Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Albay RORO port links Bicol to Visaya and Mindanao

PIODURAN, Albay, June 29 (PNA) -- This fishing village in the west coast of Albay will soon rise as a trading hub of the province following the opening on Tuesday of a new all weather roll- on/roll- off (Ro-Ro) port in the third district of the province.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and Albay province formally opened the P62 million Ro-Ro facilities in the Port of Pioduran making the third class town in Albay a new gateway of Bicol to the island province of Masbate, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The inauguration signals the start of operation of three shipping lines with RORO vessels namely , the Montenegro Shipping Lines, Sta Clara Shipping and the Medallion Transport,that would ply daily the Masbate to Pioduran, Albay vice versa route.Each ro-ro vessel can accommodate 300 passengers, passenger bus, cargo trucks and light vehicles.

Rosenda Sumagaysay, PPA regional director said the port which started construction work in 2009, has a 100-meter by 6 meter rock causeway, and a RORO ramp and platform.

Sumagaysay said the Port of Pioduran is the third port to be opened this month in Bicol, Recently inaugurated were the Guijalo port in Caramoan and Nato port in Sangay, all in Camarines Sur.

PPA data showed that there are 25 RORO facilities in Bicol.

"The port is a reality of a long time dream in bringing opportunities in trade and investments that would shape the future of the area,”he said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda lauded the PPA and the three shipping lines for building the Port of Pantao and opening the RORO services making the town a future trading hub in the third district of the province.

Salceda said the port is acknowledged as the strategic RORO facility in the entire west coast area in Bicol.

“Strategic since trading and transport would be fast via Pioduran port; businessmen doing business in mainland Bicol would save a lot in freight cost compared to the ports in Sorsogon, ” he said.

Unlike Pilar Port in Sorsogon where the RORO operates only during high tide, the Pioduran port offers a 24-hour RORO operations.

Pioduran port would serve as a catchment area of close to a half million population in the towns of Oas, Libon, Pioduran and Ligao City in Albay, Donsol in Sorsogon, San Pascual, Claveria, and Masbate City in Masbate province.

The port, which is included in the countries nautical highway program,is a component of the province spatial integration where seaports would link with road networks of the Ligao-Pioduran road, the Albay West Coast road and the Pioduran-Donsol road.

Pioduran, formerly known as Malakbalak town, is a third class coastal town in the west coast area in the third district of Albay, with 44,972 population. Its main livelihood is fishing and farming.(PNA)

3 shipping lines launch RoRo operations from Albay
By Mike de la Rama

PIODURAN, Albay, June 28 (PNA) – Three shipping lines have officially launched their navigation to any point of Visayas and Mindanao provinces from the newly opened Roll-On-Roll-Off (RoRo) facility located in the west coast of the province of Albay.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda during the opening and blessing of Pioduran port facility said that Sta. Clara, Montenegro and Medallon shipping companies officially launched their RoRo operations today, June 28.

He said that Pioduran RoRo port is the best site for business in this rising inter-island trade center between the 3rd district of Albay and islands of Masbate specially Pioduran town and Claveria.”

The three Roll-on-Roll-Off vessels are designed to carry cargoes as well as seafarers from this coastal town to any point of Visayas and Mindanao provinces.

Salceda explained that the operation of the Ro-Ro would create and integrate an intensive maritime transport system that would give significant benefits to the economy of Pioduran in terms of reduction of transport costs.

“The operation of the newly opened RoRo facility has created a new regional links and expansion of regional markets. Pioduran port is accessible to Albay`s prime tourist destinations. This would spur economic activities in this west coast side of the province,” the governor said.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) port manager Rosenda Sumagaysay on the other hand said that aside from bringing comfort to travelers, the RoRo operations will definitely boost the economy of Albay west coast.

She, however, challenged both local elected officials and the public in Pioduran to watch the facility against bad elements. “The sea port is an opportunity for new investment and do not allow any bad elements to operate illegal business here,” he said. (PNA)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Disaster preemptive measures in place as TS 'Falcon' hovers over Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 23 (PNA) – Disaster authorities on Thursday started moving out to safer grounds villagers threatened by flooding and landslides as tropical storm “Falcon” hovers over the Bicol region, bringing rains.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hoisted public storm signal No. 1 in four Bicol provinces, meaning these areas will experience cloudy with scattered to widespread rains and thunderstorm while the eastern and western seaboards would have rough to very rough seas with waves as high as 3.7 to 5.5 meters high.

The Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) dispatched on Thursday six military trucks to fast-track evacuation of villagers living in low-lying areas and mountain slopes in several villages in the towns of Guinobatan, Oas, Polangui and Libon, and this city, all in Albay.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chairperson, said he already directed local disaster councils affected by floodings to immediately evacuate people to avoid disaster- related casualties in the event the weather disturbance worsens.

Salceda said hundreds of families in the villages of Subcad, Laniga and Gabon flood prone areas in Polangui town in Albay were already evacuated Wednesday evening.

He said as per PDRRMC advisory, maritime authorities were told to suspend maritime operations in various ports in the province due to the prevailing weather event.

With the advisory issued Wednesday, Salceda said all passengers, cargo and fishing vessels with 35 gross tonnage and below plying the areas of eastern coast of Luzon, including Albay province, are prohibited to sail due to prevailing big waves spawned by "Falcon."

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) today suspended maritime operations in Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte provinces due to the strong to gale force wind affecting the western seaboards of Luzon and Visayas and eastern seaboards of the country.

The PCG reported that as off 6 a.m. today, there were 210 passengers, three buses, 15 trucks, one light vehicle and nine cargo and three foreign vessels stranded in the Port of Tabaco.

The governor said all municipal and city disaster risk reduction management councils were advised to be on 24-hour alert and to take the necessary contingency measures in areas vulnerable to landslide and flash floods.

The PDRRMC advisory also suspended classes in all levels, as a pre-emptive disaster measure to keep students and teachers out of danger due to floodings and landslides.

Disaster authorities here also advised villagers living near river channels not to venture crossing flash floods and swelling rivers.

Civil Aviation authorities said airplane carriers decided to cancel today flights from Manila to this city due to the prevailing bad weather. (PNA)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

USB flashdrive contains list of NPA backers in Albay
By Connie Destura

GUINOBATAN, Albay, June 18 (PNA) --Soldiers belonging to the 2nd Infantry Brigade recovered a USB flashdrive containing the names of supporters of New People's Army (NPA)rebels in Albay during a clearing operation on Friday.

The clearing operations at Sitio Batoan, Barangay Palapas, Guinobatan followed a clash between government troopers and NPA at a nearby area along the boundary of Balite in Guinobatan and Matanglad in Pio Duran towns Wednesday. The encounter left a communist rebel and a militiaman killed.

Major Narsan C. Obuyes said also recovered from abandon hut were a cal. 38, six improvised landmine, a CPP-NPA handbook, detonating cord and subversive documents.

Army Lt. Col. Audrey Pasia, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Brigade based in Ligao City, said those killed were militiaman Roberto D. Oliquino, 29, a resident of Barangay Malama, Ligao City, and an NPA rebel identified as Jose G. Acabado of Sitio Danao, Barangay Onggo, Guinobatan, Albay.

This was the second encounter between the Army and NPA rebels in Albay in over a month.(PNA)

Friday, June 17, 2011

LGU regulates 'tahong' farming in Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, June 17 (PNA) – Sorsogon Bay’s P100-million a year "tahong" (green mussel) industry, rendered temporarily “dead” for four years by paralytic shellfish poisoning or red tide, has gotten a new lease on life.

This time, the local government here wanted the industry well-managed through strict regulations and authoritative impositions covering the city territorial waters.

“We have formulated guidelines that would cover tahong farmers in our coastal waters so that the mess on their part that principally contributed to the occurrence of that prolonged red tide phenomenon is put in order,” City Agriculturist Adeline Detera said.

These guidelines should be strictly complied with in order for the city government to regulate, legitimize and organize the establishment of tahong farms to prevent overcrowding, illegal operations and other uncalled for activities that could once again imperil the industry, Detera said.

Provisions of these guidelines limit the putting up of tahong farms within the city’s territorial jurisdiction within the Sorsogon Bay among organized fishermen or farmers’ groups that are duly registered with the city government. Individuals or organizations without juridical personality have no business to conduct tahong farming within the city limits, she said.

Permits should also be secured from the City Agricultural Office (CAO) and each farmers’ group that have complied with those requirements should pay the local government an amount of P1,000 for every hectare of tahong farming area that would be occupied, she stressed.

Serafin Lacdang, head of the Fisheries division of the Sorsogon Provincial Agricultural Office (PAO), said that the use of bamboo poles in tahong farming within Sorsogon Bay is already prohibited as agreed upon during a recent consultation with shellfish farmer leaders and Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils in the 22 coastal barangays of the city.

The agreement was reached on observations that bamboo poles eventually become nuisance at sea when farm owners eventually leave it to litter and become garbage in the waters from where the red tide-causing algae nourish itself into full-blown paralytic poisons that affect shellfishes like tahong, oyster and other coastal water species, Lacdang said.

He said the measure of the city government to regulate tahong farming is a timely and necessary course of action considering that overcrowding of farms triggers water pollution that contributes to the occurrence of red tide.

Sorsogon Bay remains very fragile to red tide and latest examination conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) indicated another upward trend in its toxicity level, Lacdang said, adding that the bay should be managed properly to eliminate man-made factors that could contribute to its resurgence.

Red tide plagued the bay starting in February 2007 until early this year. At least 14 persons had died and over a hundred others were hospitalized from PSP during the early stage of the phenomenon even as the BFAR has banned the gathering, harvesting, transporting, selling and eating of tahong and other shellfish species from its waters.

The ban was lifted last March following findings that its toxicity level has gone down to a tolerable level. (PNA)

Albay guv orders measures as TD 'Egay' is expected to bring rains
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, June 17 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered countermeasures for disaster avoidance as the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) issued Advisory 1 in connection with tropical depression "Egay."

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) bulletin said "Egay was forecast by Saturday morning to be 170 kilometers east of Borongan, Eastern Samar; by Sunday morning at 100 km east of Virac, Catanduanes and on Monday morning at 180 km northeast of Casiguran, Aurora.

The weather agency said "Egay," with maximum winds of 55 kilometers per hour near the center, is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon.

Salceda has ordered the countermeasures to achieve zero casualty, especially with the local thunderstorms and more frequent episodes of heavy rainfalls that could trigger flash floods and landslides.

These measures include: no sailing in sea for small passenger seacrafts and fishing boats; no crossing of flooded waters, swelling rivers and artificial pools of water; households living near riverbanks and mountain slopes are to take precautionary measures; all Cities/Municipalities Disaster Risks Reduction Management Councils are directed to monitor and disseminate weather bulletins and PDRRMC advisories to BDRRMCs; and to monitor and address situations in their respective jurisdictions. (PNA)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sorsogon to host DTI’s Negosyo Caravan in Bicol

SORSOGON CITY, June 13 (PNA) – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is expected to bring in to Bicol some 300 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for the 11th leg of its SME Negosyo Caravan that will be hosted in this city by the province of Sorsogon on June 22-23.

Senen Malaya, the DTI’s Senior Trade and Industry Development Specialist and information officer of its provincial office here, said the caravan aims to improve access of SMEs to government and private sector services particularly to areas like Sorsogon where the provision of business development services is limited.

It also seeks to increase awareness of SMEs on various business development services provided by the government and private sector entities as expert resource persons from the DTI will conduct training and counseling sessions during the two-day event to promote entrepreneurship, improve access to markets and finance, and increase productivity and efficiency, Malaya said.

Topics to be covered will include Access to Markets that involves franchising, business ethics, product development and design, E-marketing or putting business on-line for creative selling techniques, product costing and pricing, free trade agreements, export procedures, and how to participate in trade fairs, Malaya said.

The other topics will be Access to Finance that would cover business plan preparation, credit sourcing and management as well as Productivity and Efficiency that includes packaging and labeling, good manufacturing practices (GMP), food safety and safety risk analysis, green manufacturing, intellectual property and productivity improvement, he said.

Business Environment that involves entrepreneurial mindset, opportunity seeking and product development, and marketing the business would also be discussed.

SME information materials published by the DTI-Bureau of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Development (DTI-BMSMED) and other agencies, according to Malaya will be provided to the participants during the event. This year’s SME Negosyo Caravan which took off in Bukidnon last April 27 had already the provinces of Antique, Abra, Oriental Mindoro, Pangasinan, Surigao del Norte, Zambales and Zamboanga. It will be in Cagayan on June 14-15 and Northern Samar on June 17-18 before proceeding to this city on June 22.

From here, the caravan will proceed to Davao Oriental for a two-day stay on July 5-6 then to Lucena City on July 14-15 before completing in Sarangani on July 26-27 its 15-leg sortie this year, Malaya added. (PNA)

DOH says Bicol all set for PhilHealth Sabado II
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 13 (PNA) – The Department of Health (DOH)-Center for Health Development (CHD) for Bicol announced on Monday that everything is all set for the conduct in the region of the National PhilHealth Registration Day (NPRD) dubbed PhilHealth Sabado II on June 25.

“We have already organized the regional task force which apart from the DOH and the regional office of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is composed of the Departments of Education (DepEd), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Interior and Local government (DILG) and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA),” Nestor Santiago, the DOH’s regional director said.

DOH, along with the PhilHealth serves as the lead agencies while the DepEd handles the venues, the DSWD, through its National Household Targeting System (NHTS) identifies the indigent families that will be automatically enrolled with PhilHealth, the DILG coordinates with local government units (LGUs) and the PIA to take care of the information disseminations, Santiago said.

Likewise, the venues of the registration composed of 14 public schools in strategic locations of the six provinces of the region have already been identified with each province having two except for Camarines Sur, the region’s biggest where four venues have been designated, the DOH regional chief said.

PhilHealth Sabado II will replicate the successful “PhilHealth Sabado, Magseguro, Magparehistro” program which was simultaneously conducted nationwide on October 2, 2010 and benefited around 4.7 million Filipino families that were provided with health insurance coverage.

Under this program, the “true” indigent families as evaluated and identified by the DSWD are automatically enrolled during the registration day and their contributions are shouldered by the government. The monthly contribution for PhilHealth amounts to P100 and for each poor family, the national government provides P50 while the other P50, by the local government.

In Camarines Norte, a report of the PIA over the weekend said Gov. Edgardo Tallado has allotted P18,000 from the coffer of the provincial government for the indigent families in the province that cannot afford to pay their monthly contribution for their PhilHealth coverage. The money could already be used starting next month.

Santiago said that in this June 25 NPRD, “we target the school children along with their parents in our advocacy for membership, accommodating enrollees and informing member’s benefits and responsibilities in keeping with Pres Aquino’s promise to give each and every Filipino access to quality healthcare in three years time.”

In his Executive Order (EO) No. 10 issued last October 2, the President said that one of the priorities of his administration is to ensure that all Filipinos, especially the poor, have access to health care services through universal health care in three years, or less thus, their enrolment in PhilHealth should be ensured. (PNA)

Radioman killed in Iriga City

LEGAZPI CITY, June 13 (PNA) - A radio commentator was gunned down Monday by an unidentified man in Barangay (village) San Jose, Iriga City, a Philippine National Police (PNP) officer said.

Killed was Romeo Olea, 49, married and a news reporter and radio commentator of DWEB FM based in Nabua town in Camarines Sur.

Police Senior Inspector Ayn Natuel, PNP spokesperson, said the shooting incident took place at around 5:52 a.m. on Monday in front of the Holy Child Learning Center in said village.

According to police probers, the victim on board his motorcycle, was negotiating a road in Barangay San Jose when two men riding in tandem in another motorcycle followed him and fired at him at close range, hitting his back.

The victim was rushed to the Rinconada Medical Center in Iriga City but was declared dead on arrival by attending physicians. He sustained two gunshot wounds in his back.

Police Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) recovered from the crime scene two spent shells from a 9mm pistol.

Olea is the seventh media personality to have been killed in Bicol since 1986. (PNA)

Pinoy NASA scientist to visit Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, June 13 (PNA) – Filipino physicist Dr. Josefino Comiso is set to visit the province of Albay this coming Friday to update students and stakeholders of the climate change adaptation.

“His visit is being facilitated by Albay’s Center for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) and will go on sortie of different schools, colleges and universities in Albay to awaken the students on the real score of the climate change effects to the earth as viewed from space,” CIRCA executive director Manuel Rangasa said Monday.

Rangasa said that Comiso is presenting his vast findings and actual space photographs of the earth with comparative studies prior to the climate change and the present condition of the planet especially the fast melting icebergs and glaciers at the north and the southern hemispheres.

Governor Joey Salceda, senior global champion on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, explained that with the recently launched saturated fusion of climate change tactics to elementary and high school students, this visit of Comiso is a follow-up in the snowball of advocacies on the adaptation efforts.

“With rich data analyses, findings and recommendations, Comiso is of great help in the education and information campaign for climate change in the province of Albay as well as the whole country,” Salceda said.

Comiso is a senior scientist at the Cryospheric Sciences Branch of the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA. At Goddard, he co-authored the first satellite atlases on sea ice that revealed for the first time the true extent and spatial distribution of sea ice in the polar regions.

He also generated the first detailed maps of surface temperatures in the polar regions as derived from thermal infrared satellite data.

According to NASA website, Comiso’s research led to new insights into many important processes in the polar regions. Those include the role of sensible and latent heat polynyas ("Polyna" is a Russian word meaning "an enclosed area of unfrozen water surrounded by ice") and the Greenland Sea Odden on ocean convection and bottom water formation.

The “Odden” is a large sea ice feature that forms in the east Greenland Sea that may protrude eastward to 5°E from the main sea ice pack (at about 8°W) between 73° and 77°N. It generally forms at the beginning of the winter season and can cover 300,000 km2 (115,800 sq. miles).

His research also includes the influence of sea ice on phytoplankton blooms and the warming signals revealed by sea ice in the polar oceans. He has been a member of satellite sensor teams and has developed algorithms for the retrieval of sea ice concentration, surface temperature, albedo, and clouds.

He was the chief scientist in many NASA aircraft missions that included a flight over a nuclear submarine in the Arctic and has participated in many Antarctic field programs. In addition to the three sea ice atlases, he is the author or co-author of several book chapters and more than a hundred referred journal articles. (PNA)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All engines up for Southern Luzon International Airport in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, June 9 (PNA) -- Outgoing Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus has assured Albay Governor Joey Salceda that the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Daraga, Albay would be in full steam following the inclusion of the P500 million fund in the DOTC budget next year.

During their meeting last week, Salceda said De Jesus announced that the P500 million earlier slashed by Congress from the P870 million originally proposed in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2011, is being restored in the DOTC 2012 budget upon the request of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the provincial government of Albay.

At present, the SLIA is working on a P370-million fund involving site development and the construction of concrete road network that would link the airport site to the Maharlika Highway in Daraga.

Bidding documents for the P370-million 2011 budget are now being readied and it would be procured by the DOTC central office, Salceda said.

Salceda said De Jesus assured him that the DOTC has strongly and clearly reiterated that the SLIA in Albay is a national priority of President Benigno S. Aquino III given its impact to Bicol's tourism and the overall economic development of the countryside.

The DOTC believes that an international airport in the Bicol region would place a critical role in tourism, provide easy access for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and open neighboring markets that would boost the region’s economy.

Data from the SLIA feasibility study indicate that tourism in the last four years (1997-2000) in Bicol had posted 1.2 million visitors (foreign – 65,016; domestic – 1.1 million and OFWs with 20,066). The figure constituted about four percent of the total number of tourist arrivals in the Philippines, and about two percent of the total foreign visitors in the country.

The DOTC said the SLIA in Albay would be an alternate gateway given the congested traffic in existing international airports in Metro Manila.

As for the travel demand market, Salceda said Bicol alone has 5.4 million people and Samar provinces with 1.65 million for a total market of 7.1 million.

“If we were a country, we would be as big as Hong Kong and Tajikistan, slightly smaller than Switzerland, Israel, Honduras and Bulgaria and certainly bigger than Libya, Finland, Singapore, Nicaragua, Laos, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Ireland," Salceda said.

The DOTC technical study concluded that Daraga is the most suitable location for an international airport in Bicol given its "wind conditions" conducive year-round to air transportation unlike other newly proposed sites.

Considering the sheer lack of financial resources of the government, a new strategy has evolve this is by way of build and privatize, popularly known as “public-private”” partnership.

Under the public-private partnership (PPP), the government will essentially build the airport but its terminal construction and airport operation will be bid out under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme.

Salceda said, this strategy reduces the financial cash out and reduces the construction period of the investor, thus making it more attractive to potential investors.

The BOT format that will be presented for international competitive bidding is also being accelerated. The budget of about P10 million for the BOT feasibility study will be funded by the P300 million PPP FS budget of the BOT Center.

He said the DOTC is in the process to studying a proposal to "bundle the privatization of the Old Legazpi Airport with the BOT for the Southern Luzon International Airport". This will give an incentive to the BOT investor to accelerate the SLIA construction so it can immediately access the land of the Old Legazpi national airport.

The Legazpi airport has the best locational advantage in terms of commercial potential since it is right at the center of existing commercial and residential development, Salceda said.

The PPP scheme would allow private investors to develop the old Legazpi airport into an “integrated resort” much like Sentosa in Singapore which can easily create new business opportunities and incremental jobs.

For the local government of Legazpi and Daraga, the PPP scheme would also mean a bonanza in real property taxes since both will now be operated by private firms with Legazpi City's 75 hectares in the Old Legazpi National Airport to get P56 million in tax revenue while Daraga’s 140 hectares in the SLIA at some P14 million.

In his recent visit here, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said he wants a speedy completion of the SLIA in Barangay Alobo, Daraga to make Bicol a top tourist destination as well as support the DOT’s target to double the country's current three million foreign tourist arrivals by 2016. (PNA)

Municipal health officers to undergo training on handling psychotic cases

VIRAC, Catanduanes, June 8 (PNA) - The municipal health officers and other selected personnel from the 11 towns of the province will undergo training on handling psychotic cases.

As part of the Department of Health (DOH) program, the provincial health office said the training aims to attend to the needs of an estimated 300 mentally-ill persons in Catanduanes.

The province also asked the help of DOH to establish a five-bed facility for such patients as all diagnosed patients are being sent to Pili, Camarines Sur for proper treatment.

In a recent mental health mission in the province, a team was able to survey 277 persons suffering from mental illness, including 55 in Caramoran and 28 patients in Pandan, one of whom literally lived in a cage.

Of the 277, only 134 were seen by the team broken down as follows: Bagamanoc, 12; Bato, 4; Baras, 13; Caramoran, 23; Gigmoto, 1; Pandan, 26; Panganiban, 12; San Andres, 5; San Miguel, 6; Viga, 7; and, Virac, 25.

Two of those seen were referred to Pili, Camarines Sur including the Bagamanoc abaca stripper who killed his wife and daughter recently.

Majority of the patients belonged to the age range of 25-60 years old, with 17 aged 11 to 24 years. The leading cause of their mental illness was schizophrenia, with 29 cases, followed by seizure psychosis, bipolar affective disorder, severe psychosis, acute psychosis, delusion and mild autism.

The team left medicines to the patients’ families to be administered for eight to 10 days.

The patients seen by the team in Virac, Caramoran and Pandan did not include those seen roaming around as the program requires them to be accompanied by a family member.

The DOH team will be back in the province on August 8-12 to follow up on the patients every three months in a bid to render their lives functional. (PNA)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

AECID grants Bicol LGUs P20M for garbage management

LEGAZPI CITY, June 7 (PNA) -– The Spanish government’s Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) is awarding five local government units (LGUs) in Bicol some P20 million in fund grants for their ecological solid waste management projects, particularly the establishment of ecology parks that would reduce garbage to near zero by 2013.

The grants are being awarded under the AECID’s Strengthening Local Governments in the Philippines (SLGP) project of the Local Government Academy (LGA) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to LGUs that would qualify based on their project proposals.

The SLGP is a capacity development program funded by the Spanish Government through the AECID and covers pilot cities and municipalities in Bicol and the CARAGA regions.

It uses various capacity development strategies to facilitate genuine local autonomy and enhance capacities of local governments to be effective economic and service units. It focuses on improving the LGUs’ management and administrative capabilities on the areas of local development planning, financial management, revenue generation and enterprise development.

A vital part of the assessment and qualification process is the LGU’s good performance in internal housekeeping focusing in four areas of good planning, sound fiscal management, transparency and accountability and valuing of performance evaluation as well as people’s participation and community capability building.

DILG assistant regional director Elouisa Pastor, who is SLGP program manager for Bicol, on Tuesday said here that the project proposals of the municipalities of San Andres and Bato, both in Catanduanes have been approved in principle, along with those of three other LGUs in the region.

Under the proposals, both San Andres and San Miguel will establish their separate ecological parks at a total cost of P5,132,767.60 and P3,050,000, respectively. AECID will provide P3.5 million as grant to the former which will provide the balance as its counterpart. The latter will receive P2 million and the rest of the amount would come from the local treasury, Pastor said.

The ecology park is considered the best option for solid waste management after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered the closure of existing open dumpsites in the area pursuant to Resolution No. 26 of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

The eco-park would process biodegradable, non-biodegradable, recyclable and residual waste. It would feature a Materials Recovery Facility as well as composting plots and other livelihood projects such as converting styropor into usable materials, vinegar making and fabrication of engineered construction materials from bamboo.

Most of the funding will go to the construction of the MRF building and the acquisition of equipment like shredders and crushers, molds, bio-reactor, hydrophonics, multi-crop processor, micro-mill, crusher/juice extractor, carbonizer and others.

Pastor said three other Bicol LGUs qualified to the AECID grant worth a total of P14.4 million. These are the municipality of Tiwi and the City of Tabaco, both in Albay; and Iriga City in Camarines Sur. (PNA)

Pagasa eyes automated weather trackers for Masbate

MASBATE CITY, June 7 (PNA) -– The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is establishing automatic weather stations (AWS) in several location in Masbate to reinforce its lone climate forecasting system in the island province.

“This would at least end the old practice of local folks of gazing at the skies to "guesstimate" the rain and wind or the weather condition before planning any activity for the day,” Landrico Dalida Jr., the Pagasa regional director for Southern Luzon said here on Tuesday.

Dalida said the establishment of the AWS would then enable local farmers, fishermen, businessmen, disaster risk reduction managers and practically everybody to obtain from the Pagasa quality meteorological data to serve their respective purposes.

Dalida said the AWS is a part of strengthening the capacity of their office to provide timely and accurate forecast warning to the people, especially during the onslaught of heavy rains and typhoons during the La Nina phenomenon.

The same facilities that provide a platform for real-time data communication to the Pagasa forecast centers have been set up in Albay and Sorsogon, two of the strategic areas in Bicol where the importance of knowing the risks and impact of climate change has been deemed necessary.

The new facility that would automatically receive and interpret through its software components weather conditions such as rainfall volume, wind speed and directions and other related matters could compliment the lone Pagasa weather forecasting station at Barangay Nursery of this provincial capital, Dalida said.

Earlier, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) provincial manager Salvador Ciudadano said his agency lacked facts and figures that matter in water collection and allocation, such as rainfall distribution and the level of evaporation in the province that should be obtains from the local Pagasa station.

He said the planned AWS for Masbate would allow the local agriculture and fisheries sector to cope up with the serious negative effects of climate change and global warming at the same provide farmers with time to save their yields, especially during the occurrence of unpredictable weather patterns that pose a serious threat to the productivity of the rice and vegetable farmers.

Masbate provincial governor Rizalina Lanete welcome the establishment of the AWS as it will enhance the climate change adaptation programs of the province. She said her office is keen on doing its part to ensure the project’s implementation. (PNA)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Albay kicks off campaign on 'Äll Kids in Kinder' project

LEGAZPI CITY, June 6 (PNA) -- Albay launched Monday the “All Kids in Kinder” project, a massive information drive on the new Department of Education (DepEd) policy on “No kinder, No Grade 1” to alert parents about this universal kindergarten program.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the project is in line with this new DepEd program that requires all five years old kids to enroll in the kindergarten before they can enrol in grade one.

Salceda said he has directed to the Provincial Education Department (PED), the Albay Council of Education, the Local Chief Executives, Associations of Barangay Captains (ABCs) and SK Federations, to conduct massive information drive to alert parents of the new DepEd policy on "no kinder, no Grade 1".

“We are also seeking the help of local radio stations to disseminate this information and conduct interviews with principals and head teachers, barangay officials and General Parents Teachers Associations (GPTAs),” the governor said.

The campaign aims to ensure that 34,000 Albay five-year old kids are already enrolled in kindergarten classes “we are targeting 100 percent enrollment in the universal kindergarten program of the Deped,” Salceda said.

Campaign is in line with Education Secretary Armin Luistro directive that five-year-old children who did not enroll and pass kindergarten would not be allowed to enroll in Grade 1.

The program is part of the K-12 basic education program that requires 12 years of basic education from kindergarten to high school for Filipino students.

The mandatory kindergarten program will be implemented for the school year 2011 to 2012.

Salceda said he has been a long time advocate in Congress of adding two more years to basic education cycle to catch up on global competitiveness, “I was still struck like a bolt by this sudden and seemingly abrupt market rollout of K-12” he added.

The information drive would run for a week.

He said “to attain the 100 percent kindergarten enrolment, barangay officials including barangay tanods BHWs and day care personnel will conduct door-to-door operations this whole week.” (PNA)

Albay solon distributes 60 computers worth P1.2M

LIGAO CITY, June 6 (PNA) -- Albay Representative Fernando V. Gonzalez (3rd district) turned over weekend 60 desk top computers worth P1.2 million to 33 public high schools in the third district of the province.

Gonzalez said the provision of computers and other equipment to various Department of Education (DepEd) schools is among his priority education assistance project to develop high school students on Information Technology subjects.

“I want these children to be intellectually ready to face the global competition,” he said.

The project included the public high schools in the towns of Guinobatan, Jovellar, Pioduran, Oas. Polangui, and Libon, including this city.

The P1.2 million fund for the computer came from Gonzalez' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). (PNA)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) – Albay province will start implementing the ban on the use of plastics ordinance in June that will lead to full enforcement of its provisions by March 2012.

The ban will start with an information and education campaign (IEC).

According to Gov. Joey Salceda, “Plastic ban in Albay will take effect on March 2012 and Board Member Arnold Embestro, who is the chairman of the Committee on Environment, will lead a massive IEC campaign starting June 2011.”

Learning from China, "white pollution" refers to plastic bags. "Bookstores and pharmacies will be forbidden to give out free plastic bags, supermarkets have had to charge for shopping bags since June 1, 2008 when China also banned the production, sale and use of ultra-thin plastic bags, becoming one of only a few nations around the world to take such tough measures,” Salceda said.

Salceda said the Albay version is positively being welcome by his constituents.

One of them, Donnaven Arizapa, a daughter of a sari-sari store operator in this city commented “what my mom does is to reuse plastic bags as container for retailing charcoal, she has been practicing this even before the inception of the ordinance.”

Embestro said Albay in its desire to reduce if not totally eliminate the use of plastic bags as packaging materials, encourages the utilization of alternative packaging materials such as woven native bags (bayong), reusable cloth shopping bags (katsa), paper bags and other similar materials (banana leaves, taro leaves, etc.) and, at the same time, enjoying the promotion of the “MAGDARA nin SADIRiNG KAAGAN Program”(MSKP) (bring your own bag program).

The ordinance aims to lessen plastic pollution and boost environment protection, and in the interest of public health and safety.

Any establishments found violating the provision of this ordinance shall be penalized: first offense - written notice of warning; second offense - P2,000 fine and recommendation for 15 days temporary suspension of business permit; third offense - P3,000 fine and recommendation for 30 days temporary suspension of business permit and fourth offense - recommendation for cancellation of business permit. (PNA)

Catanduanes provides breastfeeding rooms for mothers; P500 subsidy, own hospital ward for senior citizens

VIRAC, Catanduanes, May 30 (PNA) – The provincial legislative board of Catanduanes has enacted an ordinance requiring local government units and all agencies of the government in the province to establish breastfeeding sections or rooms within their respective offices.

A measure has also been passed for the granting of P500 in yearly cash assistance to ailing senior citizens in the province while undergoing medical treatment and urging all local hospitals to establish a separate ward for their elderly patients as mandated under the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

Board member Wilfredo Santelices, the author of the pro-breastfeeding ordinance which was passed last week said the measure is pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 51 issued in October 1986 by former Pres. Corazon Aquino that seeks to ensure that safe and adequate nutrition for infants is provided and recognizes the need to protect and promote breastfeeding in the country.

It is also in accordance with EO 273 issued by former President Fidel Ramos in September 1995 adopting and approving the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development for 1995 to 2025 pursuant to Section 14, Article II of the Constitution that provides "The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men”.

According to Santelices, establishment of breastfeeding rooms and corners in offices would allow mothers in their respective workforce to breastfeed their babies or express breast milk while at work. It would also allow clients or customers who visit their office for official purposes to breastfeed their infants while waiting to be served.

The move is in pursuit of the country’s commitment to attain the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) which seeks to reduce child under-nutrition by half of 2009 levels by 2015 as well as child mortality by two-thirds in the same year, he added.

The senior citizens assistance ordinance, on the other hand, calls for the grant of P500 cash to those registered with their respective Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) when they are sick and being attended to in health clinics or hospitals, according to its author, Board Member Rafael Zuniega.

They may avail of the cash assistance once every year, starting from the effectivity of the said ordinance, irrespective of the frequency of their hospitalization or medical check-ups. The assistance shall be given to each registered member up to three times, provided that 12 months have already elapsed after the availment of the last grant, Zuniega said.

The assistance shall be taken from the annual lump sum appropriation for senior citizens equivalent to one percent of the annual budget of the province upon authorization of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, acting on the endorsement of the OSCA, the provincial government and the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, he added. (PNA)

Catanduanes modernizes abaca transport with mountain tramlines By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, May 31 (PNA) -– While holding on to its reputation as the top abaca producing province in the country, Catanduanes has been boosting the industry’s modernization by making hauling of the produce easier, faster and less expensive for the farmers.

Governor Joseph Cua on Tuesday announced here the completion of tramlines and two tramcars now hauling bulks of fiber from the vast abaca plantations 1.2-kilometers up in the mountains of the hinterland municipality of Viga. More lines that would traverse the mountainous farms in Panganiban town are also in the offing.

The Viga tram facility with a 500-kilogram load capacity has an operating speed of 150 meters per minute, a travel time that completes each round trip from the farm to the highway including loading and unloading in a maximum of 25 minutes thus making the transfer of the fiber faster and almost effortless, Cua said.

Designed by the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilTech) which also supervised its construction, the hauling facility was put up for the amount of P1.2 million provided by the provincial government, the governor said.

“Farmers from Barangay Payo, the biggest abaca producing village of Viga town alone are now saving around P800,000 a month from the hauling cost of their fibers using the cable-operated transport facility,” Cua said.

Catanduanes covers some 24,000 hectares of abaca land from where the province’s about 23,500 farmers produce an average of one million kilos of abaca raw fiber a month, making it the country’s leading source of the product known in the international market as Manila hemp.

“Our abaca industry is now on its top shape and the next steps we are undertaking are toward the modernization of its farm-based component and part of it is this modern hauling facility. We are already using several portable fiber stripping machines, each processing 114 kilograms of dried fiber daily which is 20 times greater than the conventional manual stripping,” Cua said.

These machines that include 3.5-horsepower gasoline engines serve as post-harvest production technology developed by the National Abaca Research Center (NARC) and acquired through the P30-million fund assistance from the Spanish government for the revitalization of the Philippines abaca industry.

“There is no stopping for us now from improving this industry particularly that we are enjoying the support of the national government towards this end,” the governor said recalling that when the province’s abaca plantations were in a terrible mess owing to the devastations wrought by the mosaic and bunchy top plant diseases several years back, the Department of Agriculture (DA) entered the scene and instituted trouble-shooting measures.

The DA’s Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) has introduced to the province disease-free and disease-resistant abaca plantlets to replace the infected plants. The recovery has been shaped up promptly shaking off the industry’s lethargy and going ahead with some expansions.

More rehabilitation efforts are being undertaken and part of it, Cua said, is the P142-million research funds allotted for the purpose this year by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), one of the five sectoral councils under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The research covers the entire abaca industry of the country and it is expected to spin the national total fiber production from 78,000 metric tons (MT) to 104,900 MT thereby raising abaca farmers’ income by P8,530 per hectare and increasing exports from 19.7 thousand MT to 21.7 thousand MT thus, maintaining its prominence in the international market, he said.

Abaca fiber is the premier traditional rope fiber of the world and one of the Philippines’ long-standing export commodities. It is also a basic material for coarse and stiff clothing and footwear.

Lately, however, its light, strong and durable fibers have found usefulness in many non-traditional uses. These include non-woven, disposable and fiber composites for the automotive industry.

In the pulp and paper industries, abaca fibers are used for tea bags, meat and sausage casings, cigarette papers, filter papers, currency notes and stencil papers.

Hence, “the unfolding of the fiber’s various uses and the growing preference for natural raw materials provide limitless opportunities that give the Philippines its current status as the abaca capital of the world.

The industry’s particular importance is that it supports the livelihood of around 140,000 abaca farm workers and strippers, as well as 78,000 small farmers with approximately more than 430,000 dependents and 143,429 strippers across the country. (PNA)

PCA spreads coconut sap sugar technology in Bicol By Danny O. Calleja

DAET, Camarines Norte, May 30 (PNA) – Bicol is among the Philippines’ major producing areas of coconut, the “Tree of Life” and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) wanted farmers to earn income not only from copra but from the commercial production of sugar out of coconut sap.

The coconut sap sugar (CSS) technology is not new to the coconut sector of the country’s agricultural community as it has already gained popularity when the PCA, in 2004, supported a farmer's group in discovering the profit potential of making sugar out of coconut toddy.

Today, this enterprise is touted as the new agribusiness with wide potential of becoming a dollar earner and the PCA is spreading the technology among Bicol's coconut farmers and entrepreneurs as among the poverty alleviation measures of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, Provincial Coconut Development Manager Editha Idnani on Monday said. .

The technology is shared through capability building activities such as seminars and trainings to get more coconut farmers into the CSS production venture as an additional enterprise to augment their present sources of income and that is what the PCA in Bicol is doing in Camarines Norte right now, according to Idnani.

“We, in the PCA, are facilitating and coordinating moves toward making sure that the participatory approach and strategies are used in the whole technology transfer process and the farm communities are responding well on assurance that the markets are guaranteed for the best produce coming from them.” Idnani said.

CSS production now has a niche market and presently is in high demand locally and globally as more and more of its health benefits are discovered by the scientific community leading the PCA and local government units into enhancing their support in the reinvigoration of the coconut industry in the in the province and in the whole Bicol region, she said.

The coconut sap sugar is massively being promoted as a health product through the efforts of the PCA and by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which established the Glycemic Index (GI) of the product.

The GI of CSS, which is very low at 35 percent, is an indication that it can be used as a diabetic-friendly natural sweetener. This finding plus its higher contents of nutrients such as phosphorous, potassium, calcium and chlorine compared with other forms of sugar like sugar cane muscuvado paved the way for it to be exported to global markets.

It has already gained a market among medical practitioners in the US and the group of farmers in Misamis Oriental that originally produced the first commercial coconut sap sugar in the Philippines is also now exporting the product to Canada, through a repacking process done in Ontario for the CSS brand Coco Natura.

The commercialized CSS, a product resulting from a program of the International Coconut Genetic Resources Network (COGENT) funded by the Asian Development Bank, has been raising coconut farmers' income, Idnani said adding that a farmer who owns the land and produces his own toddy can earn P85,000 to as much as P350,000 per hectare per year from coonut sap sugar production.

Nevertheless, an entrepreneur that sources the toddy from coconut sap producers can still enjoy a good income of P23,600 to P300,000 per hectare per year, she added .

An added advantage of the technology is its simplicity and uncomplicatedness, considering that it requires only concentrating fresh sap into sugar granules which involves a change in physical form from liquid to solid state. It does not require skilled labor or sophisticated equipment and is best adapted to a farm level or medium scale enterprise, Idnani added. (PNA)

DENR fine-tunes key posts in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol has implemented a organizational revamp to further improve its operational efficiency, a DENR ranking official said.

DENR Regional Executive Director Joselin Marcus Fragada re-assigned Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Elpidio Z. Orata from his previous post at Camarines Norte to Sorsogon, replacing PENRO Oscar Dominguez who will be reporting as the new Regional Technical Director for Land Management Service in DENR Region IV-B.

The Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers affected by the revamp were Rene P. Camacho formerly OIC CENRO Iriga City now designated as OIC PENRO Camarines Norte; Vivencio M. Cabanayan Jr. Previously CENRO officer of Sorsogon is currently assigned as OIC CENRO Naga City; and Imelda D. Baltazar former OIC CENRO in Naga City now OIC CENRO of Iriga City.

Further, Forester Krisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez from the office of the Regional Executive Director, has been assigned to CENRO Sorsogon City as office-in-charge in lieu of Forester Cabanayan.

The special order dated May 24, 2011 took effect for the next 30 days that will automatically be renewed for the same period until a new special order is issued by DENR Secretary Ramon Paje. (PNA)

DepEd pilots mother tongue-based education in Bicol schools By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) -– Bicol has been chosen as among the pilot testing areas for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) program. The start of its implementation in the region is all set with the opening of classes in June, a regional official of the agency on Tuesday said.

“We have identified 22 public schools in the seven cities and 12 municipalities of the region for the initial phase of the MTB-LME and have also completed the 10-day in-house training given to school heads and 46 selected teachers who will handle the Grade I classes placed under the program this school year,” said Regida Vibar, the DepEd’s assistant regional chief of the elementary education division.

In Albay, Vibar said these schools are the Banquerohan Elementary School and Albay Central School in this city; Tabaco South Central School in Tabaco City; Ligao East Central School in Ligao City; Bacacay Central School in Bacacay town; and Guinobatan East Central School in the municipality of Guinobatan.

In Camarines Sur, she said these are the Triangulo Elementary School and Naga Central School, both in Naga City; San Isidro Elementary School and Iriga Central School in Iriga City; Lagonoy Central School and Nabua East Pilot School in Lagonoy and Nabua towns, respectively.

The Virac Pilot Elementary School in the capital town of Virac in island province of Catanduanes is the lone school to implement the program this school year while three others -— the Jose Zurbito Central School, San Jacinto Central School and Uson Central School located in Masbate City and San Jacinto and Uson towns of Masbate province respectively have been included, according to Vibar.

Camarines Norte, she said the Daet Elementary School in the provincial capital of Daet; and Labo Elementary School in Labo town were chosen for the program.

In Sorsogon province, included are the Sorsogon Central School in Sorsogon City, Casiguran Central School in Casiguran town and Irosin Central School in Irosin.

Vibar said that since the program is only in its initial stage of implementation, the incoming Grade I pupils for the school year 2011-2012 in these schools alone will be the maiden batch to be placed under the MTB-LME and the Grade II will be included during school year 2012-2013 and the Grade III in 2013-2014 and so on until all grade levels are covered.

Under this new system, she said the use of the English language as the medium of instruction is to be set aside and replaced with the local vernacular which means, the pupils will learn mathematics, science and other subjects using their first language or native tongue which is the Bicol dialect, while Masbateño, which is the combinations of Bicol, Waray and Cebuano, in the case of Masbate.

Gradual integration of the multilingual instruction using the second and third languages which are Pilipino and English, respectively, will be done in the later levels, Vibar said.

“We are now also ready with the learning modules that include illustrations drawn by local artists and texts written by Bicolano writers. The Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional for Development (AECID) assisted the DepEd in producing the modules by donating funds worth P3.9 million,” according to Vibar.

The implementation of the new program, she explained is based on Department Order No. 74 issued by the DepEd in 2009 which institutionalizes the MTB-LME in the county‘s formal educational system following findings that the use of mother tongue in early education develops better and faster learners.

“The lessons and findings of various local initiatives and international in basic education have validated the superiority of the use of the learner’s mother tongue or first language in improving learning outcomes and promoting education for all,” according to the DepEd order. (PNA)

PNP Bicol lays down security plan for June school opening

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) –- The police regional office in Bicol will be fielding more policemen near school campuses in the region’s urban centers to secure school children from criminal elements and traffic accidents but would remain on alert for the security of airports, seaports and public transport terminals during the coming school days.

“I have orders to all police provincial directors in the six provinces of Bicol and the Metropolitan Police Force in Naga City to keep policemen visible in strategic places especially near schools to prevent untoward incidents involving the school children in particular and the public in general,” Police Senior Supt. Cecilio Calleja Jr., the regional director for Bicol of the Philippine National Police (PNP) based here said.

To be secured by the police are crowded schools, busy streets and commercial centers.

Another security measure for this city which is considered the regional educational center for Bicol is the recent establishment of a new Community Police Assistance Center (CPAC) in Barangay Taysan to attain the lowest criminality rate and build an atmosphere favorable to the growing tourism industry of the area.

“We wanted the thousands of tourists visiting the city all-year round for our majestic Mt. Mayon as well as our own people and the others who come around for their shopping sprees and official or business purposes. Apart from being the regional government center, the city is also the commercial hub of the region,” the lady mayor said.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has approved the tuition fee increase applied for by at least 14 colleges and universities in the region which will take effect starting on the opening of school year 2011-2012 in June.

The CHED said the tuition fee increases were approved based on the needs of these schools to increase the salaries of their employees, improve their facilities and cope up with the rising cost of their operations. (PNA)

POEA Bicol resumes operation

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) -– The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will resume operation this June to serve Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Bicol, the Department of Labor and Employment DOLE) announced Tuesday.

POEA Bicol’s operation was temporarily stopped due to irregularities discovered sometime last year. Then, the POEA administrator ordered the immediate suspension of its operations involved to prevent matters from getting worst.

After months of non-operation, POEA Bicol will re-open this June, with a new set of employees coming from the POEA Central Office Manila, DOLE-Bicol Regional Director Atty. Alvin Villamor said.

Villamor said POEA Bicol will be composed of six employees, who will hold office here in Legazpi and Naga City.

The team will be headed by Senior Labor and Employment Officer Rex O. Marcos, a native of Nabua Camarines Sur, said to have come from the Anti-Illegal Recruitment (AIR) Task Force of POEA Manila.

His track record include the busting of illegal recruiters which made him the number one candidate for the vacant position here.

“Finally, good news for Bicol! The new POEA Bicol Chief already paid a courtesy call to me even with the coming of typhoon Chedeng. So we can see that he is serious in doing his job here," Villamor said.

Bicol region is said to have a percent share of OFWs in the entire country. The absence of a POEA office here would mean that more than 50,000 Bicolano OFWs would have to go to Metro Manila just for the processing of their documents.

“Having a POEA office here would solve a lot of issues from illegal recruitment to fixers. Marcos is the best choice since our problem here is illegal recruitment,” Villamor added.

The DOLE and OWWA Bicol assumed temporarily the workload of POEA Bicol with the preventive suspension of its two employees.

DOLE Bicol Asst. Reg. Dir. Irma S. Valiente said it is high time POEA re-opens since it is during May and June when the workload of both DOLE and OWWA piles up due to summer programs like the SPES and Computer Training Courses.(PNA)