Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Albay readies countermeasures for Wednesday's nationwide strike
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) -- Based on the intelligence report of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the transportation sector, in their Clark meeting that included organized transport groups in Albay, has planned a transport strike on Aug. 31, 2011 and is targeting 100% paralysis of public transportation.

Albay governor Joey Salceda said based on the assessment made together with each and all mayors, the main impact of a mass transport strike on public welfare is that it would compromise the mobility of teachers in both rural and urban areas and students in urban areas in going to school esp given a very low private vehicle ownership (only 54,000 out of 247,000 families own vehicles including motorcycles).

"Moreover, the Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) and its partners (AFP, PNP) have limited capacity to institute systematic countermeasures(libreng sakay) to mitigate such inconvenience to normal way of life and the risks to public welfare," Salceda said.

Based on their individual assessment of the situation, many mayors specifically in the City of Legazpi and the Municipalities of Daraga, Malinao, Pioduran, Manito, Jovellar, Polangui, Camalig, Bacacay, Sto Domingo, have decided or recommended to suspend classes.

Therefore, classes in the elementary, high school and college for both public and private schools are hereby suspended except in the Cities of Ligao and Tabaco and the Municipalities of Libon, Tiwi and Rapu-rapu. The City of Tabaco, however, intends to suspend classes in Tabaco National High School.

In the local government units of Libon, Tiwi and Rapu-rapu and the Cities of Ligao and Tabaco and in such other areas with classes still not suspended by their LCEs by tomorrow, the respective Local Chief Executives as Chairmen LDRRMC, and the DepEd authorities, have assured that they have their local contingency plans ready.

In order not to impede the access to health services during the transport strike, that maybe undermined by the transport strike, ambulances of LGUs, are on stand-by pre-positioned for disposition by the LCEs.

Residents are hereby advised to make household requirements ready Tauesday afternoon to avoid unnecessary movement by Wednesday.

Offices are not suspended, however, employees who cannot report being affected are considered excused but must file leave within reasonable time.

The PNP, BFP and other offices involved in emergency response are hereby directed to be on alert, on action in the interest of public safety.(PNA)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Water company faces closure for violating sanitation laws

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug.25 (PNA) --- A multimillion water supply firm operating in this city is facing a possible closure after the city government revoked on Monday the company’s business permit for violating the Sanitation Code of the Philippines.

City Mayor Geraldine Rosal on Monday revoked the permit of the Philippine Hydro (PhilHydro) Inc. based on the Department of Health (DOH) findings that the company violated provision of the Supplemental Implementing Rules and Regulations of Chapter II “Water Supply ” under PD 856.

Nestor Santiago, DOH regional director, said the agency found that PhilHydro committed at least three violations including failure to secure with the DOH an initial permit to develop drinking water supply system and the DOH Operational Permit.

PhilHydro is a company that signed an agreement with the Legazpi City Water District (LCWD) in March 2007 to supply bulk water that meets the Philippine National Standards for drinking water for a period of 25 years.

City Administrator Noel Rosal said consumers group and non-government organization complained that the water supplied by the LCWD, through PHilHydro facility, were murky and with foul odor.

He said the Sangguniang Panglunsod (SP) committee on Public Utility carried out an investigation and found that water samples tapped from four water pipe lines of the PhiHydro and six LCWD pipeline and six household water connections were tested by DOH and found positive of ecoli bacteria contamination.

They also complained about the high water rates imposed by the LCWD, including its poor service to consumers.

Rosal said that the SP conducted series of hearing and public consultation, where in the DOH validated that PhilHydro violated at least three provisions of the Water Sanitation Code of the Philippines.

Last June, the SP served a notice of violation and gave PhilHydro 60 days within which to comply with the DOH requirements. But the company failed until the deadline expired on Sunday.

As to alternative source of water, Rosal said the city government would look into exploring the 13 wells in Barangays Buyuan and Bunga.

PhilHydro, with a P500-million investment, supplies 600,000 cubic meters of potable water monthly to the LCWD where the water district delivers this clean water to 13,000 households here.

LCWD pays PhilHydro P8.1 million a month to supply the water district with 20,000 cubic meters of water per day or 600,000 cu. meters per month.

PhilHydro gets its water from the Yawa river, an 11 kilometer channel that connects from Mount Mayon gullies and slopes.(PNA)

DPWH okays P20.8-M more to fund construction of access road to Manta Ray Bowl in Masbate
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 25 (PNA) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has approved the release of some P20.8 million in additional fund for the construction of the main road leading to a prime eco-tourism destination in Masbate called the Manta Ray Bowl.

The fund approval came over the week as the DPWH Masbate engineering office started its P5-million road improvement project in the area.

The P5-million fund was earlier released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Masbate 1st District Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr.

The P20.8-million allocation is for the concreting and other improvements of an over one-kilometer national road from the Ticao Island entry point in San Fernando town to the now being improved Tacdugan access road that leads to the two main resorts along the shoreline of Ticao Pass in the nearby San Jacinto town that serve as base stations for manta ray bowl divers, mostly tourists.

DPWH regional director for Bicol Danilo Dequito said here on Thursday the project would be completed by November this year. The project would offer safe and convenient travel to motorists and tourists between the Ticao Island gateway and the jump-off point towards the Tacdugan Reef also known as the Manta Bowl of Ticao Pass, he said.

“This is part of the commitment made by DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson to President Benigno Aquino III to make all roads leading to tourism and economic growth areas in the country like the Manta Bowl concrete and convenient for motorists and tourists by 2014,” Dequito said.

The Bowl that lies between the island of Ticao and the southwestern section of Sorsogon province is considered a marine biologist’s paradise that serves as home to huge manta rays with wingspans up to eight meters. It has been gaining international popularity among local and foreign ocean diving aficionados and making the local tourism industry in the remote area of Ticao Island alive.

Manta rays (Manta Birostris) are the largest and most harmless rays in the world, found mostly in tropical warm waters. The manta’s cousin, sting ray, has a reputation worldwide to be dangerous because of the stinging spine on their tail used for defense.

The manta ray, on the other hand, does not have a stinging spine, instead they have a short tail which is simply part of its biological design, but not used for any defensive purpose. In fact, mantas that are known to be extremely curious animals often approach and solicit the attention of divers, but never known to attack.

Their intelligence is often attributed to their high ratio of brain weight to their body weight. They are believed to be one of the smarter sea creatures, although their intelligence has not yet been actively explored.

The large concentration of plankton in the Bowl also attracts schools of other rare and endangered marine species like barracuda, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks and different kinds of sting rays making underwater experiences for ocean diving enthusiasts more thrilling and exciting.

Meanwhile, Dequito said more projects for the infrastructure development of Masbate are underway this year with the recent approval by Singson of the realignment of P88-million road preventive maintenance fund for the province into the rehabilitation into concrete of the several road sections destroyed by recent typhoons.

The realignment, the DPWH regional chief said, would mean that instead of only patching with asphalt the damaged roads, it would be replaced with concrete for durability and additional convenience under Singson’s policy of “right project, right cost and right quality” in project implementations.

Masbate is among the countryside provinces of Bicol that the Aquino administration is giving priority attention for development based on his commitment stressed during his recent State of the Nation Address that “no one will be left behind” as the nation moves toward progress under his administration, Dequito aid.

The island province is considered the poorest among the six Bicol provinces and one of the less developed in the country despite its being a top producer of cattle, wide potentials as a tourist destination and investment hub and vast sites for agricultural productivity and food production given its rich fishing grounds and massive land area, he added. (PNA)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Local NFA chief assures enough rice supply

DAET, Camarines Norte, Aug. 24 (PNA) – The provincial manager of the National Food Authority (NFA) based here on Wednesday said the supply of rice in the province would be enough to last until the end of this year, making the possibility of importation remote.

“We have enough supply of rice in this province,” assured NFA provincial manager Jose Nieves as he discounted reports that there will be an increase of rice importation next year.

He said that the present buffer stocks of the grains agency in the province is at 137,400 bags of palay, 38,800 bags of rice and another 25,000 bags are being anticipated for shipment from the regional office based in Legazpi City, making the supply sufficient until the end of this year.

Likewise, he said the coming harvest season to start in September will also boast this inventory as the agency will again purchase palay that would serve as reserve stocks for next year to make the NFA rice at a government-subsidized price of P27.00 per kilo steadily available in any of its outlets in the province.

“We have eight Tindahan sa Parokya, 212 Bigasang Bayan, 58 Tindahan sa Palengke and five Bagsakan Centers across the province that serve as our local outlets,” Nieves said.

The latest harvest season that came shortly before typhoon Juaning ravaged the province saw bountiful harvest owing to the rice productivity support programs implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) that enhanced the local rice production, he said.

One of these support programs, Nieves said is the Rapid Seed Supply Financing Project (RSSFP) that provided farmers with subsidized certified seeds at P1,200 per bag of which P600 was charge to the project, P200 was charged to the provincial government, P100 to the local government concerned and only P300 was shouldered by the farmer beneficiary.

About 5,000 bags of certified seeds have been distributed to farmers in the province under this program during the period between May 16 and July 31 this year while 5,600 bags of the same varieties were distributed from September of last year to March 15 this year, he added.

Across Bicol, the regional office of the DA based in Pili, Camarines Sur over the week said the region will not experience rice shortage this year and until next year even as typhoons Juaning and Kabayan destroyed about P210-million worth of rice crops last month.

“That loses were only about seven percent of the total rice production of Bicol and could hardly affect the availability of supply in all localities of the region until the next supply comes both from local harvests and deliveries from the NFA central office in Manila,” according to DA regional executive director Jose Dayao.

He said that the stocks kept by NFA are already more than enough to feed Bicolanos in the next months until the next supply comes adding that local rice farmers have already harvested their crops produced within the latest six-months production period before the typhoons came. (PNA)

Albay spends P500,000 for health services

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 24 (PNA) -- Albay has spent over half a billion pesos for health services for the past four years, making the province a top performer in the country’s universal health program and in carrying the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on health care.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the province had invested in health care services since 2007 with P533 million making health services available to some 472,372 poor residents across the province.

Of the P533 million health expenditures, P101.6 million was spent in 2007; P122.6 million in 2008; P158 million in 2009 and P173.2 million last year.

Salceda said 24 percent of the province's yearly Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is earmarked for health services.

Salceda said with this health investment, the province was certified by the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) as among the top performers in the implementation of the universal health coverage in the country.

In 2010, Albay province paid the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) P60 million for PhilHealth coverage but PhilHealth reimbursement to the Bicol Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH) reached P127 million. Of these, P67 million were for hospital income, P17 million for drugs and medicines and P42 million for professional fees. (PNA)

Lagman says RH and national budget bills deserve equal priority

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 24 (PNA) -– Albay representative and Minority leader Edcel Lagman has called on Congress to give the Reproductive Health Bill (RHB) equal billing with the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) as priority measures because the former complements the latter.

“No amount of trillions of appropriations will be adequate if the increase in the national budget is eroded by an inordinate population growth because parents, couples and women are not fully afforded the right to responsibly and freely determine the number and spacing of their children,” the opposition congressman who principally authored the RHB said in a statement here Wednesday.

The priority enactment of the RHB, he said was recently given presidential imprimatur and has been included as one of the additional priority bills of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Lagman said that the complementarity of the RHB and the GAB are clear in the major instances such as, one, quality education will always be hampered by huge backlogs in classrooms, teachers and textbooks as the annual escalation of school enrollment outpaces the budget for education.

Two, he said healthcare expenditures will continue to rise if maternal and infant morbidity and mortality are not reduced because reproductive health information and services are not accessible to the marginalized and disadvantaged sectors.

The third major instance cited by Lagman is that despite budgetary allocations and incentives for job generation, the problems of unemployment and underemployment will defy solution if the huge number of annual entrants to the manpower pool remains unchecked.

Worldwide studies also show that excessive population growth bloats the unemployment rate and debases wage rates, he said.

Lastly, Lagman said, the appropriation for the protection of the environment and the containment of climate change is rendered deficient as the environment becomes the casualty of population influx and the country’s carrying capacity is impaired by unbridled population growth. (PNA)

PhilHealth readies e-claims system in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, August 23 (PNA) - Electronic transactions between accredited hospitals and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will soon be available in Bicol as the state-run health insurance service provider embarks on its “E-Claims Project” directed toward on-line submission of claims.

Veronica Mateum, the PhilHealth regional director on Tuesday said the agency recognizes the role of technology to better serve its members and will continue to strengthen its partnership and linkages with health care services providers utilizing on-line transactions under its thrust of improving operational efficiency through information and communication technology.

Earlier this month, the PhilHealth regional office for Bicol here initiated an orientation on the implementation of the first phase of the project to health care services providers whose applications for inclusion into the electronic system were already approved.

Phase I of the E-Claims Project, according to Mateum is the Claims Eligibility Web Service (CEWS) which aims to reduce the number of Return-to-Hospital (RTH) claims, adding that with this utility in place, the participating hospitals can verify in real time the eligibility of a member to avail of his benefits, as they link with the PhilHealth database.

The parameters for eligibility which can be verified through the CEWS are member’s name and date of birth, declared dependents, contribution eligibility and the 40-five day limit for room and board allowance for members and dependents.

Initially, the Hospitals in Bicol that have the technology capability and were able to meet the requirements for the CEWS to be functional and already set to carry out the system, Mateum said are the Estevez Memorial Hospital and Tanchuling Hospital in this city and the St. John Hospitals in Naga City and Goa, Camarines Sur.

The Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, Albay Doctors Hospital, Dr. Amando D. Cope Memorial Hospital, Inc. in Albay province as well as the Bicol Medical Center, USI-Mother Seton Hospital, Sta. Maria Josefa Hospital Foundation Inc. in Camarines Sur have also applied for inclusions and their capabilities are already being assessed, she said.

The PhilHealth regional office had also received the applications of the MMG Hospital and Health Service Cooperative in Sorsogon City and Sto. Niño Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camarines Norte, Mateum said.

With the availability of the CEWS and eventually the phase II which is Electronic Claims Submission (ECS), members are assured that the processing time for PhilHealth claims would certainly be shorter as long as there are no deficiencies with the prescribed documents and their eligibilities to claim are established, she said.

“For the record, PhilHealth-Bicol is one of the few regions that have no backlog in claims processing. We have an average of 22 days turn-around-time for the processing of claims, a period much shorter than the 30-45 days prescribed by the law.” Mateum added. (PNA)

DA seeks younger generation of farmers in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 23 (PNA) – Bicol needs younger generation farmers to take over farms being left idle by those that have been overtaken by old age, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

“The number of aging Bicolano farmers is inevitably growing while the number of their younger counterparts is drastically falling. This situation is taking its toll on the productivity of the region’s agricultural sector that so far has not been able to draw love from the youth,” DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said here over the week.

As a consequence, Dayao said more and more farm lands are being left idle as the elderly retires from attending to them due to disabilities without transferring their commitment, farming skills and techniques to their next generations.

Roughly 30 percent of Bicol’s more than one million workforce in the farm and fishery sectors are already senior citizens with ages ranging between 60 and 80 years old while only a significantly small number of young, unskilled men are showing inclination towards farming.

Majority of these young people from the barrios prefer working in cities and other urban centers as they find farming a less dignified craft, the DA regional chief said.

The present situation is not yet very alarming however, as the region agricultural manpower, backed up by government support and the development of modern farming technologies can still manage to sustain the sector’s productivity and even achieving remarkable growths but Dayao said “we need to anticipate based on the prevailing trend that is leading to farm workers shortfall”.

Bicol had nearly one million hectares of agricultural lands whose larger portions are devoted to the production of rice with a total of nearly 155,000 hectares; coconut, 651,571 hectares; and corn, 107,000 hectares. The rest are into vegetables, root crops, abaca and pili and other fruit trees plantations, he said.

“For rice alone, we were still able to produce about 1.3 million metric tons last year and seeing significant growth this year. The coconut sector manned by over 290,000 farmers, on the other hand remains steadfast in its production of about 2.2 billion nuts per year that is 21 percent of the national total production,” according to Dayao.

Meanwhile, of the region’s 99 municipalities and seven cities, 94 cover a total of 1,067 coastal barangays that make fishery a major industry involving about 50,000 fishermen is still accounting for an average yearly production of 280,000 metric tons from commercial, municipal and aquaculture fisheries, Dayao said.

This sector too is already being confronted by shortage of manpower due to aging fisherman population, he said.

One remedy to avert an imminent shortage of agricultural workers in the region and eventually food scarcity, he said is to make agriculture-related courses in colleges more attractive to students “so that we are able to produce young graduates that would go back to the barrios after graduation to fill up the vacancies that would be left by their retiring parents”. (PNA)

Prov’l gov’t maintains monopoly of hospital operations in Catanduanes
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Aug. 23 (PNA) – This province, the smallest in Bicol region with a total population of only about 235,000, maintains seven public hospitals strategically distributed among its 11 municipalities.

This is exceptional in terms of providing cheap, accessible and efficient public health services when compared with all the other bigger five Bicol provinces as Albay, that is composed of three cities and 15 municipalities with a total population of about 1.2 million.

It was supposed to be six, but the former Albay Provincial Hospital is now the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital after it was taken over by the Department of Health (DOH) about 10 years ago. At least 31 private hospitals operate in the province, though.

Camarines Sur, Bicol largest province of 35 towns and two cities with a total of 1.8 million population, operates only three district hospitals while its provincial hospital has also been taken over by the national government and now called the Bicol Medical Center. About 20 private hospitals exist in the province.

Sorsogon province, with a population of about 900,000, has four provincial government-owned hospital; Masbate, with population of over 800,000 also has four and Camarines Norte of nearly 700,000 people, three. These provinces on the other hand, play host to nine, 13 and 10 private hospitals respectively.

“What makes Catanduanes different from those other Bicol provinces that are bigger, richer and more populated is that our provincial government has seven public hospitals while only two less-equipped and smaller private hospitals catering to the needs of demanding patients are operating here,” Provincial Health Officer Hazel Palmes said over the weekend.

The province keeps health services efficient, affordable and accessible for the people of Catanduanes especially the poor that comprise the majority that is why the provincial government is maintaining this ‘virtual monopoly’ of hospital operations, Palmes said.

Apart from the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) here, which was formerly called the Catanduanes Provincial Hospital, the province also runs the Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital in San Andres town, Bato Maternity and Children’s Hospital (BMCH) in the municipality of Bato and four other district hospitals located in the towns of Caramoran, Viga, Gigmoto and Pandan.

The district hospitals in the adjoining municipalities of San Andres and Caramoran cover a total of about 62,000 population in the entire western coastal section of the province while the similar facility in the next town of Pandan that sits at the extreme north coastline is for its population of more than 20,000 and that of Bagamanoc with population of some 12,000, Palmes said.

The district hospital in Viga town at the province’s mid-eastern portion is assigned for its over 20,000 population and that of its neighboring town of Panganiban of about 11,000 people while patients from the next towns of Gigmoto, Baras and San Miguel with around 9,000; 13,000 and 14,000 population respectively are assigned to the Gigmoto District Hospital, she said.

The BMCH, which is located just four kilometers southeast of this provincial capital, on the other hand, attends to maternity and pediatric cases from within Bato town of about 20,000 population and its neighboring municipalities of Baras and San Miguel.

All these public hospitals are manned by competent resident physicians who are accredited by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and provided with ambulances recently obtained by the provincial government through Cua as a grant from the Spanish government’s Agencia Española de Cooperacion International para el Desarollo (AECID), Palmes said. (PNA)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Salceda vows to equip newly-opened Bicol Cancer Center with modern apparatus
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) – Albay Governor Joey Salceda has assured the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) here of assistance from the provincial government in its effort to provide services to cancer patients in the region by providing its newly opened cancer center with modern therapy equipments.

Established here as the Albay Provincial Hospital in 1918 under the administration of the provincial government, BRTTH - which has been taken over by the national government and placed under the supervision of the Department of Health (DOH) about 15 years ago to widen its coverage into a regional scope - is the oldest and most modern government hospital in Bicol.

Under its roof, the Bicol Regional Cancer Center (BRCC) along with its Breast Cancer Unit (BCU), the first and only medical service facilities of its kind in the region was opened over the weekend to offer diagnosis and treatment for cancer cases. With this, Salceda said patients from all parts of the region need not go to Manila for these services.

It will provide a holistic management from diagnostic to state of the art treatment for the less fortunate Bicolano patients, Salceda said as he commended BRTTH medical director Rogelio Rivera for being able to fast track the realization of the establishment of the center in a very short time and maintaining a strong linkage with its partners.

“We will purchase before the end of this year mammography and chemotherapy apparatus for the BRCC and by early next year, we will source out fund to buy the more costly radio therapy equipment to treat patients at a very much lower cost compared to the traditional chemotherapy treatment,” Salceda on Monday said.

The BRCC is actually a brainchild of the Albay governor which he and BRTTH Rivera pursued and realized in partnership with the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City and the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care, Inc. (PFBCI).

EAMC is a premier government medical institution that provides specialized quality tertiary level health care, training to medical and allied health care professionals and conducting relevant and bioethical researchers for the improvement of health care delivery.

The EAMC is fully committed in providing the necessary assistance to the BRCC to make it a truly effective cancer treatment hub in Bicol, Dr. Roland Cortez, the former’s medical director who was around during the latter’s opening at the BRTTH.

PFBCI on the other hand is an EAMC-based non-profit, volunteer-based organization serving mostly indigent patients. It is the only non-government organization (NGO) support group in the country that operates and manages a Breast Care Center and mammography system which considered as the best screening tool that can detect breast cancer at its earliest stage.

Rivera said that apart from offering diagnostic, management and treatment of cancer cases, the BRCC and BCU will also function as fronts for cancer prevention advocacy by way of promoting healthy lifestyle that include anti-cigarette smoking among Bicolanos.

In its diagnostic function, he said the Center will provide comprehensive medical examinations for early detection of cancer risks especially on women who experience early and late menstruation and men who are in their 50s.

Aside from the lung cancer which is the number one killer among smokers, men 50 years and above must submit to rectal examination because Rivera said, colorectal cancer cases have been going up. (PNA)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pacquiao to build a vacation villa in a luxury resort in Albay

BACACAY, Albay, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is set to buy a 1,000-square meter lot worth P12 million and build a vacation villa at the luxury Misibis Bay Resort, an island resort in this town.

Pacquiao, awed by the luxurious resort that is a 25- minute ride from Legazpi City, said he intends to build a villa in this plush resort in Albay wherein he and his family could take a break after grueling schedules in the House of Congress and boxing bouts.

“I like this place, it's beautiful and very private. Upon my arrival here on Thursday, I was able to sleep for a straight 16 hours,” he said.

“I’d like to build a small vacation villa here so that I can frequently visit Albay,” Pacquiao said.

Impressed by the resorts facilities, Pacquiao and wife Jinky toured the five-hectare resort at Cagraray Island in Bacacay town in Albay.

Elizaldy Co, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Sunwest Group of Corporation that operates Misibis Bay Resort, Embarcadero Mall and string of luxury hotels here and in Manila, offered Pacquiao a 1,000 sq. meter lot at the resort's retirement and vacation village.

The Pacquiao couple and some members of the Team Pacquiao, led by Boboy Fernandez, his boxing trainer, who is a resident of Polangui, Albay, flew in on Thursday on board a private plane.

His presence was on the invitation of his colleagues in Congress AKB Party list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara and others.

Pacquiao, in an interview at the resort, said the province has a lot to offer with beautiful sceneries which would be a remarkable tourism destination.

“Despite being a typhoon-prone area, still the area remains impressively scenic and attractive,” he said, adding he would promote Albay in various trips abroad.

On Thursday, Pacquiao visited Mt. Mayon’s lava dome at Barangay Mabinit in Legazpi City.

Pacquiao ended his tour here Monday and left for General Santos City. (PNA)

Albay braces for floods, landslides as strong LPA, ITCZ trigger heavy rains

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- The Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Council (PDRRMC) is on heightened alert Monday and places the province under state of preparedness as a Low Pressure Area (LPA) embedded along the Inter Tropical Converge Zone (ITCZ) was located and moving towards Borongan, Samar, this would bring heavy rains and trigger flash floods and landslides in low-lying areas and mountain slopes in Albay.

The Philippine Atmospheric and Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) issued an LPA advisory on Sunday at 11:00AM warning disaster coordinating councils that both weather system will bring scattered rainshowers and thunderstorm in Central and Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

PAGASA advised various disaster coordinating councils to closely monitor the development of this weather disturbance.

The two weather disturbance (LPA/ITCZ) may likely become a Tropical Depression within 24-48 hours, located at 515km East-South-East of Borongan, Samar.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Monday issued a PDRRMC advisory, placing the province on disaster preparedness and directed 15 MDRRMC and three CDRRMC to be on 24-hour watch and to be ready to operationalize their respective flood and landslide evacuation plan.

The local government units of Polangui, Oas, Libon and Malinao to speed up their sandbagging and preposition these sandbags in low lying areas always affected by flooding.

At the onset of heavy rains villagers are warned not the cross swelling rivers and for residents living along mountain slopes to be on alert for possible landslides.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Public Works and Highways were directed to preposition their trucks, rubberboats and other equipment for use in times of evacuation and relief operations. (PNA)

Bicol region readies evacuation plans due to LPA
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 21 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered all local government units in the province, especially those in the flood and landslide prone areas, to get ready to implement their respective evacuation plans due to new Low Pressure Area (LPA) in Catarman, Samar that moves slowly towards the southern Bicol.

Salceda said that the LPA might intensify into a storm.

"Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council is in close monitoring.This climate hazard, which surfaced and originated nearer than usual, will be further aggravated by the heightened exposure of families and communities as well as farms to risks of casualties, injuries and loss of properties after Juaning destroyed almost 90% of river control," he said.

The Albay PDRRMC placed the province under alert status to step up countermeasures to the rising threat of rainfall hazards.

Salceda said the local governments of Polangui, Malinao, Oas and Libon and their barangays should speed up the sandbagging since rehab can not be done overnight."The National Food Authority has already allocated 35 thousand used sacks each for Oas, Libon and Polangui and 20 thousand for Malinao."

"Evacuation plans and preparations for flood-prone and landslide-prone barangays should now be put into operation," Salceda said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Public Works and Highways and provincial Engineering office of Albay are hereby ordered to preposition mobility assets in first and 3rd districts of the province.

"The public is enjoined not to cross rivers and flooded waters," Salceda said.

All component units of local disaster risk reduction management councils (down to barangay level) were ordered to monitor PAG-ASA bulletins, Mines and Geoscience Bureau issuances and provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council advisories.

The governor also ordered that all action/response teams must be on standby and on call for activation.

"The Infoboard will regularly release updates to local DRRMCs and media outlets for public awareness of developments," he said. (PNA)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Japan, RP ink P404-M full grant for Albay emergency evacuation centers
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 19 (PNA) – The Philippine Government through the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have signed the grant agreement as an emergency shelter assistance for the construction of emergency evacuation centers in the province of Albay.

Abundio Nuñez Jr., of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) said the signing of the grant agreement was held in Manila, August 18. “The project was conceptualized by the provincial government through the Albay Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council to establish a permanent evacuation center in every town and city in Albay,” he noted.

The emergency evacuation centers will be constructed starting next year in the municipalities of Manito, Sto. Domingo, Libon, Oas, Polangui and in Legazpi City.

The evacuation centers will have dual purposes. Aside from being an evacuation center during emergencies or disasters it will be used as a class rooms on ordinary days.

“Aside from a multi-hazard evacuation center, it is a gender-sensitive facility,” Nuñez said.

Aside from being a gender sensitive, the evacuation center will adhere to the principle of universal right-based facility for emergency. This means that the structural design has complied with the needs of vulnerable groups like for people with disabilities, children, elders and women.

The evacuation center is complete with basic facilities including an emergency power supply.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda explained that emergency shelters are places for people to live temporarily when they can't live in their previous residence, similar to homeless shelters due to disasters. “The main difference is that an emergency shelter typically specializes in people fleeing a specific type of situation, such as natural or man-made disasters, domestic violence, or victims of sexual abuse.”

A more minor difference is that people staying in emergency shelters are more likely to stay all day, except for work, school, or errands, while homeless shelters usually expect people to stay elsewhere during the day, returning only to sleep or eat. Emergency shelters sometimes facilitate support groups, and/or provide meals.

“Providing emergency shelter during disasters and emergencies is a basic way of carrying out this duty,” Salceda said

According to him, the emergency evacuation center will ensure safety, food, services, comfort, information, a place to sleep until it is safe to return home, and the support and assistance of family, friends, and neighbors. (PNA)

Survey says Filipinos satisfied with PhilHealth services and benefits under Aquino administration
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, August 19 (PNA) – A greater number of Filipinos who are aware of the government’s health insurance program are satisfied with the services and benefits being provided by the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the agency’s top Bicol official said here on Friday.

PhilHealth regional director Veronica Mateum said results of the 2nd quarter Social Weather Stations (SWS) nationwide survey conducted from June 3-6, 2011 showed that 77 percent of respondents who were aware of the program were satisfied while nine percent were undecided and 11 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction score of +66.

“In SWS’ terms, the net satisfaction rating under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is ‘very good’ and is higher than Philhealth’s net score of +57 in May 2005,” Mateum said, quoting the same survey.

She said that the same survey also showed that the agency’s net satisfaction rating in terms of its support and protection to its members and dependents remained very good at +67 in June 2011, up from +60 in February 2009.

The survey also noted that 99 percent of members, 98 percent of dependents and 93 percent of non-members are aware of at least one of the agency’s services and benefits.

She said that awareness of any of PhilHealth’s services by the members, dependents and non-members increased, compared with its rating two years ago.

The most significant increase however, was noted among non-members who were aware of the program where it rose from 54 percent in February 2009 to 93 percent in June 2011 as the study showed, Mateum said.

“This development is very significant as this indicates a growing interest among non-members on the benefits that may be availed of from the National Health Insurance Program and persuading them to enlist themselves to avail of it would not be difficult,” she stressed.

When asked in the survey what their top sources of information on PhilHealth were, 40 percent cited television while 33 percent said they learned about it from friends and acquaintances and 30 percent from other members of their families, Mateum said.

The other sources of information mentioned were their own experience, PhilHealth personnel, radio, newspaper, barangay officials, brochures, leaflets, pamphlets, employers and government officials.

“We are happy about the results of the recent SWS survey and I would like to assure our members and other stakeholders in Bicol that we will continue to improve on our service delivery mechanism as an embodiment of true public service,” she said, adding that “survey results like these only strengthen our resolve to do better, and we are committed to do just that.”

Meanwhile, in Camarines Norte, provincial Governor Edgardo Tallado expressed satisfaction with the recently conducted PhilHealth registration activity under its Sponsored Program that initially enlisted as new members about 52,000 of his “not-so-poor” constituents.

These new members who were taken in during the province-wide registration were those families that were not included in the National Household Targeting System of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that identifies the poorest-of-the poor families qualified into the free membership under the earlier conducted PhilHealth Sabado registration program.

Tallado said the provincial government has provided an amount of P18 million to shoulder the one-year contributions of these new members in an effort to provide all families in the province with health insurance coverage in accordance with President Aquino’s universal health care program.

In his Executive Order No. (EO) 10 issued on October 2 last year, 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 enrollment in PhilHealth should be ensured.

The 1987 Constitution, the President said in the EO “directs the State to adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all Filipinos at affordable cost”. (PNA)

Paje lauds Sorsogon City’s solid waste management plans; Chiz vows fund assistance

SORSOGON CITY, Aug. 19 (PNA) — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje has expressed satisfaction with the proposed solid waste management program of the city government, for which Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero assured fund assistance in its implementation.

Under the program launched over the week, city mayor Leovic Dioneda said the city government will establish a new and modern material recovery facility (MRF) and an Ecology Park, both of which are necessary for the local government to fully implement its Solid Waste Management Program (SWMP) in compliance with Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

To ensure the protection of public health and the environment, the Act provides for the adoption of a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program of which, local government units (LGUs) are primarily being held responsible for its implementation within their respective jurisdictions. Administrative sanctions await LGU officials who would fail to comply.

These two projects, which would be finally implemented following a commitment made by Escudero that he will provide financial assistance, are also part of the city government’s commitment to answer the global call for climate change and adaptation, Dioneda said.

The senator who hails from this city is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources said during the project’s launching rites here that the city government’s efforts to come up with the needed programs as an answer to effects and challenges of climate change are laudable and worthy of support from the national government.

“Rest assured that through my office, we will be supporting the city in this program," Escudero said.

Paje who was also present during the launching ceremonies said the solid waste management initiatives the city government is undertaking specially in the putting up of the MRF will not only address waste management but also provide additional livelihood through the recyclable materials recovered that could be sold to scrap dealers.

“I am personally impressed by all the details of the implementation of the city’s SWMP and the design of the MRF and benefits to the environment that could be derived from the Eco-Park it is establishing,” Paje said, adding that all technical assistance that the LGU would need from the DENR for these projects would be provided.

Paje who is also a Bicolano being a native of Guinobatan, Albay was signatory in behalf of the DENR to the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into with the city government represented by Dioneda and the Senate Committee on Environment headed by Escudero formalizing the assistance to the implementation of the projects.

The DENR chief turned over to the city a one-tonner shedder which he said is part of his commitment to support technically its SWMP. The equipment would be used in the processing of bio-degradable waste collected by the MRF into organic fertilizers to be supplied to the Eco-Park where trees would be grown.

Both facilities will be established in a vast property at the outskirt of the city starting this month, according to Dioneda.

Meanwhile, the Sorsogon provincial government has started over the week its preparations for the formulation of a 10-year Ecological Solid Waste Management Plan (ESWMP) for LGUs in the province.

Provincial environment and natural resources officer Maribeth Fruto said the preparations started with the orientation and training of personnel who would work on the Plan focused not only on establishment of landfills but also on the putting up of appropriate disposal facilities based on the financial capabilities of the LGUs.

The ESWMP, Fruto said would help Sorsogon LGUs in complying with RA 9003 given that according to recent report of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), none so far of the province’s 14 towns had complied. (PNA)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First cancer and breast care center in Bicol now operational
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) – The first cancer and breast care center in Bicol region is now operational and ready to cater to all cancer patients from Albay and the other provinces of Bicol Region.

The facility is located at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) which will operate in partnership with East Avenue Medical Center, Philippine Foundation for Breast Care, Provincial Government of Albay and Department of Health.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that the facility will serve all cancer related services except radio therapy. “This facility can now handle all cancer and breast care treatment protocol.”

“This cancer center is not limited to Albayanos alone, other patients from neighboring provinces are welcome to avail of the services here,” Salceda said.

Salceda said that the establishment of an oncology center in BRTTH was conceptualized in 2009 and it was included in the priority agenda of the Department of Health during the Arroyo administration.

Governor Salceda also said that starting next year, the local government will implement the modernization of all rural health units and city health offices. “This is to reduce the clients of tertiary hospitals.”

Dr. Butch Rivera, BRTTH director, said that as part of the partnership with East Avenue Medical Center, their cancer experts will conduct regular hospital and patient visits including the training of BRTTH personnel.

According to him, the three leading cases in BRTTH are leukemia, ovary and breast cancers. “This time we have the capability to handle treatment of cancers here,” he said.

From 2010 to June 2011, BRTTH has recorded 780 cases of different cancers.

Dr. Rivera said that the center offers low cost medical care. “This means that regardless of economic condition of a cancer patient, he or she can still avail of the services.”

“Cancer patients need not to go to Manila for their treatment because the facility is already here where medical experts are available,” Dr. Rivera added. (PNA)

Albay governor Joey Salceda, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital director Dr. Butch Rivera and Dr. Roland Cortez, director of East Avenue Medical Center inked the MoA on partnership operation of newly established Cancer and Breast Care centers. The facility is the first oncology center in Bicol region located at BRTTH which will serve to all cancer patients.(PNA Photo by Mike dela Rama)

MGB clears Masbate mining firm of environmental violations

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) - Environment authorities here have allayed the fears of residents in a mining town of Masbate that the Filminera Resources Corp. operating an open pit mining operation poses no threats to life, livelihood and public health in Aroroy town in Masbate as the mining firm strictly follows environmental standard set by the government.

Clearing the Masbate Gold Project operated by Filminera Resource Corp. for committing any violation of environmental standard was the result of the recent investigation by Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) as requested by the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Aroroy and the Association of Concerned Citizens of Aroroy (ACCA).

In separate resolutions, the SB and ACCA asked Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to direct the MGB to conduct a full blown investigation on the open pit mining operations of the Filminera mining which they said endangers the environment and lives of residents in the area.

They claim that the mining operation would destroy rivers and other tributaries causing widespread floods and landslides and endangering the lives and properties of residents in the town.

The ACCA said toxic mine tailing from the mining sites would infect the soil and mangroves, killing the main livelihood of residents, and fearing that the town may soon become a ghost town, barren and harmful to human habitation.

The Filminera Resources Corp, a mining firm with two Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) issued by the DENR-MGB is authorized to operate a large scale mining operation and open pit mining.

The company mines gold at a 419.6 hectares land in Aroroy town in Masbate.

Reynulfo Juan, MGB regional technical director, said the investigation indicates that the water source in the area is not contaminated and conforms to DENR water standards.

He said that based on the monitoring conducted by Multi-Partite Monitoring Team the water quality for physical properties (dissolved oxygen, pH, Total Dissolved Solids, Total Suspended Solids, Oil and Grease and Cyanide) and chemical properties for dissolved metals for fourteen (14) sampling points conform to DENR standards.

On the concern regarding the construction of the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF), the design was made to conform with local conditions and in accordance with internationally accepted standards, while the TSF is regularly monitored to confirm if it is built to the design parameters of the structure.

Juan said the structure is built specifically to contain the tailings and not for these to go on the environment. There is also adequate capacity to prevent any spill. (PNA)

Dengue cases down in Camarines Norte

DAET, Camarines Norte, Aug. 18 (PNA) – Dengue cases in the province have been significantly reduced during the first period of this year and local health authorities attributed this positive development to the unrelenting government campaign to place the deadly mosquito-borne virus under control.

Jocelyn Iraola, the provincial health team leader of the Department of Health (DOH) in the province, on Thursday here said that the province registered only seven dengue cases from January to May this year and none from June to the first two weeks of August.

“We call it a success of the campaign initiated by both the DOH and local authorities in abating the spread of the disease by way of applying the 4-S Strategy-- Search and destroy, self-protective measures, Seek early treatment and Say no to indiscriminate fogging in all vulnerable communities,” Iraola said.

Almost all barangays in the province adopted this strategy starting early this year that practically controlled the production of dengue-carrying mosquitoes, she said.

Last year, Iraola said a total of 410 dengue cases were reported in the 12 municipalities of the province.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) distributed ovicidal-larvacidal (OL) mosquito trap to several communities in the province identified as dengue-prone three months ago also helped significantly in the control of aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the dengue virus, Iraola said.

The OL trap which was developed by the DOST’s Industrial Technology and Development Institute (ITDI) is a simple, low technology tool that attracts female mosquitoes to lay their eggs on the soaked lawanit strip inside the container. The dark-colored container and the use of organic material in the trap pellets serve as strong attractants to mosquitoes.

“We are also anticipating this month the arrival of the mosquito traps for schools in the province based on the partnership between the DOST and Department of Education (DepEd) that provides for its distribution of an initial of 2,800 kits to priority barangays in Bicol that hopefully will further help in totally addressing the dengue menace,” according to Iraola. (PNA)

Jobless Albayanos to be tapped as climate change workers

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17 (PNA) – Albay has a "veritable army" of jobless graduates, which could be deployed to teach communities, especially those in remote villages, about climate adaptation, according to an advocate that heads a special office under the office of the governor of the province.

Centre for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) executive director Manuel C. Rangasa said on Wednesday that his office is considering to create a project depending on the go signal from funding agencies such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) the Agencia Espanola de Cooperaccion Internacional Para El Desarrollo (AECID), the provincial government of Albay and other line agencies.

“The same idea also came up during during the First Philippine Councilors Summit on Climate Change here on Saturday,” Rangasa said.

Setting an example, Albay has set up financing for disaster-risk management systems, built permanent relocation sites and trained residents to follow evacuation protocol.

Rangasa said tapping jobless college graduates for an information drive in exchange for subsidy or minimum salaries could help local governments reach remotest villages for their CBA programs.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda, recently cited by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philippines as winner for the 2011 CEO EXCEL Award, a prestigious honor given annually to top-level-business executives and organization leaders in private, government and non-profit sectors, said information is vital to the poor, who are “more sensitive to the [impact] of climate change.”

Unlike the rich and the middle class, the poor are the most sensitive to climate change related calamities and disasters yet they are also the quickest to adapt. They are not tied to material wealth like their rich counterparts so if a calamity displaces them, they can move on quickly,” she said.

Albay tops the list of 20 provinces which are vulnerable to disasters brought by climate change. (PNA)

Azkals visits Albay for a break

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17 (PNA) -- “I have never dated a Filipina, maybe in the future I might go into a relationship but right now I am more focused on playing good football,” this was the assertion by Jason Sabio, one of the five Philippine Azkals that visited this city.

Sabio, in an interview, said he looks forward to having a relationship with a Filipina but he was quick to say that this (relationship) would be set aside because he is concentrated more on playing football.

Sabio, 25, single, a Filipino-American from Alabama, USA, with Filipino parents, his father is from Marikina while his mother is from Koronadal, South Cotabato in Mindanao.

Asked if the group failure to get the World Cup Football qualifying was because they were more involved in socializing with celebrities rather than training well for the competition, he flatly denied the allegation, saying that the team worked hard and remains focused.

He claimed that despite the two months rigid training, the Kuwait team was very strong for us to handle.

“Despite the upset, our team remained focused and played with one goal,” Sabio said.

Asked what’s in store for the Philippine Dragon Boat Team having won five gold medals in the United States International Boat competition without any government support, he said government support would not come quickly.

He said “in 2004 when the Azkals started our team and the Philippine Dragon Boat team were on the same boat, we had no support from the government but as we moved on, government and private support came in.”

“As the team grew and football was considered one of the country’s national as well as international sports events, private sponsorship and government support and recognition came in,” he said

Sabio, together with Ricardo Becite, Nate Burkey, Patrick Ace Bright and Richard Pacana, including the crew of Sports Unlimited, arrived here for a three-day holiday.

The team visited Embarcadero Mall and tried the malls Zipline and Go-Cart raising ground, then they trek the famous Lignon Hill where one can view the entire city.

The team would stay for a day at the Misibis Bay Resort and luxury island resort in Bacacay, Albay.

The Azkals' two-day stay at the Misibis Resort would be hosted by Zaldy Co, president and CEO of the Sunwest Group, a corporation that operates the Misibis Bay Resort, Embarcadero Mall and hotels Venezia and Saint Ellis here.

The Azkals return to action in the Long Teng Cup starting September 28 in Taiwan. The team will be a mix of the seniors team and the Under-23 squad preparing for the Indonesia Southeast Asian Games in November.

The Azkals saw their World Cup qualifying run end last July 28 when they lost to Kuwait, 1-5, on aggregate in the second round.

Still, they already made history by reaching the second round after beating Sri Lanka in their first World Cup qualifying tie in close to 10 years. (PNA)

Diarrhea outbreak kills 2 in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17 (PNA) – Health authorities have expressed alarm over the resurgence of the diarrhea outbreak in the capital town of Albay a month after a similar incidence took place in another village.

Assistant Provincial Health Officer Nathaniel Rempillo said Wednesday morning that he received an order from Albay Governor Joey Salceda to send a health assessment team to Barangay Lacag in Daraga, Albay after a diarrhea outbreak already killed two elderly residents and sent 15 others for admission to the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH).

Rempillo identified the first victims as Maria Napulis, 84, and the second was sixty-six-year old Reynaldo Amaranto who ate something during the wake of Napulis, resident of Sitio Sulang last Tuesday.

Salceda said 25 cases were also reported in Malinao as well as another 13 cases in Polangui. Both towns were heavily flooded when tropical storm “Juaning” dumped more than 600mm of rainfall from August 25 to 26.

The governor also sent a water purifier and a water lorry to the affected towns after flash floods destroyed the affected towns' water sources.

“We have already conducted an epidemiological study at Barangay Lacag to assess the cause of outbreak," Rempillo said during an interview at his office Wednesday morning.

A health team found out that the open well where the residents get their drinking water was about five meters from an old septic tank.

Rempillo also said that Oresols and antibiotics were already distributed to the affected municipalities while the cases are monitored closely.

“We are also waiting for the water analysis results at the BRTTH laboratory so we will know the causative organism,”Rempillo added.

On the other hand, Daraga town Mayor Gerry Jaucian appealed to his constituents to boil their drinking water to get rid of waterborne diseases.

Cases similar to Lacag also occurred a month ago at Barangay Gapo of the same municipality. (PNA)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

After saving Philippine flag from typhoon, windfalls flood Albay heroine
By Danny O. Calleja

MALINAO, Albay, Aug. 16 (PNA) – She never dreamed for fame nor gifts from strangers, but 12-year-old Janela Lelis’ bravery in rescuing a Philippine flag amidst high waters and strong wind at the height of tropical storm Juaning had gained her public admiration, some expressed through windfalls of humanitarian donations.

A six-grader at the Malinao Central School in this third class lowland municipality, Lelis, by braving the hip-deep rampaging flood waters was able to save the national flag left on its pole when classes were abruptly suspended as the storm was starting to batter the place in the middle of the day.

She, however, lost to the flood her home where she stayed with her 19-year-old brother and sickly grandmother who has single-handedly raised them both since the death of their father when she was only nine-month old. Their mother left them over 10 years ago, and they never heard about her since then.

Somebody captured on camera the scene as the six-grader girl was battling the strong current of the flood waters and strong winds while carrying on a short pole the fully spread flag over her head down to her back and on the next day, the image appeared on YouTube and lifted by several web sites to spread the good news about her act of heroism.

It promptly reached Malacañang and President Benigno Aquino III commended the act with Presidential spokesperson Abegail Valte saying “it was an indication of something greater that resides on a person”. A tribute would be arranged for the girl, Valte announced in a recent radio interview in Manila.

More words of adulation were posted on the web, published by newspapers and said in radio and televisions but Lelis only heard about them from her teachers and classmates. She would only flash a smile in acknowledgement of the kind words.

Humbly, “it is my duty and of every Filipino to protect the flag because it represents our country. For us here in our school, the Philippine flag is sacred that we even do not allow it to touch the ground or contract dirt”, she told the Philippines News Agency in the local dialect when interviewed at her school on Tuesday.

The girl was wearing a new set of school uniform and new yellow rubber slippers while her school things were also new. “I lost all my belongings to the flood that swept away our house and everything in it. Some people known to me only after I saved the flag bought all these new things for me,” she narrated.

Lelis’ teacher-adviser Maritess Kallos said Pinoy Power Coalition of Volunteers (PPBCV) president Ofelia Samar-Sy, accompanied by Department of Education (DepEd) regional director Orfelina Tuy and some other local school officials came to the school last week to meet Lelis.

On Saturday, Sy brought the girl to Legazpi City for a shopping spree at a posh mall where all her new school uniforms and school supplies were bought. She was taken back home after the whole day shopping with a bulk of foodstuffs and other items including housewares to replace those that were lost to the calamity, Kallos said.

Reached in Legazpi City on Monday, Sy said the money used to buy the things for Lelis came from presidential sister Pinky Aquino-Abellana, a regular benefactor of PPBCV, a national organization of volunteers doing humanitarian works for indigent Filipino families.

Philanthropists Mariel Tolentino, Baby Teoseco-Crus, Emma Nieto and Sen. Franklin Drilon’s wife, Mila also sent cash and relief items for the girl and her family, according to Sy.

“When I saw Janelle (Lelis’ nickname), she was shy and seemed to have not realized why we were going crazy over what she did. She was even surprised and screaming of excitement by my invitation to bring her to the mall in the city, admitting that it was her first time to set foot on a classy shopping center. The girl picked up for herself the new pair of slippers, a baller and a headband,” Sy said.

Tolentino had also assured the girl and her family of a P6,000 monthly or P200 daily stipend as she insisted on her philanthropic intention after her adoption offer was turned down by Lelis who said she prefers to stay with her “kuya” and “lola”.

Sy said she had also heard that boxing icon and Saranggani Rep. Many Pacquiao has sent assistance to the girl and her family.

In Legazpi City, Bicol Regional Director Remia Tapispisan of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said she was instructed last week by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman to help the Lelis family by providing livelihood opportunity assistance particularly to Janelle’s elder brother Edcel who earns a living only during off-school days by driving a pedicab.

Anton Lim of Tsu Tzi Foundation Davao who had also commended Lelis for her remarkable act, Sy said, had also coordinated with the PPBCV on the assistance the group is extended to the girl and her family while its Tabaco City chapter Antonio Tan and wife Therese had set this weekend a schedule to take her to shopping at the family-owned Liberty Commercial Center (LCC).

For her part, Sy, a medical doctor, said she is taking charge of Janelle’s 64-year-old grandmother’s health by providing free medical services and medications.

Lawyer Alex Lacson, known for his book "12 Little Things We Can Do For The Country" is encouraging people to emulate Janelle’s deed. “We must tell her story to our people especially the youth,” he said in a recent statement reaching here. (PNA)

Catanduanes gets P80-M fund for water system, housing
By Danny O. Calleja

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Aug. 16 (PNA) -– Indeed, President Benigno S. Aquino III meant business when he declared in his recent State of the Nation (SONA) address that “no one”, including this small, isolated island province, “will be left behind” as the country moves toward progress and development under his administration.

Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua on Tuesday said he had recently secured a commitment from the Aquino administration involving a total of P80 million for the establishment and improvement of local water supply systems in several of the province’s impoverished towns and the housing project being pursued by the provincial government.

Cua said the grant was a “quick response of the Aquino administration to the recent request of the provincial government to keep up with the economic and social improvements that the country is achieving today."

The water supply projects, the governor said, are intended for the six of 11 municipalities of the island province that are experiencing difficulties in providing potable water for their constituents.

The P60 million fund for the purpose will come from the P300-million idle fund of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

The project beneficiaries are the municipalities of Bagamanoc, Caramoran, Gigmoto and San Miguel where water service facilities will be established; and Baras and Panganiban whose existing systems will be upgraded and its coverage expanded to reach more barangays still having no source of safe, potable water.

On the other hand, the P20-million housing project would rise at a 2.2-hectare property in Barangay Sto. Domingo here to provide low-cost residential units for lowly and still homeless provincial Capitol and Virac local government employees. The fund will be provided by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) through its chairman, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Cua said.

The governor said he personally handed down Capitol’s request for the funding to the Vice-President at his HUDCC office and an assurance had been made for its release. he added HUDCC Secretary-General Cecilia Alba promptly endorsed his request to the PagIBIG or the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) for fund appropriation.

The HDMF, under a new policy promulgated under Resolution 163-2010, extends loans to local government units at an interest rate of nine percent per annum payable at a maximum term of 30 years.

“We hope that the fund grant assured to us by the Vice-President will not fall under this policy and instead a ‘seed money’ for us to be able to start with our low cost housing project,” Cua said.

Under the capitol plan, the provincial employees will finance the house construction through a loan with PagIBIG, with the cost of the lot deducted by the provincial government from the employee’s retirement benefits later on.

The development of the site that would be called Sto. Domingo Ecology Village will be shouldered by the provincial government through the HUDCC fund. It will be composed of 139 units for the provincial employees and 189 for the Virac LGU personnel, according to the governor.

The housing models–single-detached, two-level duplex and modular studio-type row houses – will be modular reinforced concrete structure capable of withstanding 300-kph winds and magnitude eight earthquakes, he said.

Equipped with a solar power and rain collection systems, each unit would cost between P95,000 and P640,000. The entire village will be provided with efficient water supply service that will use solar-powered pumps as well as solid and waste water management facilities, Cua said. (PNA)

NFA sets aside 4,000 sacks of certified palay seeds for flood-damaged rice fields in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 16 (PNA) –- The National Food Authority (NFA) is making available 4,000 sacks of certified seeds to farmers in Bicol whose rice fields were rendered “no chance of recovery” by floods spawned by recent typhoons.

NFA regional director Danilo Bonabon said Tuesday the 4,000 bags of certified seeds are ready for distribution to farmers in the region, particularly in Albay and Camarines Sur provinces whose majority of rice lands were submerged by floods and until today are still under water.

Bonabon said these 4,000 bags of rice seeds are the only remaining stock from the 16,000 bags allocated as seed subsidy to Bicol rice producers since late last year until March this year under the government’s Rice Sufficiency Plan (RSP), a nationwide effort for the country to regain self-sufficiency in the staple grain.

This initiative is part of the implementation of the Rapid Seed Supply Financing Project (RaSSFiP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in tandem with the NFA under the Aquino administration’s Rapid Food Production Enhancement Program (RaFPEP) designed to avert rice price crisis similar to what was experienced by local consumers in 2008, he said.

“Although we see no similar emergency situation that could be caused by the calamity on the region’s rice production, these seeds will be provided to the rice farmers who lost their crops to the floods so that they are able to replant when the waters subside and recover from those losses at once,” the NFA regional chief explained.

In Camarines Sur, NFA provincial manager Edna de Guzman said that although eight rice producing municipalities were heavily affected by the floods, “no shortage of rice is being anticipated” with 700,000 bags of rice still in their warehouses.

Palay losses in the six provinces of Bicol battered by typhoon Juaning late last month have reached 30,915.07 hectares with yield lost placed at 29,023.47 metric tons of palay valued at P85.58 million, according to a report of the DA regional office based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Affected farmers mostly in Camarines Sur and Albay have reached 23,170, many of them replanting their rice fields for the second time after typhoon Bebeng devastated their crops back in May, DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said.

Dayao said the RaSSFiP, funded through a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and grant assistance from the European Commission, provides for the procurement of certified seeds for distribution to about 2,000 eligible farmers tilling 5,000 hectares of rice fields in the region on a subsidized scheme.

It was launched during the dry season in 2009 to support the government's Rice Self -Sufficiency Plan. But due to some hitches in its implementing guidelines, it was reviewed and following some fine-tuning, the program pushed through its extension phase starting last September 16 until March 15, this year.

“It was fortunate that the NFA was able to set aside 4,000 bags of these certified seeds which we can distribute to famers who lost their plants to the recent calamities,” Dayao said.

Despite those disasters, he said the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported that the region posted a 17.3 percent palay production growth rate in the first semester of this year, the highest among the rice producing regions.

The report attributed the remarkable rice production performance of the region to the use of quality seeds by the farmers, the additional use of inputs and better irrigation system. (PNA)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bicol to showcase coconut versatility in national festival

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 15 (PNA) -- Bicol coconut stakeholders will once pay tribute to the crop known as the “tree of life” by showcasing during the 10th National Coconut Festival in Mandaluyong City on August 25-28 a wide collection of food and non-food products that would attest to its versatility.

The festival is organized by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to highlight the celebration of the National Coconut Week, now on its 25th year in compliance with Presidential Proclamation No. 142 issued by the late President Corazon C. Aquino in 1987.

The celebration, themed “Niyog Yaman ng Nasyon Noon Man Hanggang Ngayon,” hopes to create awareness on the wealth that can be derived from coconut by highlighting its importance in the life of millions of Filipinos who have engaged in the industry for their livelihood or have used or consume it and its by-products.

The coco fest, meanwhile, will provide venue for information sharing and trading activities while showcasing business opportunities from coconut through forums on technological developments, production and marketing, quality and safety, trade certifications, health and wellness and updates on agricultural research, Bicol PCA Regional Director Eduardo Allorde said on Monday.

It will be another big break for stakeholders in the coconut industry in Bicol, the region whose people are known for their love of coconut products practically with the eating habit of the Bicolanos that gives coconut milk a wide preference as main ingredient in their delectable cuisines.

“This is not surprising, because coconut is the major crop in the region and it serves as its sunshine industry. Travellers and visitors to Bicol usually look forward to tasting its famous 'Bicol Express,' among other coconut milk-mixed delicacies," Allorde said.

With its 651,571 hectares of land area planted to at least 60 million bearing trees being cultivated by over 290,000 Bicolano farmers accounting for a total of 2.2 billion nuts harvest per year, the region contributes at least 21 percent to the national total coconut production, he said.

Catching most of this production are six oil refinery mills operating in the region with a total of 1,500 metric tons daily rated capacity and eight decorticating plants, one virgin coconut oil plant and a nata de coco producer.

Apart from copra and coconut oil, Bicol has also been contributing briskly to the export of several coconut by-products like charcoal and activated carbon from coconut shell, coir and peat production materials from husk and coconut water for nata de coco, vinegar and coconut sap sugar.

Industry stakeholders in the region are currently intensifying works on developing other high-value products from coconut apart from virgin coconut oil (VCO), desiccated coconut and biofuel as the government continues to develop more technologies to exploit its tag as the “tree of life,” Allorde said. (PNA)