Thursday, March 31, 2011

Albay is pilot site of UNICEF study on out of school children
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) – The province of Albay has been selected by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as study area for out of school children aged 6-12.

The project is being implemented through the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in collaboration with the Albay Millennium Development Goals Office (AMDGO).

The study seeks to trace and understand the determents of gender disparities in primary and education in the country. However, in Albay, the study will focus only on elementary school children.

Jeresha San Jose AMDGO Program Coordinator said that data gathering was started last March 14 to 18 in six school sites of Tabaco City schools division.

“Based on our initial data gathering through focus group discussions and one on one interview among respondents the factors of drop-outs among school children in elementary are child labor, disfunctional family and poverty,” San Jose said.

According to her, the study will help generate an in-depth understanding of origins of gender disparities through a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches.

“The result of the study also intends to propose policy interventions based on the findings,” San Jose also said.

In a letter of PIDS to Albay Governor Joey Salceda, it was stated that the province of Albay has been selected because of the decision by the current provincial government to localize and monitor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the willingness of the provincial government to be part of this undertaking with the aim of having a specific evidence-based LGU interventions that will enable these gender disparities to be addressed.

The expected release of analysis report is in November this year.(PNA)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

No transport strike in Albay: BAYAN

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, March 30 (PNA) -- Militant transport groups here announced Wednesday that they would not join the nationwide transport strike scheduled on Thursday, and instead they will hold protest rallies across the province, the Bagong Alyansya Makabayan (BAYAN) said.

Tessa Lopez, BAYAN Bicol spokesperson, said in consultation with Concerned Drivers and Operators (CONDOR) in Bicol, they have decided not to participate on Thursday's call for a nationwide transport strike by transport groups in Manila, saying that instead of a strike it will hold mass action or people's protest.

Lopez said they would hold mass action on Friday to protest the unabated spikes in prices of fuel products.

Lopez said the group will also hold a rally Wednesday at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) regional office here as a sympathy over the fate of the three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in China.

As this developed, the Philippine National Police (PNP) here said they have placed various police units across the region on high alert. (PNA)

CIDG nabs suspected killer of Bicol DPWH official in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) - After eluding arrest for over a decade, the prime suspect in the killing of a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional director in Pili, Camarines Sur fell into the hands of authorities on Monday, the Philippine National Police Crime Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) said Tuesday.

Arrested by CIDG operatives was Juanito Ona, alias Totoy, 41, a native of Barangay Colacling in Lupi, Camarines Sur. He is the prime suspect in the killing of DPWH regional director Engr. Nestor Tria, Sr. at the Naga Airport in Pili, Camarines Sur on May 22, 1998.

PNP records reveal that the suspect is included in the list of most wanted persons in Camarines Sur and is facing murder and robbery charges.

Police Senior Supt. Edwin Jocos, CIDG Bicol chief, in a radio interview said Ona was tagged by witnesses as the one who shot Tria.

Jocos said the suspect did not resist when arrested on Monday while playing bingo at the SM Mall in Naga.

Jocos said the suspect is under investigation at the CIDG detention center in Naga City to determine the motive and identify the mastermind behind the killing. (PNA)

Land Bank opens services to GSIS pensioners

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- Here’s good news to pensioners of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS). Thousands of government retirees may now withdraw their GSIS pensions at four Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) branches in Bicol.

Renato Eje, LBP Assistant Vice President and regional branch manager, said LBP branches in Masbate City, Virac, Catanduanes, and in the cities of Naga and Ligao have opened their banking services to accommodate GSIS pensioners.

At a media briefing here, Eje said the additional banking services is being offered by LBP to the areas without Union Bank branches citing the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate where at least 2,500 GSIS e-card holders there will have to collect their monthly pensions in UB branches either in the cities of Legazpi and Naga.

He said LBP and GSIS has entered into an agreement last year where LBP banks would accommodate government retirees living in areas that are not serviced by Union Bank, the GSIS-accredited bank where pensioners currently collect their retirement benefits.

Under the LBP-GSIS pension service, government pensioners may avail of LBP banking services by enrolling with the bank’s ATM card services exclusively for this purpose.

Eje said government pensioners living in the island towns of Masbate may collect their benefits either in LBP branches in Naga and Ligao, while pensioners in Catanduanes may get their benefits at the LBP Virac branch.

LBP have a total of 14 branches across the region with 44 Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs), he said. (PNA)

Int'l agencies hail Albay for innovative programs on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) – The executive board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNPFA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Program (WFP) have hailed the provincial government of Albay for its innovative programs on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.

The province of Albay has been chosen as one of the site for the 2011 joint field visit of the UNDP, WFP, UNFPA and UNICEF.

Mr. Nafibut Rahman, UN permanent mission to New York and Chief of Mission to Albay, said that the initiative of Albay is very laudable and extraordinary.

“The initiative for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction program of the province of Albay is a model of effective local governance,” he said.

Rahman told Governor Joey Salceda that he "does the right things and doing things right."

The field visit will enable the Executive Board members, who are representatives of UN state members to witness first hand operations and programs of the UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WFP.

The eight-member Executive Board delegation commended the provincial government of Albay for prioritizing Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programs.

Rhaman added that Albay has invested much fund for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change as well as education and health.

“This is a commendable initiative of the local government," he said. (PNA)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Public hearing on plastic buntings' use during fiestas in Catanduanes set

VIRAC, Catanduanes, March 22 (PNA) -- A public hearing on the proposed ordinance prohibiting the use of plastic buntings during fiestas and other similar occasions in Catanduanes province effective this year and provides administrative sanctions and penalties for violation will be held at the Provincial Capitol Dome at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

Expected to attend are the 11 municipal mayors, municipal engineers, Association of Barangay Captains, tourism officer, Solid Waste Management chairman and the Management Councils, representatives from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO), the general public and other proponents.

The proposed ordinance stated that traditional community festivals such as fiestas contribute to the proliferation of environmental nuisance by using buntings made from plastic bags, packaging leftovers and product ads as adornments and recklessly dumping them afterwards in storm drains and other bodies of water thus blocking the water path and causing immense flooding resulting to injuries and even deaths among marine fauna and even hastily burning them thereby releasing harmful pollutants such a dioxin which can cause a range of serious health problems.

If this ordinance will be approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, any person found violating any provision of the ordinance shall be meted with fines or imprisonment under the discretion of the court. (PNA)

DENR Bicol bans logging tools in natural and residual forests

LEGAZPI CITY, Mar 22 (PNA) - As part of measures to ensure absolute compliance in Bicol with the total log ban ordered by President Benigno C. Aquino III, the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here on Tuesday said it has started implementing a ban on logging paraphernalia in natural and residual forests of the region.

“All DENR Bicol field officials are now under orders to supervise the pullout of all logging or tree cutting and hauling equipment from all natural and residual forests to make certain that no further timber harvesting shall be done” DENR Regional Executive Director Joselin Marcus Fragada said.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje made clear in his directive to all regional executive directors that logging tools and implements are off limits to natural and residual forests by the end of last February following the imposition of logging moratorium by President Aquino under his Executive Order 23 issued amidst massive flooding in some parts of the country due to heavy rains, he said.

DENR memorandum No. 52 issued by Paje in consonance with EO 23 likewise suspended the acceptance and processing of new as well as the renewal or extension of integrated operations plans, annual work plans or resource use permits in all natural and residual forests.

“We will see to it that every field office will abide by the EO and monitor rigorously activities in identified natural and residual forests in the region” Fragada said.

He, however, stressed that logging or tree cutting operations in Bicol are inconsequential since there are no Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) holders in the region. The last known logging contract in Bicol was canceled in the seventies.

Meanwhile, concerned sectors in Sorsogon City has expressed alarm over the continuous operation of a sawmill owned by an elected city official despite the total log ban being imposed by the government.

“We are under a total log ban but the sawmill owned by City Councilor Peter Ravanilla in Barangay Pangpang continues to operate. Of course, what are being processed in that sawmill are lumber sourced from our forests and what are our DENR officials in the city doing?” barangay councilor Roland Areola told the Philippines News Agency over the weekend. (PNA)

NFA assures public on the safety of I-Rice

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 22 (PNA) -- The National Food Authority (NFA) here has assured the public that the Iron Fortified Rice or I-Rice is safe for human consumption as it moved towards a more intensified promotion of the staple to combat the prevalence of micronutrient deficiency among schoolchildren.

NFA provincial manager Eliseo Caliwag on Tuesday said I-Rice is a mixture of white milled rice and iron rice premix processed thru fortification which is a result of careful and extensive studies made by various government agencies following the setback due to some unclear reasons experienced by its promotion a few years back.

The Department of Health (DOH), Foods and Drugs Administration (FDA), Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), Food and Development Center (FDC) of the NFA and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) were involved in the studies.

The NFA has re-launched I-Rice last week as part of the nationwide revival of the promotion of its use as an effective and sustainable means to fight micronutrient deficiency particularly among school children, Caliwag said.

Some of the nutritional benefits of I-Rice include anemia prevention and prevents child birth defects and mortality during pregnancy. It also boosts healthy red blood cells, enhances body system against infection, improves mental and physical development, helps maintain alertness and endurance and improves productivity, he explained.

Through iron fortification, the process I-Rice had undergone, calories and natural proteins lost by the rice during its milling process are replaced. The process is in compliance with the Philippine Food Fortification Act of 2000 otherwise known as Republic Act 8976.

Caliwag said that their agency is giving its all out support for the government’s fortification program citing among others its important role in promoting the health condition of the children in the province.

Stakeholders coming from various government institutions and private organizations in the province have also sealed their commitment in the I-Rice promotion activities, he added. (PNA)

Biomass power plant soon to rise in Camarines Sur town

SIPOCOT, Camarines Sur, March 22 (PNA) -– This prime agricultural town has welcomed the plan of a private energy firm to put up a P1.7-billion biomass plant using coconut husks and other farm wastes in power generation.

The town’s legislative council is now in the process of conducting public hearings to determine the social acceptability of the project being pushed by the Eco-Energy Development Corporation (EEDC), a Manila-based private firm engaged in power generation using the biomass gasification technology.

Biomass gasification means incomplete combustion of biomass resulting in production of combustible gases, including carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4), CmHn, whose mixture is called pyrolysis gas that can be used to run internal combustion engines and generate electricity.

Its reactor is called gasifier which is a safe and reliable equipment operated with operational technology that is easy to be mastered by workers and the maintenance and repair work is similar to ordinary diesel generators.

Power generation by using biomass gas from rice husk, wood chips, saw dust, coconut husk, bagasse, crop stalks and olive pomace, among others can not only save electricity expenses in the production cost for rice mills, farm and plantations, among others, but also get benefits from selling surplus electric power to the power grid.

Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Abergos on Tuesday said the proposed plant site is in Barangay Taisan where its officials have already passed a resolution endorsing the the project which could provide alternative sources of income and jobs as well as cheaper electricity for households.

“That would perhaps liberate us from the very exorbitant power rate being charged by the National Power Corporation through the local electric cooperative that serves as its energy retailer,” she said. (PNA)

Cop gunned down in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, March 22 (PNA) -- A policeman was gunned down by unidentified armed men in Gubat town in Sorsogon Sunday, a Philippine National Police (PNP) officer said Tuesday.

One of the gunmen was collared during a hot pursuit operation while three other suspects were able to escape.

Killed was Senior Police Officer 1 Ferdinand Geres, a member of the Gubat town police force.

Arrested by police operatives was Robinson Huete, a resident of Barangay Bulacao, Gubat town, tagged as one of the four gunmen who attacked the victim.

Police Chief Inspector Ayn Natuel, PNP Bicol spokesperson in a text message said the incident happened at around 2:30 a.m. Sunday as the victim was about to board his tricycle along Manook st., Gubat town, when armed men at close range fired at the victim. Geres died instantly.

Police Officer 3 Enrico Ermino of the Gubat town police force in a phone interview said the victim sustained six gunshot wounds from a .45 caliber handgun.

The arrested suspect is now detained at the town jail, and undergoing interrogation as to the identities of his companions and the motive behind the killing.

Natuel could not say if the crime was insurgency or crime related, pending the result of an on-going investigation. (PNA)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New hospital to boost Naga City's bid as health and wellness hub
By: Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PNA) - Naga City pushes for a more efficient delivery of services and remains steadfast in making the city a haven for health buffs by encouraging more health facilities to flourish and serve the Naguenos.

Just recently, Mayor John Bongat attended the groundbreaking ceremony of the Naga Imaging Center Cooperative (NICC) along Roxas Avenue, Diversion Road. The site would soon be the location of NICC Doctor’s Hospital.

Also present during the occasion were Dr. Nestor F. Santiago Jr., regional director of the Center for Health Development in Bicol and Naga City’s former multi-awarded mayor, now Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse M. Robredo.

The tertiary hospital will feature state of the art facilities, including diagnostic equipment. It will also house presidential and private suites, 55 private rooms, semi-private rooms, wards and doctors’ clinics, among others. These facilities will cater to the medical needs of city residents and neighboring municipalities.

Adding to the list of medical equipment is a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which the NICC wishes to acquire as soon as the hospital commences its operation. Once realized, the said MRI will be the first in the Bicol region and is expected to serve not only residents of the province but as well as those from Samar and Quezon provinces.

Driven by a common desire to serve members coming from all economic dimensions, 41 doctors, headed by Dr. Olivia Tuy-Rances, a renowned pediatrician, have initially thought of putting up a hospice which will offer a modern medical facilities yet affordable health care services. Nearing its realization, NICC is just waiting for a year to finally reach its completion.

Now, NICC boasts of 100 doctors who will be manning the service cooperative under its general manager, Dr. Francia Lim Antonio. (PNA)

Education summit set in Albay
By:Lorenzita Quitasol

LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PNA) -- The Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI) will launch two community summits in Albay province on March 16 at Tiwi and on March 18 at Ligao City.

AFI said this is an effort to improve the local public school’s capability in providing quality education to the pupils. Over 200 stakeholders are requested to attend each summit.

AFI will spearhead the summit with the local government and the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International para el Desarollo (AECID) which provides assistance under its Enabling Education Communication (EEC) project.

AFI’s strategic partner organization in Albay is Aquinas University of Legazpi.

This education summit will be the first step in a four-part education community building process developed by AFI. The local education stakeholders in the project sites will undergo team building, planning and mobilization workshop.

The final step in the process is the implementation of the community’s plan to realize their vision for education in their community. (PNA)

Agri Training Institute to conduct two-day workshop in Naga City
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) - The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI)-Regional Training Center 5 will conduct a two-day Regional Workshop on "Pagabbago Tungo sa Matuwid na Daan: Building a More Responsive and Dynamic Agriculture and Fisheries (AF) Extension in the Region", to be held on April 26-28, 2011 at Villa Caceres Hotel, Naga City.

The said activity aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of the participants in building a more responsive and dynamic agriculture and fisheries extension in the region and will be attended by DA Program Coordinators; the Extension Heads or representatives of agencies who are members of the Agriculture and Fishery Extension Network (AFEN); Provincial Agriculturists and Program Coordinators; and representatives of private sectors.

Dr. Eliseo Ponce, former Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research will be the main facilitator of the workshop. (PNA)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Military engineers construct P58-M barangay projects in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) – The engineering corps of the Philippine Army (PA) assigned in Bicol completed last year construction works on infrastructures worth P58 million in 13 villages of Albay under the Kalayaan Barangay Projects (KBP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), its commanding officer on Monday said.

The projects composed of school buildings, health centers, water systems and farm-to-market roads are now providing the beneficiary villages with facilities that make life in poor, rural communities less difficult being attended to by some basic structures toward the delivery of the government’s social services in conflict areas or those that have peace and order issues.

Lt. Col. Nicasio Padua, the commander of the 565th Engineering Construction Battalion in a report to Maj. Gen. Ruperto Pabustan of the PA’s 9th Infantry Division based in Pili, Camarines Sur said the projects completed composed of 52 infrastructures were established in the municipalities of Guinobatan, Jovellar, Oas and Pio Duran.

Guinobatan, Padua said got 36 completed projects of two-classroom school buildings for each of its nine poorest barangays, each backed up by a health center, water system and farm-to-market road, all constructed for the total amount of P40.5 million.

Two barangays in each of the three other Albay municipalities were also recipients of the similar sets of projects with each item costing P4.5 million or P9 million each barangay, Padua said.

The need of those areas for the projects was identified based on the extent of conflict or peace and order issues brought about by the insurgency problem affecting the area. Bicol is composed of 3,471 barangays and military reports have it that at least 30 percent of this total is affected by the over 40-decade old communist uprising rooted on poverty and social injustice.

The government’s implementation of various anti-poverty programs and projects like the KBP, according to Pabustan will go a long way to achieve peace in these areas. (PNA)

DTI provides Naga City women tools to produce charcoal briquette out of water lily

NAGA CITY, March 14 (PNA) – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has provided a women’s group here equipment for the commercial production of charcoal briquettes out of water lilies clogging up major rivers and other tributaries around the city.

The P250,000 equipment were turned over to the Mabolo Charcoal Briquetting Center and Tinago Handicraft Developing Center being run by the Mabolo Entrepreneurs Association (MEA) over the weekend by DTI provincial director Edna Tejada, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) on Monday said.

The project will be an undertaking geared towards providing an alternative source of income to the women’s group but also to unclog the city’s waterways of water lilies or water hyacinths that have been serving as nuisance to fishermen and other users of the Bicol River that crisscrosses the city and its neighboring municipalities.

Tejada said the city government had already provided training for the members of the women’s group who were interested in the charcoal briquetting project.

The DTI equipment were in support to the project under a partnership reached between the agency, the local government unit and the women’s groups.

The partnerships were sealed through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed by City Mayor John Bongat, Tejada, MEA president Glen Francisco and Tinago barangay chairman Jose Importante.

The production of charcoal from water hyacinth is also in support of the city’s one-barangay, one-product program being promoted under the Go Negosyo ng Lunsod business agenda of the city administration, Bongat said. (PNA)

CCT now benefits 68,500 families in Masbate’s 20 towns, one city
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) – Their P100 monthly earning indeed tells a tale of poverty that dogged each of the over 68,500 families in Masbate province which the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) had identified and placed into the keeping of its multi-billion-peso Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

Remia Tapispisan, DSWD regional director, on Monday said the CCT program has been put into implementation under a P21-billion appropriation this year by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, .

The 68,500-family figure in Masbate now benefiting from the CCT that is also called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) was realized following the inclusion this year of Masbate City, the provincial capital and six more towns placing the entire island province, the poorest in Bicol under the coverage of the program, Tapispisan said.

It was only 68,000 last year and since 2008 when the program was introduced to cover only 15 municipalities in the province. The additional towns this year are Baleno in the second congressional district, Pio V. Corpuz in the third district and San Jacinto, San Fernando and Batuan in the first district. The city belongs to the second district.

Identification of the new and would be beneficiaries of the program, according to Tapispisan is now through the National Household Targeting System, a precise means to reach indigent families developed by the DSWD.

As of December last year, 85,395 poor families in Bicol were already under the coverage of the program gathered since its inception two years ago.

Under the CCT, 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.

Under the present administration, Tapispisan said, the 4Ps or CCT has been made more comprehensive as it now comes with substantial investments in basic education, child immunization, and maternal health and public health services.

The Aquino government did not only expand the CCT program but also ensured a complete and comprehensive package to make it effective in liberating indigent households from poverty by addressing resource gaps in basic education and to provide maternal health care facilities and immunization services, especially in the countryside, she added. (PNA)

Bicol PNP gets P5.1M for in-camp hospital

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) -- The Bicol police was provided a P5.1 million fund for the establishment of a primary hospital inside Camp. Gen. Simeon Ola, the regional headquarters here of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The fund will come from the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health (DOH). The DOH national budgetary fund this year is P7.1 billion, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Chief Supt. Cecilio Calleja Jr., the police regional director for Bicol on Monday, said the project implementation will be the responsibility of the DOH as at the PNP regional office is only a recipient.

For his part, DOH regional director Nestor Santiago said the Camp Ola primary hospital project aims to insure that the members of the Bicol PNP are provided with adequate health services that are easily accessible through the project located inside their own regional camp.

HFEP is among the program being provided ample fund by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III in order to support the establishment of various primary hospitals and upgrading of around 1,278 health facilities and barangay health centers, especially for Basic or Comprehensive Emergency Obstetrics and Neonatal Care Centers, Santiago said.

In another development, the Bicol police received last week P100 million worth of communication equipment from the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Calleja said this would boost the operational capability of the provincial, district, city and municipal police forces in the region.

The equipment will also facilitate a closer communication link between the regional police office and all its field units in the region’s six provinces, 14 districts and 107 municipalities while providing for faster coordination of police works among these units, Calleja said. (PNA)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

(Update) Matnog bus collision kills 6 passengers, 31 other hurt
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) - At least six persons were killed, including an eight-month old baby, while 31 others were injured when two passenger buses collided at midnight Thursday along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Pawa, Matnog town in Sorsogon, a Philippine National Police (PNP) report said.

Police report said an Eagle Star bus (UVJ 273) collided with a PP Bus line (PYT 697) around 12:30 a.m. along the Maharlika Highway in Matnog some 60 kilometers from Sorsogon City.

Four passengers died on the spot because of the collision's impact while another two were declared dead at the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital.

Police Senior Inspector Jeffrey Cereno, Matnog town police chief, said the Eagle Star bus driven by Rudito Calunsod bound for Leyte from Manila was negotiating the national highway when it overtook a Philtranco bus (PYK 873) and unexpectedly rammed at the PP Bus Line driven by Ronnie Olaman, which was bound for Manila from Visayas.

Rescuers rushed the injured passengers to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital while eight passengers were brought to the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH) in this city.

Injured were 15 males, 11 females and the rest were children. The victims' ages range from five months to 96 years old.

The passengers were mostly from Leyte while some came from Cavite, Ilocus Sur, Malabon Camarines Sur and Sorsogon.

Senior Inpector Ayen Natuel, PNP Bicol spokesman, said police probers could not yet release the identities of the casualties as of press time. (PNA)

Camarines Sur ties up with DepEd in classroom construction

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 10 (PNA) – A 50-50 sharing scheme in expenses had been arranged between the Camarines Sur provincial government and the Department of Education (DepEd) for the construction of some 400 classrooms worth P280 million in the province.

The memorandum of agreement (MOA) covering the sharing scheme that realizes the so-called Counter-Parting Program between a local government unit (LGU) and the national government was recently signed by provincial Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte in behalf of the province and Education Secretary Armin Luistro, representing DepEd.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) represented by Secretary Florencio Abad is also a signatory to the agreement as a guarantee that funds would be made readily available for the national government’s counterpart in the program.

Under the scheme, the province, using its own fund will start the construction of the classrooms in public schools of its choice within its area of jurisdiction and complete its first half before turning over the project to the DepEd which will assume the responsibility of working on the second half to complete it, the governor said.

It means that of the P280 million fund needed for the 400 new classrooms, P140 million will be shouldered by the provincial government and the other P140 million by the national government, he said.

This MOA is an offshoot of the earlier agreement that established the framework and mechanics of a cost sharing scheme between the national government and LGUs to construct classrooms in areas experiencing acute shortages nationwide entered into among DepEd, League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) last August.

The Leagues of Municipalities and Cities has adopted the agreement by signing with the DepEd a separate covenant which sealed the full support of LGUs in building more classrooms for public school children. (PNA)

Representatives of UN state members to visit Albay
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) – Representatives of the United Nations member states are set to visit the Province of Albay to witness first hand operations and programs of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and World Food Programme (WFP).

UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer, in a letter addressed to Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that the Philippines has been chosen as the site of 2011 Joint Field Visit of the Executive Boards of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNPF, Unicef and WFP because of the innovative development and humanitarian initiative undertaken in the country.

The Joint Field Visit is to enable the Executive Board members to understand the contribution of UN agencies are making and the challenges faced in assisting the country in attaining national objectives, in the context of sustaining development, the Millennium Development Goals and other internally agreed goals.

The delegation will spend one full week in the Philippines late this month and part of their itinerary is a three-day visit to UNDP project sites in Legazpi and surrounding municipalities for March 29-31.

The project UNDP-Albay Strengthening the Philippine’s Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change has been chosen to showcase the results of UNDP programs in partnership with the local government.

The Province of Albay has been recognized by United Nations as Local Government Unit champion and model on Climate Change Adaptation initiatives. (PNA)

Bus collision kills 4 passengers, hurt 27 others
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) -- Four people were killed and 27 others hurt when two passenger buses collided at dawn Thursday along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Pawa, Matnog town in Sorsogon, a Philippine National Police (PNP) report said.

The police report said the road mishap took place at around 12:30 a.m. along the Maharlika Highway in Matnog when a PP Bus line (PYT 697) bound for Visayas, driven by Ronnie Ulaman and Eagle Star Bus (UVJ 273) bound for Manila, driven by Rudito Calunsog collided head on.

A following Philtranco Bus (PYK 873) also hit the rear end of PP Bus, the police report said.

The scene of the accident is 60 kilometers from Sorsogon City.

Senior Inpector Ayen Natuel, PNP Bicol spokesman, said police probes could not yet release the identities of the casualties as of press time.

However, the police initial report said that an eight-month old baby on board the Eagle Star Bus died while the three other fatalities were from the PP Bus Line.

The wounded were rushed to a nearby hospital in Sorsogon while eight other wounded to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) here.

P-Noy’s sister urged for the protection of IP’s vs mining and logging operations
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 9 (PNA) - Presidential sister Victoria Elisa “Viel” Aquino-Dee on Tuesday said she was pursuing programs that would develop and protect the plight of indigenous people (IPs) across the country especially those living in communities that are being exploited by companies involved in mining and logging.

Dee said the government and private sector should harness their efforts in improving the welfare of the IPs, who are among the disadvantaged sectors of society.

She said she was a staunch advocate in the protection of the rights of IPs by recognizing their ancestral domain and providing them education and livelihood.

Dee said she would like to see that IPs are educated so they could make right decisions. She even cited a non-government organization in Davao that put up a college exclusively for IPs.

The President's sister visited this city to grace the celebration of Women’s Month held at the Albay Astrodome here. She and and the Women’s Rights Advocate led the walk dubbed as “Marcha Bicolana” from the Legazpi Airport to the Albay Astrodome where thousands of women from various sectors joined them in the International Women’s Month celebration.

She urged Bicolanas to work harder to ensure that gender equality and the empowerment of women are a fulfilled vision.

At a press conference held at the People’s Hall, Albay Provincial Capitol, she expressed her deep involvement in improving the well being of indigenous peoples that are being affected by the developments of industries in the countryside.

She took notice of tribal communities losing their ancestral lands due to mining and logging operations in some areas across the country.

Data from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) in Bicol indicate that there are 100,000 IPs from the Agta tribe living in the region, mostly found in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Norte. (PNA)

DILG focuses on Bicol’s waterless towns under new water supply program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 9 (PNA) – At least four Bicol towns have been identified by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as priority areas in the Aquino administration’s banner program that will ensure safe water supply, healthy community and reduced poverty incidence in the countryside.

DILG regional director Blandino Maceda over the weekend identified the municipalities as Basud and Capalonga in Camarines Norte and Siruma and Garchitorena in Camarines Sur which are considered pilot areas in the region for the program dubbed “Enhancing Access to and Provision of Water Supply Services with the Active Participation of the Poor.”

Bicol had a total of 107 municipalities mostly rural and classified as poor and suffering from poor and unsafe water supply. These areas that include Magallanes, Casiguran, Castilla, Sta. Magdalena and Juban in Sorsogon; Tiwi in Albay; Monreal and San Pascual in Masbate; and Milaor and Cabusao in Camarines Sur, Maceda said, will be covered as expansion areas.

He noted the program that aims to enhance the sustainable delivery of 36 still waterless towns in 12 provinces in five regions of the country, is being jointly implemented by the DILG, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the United Nations Development Proram-Joint Program (JP) Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund (MDGF) 1919.

The Water Supply and Sanitation Unit (WSSU) under the supervision of the DILG’s Office of the Project Development Services (OPDS) which is responsible for the water and sanitation sector agenda of the Department is in the forefront of the technical aspects of the program implementation.

It is also mandated to develop and strengthen the capabilities of local government units (LGUs) in planning, financing, implementation and management of water supply and sanitation programs and projects within the framework of Integrated Water Resources Management, according to Maceda.

Its implementation, including its other components such as information, education communication (IEC) drives wherein beneficiaries are expected to come up with IEC collaterals to promote the program will be highlighted during the culmination activities for this year’s observance of the World Water Day in March 22, Maceda said.

Other activities lined up for the affair, among others he said are the National Executive-Legislative Dialogue spearheaded by University of the Philippines, (UP)-National College of Public Administration and Governance, (CPAG) and the postcard reading session with the President to be simultaneously done through satellite in SM Naga City and SM CDO and Manila. (PNA)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A fisherman plays with the baby whale shark discovered off the coastline of Donsol, Sorsogon indicating that the area has became a birthing place for this gentle sea giants. –photo courtesy of the WWF-Philippines.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

DSWD builds homes for 40 indigent families in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, March 8 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office here said Tuesday it recently completed and awarded houses to 40 indigent families in Labo, Camarines Norte.

The houses were built under the government’s Core Shelter Assistance Project (CSAP).

DSWD regional director for Bicol Remia Tapispisan said each unit of the core shelter houses costing P70,000 and designed to be typhoon-resistant stands in a 64 square-meter lot with a floor area of 20 square meters. It met the safety and stability standards set by the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau and also to be stable against strong earthquakes.

The project, including the electrification and water supply of each unit, was funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a global development network of the United Nations (UN) focusing on helping 166 countries to find solution in problems like democratic governance, poverty reduction, crisis prevention and recovery, environment, and energy.

DSWD Undersecretary Cecilia Capadocia-Yangco, who was present during the turnover rites of the project along with UNDP country director Renaud Meyer Tapispisan, said CSAP is the provision of structurally strong and environment friendly shelter units to indigent families who have lost their houses to disasters.

Tapispisan said that the project that applies the Gawad-Kalinga strategy which utilizes work teams composed of the beneficiaries themselves to provide labor for the construction of the houses intended for them.

The DSWD regional chief said that the CSAP is part of the recovery initiatives for the region in the wake of recent disasters to provide for disaster victims shelter assistance, livelihood support, technical and vocational skills and capability building on disaster preparedness and mitigation.

It is being implemented in coordination with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and local government units (LGUs), she added. (PNA)

BFAR eyes establishment of mariculture park off Catanduanes shores

VIGA, Catanduanes, March 8 (PNA) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol has fielded a team of divers and marine biologists in this remote fishing town in preparation for the establishment of marine culture zone and parks as an effort to save its main fishing ground from the adverse consequences of illegal fishing and pollution.

The team which arrived here promptly conducted a comprehensive underwater assessment and survey to determine the most ideal site for the planned 200-hectare mariculture zone at the Soboc Cove, a rich fishing ground and marine life sanctuary that according to BFAR regional director Dennis del Socorro, needs to be preserved.

He said the mariculture park to be established in the area based on the request of Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the province’s lone congressional district would be designed to become an environment-friendly livelihood facility for fisherfolk in several barangays along the shorelines of the municipal waters of this town and its neighboring fishing communities.

In a statement, Sarmiento said that apart from the economic value of this fishery facility, it will also boost the tourism potential of the island province already famous as a sea surfing and ecotourism destination.

Tristan Paylado, the BFAR Bicol Cetacean Stranding Team that has initiated the preliminary underwater works for the mariculture park site assessment and survey, said their initial dives made during the weekend ended at the 20-feet depth of the Soboc Cove where they evaluated the extent of damages on its coral reefs by illegal fishing activities.

Paylado said pollution is also affecting the aquamarine resources of the area, adding that they have already identified the best site for the park where coral reefs still abound even as they are threatened by the pollution being posed by garbage dumped into the sea by household and commercial establishments.

“We used a Global Positioning System (GPS) in determining the exact location of the mariculture zone within the 200-hectare cove which later should be declared a protected area or fish sanctuary,” he said.

Paytado said that they will conduct the second round of their assessment of the site on next month to determine the environmental condition, water quality and other technical factors that the project requires.

When established, the park will provide for several mariculture farms where all the fisherfolk in the area who will be identified as its beneficiaries would have to do are safeguard the facilities from illegal activities and harvest fish at the end of each fish culturing period, Paylado added. (PNA)

Donsol also a breeding ground for Whale Shark-DOT

LEGAZPI CITY, March 8 (PNA) -- Not only is Donsol town in Sorsogon is called whale shark ("Butanding") capital of the country but it will now also be considered as a breeding ground after authorities discovered recently a 15-inch long baby whale shark in the town's coastal waters, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said.

Maria “Nene” Ravanilla, DOT regional director, said the nature conservation group World Wide Fund-Philippines is conducting the study after the recent discovery of the baby whale shark accidentally caught in the area off the coast of Donsol.

According to Ravanilla, the smallest ever butanding was said to be a day-old whale shark hence it was born in the area.

Butanding are also thriving in this once sleepy town because of the abundance of krill and other planktons usually in the diet of the gentle giants of the seas.

Ravanilla said that the whale shark interaction in Donsol, one of the most visited tourist spots in Bicol or perhaps in the whole country, continues to draw tourist to Sorsogon last year which reached 101,799 or 21 percent higher than in 2009 with only 84,354.

She said that out of the total tourist arrivals last year, 73,925 were local tourists while 27,874 were foreigners or a ratio of one foreign tourist per three locals.

She said Donsol is now vying to be a first class municipality after its gross receipts from tourism reached more than P66 million.

Butanding, or whale shark (Rhincodon typus), is a slow-moving filter-feeding animal that is considered as the largest fish in the sea, measuring 40 feet or more.

This distinctively yellow-marked shark is the only member of its genus Rhincodon and its family, Rhincodontidae, which is grouped into the subclass Elasmobranchii in the class Chondrichthyes. (PNA)

Travel agencies set to promote Albay’s tourism in Berlin

LEGAZPI CITY, March 8 (PNA) -– The Philippine Travel Operators Agency (PHILTOA) is set to promote Albay’s tourist destination and Magayon Festival 2011 in Berlin , Germany .

Albay governor Joey Salceda said that the Albay five-day tour package in Berlin will coincide with the International Tourism Borse (ITB) on March 9 to 13. “The ITB is reputed to be the biggest travel fair in the world.”

“Members of the PHILTOA will promote tourist destinations and the month long Magayon Festival 2011 this April ,” Salceda said.

He said that the five-day tour package was an offshoot of the launching of Magayon Festival in Dusit Hotel last February 16 wherein seven travel agencies have confirmed to promote the tourism industry of the province during the forthcoming International Tourism Borse in Berlin.

“This is an opportunity for the province of Albay to introduce our wonderful places and spots to the world,” Salceda said. (PNA)

USAID extends implementation of family health project in Sorsogon

SORSOGON CITY, March 7 (PNA) – After completing phase one of its family health project in Sorsogon province, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is extending it to its second phase, this time focusing on public-private partnership in providing modern Family Planning (FP) and Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services.

This extended version of the project called the Private Sector Mobilization for Family Health Phase 2 (PRISM2) is part of the USAID's continuing initiative to build enduring public-private partnership that would assure Filipinos the availability of and access to quality modern family FP and MCH products and services, Dr. Edgar Garcia, the provincial health officer said over the weekend.

PRISM2 is actually a follow-up of its first phase implemented in the province in 2004-2009 by way of initiating the participation of private sector with government as partner in meeting the demand of Filipino families for FP and MCH products and services.

According to Garcia, PRISM2 works on the gains of PRISM1 and intends to scale up its reach to achieve critical mass. It supports cross-cutting efforts such as alliance building, advocacy and institutional development in Sorsogon province and all the other 76 provinces and independent cities nationwide until 2014.

The end goal of the program is to assist Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the local governments to engage and mobilize private sector resources in the delivery of FP and MHC services and products.

It also hopes to achieve an improved private sector providers' effectiveness in communicating and encouraging clients to seek FP and MCH services from trained providers and deliver in birthing facilities.

Sorsogon market opportunities for these health services according to Dr. Maricel Fajardo, head of the Technical Services of the Provincial Health Office (PHO) under the Safe Motherhood services in Bicol reported that the province, with a total population of 735,040 based on the 2010 census, has a 97,483 total of married women of reproductive age (MWRA) status.

The focus of the program is to provide these women under the MWRA needs for information, practices, products, and services essential for healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries and births, according to Fajardo.

She said Sorsogon still has a high incidence of maternal and neonatal mortality which is an issue to be addressed given the fact that many women still adhere to the risk of being attended by non-skilled birth attendants and have not been provided adequate care during the course of pregnancy.

Garcia said the PRISM projects are part of the joint initiative of the Philippine government and the USAID to achieve the fourth and fifth components of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that targets zero maternal and neonatal morality by 2020. (PNA)

Farmers to raise millions of pili seedlings for Bicol’s version of National Greening Program
By Danny O Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, March 7 (PNA) – Farm level stakeholders in Bicol’s pili industry will attempt to produce a million pili seedlings yearly starting this year as part of their commitment to reinvigorate the industry while taking an active role in the region’s adaptation of the National Greening Program (NGP) recently launched by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“Our primary intention now is to green Bicol with pili trees by way of not only expanding our own plantations but also making available more seedlings to be used in the implementation of the NGP in the region,” said Jose Amador, a top commercial grower of the crop in the city that is considered as the region’s leading producer of pili nuts.

Amador, 54, told the Philippines News Agency over the weekend that while most of Sorsogon province’s pili farm owners have only an average of 10 fully grown pili trees per hectare, his 12-hectare plantation is now teeming with as much as 1,200 productive trees distributed at 100 trees per hectare between coconuts and intercropped with other high value crops. He started the plantation 12 years ago.

He said the commitment of the industry’s farm sector to strengthen its rank by way of growing more pili trees and taking part in the production of seedlings for the implementation of the NGP was arrived at during the two-day 3rd Regional Pili Congress held in Legazpi City last week under the auspices of the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The affair which gathered together over 500 participants tackled among others the current systems affecting the supply and economic value chains of the industry that involve international potential markets, export incentive programs and capitalization and investments outsourcing like foreign aids, grants and loans pump-prime the industry, the DA said.

And since the DA is among the agencies tasked to lead the implementation of the NGP based on Executive Order No 26 issued by President Aquino last February 24, its regional executive director for Bicol, Jose Dayao, said on Monday he welcomes the support pledged by the pili farmers not only in tree planting but also in seedling production.

Popularly known as the “majestic tree,” pili is ideal for agro-forestry, as well as an ornamental, or lawn tree, along avenues, in parks, subdivisions and golf courses. As an evergreen with an even spread of branches and leaves, the tree is an excellent shade and typhoon windbreaker as it does not shed leaves with the changing for the seasons.

The plant easily adapts to different agro-climatic conditions and being indigenous to Bicol, Dayao said it thrives in marginal soil conditions, harsh tropical climate and in low and high elevations. It also fits into the agro-ecotourism program of the government, because its lush crown provides shelter to wildlife.

From 2000 to July 2006, the land planted with pili trees in Bicol increased by 29.3 percent to 7,046.5 hectares from 5,449 hectares. Established during the period were 12 plant nurseries, nine foundation groves with 2,000 mother trees and a germ plasm bank maintained by the DA to ensure a steady supply of quality seeds. The region now had around 800,000 fully-grown pili trees. (PNA)

Masbate town bans fishing in sanctuaries pestered by overfishing

MILAGROS, Mabate, March 7 (PNA) – Pestered by big commercial fishing vessels encroaching into its territorial waters, the municipal government of this coastal town that serves as Masbate's principal supplier of fish and other marine products has sealed off major portions of its territorial waters from all fishing activities.

“We want to save our fishing grounds from being overfished in favor of our marginal fishermen that comprise half of our 50,000 population and relying mainly on this resource for their livelihood,” Vice Mayor Gavino Regodon said over the weekend.

The vice mayor led the town’s legislative council in recently enacting an ordinance that bans fishing and harvesting of other marine products from two main fish sanctuaries off the town’s coastlines that serve as main breeding ground for most fishes found at its municipal waters within Asid Gulf.

Considered as one of the few areas in the country that remain rich in precious marine life, Asid Gulf that lies at the southwestern part of the Masbate mainland is also considered the scallop fishery hub of the Philippines, according to a study conducted by Prof. Victor Soliman of the Bicol University College of Fisheries in Tabaco City, Albay.

The scallop, locally known as Tikob or Paypay, is a marine mollusk or bivalve that is highly prized for its adductor muscle or “Tinga,” its vital organ that sells for P90-P130 per kilo. The 28,300-hectare scallop area, which is more than one-tenth of Asid Gulf, produces 150 tons per month of the organ, Soliman said.

Scallop fishing is the main industry of more than 200 families in several barangays along the bay that produce around three tons of “Tinga” per day for the local and export markets, and Soliman, in his study, noted that there is indeed a need for conserving the wild stocks of scallops in Asid Gulf for sustaining the fishery.

The conservation process could only be done through regulating fishing activities in the area, particularly by big commercial fishing vessels that sometimes use trawl, a method that adversely affects the scallop sanctuary, he added.

Regodon said that to safeguard the area from big commercial fishing vessels that mostly come from the neighboring Western Visayas region and manned by armed escorts, the ordinance also provides for the deployment of coastal guards that are tasked to enforce the fishing ban and serve as “striking force” against these illegal fishers.

The municipal government has provided P1 million this year for the guarding of the fishing ground, mangrove reforestation and information campaign aimed at educating coastal residents on the importance of marine resource conservation, he added. (PNA)

2 hydro power plants in full blast in Catanduanes

VIRAC, Catanduanes, March 7 (PNA) — Two hydro power plants are now fully operational and are supplying the entire island province of Catanduanes with 3.6 megawatts (MW) of clean and renewable energy.

The two hydro facilities operated and owned by the Sunwest Water and Electric Co. Inc. (Suweco), an independent power producer (IPP), are among the three hydro power plants included in the pipeline projects that Suweco will put up in Catanduanes.

Suweco, a Bicolano-owned IPP, has put up the Hitoma power facility in Barangay Obi in Caramoran town with a rated capacity of 1.5 MW and the Solong plant in San Miguel town with a rated capacity of 2.1 MW.

The Hitoma plant has been operational since October last year while the Solong became in operation in January this year.

The third hydro power plant is being constructed in an upland village in San Miguel town in Catanduanes.

With an investment of P800 million, the two hydro power plants supply power to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (Ficelco) with a total of 3.6 MW.

This cheap, environment friendly and renewable energy reinforces the electricity supplied by the diesel-powered generators of the National Power Corp. (NPC).

Aside from the two Suweco hydro power plants, the island’s generating system is composed of two diesel power plants in the towns of Bato and Viga, the Balongbong hydro power plant operated by the NPC, Power Barge 110, four mobile gensets rented from Monark and the 3.6-MW bunker fuel genset operated by the private company Catanduanes Power Generation Inc.

With the operationalization of the two hydro plants and with other power generation suppliers, it would give Ficelco, the only power distributor in the province and its 35,000 consumers a sustained, reliable and clean energy supply.

Ficelco data indicate that some 315 villages in all 12 towns in Catanduanes are fully energized, but these areas are not fully supplied with energy because of the deficient power generation facilities.

The full operation of the hydro power plants would help meet the island’s 6.5-MW power demand, Suweco president Jose Sylvestre Natividad said.

He said the cost of power from the hydro plants is cheaper than those from the ones being powered by bunker or fossil fuel, aside for being an environment friendly generating facility as these utilize water and and convert it to energy.

Suweco envisions a sustainable and reliable power supply to the province as the company believes that energy is a catalyst for any economic activity.

Elizaldy Co, board chair of the Sunwest Group of Campanies, said Suweco’s hydropower plants will help lessen the national government’s spending on missionary electrification by P80 million to P100 million a year.

The impact would be felt in terms of investments thus increasing employment generation while at the same time protecting the environment.

With the present energy potential, Catanduanes, a rich province for its natural resources, is now bullish in inviting prospective investors to engage in business ventures in field of tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, Co said.

Natividad said hydro is a renewable energy thus it helps protect the environment against global warming because “you need to plant trees to sustain the hydro plant and it gives livelihood to the communities by employing people to reforest the area.” (PNA)

Salceda: Phl flag carriers should help repatriate OFWs from Libya
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 7 (PNA) - Albay Governor Joey Salceda on Monday expressed his dismay that the country’s airlines have not offered their services for the thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) caught in the political armed conflict in the Middle East.

He said the Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines were neither seen nor heard amidst the need for the government to rescue and bring back the OFWs to the country.

Salceda said, “One week now into the commotions of Libyan repatriation effort, PAL, Cebu Pacific or Air Philippines are still invisible or inaudible, not a stir, not even for show.”

He urged government authorities to ask and look into the country’s flag carrier for the repatriation OFWs in the war-torn areas in the Middle East.

He said these carriers must answer to the conditions of their license to fly in Philippine skies and the use of Philippines in their business names.

The Albay Assistance Program for OFWs in Libya desk has been closely coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) concerning the plight of Bicolano OFWs in the Middle East.

The assistance desk said there are 49 Albayano OFWs in Libya still awaiting to be rescued and brought back to the country.

OWWA records also indicate that there are at least 251 OFWs from Bicol region in Libya. Of this number, 98 are from Camarines Sur, followed by Albay with 85 OFWs, Camarines Norte – 29, Sorsogon – 25, Catanduanes - 8, and Masbate - 6. (PNA)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Robredo orders probe on killing of suspected communist leader in Bicol
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 3 (PNA) - Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo on Thursday directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of Elmer Estrellado, a suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leader, in a remote village of Bato town last Friday.

Robredo, in a phone interview told the PNA that a third party ocular inspection and investigation were proper to determine what led to the killing of Estrellado, who was tagged by the military as an NPA leader and bomb making expert of the communist movement.

He said “in the interest of objectivity I really want to know the real score whether indeed it was a legitimate encounter between Army troopers and NPA or the reported abduction of the victim.”

The present administration has a marching order on respect for human rights by the military and police and Robredo said “we will not tolerate such abuses committed by the military or any law enforcement authority for that matter.”

Robredo said the investigation would validate who is telling the truth as militant groups Bayan and Karapatan-Bicol claimed there were witnesses who could testify that the victim was abducted by unidentified armed men around 8:30 a.m. on Friday at a public place in Malilipot, Albay.

However, the military version says the victim was killed in an encounter around 6:30 a.m. Friday with Army soldiers in Barangay Bulwang, Bato town in Camarines Sur.

Lt. Col Ernest Cruz, Commanding Officer of the Army’s 42nd Infantry Battalion said in a radio interview they have a Sangguniang Barangay Council resolution attesting that there was an encounter that occurred in their village.

The investigation called for by Robredo would dismiss speculations and straighten conflicting reports about the incidents.

Robredo on Tuesday visited the wake of Police Inspector Al Lhanza Tantiado of Libon, Albay, a member of the PNP Regional Mobile Group operating in Northern Samar.

Tantiado was the lone fatality when a group of policemen escorting Mayor Rolando Evardone of Arteche town in Eastern Samar was ambushed by suspected communist rebels last Sunday. (PNA)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

DPWH seeks P643-M fund to control lahar from Mt. Mayon

LEGAZPI CITY, March 3 (PNA) - Bicol’s Regional Development Council (RDC) has favored the P643-million funding proposal of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the construction of flood control structures along critical flood paths down the slopes of Mt. Mayon to ease the destruction caused by lahar during rainy situations.

To be constructed are Sabo dam structures, spur dikes and embankments along gullies on the slopes of the “World’s Most Perfect Cone” that serve as routes of avalanches of huge volume of volcanic debris down to major rivers here and in Sto. Domingo and Guinobatan municipalities, Albay that both sit near the foot of the volcano.

DPWH Regional Director Danilo Dequito on Thursday said the proposed structures composed of some 1,100 linear meters of Sabo dams, 7,000 linear meters of spur dikes and 600 linear meters of embankments are to be built along the rivers of Yawa River here, Basud in Sto. Domingo and Quirangay in Guinobatan.

Dequito said the proposal for these projects along with the multi-million peso funding requirements have been approved by the RDC during its full council meeting last week and would be endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the DPWH central office for inclusion in the 2012 national budget.

RDC chairman and Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the RDC's approval and endorsement of the proposed projects were based on the necessity of putting in place the structures that would mitigate the danger of more avalanches of lahar and flashfloods threatening residential areas, farms and properties below Mt. Mayon.

Salceda recalled that in 2006, the same occurrences successively triggered by super typhoons Milenyo and Reming killed about 2,000 people and destroyed billions of pesos worth of agricultural crops, properties and government infrastructures.

“We do not want a repeat of that tragic disaster that although was caused by force majeure which we cannot totally prevent, should be anticipated with mitigating measures like these proposed DPWH projects to at least lessen it impacts,” the Albay governor said.

Salceda said the projects will be implemented based on the study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) completed in 2000 that calls for the putting up of the same structures along the same sites identified by the DPWH.

The P643-million funding required by the projects would also include the Legazpi City Urban Drainage Projects here that intends to set up two pumping stations, eight floodgates facilities, channel excavation, embankment and rip rapping along low-lying areas of the city, Salceda added. (PNA)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

251 Bicolano OFWs in Libya for repatriation: OWWA

LEGAZPI CITY, March 2 (PNA) -- There are at least 251 Bicolano overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that were caught in an armed conflict in Libya that need to be rescued and brought back to the country, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Bicol said Wednesday.

The agency said OWWA database records indicated that the 251 OFWs are residents in Bicol and are presently working in Libya. Of these, 98 are from Camarines Sur; Albay, 85; Camarines Norte, 29; Sorsogon, 25; Catanduanes, 8; and Masbate, 6.

Jocelyn Hapal, OWWA Bicol director said the OFWs in Libya are mostly professionals and skilled workers in construction firms and oil industries there.

She said since the start of the political crisis in Libya, her agency has received calls and entertained walk-in queries from families of 32 OFWs working in trouble country. These queries were acted upon by the agency, she added.

To assist families of OFWs in the Middle East, OWWA Bicol has activated the 24/7 Hotline in this city where the agency has made available “Libreng Tawag” free calls to immediate families of OFWs.

As this developed, Albay Governor Joey Salceda has launched a Libyan OFW Assistance Desk manned by Albay Public Safety and Management Office (APSEMO) in Albay and in Manila.

Salceda said the desk would operate 24 hours to assist OFWs working in Libya and families of OFWs in the province seeking queries and assistance concerning OFWs' plight in the Middle East.

The desk has inventoried and identified 73 OFWs from Albay working in Libya and are seeking assistance for immediate repatriation. (PNA)

Catanduanes prof's paper on folk knowledge as benchmark for disaster mitigation wins in int'l research confab
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, March 1 (PNA) – A professor of the only state-run higher education institution here has won an international award on environmental education for pioneering a documentation of a folk knowledge as benchmark for disaster mitigation.

Dr. Minerva Morales of the Catanduanes State Colleges (CSC) Graduate School bested 69 other entries to bag the Best Paper Award in the International Conference and Scientific Meeting on Environmental Education recently conducted by the Environmental Education Network of the Philippines (EENP) at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture in Pili, Camarines Sur.

In a report released on Tuesday, the CSC said Morales’ research focused on Ethno-Meteorological Knowledge (EMK) as Anchorage of Disaster Risk Mitigation of Fishers in Parongpong Island of Caramoran town which identified and documented indigenous knowledge of fishers in the island which are used in charting typhoons and associated atmospheric disturbances.

According to Morales’ study, the recorded EMKs help the island’s fishers survive from the dangers associated with high seas fishing. It also pointed out EMK as a potential springboard for teaching disaster awareness and mitigation since people in the communities can easily relate to their local knowledge.

The research documented 21 ethno-meteorological knowledge—six observed changes in the behavior of organisms, 10 observed environmental and atmospheric phenomena, three activated sensory perception of the fishers and two specific months and dates with consistently experienced disastrous events in high seas.

Some of the observed changes in the behavior of organisms which signal an approaching storm include coiling of sea snakes and appearance of luminous organisms which are more active and visible at night and make the underwater bright and well lighted.

Other changes observed are the sporadic catching of fishes by hook and line defying a pattern and eventual desertion of cuttlefish, seaweed washed ashore, flying of duck higher than the roof of a house and the sprouting of numerous bamboo shoots.

An approaching storm, according to Morales’ research could also be observed in environmental and atmospheric phenomena such as the row of stars (or as described by the fishers, when it ascends from the east, then descend to the west); occurrence of westerly winds that usually prevail in October to December; natural excavation of the surf zone that appears like a canal or river bank caused by strong lashing of waves; and a short rainbow that is not in full arc appearing close to the sea before sunset.

Other signs of impending storms it presented are unusual behavior of cloud formation and movement; rising sea; higher wave crest and eventually appearance of white caps and foams during a fine, calm day; simmering sand bottom; stronger than normal currents; stars appear to twinkle very fast; and occurrence of a single roar of thunder.

The research also said fishers can likewise sense an approaching typhoon when the smell of the sea, especially the continental shelf, is too fishy; an explosion is heard from the nearby-uninhabited island of Kalabagyo; and deafening sounds likened to the breaking of plates and glasses are heard underwater.

Lessons from fatal accidents and bad experiences of fishers in the island are also included in their EMK as Parongpong fishers consider the last quarter of the year as a period of wrecking winds, gigantic waves, and torrential rains.

They also have indigenously recorded the fatal fishing trips to Kalipungawan, a renowned rich fishing ground, which all occurred on the first week of March in 1976, 1986 and 1996.

These incidents which happened in a span of 30 years served as a grim lesson to the fishers of the island not to venture in fishing from March 2-10 of each year. These dates were declared by the community as fishing holidays.

The extent of accuracy of EMK documented by the study was found to be highly accurate based on the results obtained and the extent of influence of this knowledge to fishing trips, the CSC said.

“The unpredictability and climactic turbulence besetting Catanduanes is a given phenomenon that its people have to live with. Through time, the people in the island have profoundly learned to predict weather by means of signs, symbols, indicators, or phenomena for mitigating risks caused by typhoons,” an EENP statement on Morales’ research explained.

“This is the evolution of indigenous knowledge system on weather forecasting that served as the bedrock of the islanders to ingeniously develop various coping mechanisms for survival,” it added. (PNA)

DENR-Bicol donates confiscated lumbers to DepEd

LEGAZPI CITY, March 1 (PNA) - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol is donating 25,000 board feet of wood to the Department of Education (DepEd).

The move is to ensure that all confiscated logs and lumbers would be used in building schools, desks, chairs and other educational facilities.

DENR Regional Executive Director Joselin Marcus Fragada ordered the speedy transfer of the confiscated forest products in line with a previous directive of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje that all confiscated logs and lumbers be donated to the DepEd instead of auctioning to curb shadowy practices benefiting unscrupulous financiers.

Fragada said the donation of confiscated logs and lumbers is one of the priority programs of the DENR this year, adding that field officers are preparing all legal instruments for the handover.

Out of the total volume, 17,000 board feet of confiscated logs and lumbers will be granted to the DepEd Camarines Norte Division Office.

Camarines Norte Provincial Environmental and Natural Resources (PENR) officer Elpidio Orata said these logs shall be made available after the memorandum of agreement is signed by DENR, DepEd and the provincial government of Camarines Norte.

“The logs and lumbers were apprehended by a joint task force of DENR, Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives abandoned in Bicol National Park in Camarines Norte,” Orata said.

“At present, these confiscated lumbers are under the safekeeping of the provincial government impounded in their motor pool at Vinzon, Camarines Norte,” he added. (PNA)

NPA leader nabbed in Masbate
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, March 1 (PNA) - A suspected ranking New People’s Army Rebel (NPA) leader was nabbed Tuesday by Army soldiers at her hideout in Barangay Mabini, Uson town in Masbate, a Philippine Army officer said.

Arrested was Vangie Herrero alias Ka Vivian an officer in the executive committee, NPA Guerrilla Front operating in Masbate.

Army Lt. Col Jun Patacan, commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Battalion, said joint forces of the Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) at about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday armed with a search warrant nabbed the rebel leader at a residence in Sitio Lamak, Barangay Mabini a remote village in Uson town.

Patacan said the rebel leader did not resist the arrest and gave in to the authorities peacefully.

The arrest of Ka Vivian came about following a tipped by a rebel surrenderor.

According to police operatives, the rebel leader is one of the most wanted person in Masbate and she carries a P150,000 bounty on her head per Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Reward Authority.

The arrested NPA leader is facing murder and rebellion charges at the sala of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Maximo Ables at the RTC 5th judicial Court Branch 47 in Masbate City.

The arrest of Herrero brings to three NPA leaders to fall in the hands of authorities within two weeks.

Earlier, authorities captured Darlene Palomas alias Ka Brenda and Rodel Estrellado a leader killed in an encounter in a village in Bato, Camarines Sur.

Military authorities here claims that the rebel movement in Bicol has significantly dwindled following the series of arrests and surrender of their armed members.

Military statistics indicate that the NPA strength in Bicol has decreased from 500 to 270. (PNA)