Monday, February 28, 2011

Catanduanes town declares Mandaluyong solon ‘adopted son’

BATO, Catanduanes, Feb. 28 (PNA) – Far away from his hometown where he serves as representative to the lower chamber of the Philippine Congress, House majority floor leader Neptali Gonzales II has been proclaimed here an “Adopted Son of the Municipality”.

This 5th class coastal town that sits along the coastline of Maqueda Channel is home to around 20,000 peaceful people mostly belonging to the sector of farmers and fishermen.

The picturesque town that boasts of a massive forest from where fresh, crystal-clear natural spring water emanates is also hometown for the former Alexandria “Queenie” Trono Pahati, a television beat reporter before she became the wife of the Mandaluyong lawmaker.

“The recognition is indeed heartwarming and it seals a partnership between myself and the people of Bato initially expressed through my marital union with Quennie,” Gonzales said during a simple ceremony at the municipal hall over the weekend.

“Rest assured that within the bounds of law and as permitted by my office, I will continue to seek ways with which to respond to priority needs of the municipality that could be addressed by the national government,” Gonzales added as he expressed gratitude to local government leaders headed by Mayor Eulogio Rodriguez and Vice Mayor Joselito Alberto.

A report of the Catanduanes Tribune said that prior to conferment of the honor on Gonzales, the Mandaluyong congressman made possible the ongoing construction of a multi-purpose building worth P12.5 million at the Bato Rural Development High School, provided the school a state-of-the-art sound system worth P150,000, five desktop computers and four open-air tents.

He also promised to fund the construction of 10 classrooms, according to the Tribune report. Likewise, the congressman gave two desktop computers to the municipal government and one each to the offices of the town’s legislative council, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Rodriguez said that the conferment on Gonzales as Adopted Son of Bato was not a reciprocation to those material and financial assistance given to the municipality but “in recognition of his sincerity and goodness to and concern for our people”. (PNA)

Albay town’s fishery council wins national award

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 28 (PNA) – The Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) of Tiwi, Albay is the national winner in the Gawad Saka’s search for Outstanding FARMC of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for 2010, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office here.

The council received P300,000 in cash prize and a Presidential Plaque of Recognition during the awarding ceremonies held in Malacañang recently 18 marking the maiden year of the Gawad Saka Awards for MFARMC category.

BFAR Bicol regional director Dennis del Socorro over the weekend said that Tiwi MFARMC bested five other finalists from other regions by being the most complete council in terms of accomplishments since its inception in 1999.

Tiwi MFARMC was an achiever on Coastal Resource Management (CRM), law enforcement, livelihood projects for the fisherfolk associations, information dissemination and advocacy activities, fund sourcing and filing of resolutions on fisheries which they recommend for enactment by the Sanguniang Bayan such as the Municipal Fishery Code and consolidated CRM Plans, Del Socorro said.

MFARMC is organized in every coastal, lakeside or riverside municipalities or cities nationwide by virtue of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and Fisheries Administrative Order 196. It is composed of municipal and commercial fisherfolk, LGU officials and representatives from the private, non-government organization, women and youth sectors, he said. (PNA)

BFAR urges fishery laws' strict implementation to salvage Lake Buhi

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 28 (PNA) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Bicol regional office here has reiterated to Buhi town local government its recommendation for the strict implementation of fishery laws to save Lake Buhi, the home for the world’s smallest fish from further degradation.

In a position paper recently submitted to Mayor Rey Lacoste and to the local legislative council, BFAR Regional Director Dennis del Socorro insisted that only 10 percent of the total surface area of the lake can be utilized for aquaculture activities such as fish cage farming of tilapia, as provided by the provisions of Section 51 of the Philippine Fisheries Code.

Del Socorro said that the BFAR study shows that unregulated aquaculture activities in Lake Buhi such as illegal construction of fish cages, overstocking of fish and overfeeding produce high amounts of aquaculture wastes in the lake resulting to a series of massive fish kill incidents in the lake since October 29 last year.

In the position paper, Del Socorro attached a copy of the latest research results of the Stocking and Feeding Experiment of the BFAR and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) on the lakes of Buhi and Bato from 2007 to 2009. This research revealed that overstocking of cages is one of the key practices of its fish farmers that need to be modified.

He said the study has conducted “stocking density trials on both lakes using five, 10 and 15 tilapia fingerlings per cubic meter (m3). Stocks at five pieces/m3 were not given any commercial feed and relied solely on natural food in the lake while the 10 and 15 pieces/m3 had feeding.

Results showed that the optimum stocking density for the two lakes is 10 pieces/m3 to obtain maximum growth, survival, total yield and feed conversion ratio while fish reared at five pieces/m3 grew poorly and were not harvestable within the four months culture period. This indicates that natural food available in the area could not sustain growth even at this low stocking density.

Del Sorcorro also said his office has likewise assisted the Buhi government in capacity building, including the recent re-organization of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (FARMC) in 10 lakeside barangays.

The bureau has also provided resource persons on the Training on Lake Resource Management and Fishery Law Enforcement earlier conducted. Del Socorro said Lake Buhi’s rehabilitation will depend on the strict and full implementation of fishery laws, and the town's residents support and other stakeholders. (PNA)

Camarines Sur to host Ad Congress in November

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 28 (PNA) – The 22nd Philippine Ad Congress will be held in Naga City in November, Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte announced here over the weekend.

“We won the bidding and that’s because the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur and the City Government of Naga headed by Mayor John Bongat worked for it together by way of strengthening our bid to host the prestigious affair,” Villafuerte said.

He said the preparations for hosting the Ad Congress were started by the city and provincial governments last year and part of it was the embellishment of the city’s Rizal Park and other key visitors’ facilities in the province which helped the place in winning the bidding.

Other factors considered by the Ad Board were the accessibility of the place, peace and order situation, security and the sufficiency of facilities like public infrastructures, hotel accommodations, transportation and venue for the gathering, among others, the governor said.

“We have a huge plenary hall to conveniently accommodate all the around 5,000 delegates to the Ad Congress, fine hotels for classy accommodations, support from local government units and efficient transportation which the Ad Board requires of a host to the event,” he said.

The series of successful national and international sports competitions held in the province particularly at the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex (CWC) was also a plus factor looked into by the Board in going for Naga City and Camarines Sur for this year’s congress, he added.

The Ad Congress is held every two years in key cities of the country and because the City of Naga has been chosen to play host in this year’s event, Villafuerte said “we call it another feather to our cap”.

The occasion is expected to generate huge income not only for the city but also for the province whose tourist destinations will be visited by its participants, its hotels rooms taken and food areas and restaurants patronized. It is also certain that the participants and visitors will go into shopping to benefit local businesses, he said. (PNA)

Bicol coconut farmers enjoy windfall from high copra price
By Danny O. Calleja

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, Feb 28 (PNA) -– When the farm gate price of copra in Bicol was at its P15 per kilo level nearly a year ago, 40-year old Cleto Maraño here would earn a measly P12,750 per year from a hectare of coconut farm he owns and he himself tends to.

Suddenly, the copra value shot up to a level beyond his imagination — P46.75 per kilo these days, the highest it has achieved in the history of coconut product trading in the region-- arranging a bonanza for Bolso and all the other coconut farmers in Bicol numbering around 300,000, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

A National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) figure puts about 2.1 million Bicolanos or nearly 50 percent of the region’s total population is either directly or indirectly benefited by the local coconut industry.

According to Maraño, “Coconut is like gold now. Every nut is precious that even the cost of raw matured fruits that Bicolano households use for most of their daily dishes cooked in coconut milk has also staged a big leap from P5 to P25 per nut. Young coconuts sold by street vendors are up to P25 each from P10 since the middle of last year.”

He said his earnings from copra under the present pricing level has multiplied threefold.

“It was P1,600 before and now it’s P4,800 per harvest done every 45 days or one and a half months. Ito na yata ang regalo sa aming mga magniniyog ni Presidente Noynoy. Maraming salamat (It looks like a gift of President Noynoy to us coconut farmers. Thanks a lot),” Maraño said.

He recalled that the most distressing period for copra producers in his 20 years of being one of them was in 2002 when the price of copra plummeted to only a little more than P2 per kilo.

“Most of us here temporarily abandoned copra processing during that time and shifted to other crops like rootcrops and vegetables for our livelihood,” Maraño added.

The present price situation that is highly favorable to the local coconut industry particularly to the farmers and plantation owners according to PCA regional director Eduardo Allorde is mainly attributable to the tremendous rise in demand for coconut oil in the international market triggered by the effects of the prevailing climate change around the globe.

“There were heavy snow falls, blizzards and massive floods in America, Europe and other parts of the world and because of these weather abnormalities, the supply of coconut oil competing products like soya bean, sunflower and kernel oils was reduced dramatically paving the way for our top export product to take the reign and command a shoot up price,” Allorde explained.

Unfortunately, the PCA regional chief said, the local coconut industry is also suffering from the consequences of erratic weather condition due to the climate change while pests like brontispa or coconut leaf beetle continue to inflict heavy losses that was why Bicol’s copra production in 2010 was only at 430, 054 metric tons which was valued at P11.9 billion.

Under this production level, Allore said a farmer in Bicol tending to a hectare of plantation earns around P39,000 per year which is a very significant improvement from the P15 per kilo pricing level that could only raise for the same farmer only around P13,000 annually.

In 1997 when weather was fine and the pests were manageable, the region’s copra production was at 473, 077 metric tons then down to as low as 287, 631 in 1999 due to a dry spell and a series of typhoons, according to records of the NEDA regional office here. (PNA)

Public school teacher hit dead in Masbate ambush
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 28 (PNA) -- A public school teacher was shot dead on Saturday in an ambush staged by unidentified armed men at barangay (village) Gaid in Dimasalang town in Masbate, a Philippine National Police (PNP) officer said Monday.

The victim was Genieve V. Arizala, 33, single, a public school teacher, and a resident of Cataingan town in Masbate.

Police Senior Inspector Ayn Natuel, said the victim was among the eight passengers on board a Masbate Electric Cooperative (MASELCO) service vehicle that was fired upon by unidentified armed men at around 7:15 P.M on Saturday along the national road in barangay Gaid, Dimasalang town.

Natuel, in a text message, said the victim, along with eight others, were fetched by the Maselco vehicle, driven by Dodong Patalinhug, in Masbate City and bound for Cataingan, Masbate.

While negotiating the national road in barangay Gaid, attackers strafed the vehicle and hitting the victim in her temple, Natuel said.

The victim was rushed to the Cataingan District Hospital but, at around 8:45 A.M the same day, was pronounced dead by attending physicians.

Initial investigation showed that only one bullet hit the MasElCo vehicle.

Police investigators are still determining the identities of the attackers and the motive of the attack. (PNA)

AKB seeks probe on extraction of centuries-old logs in Albay
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 28 (PNA) -- AKO Bicol Party list (AKB) recently filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the extraction of centuries-old logs in the Sula Channel in barangay Sula in Bacacay town, Albay province.

The House Resolution 992, directing the Committee on Ecology to conduct an investigation into the extraction of petrified logs in Sula Channel, Sitio Pecadero, Barangay Sula, Albay, for the protection of cultural treasures due to its historical, environmental and tourism values.

Atty. Rodel Batocabe, AKB's representatives, said that the purpose of the resolution is to find out whether the extraction and selling of a cultural treasure is legal.

He has also sought the help of the National Historical Institute to identify those who are accountable.

Last November 23, 2010, a forest ranger of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) impounded a 22-wheeler truck carrying ancient logs that were extracted from the Sula Channel.

The driver, Ramon Valera, did not have a permit to transport the said logs.

Both the truck and logs are still impounded in Barangay San Roque, Bacacay, Albay after an administrative confiscation proceeding has been filed before the office of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).

According to Sula Barangay captain Benjamin Belbes, there were already reports that some 100,000 board feet of petrified wood which were remnants in the construction of the Spanish galleon were already looted and hauled by an international ship for export. (PNA)

NPA killed in clash with gov't forces in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 28 (PNA) -- Army soldiers killed a New People Army (NPA) rebel in an encounter Sunday in Barangay Villareal in Gubat town, Sorsogon province, a Philippine Army (PA) officer said Monday.

The soldiers brought the victim's body to Gubat town hall for proper identification.

Army Maj. Harold Cabunoc, 9th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said the encounter took place at around 5:40 a.m. Sunday when a nine-man patrol team led by 1st Lt. Sandy Sereno was on combat operation in a bushy area of the mentioned village.

While the soldiers were on patrol, a group of NPA rebels fired at them that sparked a 10-minute gun battle where one rebel was killed and several others wounded.

The rebels, feeling that they are over powered by the soldiers, fled taking along their wounded companions and leaving their dead companion.

Recovered from the fight scene were a bandolier loaded with 12 magazines from M16 rifle with 300 rounds of bullets, 100 meters detonating wire, an improvised detonating and explosive device, two blasting caps, a hand-held radio and personal belongings. (PNA)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

95 nurses deployed to 11 towns under RNheals

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- Ninety-five nurses recruited under the national government’s Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Services (RNheals) have reported to rural health units and district hospitals in 11 towns.

The nurses, who passed the screening and interview phase of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), underwent a one-day orientation at Rakdell Inn in Virac.

Among the 11 towns, Bagamanoc gets the largest share of the nurse recruits with 11, followed by Caramoran, Viga, and Pandan with 10 each. Baras, Bato, Gigmoto, Panganiban and San Miguel will get eight nurses each while San Andres and Virac has seven each.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), which spearheads the project, along with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the project seeks to make essential health services available to all Filipinos by training and deploying 10,000 unemployed nurses in communities. The communities will be identified by the DOH in collaboration with the DSWD. It is expected to address the shortage of skilled and experienced nurses in 1,221 rural and unserved or underserved communities for one year.

They will undergo learning and development in accordance with the roles and functions required by the project, with those in the RHUs swapping posts with those assigned in district hospitals after six months. A certificate of competency and employment will be given by the DOH, DSWD, and the Professional Regulation Commission to those who have satisfactorily completed their requirements.

While on deployment, the nurses will be given an allowance of P8,000 a month by the DOH while the local government unit (LGU) where they are assigned shall supervise them, ensure their safety and security, and provide modest board and lodging. Likewise, LGUs are encouraged to provide additional allowances and benefits worth at least P2,000 for these nurses.

PhilHealth and the Government Service Insurance System will provide group insurance to the nurses while private corporations have been encouraged to chip in through their available resources. (PNA)

P-Noy plants 1st of 12M trees under Camarines Sur’s greening crusade
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 23 (PNA) – Tree No. 1 of the 12 million that the provincial government of Camarines Sur aims to grow in the next two years emanated from the hands of the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines.

“This is exceptionally historic for the province’s momentous attempt to defy the difficult impacts of climate change and we want it listed not only in the Guinness Book of World Records but in the hearts of all our people that the first of the 12 million trees that would soon restore the greenery of the province was planted by President Benigno Aquino III,” an overwhelmed Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte said here on Wednesday.

The President on Tuesday led thousands of Camarines Sur folks in the ceremonial planting of trees on a hilly terrain in Barangay Sto. Niño here that signaled the beginning of two-year tree planting activities to be spearheaded by the El Verde Movement (EVM), a newly formed group in the province committed to pursue the re-greening of its environment.

A report of the provincial office of Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said that the coming of the President further heightened the participants' enthusiasm to take part in the crusade and be among the active stewards of environment along with their communities.

In his speech, President Aquino lauded the initiative of the local government of Camarines Sur through Governor Villafuerte in spearheading a gargantuan project of creating not just a name in history but also of launching public awareness on how important trees are in the global drive to counter the negative effects of climate change, the PIA report said.

“The government is now addressing our war against poverty, but we are still facing a lot of battles and one of them is our struggle to fight off global warming.

"Our country has gone through typhoons and widespread flooding that did not only damage our infrastructure and properties but also have lost the lives of many,” the President said. His administration through the national government’s greening program strongly supports environment endeavors like the EVM to address the declining situation of our environment," he stressed.

“Five hundred thousand seedlings could transform to five hundred opportunities for our people. Not just in terms of shade, but in terms of livelihood as well,” President Aquino added.

In support of this, he also reiterated several government efforts like the issuance of Executive Order 23 which specifically orders logging ban all over the country, the PIA report added.

The mass tree planting activities started Wednesday and will continue through next year which, by that time, according to Villafuerte, “perhaps we would be able to grow at least 12 million healthy trees and have a crack on the Guinness Book of World Records entry made in 2009 by Pakistan for its 541,176 trees planted in one day”. (PNA)

EDSA 25:

P-Noy graces 2 events marking Edsa revolution in Naga, CamSur By
Jason B. Neola

NAGA CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) -– President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday visited Bicol Region to grace two events celebrating the 25th anniversary of EDSA people power revolution.

In Naga City, the President graced the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Freedom Obelisk which does not only seek to immortalize the struggle and sacrifices of the Filipino people for the return of democracy.

City Councilor Nelson S. Legacion said: “For us, Nagueños, the monument will be regarded as one of our aide memoirs in our quest to continuously bring into reality our primordial commitment for good governance”.

The plan to build the structure is being spearheaded by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse M. Robredo.

Once completed, the obelisk will highlight a manifold of significant events that the Nagueños went through from Hispanic years up to the present.

President Aquino lauded the city government for its efforts to perpetuate the gains at Edsa by pursuing worthwhile endeavors "that are not only focused on one’s self but beneficial to the whole nation as well.”

He stressed that today’s challenge is more focused on the fight for change and the fight against graft and corruption.

Addressing a big crowd here for the groundbreaking rites of the Freedom Obelisk to be constructed at the center of the Central Business District 1 near the Plaza Quezon, President Aquino lauded the idea “since its construction will enable the public to know and be updated on various announcements regarding official undertakings.”

Aquino said the structure will also remind the public, especially the youth, about the integrity and bravery of the Nagueños who fought for freedom from the hands of the city’s early colonizers up to the dictatorial regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

In Pili, Camarines Sur, the President hailed the partnership by the provincial government led by Governor Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte and the AKO Bikol party-list group to plant 12 million trees in line with the national government’s greening program.

Villafuerte said the provincial government’s effort will be undertaken under its El Verde Movement which was launched Tuesday morning in Barangay Sto. Niño, here.

Vice Governor Ato Peña said one of the highlights of the launching rites was the ceremonial planting of 500 trees led by President Aquino along with his Cabinet members composed of Department Secretaries Proceso Alcala of Agriculture, Ramon Paje of Environment and Natural Resources; Jesse Robredo of Interior and Local Government; Virgilio De los Reyes of DAR and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., the head of the Edsa People Power Commission.

El Verde Movement plans to grow at least 12 million trees before the end of 2012 in a 12-hectare land in Barangay Sto. Niño.

Villafuerte explained that under the program, the provincial government will assign at least one family per one hectare of trees to realize an 85-90-percent survival rate. He also floated the idea of designating barangay councils and non-government organizations to take care of the trees.

President Aquino lauded the provincial government for its advocacy, saying that it would help mitigate the effects of global warming, and prevent land erosion and floods, which are the main reason for the implementation of the National Greening Program. (PNA)

EDSA 25:

P-Noy likens El Verde to Edsa I
By Ed G. Yu

OCAMPO, Camarines Sur, Feb. 23 (PNA) - Drawing from the triumphs of unity and heroism of the Filipino people during the first Edsa People Power Revolution 25 years ago where thousands of people rallied to oust a dictatorial regime, President Benigno C. Aquino III urged every Filipino to once again unite and contribute in providing solutions to the problems of global warming by planting trees and saving the environment.

President Aquino made the call on Tuesday, February 22, during the launch in Barangay Sto. Nino here of El Verde Movement, a greening project of the provincial government of Camarines Sur that aims to plant 12 million trees by 2012.

Saying that the adverse effects of global warming cannot be solved by the government alone, the President lauded the efforts of the people of Camarines Sur, led by Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte, in spearheading the massive tree planting program to help save Mother Nature.

The President thanked the participants of El Verde for showing the same unity and heroism that was displayed by the people in Edsa I. He expressed optimism the group's aim to plant 12 million trees by 2012 will be attained.

President Aquino said El Verde is comparable to the triumph of Edsa. The 500,000 tree seedlings that will be planted will bear fruits equal to 500,000 opportunities, not only to save the environment but also to sow the seeds of a better future for many Filipinos, he said.

Aside from preventing floods and landslides, the trees that will be planted could also be the source of livelihood for the people, the President said.

After his short speech, the Chief Executive signed the plastic pot containing a seedling as proof of his commitment and support to the El Verde Movement.

He also led the ceremonial planting of the 500,000 trees that will be planted in one hour on Wednesday, February 23 all over the province by some 10,000 residents coming from 1,036 barangays in Camarines Sur’s 35 towns and two cities.

Governor Villafuerte in his speech informed President Aquino that the El Verde Movement combines biodiversity conservation, economic development and a climate change adaptation strategy to help reverse the rate of deforestation in the province.

"We want to teach our people the importance of saving the environment and how they can help as active stakeholders," Villafuerte said.

The first of its kind in the country, the El Verde Movement is open to all families living in Camarines Sur. Each participating family will be given an area to plant trees and they will be required to maintain a minimum of 2,500 trees for two years.

In return, the CamSur provincial government will give the participating family food packs and free educational subsidy for elementary and high school students. The members of the family will also be enrolled in the PhilHealth Indigency Program.

El Verde is also open to corporate sponsors that want to support the movement by giving donations, which will correspond to the number of trees they want to be planted.

Trees under El Verde Movement will be planted in rain forests, riverbanks, mangrove areas and beaches, and urban or populated areas. (PNA)

Authorities verify if 2-year-old boy's death from asthma related to Mt. Bulusan ash fall

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- A two-year old boy died of asthma on Tuesday after ash fall ejected by Mount Bulusan on Monday hit Irosin and Bulan towns in Sorsogon, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol said Wednesday.

The OCD said they are still waiting for the Bulan Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) to validate whether the cause of death of the boy was disaster related.

Raffy Alejandro, OCD Bicol director, quoting reports from the Bulan MDRRMC said the boy was identified as Michael Celso, a resident of Zone 5 in Bulan town.

Initial investigation bared that the victim previously had been suffering from asthma but the municipal health office is verifying whether the boy's condition was aggravated by the ash fall.

Alejandro said once the case is validated, this would be the first disaster death related incident to occur this year as Mt. Bulusan continue to show signs of intense restiveness.

OCD report said there are still 109 families or 448 people from barangay Cogon, Irosin housed in the Gallanosa National High School.

The explosion that produced huge volume of ashes affected over 100,000 people in the towns of Irosin, Bulan, Juban, including Ticao Island and Masbate City in Masbate.

Alejandro said a team composed of technical personnel from Phivolcs, OCD, RDRRMC conducted an aerial inspection over Mount Bulusan on Wednesday to determine the volume of volcanic materials emitted by the volcano last Monday.

Ed Laguerta Phivolcs resident volcanologist, following the inspection told this reporter that at least 700,000 cubic meters of volcanic debris, including ash sediment, were emitted by the volcano in Monday’s explosion.

Laguerta said they are still determining the volume of volcanic debris deposited in Mount Bulusan gullies and slopes.

For the past 24-hour seismic observation at Bulusan Volcano showed the occurrence of one volcanic earthquake. No other significant activity was observed since the February 21, 2011 ash explosion.

Alert Level 1 remains in effect. Entry to the 4-km radius PDZ is strictly prohibited. (PNA)

AKB party-list urges PSALM to return P2.1B to power consumers
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) - A party-list lawmaker has strongly urged the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation to immediately return the P2.1 billion collected from 8 million member-consumers of electric cooperatives between 2001 and 2004.

Ako Bicol (AKB) Rep. Rodel Batocabe, vice chairman of the House Committee on Cooperative Development, said that prior to the effectivity of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) on June 26, 2001, amortization payments of the loans incurred by electric cooperatives from the National Electric Administration (NEA) as a result of their rural electrification programs were passed on to consumers through their monthly electric bills.

However, with the passage of EPIRA on June 26, 2001, the financial obligations of electric cooperatives which amounted to P17.9 billion were written off and said obligations were assumed by PSALM.

Batocabe, in an interview, pointed out that, technically, since the financial obligations of electric cooperatives were already condoned and there are no more obligations to be passed on to consumers, the rates of electricity across the country must go down.

At the Joint Hearing of the Committees on Cooperative Development and Energy, chaired by Coop-Natco Rep. Jose Ping-ay and Rep. Henedina Abad (LP, Batanes), respectively, PSALM and NEA were pointing at each other as to which agency would shoulder the overcharges imposed on the consumers.

PSALM and NEA said that they will submit the issue to arbitration before the Office of the Solicitor-General.

Batocabe, however, urged both committees to exercise their respective oversight functions to ensure a speedy and impartial arbitration process for the benefit of the consumers.

Meanwhile, electric cooperatives continue to pass on to the consumers the amortization payments for the loans they incurred with NEA, Batocabe said.

“This unwarranted payments of consumers estimated to have reached P2.1 billion, should have been the obligations of PSALM to NEA and not of our consumers,” he stressed. (PNA)

Mt. Bulusan calm, evacuees allowed to go home
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) - The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol said local disaster councils in Irosin town have allowed thousands of evacuees to return to their respective homes on Tuesday except for the 117 families or 499 people from Barangay Cogon, Irosin that are still housed in an evacuation camp because said village is located near Mount Bulusan.

Raffy Alejandro, OCD regional director, said 1,500 villagers from Barangays Monbon and Tinampo were reported to have returned to their respective homes after the volcano showed signs of calmness for the past 24 hours.

Alejandro, quoting reports from the Irosin Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC), said 32,309 people in the 17 villages were affected by the ash falls after Mount Bulusan spewed a three-kilometer high ash column that blanketed the towns of Irosin and Bulan on Monday.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) said the Maharlika Highway in the towns of Irosin and Bulan are now passable after the agency conducted ash clearing and flushing operations.

Classes in public and private elementary and secondary schools in the affected towns including Masbate City were allowed to resume.

The Irosin disaster risk reduction management council distributed thousands of masks to residents, provided foods to evacuees and set up a community kitchen and health center at the Gallanosa Elementary School compound.

Mount Bulusan, after spewing an ash column on Monday, was rocked by 16 volcanic quakes, two of which were “phreatic” events, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said today.

Bulusan Volcano’s status remains at Alert Level 1 meaning the source of activity is hydrothermal and shallow that might cause sudden explosions and ash ejections and volcanic fragments.

The public is warned not to venture inside the four-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ), since the area is at risk to sudden steam and ash explosions, and residents in the northwest and southwest sectors of the volcano are reminded to take precautions against ash falls.

People living near valleys and river/stream channels are advised to be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahar in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall. (PNA)

Camarines Sur aims to grow 12M trees until 2012 By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 22 (PNA) – A crusade has been launched to grow 12 million trees in the province as an undertaking to restore its green panorama and curb the negative impact of climate change.

Provincial Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte is spearheading the crusade under the newly formed El Verde Movement (EVM) that has earned the support and commitment of his constituents into taking an active role towards the global environmental protection campaign called for by the prevailing climate change.

The tree planting activities will start on February 23 and continue through next year which by that time, according to Villafuerte here on Tuesday, “perhaps we would be able to grow at least 12 million healthy trees and have a crack on the Guinness Book of World Records entry made by India with its 50 million trees”.

“We are particularly concerned with the Bicol National Park (BNP), a protected area covering a vast forest land we share with Camarines Norte but has been reduced to bald mountains and barren land by the unabated illegal logging and other prohibited activities during the past years,” he said.

Another main area of concern is the Mt. Isarog National Park which, in the past decades had been pestered by kaingin (slash and burn) farming despite government regulations for its protection, Villafuerte said.

The governor said all government agencies with offices in the provinces, local government units and the barangays, the academe, civil and social organizations as well as thousands of private individuals have already assured their participation in this historic event which the EVM will continue to propagate until its objective is attained.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had also pledged its support by providing planting materials from.

“We are also able to enlist the participation of the Sarong Banggui Organization, Intl. (SBOI) a non-profit socio-cultural organization composed of thousands of Bikolanos all over the world that have committed to respond to the calls for the development of communities and promoting itself as a steward of the environment,” the governor said.

The Philippine Judges Association (PJA) on the other hand, had committed to adopt an area where its members and their families could plant trees which they would nurture in the next two year to make sure it grow up to become full grown trees in the next two years, he said.

The Archdiocese of Caceres, under the headship of His Excellence, Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi and the Archdiocese of Libmanan also pledged their support along with other parishes in their district, Villafuerte added. (PNA)

EDSA 25:

Organizer expects 8,000 participants in EDSA Run in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) – This city is one of the 10 places outside Metro Manila that will stage the EDSA Run on February 27 and its organizer expects at least 8,000 participants to show up.

While the run will commemorate the 1986 People Power Revolution that peacefully toppled the Marcos dictatorial rule and won back democracy for the country, it will also be a fund-raising activity that intends to help in building 25,000 classrooms across the country, according to the Pinoy Power Bicol Coalition of Volunteers (PPBCV).

Its president Ofelia Samar-Sy on Tuesday said the PPBCV that is composed of civil society groups joined by government and non-government organizations hopes to muster some 8,000 participants to the Run, citing earlier commitments by various sectors like the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that assured around 2,000 runners, among others.

At least 3,000 intermediate pupils with high school and college students; 1,000 employees from national agencies and local government units and another 1,000 from the private and civic sectors are also expected, Sy said.

Runners from as far as Naga City in Camarines Sur have also signified their intention to motor to this city and join the historic activity which Sy promised to be very festive, amusing and healthful.

Registration for walk-in participants who were unable to make it in the pre-registration that closed last Friday will be made on the day of the run starting 3:30 a.m. at the Peñaranda Park here where the run will commence going to the Embarcadero de Legazpi that is three kilometers away then negotiate the four-kilometer stretch of Legazpi City Boulevard.

The starting gun for the Bicol Run will be fired at exactly 5:30 a.m. simultaneously with the same activity in EDSA and the other nine areas in the provinces such as Vigan, Ilocor Sur; Clark, Pampanga; the cities of Cebu, Davao, Dipolog, Zamboanga; and the provinces of Zambales, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga, Sibugay. (PNA)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

French envoy visits Albay, hails province's disaster risk reduction management efforts

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) – French ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Borja de Mozota hailed the efforts of the provincial government of Albay for an effective implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction Management and the people’s resiliency on disaster preparedness.

In a courtesy call on Albay Governor Joey Salceda, Ambassador de Mozota said that Albay’s best practices on disaster preparedness will be featured in the Film Fest in France “to highlight the culture and resiliency of the people during and after disaster.”

Albay has been a model on Disaster Risk Reduction Management wherein the framework has been adopted by other provinces and recognized by the United Nations.

Ambassador de Mozota is also looking at the possibility of having an economic and tourism partnership with the provincial government of Albay.

According to Governor Salceda, the French envoy is willing to assist the province on economy and tourism. “It was a fruitful meeting with the French ambassador and we have established a good relationship,” he said.

Governor Salceda, likewise, has asked Ambassador de Mozota to extend technical assistance to hospitals in the province. (PNA)

Masbate hit by ash falls spewed by Mount Bulusan -- PIA

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) - Volcanic ashes belched by Mount Bulusan in Sorsogon on Monday, have drifted and reached Masbate City and the island town of Ticao in Masbate province, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Masbate provincial office said.

Ernie Delgado PIA Information Center Manager in Masbate said traces of moderate ash falls were observed in Ticao town while light ashes were noted in Masbate City.

The report said traces of ashes were observed at about 9:45 Monday that drifted westward toward Masbate specifically Ticao, an island town located near Sorsogon.

The Masbate City Health Office, immediately distributed green surgical masks to residents affected by the ash falls.

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents around Mt. Bulusan were immediately evacuated after the latest ash explosion around 9:12 a.m. here today, a military official said.

Lt. Col. Santiago Enginco, commanding officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion based in Juban town, said that he immediately deployed five military vehicles to assist in the evacuation around 10 a.m.

“We have transported about 50 families numbering around 150 people from Puting Sapa village to the designated evacuation center in Cogon Elementary School in Juban town; 300 families in Irosin town,” said Enginco.

Classes in the affected areas (Juban, Irosin and Bulan) were suspended by the Department of Education so that schools can accommodate evacuees.

Joena Gupit of DWBS FM in Bulan town said that at least 38 young students suffered suffocation from ash and smoke. (PNA)

Monday, February 21, 2011

DSWD targets 23,000 CCT beneficiaries in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will enlist over 23,000 poor families in the province of Camarines Norte into the government’s anti-poverty program called Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

DSWD regional director for Bicol Remia Tapispisan said here over the weekend the ongoing Camarines Norte Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) registration has already listed a total of 12,013 potential beneficiaries in four municipalities.

These municipalities are Paracale with 2,772 potential beneficiaries; Mercedes, 3,485; Sta. Elena, 3,115; and San Lorenzo Ruiz, 404.

In December last year to January this year, the DSWD had already 2,237 beneficiaries in the towns of Capalonga, Sta. Elena, Mercedes and San Lorenzo Ruiz which were recipients of more than P24.7 million cash assistance, Tapispisan said.

Another set of community assemblies and registration are also scheduled for the municipalities of Jose Panganiban where a total of 2,868 potential beneficiaries are targeted; Labo, 2,290; Vinzons, 3,136; Basud, 2,455; and San Vicente, 511, she added.

Camarines Norte has 12 towns with a total population of 513,785 based on the 2007 survey conducted by the National Census Office (NSO), making it the second smallest province of Bicol next to the island of Catanduanes.

CCT, which is also called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is a poverty reduction strategy of the national government that gives conditional cash grants to extremely poor families to improve their health, nutrition and education especially of children 0 to 14 years old.

The program is presently being implemented in Bicol’s six provinces initially covering 65 of the region’s 107 municipalities and seven cities with 140,523 beneficiaries. (PNA)

Mt. Bulusan Ash Explosion, February 21, 2011 at 9:12 AM. Spectators keenly watched the thick grayish ashes spewed by Mt. Bulusan. Volcano’s ash reached as high as 2 kms moving Southwest direction affecting areas of Irosin and some parts of Juban and Bulan in Sorsogon. Thick ashfalls also reached as far as Masbate and Ticao Island disrupting outdoor and travel activities there. Phivolcs said the similar explosions are expected from Mt. Bulusan as the volcano is on Alert Level 1

San Miguel Barangay Bagsakan wins 2010 Gawad-Saka nat’l award

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- Barangay Bagsakan of San Miguel, Catanduanes was adjudged as the National Outstanding Barangay Bagsakan (LGU-Operated Category) in the GAWAD SAKA 2010 Search for Outstanding Achievers in Agriculture and Fisheries, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) provincial office here said Monday.

San Miguel Mayor Edna Bernal is set to receive the presidential award and P350,000 project funding from President Benigno S. Aquino III and top Department of Agriculture (DA) officials during the awarding ceremonies set this week in Manila.

The Barangay Bagsakan is essentially a barangay-based food depot where there is continuous supply of fresh food such as meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and other basic household commodities which are accessible and affordable.

As part of the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program of the national government, it aims to establish an agri-based trading depot to service the food needs of the residents.

The DA provided the local government unit (LGU) of San Miguel a chest freezer, chiller, meat showcase and other equipment such as weighing scales (upright, hanging and digital), electric meat grinder, electric coconut grater and others. The LGU was also given NFA rice worth P50,000 for retail at the Barangay Bagsakan.

During the field validation and evaluation of the Gawad Saka National Technical Search Committee on Oct. 27-29, 2010, the San Miguel project stood out because of the local government’s allocation, through a Sangguniang Bayan resolution, of P50,000 for each barangay council as financial assistance for the establishment of a barangay bagsakan project in the village, thus serving as satellite food depots to better serve their respective constituents.

The Bagsakan now sells organically-grown vegetables supplied by 50 farmers in Virac, Viga and San Miguel, aside from other veggies sourced from the mainland, fresh meat and processed meat supplied by contract growers. (PNA)

Mount Bulusan belches 3-km high ash column; aircraft pilots advised to avoid flying close to volcano's summit

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) - Mount Bulusan on Monday belched an ash column three kilometers high from the crater summit, indicating that steam driven pressure is building up at the volcano’s vent, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

Civil aviation authorities advised pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano's summit as ejected ash and volcanic fragments from sudden explosions may be hazardous to aircraft.

Furthermore, people living near valleys and river/stream channels should be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahars in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Phivolcs said the explosions that occurred at 9:12 a.m. on Monday was recorded as explosion type earthquake lasting for about 19 minutes.

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said the ash explosion was also accompanied by rumbling sound which was heard up to 10 kilometers away in Juban town in Sorsogon.

The ash column that shot up into the air drifted to the southwest of the volcano flank as preliminary filed investigation by the agency traced the presence of ash deposits in Barangay Monbon and Irosin town proper.

Alert Level 1 remains hoisted, meaning that the source of activity is hydrothermal and shallow.

Entry to the four-kilometer radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) is strictly prohibited, since the area is at risk to sudden steam and ash explosions.

Due to the prevailing wind direction, residents in the northwest and southwest sectors of the volcano are reminded to take precautions against ash falls.

Two volcanic earthquakes jolted the volcano on Sunday as weak steaming activity drifting to the southwest direction was observed from the Northwest vents.

Results of ground deformation surveys conducted on January 25-29, 2011 showed that the volcanic edifice was slightly deflated relative to December 2010 survey. (PNA)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sorsogon school tames wild lubi-lubi into veggie noodles
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 9 (PNA) – Lubi-lubi or Philippine fig (Ficus pseudopalma), a wild shrub that is endemic in Bicol is soon entering the consumers’ market as a nutritious vegetable noodle recently developed by the Sorsogon State College (SSC) here.

The latest study conducted by the SSC found out that vegetable noodles enriched with lubi-lubi leaves is a highly nutritious food item that can compete with other similar products in the market.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) provincial office here reported that SSC researchers dealt with the development and acceptability of the lubi-lubi enriched noodle using its puree as indigenous ingredient. Based on the abstract of their study, the level of acceptability rates “highly acceptable” as to its taste, texture and color.

SSC research leader Geraldine de Jesus told the PNA on Wednesday that their next steps are the chemical analysis of the lubi-lubi leaves to determine its nutritional properties before testing its commercial production.

“The good thing about lubi-lubi is that it is practically found around us and widely distributed within thickets at low altitudes. Other households that value it as a herbal medicine and as a vegetable delicacy grow and cultivate the plant also as ornamental,” De Jesus said.

The young lubi-lubi shoots are edible. As herbal medicine, its matured leaves are used against kidney stones, diabetes and hypertension, among other lifestyle diseases, she said.

Their study, De Jesus said, was widely applauded when presented in the recent National Congress of International Society for Southeast Asian Agricultural Sciences held at the Bicol University in Legazpi City. (PNA)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

EU helps Bicol fisher folks cope with climate change’s bad effects on food production
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 7 (PNA) – The European Union is helping Bicol fisher folks acquire the latest technologies towards increasing yields in aquaculture with two of the region’s six provinces placed under its project dubbed Focused Food Production Assistance to Vulnerable Sectors (EU-FPAVAS).

The project that aims to alleviate the ill effects of climate change on agricultural production in Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte, among other areas in the country, by providing training on the use of proper technologies toward cultivation of freshwater prawns, seaweed and saline tilapia, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional office here on Monday said.

Generally, the project aims to enhance food security and reduce poverty among the vulnerable sectors in the target provinces by way of buffering the effects of volatile food prices and climate change through increased small farmers’ rice production; enhanced productivity of upland agriculture through crop diversification; and increase aquaculture yield in both coastal and inland waters.

It also seeks to identify and document indigenous practices used by farmers and fisher folk that help conserve resources, understand and mitigate the risks and effects of climate change phenomena and develop strategies and plan to help reduce its impacts especially on agricultural production.

DA Regional Executive Director Jose Dayao told the PNA Monday the project will provide food production assistance to 32,759 total household beneficiaries in the six beneficiary provinces.

EU-FPAVAS is funded by the European Union under its Food Facility–Facility for Rapid Response to Soaring Food Prices in Developing Countries project being implemented by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) together with the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD).

Beneficiaries to the project in the Philippines are six provinces -- Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro -- that were identified in association with the DA and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The EU-FPAVAS project would last for 22 months from January 2010 to October 2011. (PNA)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Salceda says CCT’s effectiveness tested during floods in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 4 (PNA) – The Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) builds disaster resilience of poor families and the experience of Albay is a prime example, according to Governor Joey Salceda.

Also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), CCT is a poverty reduction strategy of the national government that gives conditional cash grants to extremely poor families to improve their health, nutrition and education, especially of children 0 to 14 years old.

A maximum of P1,400 is given per family each month, provided that they comply with the program’s five requirements such as:

Pregnant women must avail of pre- and post-natal care and be attended by skilled health professional during child birth; parents must attend family development sessions; children 0-5 years old must receive regular preventive check-ups and vaccines; children 3-5 years old must attend day care classes; and children 6-14 years old must attend elementary and high school classes at least 85 percent of the time.

With the recent flooding and landslides in Albay brought about by continuous rains starting the middle of last December, Salceda noted how the CCT helped the people in their plight, citing the case of Manito, the town hardest hit by the disaster.

“Manito is most unique and an exemplar since it is the only town where barangays do not wait for the province to order evacuation. Once their rain gauges reach threshold, they evacuate on their initiative and just notify the province of their need for food assistance to replenish what they initially expended,” Salceda said.

“That ability is significantly aided by CCT as considering that cash is the most flexible form of relief since it enables the poor to make choices -- whether it is sardines or eggs for viand, and if it's sardines, what brand. Unless, of course, there are supply rigidities when relief goods are needed to expand available supply,” he added.

Remia Tapispisan, the regional director of the DSWD for Bicol based here, said that at present, CCT is already being implemented in the six provinces of the Bicol Region, covering 65 municipalities with 140,523 beneficiaries.

Among them is Manito, a fourth class municipality. It has 4,864 households mostly of poor families that are now enrolled with and receiving cash assistance from the DSWD under the CCT, Tapispisan said.

As part of the implementation of CCT in every beneficiary barangay, she said capability building training for Parent Leaders (PLs) is conducted by the DSWD using various modules such as Managing Self for Others; 4Ps in Review; 4Ps Systems; Role of PLs; Family Development Sessions; Effective Communication; Leadership, Conflict Resolution and Documentation. (PNA)

DENR-Bicol eyes endemic fruit trees for reforestation
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Feb 4 (PNA) – The massive planting of two species of endemic fruit trees that grow extensively in Bicol are being eyed for the conservation efforts within the 250,000-hectare BacMan (Bacon-Manito) geothermal reservation at the boundaries of Manito, Albay and this city, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The area, now site of the 110-megawatt geothermal energy operations of the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC), will serve as pilot site for the undertaking that falls under the government’s reforestation measures on protected areas, Fernando Quilanan, the regional director of the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)on Friday said.

It will also be under the EDC’s “Binhi” program that aims to plant millions of fruit bearing trees as a component of its medium-term development plan designed to create alternative source of livelihood for upland settlers, Quilanan said.

This initiative is part of the social responsibility activities of the geothermal energy firm to be implemented within its host communities.

These fruit trees are the "gumihan" (Artocarpus sericicarpus) and "baligang" (Syzygium curanii) of the family Moraceae and family Myrtaceae, respectively. These trees bear fruits almost simultaneously every year that ripens during the months of May and June.

The sweet-sour baligang fruit is similar to its biologically relative duhat (Syzygium cumini), while gumihan is a gold-colored fruit and looks like but tastes sweeter than "marang" (Artocarpius adoratissi).

In principle, Quilanan said the geothermal firm’s management had already committed its full support in terms of funding for the project.

Besides, he said the planting of these endemic fruit trees will also provide additional food for the 14 species of fruit eating bats found within the reservation area.

“These two Bicol’s endemic fruit trees would highlight how rich the region is in terms of forest resources that can be harnessed into sources of livelihood for local upland farmers. We are also planning to launch a contest in finding the biggest and sweetest gumihan and baligang this year,” Quililan said.

The seeds of these fruits to be generated by the contest will be used as planting materials for the propagation of the best quality trees that eventually will herald Bicol as a rich source of these products, he said.

“We can even adopt these species as landmark fruits of the region aside from the "pili" (Canarium ovatum) for celebrating unique festivity, say a Gumihan or a Baligang Festival patterned after the Durian (Davao) and Lanzones (Camiguin) Festivals, among others.” Quililan noted.

Manuel Rangasa, the executive director of the Albay’s Center for Research on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CIRCA) said Governor Joey Salceda, who sports the title “Green Economists,” has expressed support to the project.

A report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional office in Legazpi city over the week said an agreement for the implementation of the fruit tree plantation project has been formally signed during the Executive Committee over the week and the period of implementation will start this month. (PNA)

Warden in hot water with seizure of marijuana inside Legazpi jail
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 3 (PNA) --- A jail warden is in hot seat after operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in a jail inspection seized on Monday eight plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves inside a detention cell of the Legazpi City jail, a ranking PDEA official said Thursday.

Jail Senior Inspector Gerardo Berdin, city warden of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) here, is under investigation by the PDEA and BJMP regional office concerning the presence of the banned weed inside the prison cells of jail “trustees.”

Pedrito Magsino, PDEA regional director, in an interview on Thursday, said PDEA agents conducted the surprise jail inspection wherein drug sniffing K9 dogs uncovered the eight plastic sachets of dried marijuana leaves discreetly hidden inside a drawer of one of the inmates in dormitory “0.”

The dormitory “O” is where 10 “trustee” inmates stay along with nine other cells ran by the BJMP in this city.

A “trustee” is an inmate, who, because of good behavior, is given special privileges and treatment by BJMP officials.

Magsino said they suspect that the trustees were peddling the illegal drugs among jail inmates as they found out that two of the 10 jail trustees are facing illegal drug charges.

“We are investigating the extent of the illegal drug trade inside the jail including the source of the drugs and the identities of the suppliers," Magsino said.

The jail inspection is under “Operation Greyhound” for which PDEA and BJMP signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to coordinate and assist in the conduct of illegal drug inspections in various BJMP jails across the country.

Magsino said the surprise inspection conducted at the city jail was closely coordinated and had been approved by Emily Acanas, BJMP Bicol director. (PNA)

DENR reforests 9,281 hectares of denuded forest lands in Bicol
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 2 (PNA) - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol said Wednesday that their reforestation project had gained headway with over 9,000 hectares of denuded forest lands reforested since 2004 across the region.

The DENR yearend report said in seven year’s time, a total of 9,381 hectares of degraded forest lands were reforested, a big portion of which were done under the Bicol River Basin and Watershed Project (BRBWMP).

Joselin Marcus Fragada said in his report that the agency reforestation project is included in the DENR medium term plan for the period 2004-2010 under the BRBWMP alone, a total of 7,693 hectares were reforested in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Albay.

Of the 7,693 hectares, 5,862 hectares were planted with trees under BRB upland reforestation, 1,831 hectares were rehabilitated through assisted natural regeneration (ANR), and 761 hectares of agroforestry farms were maintained.

Under the BRBWM project, the agency for the past three years (2007-2009) had spent a total of P337 million.

Other activities were also undertaken under BRBWMP including rehabilitation of 111 kilometers of riverbank, and construction of 2,738.5 cubic meters of gabion/check dams, 2,699 linear meters eco-blocks and 12 small water impounding system (SWIS).

The Bicol peninsula covering six provinces had a total land area of 1,763,249 hectares, of which 541,189 or 30 percent is classified as forestland while 1,222,060 or 70 percent is alienable and disposable lands.

A big chunk of the forest lands may be found in Camarines Sur with 161,131 hectares, followed by Masbate- 141, 385, Catanduanes – 77,823, Camarines Norte – 71,219, Albay - 49,052 and Sorsogon with 40,57 hectares.

For regularly funded projects for the past six years since 2004, of the total of 1,828 hectares of denuded forest, 1,688 hectares or 92 percent was planted, while some 570 hectares of new mangrove plantation were also established in the six Bicol provinces, the DENR report showed.

For CY 2009-2010, a total of 4,637 hectares of degrade forestlands were likewise rehabilitated under the Upland Development Program (UDP) with following components: 1.) Upland reforestation – 1,574 hectares, 2.) assisted natural regeneration – 704 hectares, 3.) mangrove – 297 hectares, and agroforestry – 2,062 hectares, the DENR report said.

The UDP was implemented in 2009 in Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) sites, Protected Areas (PA) Mangroves, Coastal and Watershed Areas to create immediate additional income to upland farmers in support to the Government’s Poverty Reduction and Hunger Mitigation Program.

A total of 1,819,512 seedlings of narra, gmelina, mahogany, acacia and other species were produced from CY 2004-2010 in support to the requirements of the wood industry, public and private schools, urban greening of local government units (LGUs) and the private sector, the DENR report said. (PNA)

Albay electric coop sacks manager; asks DOE to step in
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 1 (PNA) -- The Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) Board of Directors (BOD) on Monday sacked their acting general manager for failing to revive the financially ill cooperative and similarly urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to step in the management and operation of ALECO.

Rene Tronqued, ALECO board president, said the move was made in the wake of a power cut-off threat by the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) for the failure of the cooperative to settle its outstanding electric bills since February last year amounting to P982 million.

The reshuffle in the Aleco management was contained in three resolutions passed by the Aleco Board namely: requesting the DOE to assist the cooperative in the management and operation of the cooperative; recalling the designation of Engr. Alex Realoza as Acting Aleco General Manager; and designating Jose Abiera as replacement.

Aleco observed that Realoza, in some way, failed to institute reforms in the operation of Aleco and was unsuccessful in improving the cooperative's financial condition.

Tronqued said a DOE takeover would also assist the cooperative in managing its “anemic financial” obligations.

Earlier, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) scheduled to cut off power to the ALECO Tuesday, Feb. 1, but the cooperative was able to raise P258 million as partial payment on its outstanding debt from the PEMC.

ALECO currently owes PEMC P1.2 billion in unpaid electricity bills since March last year.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, in an interview, said he already asked Energy Secretary Rene Almendras to assist the cooperative by directing the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to take over the management and operation to revive the ailing cooperative.

“Once NEA takes over ALECO, it could implement reforms, and be made a temporary shield against PEMC threats of power cut off,” Salceda pointed out.

According to Salceda, Aleco has been a “problem cooperative” for the past years due to debts from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Corp. (PSALM) amounting P1.7 billion and with NEA amounting to P180 million.

Salceda said the mounting unsettled debts of the electric cooperative is due to the spikes in electricity rates imposed by the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

WESM is providing 60 percent of the 300-million kilowatt- hour yearly electricity requirement of some 250,000 Aleco consumers in the 15 towns and three cities of the province.

The remaining 40 percent requirement is provided by Aboitiz, an independent power producer (IPP) operating the Tiwi Geothermal plant in Albay.

Salceda also blamed the National Power Corp. (Napocor) for its failure to enter into bilateral agreement with IPPs when they took over the management of Aleco for more than a year.

Meanwhile, the Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders, a group composed of electric consumers, businessmen, the Social Action Center (SAC) of the diocese of Legazpi and Bayan Muna, will stage a protest rally from Feb. 1 to 3 to demand for reforms and the removal of Realoza, including the members of the Aleco Board.

The stakeholders claimed that Aleco management and operations is marred with widespread corruption and mismanagement that led to the bankruptcy of the cooperative. (PNA)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DOLE aims to generate 20,000 jobs in Bicol this year

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 31 (PNA) – After securing jobs for over 16,500 jobseekers in Bicol last year, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional office here said it intends to surpass the figure this year by targeting at least 20,000 additional jobs.

“Perhaps, we can double it this 2011. We will venture into more job generation strategies as early as possible and make sure that it will be our priority as part of the marching orders of President Benigno Aquino III and Labor Sec. Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz,” DOLE regional director for Bicol Alvin Villamor on Monday said.

Villamor said of the 16,544 new workers hired in Bicol into job vacancies solicited by his office last year, came from the six provinces of the region.

The biggest share of 5,611 came from the island of Catanduanes, the smallest in population with its only about 256,000 residents in 2010 as projected by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

Camarines Sur, the biggest Bicol province accounting for about 1.9 million population according to the NSCB projection, contributed the second highest number of 4,505 job seekers hired last year.

Albay, the second biggest in population with over 1.3 million, shared only 962.

Masbate that accounted for the third largest in terms of population of nearly 900,000 as projected for 2010 contributed the smallest number of workers hired of 43.

Sorsogon and Camarines Norte chipped in 3,173 and 2,250 respectively, Villamor said.

He said these peculiarities, say the case of Catanduanes that happened to be the biggest beneficiary to that job placement despite its being the smallest province, is attributable to the limited employment opportunity available in its localities especially for college graduates, including technical courses diploma or certificate holders.

In the case of Albay, Villamor said, the minimal figure of hired workers it contributed was due to the fact that the province was already enjoying a higher employment rate given the boom in trade, commerce and industry it is experiencing, owing to the opening of various economic investments last year.

Among them is the Embarcadero de Legazpi, a P1-billion business complex established at a vast waterfront property in this city whose operations went full blast last year.

It absorbed thousands of workers in both white and blue collar jobs.

The aggressive expansion endeavors initiated by the Liberty Commercial Center, the largest chain of department stores in Bicol whose key establishments are based here and Tabaco City, also in Albay, also contributed significantly to the rise in employment rate of the province, Villamor said.

There was also a great number of job openings in that province last year particularly in Naga City that plays host to the giant SM Supermarket and several other new commercial establishments.

But its enormous population size, Villamor said, would explain why a bigger number of job seekers from it was hired by DOLE-generated vacancies.

Naga City is now considered as one of the country’s fastest growing economies that provides a wide opportunity for trading and services, agri-industrial enterprises, tourism, e-services, among others.

Villamor said DOLE-Bicol, aside from conducting Jobs Fairs, is looking into the possibilities of personally inviting local companies in Laguna, Metro Cebu and Metro Manila for a specialized recruitment system in the region this year.

DOLE Bicol projects a significant increase in the number of jobs it would generate this year.

“For a start, we project 20,000 jobs generated. Then by June, we will see if there will be a need to increase that projection based on the first-half performance,” Villamor added. (PNA)