Friday, July 29, 2011

Albay devastation due to 'Juaning' worth P1.022B - PDRRMC

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) - Albay province lost some P1 billion in agricultural crops, livestock and infrastructure after tropical storm "Juaning" dumped heavy rains in Bicol on Wednesday that triggered massive flooding and landslide in 15 towns and three cities across the province, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said Friday.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, PDRRMC chairperson, said floods, mudflows, and landslides spawned by "Juaning" destroyed P951,456,000 worth of public infrastructures such as roads, bridges, dikes, and irrigation canals.

Damage to agriculture and livestock was estimated at P70.4 million in production losses affecting 13,339 hectares of rice, corn and vegetables crops with 7,795 farmers affected across the province. "Juaning" left the province with nine people killed, and one still missing and affected some 107,934 families or 557,448 people of which 56,955 families or 295,179 people are now housed in various evacuation camps. (PNA)

Catanduanes officials in fertilizer fund scam raps cry foul over Ombudsman verdict

VIRAC, Catanduanes, July 28 (PNA) —- Claiming they only acted accordingly and personally gained nothing from the fertilizer fund, some of the seven Catanduanes provincial officials ordered penalized with suspension and dismissal from service by the Office of the Ombudsman, have appealed for fair treatment and understanding.

“We have not pocketed any money from this fertilizer funds. We are only victims of dirty politics and we know very well the politician behind this and his motives,” three of the officials -- Provincial General Services Officer Rogelio Pitajen, Provincial Agriculturist Herbert Evangelista and Assistant Provincial Assessor Abelardo Abundo Jr. -- said in a joint public statement.

In the statement published over the week by the Naga City-based Bicol Mail, a regional weekly, the three said they were pinned down by the Ombudsman while they were not given chance to be heard and investigated “so we deserve fair treatment and understanding.”

Evangelista, who has been in government service for 30 years, said, “I have been an outstanding department head of this province recognized for excellence in government service, where a number of local and national awards and citations were etched in my name, but despite all these, the Ombudsman did not bother to try to get my side, did not bother to really investigate the case filed against me.”

Evangelista who was ordered by the Ombudsman dismissed from government service said: “My family is not ready for this. I do not even know where to start explaining things to my friends. But then again I accept the Ombudsman’s order in complete obedience,” he said in the statement.

For his part, Pitajen said: “I have a clear mind, even clearer conscience to prove my innocence.” He said we would fight all the way for his honor, and make sure his 34 years in service will not go up in smoke as he expressed confidence “the Court of Appeals would not be as deaf and blind as the Ombudsman and would give them their rightful day in court”.

Pitajen was also ordered dismissed from service but unlike Evangelista who accepted the verdict “in complete obedience”, he said he is elevating the case to the Court of Appeals (CA).

Two other senior provincial officials, Rodolfo Maliñana of the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) who was then the chairman of the Bids and Award Committee (BAC) and his vice-chairman Ireneo Del Rosario of the Provincial Budget Office were also ordered dismissed from the service. They were unavailable for comment as of Tuesday.

Abundo on the other hand said, “the Ombudsman field investigator who filed the case against us was supposed to have investigated in the field. But not a soul from Catanduanes had seen this man, so obviously he did not do his job, because if he did he would have discovered the truth, far different from the ‘truth’ he had erroneously prepared and submitted to pin us down.”

He, along with two other accused, provincial Treasurer Juliet Tasarra and Provincial Engineering Officer Hilda Arcilla have been ordered suspended for three months without pay in addition to the six-month preventive suspension orders earlier served on them.

Leandro Verceles Jr. who was Catanduanes governor during the time when the alleged irregularities were consummated was also charged for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and placed under watch list by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Out on bail, the former governor expressed confidence that he and his former provincial officials will get through with the fertilizer mess as he said last week that he will file a petition for certiorari with the CA to seek a reversal of the Ombudsman ruling.

In the charges filed by Ombudsman Field Investigation Officer Dennis Buenaventura, the officials were accused of having misused and misappropriated the P5-million fund released for the province by the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the implementation of farm input programs and violated procurement laws and processes for the purchase of Bio-Nature Fertilizers.

The amount was said to be part of the P728-million fertilizer fund of the DA allegedly diverted by then president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to her campaign kitty in the 2005 presidential elections. Mrs. Arroyo has denied the accusation.

Information filed revealed that there was absence of public bidding and instead, direct contracting or single source procurement was resorted to, that the supplier of the fertilizers had no business permit, that there was overpricing and that the fertilizers actually purchased carried specifications different from those indicated in the Purchase Order. (PNA)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

'Juaning' death toll rises to 23 in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 28 (PNA) -- At least three people were reported killed in Bato and Bagamanoc towns in Catanduanes and in Labo town in Camarines Norte bringing the death toll to 23, five missing and seven injured, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said Thursday.

The fatalities were identified as Alfredo Manibale, 73, of Bato, Catanduanes who fell while fixing the roof of their house; Rickson Villasana of Bagamanoc, Catanduanes, drowning victim; and Marvin Barrios, 18, a miner of Labo, Camarines Norte, who died in a mudslide inn a small scale mining operation in Barangay Benit, Labo town Wednesday.

Raffy Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) director and RDRRMC chairperson, said government engineers continue their clearing operations in the Maharlika Highway covering the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur which were rendered impassable due to flood waters, mudflow, volcanic boulders and fallen trees.

Alejandro said Albay and Camarines Norte were already declared under state of calamity. Catanduanes province has passed a resolution for them to place under state of calamity.

He said the province that were declared under state of calamity can use five percent of their economic development fund to finance disaster and relief operation.

The Albay Provincial Engineering Office reported road clearing operation is on-going and some road portion remained impassable to light in the road networks in the Legazpi-Tiwi town in Albay due to mudflow and rock boulders that cascaded from the slopes of Mt. Mayon while the Daang Maharlika portions in Oas, Polangui, Pioduran and Libon towns are still impassable due to flooding and mudflow.

The Albay Agriculture office reported that an initial of 3,000 hectares of agriculture crops were destroyed due to "Juaning."

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Bicol reported that P2.1 million worth of relief items were distributed to Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes. (PNA)

Salceda orders immediate preemptive measures vs health disaster-related problem
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -– Albay Governor Joey Salceda has ordered the provincial health office here and other humanitarian health service personnel to immediately conduct an assessment on damages and impact specially on health and come up with a preemptive strategy measures against health related problems.

According to Salceda the provincial health personnel will conduct an on site assessment to the community on how to respond on possible health related problems after the tropical depression Juaning that hit the province of Albay, Tuesday.

“The provincial health personnel will talk to the community to determine their needs particularly on health concerns and ensure the prevention of any possible outbreak of diseases that might be brought water contamination,” he said.

The inputs of the community regarding their needs will be the basis of the provincial government of Albay to respond.

Salceda added that during calamity or any eventuality it is the policy of the provincial government that hospitalization are free. “The Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in collaboration with the provincial health office and Department of Health are working very closely during emergency to provide all health services to Albayanos more particularly to all displaced individuals.”

Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) director Dr. Butch Rivera said that their personnel as well as medicines are set to attend possible influx of patients on Wednesday after the heavy rains that caused floods, landslide and lahar flows in different parts of the province due to Juaning.

On Wednesday morning, a chopper from the Southern Luzon Command will conduct an areal assessment to determine the extent of damages of Juaning.

On the other hand, the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) will also conduct a clearing operation of all electrical lines throughout the province to restore power supply. (PNA)

(Juaning Update)
20 dead; 5 still missing in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -- The death toll rises to 20, while five people are still missing as Tropical Storm Juaning left the Bicol peninsula, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said on Tuesday.

Bernardo Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) director and RDRRMC chairperson said that as of the latest count, 20 people have died either from drowning, landslides, electrocution, hit by fallen trees and electric post.

Alejandro said Albay had the biggest casualties with nine deaths, followed by Camarines Norte with five, four from Catanduanes and two from Camarines Sur.

The victims were identified as Noel Angeles, 49, of Viga town; Rolando Angulo,45, from Bagamanoc; Sanito Diones Timato, 49, of Viga; and Rey Vergara, 39, of Vira town all in Catanduanes. In Albay were Josh, 4, Nichole and Bernard all surnamed Corteza from Polangui; Felix Berta Dacuba Clet, 74, from Tiwi; Roque Sapico, 23, of Tabaco City; Estring Leonisa, 76 of Libon; Rico Llamera, 33 of Daraga; and Demetrio and Junion Warde, both surnamed Nace from Pioduran town.

Armando Molto, 28 of Tinambac; and Nino Mora, 29, of Bato in Camarines Sur. In Camarines Norte were Edgar Ineta, 1 year and 6 mos; Marriane, 18; Richard, 25; Ofelia, 56; and Alfredo, 63; all surnamed Casero from Jose Panganiban town.

Still missing were Romeo Robles, 39, and Romeo Balanban, 37, fishermen from Baras Cantanduanes; Salvador Dungaran Jr., 23, Emer Abas, 27, and Elmer Balmaceda, 34, fishermen from Rapu-rapu, Albay.

Flooding in various parts of Albay and Camarines Sur have subsided, Bernardo said.

Landslide incident were reported in the towns of Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte; Buhi in Camarines Sur; Blatan in Camarines Sur; Gabon in Polangui, Albay; and Caramoran, Catanduanes.

The Albay Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said that 107,938 families were affected by TS Juaning that brough heavy rains and strong winds that triggered landslides, flooding, and lahar flows.

As the weather normalizes the PDRRMC allowed today, Wednesday, the decampment of 27,018 families or 104,013 people housed in various evacuation camps across the province.

The Philippine Coast Guard's no sailing order remained in effect with 800 stranded passengers, 14 trucks, 4 cars, 5 passenger buses, 18 sea vessels and 18 motor bancas in various major ports in Bicol.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said all major highways going to Metro Manila are now passable to both heavy and light vehicles.

Flight from Manila to Legazpi and vice versa resumed on Wednesday.

All classes in private and public elementary and high schools in Albay are still suspended. (PNA)

DA pushes drive vs rabies in Bicol

PILI, Camarines Sur, July 27 (PNA) - The Department of Agriculture (DA) through its Regulatory Division in coordination with the provincial government of Catanduanes and the Philippine Veterinary Medical Association Bicol Chapter conducted recently a Training on Basic Surveillance for LGU technicians and Municipal Agricultural Officers from 11 municipalities of Catanduanes, Provincial Agricultural Services Office staff and Veterinarians from Department of Agriculture RFU 5.

The training aims to obtain a comprehensive view of the epidemiological situation and monitor the trends of rabies in the province; enhance submission of specimen by municipalities for laboratory diagnosis and to know the importance of surveillance in the control and elimination of rabies in the community.

Dr. Marisa E. Guillermo, OIC of Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory discussed the protocol of collection, handling and submission of head samples for laboratory confirmation. She demonstrated how to collect samples of other species particularly on specific diseases of domestic animals and the techniques to preserve samples to come up with the right diagnosis of any disease.

Meanwhile, the veterinarians from the Department of Agriculture in Bicol and other members of the PVMA Bicol conducted spaying and castration of dogs. The objective is to control dog population and promote humane and responsible dog management. Spaying, or ovariohysterectomy, is the surgical removal of the animal's ovaries and uterus. By preventing pregnancy, spaying permanently eliminates the source of great physical stress for female animals.

Other benefits include minimized attendant males while the female is in heat; prevents spotting during the heat period, tumors of the ovaries or uterus, stress leading to increased susceptibility to disease and the need for extra food during pregnancy and nursing. Likewise, the activity also created awareness in the community on how to handle dog population without violating the animal welfare act.

Neutering, or castration on the other hand, is the surgical removal of the animal's testicles. An unneutered male can detect a female in heat even miles away. This decreases animal roaming by 90 percent and pets problems like territoriality and aggression; prostate enlargement (occurs in at least 60 percent of unneutered male dogs five years or older) and stress reduction leading to increased susceptibility to disease are minimized.

The group conducted the activities in the municipalities of San Miguel, San Andres and Virac in Catanduanes. (PNA)

DPWH readies P1.5-B works on Phase 2 of CCR project
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -– The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has set early next year the beginning of the P1.5-billion civil works on the second phase of the improvement project for the Catanduanes Circumferential Road (CCR) whose completion will reduce to only 64.4 kilometers the unpaved section of this 204.5-kilometer national highway.

The project will involve the concreting and other civil works on a 120.36-kilometer section of the highway which forms part of the whole island province of Catanduanes’ circumferential road cutting through and providing continuing link among the municipalities of San Andres, Virac, Bato, Viga, Bagamanoc, Caramoran and Pandan.

San Andres, where a new roll-on, roll-off (Roro) port is being constructed by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), serves as another jumping point between the island and mainland Bicol next to Virac, the capital town and center of trade and commerce in the province.

The San Andres Roro port located in Barangay Codon now nearing completion would be the main link with the Nato Roro ramp in Caramoan, Camarines whose construction, also being undertaken by the PPA is scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Bato, on the other hand, is a historic town known for its tourism attractions while Viga is a highly agricultural town and leading producer of abaca. Bagamanoc, Caramoran and Pandan are coastal municipalities at the northern section of the province known for their rich fishing grounds and mud crab industry.

Apart from upgrading from gravel road to Portland Cement Concrete of the entire section, the CCR improvement phase II project will also include improvement of three existing bridges with a total length of 250 linear meters, slope protection and drainage establishment and construction of road safety facilities, DPWH regional director for Bicol Danilo Dequito said here Wednesday.

The section covers the municipalities of Viga, Bagamanoc and Pandan and leaving the 64-kilometer section between Pandan and Caramoran that is covered by the third phase of the entire project unpaved.

Public bidding of project’s phase II will be undertaken in November this year and actual works would be started in the first quarter of next year so that it is completed by early 2014 and hopefully, on the same year, its final phase that would cover the concreting of the remaining 66.4 kilometers is done by 2016, Dequito said.

The national government had already set aside P1.4 billion for the three year program and P682 million of its is now being used to concrete 18 kilometers between the Pandan-Cogon (San Andres) 64.4-kilometer section of which only 13 percent was paved as of 2010. When completed at the end of this year, what would be left is only 41 kilometers of gravel road, he said.

The remaining P720 million would be released next year so that by 2014, all national roads in Catanduanes are concreted, Dequito said.

Catanduanes is a small Pacific Ocean island of 11 poor municipalities mostly sitting in the hinterland and these developments unfolding in the province agree with what Pres. Aquino stressed in his second State of the Nation Address last Monday that “not one will be left behind” as the country moves now towards genuine progress and development, he added.

Besides, the paving of all national roads leading to potential tourist destinations and economic growth areas of the country between 2014 and 2016 is a priority of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III insofar as the DPWH under Sec. Rogelio Singson is concerned, according to Dequito.

This year, the DPWH Catanduanes engineering district is also undertaking the concreting of about 20 kilometers of intermittent sections covering the municipalities of Baras, Gigmoto,Viga and Panganiban classified as national secondary roads, he said.

The Catanduanes Circumferential Road Improvement Project (CCRIP) is part of the Arterial Road Links Development Project (ARLDP)-Phase IV funded under a ¥ 79.8-billion (P43.2 billion) loan agreement entered into in December 1999 between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

ARLDP covers 11 other projects nationwide that included education development and improvement, water system, irrigation, maritime safety improvements, Pinatubo hazard mitigation, Pasig-Marikina river channel improvement, Cordillera road improvement and agrarian reform support structures, among others.

Works on the first phase of the CCRIP that covered the 79.8-kilometer section between San Andres and Viga towns passing through Virac, the provincial capital the municipality of Bato was started late in year 2000.

It was undertaken by the China Road and Bridges Corporation for a contract amount of P952.6 million but left several portions along three barangays of Viga unfinished. It is now being completed by the DPWH.

The entire CCR project includes the construction of 11 concrete bridges with a total length of 686.85 linear meters, Dequito added. (PNA)

AECID helps poor Bicol town build infrastructures for CCT beneficiaries
By Danny O. Calleja

PARACALE, Camarines Norte, July 27 (PNA) -– Despite its literal richness in gold, this hinterland municipality remains poor and has to be aided by a foreign donor to be able to build at least 11 minor infrastructures needed by nearly 3,000 impoverished households enrolled with the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.

While the town government here is grateful of the latest financial assistance extended by the Spanish government’s Agencia Española de Cooperacion International para el Desarollo (AECID) for the construction of four school buildings, two water systems, two day care centers, two health centers and a barangay road, Mayor Romeo Moreno said he is still worried over the prevailing poverty that his constituents do not deserve.

The AECID, through its Poder y Prosperidad de la Communidad (Community Empowerment and Development) program being implemented in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), has recently provided some P10.8 million for these projects that would serve as support facilities of the CCT, the Aquino administration’s flagship poverty alleviation program.

Poder is AECID’s support mechanism in addressing the poverty-related problems identified by the target communities based on the Participatory Situation Analysis, as well as focus on the operations and maintenance and more importantly on the sustainability of sub-projects developed under the enhanced Community Empowerment Activity Cycle.

It provides assistance to local government units (LGUs) towards accelerating the rehabilitation of disaster stricken areas and to promote community driven rehabilitation efforts that adhere to the principles of participation, transparency and accountability. It is in line also with the poverty alleviation program of the Philippine Government.

All the 11 infrastructure projects cost a total of P15.5 million, P4.7 million of it provided as counterpart by the municipal government, according to DSWD Paracale Area Coordinator Luz Buenaobra.

With constructions now ongoing, 47-year old Melda Cruel, a mother of 13, said the health center being established within her community would be a great help for her family and for the over 270 other residents in the barangay that are benefiting from the CCT to be able to comply with the program’s health services requirements, a report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) provincial office said.

The program requires beneficiaries that belong to the poorest of the poor to undergo regular health check-ups at centers nearest to them. The PIA report said this third class municipality of about 50,000 population had a total of 2,983 families enrolled and benefiting from the P1,400 monthly cash assistance being given by the CCT program.

“Our municipality is supposed to be a rich and progressive locality given that we are known as the ‘gold country’ of Camarines Norte but what is happening is the otherwise because we do not get the right revenue from the operations of giant mining firms that are raking billions of pesos in profit out of our gold resources,” Moreno over the week said.

Since mining operations here are being run by big firms that are mostly based in Metro Manila, the bulk of their taxes are paid to the particular LGU like Makati City where their main offices are located even as it is here that they derive their income using our natural wealth, the mayor lamented.

He said he had no idea how much these firms are earning and paying in taxes to the host LGUs of their main offices but the mayor said it certainly in hundreds of millions of pesos that “we need more than Makati or any other city where they are based”. There are also no related records available with the MGB Bicol regional office based in Legazpi City, he added.

The Bureau of Mines and Geosciences (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has listed at least five mining firms -- Konka-Fulim Mining and Development Corporation, Johson Gold Mining Corporation, United Paragon Mining Corporation, Coral Resources Philippines, Inc. and Pargum Consolidated Corporation that are holders of mining tenements in the municipality.

The municipality covers a territorial land of 19,790 hectares, and Moreno said almost half of it is occupied by the mining operations. “This fact contributes greatly to the difficulties confronting our people that are mostly farmers because they are left with a very limited space to farm and produce foods for their families and the community,” he said.

This is the main reason why most households in the municipalities would abandon farming and resort to gold panning which a risky venture as they have to work deep under the ground by way of digging small tunnels in search for gold concentrates, Moreno added. (PNA)

Albay gov orders immediate preemptive measures vs health problems after 'Juaning' onslaught

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -– Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered the provincial health office here and other humanitarian health service personnel to conduct an immediate assessment on the impact on health and come up with a preemptive measures against health related problems due to rains and floods spawned by Tropical Storm "Juaning."

According to Salceda, the provincial health personnel will conduct an on site assessment of the community.

“The provincial health personnel will talk to the community to determine their needs particularly on health concerns and ensure the prevention of any possible outbreak of diseases due to water contamination,” he said.

The governor said the inputs on the community needs will be responded by provincial government.

Salceda also said it is the policy of the provincial government to give free hospitalization during calamity.

“The Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in collaboration with the provincial health office and Department of Health (DOH) are working very closely during emergency to provide all health services to Albayanos, particularly to all displaced individuals.”

Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) director Dr. Butch Rivera said their personnel and medicines are ready to cater to possible influx of patients after the heavy rains and floods, landslide and lahar flows in different parts of the province.

The Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) will also conduct a clearing operation of all electrical lines throughout the province on Wednesday. However, there is no definite time as to the restoration of power supply. (PNA)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Classes in kinder, elementary suspended due to approaching 'Juaning'

LEGAZPI CITY, Jul 25 (PNA) -- The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) suspended classes in kinder and elementary schools this afternoon due to the approaching tropical depression Juaning.

Albay governor Joey Salceda said that advisory was issued by PDRRMC because tropical depression Juaning is expected to bring heavy rains in the province of Albay and its neighboring provinces in the Bicol region.

He said that, as a matter of policy of the PDRRMC, residents are hereby prevented from crossing rivers. "Sailing of all sea vessels are strictly prohibited."

Salceda also ordered all municipal and city disaster risk reduction managers to closely monitor their areas to avoid the risk of flooding and landslide. (PNA)

DSWD allocates P8M fund for supplemental feeding in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, July 25 (PNA) -– The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has earmarked P8 million for the supplemental feeding of the local government units (LGUs) for the over 2,800 children enrolled in various day care classes in the island province of Catanduanes.

The amount is DSWD’s contribution to the implementation in the province of the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program of the government mandated under Republic Act 8980 that promulgated the program defined as a field of endeavor that focuses on supporting young children’s development as framed by the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child to health and nutrition, among others.

The fund would be given to seven of the 11 LGUs of Bagamanoc, Baras, Bato, San Miguel, Pandan, Viga and Virac. It will be divided according to each town’s number of targeted beneficiaries based on the P12.50 per day allocation for every child for 120 days of continuous feeding during snack times five days a week, DSWD regional director for Bicol Remia Tapispisan here said on Monday.

She said there are 265 day care centers operating in these seven towns with over 2,820 qualified enrollees.

Registering a 23.64 percent malnutrition rate, Catanduanes has been listed in the 2010 survey as among the 25 provinces in the country with long standing or chronic malnutrition affecting a very high percentage of pre-school children. A National Nutrition Survey in 2003 placed the province at 55.56 percent malnutrition rate among children aged six to 10 years old.

All the 11 towns of Catanduanes are qualified to the fund grant but Caramoran, Gigmoto, Panganiban and San Andres have to wait until the fund is made available because they were late in submitting the requirements for allocation, Tapispisan said.

The supplemental feeding activities would start as soon as the funds are released to the LGUs.

“We want to ensure efficiency in delivering the program,” Tapispisan said.

Parents of these children take the responsibility of preparing the meals based on the meal cycle menu prescribe by the Food Nutrition and Research Institute (FNRI) and they also have to undergo intensive nutrition education classes and nine sessions on parenting, health, family welfare, self examination, love of country and home and environmental concern, she said.

The LGUs on the other hand have committed as their counterparts to undertake de-worming activities of the children and enrichment of the supplemental foods with micro-nutrients. (PNA)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

EDC to spearhead greening program in Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, July 21 (PNA) – The Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is strengthening its local reforestation initiatives by way of implementing within its vast geothermal power production site here “Binhi”, a greening program that supports the National Greening Program (NGP) of President Benigno Aquino III.

Binhi rethinks the whole idea of reforestation and what makes it special is that it focuses on the prime endangered Philippine trees to bring back vanishing trees that are highly valued native species such as baligang and gumihan, two of the several kinds falling under its Tree for Food component, EDC Environmental Management Department (EMD) head Leo Zandro Mago said on Thursday.

“We start with the few remaining seedlings of these trees and grow them into mother trees in planting sites where they can be best protected and nurtured. Apart from its geothermal reservation area, planting sites would include school grounds, public parks, leisure estates, residential areas and available urban spaces,” Mago said.

These mother trees, he said will be used to propagate more seedlings for transplant all over the country. To ensure the sound implementation and sustainability of Binhi, EDC will enter into long-term agreements with tree hosts and monitor them through a databank and geographic information system (GIS)-generated maps.

“Ultimately, Binhi seeks to empower the Filipino people so they may take it upon themselves to regenerate these tree species that would have otherwise been lost to us forever,” Mago said.

Under its Tree for Life component, planting of pili trees (Canarium Ovatum) will also be one of the continuing programs of the company also to provide livelihood to the basic communities living near the geothermal reservation sites, he said.

The implementation of Binhi, Mago said has been placed under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) strategy component of the NGP sealed through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) recently signed by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and EDC chairman emeritus (CE) Oscar Lopez.

The EDC reforestation project within its area in the province of Sorsogon has been a continuing undertaking and it even value-added it with tourism attractions like the establishment of a butterfly garden, wildlife conservation area, the conservation of the bat sanctuary and development of natural ecotourism sites that were provided accessibility," Mago said.

Through Lopez, the company spells out its corporate social responsibility thrusts of helping government alleviate poverty, achieve food security, preserve and enhance biodiversity and address the problems of Climate Change through the implementation of the NGP, he explained. (PNA)

Navy Bayanihan medical mission treats 1,000 patients in Camarines Norte
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, July 21 (PNA) -– The medical team of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon (Navforsol) of the Philippine Navy (PN), in cooperation with the provincial government of Camarines Norte, has treated over 1,000 indigent patients in its medical and dental mission conducted in the province recently.

Navforsol commander Capt. Abraham Celso in a statement released here Thursday said a total of 777 medical and 224 dental patients from several coastal barangays of the province were attended to the mission conducted in relation to its civil-military operation that has been reaching out reaching out to poor communities that need health and other assistance.

The mission was also conducted in coordination with different government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and 902nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Camarines Sur.

“Your Philippine Navy is expanding its horizon as we set foot in Camarines Norte in order to realize the objectives of AFP Bayanihan. This medical dental mission is just a start of our series of community based projects to assist civil authorities address socio-economic and environmental concerns in the area,” Celso said.

In a separate statement, Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado hailed the Navforsol for the undertaking as he directed the Provincial Health Office (PHO) and agencies of the province to extend all necessary support to civic oriented activities of the PN.

The governor also welcomed the proposal of the Command for the conduct of a Youth Empowerment summit in the province aimed at developing the youth into being responsible citizens and guiding the sector towards productive activities and away from illegal vices such as drugs.

The mission also conducted a job fair spearheaded by the Provincial Employment Services Office (PESO) and distribution of tilapia fingerlings from the BFAR and piglets which was part of the animal dispersal project of the provincial government towards providing extra means of livelihood to its constituents.

“We wanted to bring our military and civilian government closer to the heart of our people especially in the barangays that need more attention due to lack of opportunities to live a more decent life,” Tallado said. (PNA)

Anti-illegal drug campaign in Bicol goes on full gear: PDEA

LEGAZPI CITY, July 20 (PNA) - The fight against illegal drug use and peddling goes full gear as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bicol reported that its personnel nabbed 141 drug users and traders and seized 139 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride popularly known as "shabu" with a street value of P2.1 million during the first half of this year.

Archie Grande, PDEA regional director, said the arrest and seizure of the illegal drugs was a result of 105 drug bust operations initiated by agency operatives and other law enforcement agencies.

Among those arrested were 62 pushers, 74 possessors, six users, five maintainers of drug den, two cohorts, a courier, and a cultivator of marijuana.

Grande said some 146 villages across the region are in the agency watch list, 90 of which are classified as moderately affected, while 56 are considered slightly affected villages.

Moderately affected villages are those places with illegal drug peddlers and users while slightly affected villages are areas where there are sightings of illegal drug users.

Grande said that for the second semester of the 2011 they will further intensify their campaign against the illegal drug trade in the identified 146 villages considered as hot spots.

Included in the drug hot spot areas are 34 barangays in Albay, 24 in Camarines Norte, 41 in Camarines Sur, 14 in Catanduanes , 31 in Masbate and two in Sorsogon.

"We believe that we will be able to curb further the number of affected barangays with a well coordinated efforts with other law enforcements agencies and the strong partnership with local chief executives,” he said.

Grande also said that a drug summit will be organized and convened in the second semester of this year to bring together all stake holders and map out an integrated and more effective anti-drug abuse campaign in the region. (PNA)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mining engineers vow promotion of responsible mining, sustainable development
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 19 (PNA) -– Taking the cue from large mining ventures in Bicol, the Philippine Society of Mining Engineers, Inc. (PSEM) has taken the responsibility of promoting sustainable development through responsible mining in the country.

“We are going to see to it that all the provisions of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) being issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to mining operations under our watch are complied with religiously by mining firms we work for,” City Councilor Rolly Rosal who is a member of the board of director of the mining engineers association, said here Tuesday.

Rosal was referring to the vow made by over 300 members of the PSEM from all over the country that attended its three-day national convention held at the La Fiazza Convention Center here last week. The gathering was part of the sector’s yearly assembly that discusses latest updates and problems confronting the Philippine mining industry.

Sulpicio Bernardo of Filmera Resources Corporation operating in the gold-rich town of Aroroy, Masbate presented the “Masbate Gold Project (MGP)” and its achievements toward developing sustainable communities while Carmelita Pacis tackled the best practices in environmental management of the Rapu-Rapu Polymettalic Project (RRPP) in the island town of Rapu-rapu, Albay.

Carlito Apari, administration and safety manager of Palanog Cement Plant Project (PCPP) operating in the high-grade lime-rich Barangay Palanog, Camalig, Albay explained how it answers the cement needs of the region.

These three firms run the largest mining operations in Bicol responsible in producing a yearly average of P11.6 billion worth of mineral products such as gold, copper, zinc and cement that contributed some US$ 163 million in the region’s export performance in the first half of this year alone, according to records of the regional collection office of the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

This amount shows an increase of US$ 76,259,304.80 from last year’s US$ 86,858,696.72 or an 87.80 percent increment due to rise in mineral production from these three mining companies that resulted to some P113.3 million in customs duty remittances. The amount listed for the Bicol BOC a 157.02 percent increase over its collection in the same period of last year of only P44.08 million.

During the PSEM convention, Artemio Desini, chairman of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines discussed “Philippine Mining—How the People See It What it Really Is” while Rocky Dimaculangan of the Coalition for Responsible Mining in Mindanao tackled the topic “Communicating to Stockholders-The TVI Model”, Rosal said.

Other topics tackled during the affair were “Stability Analysis of Tailings Dam”, by Marcelo Bolano of Benguet Mining Corporation and the ”Overview of Coal Mining Industry in the Philippines” by Redentor Morelos of Coal and Nuclear Mineral Resources Development Division of the Department of Energy.

Edna Berces, the regional Economic Development Specialist of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for Bicol dealt with the “National Land Use Act”, according to Rosal.

The convention delegates were also taken to an inspection tour of the Filmera, RRPP and PCPP mining and mineral processing sites as part of the PSEM’s mission of enhancing opportunities for its members to work responsibly as professionals for the development of a viable minerals industry in the context of sustainable development, he said.

PSEM is an organization for mining engineers in the Philippines that aims to provide assistance to their members and to promote the welfare of the mining engineers as well as the society they are in as it envisions a society of highly respected, competent, and responsible mining engineers in the national and global context, Rosal added. (PNA)

OCD, Albay host testimonial dinner for Navforsol Commodore
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, July 19 (PNA) – The Office of the Civil Defense V and the Provincial government of Albay hosted a testimonial dinner for Commodore Joel E. Babas recently at the Provincial Executive House, here.

The dinner served as a formal gratitude to the Commander for his contributions and support to both the province and OCD 5.

Babas, commander of Naval Forces for Southern Luzon was very thankful for the testimonial dinner, and said: “This is because of the support and dedication my Command showed to both the Province and OCD 5, and the Command will continue to pour out its support in socio-economic programs and environmental movements; the Command will get involve and still be proactive. This is a fine example of how inter-agency cooperation works herein Bicol Region, we act as one”

The testimonial dinner was also attended by key officers of NAVFORSOL, Board members of the Province of Albay, Bicol University, Bureau of Fire, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and Land Transportation Office.(PNA)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Clean Air Act author commends provincial environmental advocacy

VIRAC, Catanduanes, July 18 (PNA) -- The Clean Air Act author Nereus Acosta, commended the province for its campaign for environmental protection and climate change-related issues on his visit here during the Linggo ng Kalikasan recently.

During the celebration, Acosta cited the importance of establishing barangay-based ecological centers, eco-parks and regular tree-planting activities spearheaded by Congressman Cesar Sarmiento and Governor Joseph Cua in instilling environmental consciousness among its constituents.

He also said that everyone should value the ecosystem, including watersheds, rivers, forest, lands, seas and other natural habitats serving as natural shelter of all life forms and even the life of country’s economy itself.

Acosta also said that the leaders of the province must protect the ecological resources by implementing measures to curb illegal logging and safeguarding the island by declaring it as a mining-free zone.

The province was among the first provinces to conduct a massive simultaneous tree-planting activity in a single day thru Saemiento's Go-for-Three project.

At present, Sarmiento sponsors a bill to provide funds for the reforestation and rehabilitation of about 2,276 hectare of mangrove areas lying in coasts of different municipalities of the province.

The province is now preparing for another massive tree-planting event, dubbed as Project 11-11-11, on 11, 2011 under the ‘Go for Tree’ campaign, which aims to plant 111,111 trees simultaneously to set a new Guinness World Record. (PNA)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Over a million jobs triggers drop in unemployment

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 (PNA) -- Jobs generated by the agriculture and private industry sectors pushed the country’s unemployment rate to drop to 7.2 percent in April this year, an eight percentage point from 8 percent in April 2010.

The Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) said that employment level grew year-on-year in April to 36.8 million, up four percent from 35.4 million last year.

At the same time unemployment rate went down by 228,000 from three million in April last year to 2.8 million in April 2011.

BLES report said the country’s labor market regained momentum in April 2011 as employment grew, driven by the marked recovery in agriculture, fishery and forestry sector and the continued expansion, though at slower pace, in industry sector and services sector.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, in interpreting the BLES study, said the creation of 951,000 jobs in wage/salary workers was most auspicious when compared to previous jobs creations composed mostly of self-employed.

Private establishments accounted for 1.008 million new jobs, offsetting or substituting jobs in other sectors, he said.

“While services and agriculture created more jobs, the 145,000 better-value jobs in Industry, of which 84,000 in Manufacturing, should be seen as a good signal,” Salceda said.

Salceda said that the private establishments - wage/salary employment underpinned a 789,000 increase in workers who worked for over 40-hours (5 days x 8 hours) clearly established better quality of jobs creation.

“This is the initial positive consequence of the average 32.4% growth in GDCF (gross domestic capital formation) from 3rd Quarter of 2010 to 1st Quarter of 2011.”

The government sector created 302,000 jobs out of the 1.4 million jobs. (PNA)

Albay's success in anti-dengue drops cases by 83%

LEGAZPI CITY, July 18 (PNA) -- Dengue cases in Albay province dropped to 114 or 83 percent during the first of the year compared to 685 during the same period last year and health officials attributed this to the success of the its campaign against this viral disease.

Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief Dr. Chito Mendoza said Monday despite the wet spell during the first half of this year, health workers in villages were successful in the campaign against dengue, which is transmitted by mosquito carrying the disease virus.

Mendoza said this was achieved through the province-wide community based integrated vector control program called CHLEM or Community participation, Health education, Legislation, Environmental sanitation and Mosquito control measures.

In his report to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Mendoza said the local government units (LGUs) of Malilipot, Malinao, Rapu-rapu and Tiwi were able to sustain zero dengue cases in the past six months of the year while dramatic decreases were noted in the cities of Tabaco, Ligao, Legazpi and Daraga town.

Mendoza said dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. Symptoms appear three—14 days after the infective bite.

Dengue fever is a febrile illness that affects infants, young children and adults. (PNA)

Bicol elderly now enjoys social pension
By Danny O. Calleja

SAN PASCUAL, Ticao Island, Masbate, July 18 (PNA) – Eighty year-old Esperanza dela Peña of this far flung, impoverished coastal town was a bit apprehensive to go with a village official who invited her to the municipal hall on the next office day to receive her pension.

Limping due to old age and malnutrition, going to the “munisipyo” which is about three kilometers away from her small, dilapidated shack deep in the outskirt of the municipality where she had been living alone for the past 15 years would be a tedious three-hour walking exercise.

Besides, how could she be given a pension when her late husband was never a war veteran, nor a retired employee. All those years that she was left alone following the death of her husband 16 years ago, she barely survived through the meager support given by her children who are also living in poverty, she quipped.

The insistence of the barangay official with the assurance that she would have the money finally overcame her resistance and at daybreak of last Friday, after taking a hot cup of sambong juice, she, on her best old dress dug up from a hoary carton she keeps as her only priced possession started trekking the rugged terrain that separates her place from the poblacion where the town hall sits.

Lola Pansay as she is commonly called in the neighborhood took with her two slices of boiled cassava tuber which she ate along the way for her breakfast. Occasionally, she would stop by a house and ask for a glass of water to drink from its occupants.

She reached her destination at about 8:30 a.m and found some early comers of her age gathering in front of the still closed office of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSDO) at the town hall, where she was directed by her informant to go. After almost half an hour of waiting, the ball started rolling for the over a hundred of elderly around.

“A lady employee of that office who introduced herself but I cannot recall the name stood before us and gladly announced that we were made to come to receive the first payout of our monthly pension of P500 which will be given to us on a quarterly basis at a total of P1,500,” Lola Pansay told the PNA in local dialect here as she emerged from the MSDO clutching the money.

While inside the MSDO, she said she was only asked several questions about her herself and her living condition and later made to affix her thumb mark on some documents as she cannot write. After that she was given the money and told to come back after three months for another payout. “It was as easy as that,” Lola Pansay noted.

She said she was also made to promise that she will only use her pension to buy nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits and seafoods, for her medicine once she feels ill and other basic daily needs.

In Legazpi City, DSWD regional director for Bicol Remia Tapispisan on Monday explained that San Pascual is among the 63 municipalities in the region whose 3,741 elderly, Lola Pansay included were already been given their first monthly stipend under the government’s Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC).

Each of these beneficiaries, initially with ages 80 years old and above, were given P1,500 representing their monthly entitlement of P500 as mandated by Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 that provides for an additional government assistance to poor senior citizens all over the country.

The Philippine elderly population is estimated to be around 6.8 million, with at least 1.23M identified as living below the poverty line. With an approved budget of P870 million from Congress, the DSWD will be able to reach about 145,000 indigent senior citizens and provide them this financial assistance to help with basic needs such as food and medicines.

Thus, DSWD's implementation strategy is phased by prioritizing those 80 years old and above, followed by those poor 78 to 79 years old and so on if the budget released for 2011 will allow, Tapispisan said.

Qualified to the social pension, she said are senior citizens who are not receiving any pension from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security system (SSS) or Armed Forces of the Philippines Mutual Benefit Association, Inc. (AFMBAI) and other insurance companies.

DSWD Administrative Order No. 15,or the guidelines on the implementation of the SPISC, says that indigent senior citizens are “frail, sickly or with disability and without pension, a permanent source of income or regular support from any relative to meet the basic needs as determined by the DSWD National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), she said.

There are at least 7,466 qualified pensioners under the SPISC in all the 99 municipalities and seven cities in Bicol and Tapispisan said her office through its field offices in the region has been working double time to reach at once all of them while continuing the payout for the next quarter and onward to those who have been already reached.

“I am grateful to this government. With this pension, I will no longer be skipping meals in the remaining days of my life,” Lola Pansay remarked as she walked towards the nearby public market and bought some food provisions such as 10 kilos of rice, a dozen packs of instant noodles, another dozen of sardines and four packs of iodized salt that she will taking home with her.

“Half of these items will be divided among my three children with their own families as their ‘balato’ and I will retain the other half that perhaps could already last for a month to me,” she said.

She also bought a bag-full of assorted breads from a local bakery which she said her “pasalubong” to her 10 grandchildren. She pulled out from the bread bag two pieces of pan de coco and bought a piece of ice candy for her lunch. “It’s been so many years that I missed pan de coco and the sweet, cold taste of the ice candy. At dinner tonight, I will treat myself for this bonanza to sardines that I will cook with camote tops from my backyard garden”.

The rest of the money she had, Lola Pansay said will be for the next months until the second payout comes. (PNA)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bicol University strengthens public-private partnership in agricultural science

LEGAZPI CITY, July 13 (PNA) -– As part of Bicol University’s (BU) commitment to innovate the science of agriculture, this prime government-run educational institution is pushing on strengthening the partnership between the public and private sectors towards addressing the region’s concerns for economic growth and sustainability in this field.

“We sit in an agricultural region so that it becomes imperative upon all sectors involved in the industry to establish a strong partnership in revolutionizing it through research, development and extension so that Bicolanos are able to profit from natural resources without disregarding their role in protecting and conserving it,” BU president Fay Lea Lauraya on Wednesday here said.

The partnership should be aimed at creating self-sufficient and conscientious Bicolanos who will no longer despise the science of agriculture but will be at the forefront of crop research, development, extension and industry, Lauraya said.

As part of this initiative, Public-Private Partnership (3Ps) which is an effective approach being put forward by the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III in bridging the wide gap that separates economic excellence from mediocrity that is confronting the country was the focal point of the recent summit organized here by the BU among the country’s major stakeholders.

Lauraya said the summit called the 21st Scientific Conference of the Federation of Crop Science Societies of the Philippines (FCSSP) was themed “Public-Private Partnership for Sustainable Agricultural Research, Development and Extension” six prominent organizations both from the government and private sectors involved in the industry and environmental initiatives.

It included the six societies belonging to the FCSSP such as the Society for the Advancement of Vegetable Industry (SAVI), Philippine Fruit Association (PFA), Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA), Crop Society of the Philippines (CSSP), Philippine Association for Plant Tissue Culture (PAPTCB) and the Conservation Faming Movement (CFM).

It was also conducted in cooperation with the Provincial Government of Albay, City Government of Legazpi, Philippine Coconut Authority-Albay Research Center (PCA-ARC), Department of Agriculture (DA), Albay’s Center for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), Lauraya said adding that 350 delegates, both foreign and local made it to the gathering.

FCSSP chairperson Dr. Nenita Desamero said the conference emphasized on the importance of strong linkages and conglomeration of experts, workers and stakeholders in polling together their expertise and resources to benefit the Filipinos.

Dr. William Padolina, the Deputy Director General for Operations of the International Rice Research institute (IRRI) who was among the resource speakers, stressed on the significant role of both private and public sectors in ensuring that relevant technology is generated and properly disseminated to producers and consumers of goods. (PNA)

Albay tops tourist arrivals
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, July 12 (PNA) – The Province of Albay is the fastest tourist destination in Bicol region, data released by the Department of Tourism (DOT) here show.

Foreign tourists in Albay grew by 17,347 or 51 percent against 11,609 or 18 percent for Camarines Sur. Albay now has 51,087 foreign tourists versus Camsur's 74,771 despite a much more limited tourism budget. Notwithstanding weather disturbances, during first quarter of 2011, Albay submitted the highest total growth in tourists at 41 percent against Bicol at more than 16 percent and Camarines Sur at 17 percent.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the provincial government maintained that its proactive disaster risk reduction (DRR) sent a strong message that Albay was safe for tourists, traders, investors and its own people.

“That is common sense minimum requirement for a tourist to come.”

Albay focuses on sustained less pompous yet innovative approach to tourism promotion, through positioning itself two-way: ecotourism harnessing its iconic natural endowments and gateway to other Bicol destinations - Donsol (in Sorsogon) and Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC).

It also focuses on investment-driven flows essentially private investments in new capacity and new attractions; sustained advertising in significant niche (almost monthly cover of Smile (Cebu Pacific) since October 2010 to April 2011, now Mabuhay Magazine (PAL) and special features (mainly by Bernard Supetran); sustained yet rising crescendo in Magayon Festival as one month of projection of Albay's as a tourism destination; and hosting of national conferences both by the City of Legazpi and the provincial government.

On regional distribution of travelers during the first quarter this year, Albay had a total of 121,867 domestic and foreign tourists; Camarines Norte - 43,765; Camarines Sur - 406,036; Sorsogon - 32,295; Masbate - 45,472; and Catanduanes - 36,322.

The United States was the leading market with 28,960 total guests in the region, followed by the United Kingdom - 12,408; South Korea – 12, 127; Germany - 9,174; Australia - 7,637; Canada - 6,763; Holland - 6,310; Thailand - 4,975; Denmark - 4,918; and China 4,811.

DOT regional director Maria Nini Ravanilla said that the laudable increase of tourist arrivals was a result of the non-stop promotion of the provincial government both here and abroad. “Albay is very accessible by land, sea and air transportation.”

Ravanilla said that transportation facility was very important in the promotion of tourism industry. (PNA)

Gawad Kalinga establishes Community of Hope for Bicol rebel returnees
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, July 13 (PNA) –- Fresh hopes against homelessness had risen for Bicol’s former rebels with the establishment of a new community here by the Gawad-Kalinga (GK) Community Development Foundation that provides decent homes for these once politically disgruntled Bicolanos.

This development started to unfold in Camarines Sur, chosen as GK designer province in the country with the establishment of 125 communities with homes built for its over 4,700 once homeless families. The province forged with the Foundation four months ago a new ground by introducing another community which is solely intended for rebel returnees.

Called the "Community of Hope" sitting on a one-hectare property in Barangay San Jose in this provincial capital, the village is now home to 60 families of rebel returnees. Another 40 units of GK homes are ongoing construction for the next batch of occupants whose applications are being processed and being validated by the military.

This is another pioneering effort of the provincial government assisted by the GK and in coordination with the Philippine Army (PA) to realize the rebels returnees' dreams of owning a home and finding opportunities to live a normal life with their families, Maj. Gen. Josue Gaversa, the PA commander for Bicol on Wednesday said.

Apart from the housing units, the rebel returnees and members of their families will be provided with training on livelihood that would serve as their tool in sustaining their basic daily needs, Gaversa said.

“The Community of Hope is indeed a place where optimism and new beginnings find its way, also in line with the peace and development efforts of the Aquino administration towards the realization of its thrust to attain genuine and lasting peace in the country,” he added.

It is being realized as the GK moves into the next seven years -— 2011-2018 -- towards its stewardship phase called Social Artistry: strengthening governance; developing community-based programs for health, education, environment, and productivity; building a village culture that honors Filipino values and heritage.

The goal of this phase is to empower the powerless for self-governance, self-reliance and self-sufficiency that was precluded by the first seven-year GK journey towards Social Justice capped by the raising of 700,000 homes and start–up 7,000 communities by the end of 2010.

The goal of the campaign called GK 777 was to "un-squat” the poorest of the poor, heal their emotional wound, regain their trust, build their confidence, make them think and act as a community and to share the joy of a country rising from poverty.

The final phase in the last seven years from 2018 to 2024 is envisioned as a time of Social Progress that seeks to achieve scale and sustainability by developing the grassroots economy and expanding the reach and influence of GK to five million families with support from key sectors of society in the Philippines and partners abroad.

“We will make the Filipino poor “unpoor” by unleashing his potential for productivity and hard work in the right environment,” GK founder Antonio Meloto said during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Community of Hope last February 23 attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The 21-year journey of GK represents one generation of Filipinos who will journey from poverty to prosperity, from neglect to respect, from shame to honor, from third-world to first-world, from second-class to first-class citizen of the world. The term first-world simply refers to greater opportunities, higher standards, and better quality of life available to more of its citizens, he said.

With a development road map in the Philippines, GK seeks to create successful development templates that can be replicated in other developing countries, helping to create a world free from poverty, Meloto added.

After years of oppression and continued government corruption, 70 percent of the 95 million residents of the Philippines still live in poverty. Ironically, in a global survey conducted in 2005, Filipinos came out among the world’s happiest people. (PNA)

Albay prepares for 33rd Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week

LEGAZPI CITY, July 12 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay, through the Social Welfare Office, has set various activities between July 17 to 23, this year, in support to the week-long observance of the 33rd National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week.

This year’s theme, “Making the Rights Real for Filipinos with Disabilities,” will help stimulate public awareness on disability issues and concerns and strengthen the involvement of the different government and non-government organization including cause-oriented groups and other stakeholders.

Ms. Yulanda Guanzon, Albay Provincial Social Welfare Officer, said the province adheres to the promotion of the inherent rights and issues of persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Guanzon said vulnerable sectors such as the PWDs are among the top priorities of Governor Joey Salceda in providing social services such as enrollment in PhilHealth.

She said the primordial objective of the NDPR Week celebration is to stimulate awareness on the problems of disability and encourage the public to take active responsibility in the upliftment of the economic and social conditions of PWDs in our society.

Aside from media advocacy, the provincial social welfare office will be distributing wheel chairs, canes, crutches and musical instruments next week. (PNA)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sparkling Legazpi: A livelier city this time
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 11 (PNA) -- Messed up by a series of natural calamities that severely debilitated its rising economy, this prime Bicol city simply refused to go down on its knees as after picking up from the rubles of those disasters, it had risen fast and now sparkling once again as the region’s most exciting place to stay.

The catastrophe was in the late part of 2006 when two super typhoons — Milenyo and Reming - battered the place as severely as if it was the doomsday, but amidst those devastating scenarios, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work.

Now, less than half a decade after those tragic episodes, the roads and bridges swept away by the flood and rampaging avalanches of debris from the upper slopes of Mt. Mayon have been restored; the schools and other government buildings toppled down by the storm reconstructed and all the vital structures and installations destroyed, replaced.

Likewise, the many homes that were unable to withstand the fury of nature are back in place and the households that were totally displaced given new abodes in safe and secured permanent resettlement sites.

For Legazpi City, life does not only continue to bloom. It has been getting livelier as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high.

Indeed, Legaspi has transformed itself from the remains of natural disasters into a world-class city with an influx of investments and tourism-related developments.

“We cannot fight nature, but we can conquer the agonies arising from its abnormal temper through our great love for the city and its people that tucked hard work and decisiveness within our moral fiber,” City Mayor Geraldine Rosal said over the weekend.

Asserting these gains among others, is the tremendous growth in the local tourism industry that the city as among the country‘s leading tourist destinations has been achieving. For that, Legazpi occupied the driver’s seat of the Bicol region’s journey towards the prominence it has attained among tourist destinations nationwide.

Latest data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) show that Legazpi City realized a 65.05 percent tourism growth rate in the later part of last year, up 92, 586 arrivals over its 2009 statistics to steer Bicol that was sluggish in the ‘90s into the second top spot of destinations next to Manila and outshining Cebu and Boracay.

Supporting this gain in tourism is the assignment by the country’s leading passenger airlines of almost four daily flights between the Legazpi and Manila and trice weekly by to Cebu and vice-versa.

Accommodations are not a problem as classy hotels, the newest among them the Hotel St. Ellis which is considered a refined modern day interpretation of timeless elegance and the La Piazza Convention Center are easily accessible.

The local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities are getting broader and more fortified.

Lately, Legazpi was recognized as one of the most competitive cities in the Philippines by the Asian Institute of Management. Also, it was recently cited as the most business-friendly city for the whole South Luzon by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Among the latest additions to its commercial landmarks in the Legazpi City is the Central Bus Terminal/LKY MetroHub and Lifestyle Center, a P300-million Public-Private Partnership investment that refurbished the city’s public transportation landscape into a world-class facility backed up by a modern trade hub.

The Landco Business Park that sits on a massive site at the heart of the city has been continuing with its development and opening more sites for profitable investments and the Liberty Commercial Center (LCC), the city’s original mall has been aggressively expanding its services by opening more convenient stores around the city.

The Marina-inspired Embarcadero de Legazpi had also been in normal operations and continuously expanding its facilities from a mere information technology (IT) hub and high-end commercial complex into a world-class and first of its kind in Bicol tourist-oriented leisure park.

Also, the city now has most of the popular fast-food restaurants such as Jollibee, McDonald's, Max's, Shakey's, Chowking, Greenwich, Mang Inasal, Gerry's Grill, Kitaro, Tapa King and Binalot. It is also connected nationwide and to the rest of the world through up-to-date communication facilities and has around 40 bank branches that offer products and services such as deposits, loans, and automated teller machines (ATM).

It also maintains its being the academic center of Bicol with its two universities — the Aquinas University of Legazpi (AUL), which is sister school of University of Santo Tomas in Manila and the state-run Bicol University (BU), one of the country's biggest universities that is acknowledged as an engineering powerhouse.

The other educational institutions in the city are the Mariners' Polytechnic Colleges Foundation, Divine Word College, AMA Computer College, systems Technology Institute (STI) College, Ago Medical Educational Center-Bicol Christian College of Medicine, Computer Arts and Technology School and SL Technological College Foundation Inc., the first in the city to offer business process outsourcing (BPO) services and support.

Legazpi also maintains its being the regional health care center of Bicol, being host to the Ago Medical Center, Ibalong Medical Plaza, Aquinas University Hospital, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH), Estevez General Hospital, Dr. Esteban Ante Memorial Hospital, Albay Doctors Hospital and Tanchuling General Hospital.

Given all those facilities, amenities and opportunities, observers say: “Sa Legazpi, wala ka nang hahanapin pa.” (PNA)

NEDA affirms Bicol’s economic growth under P-Noy
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) -– In the past few months, Bicol’s economic attitude has been assertively heading towards the region’s liberation from the bondage of poverty that for decades glued the area to the “second poorest in the country” label, according to a government expert in regional economy.

Engr. Luis Babua, the assistant regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) says almost all regional economic indicators point to an aggressively growing Bicol economy, and, among these, is the headline inflation rate that latest statistics reported by the National Statistics Office (NSO) was lowest in the region.

Headline inflation refers to the rate of change in the consumer price index (CPI), a measure of the average price of a standard “basket” of goods and services consumed by a typical family. In the Philippines, this CPI is composed of various consumer items as determined by the nationwide Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted every three years by the NSO.

Inflation is generally defined as a persistent increase in the prices of goods and services which over time leads to a decrease in the purchasing power of money. It usually happens when there is more money in the economy relative to the supply of goods and services.

Banua said the annual inflation rate in Bicol decelerated to 3.5 percent in May, the lowest among regions of the country and the year-on-year change for the month was 0.2 percentage point lower than the previous month's level as lower rise in rates were registered in most of the commodity groups. The same rate was also recorded in the first three months of the year.

Compared to last year's level, inflation rate for the period is 1.3 percentage points lower and 1.0 percentage point below the national average. On a month-on-month basis, average inflation rate in Bicol declined by 0.5 percentage point, settling at negative 0.2 percent.

The region along with National Capital Region (NCR) and the Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan (MIMAROPA) posted negative inflation rates for the month bringing the purchasing power of the peso in Bicol remained relatively high at 58 centavos in May 2011, Banua said.

Other indicators such as the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP), Gross Value Added (GVA) and foreign trade also showed positive responses given that as of the April 2011 update released by the NSO, the GRDP grew 8.2 percent compared to the previous which were recorded at only 4.1 percent between 2007 and 2008 and 7.5 percent in 2006-2007, he said.

GRDP reflects the aggregate gross value added of all productive sectors of a region during an accounting period. Addition of the GRDP of all regions will yield the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

GVA on the other hand refers to the total payment to factors of production, namely: wages, interest, profits and rents. It also includes capital consumption allowance and indirect taxes estimated by deducting from gross value of output the sum of non-factor cost such as raw materials and supplies, containers and packing materials, fuel, advertising and other non-industrial overhead cost.

GVA in agriculture, fishery and forestry was also up 4.1 percent compared to the previous that were 2.0 and 2.3 percent in 2007-2008 and 2006-2007, respectively while in the industry sector, the same indicator showed 18.3 as to the latest, up from 7.4 and 17.8 percent in the previous.

Remarkable increases in foreign trade were also noted by posting a value of US$ 20.2 million as of April 2011 NSO update compared to US$ 310,347 and US$ 18,525 in the second and first halves of 2010, respectively, Banua said.

“We expect more improvements as all government programs being implemented in the region are based on attaining a sustainable development and the Regional Development Plan is focused more on poverty alleviation and other developmental issues concerning Bicol,” he said.

This regional plan, he added, gives emphasis on the convergence of government agencies as well as public-private partnership which are being pushed by the Aquino administration in addressing all development issues involving the region, Banua added. (PNA)

P140-M worth of road projects opened in Partido, Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, July 11 (PNA) - Three concrete road projects worth P140 million were opened to travelers, boosting the tourism potential of the Partido area in Camarines Sur, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol said Monday.

DPWH Regional Director Danilo Dequito said the P140 million is part of the allocation released in the last quarter of 2010, for the implementation of Various Infrastructure Including Local Projects (VIILP).

“Thirty five million pesos was allotted for Goa-Tinambac, Goa Section; P45 million for Goa-Tinambac, Tinambac Section; and, P60 million for Tinambac-Tamban Road, both for Tinambac and Tamban Sections,” the director said.

Dequito said Camarines Sur five legislative districts have a P1.243 billion total allocation in the DPWH FY 2011 Infrastructure Program (based on GAA-RA 10147), broken down as follows: P77.591 million; P718.683 million; P23.471 million; P344.315 million; and, P79.249 million, respectively.

At the inaugural rites held recently, Rep. and House Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella (2nd district, Camarines Sur) said the project would bring comfort to travelers both local and foreign tourists.

DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, who graced the event, said “We have an aggressive program to improve the quality and safety of our national roads and bridges in the next five years, particularly those that lead to tourists destinations and urban centers, and Camarines Sur had been given the priority because of its tourism attributes.(PNA)

Triathlon: CWC expects 2,000 athletes, 4,000 tourists for Cobra Ironman 70.3 in October
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, July 11 (PNA) –- With the over 1,100 early registrants as of the weekend, organizers of this year’s series of the Cobra Ironman 70.3 half-triathlon events at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) here expects some 2,000 athletes to this high-end sport spectacular taking place on August 14.

“With that huge number of participants, we also expect about 4,000 tourists and sport enthusiasts to be around as game officials, assistants of the athletes, sport reporters and mere spectators,” according to Camarines Sur Gov. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, the man behind the bringing of this international competition here since 2009.

The early registrants, the governor said represent 28 countries worldwide and more have signified their intentions to join as the event draws near especially that part of this year’s series slated in China has been cancelled.

“That do not include yet majority of local players and we were informed that dozens of triathlon groups across the country are sending in their teams.”

Apart from the Philippines, other countries that are already represented include Australia, Brazil, United States, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Hong Kong, Guam, Taiwan, UK, India, Norway, South Africa, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Japan.

Villafuerte said 809 athletes so far have registered in the individual category and 97 in the various team relay events. Both figures almost double the combined number of participants in the first two editions of the game sponsored by Alaska Milk, Asia Brewery, Air 21, and SM City Naga and staged here in 2009 and 2010 that registered only 500 and 571 respectively.

It is bigger this time because this Philippine series has been well-coordinated drawing the participation of top-caliber players, 30 of having reserved slots in the forthcoming Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and 25 others in the 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, also this year.

Among the triathletes showing actions here and expected to dominate the events are 22 male Filipino players and five foreign professionals that include Pete Jacobs of Australia who was champion last year, Fredrik Croneberg of Sweden who placed third, Cameron Brown of New Zealand, Dan Brown of the Philippines and Justin Granger and Luke McKenzie of Australia.

Among the local players, veteran Nonoy Jopson who is conceded the number one Filipino Ironman and expectedly, Heracleo “Leo” Oracion, the first Filipino ever to climb the summit of Mt. Everest have the eyes of the local fans.

Lady professional triathletes Amanda Balding, Belinda Granger and Rachel Paxton of Australia and Michellei Jones and Amanda Stevens of the US have also registered.

The Ironman 70.3 is a combination of three sports disciplines–-2 miles of swimming, 56 miles of cycling 13.1 miles of running for a total distance of 70.3 miles or over 113 kilometers.

Before these events, separate games called the Ironkids to feature young triathletes with ages between six and 14 will also be staged on August 13.

These games, divided into four categories would cover a 100-meter, two-kilometer bike and one kilometer run for ages between six and eight; nine to10 years old, 200-meter swim, six-kilometer bike and 1.5km run; 11 to 12, 300-meter swim, 10 kilometer bike, two-kilometer run; and 13 14 years, 400-meter swim, 1- kilometer bike and three-kilometer run.

The province of Camarines Sur has been consistently chosen as venue for the first three franchise years mainly because of its ideal facilities particularly the CWC which has significantly contributed to the province’s becoming the most visited destination in the country with a growing reputation as an international center for extreme sports. (PNA)