 83rd Infantry Battalion, said the soldiers on board an Army truck were on their way back to an Army camp from Virac town after participating in today’s observance of International Human Rights Day.

He said 20 soldiers were on board the said truck and were on their way back to their military base in San Andres town when their M35 6x6 truck lost its brake while negotiating a narrow road downhill in San Jose village in San Andres town.

Aquino said the driver of the truck, a certain Corporal Paz, while negotiating the narrow road maneuvered the vehicle to evade an oncoming tri-mobile full of passengers, but lost control of the brake, causing the truck to crash at the slopes of a hill.

Four of the soldiers were seriously injured, including Private First Class Jay A. Batanes, Private Kenneth U. Olivenza (Inf) PA, Private Jerome R. Tongga and Pvt. Alex M. Brotamante 8. They are now being treated in a hospital in Virac town for multiple bone fractures.

Eleven other soldiers were slightly injured. They were said to be suffering from slight bruises and cuts.

Major General Ruperto Pabustan, the commander of the 9th Infantry Division, has immediately directed the 83rd Infantry Battalion to conduct investigation to determine the cause of the freak accident and to ensure that appropriate medical attention is given to the injured soldiers. (PNA)

Sen. Pangilinan extends help to Mt. Bulusan victims

IROSIN, Sorsogon, Dec. 9 (PNA) – Sen. Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan has provided P1 million cash assistance to victims of the restive activities of Mt. Bulusan here as he pledged to contribute funds for the permanent relocation of families from communities within the volcano’s hazard zones.

The cash assistance would go to agricultural families from several barangays here and the adjoining municipalities of Juban and Casiguran that were evacuated to refugee centers resulting in their economic displacement owing to the present abnormal condition of the volcano, according to Theresa Destura, Sorsogon’s assistant provincial agricultural officer.

Pangilinan, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Livelihood Development over the week toured evacuation camps and agricultural areas affected by the series of minor eruptions of Mt. Bulusan.

He also held dialogues with local disaster officials and town leaders as he assessed the situation of the calamity plaguing the agricultural sectors in the area.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) Jose Lopez said that as of Wednesday 225 families from seven barangays of the three municipalities have been evacuated to refugee centers established in various schools at safer grounds. The biggest number of evacuees stay at the Gallanosa High School within the town proper here.

Destura said that Pangilinan, in providing the cash assistance to the evacuees, saw the need to help them cope up with the impact of the calamity to their livelihood given the fact that they were unable to harvest their crops due to the damages rendered by ashfalls to their farms.

Mt. Bulusan which is part of the Bicol Volcanic Chain that stretches from Camarines Norte in the north to Sorsogon in the south and one of the 23 active volcanoes in the country was placed by the Philippine Institure of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) under alert level one following its first in the latest series of “ash explosion” last November 2.

Several more explosions characterized by massive ash and steam ejections reaching as high as two kilometers from the volcano’s crater took place since then, prompting local disaster officials to initiate evacuations of residents within the danger zone.

Under alert level number one, the PHIVOLCS said no dangerous eruption is imminent but warned that human activities within the four-kilometer radius of the volcano called the permanent danger zone (PDZ) should be banned as sudden explosions may occur and the volcanic ashes being spewed during such occurrences are harmful.

The Phivolcs had also warned residents within the danger zone against massive cascading of lahar from the slopes of the volcano that may trigger flashfloods and mudflows during heavy rains.

Irosin Mayor Eduardo Ong told Pangilinan during the dialogue that his administration was mulling on permanently relocating residents within barangays covered by the four-kilometer danger zone in his area of jurisdiction but financial constraints have been preventing them from going ahead with the plan.

In response, the senator said he will make use of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to provide the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with funds for the construction of core shelters for the residents that would be relocated.

Along with Ong, Pangilinan visited the proposed permanent relocation site in Barangay Salvacion here.

The senator said he will also coordinate with Sec. Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the provision of agricultural inputs and other intervention for the victims as they head towards recovery from economic dislocation.

In the observation bulletin released by the PHIVOLC Thursday morning, it said Bulusan Volcano’s seismic network recorded one volcanic earthquake during the past 24-hour period.

“Steaming activity at the crater and known thermal vents was not observed due to rain clouds covering the summit. No measurement of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emission rate was conducted due to rainy weather”, it said. (PNA)

DOH expands GP program with more child survival interventions
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 8 (PNA) – The Department of Health (DoH) will use at least P2 billion of its P33.3 billion allocation in the P1.645 trillion 2011 national budget in expanding the coverage of its child survival interventions from new born infants up to 14-year old kids.

The interventions are under its Garantisadong Pambata (GP) health services program that originally focused only on preschoolers or zero to five years old children, according to DoH regional director for Bicol Nestor Santiago.

He explained on Wednesday that GP, as it is popularly known in the health sector, is an institutionalized national health campaign conducted every day with special event every April and October where essential package of health services and health information are delivered to protect 0-5 years old children and promote positive behaviors to parents and caregivers.

This essential health package includes the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for six months, providing routine immunization among infants, giving vitamin A supplement and de-worming tablet every six months, education on proper hand washing with soap and water, brushing of teeth regularly, using the toilet properly and keeping homes tobacco smoke-free.

On the other hand, under the new GP, 6-14 years old children are already included in the coverage. Services will be diversified to fit the life stage segments of 0-14 years, according to the December edition of Health Beat, an official publication of the DoH.

By expanding the coverage of GP to include school-aged children, the DoH is recognizing that when a child reaches six years old, he or she moves to the realm of school and learning, and health and nutrition continue to play a crucial role in a child’s development, the publication said.

In this expanded GP, the DoH will work with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other development agencies like the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO).

The messages the new GP want to convey is that the provision of child health is not only limited to going to the health centers for free and effective services. The care for the child is every day, at home, school, health facility, and by different partners, it said.

Moreover, the household is the key provider of health care and not only the responsibility of the health facility and community.

Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona in a recent statement said the new GP will highlight health-promoting behaviors that parents, caregivers, teachers, leaders and children themselves can do in their respective spheres of influence.

With a rallying call “Basta i-GP mo!”, the DOH aims to make GP synonymous with healthy behaviors and practices. “When we say i-GP mo, we mean healthy behaviors that anyone can do to protect child health,” Ona said.

The DOH is allotting at least P2 billion from its 2011 budget for its expanded child health program. The GP budget will include purchase and distribution of essential vaccines, micronutrient supplements, deworming tablets and health promotion. This 2011 allocation for child health is a five-fold increase from the P325 million budget in 2010, he said.

In addition to the budget increase, Ona also said that the DOH and the DSWD are working on an alignment of resources to ensure that poor families who receive conditional cash transfer grants will receive the appropriate services from health providers.

DSWD Bicol regional director Remia Capispisan said that the DSWD has taken a more active role not just in ensuring the welfare and promoting the rights of disadvantaged children, but also in providing them their health and nutrition needs.

She stressed that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the country’s poverty reduction program and supplementing feeding program for day care children contribute to the objectives of GP.

The 2008 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) data show that childhood morbidity and mortality has been decreasing in the past decade. Pneumonia, measles, diarrhea and deaths due to neonatal complications remain among the top leading causes of under-five mortality. Malnutrition remains the major risk among children.

Children aged 6-23 months who live in rural areas and whose mothers are in the poorest quintile are more likely to show symptoms of acute respiratory infection. Child injuries contribute significantly to deaths in the older age group. Under nutrition remains a challenge in the Philippines.

The prevalence of breastfeeding in the country has declined. The median duration of exclusive breastfeeding is less than one month, while the duration of predominant breastfeeding is 2.7 months.

Based on the 2008 National Nutrition Survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, in every 100 preschool children (0-5 years), 26 were underweight, about 28 were under height and 6 were thin.

At the other end of malnutrition, in every 100 of these children were two overweight for their age and three were overweight for their height. Meanwhile, for schoolchildren aged 6-10 years old, in every 100 children about 26 months were underweight and 2 were overweight. And about 32 in every 100 of these children were under height.

Also based on the survey, Vitamin A deficiency also continues to be of public health significance, with 15.2 percent prevalence rate among children.

Meanwhile, a follow-up study on the prevalence of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) or parasitic worms conducted by National Institute of Health of the University of the Philippines in 2009 showed a decrease in the rate among preschool children from the baseline rate of 66.44 percent in 2004 to 22.74 percent.

Among schoolchildren 6-12 years old, the rate also decreased from a baseline of 54 percent in 2006 to 44.7 percent in 2009.

The GP started in 1999 to address low coverage rates on immunization and micro-nutrient supplementation. Since then, the GP has become a pivotal campaign for the DOH and local governments to encourage caregivers to focus on critical health interventions for young children.

The National Statistics Office in its 2008 survey reported that four out of five children below two years old received all the required vaccines to protect them from diseases and infections like measles, tetanus, polio, hepatitis and tuberculosis. About 80 per cent of children below five years old received vitamin A supplements twice a year to boost children’s resistance.

The GP program targets 100 percent of children aged 1-5 years old and those aged 6-12 years enrolled in public elementary schools to receive deworming tablets every six months to reduce prevalence of parasitism in these age groups. (PNA)

DENR finalizes forest boundary of three Bicol provinces

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 8 (PNA) - The timberland border assessment of three Bicol provinces namely Masbate, Sorsogon and Masbate is almost complete, beating the deadline for the forest land boundary assessment and delineation (FBAD) by year 2011, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol said Wednesday.

The DENR, raring to beat the deadline for the FBAD deadline next year, said it has fast tracked the finalization of timberland border of three more provinces in Bicol.

Jose Flores, chief of the Regional Assessment and Delineation Team (RADT) in his report to DENR Regional Executive Director Joselin Marcus Fragada, said that they have finished the assessment and delineation of the forest land boundary of Masbate and Sorsogon while Catanduanes’ timberland border is underway.

“The RADT is set to submit to the National Assessment and Delineation Committee (NADC) the draft bill for the forest land boundary of Sorsogon by year end,” Flores said during the Regional Assessment and Delineation Committee (RADC) meeting held recently.

Fragada ordered the RADT to gather the necessary documents to back up the draft bill for Sorsogon’s timberland boundary to avert unnecessary issues during the NADC deliberation.

Flores said the assessment and delineation of Masbate’s forest land boundary is already completed and the RADT is preparing the draft promulgation which will be endorsed on the first quarter of 2011. He reiterated that the timberland borders of Catanduanes will be completed this month and the draft bill will be endorsed on the second quarter of next year.

He maintained that the RADT is on track with its assessment and delineation targets that would see fruition by year 2011. Last October, the RADT submitted the draft bill for the final forest boundary of Camarines Norte.

Fragada lauded the RADT for being commended by the NADC as one with the best FBAD practices, and the only region that passed the committee’s assessment.

Among the RADC’s remaining targets are the assessment and delineation of the forest land boundary of Albay and Camarines Sur with its subsequent draft bills by the third and fourth quarter of 2011.

Based on the FBAD process, once the NADC reviewed and evaluated the draft proclamation it would then be endorsed to the DENR Secretary. The Secretary shall endorse the draft bill to the representatives concerned for sponsorship in Congress.

Upon the passage of the law defining the final boundary of the forest lands within a province, the same shall be the basis for the issuance of the certifications of legal status of the land.

It shall form part of the control maps and records for all public land applications filed to the Department.

The implementation of the survey was based on DENR Administrative Order 2008-24, which specifically provides for a “comprehensive procedure to facilitate the conduct of assessment and delineation of boundaries between forest lands, national parks and agricultural lands.” (PNA)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DoH to launch ‘Good-For-You’ healthy eating program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 7 (PNA) – Very soon, food products in the country’s supermarkets and dishes in food establishments would be certified “Good For You” by the Department of Health (DoH) based on its being low in fat, sodium and sugar and high in dietary fiber.

This would be the result of the program of the World Health Organization (WHO), through the DOH, which commissioned the Nutritionist-Dietitian’s Association of the Philippines (NDAP) for the formulation of the “Guidelines for Healthy Eating”.

The NDAP was also tasked in the development of a certification program for healthy food products, according to the December issue of the Health Beat, an official publication of the DoH.

“Healthy eating” is anchored on principles of adequacy, balance and moderation of food intake, characterized by regulating the intake of foods high in fat, sodium and sugar that are directly linked with the onset of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and increasing the intake of foods with dietary fiber that helps prevent or delay the onset of NCDs among at-risk individuals.

The four major NCDs related to poor eating habits are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Meanwhile, the risk factors for NCDs that have been linked with unhealthy diet include hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels in the blood) and obesity, the publication said.

In general, the “Guidelines on Healthy Eating” are aligned with international standards set by the Codex Alimentarius as well as the standards set for the European Union and the US Food and Drug Administration. These guidelines also follow the standards of the DOH Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it added.

On the other hand, the main purpose of the Good-For-You certification program is to provide consumers with an easy way of identifying which products or dishes are healthy and to convey to them that they have the option of choosing a healthy alternative from among the products normally produced or sold in the market and dishes which are served in restaurants.

A Good-For-You stamp will appear on food labels or menu cards of certified products and dishes which will aid consumers to easily identify food items that are considered healthy based on the guidelines.

The certification program is not meant to change what food manufacturers and food service establishments are already providing the public. Rather, it is intended to encourage food manufacturers and food service establishments to produce products and offer dishes that are healthy so that consumers are given an opportunity to choose what is good for their health.

Both the Guidelines on Healthy Eating and the Good-For-You certification program adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health which emphasizes the need to limit the consumption of saturated fats and trans fatty acids, salt and sugars, and to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and levels of physical activity.

It also addresses the role of prevention in health services; food and agriculture policies; fiscal policies; surveillance systems; regulatory policies; consumer education and communication, including marketing, health claims and nutrition labelling; and school policies as they affect food and physical activity choices.

The publication said that based on the Guidelines on Healthy Eating, the Good-For-You certification program is established to contribute to the attainment of a healthy Filipino population through good nutrition.

It specifically aims to help consumers make healthy food and eating choices consistent with the recommendations of the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health as well as to help the agriculture sector, food establishments and manufacturers in developing products that respond to consumer need for healthy food options.

The program covers processed foods as well as menu items in fast food outlets and restaurants and it will involve the conferment of the “Good For You” stamp for use in food labels, market or supermarket markers, menu marquees, designated area in a fast food outlet, or in the facades or signage of the supermarket, market and fast food establishment.

If a product wants to put a health claim on the label regarding either fat, sugar, sodium and fiber, it must meet the basic criteria, which are based on the cutoff prescribed by the Codex Alimentarius or a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety, it said.

In addition to the health claim applied for by processed products, other nutrients must not exceed the normal levels of that nutrient per day.

For example, if a product wants to claim “low cholesterol”, it must meet the criteria for low cholesterol and at the same time, its values for sodium, fat and sugar must not exceed the normal values recommended per day.

Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in varying amounts in fresh and processed foods. Some of the major functions of sodium in the body is for proper fluid balance –control of the movement of fluids in and out of the cells; regulate blood pressure, transmit nerve impulses and help in muscle relaxation.

The link between sodium and hypertension or high-blood pressure is well documented. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. The current intake of sodium among Filipinos is about 2.8 to 6.0 grams from an average salt intake of 7-15 grams, based on the 2003 Food and Nutrition Research Institute National Nutrition Survey.

However, the sodium intake of Filipinos is probably higher than this particularly from processed foods including instant noodles.

Fats and oils meanwhile are part of a healthy diet and are major sources of energy and aid the body in absorbing vitamins, but the type of fat makes a difference to heart health, and the total amount of fat consumed is also important.

The Health Beat said that not all fats are the same as saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease by increasing the total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol, on the other hand, is not technically a fat, but it is found in food derived from animal sources.

Intake of dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol levels, but not as much as saturated and trans fats do, and not to the same degree in all people, the publication said.

Saturated fats come from animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter and coconut, palm and other tropical oils. Trans fat comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, commercial baked goods such as crackers, cookies and cakes, fried foods such as doughnuts and French fries, shortening and margarine.

Dietary cholesterol are from animal products such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, lard and butter.

Sugar as a carbohydrate on the other hand is an indispensable source of energy, but when taken in excessive amounts, it can have negative effects on the health of individuals. However, individuals tend to consume more processed food items which usually have added sugars in order to enhance taste.

Studies on the influence of sugar in the development of NCDs have shown varied and sometimes conflicting results. Several studies however have shown that an increase in the consumption of added sugars increases overall carbohydrate and calorie intake, more so when the added sugar is in a beverage, it said.

This, in turn, increases the risk of serious health concerns specifically, obesity and all its related diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and cardiovascular diseases, the publication added.

To qualify for certification, food products and menu items must be registered with DOH’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), while fast food establishments must be registered either with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Processed foods should also be classified as having been produced under good manufacturing processes regardless of criteria for certification being applied for and points of sales of products or menu items to be certified should conform with the requirements for food safety as indicated by the presence of an approved business permit from local government units.

The certification program will be managed by NDAP which will create a “Good-for-You Certifying Committee” composed of two to three selected members and a representative of the DOH. (PNA)