Thursday, April 28, 2011

4,608 children benefit from feeding program of Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -– The provincial government of Albay announced Thursday that 4,608 children (age 0 to 5) have benefited from “Oplan Timbang” and feeding project under the Nutrition Package Program.

The Albay Millennium Development Goals Office (AMDGO) has conducted feeding, medical and dental operations in different depressed barangays, in partnership with private organizations.

The feeding project of the provincial government aims to eradicate undernourished children in 2015. “This is part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals 1, which is alleviation of poverty,” Albay Governor Joey Salceda said.

Supplemental feeding is given to recipient for 120 days five times a week.

Salceda said that the supplemental feeding will boost the energy and resistance of these children to prevent them from getting sick.

The children beneficiaries received free meal every afternoon as well as vitamin supplements that are needed to nurse the undernourished kids back to health.

“Malnutrition is highly preventable. We just have to support the basic food and nutritional needs of our citizens, especially the underprivileged children.”

In this program, he said, "we do not only address hunger and undernourishment, but also teach our people that being healthy is not costly because the essential nutritional needs of our children are contained in economical products such as breast milk, and fruits and vegetables which can easily be planted in backyards and vacant spaces."

Ryan Altavano, AMDGO project monitor said that supplemental feeding is being implemented by the province every six month. (PNA)

Poachers slaughter two dolphins in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- Two dolphins were slaughtered on Tuesday by fishermen after it got tangled to a fishnet at the shorelines of Barangay Bantayan in Pilar town in Sorsogon, reports from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Thursday.

Maritime policemen arrested Darwin Gonzales and Remo Llamansares, fishermen, both residents of Barangay Bantayan.

Police Chief Inspector Ayn Natuel, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said the two poachers are facing criminal charges for violating section 2 of the Fisheries Administrative Order No. 208 or Ban on catching endangered fish or marine species.

Natuel, quoting reports from the Pilar PNP station, said the suspected poachers were responsible for the killing of two Spiner dolphins, locally known as “Lumba-lumba.”

Police report said that the meat of the dolphins, weighing 120 kilograms with street value of P9,600, was sold to a certain Edgar Aparicio, also a resident of the same village.

Responding policemen recovered from the scene the two heads and two pins of the butchered dolphins.

Maritime authorities are still tracking down five other dolphins who were earlier sighted off the waters of the coastal towns of Castilla, Magallanes, Donsol and Sorsogon City, the areas as possible exit points of these endangered marine species.

Nonie Enolva, a marine specialist of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), in a phone interview, said they have still to validate whether indeed there were sightings of seven dolphins while two of these were slaughtered in Pilar town.

Enolva said she regularly coordinates with these local government units (LGUs) concerning incidence of poaching of endemic marine species such as dolphins and whale sharks.

She said the LGUs are advised to step up their campaign against illegal fishing and the protection of marine species considered as endemic. (PNA)

Authorities vow ‘iron hands’ vs Sorsogon fishers in dolphin slaughter
By Danny O. Calleja

PILAR, Sorsogon, April 28 (PNA) – Local fishery authorities on Thursday said they are hell-bent in pursuing criminal charges against several persons from a coastal village here tagged as behind the mass slaughter of dolphins caught near the coastline of this fishing town over the week.

Chito Mores, head of the fishery division of the Municipal Agricultural Office (MAO) said at least three persons from Barangay Bantayan, an isolated village by the shoreline of the municipal waters adjoining Ticao Pass have been identified as those who slaughtered dolphins of still unconfirmed number.

“We recovered heads of dead young dolphins from a secluded area along the coastline of the village when we responded to reports on the incident last Wednesday and we got information that five have been slaughtered by the suspects identified as David Gonzales and Remo Llamazares, both fishermen and residents of the place,” Mores said.

Another resident of the village identified as Edgar Aparicho was pinpointed by the informants as the buyer of the dolphin meats sold by Gonzales and Llamazares.

Mores said the suspects will be charged criminally for violations of Republic Act 8550 or the Fishery Code of the Philippines.

Serafin Lacdang, the division chief of the fishery division of the Provincial Agricultural Office (PAO) who rushed to the area on receiving information about the incident on Wednesday said dolphins are among the endangered marine species including manta rays, marine turtles, whales and whale sharks that are protected by the government.

Slaughtering sea turtles alone already mandates a P1-million fine and possible imprisonment, Lacdang said.

“We are also holding liable barangay officials in the area for not enforcing the law on the protection of these endangered marine species despite the fact that they are mandated to do so reason why their constituents committed the violation. I am bringing the case before the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) against these officials,” he said.

Lacdang said, the slaughtered dolphins were part of a school of this species along with manta rays that have made Ticao Pass their sanctuary and frequenting the municipal waters of Pilar, Castilla, Donsol and Pioduran in Albay.

There are at least 50 adult and baby dolphins composing this school and the ones slaughtered in Barangay Bantayan could have gone disoriented that was why they were caught by the fishermen, he said. (PNA)

DSWD Bicol starts releasing stipend for indigent elders

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office in Bicol has started the distribution of stipend for indigent senior citizens under the Social Pension Program of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s social contract as well as commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The DSWD launched the Social Pension Program that aims to alleviate poverty and support the elderly Filipino citizens.

The indigent senior citizens aged 77 years old and above started receiving their benefits from the program last March 31.

According to DSWD Bicol regional director Remia Tapispisan, this is part of the 14,430-identified poor senior citizens in Bicol region through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the agency.

A monthly stipend of P500 will be released to the pensioners on a quarterly basis as mandated in Republic Act No. 9994 or the "Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.”

Director Tapispisan said that eligible senior citizens for the program are those who are frail, sick or with disability, and without pension or permanent source of income or regular support from relatives to meet their basic needs. "The total number of beneficiaries identified is just an initial figure as well as the budget appropriated by the national government."

She, however, explained that those who were receiving pension from the GSIS, SSS or AFPMBAI and other private insurance companies and with permanent source of income, or regular support from relatives are not qualified for the program. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Catanduanes officials wary of proposed mining ventures
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, April 27 (PNA) – Led by their governor, Catanduanes local officials have positioned themselves against the proposed mineral exploration ventures applied for by two firms eying an over 7,000 hectares of mineral land in three towns of the island province.

“We are strongly against mining and we stand by that position utterly expressed through an ordinance enacted by the provincial legislative board way back in 2009 in consonance with the policy of my administration that value very much the province’s natural resources and the welfare of its people,” Governor Joseph Cua on Wednesday said.

The governor said the regional office for Bicol of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) should deny the application for mining permits recently filed by the Asiamines Inc. and the Taiwanese-owned Xing Fu Fang Mining Corporation covering a total of more than 7, 000 hectares of land within the municipalities of Viga, Gigmoto and Bato.

A source from the MGB regional office in Legazpi City told the Philippines News Agency that Asiamines has a pending application for a mining exploration permit covering over 4,440 hectares in barangays Mabini. Ogbong and Ananong in Viga and San Pedro and Biong in Gigmoto.

Xing Fu Fang Mining on the other has applied for permit over the more or less 2,600 hectares land within five barangays of Bato town. Both firms seek to extract gold, iron, nickel, molybdenum, copper, silver and zinc for an initial period of two years from the area, the MGB source said.

Cua said he had also instructed the mayors and legislative councils of the three towns to initiate moves within their levels against the mining operations while Catanduanes Bishop Manolo delos Santos said his diocese along with a local civil society group, the Kantandungan Kontra Mina was also preparing a petition letter against the projects. (PNA)

DoTC releases P47.5M for Catanduanes Ro-Ro port upgrading, lighthouse construction

LEGAZPI CITY, April 27 (PNA) -– The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) has released some P47.5 million for the upgrading of a major roll-on roll-off (RO-RO) port and construction of a modern lighthouse in Catanduanes, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) here over the weekend said.

About P45 million of the fund which was released to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) last April 11 is intended for the improvement of the Codon Ro-Ro Port in San Andres town and the remaining P2.5 million for the lighthouse in the municipality of Bato, it said.

Apart from offering a more convenient and shorter linking point with the Bicol mainland, Codon Port also provides a jump-off point for tourists between the island province and Camarines Sur, particularly the tourism town of Caramoan where the internationally popular Gota Village Resort and other exotic beach resorts are located.

Codon is only 30 minutes boat ride to Caramoan which was developed by the Camarines Sur provincial government into the so-called “Caramoan Paradise” and promoted by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as the “Boracay of Bicol” and tourist from Manila would skip the five-hour travel to the place through this port, the report said.

“Once Codon port is completed, travel from Manila to Caramoan will be shortened by two hours and half: Manila to Virac takes an hour by plane; Virac to Codon 20 minutes by land; and the boat ride to Caramoan 30 minutes,“ the PIA report quoted Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento as saying as he expressed his elation over the fund release.

The PIA said Sarmiento was very thankful to President Benigno Aquino III for approving the release of the fund which he said will enable Catanduanes to catch up with the present tourism boom in the Bicol that ranked as the second top destination in the country last year owing to its nearly three million tourist arrivals.

“Catanduanes itself has big tourism potentials and this development will spur the tourism activity in the province. The influx of visitors heading to Caramoan will extend the tourism activity to my province, which thus means more jobs, income and economic growth for the province and the Bicol Region,” Sarmiento said as reported by the PIA.

The Catanduanes solon has earlier sought for a P100-million funding for the Codon RoRo facility modernization and the P45 million initial release forms part of it and the first major national fund support for infrastructure projects in Catanduanes for 2011, it said.

The Bato town lighthouse, on the other hand, will greatly benefit fishermen and seafarers especially during stormy weather situations, it added. (PNA)

Albay shares grief of Bb. Pilipinas International Dianne Necio

LEGAZPI CITY, April 26 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said Albay mourns the untimely demise of Erwin Necio, father of newly crowned Bb. Pilipinas International Dianne Necio who passed away Tuesday (today) at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH).

Salceda said “the people of Albay shares the grief of Dianne over the loss of her dear father who died in his sleep today 5:30am at BRTTH.”

Necio’s father died due to ventricular arrhythmia secondary to a long-standing cardiomyopathy, the attending physician said.

Salceda, in his email statement, said Dianne, in her filial piety, visited her father during her Earth Day participation on Easter Sunday.

The provincial government is coordinating with Dianne's family for whatever assistance it could extend. (PNA)

Sorsogon power coop now EVAT-free

SORSOGON CITY, April 27 (PNA) –- Power consumption charges here and in six municipalities of Sorsogon province are now 12 percent lower owing to the exemption granted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to the local electric cooperative from the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT).

The exemption which took effect last January according to Sorsogon Electric Cooperative (SORECO) II general manager Percival Alvarez on Wednesday is in connection with the BIR’s implementation of the provisions of Republic Act 9520 otherwise known as the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008.

The Act provides for the exemption of electric cooperatives registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) from collecting EVAT from their member-consumers.

Of the 119 electric cooperatives in the country, only 14 are CDA-registered and now enjoying the tax exemption to the relief of their member-consumers from paying higher electricity bills, Alvarez said.

Of the 12 electric cooperatives in Bicol, SORECO II is the only CDA-registered and now enjoying the EVAT exemption. SORECO I that covers the other half of the province remains unregistered with the CDA, he said.

The exemption, Alvarez said is a product of the long and grueling struggle for the privilege pursued by the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperative (APEC), the party list representative of the sector that sponsored and fought for the enactment of RA 9520 in the House of Representatives.

Although the law was enacted in 2008, its implementation had to wait for the change of leadership in the national government administration from the reign of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the present under President Benigno S. Aquino III, he said.

“The EVAT exemption is a very significant reduction to the power bills of local consumers given the fact that the prevailing rate being charged by the cooperative, to our regret, is one of the highest in the Luzon mainland even as Sorsogon is a key producer of geothermal energy,” he added. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Visitors in Rodeo Masbate cited as ‘Ambassadors of Goodwill’
By Danny O. Calleja

MASBATE CITY, April 25 (PNA) –- Behind the landmark of poverty and image shattered by bloody political conflicts, the island province of Masbate has expressed its gratefulness to visitors during its recent celebration of the yearly Rodeo Masbateño Festival.

Masbate declared all tourists, visitors and participants from different parts of the country and abroad who came in for the four-day festivities last week as “Ambassadors of Goodwill” through certificates bearing the official seal of the province and signed by vice-governor Homer Revil.

The vice-governor has been tasked by provincial Gov. Rizalina Lanete as head of the visitors’ welcoming and sending off committee for the festival that once again showcased the best of Masbate culture and traditions highlighted by rodeo events that's considered the only one of its kind in Asia.

The province is considered a “cowboys’ country” and Cattle Capital of the Philippines, owing to its vast ranches that yield thousands of cattle since cattle-raising serves as the island's key industry.

During the festivities, local and visiting cowboys compete in western style rodeo events like breathtaking stunts in bull riding and steed wrestling as entertainment.

The events pit furious bulls and raging horses against trained men and women known as the cowboys and cowgirls of the Rodeo Masbateño that has placed Masbate in the international map of tourism.

“We wanted our visitors to spread the good news about the hospitality of the people of Masbate as they leave the province to return home or go somewhere else,” Revil said, explaining the “Ambassador of Goodwill” title vested upon each visitor during lively ceremonies marking the culmination of festival activities.

The vice-governor also assured the thousands of visitors and tourists who came and stayed for the four-day revelries that “Masbate is now a peaceful place” where they can come anytime, stay safe and enjoy the hospitality of the province that is gifted with wonderful tourism attractions like the manta-ray sanctuary off the coastlines of Ticao Island.

“Everyone among those who had come to Masbate for the Rodeo and declared "Ambassador of Goodwill" will be our agent and mouthpiece to tell the whole world about the beauty and impressiveness of the province,” he said.

The provincial government, joined by local players in the cattle industry and businessmen who organized the Rodeo Masbateño Festival have improved the province's image while boosting its tourism potentials through the events and other promotion activities on a year-round basis. (PNA)

Banks asked to shelve proposed P350-M loan amid fertilizer scam case
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, April 25 (PNA) – A member of the Sorsogon provincial legislative board has asked the banks to shelve the P350-million loan being worked out by Governor Raul Lee amidst the graft charge the governor is facing with the Sandiganbayan involving the multi-million peso fertilizer fund scam.

In recent letters, Board Member Vladimir Frivaldo appealed to the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to defer approval of the loan being negotiated by Lee pending resolution of the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman last month but was made public only on April 13.

Lee, along with his chief accountant Raul Hernandez and provincial treasurer Ofelia Velasco, was charged based on his participation in the alleged diversion to former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign fund in 2004 of P728-million intended for farmers’ assistance through the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The province got P5 million of that fund from the DA shortly before the 2004 elections and Lee was accused of using over P3 million of it in allegedly buying overpriced liquid fertilizer from Feshan Philippines Inc. which was represented by Eunique Galang, a sister-in-law of the governor’s son, now this city’s vice mayor Roberto Rodrigueza.

“By deferring the loan application of the Province of Sorsogon until Gov. Raul Lee is vindicated and cleared by the Sandiganbayan, we will eliminate doubts and increase people's trust in the government. These banks should also discontinue any further negotiations with the provincial government to avoid further controversy,” Frivaldo said in the letters.

“I would like to stress that the proposed P350-million loan is the biggest in the history of Sorsogon or not just a peanut money so that it should be reviewed and studied carefully unlike the approval done in 20 minutes by majority of the members of the provincial board,” he said.

The neophyte provincial legislator said that majority of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, during its regular session last April 11 hastily approved a resolution authorizing Lee to enter into an agreement with either or both the PNB or the DBP for the P350-million loan despite his objection on several “valid” grounds.

Among those grounds, Frivaldo said was his pending request for a report on how the proceeds of the P260-million loan acquired in late 2009 by the province through then governor Sally Lee, the incumbent governor’s wife was spent.

“We need to know what happened to the previous loan, or even analyze whether or not the money was really needed and was properly used for the purpose for which it was applied in the first place,” he explained.

Besides, the fertilizer scam case, a scandalous incident that linked Lee to one of the most controversial political case in the country not only put a shadow in the integrity of the governor and doubt in him but gave embarrassment and dishonor to the people of Sorsogon, Frivaldo, a grandson of the late former governor Juan Frivaldo, added.

Lee and his two financial managers have denied the charges and said the provincial government did not incur any loss because the money used was a grant from the agriculture department. He also assailed as “blatantly erroneous” news reports on his involvement in the scam. (PNA)

Catanduanes tightens policies against illegal recruitment

VIRAC, Catanduanes, April 25 (PNA) - The provincial legislative board recently enacted an ordinance regulating the recruitment by manpower services in the island province for both local and foreign placement.

Citing a Constitutional declaration that labor is a primary social economic force that deserves the protection of its rights and the promotion of the workers' welfare, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) passed the ordinance to protect local job seekers from being victimized by malpractices of recruitment agencies.

Board member Jose Romeo Francisco, the principal author of the ordinance, on Monday said that private recruitment agencies use to prey on people’s ignorance, poverty and lack of access to information in their illegal recruitment activities.

Francisco said even without valid license or authority as stipulated under the Labor Code of the Philippines, some recruitment agencies have engaged in various acts, such as canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring or procuring workers.

These activities that include referring, contract services, promising or advertising for employment, locally or abroad, whether for profit or not should be stopped, Francisco said.

He also cited concerned international labor unions' observation that the Philippines has been having a high rate of violation of human trafficking and illegal recruitment activities, in which many Filipinos end up victimized by international drug syndicates, sex tourism or slavery and child prostitution.

"The ordinance is the response of the provincial government to the dire need to protect its constituents against unscrupulous recruiters by way of regulating manpower recruitment activities in the locality through a vibrant, dynamic and meaningful role of the local government," the board member said.

Passed unanimously, the legislative measure is titled “An ordinance regulating the recruitment of manpower services by authorized and licensed recruitment agencies for local or abroad based workers in the province of Catanduanes.”

Its salient provisions mandate stringent regulations that must be complied with by the recruitment agencies before they are allowed to take in and deploy somewhere else workers from the province, Francisco added. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bicol LGUs coming up with BRFAP on DRR and CAA
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 18 (PNA) -– The Climate Change Academy-Center for Initiatives on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) is conducting a three-day training designed for Capacity Development and formulation for the Bicol Regional Framework and Action Plan (BRFAP) on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation on the 26th until the 28th of this month.

Participants are local government units (LGUs) across the Bicol region to enhance their senior technical staff’s capabilities through localized knowledge management in climate change and the integration of disaster risk reduction as well as adaptation strategies.

The training is a partnership among the Office of Civil Defense, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) R5, the Provincial Government of Albay (PGA), (CIRCA), Joint Program United Nations MDG Achievement Fund:1656 Albay Demo, Spanish Government and the Climate Change Academy (CCA).

First United Nations Senior Global Champion on Disaster Risk Reduction and Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the negative impacts of climate change will hit the vulnerable sectors and especially the poor people in the communities manifested in loss of lives, food shortage, increase in water-borne diseases, damage to critical key assets and degradation of natural resources upon which livelihood activities of Bicol are largely dependent.

Salceda expressed fears of these threats that could hinder the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the improvement of the Human Development Index (HDI) in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon and Albay.

CIRCA & Climate Change Academy executive director Manuel ‘Nong’ Rangasa also said “social preparation and development choices made today in the local government units and communities need adequate guidance to influence the active acceptance and direct participation of the community to reduce vulnerabilities and to roadmap disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.”

Rangasa said that the inclusion of anticipatory adaptation plans in the provincial level strategic planning will mitigate, if not minimize, potential impacts and prevent casualty during disasters.

Salceda likewise explained that the climate change adaptation ‘no regrets’ strategy and bottom-up approach are timely and perfect to use in the formulation and creation of the BRFAP “LGU contingency plan will disaster-proof the socio-economic development roadmap of the community, thus building its resiliency and enhancing capacity for survival and growth.”

The training will make LGUs further understand climate change impacts in their localities and find their best adaptation strategies such as contingency plan with disaster risk reduction and climate change considerations.

Participants include Provincial Planning and Development Officers (PPDOs), Provincial Agriculture Services Officers (PAS), Provincial Engineers (PEs), Environment and Natural Resources Officers (ENROs) Provincial Health Officers (PHOs) Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMCs), and the Philippine National Police provincial directors (PNPPOs), Regional Agencies : National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Depratment of Science and Technology (PAGASA, PHIVOLCS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Commission on Civil Service (CSC), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Commission on Audit, HLURB, Philippine Army, Philippine AirForce, Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard. They are expected to develop localized provincial disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation policy framework and identify sectoral vulnerabilities, socio-economic impacts and measures to address issues and concerns in the communities. (PNA)

VAT collection drops by 30% in Bicol -- BIR

LEGAZPI CITY, April 18 (PNA) – The Value Added Tax (VAT) remittances in Bicol significantly dropped by 30 percent or P126 million short of its collection goal preventing the government tax agency to meet its VAT target during the first three months of this year.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in Bicol, in its 1st Quarter report, claimed that the dropped in VAT collection is attributed to the slowdown in the implementation of government projects and the transfer of tax remittances of some large companies operating here to the BIR central office including the setting of high collection goal of the agency.

Lawyer Diosdado Mendoza, BIR regional director in a press briefing said the agency under VAT collected during the first quarter only P293 million as against its goal of P419 million for the same period.

He explained that the significant decline in VAT collection was due to the slowdown in the implementation of government projects by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and some local governments which resulted in a big drop in the collection from these agencies from P26.4 million for the same period in 2010 to only P7.22 million this year.

Mendoza added another factor that brought down the collection goal this quarter was also due to the delisting of at least eight large taxpayers here and transferring their remittances to the large taxpayers unit in the central office.

Among the delisted big taxpayers are: the Good Found Cement in Camalig Albay, Blue Stone Co., a Fortune Tobacco Co. distributor, in this city; Fiminera mining in Masbate and South Star, World View, Southern Cross all in Naga City; and the Motor trade, Monacorp in Daet, Camarines Norte.

Mendoza however said that despite the slow down in VAT remittances, the BIR in Bicol in was still able to surpass its total collection goal for the period January to March 2011 by P58,616,398.87. These are in the form of taxes in income, percentage tax, other taxes and excise tax. (PNA)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Two civilians killed in rebel attack in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, April 18 (PNA) -- Violence erupted anew in Masbate after two civilians were killed while responding policemen were ambushed on Sunday by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Espinosa in Milagros town in Masbate, an officer of the Philippine Army said Monday.

Killed were Eduardo Aldana, 48, and Allan Alarcon, 38, both of Brgy. Cabitan, Mandaon, Masbate, said Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson.

Guzman said the victims were on their way home on board a “habal habal” when they were attacked with high powered assault rifles killing Aldana on the spot while Alarcon, the habal habal driver, was rushed by responding villagers to De Castro Hospital in Malagros but was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

The responding policemen from the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Masbate investigating the incident were subsequently ambushed by about five NPA rebels while on their way back to Milagros Municipal Police Station at about 3:40 p.m. in the same village.

No casualty was reported on the part of the government law enforcers as they were able to immediately retaliate against the attacking rebels who immediately retreated. Only damages to the patrol vehicle were reported by the police.

Army Lt. Col Julian Pacatan, commander of the 49th Infantry Battalion, immediately deployed reinforcements to possible NPA routes of withdrawal.

Pursuit operations from joint elements of the 49th IB and PNP-Masbate is still ongoing.

Pacatan said the attack on the civilians and subsequent ambush of reinforcing units are typical NPA offensive strategy in retaliation to the arrest of Sofronio Narrido, a suspected CPP/NPA extortion money collector in the area on Tuesday.

Narrido is presently detained at the Masbate Provincial Police Office.

Col. Felix Castro, commanding officer of 903B based in Sorsogon, directed 9IB to coordinate with PNP-Masbate for further investigation on the incidents and for intensified security operations in Masbate.

Army M/Gen. Josue Gaverza Jr. commanding general of the 9th Infantry Division, denounced the killing of the two civilians by the NPA rebels as he directed his brigade commanders to step up internal security operations against the waning communist guerrillas.

Military statistics indicate that for April, NPA rebel attacks already killed four innocent lives, including an eight-year-old girl in Casiguran, Sorsogon last April 3. (PNA)

DA rallies Bicol coconut farmers into coco fiber, peat ventures
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 15 (PNA) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is rallying coconut farmers in Bicol region to engage in the processing of coconut fiber and peat into geo-textiles and organic fertilizer to augment their income and help the country increase its exports.

DA Regional Executive Director for Bicol Jose Dayao on Friday said that based on estimates of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the Bicol region is one of the top coconut producers in the country with an average annual yield of two billion coconuts.

On the national level, Dayao said the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC), an inter-governmental organization of 17 coconut producing countries lists the Philippines where 3.4 million hectares are planted to coconut, as second largest coconut-producing country in the world next to Indonesia with 3.86 million hectares.

The Philippines produces about 12 billion nuts yearly and collecting husks from merely one-half or six billion coconuts and processing these into coco geo-textiles and organic fertilizers could generate at least five million jobs annually, according to the DA regional chief.

Dayao said the DA under Secretary Proceso Alcala is spearheading through the PCA and Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) the promotion of the coco coir and peat industry to optimize its production and export potentials for the benefit of millions of rural folk that directly depend on the coconut industry as a major source of livelihood.

“We are developing the fledgling coco fiber and peat industry in partnership with the departments of trade and industry (DTI), public works and highways (DPWH) and science and technology (DOST) and tap into it coconut farmers’ groups and the Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association, Inc. and the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF),” he said.

On exports, China remains one big untapped export market while Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada and the United States serving as other potential buyers of geo-textiles and coco peat organic fertilizer and soil conditioner, he said.

Dayao said China alone imports 200,000 tons of coco fiber annually, driven by its increasing demand for mattresses and this demand has prompted the setting up of over 50 coir production workshops in the country, which are not enough.

In China, to date the Philippines captured a merely 0.05 percent of its coco fiber imports and the room for further growth is immense, he added citing PCA records saying that last year the country exported less than 5,000 metric tons (MT) of coconut coir worth roughly .5 million.

As one of the country’s leading coconut producers, Bicol is expected to play a major role in the development of the local coco coir industry now that the government has already recognized its importance and significance as another dollar earner and livelihood potentials for the farmers, Dayao stressed.

A Special Inter-Agency Coconut Coir and Peat Development Task Force, composed of representatives from the DA, PCA, FIDA, DTI, DOST, and DPWH along with the the Philippine Coco Coir Exporters Association (PhilCoir) has been recently created to act as the government’s arm towards the development of the industry, he added. (PNA)

Anti-measles vaccination drive gains support from Bicol communities

LEGAZPI CITY, April 15 (PNA) – The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said the early days of implementation in the region of the government’s anti-measles and rubella vaccination campaign has been successful due to the support it has been drawing from communities.

The DOH campaign is targeting over one million children in Bicol covering the region’s six provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

DOH Regional Director Nestor Santiago said the first week of the campaign's implementation had already achieved an average of about 12 percent.

Camarines Norte provincial health officer Arnulfo Salagoste reported over the week that their vaccination drive had already achieved 11.85 percent as of April 12, stressing that the support being provided by local residents and local government units (LGUs) is a big help towards its success.

He said the Provincial Health Office is closely monitoring the conduct of the vaccination and ensuring that all children in every locality are given the shot and that every house that has been visited is marked with a sticker.

“We are conducting the vaccination on a house-to-house basis and the acceptance being demonstrated by each household of the health teams doing the job is impressive,” Salagoste added.

In Catanduanes, Delia Soriao, the provincial coordinator of the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) dubbed “Ligtas sa Tigdas and Pinas” also reported to the DOH regional office here that the implementation of the program in the island province that started last April 4 has been smooth sailing due to the support of LGUs.

Although Catanduanes had low incidents of measles and no mortality has been recorded since 2010, Soriao said, they are doing the vaccination drive very seriously as the disease carried by morbilivirus is deadly and contagious particularly among children below eight years old. (PNA)

NIA top exec assures funds for irrigation projects in Sorsogon province
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Apr 14 (PNA) - The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has allocated some P8.4 million for the repair and restoration works of eight communal irrigation systems (CIS) as part of its commitment to the Sorsogon Convergence Initiative for Rural Development (CIRD) launched here.

NIA Administrator Antonio Nangel said the agency’s projects under the convergence initiative cover a total area of 200 hectares of rice farms in Sorsogon City and Castilla town.

Over 500 farmers will benefit from these projects,and an additional 150 workers to be employed during the implementation of the projects.

“We at NIA are fully committed to promote sustainable rural development in the countryside in adherence to the principles of integrated ecosystem approach known as “ridge to reef,” that gives priority to developments from the mountain to the coastal areas in the planning and implementation of our irrigation projects,” Nangel said.

Eight projects have been identified under this initiative and five of them are in this city and the three others in Castilla town.

Apart from the funds committed by NIA to the CIRD, Nangel said that he has endorsed to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala the P53 million fund request for additional irrigation projects in Sorsogon for this year.

This fund is on top of the province’s total allocation of P23.7 million for 2011 while the P14 million Tabon-tabon CIS in Irosin town covering some 170 hectares of rice land has already been completed, the NIA chief said.

During the CIRD launching here, NIA regional director for Bicol William Ragodon informed the NIA administrator that an additional fund outlay of P8 million is needed to construct a damaged section of the facility to be able to service some 331 hectares of rice farms. (PNA)

Masbate’s oldest cowboy leads 200 horsemen at rodeo street show
By Danny O. Calleja

MASBATE CITY, April 15 (PNA) – Eighty-seven-year-old Emilio Espinosa Jr., a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, led 200 horsemen to once again elevate to “superstarsdom” homegrown cowboys and cowgirls as they paraded on horseback around the city over the week.

The parade was among the highlights of the ongoing Rodeo Masbateño Festival, a yearly attraction that pits cowboys from various provinces across the country with one another in action-packed events on horseback that roll at a specially-designed arena during the four-day tourism and cultural festivities.

Espinosa, a well-respected political patriarch, grabbed the attention of the cheering watchers with his unfading horseback riding skills demonstrated during the parade.

Espinosa is considered the “brain” behind the Rodeo Masbateño that has became an annual tourist attraction since its first staging in 1994 when Espinosa was the provincial governor.

According to Jose Zafra, the provincial tourism office head, Rodeo Masbateño Festival takes the center arena for four days on the second week of April to showcase the best of the Masbateño culture.

During the events, local and visiting cowboys compete in western style rodeo events like bull riding and steed wrestling. Local amusement activities like the carabao racing is also an attraction.

All events offer a one-of-a-kind entertainment with its breathtaking stunts that pit furious bulls and raging horses against trained men and women. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

NPA rebel nabbed as campaign against loose firearms heightens in Masbate

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 13 (PNA) -- Joint police and military operatives collared on Tuesday a suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebel and seized from him a high powered rifle and a hand gun at his residence in Barangay Luy-a, Aroroy town in Masbate, a Philippine Army officer said Wednesday.

Arrested during a search and seizure operation was Sofronio Narrido Jr., 37, a resident of Purok Manga, Brgy. Luy-a Aroroy, Masbate.

Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division spokesman, said the arrest on Tuesday was carried out on the strength of a search warrant issued by Judge Nilo B. Barsaga of RTC Branch 46, 5th Judicial Region for violation of RA 8294 or Unlawful Manufacture, Sale, Acquisition, Disposition or Possession of Firearms or Ammunition after residents of the village complained on the indiscriminate firing and frequent threats by the suspect.

During the search, a M653 rifle and Cal. 45 pistol with magazine and eight rounds of ammunition were found inside the bedroom of the suspect.

The suspect surprised by the raid gave in without resistance, the search warrant was served in the presence of barangay kagawads Consuelo Domalaon and Ferlyn Belong.

According to Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan, Battalion Commander of 9th Infantry Battalion in Masbate, the suspect was arrested and brought to Aroroy municipal police station for questioning and was later found to be a member of the communist movement.

The suspect was then transferred to Masbate Provincial Police Station for further questioning and custody to avoid possible NPA rescue operation.

Major General Josue S. Gaverza Jr., commander of the 9th Infantry Division commended the operating troops from the 9th IB and PNP for observing human rights during the execution of the arrest and seizure of the suspect and firearms. (PNA)

DOLE P6-M summer job program to benefit 3,441 students in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol announced Wednesday that fund of at least P6 million under the Special Program for Employment for Students (SPES) will be spent to accommodate some 3,441 students who would like to earn and learn while on summer vacation.

The SPES summer job program will be from April 4 to June 4 or until the end of summer vacation in all DOLE provincial offices except in Camarines Sur and Catanduanes, both of which will conduct the program in two to three batches.

The students will be given a minimum of 20 to a maximum of 52 work days with an average daily wage of P230.

DOLE-Bicol in a press statement said that 30 percent of the 3,441 SPES target will be allotted to incoming college freshmen and first timers to the program while the remaining slots will be for SPES Babies.

SPES Babies are the students who were already beneficiaries or have been previously employed under by the program.

Lawyer Alvin Villamor, DOLE regional director, said “We have increased the funds for SPES to accommodate the incoming college freshmen and to retain the SPES babies. In comparison, this year's budget is higher by about P200,000.”

“We want these SPES Babies to finish college through the program. If you become an SPES baby it means that every year you will be accepted in the summer job program.” Villamor added.

This year, 11 private companies and three government agencies/state universities and colleges joined DOLE-Bicol in its SPES program benefiting 134 students, Villamor said.

“We are trying to convince more private firms to join our SPES program for an actual job training for the students. But we are more than grateful to all the local government units that are always supporting our SPES,” Villamor said.

Under the SPES program, Albay will hire 863 students with a P1.3 million fund, Sorsogon with 773 students/P1.20 million; Camarines Sur with 671/P1.28 million; Camarines Norte–290/P624,870; Catanduanes-459/P801,312; and Masbate with 385 students/P536,216. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Solon asks DSWD to place entire Catanduanes under CCT program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) – Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the lone district of Catanduanes has asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to place not only four but all the province’s 11 towns under the Aquino administration’s anti-poverty program called the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

In his letter recently sent to DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Sarmiento said that except for Virac, the capital town, all the 10 other municipalities of Catanduanes are classified as either third, fourth or fifth class which means they are poor and receiving smaller shares in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

The lawmaker lamented that more developed cities and municipalities getting more shares in the IRA and having ample capability of providing basic services to their constituents, have more areas included and subsequently more beneficiaries under the CCT or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Catanduanes on the other hand had only the towns of Caramoran, Pandan, Bagamanoc and Viga included in the program so far and the seven others are left grumbling as they enviously watch these four towns and all the hundreds other towns in Bicol enjoying the benefits of the CCT, Sarmiento said.

The inclusion of the other seven towns in the coverage of the 4Ps program will be instrumental in eradicating poverty and hunger in the province, the congressman told the DSWD secretary in the letter.

Under the program, at total of 1,327 families identified by the DSWD as eligible beneficiaries from the four covered Catanduanes towns received last December amounts ranging from P9,000 to P15,000 each from the local branch of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Under the guidelines of the Conditional Cash Transfer program, a beneficiary family receives some P6,000 a year or P500 per month for health and nutrition, P3,000 for one school year or 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 as long as they comply with the requirements set.

The requirements oblige the mother or any pregnant member of the family to undergo pre-natal and post-natal check-up at the nearest health center starting from the third trimester and attend meetings on Family Development Services every second week of each month as well as seminars on Responsible Parenthood.

Their children aged zero to five years should undergo vaccination and other health procedures, with those six to 14 years old to undergo de-worming twice a year. Children three to five years old should attend Day Care Center or other pre-school program and be present at least 85 percent of the time.

Those six to 14 years old should be enrolled in the elementary or in high school and achieve the same attendance percentage while the parents should attend meetings with 4Ps parent-leaders and Family Development Sessions on how to become effective and responsible parents. (PNA)

Japanese soil, fertilizer expert to work in Catanduanes State College

VIRAC, Catanduanes, April 11 (PNA) – Starting next month, the soil laboratory of the College of Agriculture and Fisheries (CAF) of the Catanduanes State College (CSC) here will be manned by a Japanese expert in soil and fertilizer sciences who would work under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) program.

CSC president Asuncion Asetre said JOCV Tetsuya Ishikawa will start with his two-year assignment with the CAF in May following his ongoing familiarization tour and cultural interaction here.

A native of Nagoya, Japan, Ishikawa is a 2009 BS in Applied Biosciences graduate at Tokyo University of Agriculture. He studied pedology, plant physiology, fertilizer and plant nutrition, according to Asetre.

He was also a student staff to the laboratory of plant production chemistry of the university and conducted pot cultivation experiment of eggplant and soybean. He was trained by the JOVC training course program on the preparation, adjustment of sample, flame analysis and calometric analysis for soil and plants, she said.

Ishikawa will assist in the continuation of the testing of soil in the province started by Namiko Yamamoto, the first volunteer sent in to the province by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) who also calibrated the school’s spectro-flame photometer equipment during her six-month assignment in 2009.

The equipment was provided by the JICA for the CSC soil laboratory that spearheaded the conducting of an extensive soil mapping in the province. Yamamoto who led the project has identified and gathered soil samples for testing from 64 soil gradients across the province, Asetre said.

The laboratory has already completed the Nitrogen, Phosporus and pH (potential Hydrogen) test for the soil samples and after the completed macronutrients analysis undertaken by the previous Japanese volunteer, the studying of soil micronutrients will be the next activity of the laboratory with Ishikawa.

The soil laboratory at the CSC is equipped with a Spectro-flame Photometer, a soil analyzer device composed of two main machines, a spectro-photometer and flame photometer. It can test mineral content of soils as well as its alkalinity or acidity and through these tests, proper crops management can be applied.

The island province located amidst the Pacific Ocean is a highly agricultural area that is known as the Philippines’ biggest producer of abaca and top supplier of abaca fiber in the international market. (PNA)

Albay prepares to honor newly crowned Bb. Pilipinas International

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) - The newly crowned Binibining Pilipinas International Dianne Elaine Necio will be welcomed with red carpet honors as the provincial government of Albay passed a special resolution recognizing her contribution to the province.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda in a press statement said the province is preparing activities to honor another Albayana that gave honor and pride to the province.

He said, “Albayanos rejoice and are hugely proud of Bb. Pilipinas International Dianne Elaine Necio - always Albay, always magayon (beautiful).”

Salceda said Necio is Albay’s third national beauty titlist since 1999. Melody Gersbach, from Daraga, was Bb. Pilipinas International 2009 and 3rd runner-up in the Miss International also in 2009; Precious Lara Quigaman from Ligao City, was 2005 Miss International; and 1999 Miss Universe 1st runner up Miriam Quiambao is from Bacacay, Albay.

Last year, Venus Raj, from Bato, Camarines Sur and a graduate from Bicol University (BU) in Albay, won the Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2010 and was 4th runner-up in the Miss Universe 2010.

Salceda said activities lined up for Necio include a red carpet motorcade from Legazpi airport to Daraga town then around the city's major thoroughfare.

Upon her arrival at the Albay capitol building, she will receive a special resolution from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay (SPA) recognizing her contribution to the pride and honor of Albay by her winning of the Bb. Pilipinas International title.

Necio, a native of Polangui, Albay and a townmate of Salceda, will also be given a red carpet welcome in her town with a motorcade and a Sangguniang Pambayan (SP) resolution giving honor to her.

Necio will represent the Philippines in the Miss International competition to be held in Chengdu, China later this year.

The other Binibining Pilipinas pageant crowned beauty queens are Shamcey Supsup as Bb. Pilipinas-Universe, Dianne Necio, Bb. Pilipinas-International and Isabella Manjon as Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism.

Also named during the awarding ceremonies held at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City were Janine Tugonon, 1st runner-up, and Mary Jean Lastimosa, 2nd runner-up.

Present during the coronation to relinquish their titles were Bb. Pilipinas-Universe 2010 and Miss Universe 4th runner-up Venus Raj, Bb. Pilipinas-World 2010 Czarina Gatbonton and Bb. Pilipinas-International 2010 Krista Kleiner. (PNA)

Rabies claims 5 lives in Albay
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 8 (PNA) – Five human deaths due to rabies have been reported by the Albay Provincial Health Office (APHO) based on its record from January to April this year.

Dr. Luis Mendoza said that even the animal bites have increased despite the non-stop information drive in every barangay and urging of pet owners to submit their dogs for proper anti-rabies vaccination. “We have free anti-rabies vaccination, however, we still have human fatality brought by rabies,” he said.

“The provincial government of Albay is taking all necessary measures to make Albay free from rabies but it seems that barangay officials as well as dog owners do not want to cooperate,” Mendoza said.

According to him, there is a need for the provincial government of Albay to review the provincial ordinance pertaining to the prevention of dogs going rabid and even providing penalties for the dog owners.

He also stated that stray dogs are still rampant. “LGU should have their own dog impounding area for stray dogs or even in the barangay,” Mendoza said.

From January to February 2011, the PHO has recorded a total of 468 dog bites.

“This record is only based from the report of the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital. If we will consolidate all reports from different towns and cities, maybe there is a higher number of animal bites just for the first quarter of this year,” Mendoza said. (PNA)

Senator Trillanes bats for review of Mining Act

LEGAZPI CITY, April 8 (PNA) - Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said he will ask the Senate Committee on Environment to review the Philippine Mining Act amidst complaints by local government units (LGUs) over unfair sharing of the benefits from the exploration and utilization of their natural resources by mining companies operating in their area.

Trillanes said he will officially request Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to include in the committee's agenda a review of the country’s mining law specifically the provision on the granting of benefits to areas where mining exploration exists.

The Bicolano solon who visited this city on Wednesday said such review will help the lawmakers identify whether there are loopholes in the provision so that corrective measures can be instituted.

LGUs in Bicol have expressed their disappointment over the Mining Act, under which their supposed share from the development of national wealth is remitted directly to the national government, preventing them from immediately pursuing development projects.

LGU leaders lamented they had to beg for their share before it was released by the national government.

Because of this practice, LGUs have to defer the implementation of their development projects until such time such share is released.

LGUs' benefits come in terms of revenues coming from income and royalty, including social, economic and educational benefits.

Earlier, Albay Governor Joey Salceda complained about Bicol's minimal gains from mining operations as reported by the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB), saying these were very tiny compared to the billions of pesos worth of mineral resources extracted from the region’s natural resources.

Salceda, one of the country’s top economists, claimed that out of the P11.4 billion the mining giants got, only P41 million was received by the local folks in terms of paid taxes.

Engr. Reynulfo A. Juan, MGB regional director for Bicol, said these mining companies are the Masbate Gold Project, Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP) and Palanog Cement Plant Project (PCLP). (PNA)

Gov. Salceda expresses support to KALAHI-CIDSS

LEGAZPI CITY, April 7 (PNA) - Albay Governor Joey Salceda expressed his desire to help in the implementation of the KALAHI-CIDSS through Community Driven and Development approach (CDD), otherwise known as Makamasang Tugon in the province of Albay.

KALAHI-CIDSS or the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Service is the anti-poverty program of the government that envisions empowered Filipinos participating hands-on in governance implemented through the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DSWD Assistant Regional Director Evelyn M. Lontok said that Governor Salceda is willing to provide counterpart funding for the implementation of KALAHI-CIDS in Albay. Lontok shared with the Governor the cost-sharing of the seven KALAHI-CIDSS covered municipalities - Jovellar, Libon, Pioduran, Rapu-rapu, Malinao and Manito.

The computation of KALAHI-CIDSS grant allocation is at P500,000 multiplied by the number of barangays. This makes up 70 percent of the total project cost. The other 30 percent will be the local counterpart contribution requirement of the local government unit.

Lontok added that in Albay province alone, the grant totaled P90.5 million. The total project cost amounted to P129.2 and the total required counterpart contribution is P38.7. “We want to make sure that the project is supported by the provincial down to the barangay local government units. There is nothing to fear. We will help each other for community development,” she said.

Apart from approved additional financing from the World Bank, part of the recently approved grant comes from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC is an independent foreign aid agency created by the US Congress that forges partnership with developing countries.

Lontok said the CDD approach supported by the KALAHI-CIDSS is one of the “three legs of convergence” for enhancing the capacity of the poor to escape poverty.

The other two are the conditional cash transfer program called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and a sustainable livelihood program.

Using a community-driven development (CDD) approach, the KALAHI-CIDSS helps poor communities develop the necessary skills and provides them with resources to select, implement, and sustain small-scale community infrastructure projects and social services.

Implemented by the DSWD since 2002, the original KALAHI-CIDSS Project has benefited 45,284 households in 633 barangays covering 24 municipalities in the six provinces of Bicol region. It has financed community sub-projects including basic social services facilities, such as water systems, school buildings, health and day care centers, access roads and small bridges, and environmental and disaster control infrastructure. (PNA)

22 hired, 845 awaiting interview in Legazpi City-sponsored jobs fair

LEGAZPI CITY, April 7 (PNA) — Some 22 job seekers were hired and 845 are now waiting for interview out of the 1,027 applicants during the jobs fair recently spearheaded by the Public Employment and Services Office (PESO) of the city government here.

Mayor Carmen Geraldine Rosal of this city said that one of the foremost agenda of her administration is to create more job opportunities for the locals here especially at this time of the year when thousands of students graduate from school.

“We always intend to give these people opportunities to live a decent way of living, with decent jobs and from the threshold of poverty.

Mayor Rosal cited the role of the partners in carrying out the two-day event not only to generate jobs but also to highlight the thrust of the local government in improving the economic situation and quality of living of the people.

Participating organizations and employers included Computer Systems Institute (CSI), Embarcadero de Legazpi and Manila-based call center Convergys.

Meanwhile, CSI Office of Student Affairs head Arlene Arao-Narvasa said that one of the targets of partner-schools is to meet employers’ standards and abide by the regulations of the Technical Education and Skills Development Administration (TESDA) that 60 percent of the graduates should be ready for employment.

The job generation undertaking evolved on the theme: Empowering Albayanos through Better Employment Opportunities. (PNA)

Friday, April 8, 2011

AECID gives P2-M livelihood for Legazpi villages with best waste management practices

LEGAZPI CITY, April 7 (PNA) -- For pursuing ecological solid waste management (ESWM) practices in their respective communities, some 13 villages in this city were adjudged best in ESWM practices and awarded with cash and P2-million worth of livelihood projects from the Agencia Espanola Cooperacion International Para El Desarollo (AECID).

Recipients of the P50,000 cash awards each were Barangays EMs Barrio East, Bagumbayan, Centro Baybay, Gogon and Buraguis for being chosen as the best five in ESWM practices. They were also given plaques of commendations.

Barangay Buraguis, through its First Buraguis Multi-Purpose Cooperative, was given P720,539 worth of machineries, tools and equipment for its eco-concrete hollow block production while Barangay Bagumbayan got P385,500 worth of charcoal briquetting equipment.

Barangays EMs Barrio South and Taysan, through its respective livelihood organizations, received composting machineries and equipment worth a total of P381,074. Barangays Arimbay, Bitano, Bonot, Cabangan East, Cruzada, EMs Barrio East and Maoyod were recipients of high speed and ordinary sewing machines for tetrapack recycling businesses.

Ami Bariso, president of the First Buraguis Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said that about eight barangay residents in their area are presently undergoing hands-on training on eco-concrete hollow blocks production specifically on machine and equipment operation.

Bariso said their livelihood project will produce quality yet affordable hollow blocks and paving blocks made of aggregates from sand, cement and pulverized plastics.

Bariso’s husband, Al, village chief of Barangay Buraguis, said that they earned the distinction on SWM best practices because of the strict implementation of the residents on solid waste management program since June 2008 specifically on the proper use of the materials recovery facility (MRF).

He said aside from the organization of Eco-Aides the village officials have crafted a 10-year comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan.

City Mayor Carmen Geraldine Rosal said the people that will directly benefit from the livelihood projects are actually garbage scavengers organized by the city government into cooperatives and livelihood groups and given trainings on how to earn more decently from the garbage.

Gonzalo Serrano, AECID's Technical Cooperation Office program officer, said they are very much satisfied with the accomplishment of the city government in the implementation of the ESWM project they have jointly established.

AECID funded the city's P93-million modern sanitary landfill established in a 1.5-hectare land, the first of its kind in Bicol pursuant to Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“We are very satisfied and we will consider this project as the flagship of our partnership with the Philippines in promoting safe and sustainable environment. It will also be a model for other municipalities willing to have a similar facilities for treatment of waste,” Serrano said.

Rosal said 30 percent of all the residual garbage produced by households and commercial and industrial establishments in the city will go to the sanitary landfill while the rest would be recycled or manufactured into compost fertilizer when the facility becomes operational by next month.

Serrano told the lady mayor that they will invite Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Arias Romero and other high ranking Spanish officials to grace the inauguration of the facility come April. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Land Bank releases P683 million to CCT beneficiaries in Bicol last year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 5( PNA) –- Almost 109,000 families in Bicol received last year a total of some P683 million under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program being implemented by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, according to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

In a statement here over the week, LBP assistant vice-president and Bicol regional head Renato Eje said that as of December 31, 2010, the bank’s 14 branches across the region released a total of P682,866,196 that represented cash benefits for 108,658 beneficiaries from the six provinces of the region. LBP is the government's official depository bank and tasked as exclusive servicing arm of the CCT fund releases.

Eje said the biggest amount of P386,801,183 was released to 62,443 beneficiaries in the island province of Masbate, the region’s poorest. In Sorsogon, P102,049,900 was released to 19,341 beneficiaries.

The calamity-stricken province of Albay received P78,769,813 benefiting 12,017 families while Camarines Sur, the region’s biggest province, got P79,002,400 for its 11,284 recipients.

Camarines Norte and the island of Catanduanes, both considered the smallest provinces in the region, received P18,901,600 and P17,341,300 for its 2,130 and 1,443 beneficiaries, respectively.

“We are anticipating more amount of releases to a bigger number of beneficiaries this year as we are aware that the current CCT implementation by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been earmarked P21 billion by the Aquino administration as it moves ahead with its intensified anti-poverty initiatives,” he said.

In anticipation of that, Eje said, the LBP is adding more branches in Bicol’s countryside to be able to bring its services closer to the people in hinterland areas of the region. This week, a branch in Polangui, Albay will be opened and offer services to CCT beneficiaries coming from as far as the municipality of Claveria of Burias island in Masbate, he said.

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.

Under the present administration, Remia Tapispisan, the DSWD regional director, said that the CCT or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) has been made more comprehensive as it now comes with substantial investments in basic education, child immunization and maternal health and public health services.

She said the Aquino government did not only expand the 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 healthcare facilities and immunization services, especially in the countryside. (PNA)

CSC calls for nominations in this year’s Honor Awards in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, April 5 (PNA) -– With hopes that Bicol will once again be able to produce winners in this year’s Honor Awards Program (HAP) for government workers, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) here has enjoined concerned sectors to come up with more nominees into the search that now offers higher cash prizes to winners.

In a radio program “Ugnayan sa Bicol” here over the broadcast facility of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional office here, CSC regional human resource division chief Ray Atendido said that HAP applies to all officials and employees in the career and non-career service of the government as well as appointive barangay officials and workers provided they are recognized as government employees pursuant to CSC Resolution No. 01-1352 dated August 10, 2001.

For outstanding work performance category, the Presidential or Lingkod Bayan Award is conferred on an individual or group of individuals for exceptional or extraordinary contributions resulting from an idea or performance that had nationwide impact on public interest, security and patrimony.

Pagasa Award, on the other hand, is conferred on an individual or group of individuals for outstanding contribution resulting from an idea or performance that directly benefit more than one department of the government.

The Outstanding Public Officials and Employees or Dangal ng Bayan Award is conferred on an individual extraordinary act or public service and consistent demonstration of exemplary ethical behavior on the basis of his/her observance of the eight norms of behavior provided under the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.”

Commitment to public interest, professionalism, justness and sincerity, political neutrality, responsiveness to the public, nationalism and patriotism, commitment to democracy, and simple living are among the criteria in selecting winners to this category.

Atendido recalls that five Bicolanos in 2009 qualified to the national finals and three of which were named winners. Deadline for filing of nominations for his year has been extended until April 15, 2011.

Atendido also announced that the Commission has recently increased by 100 percent the cash rewards and incentives for this year’s awards program per issuance of CSC Resolution No. 1100357, s. 2011 dated March 15.

The Presidential or Lingkod Bayan and the Outstanding Public Officials and Employees or Dangal ng Bayan Awardees will be receiving P200,000 from the original P100,000 while the Pagasa Awardee will be receiving a cash award of P100,000 that is also double compared to last year’s P50,000. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Naga City eyes planting 30,000 pili trees in two years

NAGA CITY, April 5 (PNA) -– With the demand for pili products steadily rising due to the growing tourism industry here, the local government has launched a project to grow at least 30,000 pili trees in this city until next year. Pili has emerged as Bicol’s other “Tree of Life” next to coconut.

Dubbed "PiliMania 2011," the project was placed under the stewardship of the city’s first lady, Farrah Bongat. Under the project, pili seedlings will be planted in vacant areas along the national highway, barangays and subdivision roads and other strategic places.

These areas will be called the Pili Green Spots which will be considered protected sites and maintained by the city government and the host communities, according to Mrs. Bongat, wife of Mayor John Bongat.

The project was put in place following studies that revealed huge demands for pili products in the city owing to the regular influx of tourists looking for delicacies like crispy and glazed pili candies as favorite take home items.

“Local pili food product manufacturers need at least 47.2 million pili nuts per year and they can only get some 37.4 million from various sources like the province of Sorsogon that is considered the biggest producer and supplier of the crop in the region,” she said.

Covering all areas in the city suited for growing pili will help a lot address the demand as the city government mulls on establishing a common service facility for pili that will serve as convergence point among local pili manufacturers and traders and open up job and business opportunities for Naganueños, Mrs Bongat said.

Planting materials, she added would be sourced from the Department of Agriculture (DA) which maintains vast nurseries for the propagation of good quality pili trees and from various farmers who have volunteered to donate some of their seedlings to the project.

The DA has been pushing for massive pili tree production in Bicol in support to the growing industry that has been capturing both the domestic and international market. Apart from nuts, pili trees are also source of important industrial products derived from its trunk extract called elemi. (PNA)

Masbate provincial prosecutor seeks stiffer penalties for illegal fishing

MASBATE CITY, April 5 (PNA) – The Masbate provincial prosecutor’s office based here on Tuesday said unless stiffer penalties are provided, the campaign of the local government units (LGUs) to curb the rampant illegal fishing in their territorial waters will continue to be a failure.

Provincial prosecutor Jeremias Mapula made this observation in the wake of an order issued by Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete tasking the Philippine National Police (PNP) to end the illegal activities at the province’s fishing grounds “as soon as possible.”

The only bases for the police to act against illegal fishing activities is Republic Act 8550 or the Fishery Code of the Philippines which appears to be “favorable” to operators of large fishing vessels that have been encroaching on municipal waters at the expense of marginal fishermen that LGUs want to protect, Mapula said.

He said the same law metes out only fines of P2,000 to P20,000 against fishing boat operators and imprisonment of only two and a half years to boat captains or master fishermen of the vessels caught fishing using active gears.

“For operators of big fishing vessels, these fines are very small compared to what they are raking from the sea in just one illegal fishing outing so they can easily get away from the offense once caught while the ship captains or master fishermen on the other hand can readily plea guilty to the offense and apply for probation to escape imprisonment,” Mapula said.

These kind of penalties do not deter illegal fishing particularly by operators of large fishing vessels coming from neighboring coastal provinces and have been devastating the fishing grounds of Masbate since several decades ago right under the noses of the police and local authorities, he lamented.

“The campaign against illegal fishing in municipal waters for the protection of the marine environment can only be gain ground once RA 8550 is amended and provided with stiffer penalties and forfeiture of fishing vessels in favor of the LGUs,” the provincial prosecutor added. (PNA)

Bicol University passes academic management international standards
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 5 (PNA) -– Bicol University (BU), the largest state-run higher education institution in the region with main campuses here has recently been given certification as a passer in the international standards on management and academic services in tertiary education.

BU President Dr. Fay Lea Patria Lauraya said the university has received recently the certification which serves as proof that it had passed the worldwide quality management system (QMS) set by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) through auditors from the Germany-based Technicher Uberwachungs Verein-Technical Inspection Association-TUV.

Lauraya said that the ISO accreditation gives BU the privilege to level up with fellow ISO accredited schools in other countries and gain international market access such as exchange of learning strategies, students and program offerings.

“BU as now ISO accredited, we expect better opportunities for our graduates once they decide to work abroad or even merely to continue their post-graduate courses outside the Philippines,” Lauraya said.

With this, she said BU would open additional programs such as medicine meteorology and courses incorporating climate change adaptation.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda expressed elation over the development and vowed that the provincial government would extend all its resources to further improve the services of the state-run university.

“In fact, Albay’s scholarship programs benefit thousands of BU students already, and more are set to benefit through our expanded Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme (AHECS),” Salceda added.

As the biggest tertiary school in Bicol, and the most populous in the country, BU is consistently producing topnotchers in accountancy, engineering, nursing and teachers’ board exams.

Aside from its main campuses here, BU also has satellite and extension schools in Tabaco City that offers courses in fisheries; Daraga, Guinobatan and Polangui in Albay offering education, arts, agriculture and engineering careers; Gubat in Sorsogon; and Camp Crame in Quezon City that offers courses in public safety. (PNA)

PNP files criminal charges vs ranking NPA leader for death of 8-year-old in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, April 5 (PNA) -- A ranking New People’s Army (NPA) member and several others are facing criminal charges for the killing of an eight-year-old girl after suspected communist rebels indiscriminately fired at the victim's residence on Sunday in Barangay (village) San Pascual in Casiguran, Sorsogon, a Philippine Army officer said on Tuesday.

Facing criminal charges are Jeffrey Benzon, secretary of the NPA guerilla front committee 79 operating in Sorsogon, and his companions Nino Hilum Jr., Jerry Curanes and several John Does.

Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division spokesman, said criminal charges are being prepared by the PNP Casiguran while testimonies from witnesses and Army soldiers are being prepared by lawyers confirming that indeed the NPA rebels led by Benzon where responsible for the atrocities that led to the death of Rose Ann Gubat.

Formal criminal charges would be filed in a local court here.

The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon when about 10 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked soldiers conducting peace & development efforts in Barangay San Pascual.

Guzman said that elements from the 49th Infantry Battalion were conducting humanitarian mission in the village when rebels fired aimlessly at residential houses hitting the victim in the chest.

Instead of retaliating, soldiers managed to immediately brought the civilians to the safer grounds, Guzman said.

Ltc Santiago Enginco, Commanding Officer of 49th Infantry Battalion who ordered reinforcements, said the first harassment in the village occurred last March 15 wherein rebels also fired at the barangay while the residents are having dialogue with 49th IB troops conducting peace and development efforts in the area. (PNA)