Monday, November 28, 2011

P730M released for infra projects in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 28 (PNA) - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has recently released P730 million to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol to fund various infrastructure projects in the region.

Under the list of infrastructure projects for immediate implementation starting in December, P351.9 million will be under the Accelerated Disbursement of President P-Noy (ADPP) and P378.9 million will finance various infrastructure projects under the Bicol Calamity Fund.

Engr. Danilo Dequito, DPWH regional director, said that the amount released is part of the P5.5 billion released to the DPWH central office under the P72-billion Accelerated Disbursement Program of the Aquino administration.

Dequito said that under the ADPP, the amount will be used to finance 38 projects distributed in the six provinces of Bicol for the construction of roads, bridges and flood control projects.

He furthered that the DPWH district offices in the six provinces will implement 37 of the projects while the regional office will implement one project worth P20 million.

He said Albay has the biggest slice of the budget release with P163 million for 13 projects; followed by Sorsogon with 84.7 million for seven projects; Camarines Sur P45.7 million for eight projects; Catanduanes, P1.5 million for three projects; and Masbate, P2 million for one project.

For DPWH's 2nd Tranche of Priority Infra Projects for 2011, it has received P144 million to finance roads, bridges and flood control projects in Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Masbate.

For the calamity fund projects, DBM has released some P224.2 million to be spent for major, secondary roads and bridges and other infra facilities destroyed by Typhoons Juaning, Mina, Pedring and Quiel that hit Bicol this year.

For calamity funding, Albay got the biggest chunk with P136 million; Camarines Sur with P35.7 million, Sorsogon – P32 million, Camarines Norte – P17 million, Masbate – P2 million and Canatanduanes with only P1.5 million.

Deqquito said that he has directed the district engineers to fast track the implementation of the projects without sacrificing the quality of the projects once completed. (PNA)

Spanish envoy hails PHL’s leadership in Asia-Pacific vs climate change
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 28 (PNA) – Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq has expressed elation over the Philippines’ leadership in acting against climate change in its being considered as role model in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of governance for climate change at central and local levels.

In a press statement released here by the local office of the Agencia Española de Cooperacion International Para El Desarrollo (AECID), Domecq said “I want to take this opportunity to praise the Government of the Philippines for its commitment to reform institutions, policies, strategies and legislation to better cope with climate change”.

AECID is the Spanish International Cooperation Agency for Development working in the Philippines.

“The inclusion of Climate Change in the Philippine Development Plan is a good proof of the relevance attached to the issue and I congratulate the government also for the recent approval of the National Action Plan on Climate Change,” Domecq said.

It is a landmark decision worth celebrating that further enhances to government’s commitment to address the threats posed by this climate phenomenon, he stressed.

“Spain has supported and wishes to continue upholding this endeavor of the Philippines, a strategic partner for Spain and a priority country for our development cooperation. Climate change is a top priority of Spain which over the past decade has significantly improved its environmental policies,” Domecq said.

Its action lines encompass a wide range of sectors such as transports, waste managemnrt, conostuction, tourism, energy, forestry and innovation. In transports, Spain has given preference to railways over other more polluting means and approved taxes for polluting vehicles, he said.

In energy, Domecq said Spain has decided to invest heavily in the development of renewable energies, a approach that enabled a thriving industry to be developed in the country, founded on technological innovation and the use of the abundant homegrown and clean energy sources.

“The best example of its success is that, to date, Spain is the largest solar thermal electric producer in Europe and the second largest in the world; second largest wind energy capacity in Europe and the fourth largest worldwide and; the second greatest photovoltaic capacity in both Europe and the world,” he said.

In this respect, he added, Spain looks forward to deepen its cooperation with the Philippines by sharing lessons learnt and best practices as well as its related sectors such as renewable energies, energy efficiency, waste management, water governance and health, among others.

There are also further possibilities to tap into the still unused money allocated to the Philippines in the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) for projects to be defined, he said.

“Spain and the Philippines are already partners in this common challenge as the former supports the efforts of the latter’s government to effectively develop coping mechanisms for Climate Change through the Joint Spain-Philippines-UN program titled ‘Enhancing Capacity to Adapt to Climate Change 2008-2011being financed under Spain’s Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund and the newly-opened Climate Change Academy is one of its outputs ,” Domecq said.

Formally put into operations during the inauguration rites graced by President Benigno Aquino III last Friday, the Academy, housed in a two-storey building inside the main campus at the Bicol University (BU) here and established through the initiative of Albay Governor Joey Salceda would serve as an international institution of learning towards climate change adaptation.

This joint program, he said intends to enhance tools and systems enabling appropriate planning and implementation of climate change adaptation, to generate precise information on technological adaptation and to provide sustainable development options useful for addressing the impacts of climate change at local level. “We welcome the evaluation of its impact and expect its sustainability,” he said.

The Philippines has been an advocate of the idea that climate change is truly everyone’s problem and everybody is part of the solution, introducing a very much participatory and transparent approach in which the academe and the civil society are key actors in national strategies and plans.

“We share the idea. A broad range of adaptation options and knowledge are already in place or are being tested within the country,” he further added. (PNA)

LGU bans geothermal energy exploration within Mt. Bulusan eco-park
By Danny O. Calleja

BULUSAN, Sorsogon, Nov. 28 (PNA) – A resolution passed by the local legislative council has fortified the opposition of this ecologically-rich municipality to the geothermal energy exploration project being pushed by the Department of Energy (DOE) within the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP).

BVNP is a 350,000-hectare protected area covered by this town and five other municipalities around the active Mt. Bulusan. Gifted with lush vegetation teeming with exotic flora and fauna, it serves as home to several endangered species of birds and animals like falcon, monkeys, deer, wild pigs, among other rare ecological properties that contribute to its rich biodiversity.

It is also a watershed area supplying water to thousands of households and irrigating extensive farmlands within the six towns bordering it. It covers the scenic Bulusan Lake Ecological Park, a sprawling virgin forest area that encloses the magnificent Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon province’s main eco-tourism landmark.

Bulusan SB Resolution No 55-2011 passed last week and approved by town mayor Michael Guysayco Monday strictly bans any form of exploration and establishment of geothermal energy project within its jurisdiction covering six barangays inside the BVNP.

Authors of the resolution, Councilors Celestino Frades and Pedro Frando said its provisions are based on the mandates of Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 that recognizes the critical importance of protecting and maintaining the natural biological and physical diversities of the environment.

The resolution also invokes the municipality’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), an ecological strategy instituted based on the pro-environment mindset of its people that embraces the common stand against all forms of exploitation of the natural resources of the locality especially geothermal projects like what the DOE is pushing, according to Frades and Frando.

In approving the resolution, Guysayco said the measure is aimed at securing for the people of Bulusan representing the present and future generations the perpetual richness of the municipality’s environment and biodiversity that form the national park which the Constitution protects from exploitation of whatever form.

Enforcement of this measure, he said would be assisted by the recently organized brigade of Wildlife Environmental Officers (WEOs), a 400-strong volunteer group from the BVNP communities to be deputized as forest rangers by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

This group was organized under “PRESERVE”, a United Nations Development Program (UNDP)-funded project which provides for a mechanism to involve communities within the BVNP covered by this municipality in the protection and care of its verdant forest and exotic biodiversity, according to Gusayco.

“The people of Bulusan have already expressed their strong opposition to the proposed geothermal project during a series of public consultations initiated by the DOE and its private contractor, the Summa Kumagai Industries (SKI) and this legislative measure fortifies that position,” the mayor said.

Two of the three other towns - Irosin and Casiguran whose barangays near the foot of the volcano will be directly affected by the project have also expressed opposition. Only the town of Juban through its mayor, Jimmy Fragata who hails from the Ilocos region and formerly a ranking employee of the BacMan geothermal project in Sorsogon City has signified approval.

The project expects to produce some 40 megawatts of geothermal power following a five-year exploration and construction activities that would slash into the BVNP was awarded early last year by the DOE under its Geothermal Resource Energy Service Contract (GRESCO) to the SKI Construction Group Inc., a fully-owned subsidiary of First Philippine Holdings Corporation of the Lopez Group.

SKI president and chief executive officer (CEO) Albert Altura on the other hand said they are not giving up the project despite oppositions from the host communities and they will continue holding public consultations to explain its benefits not only for the localities but to the entire Luzon area that will make use of the electricity to be derived from it.

He said that their optimism is still alive that the SKI and DOE would be able to neutralize the opposition through more public information, education and communication (IEC) initiatives.

The Bulusan Geothermal Energy Project (BGEP) service contract between the DOE and SKI, Altura said covers a five-year development arrangement, the first two years for the exploration or pre-development stage and the next three years for the full development stage.

The pre-development stage would involve the conduct of date review, geochemical sampling, geophysical investigations, data evaluation and resource assessment through drilling of exploratory wells down to the earth’s core within the 26,000 portion of the BVNP.

The development stage is for massive constructions, forest clearing and well-drilling activities to put up roads, geothermal plants, power turbines, toxic waste tailing ponds and other installations, he explained. (PNA)

Philippine media declares support to climate change adaptation

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) - Various media organizations on Friday presented to President Benigno C. Aquino III the Philippine Media Declaration on Climate Change pledging their concerted action to catalyze public awareness and pursue a nationwide advocacy for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) read and subsequently turned over to the President the four-page media declaration.

Coloma said that an increased public understanding of the urgency of climate change is essential to mitigate its negative impacts and to avert human suffering.

The statement emphasized that access to relevant information on climate change is vital to sustain a living planet and for the survival of human beings.

Vital information concerning climate change would significantly acknowledge social, economic and environmental benefits in taking action to combat the effects of climate change.

He said media institutions recognize that the information provided by media plays a critical role in stimulating policy debate and in mobilizing knowledge to empower societies to make informed decisions on options for mitigation and adaptation.

The media declaration was signed by officials of the National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC), Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP), Publishers Association of the Philippines (PAPI), Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), and the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalist (PNEJ).

The declaration is the major output of the three-day First National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation held at the Bicol University Amphi-theater where hundreds of media representatives from across the country attended.

At the conference, print and broadcast journalists agreed to share and disseminate climate change information and hold training sessions on Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for media.

They also agreed to promote regional and international collaboration among all media organizations for the enrichment of climate change reporting and skills enhancement of media practitioners through training, exchange of knowledge and best practices.

They also asked the President to certify and put into action by incorporating media participation in the roll-out of the National Climate Change Action Plans (NCCAP) and providing funds for media campaigns and media trainings.

President Aquino flew in to this city to keynote the media conference sponsored by Albay Governor Joey Salceda, an international advocate on CCA.

The President, clad in yellow shirt and denim pants, also unveiled the marker which formally opened the First Climate Change Academy at the BU compound.

Salceda said Albay Climate Change Academy is the first educational institution in the country that offers to train local planners, decision and policy makers and other sectoral agencies skills and competencies on Disaster Risk Reduction and CCA mainstreaming.

The provincial government has spent P10 million to spruce up the two-storey building that would house the CC Academy at the BU compound.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, at the conference opening on Thursday, pledged to give P5 million to finance the initial operation of the CC Academy.

He also lauded the initiative of Salceda in establishing the first ever climate change academy in the country.

Dr. Flaviana Hilario of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), said that based on local and international studies, it was observed that the warming of climate in the country is “unequivocal” in terms of intensity.

She noted effects of climate change and global warming are significantly increasing events by way of extreme temperature, rain falls, storm surges, tropical cyclones and sea level rise.

She said: ”There are more hot days and warm nights as compared with the frequency of cold days and cold nights.”

She said that of the 1,054 tropical cyclones that developed yearly worldwide, 70 percent or 738 pass through the Philippine area of responsibility. Of this figure, about 19 to 20 tropical cyclones hit the Philippines, she said. (PNA)

Friday, November 25, 2011

P-Noy formally opens Climate Change Academy in Albay
By Danny O. Calleja and Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) -– President Benigno C. Aquino III formally opened here on Friday the first and only education institution in the country offering comprehensive learning on climate change.

The Climate Change Academy (CCA) was established by the Albay provincial government within the main campus of the Bicol University (BU) in this regional government capital.

The facility will serve as the country’s repository of knowledge, experience, success stories and best practices in climate change adaptation being championed by Albay province through its Governor Joey Salceda.

Speaking before some 200 journalists representing various local and international media organizations to the ongoing three-day National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation at the BU Amphitheater, President Aquino said adaptation and disaster preparedness are imperative at this time when climate change is now recognized as the world's major environmental problem.

“Magagawa nating lampasan ang pagsubok na ito. Ikinalulugod ko ang mga kaganapang nangyayari dito sa Albay katulad nitong pagbubukas ng Climate Change Academy at ng patitipun-tipon na ito ninyong mga mamamahayag na nagpapakita ng pagbubuklod tungo sa ating kahandaan upang harapin ang mga hamon sa bayan,” he said.

“Tularan po natin si Gobernador Joey Salceda na daig pa ang isang Boy Scout sa pagiging laging handa laban sa kalamidad na sana po ay tularan ng lahat na mga pahahalaang lokal para sa kaligtasan at kapakanan ng kanilang mga nasasakupan,” the President said, adding that the newly opened CCA will help them a lot toward this end.

Salceda said the Academy establishes a living laboratory and demonstration facility that will showcase innovations, practices and technologies that contribute to climate resiliency by improving the quality of life, increasing agricultural productivity, protecting the environment, promoting the well-being of families and conserving natural resources.

The establishment of the facility, housed in a newly refurbished two-story building at the BU complex, was made possible through the province’s international development partners, among them the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Spanish government, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the BU, Department of Education (DepEd) and other local partners.

“It is essentially a knowledge management institution that will allow everyone to see how Albay residents prepare for calamities such as floods and typhoons and offer short courses focused on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management," Salceda said.

Researchers including students from Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Kenya, Vietnam and various provinces in the Philippines have been coming to the Academy to find out what Albay is doing, he said.

The academy offers short-term courses and officials are currently talking with the Asian Institute of Management and Development Academy of the Philippines if the courses could be included in the requirements for masteral and doctoral degrees.

Aside from short term courses, Salceda said researchers and students go to Albay especially during typhoons to personally observe how the province conducts its pre- and post-typhoon programs and activities including actual evacuation procedures.

Pres. Aquino said Albay is a good example of climate change resiliency and the whole country look up at the province for this.

The President said he had just convened the Climate Change Commission in Malacanang ordering it to adopt the national climate change action plan in compliance with the country’s international commitments especially to the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention which will be presented to the climate change conference in Durban, South Africa.

Before delivering his message for the participants of the media conference, Sec. Sonny Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operation Office (PCOO) presented to the President the media declaration of commitment to become the government’s partner in promoting the importance of considering climate vulnerabilities and extremes in development.

The declaration advocates the use of science-based analytical and planning tools in climate change adaptation and disaster risk management. (PNA)
LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA)--- His Excellency BENIGNO SIMIONE AQUINO III as he deliver his speech in the opening of the First National Media Conference On Climate Change Adaptation.
(PNA Courtesy of Connie Destura)

Camarines Norte gets P140M for Pamana projects

DAET, Camarines Norte, Nov. 24 (PNA) – The Camarines Norte provincial government has been granted P140 million by the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for the implementation of various developmental projects under its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) program.

Pamana is the national government’s peace and development framework being carried out by OPAPP for the empowering of conflict-affected areas in the country that include the Bicol Region with Camarines Norte identified as one of its four provinces that yielded indicative plans for the program’s Pillars One and Three. The other provinces are Sorsogon, Albay and Masbate.

Sorsogon was the first to be identified under the program and its seven covered municipalities-- Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Casiguran, Barcelona, Juban, Irosin and Magallanes are now implementing development projects worth a total of P30 million.

Pamana Pillar One lays the foundation of peace-building through development interventions while Pillar Three addresses sub-regional challenges, including constraints to regional economic development, linking of poor areas with more prosperous areas and regional connectivity improvements.

Camarines Norte Governor Edgardo Tallado on Thursday here said at least three municipalities of the province—Jose Panganiban, Labo and Mercedes would be the initial beneficiaries of P140-million projects that would build farm-to-market roads (FMR) to facilitate fast and convenient transport of agricultural products.

Among the projects are the concreting of the FMRs between Barangays Sta. Rosa Sur and San Rafael in Jose Panganiban worth P20 million; between Barangays Exiban and Maligaya to Malibago of Labo, P40 million; Barangays Bakiad, Sta. Cruz-Funadado, also of Labo, P10 million and; Barangays Pambuhan to Lanot in Mercedes, P20 million.

OPPAP Area Manager Paul Escober said P112 million of the fund representing 80 percent will be released to the province from the stimulus fund of President Benigno Aquino next week so that the projects are implemented at once and completed early next year.

More funds for similar projects will be poured under the Pamana into these first three municipalities plus two others in the next three years, Escober said.

“The whole of Camarines Norte, a poor province disturbed by insurgency that hinders local development is very grateful to the Aquino administration for this development projects that are in line with the national government’s peace agenda and ending internal armed conflicts,” Tallado said.

“We see Pamana as a program of the Aquino administration towards attaining economic progress in its localities given its objectives that are based on initiating reforms and development projects in conflict affected areas like ours,” he added. (PNA)

Masbate bans ‘super-light’ fishing in municipal waters
By Danny O. Calleja

MASBATE CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) – The use of “super light” in fishing within the municipal waters here is now completely forbidden.

Superlight as defined by the Anti-Super Light Ordinance of 2011 recently enacted by the city legislative council and now being enforced following its approval by City Mayor Socrates Tuason is a type of high-powered light using halogen or metal halide bulb which may be located above the sea surface or submerged in the water to attract fishes.

Like trawl and fine-meshed net fishing, the use of super light is blamed for overfishing that Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 has included as among the banned forms of fishing in municipal waters around the country--the waters within 15 kilometers from the coastlines.

The city’s municipal waters cover portions of the Masbate Pass and San Bernardino Straits.

Under the city ordinance, a violator shall be punished with imprisonment from six months to two years or a fine of P5,000 or both at the discretion of the courts, the same penalties that RA 8550 provide, according to Tuason.

The ordinance also outlaws the use of mercury lights and lights with more than 4,000 watts in combined electrical power of light bulbs in fish catching in the city’s waters but allows the use of incandescent lamp, pressurized gas lamp, compact bulb as well as “hasag,” a traditional gear of fisher folks, the mayor said.

Violators of the prohibition on the use of mercury lights and lights of more than 4,000 watts shall be slapped with a fine of P1,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.

The ordinance also provides monetary reward for law enforcers involved in the apprehension of violators while those responsible in the prosecution towards the conviction such as personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bantay-Dagat Task Forces and barangay enforcers will get 25 percent of the fine.

“This reward system is applied as provided under the ordinance to encourage local authorities to enforce the law seriously so that the city government is able to totally curtail super light fishing that is severely detrimental to our local fisheries resources,” City Vice Mayor Allan Cos explained.

The ordinance that is aimed at strengthening the city government’s fight against marine wealth exploitation is also protective of the rights of marginal fishermen that should be given the preferential use of the municipal waters for their livelihood, he said.

“We are ensuring the rational and sustainable development, management and conservation of our fishery and aquatic resources consistent with the primordial objective of maintaining a sound ecological balance, protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment,” the vice mayor who is presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panglunsod (SP) which enacted the ordinance said.

While doing that, he added the city government also provides support to the municipal fisherfolk through appropriate technology and research, adequate financial, production, construction of post-harvest facilities, marketing assistance and other services as they should receive a just share for their labor in the utilization of marine and fishery resources, he added. (PNA)

Albay holds 1st National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation
By Lorenzita Quitasol and Mike dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) - The Albay provincial government through the Centre for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) together with its partners, is conducting the three-day 1st National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation November 24-26, the first in the country.

United Nations Senior Global Champion on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA), Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has invited President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to be the special guest of honor at the event.

The conference will have various plenary sessions. To jump start the activity, the principals from the Province of Albay; Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCCO); Climate Change Academy (CCA); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); National Economic Development Authority (NEDA); Department of Science and Technology (DOST); Kapisanan ng mga Broadcaster sa Pilipinas (KBP); Energy Development Council (EDC) and development partners like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) will give messages to the summit.

Gov. Salceda said the conference will cover four major topics: Reporting the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); PAGASA's climate change projections; Climate Change 101, and Risk Management Communication.

The conference workshop aims to promote the importance of considering climate vulnerabilities and extremes in development; highlights the need to accelerate the achievements of MDGs at the local level; advocates the use of science-based analytical and planning tools on climate change adaptation and disaster risk management; provide updates on MDG Achievement Fund: 1656 initiatives; and, identify partnerships.

The event targets the participation of 400 media practitioners from leading print, online and broadcast news outlets across the country.

"It will be an opportunity to enhance the media's awareness of climate change and its impact on development and equip them to effectively communicate climate change issues to the general public," Salceda said. (PNA)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

DPWH provides P87.7M for Bicol’s flood control projects

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has committed some P87.7 million in fresh funds which would be released soon for the rehabilitation of damaged flood control structures and construction of additional ones in Albay and Sorsogon.

DPWH regional director for Bicol Danilo Dequito here on Thursday said the amount is part of the P1.282 billion recently released to the agency’s central office by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to cover the implementation of various priority infrastructure projects nationwide.

Some of these projects are the rehabilitation of the Bongalon-Busay River Control in Daraga and the San Francisco River Control in Guinobatan that both serve as protection walls for residential areas against flashfloods emanating from the slopes of Mt. Mayon, according to Dequito.

The Daraga project that is located near the historic Cagsawa Ruins is allocated an amount of P20 million while the Guinobatan project at the foot of the volcano is given P18 million, he said.

For Sorsogon, the projects are the constructions of Concrete Protection Wall of Cadacan River in Juban town that was allotted P19.7 million and the Cawayan River Control in Sorsogon City worth P30 million.

The Juban project would reinforce the existing flood control structure along the pathway of floods and lahar avalanches from the slope of Mt. Bulusan, Dequito said.

The Cawayan River structure will be for the protection of vast rice fields and residential sites along the route of landslide debris and floods from the mountains within the giant Bacon-Manito geothermal field being operated by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), he said.

“We have given priority to these projects given its life-saving and farm protection roles and we are under instructions from DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson to start the implementation immediately upon receipt of the funds by this month to alleviate flooding in these parts of Bicol that have been posing threats to lives and properties in the area,” the DPWH regional chief said.

Apart from this incoming P87.7 million fund, Dequito said more funds are expected to be released to the Bicol DPWH regional office for the rehabilitation of other vital projects damaged by the recent spate of typhoons in the region.

“Among those that we are anticipating is the coming of the P156 million whose release was recently ordered by Pres. Aquino as part of the P1.197 calamity fund allocated by Malacañang for the rehabilitation of typhoon and flood-damaged government infrastructures nationwide,” he added. (PNA)

NPA rebels carried out 29 summary executions in Bicol within the last 10 months -- RPOC

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) --- The New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Bicol have committed at least 29 extra judicial killings (EJK) the victims of which were mostly civilians, the Regional Peace and Order council (RPOC) said on Wednesday.

Army Maj. General Josue Gaverza, commanding officer of the Army”s 9th Infantry Division (ID) told members of the RPOC that for the past 10 months, a total of 29 NPA perpetrated EJKs were initiated victimizing 16 civilians, four policemen, four government informers, three militiamen, a rebel returnee, and a soldier.

Gaverza said what is alarming is that 16 innocent civilians in Bicol were victims of EJKs carried out by NPA rebels, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Just recently, NPA rebels in Albay claimed responsibility for the killing of Ruel Macalla who was gunned down last November 8 in Barangay Talahib in Daraga, Albay, followed by another summary killing of a certain Jun Vasquez in Bato, Camarines Sur.

“It has already been the practice of the communist movement to admit responsibility for the summary killings of several innocent civilians in the region. They usually tag them as military informant to justify their criminal acts,” said Major Angelo S. Guzman, the 9th ID spokesperson.

However, the RPOC in Wednesday's meeting presented a report by Karapatan, a militant Human Rights group indicating that in Bicol they have monitored 15 cases of extra judicial killings from the period July last year to March this year.

However, the report did not specify if these EJK cases were NPA-initiated killings.

Guzman disclosed that eight barangays (villages) in Camarines Norte and 18 barangays in Sorsogon were already cleared and due for deletion in the list of CPP/NPA- influenced barangays. (PNA)

Christmas serenade tilt up in Catanduanes

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Nov. 23 (PNA) -- Christmas Serenade Competition in this province will start during its annual Christmas Cheers at Plaza Rizal starting Dec. 16.

Organizers of the event will accept one official entry in each of the 12 invited schools from the province. Each entry shall be composed of not more than 20 members who are all pupils of the school they represent and one conductor, who is a faculty in the same school.

Participating groups are expected to sing 2 songs: one standard song "Carol of the Bells" and another one is a song of their choice, accompanied with live guitar or piano only or by a capella.

The performance proper shall be six minutes and shall not exceed eight minutes presentation time.

Champion will receive a cash prize of P20,000, P15,000 for the first runner up and P10,000 for the second runner up and P2,000 shall be given for non-winning groups. (PNA)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Camarines Sur National High School bags PHL's finest eco-friendly school

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 23 (PNA) --- The Camarines Sur National High School (CSNHS) in Naga City is this year finest eco-friendly secondary school across the country, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday.

Declared high school level champions were the Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City (1st); University of San Jose Recoletos – High School in Cebu City (2nd); and Daniel R. Aquinaldo National High School in Davao City (3rd).

Joselin Marcus Fragada, DENR regional executive director lauded the CSNHS for being adjudged the champion and garnering the most coveted top award among a number of regional high school across the country.

“This should serve as an inspiration among our local academe, to do well and strive harder to pursue a green institution, wherein students are highly aware of their roles in keeping our environment sustainable and protected” Fragada said.

Never settling for its 2009 second place honor, the CSNHS triumphed among the country’s eco-friendly schools and managed to get the national championship this year.

Known among the academe for its sustainable environment friendly programs, CSNHS was adjudicated as Bicol’s most eco-friendly school in school year 2011, which further pushed its environmental programs and projects to the fore of the school’s curricula.

The DENR, together with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Smart Communications, has named nine schools as the national champions of the 2011 National Search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Schools.

DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis, representing DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje; Smart’s Community Partnerships senior manager Darwin Flores; DepEd’s Nutrition Division head Dr. Juan Araojo Jr.; and CHED Director William Malitao handed the awards at a simple ceremony held at the SM City North EDSA here on Wednesday.

In a speech read by Davis, Paje described as “overwhelming” the schools’ response to the call for entries to the competition.

“The contest was launched so that schools will participate more actively in environmental programs. We hope that in doing so, the students will also encourage others to adopt sustainable practices,” Paje said.

The nine national champions were chosen from 45 regional champions representing the elementary, high school and college levels. For the elementary level, Iliranan Elementary School of San Carlos City in Negros Occidental; Kibawe Central School in Kibawe, Bukidnon; and San Mariano Elementary School in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro were proclaimed as first, second and third placers, respectively.

Meanwhile, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas in Cavite; Palawan State University in Puerto Princesa City; and Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City were awarded the first, second and third places for the college level.

The national champions each received plaques of recognition and cash prizes of P50,000 for first place, P40,000 for second place, and P30,000 for third place.

The awarding coincided with the celebration of November as National Environmental Awareness Month as provided under Republic Act No. 9512, also known as the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008.

Now on its second run, the nationwide competition aims to recognize educational institutions from elementary to college levels with the best sustainable and environment-friendly programs and activities.

It is the Philippines’ initiative in support to the ASEAN Environmental Education Action Plan (2008-2012), and the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014).

World AIDS Day celebration in Bicol all set
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 23 (PNA) – Events for this year’s World AIDS Day celebration in Bicol are all set, according to Albay Board Member Herbert Borja, co-chairman of the Albay AIDS Council.

Borja said Albay is the host province for this year’s World AIDS Day celebration set on December 1 and 2 with the theme – Getting to Zero for discrimination, zero new infection and AIDS related deaths.

Borja said the first event on December 1 is the Street Walk Information Caravan to be participated in by various o private and public organizations, including students of different colleges and universities. “The objective of the Information caravan is to increase awareness on HIV and AIDs prevention.”

On December 2, a policy congress on Getting to Zero will be held in Casablanca convention hall which will be highlighted by the presentation of the Rapid Assessment of the Vulnerability (RAV) result. This study was conducted in the municipalities of Bacacay, Sto Domingo, Guinobatan and Ligao City. RAV is one of the activity of the Albay AIDS Council and Department of Health (DoH) to determine the magnitude of Most At Risk Population and its vulnerabilities on HIV and AIDS.

The policy congress aims to validate the result of the RAV and formulate immediate measure to address gaps and concerns on the prevention of HIV and reduce the number of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) specially among Men who are Having Sex with men (MSM).

Meanwhile, Gayon Albay (an organization of Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Transgender) will also launch the Human Soul Exhibit in Pacific Mall Legazpi on December 2. The Human Soul Exhibit actually promotes anti-discrimination legislations that would help eliminate stigma and discrimination among the LGBT community. This activity is in partnership with the United Nations Development Program, Health Action Information Network, Lad-Lad, Bluethumb, Alliance Francaise de Manilla, The Library Foundation-Share and Pacific Mall Legazpi. (PNA)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Woman strangled to death near her home

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov.21 (PNA) --- A 28 year old woman was found dead and suspected to have been raped in a subdivision here early Monday, a police officer said.

The victim was identified as Maria Sarah Aragon, a resident of Block 2, Central City Subdivision.

Police Supt. Ato Battaler, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol spokesperson, said residents found the victim's body sprawled at a vacant lot at Block 2, a few meters away from her residence at around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

Battaler said police investigators found a plastic bag wrapped around the victim's head hinting she was strangled to death. The victim's blouse was raised and her pants were lowered, exposing her underwear, indicating that she might have been raped.

Police operatives immediately invited for questioning her alleged boyfriend, identified as Vicente Natividad, a resident of Sitio Tico-tico, in Barangay Taysan, a village in the southern part of this city.

The victim and her boyfriend were reportedly seen together on Sunday afternoon.

The victim's body was brought to a funeral parlor where an autopsy would be conducted today to determine the cause of her death and to find whether she was raped or not.

Police investigators also recovered from the the crime scene the cell phone of the victim.

Probers said the cell phone would give them possible leads who the victim talked with and text messages she sent and received before she was killed.(PNA)

Tiwi town tagged as 'Tuna capital of Luzon'

TIWI, Albay, Nov. 21 (PNA) -- Tiwi, a geothermal rich town in Albay, may soon be the “tuna” capital of Luzon with potentially abundant supply of this kind of marine product off the towns coastal waters located at the eastern seaboard of Bicol facing the vast Pacific Ocean.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, chairperson of the Senate Committees on Food Security and Agriculture in his visit here over the weekend, said he sees that the town has a great potential in supplying the much needed tuna requirements in both local as well as foreign markets.

He said: “ I see the potential of the tuna product found here in terms of quality, price, and supply that would be likely competitive with other areas in Mindanao and the Visayas.”

“Malaking potential ito na dapat bigyan ng suporta ng gobierno, malaking pagkakakitaan ito ng ating mangingisda,” Pangnilinan averred.

According to Pangilinan the tuna found off the coastal water of Lagonoy Gulf in Tiwi belong to a special species called “Albacore thunnus.”

According to fishery specialist, the albacore is a type of tuna which may be marketed as “white meat tuna." It is found in open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, Lengths range up to 140 cm and weights up to 45 kg.

Albacore is a prized food because it is caught by pole and line, long-line fishing, trolling and some purse seining.

In this town, the fishing method required to be used by fishermen is the hand line fishing, in compliance with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) policy.

The WWF policy aims to improve management in order to safeguard the fisheries sustainability, the policy is being carried out in Lagonoy Gulf and Mindoro Occidental where the WWF is closely working with the LGU and chain of stakeholders from people organization.

Unlike the tuna products found in Samar, Mindoro and General Santos, fisher folks in Tiwi can catch tuna fishes two kilometers from the towns shorelines.

Compared with Gen. Santos, fishermen there catches tuna using high gear fishing equipment and vessels and catch them in open seas near or sometimes inside the Indonesian borders while here, Tiwi fisher folks only use hand line fishing rod.

Pangilinan, at the Partner’s Forum on Sustainable Tuna Fisheries held here on Friday, told stakeholders that aside from being tag as tuna capital of Luzon, with appropriate government and private sector intervention, the town’s vast mineral and aquatic resources could also be transformed into a top tourist destination.

“Local and foreign tourist will find the place enjoyable to visit wherein they can dine and savor the delicious taste of tuna grilled, steamed or the famous Japanese delicacy sashimi.”

Giving an added boost to improve further the fisher folks livelihood, Pangilinan said he would support and find ways to fund the setting up of a fish landing site that would be also used as a “bagsakan” or a central trading post.

The establishment of a central trading post would link directly the fishermen and their prospective buyers warding off the services of middle men.

Wilfredo Chavenia, a fisher folk and chairperson of the town Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (MFARMC) in an interview, said the presence of middle men engage in buying and selling tuna products are dictating and manipulating the prices of tuna placing the thousands fisher folks in a disadvantage point.

He said “we can get better prices of our fish catch when we can deal directly with the buyers.”

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) provincial officer Ariel Poquinto, in an interview, said tuna fishes thrive in a so called tuna belt in Lagonoy Gulf covering the coastal towns of Tiwi in Albay and Sangay town in Camarines Sur.

Tiwi is a first class municipality in Albay with 44,261 people in 8,036 households, it is the seat of the Tiwi Geothermal Plant operated by the Aboitiz Corp. generating 220 megawatts electricity to the Luzon Grid.

The town coastline covers 17,287.05 meters or 17 kilometers. It has a total of 1,440 accredited fishermen operating 720 registered fishing boats engage in tuna fishing.

Leonila Coralde, Tiwi Municipal Agriculture Officer, said at the forum that an average yield of some 59.8 metric tons of tuna per year have been caught by local fishermen here for the past three years.

The tuna fish carries a market price ranging from P90 to P170 per kilo during lean months and as low as P30 during peak season, she said.

Coralde said to sustain the tuna fisheries in Tiwi and to address and thwart illegal fishing practices in the area, the local government has established a 4.4-square kilometer Corangon fish sanctuary and marine reserved.

She said they had required fishermen and their fishing boats to be accredited and registered to closely check that fishery regulations were being followed.

With the LGU’s fishery regulation in placed, the apprehension of illegal fishing practices significantly dropped by 90 percent from 200 cases in 2004 to only 18 in 2009.

It has also increased the yield of tuna catch to 56.2 metric tons (mt) in 2010 as compared to the highest catch in 2005 at only 14.5mt. (PNA)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DSWD releases cash subsidy to 1,123 new CCT beneficiaries in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 17 (PNA) -– The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has released the first tranche of cash subsidies to 1,123 new beneficiaries in Camarines Norte of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), a poverty alleviation program of the Aquino administration.

CCT, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), provides assistance to the poor to alleviate their immediate needs and break the intergeneration cycle of poverty through investment in human capital such as education and health.

DSWD regional director Remia Tapispisan on Thursday here said the new beneficiaries in Camarines are from the towns of Basud, Vinzons and San Vicente making the total coverage of the program in the province to 10 municipalities with overall number of beneficiaries of 24,759 households.

All these households are receiving maximum cash subsidies of P1,400 per month depending on the qualified beneficiaries for the P300 for each child up to three children between zero and 14 years old and P500 for the mother on conditions that she undergo regular health checkup at nearest health center and the children attend required time in school.

Camarines Norte, a gold-rich but among the poorest provinces in the Bicol region, had 12 municipalities and the first eight already under the CCT coverage are Capalonga, Sta. Elena, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Mercedes, Jose Panganiban, Labo and Paracale.

The capital town of Daet and its nearby municipality of Talisay remained uncovered but Tapispisan said processing for their inclusions are in progress.

In Sorsogon, Tapispisan said a total of 45,783 was the latest reported number of CCT beneficiaries from all the 14 municipalities of the province excluding the City of Sorsogon, the provincial capital.

So far, she said a total amount of P41.8 million had already been released to these Sorsogon beneficiaries in 454 barangays covered by the towns of Donsol, Pilar, Castilla, Casiguran, Juban, Magallanes, Irosin, Bulan, Matnog, Sta. Magdalena, Bulusan, Barcelon, Gubat and Prieto Diaz.

Enhancement of capability-building, networking, monitoring and evaluation of the beneficiary update systems are also being regularly conducted in order that those who are not complying with the requirement of the program are properly guided, she said.

Latest DSWD listings show that CCT or 4Ps is already benefiting about 143,000 households in the six provinces of Bicol covering 65 of the 99 towns of the region, the second poorest in the country today according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

These figures on the number of beneficiaries and bounds of coverage are expected to increase next year when the P39-billion proposed 2012 budget for the program is approved. This year’s budget is P21 billion, Tapispisan added. (PNA)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sorsogon’s anti-rabies drive gets US$ .3M in foreign fund
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) – The Sorsogon Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) here on Wednesday announced the approval by a foreign donor of a US$ 300,000 (P12 million) fund grant for the province’s anti-rabies program.

Enrique Espiritu, the provincial veterinary officer said the fund that would come from the UBS Optimus Foundation would be for a three-year agenda under the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) that is spearheading the Communities Against Rabies Exposure (CARE) program.

The UBS Optimus Foundation is a charitable institution established by UBS which supports projects all around the world in two core areas-- education and child protection and global health research to secure access to education and healthcare for a great number of children.

Espiritu said the fund grant will be prorated on a US$ 100,000 a year release starting early next year to facilitate the coordination of surveillance, molecular epidemiology, dog population model control, participation in health economics group and consultation for rabies prevention and control models.

This undertaking, he said is an offshoot of the Bohol success story which demonstrated that rabies can be eliminated and children can be saved from dog bites by empowering communities to take responsibility, develop and share adequate tools for sustainability provided by global assistance and expertise.

“Sorsogon will replicate this Bohol model so that the province becomes another sustainable rabies free area,” according to Espiritu.

He said that based on studies conducted, rabies is a disease of poverty that mainly affects children living in marginalized communities. Over 99 percent of human rabies deaths today occur in Africa and Asia as a result of being bitten by an infected dog and up to 60 percent of all dog bites and rabies deaths occur in children under 15 years of age.

Rabies, according to world statistics is a life-threatening risk for over one billion people living in poverty across Asia and Africa.

Espiritu said that with this GARC program, the local government will strengthen awareness to prevent exposure to this disease by eliminating or controlling the source of infection in dog populations.

“Massive dog vaccination is cost effective to control rabies and sustainable than interventions aimed at humans only," he explained.

The program will also work on the reduction of the province’s dog population by way of community and local governments’ support in reducing the reproduction rate of dogs, thus reducing the cost of rabies control undertakings on the part of the government and significantly reduce if not totally eliminate the incidence of public health problems associated with dogs as vectors. (PNA)

PNoy orders release of P156M calamity fund for typhoon-damaged infra in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 15 (PNA) – The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Tuesday announced the approval by President Benigno S. Aquino III of the release of over P156 million in calamity fund for the rehabilitation of government infrastructures damaged by a series of typhoons that hit the region this year.

DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito said the amount is part of the P1.197-billion calamity fund allocated by Malacañang nationwide.

The amount of P156.250 million ordered released by the President for Bicol is only an initial funding to speed up restorations of vital public infrastructures damaged by typhoons Juaning in July, Mina in August, Pedring in September and Quiel in October that all triggered flashfloods and landslides, Dequito said.

The amount will finance a total of 32 rehabilitation projects mostly on roads and bridges in the six provinces of Bicol with Albay getting the biggest share of P98 million for nine projects, followed by Camarines Sur with seven projects worth P35 million, Dequito said.

Camarines Norte gets P17 million for four projects; Masbate, P2 million for a single project; Sorsogon, P2 million for three projects and; Catanduanes, P1.5 million also for three projects.

Typhoon Juaning alone destroyed some P1.09 billion of infrastructures mostly roads, bridges and flood control structures in the region but “we understand the situation as the total amount had to be proportionately distributed based on the damages suffered by each region”, Dequito said.

Anyway, he said, “we have been assured by DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson that more funds would be given to Bicol from the next tranches of releases to complete the rehabilitation works. Besides, the maintenance funds allocated for each of these damaged structures are keeping them still usable for the meantime”.

“We are under instructions from Sec. Singson to speed up the works without sacrificing its quality in anticipation of the coming of the next calamity funds for the other rehabilitation projects,” the DPWH regional chief said.

In Albay, he said priority is given to the Nagas and San Fernando Bridges in Sto. Domingo and Tiwi towns, respectively. The former’s approach suffered heavy scouring rendering it temporarily impassable while the latter that incurred structural defects had to be considered for condemnation and replacement.

In the meantime, Dequito said in order to ease the discomfort of motorists, a detour steel bridge has been put in place near the San Fernando Bridge but we still intend to maintain the present alternate route in anticipation for the total replacement of the bridge next year.

With the calamity fund coming in, he said an amount of P9.2 million had earmarked for these projects-- P3.5 million for the repair of Nagas Bridge; P4.2 million for the installation of a detour steel bridge and P1.5 million for the repair and maintenance of San Andres to San Fernando road. (PNA)

Bicol Pili Culinary feast set Nov. 29
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 15 (PNA) -– The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will showcase the importance of pili as Bicol’s flagship commodity in an affair dubbed Pili Culinary to be held in Naga City on Nov. 29.

It will present to the medium and high-end markets new delicacies concocted by various local confectioners in addition to the dozen others that are already making big hits in both the domestic and international markets, DTI regional director Jocelyn Blanco here said on Tuesday.

The delicacies already existing in the market include pili candies like honey glazed, roasted , salted, pastilles, molido, mazapan, chocolate-coated and macaroon, among others.

Ground kernels are made into cake mixers and toppings, breads, bonbons, salad and ice cream while kernel oil are for salad dressing, cake manufacture of sardines, soaps, pharmaceutical and cosmetics.

The affair to be attended by hundreds of pili industry stakeholders from farmers, pili product manufacturers, distributors, store owners and food service providers will also give recognition to the commodity as a vital contributor to the economic agenda of the region, Blanco said.

The DTI, she said has been assisting local entrepreneurs and manufacturers in coming up with new nut recipes through researches and studies as part of the government program towards the development of the pili industry which had been playing a significant role in the regional economy in particular and of the country in general.

The program is specifically aimed at instituting a long term mechanism to further boost the commodity’s contributions to the culinary and food industry, the DTI regional chief said.

Pili, known in Bicol as another “Tree of Life” next to coconut provides additional income to over 15,000 famers in the region and generates employment to thousands other people in the manufacturing sector engaged in the processing, packing and trading of not only of pili nuts but other products derivable from its tree.

The nut processing sector alone according to Blanco had already about 500 small, medium and micro entrepreneurs spread in several parts of Bicol particularly in Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes where pili farm productions are considered substantial.

Aware of the great potential of pili as a commercial crop it was selected as the flagship crop of Bicol thus, the concerted efforts by various agencies and some non-government organizations (NGOs) to hasten the development of the industry in the region and make it an export winner in the near future.

The commodity has been recently elevated as the 8th subnetwork under the Philippine Fruit RDE Agenda.

RDE or Rule Developing Experimentation is a systematized solution-oriented business process of experimentation that designs, tests and modifies alternative ideas, packages, products, or services in a disciplined way so that the developer and marketer discover what appeals to the customer, even if the customer can’t articulate the need, much less the solution.

The Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) estimates that Bicol with its about 1,000 hectares of farms devoted to pili had the largest area in the country planted to the crop. Sorsogon has the biggest area with about 700 hectares followed by Albay with around 150 hectares; Camarines Sur, 100, Camarines Norte, 50 and Catanduanes, five.

In the November 29 Pili Culinary event, Blanco said “we are also mapping out activities that would further widen pili products’ market abroad taking advantage of the fact that pilinuts are being acclaimed as superior replacement to walnuts and almonds that account to millions of tons of United States’ imports.

Pili is also a potential substitute for macadamia and cashew that have great demands in Korea, Hongkong, Singapore and Australia, she added. (PNA)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bicol competitiveness committee starts work

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 14 (PNA) – The Bicol Competitiveness Committee (BCC) has started mapping out ways to ease doing business in the region.

The initial plans formulated by the committee focused on standardizing the processing of application for the issuance of business permits and licenses issued by local governments units (LGUs), reducing the cost of doing business and how to further improve productivity.

These shall be implemented in the first quarter of next year.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) regional director Romeo Escandor, who presided over the Committee meeting, said part of the initial plan is to make these government agencies as well as the local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCIs) more customer-oriented with the help of a friendly system in dealing with their clientele and costumers.

These include among others the Business Permit and Licensing System (BPLS), Philippine Business Registry (PBR) and the National Single Window (NSW) whose process needs to simplified towards easier and expeditious transactions, he said.

Escandor said the process would require full automation so that it provides for more innovative delivery of services to the public at the same time the coming of more investments and faster tax return.

The BBC was created by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in August following the presentation made by National Competitiveness Council (NCC) chairman Guillermo Luz showing that the Philippines ranked 136 out of 183 countries in terms of ease of doing business.

However, in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Philippine ranking jumped from 85 to 75 among the 142 economies in the world.

This improvement was one of the highest recorded worldwide for this year by the WEF and is the highest on record for the Philippines since its entry into the global competitiveness rankings in 1994, the NCC report said.

The Philippines recorded improvements in ranking in nine of the 12 pillars, with significant jumps in terms of macroeconomic environment, technological readiness, and institutions.

However, a key challenge for the country was in the area of infrastructure particularly the areas of port and air transport infrastructures notwithstanding the overall ranking of quality of infrastructure that improved marginally.

Citing the country’s gains as pleasing, chairman Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, a topnotch economist, said the need to improve those ratings is necessary.

Salceda expressed hope that through the BCC working on a teamwork between the government and the private sector, Bicol would be persistent and systematic in efforts to achieve consistent improvements over time.

Some of the members of the committee are the regional agencies of the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Interior and Local government (DILG), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Science and Technology (DOST), Tourism (DOT), NEDA and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

Also members are the Provincial Planning and Development Councils (PPDCs) of the six Bicol provinces, City Planning and Development Councils (CPDCs) of the region’s seven cities and LCCIs. (PNA)

Karangahan Green Christmas 2011 to feature Culinaria Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 13 (PNA) -– Albay stages its season-long Green Christmas advocacy project for the second year this year, with a new added element aimed at fortifying its terms of endearment with the local folks with special focus on ethnic culture, food and tastes.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has recently launched here ‘Karangahan sa Pasko: Albay Green Christmas 2011, an expanded version of its maiden edition last year. This year’s version admittedly “provokes a more celebratory attitude that builds on the spirit of the season”.

“In 2010, we launched Albay Green Christmas, essentially as an advocacy campaign for less pollution and reduced carbon emissions through ‘Iwas Paputok’; proper solid waste management through ‘No Plastics/Less Garbage celebration; and zero casualty, Salceda explained..

He said they added a new ingredient to this year’s ‘Karangahan sa Pasko,’ designed to bring out and fortify "the terms of endearment of Albayanos to their province" and enhance their pride and unique sense of ethnicity as Albayanos that is articulated by their culinary arts and other cultural forms.

Karangahan is a Bicol term derived from the root word ranga, which refers to a higher level of joy and contentment, and later was used to mean endearment.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino is set to switch on the lights of the giant Green Christmas tree at middle of Penaranda Park in front of the Albay Provincial Capitol on Nov. 25, marking the start of the month-long festivity. The President will also formally inaugurate the Climate Change Academy at the Bicol University here.

The giant Green Christmas tree is about 58 feet tall, fashioned from recycled fuel drums painted green, with close to a thousand flickering solar powered led lights. It eloquently speaks for Albay’s advocacy and campaign for environment protection.

Salceda said Karangahan has some 40 to 50 activities lined up and has six pillars – Equalympics, a province-wide academic competition for High School, Elementary and Kindergarten/ Nursery levels students; Culinaria Albay – which seeks to promote Albay cuisine and its world-competitive restaurants; Green lantern and Christmas décor competition; Iwas Putok, a campaign for no-firecracker and safe celebration of the season; Wellness – interclub tennis tournament; and an indigenous art competition.

Of the many activities lined up, of special interest are "MusicHERO" or battle of the AFP bands featuring the bands of the Philippine Army, the Marines, the Navy and Air Force; and competitions for composers and signers from all over the country who will be asked to submit or perform their original Christmas jingles in English, Bikol or Tagalog. The entries must be themed Albay and must have a festive beat. (PNA)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Catanduanes to break world record in tree planting with 11-11-11 project
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 10 (PNA) – The world record on the most number of trees planted in one activity listed in the Guinness Book of World Records currently belongs to Camarines Sur but its neighboring island province of Catanduanes is aiming for a dramatic grab of the title.

On Friday, Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11), Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the lone congressional district of Catanduanes is initiating a massive tree planting activity that targets to plant 111,111 trees all over the island to surpass the record established by Camarines Sur with its 64,096 trees planted in just an hour last February 23.

The Camarines Sur record was posted as it launched its massive reforestation program of planting 12 million trees by 2012 in line with the National Greening Program (NGP) of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. It surpassed India’s 50,033 trees record earlier established in the Guinness Book.

The planting project was initiated by Camarines Sur provincial governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte and the “El Verde”, a local multi-sectoral group advocating the protection of the forest.

“What if we would plant 111,111 trees also in an hour during this historic date—11-11-11? We grab from Camarines Sur the record, right? But that is not the most important because what we want is to restore the lush vegetation of Catanduanes lost to typhoons, landslides and illegal logging activities,” Sarmiento said in a statement here Thursday.

He said planting materials provided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are already available while thousands of volunteers from schools, barangays, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs), farmers and fishermen’s groups and other sectors of the province have already been organized into the activity.

His district congressional office based in Virac, the provincial capital had already distributed about 103,000 of these planting materials across the province as of Wednesday particularly in far-flung villages and the barangay officials and community leaders would take charge of the planting in their respective areas, the congressman said.

“The province had 315 barangays and all its leaders have willingly signified their intentions to participate in this memorable affair in behalf of our environment which we intend to preserve for the present and incoming generations,” he said.

Practically, all the areas of the province will be covered by this synchronized planting activity that “would add more greenery to our still existing verdant forests but threatened with extinction by both natural and man-made calamities,” Sarmiento added.

The planting activity is also being supported by the Catanduanes provincial government under Gov. Joseph Cua who had earlier issued a memorandum to all Capitol employees to take part in the tree planting project.

Cua would mobilize a group that will take care of the planting of 3,000 mangrove propagules in coastal areas of the province and 5,000 trees in areas affected by slash and burn farming system locally called kaingin and illegal logging, Sarmiento said.

The LGUs of 11 towns comprising the province have also tasked themselves of simultaneously planting 65,000 trees in their respective areas of responsibility through their officials and employees with their families and the help of volunteers from almost all the public and private schools in their localities.

The rest of the 111,111 tree seedlings will be planted by the barangay groups, NGOs and other volunteer sectors, the congressman added. (PNA)

Friday, November 4, 2011

DOT developing Catanduanes as Bicol’s surfing capital
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 3 (PNA)-– Owing to its geographical location that makes the Bicol province of Catanduanes the first landmass of the Philippine archipelago to be kissed by the dazzling waves of the Pacific Ocean, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is developing the island into becoming the region’s surfing capital.

Its location also makes the province directly open to the path of typhoons, gaining for it the moniker, “Land of the Howling Winds."

Nonetheless, according to DOT regional director for Bicol Maria Ong-Ravanilla, Catanduanes has been one of the leading eco-tourism destinations in the region particularly foreign tourists who love to commune with nature.

“Surfing off the coastlines of Catanduanes is rather impressive as it should be as the deep, exciting Pacific Ocean is its breathtaking host. The waves travel a long distance before they hit land and the first on its path is this island. And thinking how giant waves batter the island during typhoons could give an idea what the surf would be,” Ravanilla on Thursday said.

Surfing is a surface water sport in which the surfer rides a surfboard on the crest and face of a wave which is carrying the surfer towards the shore.

Waves suitable for surfing are found primarily in the ocean and the waters of the Pacific surrounding Catanduanes is the best place for it in Bicol, she said.

“I myself witnessed how amusing it was during the “Majestic Surfing Cup” competition held at the Puraran Beach which was made part of the pre-festival activities of the Catandungan Festival and the province’s 66th founding anniversary celebrations last week,” Ravanilla said.

The competition, the first of kind in the island was participated in by dozens of local and foreign surfers who beat giant waves before thousands of thrilled spectators in the competition sponsored by the provincial government, Smart Communications, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Baras municipal government, she said.

Best known as “Majestic”, Puraran Beach, located in the municipality of Baras is one of the province’s leading surfing sites, an hour and a half land trip from the capital town of Virac.

Ravanilla said behind the beach’s powdery white sand, crystal clear beach water and panoramic location, the waves jumping out of the ocean very quickly to form fast moving bowls that slam into shallow reefs are gravely dangerous.

“This is the situation that surfers want although a British surfer was killed in the area about three years ago.”

A Japanese group had invested in improving the site by building cottages of single occupancy, a dining hall and a surfing area for enthusiasts but Ravanilla said it needs more developments to accommodate not only surfers but also beach-goers and surfing spectators.

Initially, she said the DOT along with Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, the representative of the lone district of the province had assured the allocation of P5 million for the construction of a huge movable platform that would extend from the shoreline to an area closer to the surfing venue.

This will allow the audience to witness surfers perform their craft right near the breaking waters.

“When we are able to draw more people into the site during surfing events, perhaps the province will become more popular as a surfing area worldwide. This would mean more tourists coming in especially during the staging of Catandungan Festival that also presents tourist-oriented merrymakings,” Ravanilla said.

Now on its 16th year, Catandungan is already listed by the DOT’s as one of the country’s leading festivals. It is the unification of all the island’s municipal festivals that amalgamate all these into one celebration to demonstrate the local color and divergence of Catanduanes and the entire Bicol region, she said.

The festival also highlights Catanduanes’ main strength and that is its attractions for nature lovers given its lush forests, exciting waterfalls, centuries-old caves, reefs and beaches that are kept pristine and intact.

Among the other interesting beaches in the province are the Mamangal which is also a surfing area and ideal for picnics and scuba diving also in Baras and Igang that features white sand and another surfboard and wind surfing site.

Caves near the area offer thrilling experiences and the fantastic coral formations are ideal for spear fishing, Ravanilla added. (PNA)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bicol expo sales reaches P17M
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct 31 (PNA) – The recently concluded “Orgullo Kan Bikol (OKB) or Bicol’s Pride-Gayon Bikol (Beautiful Bicol) trade and tourism expositions were successful in promoting “green trade” as measured by its record-high sales amounting to P17 million, its organizers said over the weekend.

With the theme, "GREEN! Naturally, Responsibly, Sustainably", the joint fairs, held at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, showcased distinct products made up of indigenous and organic materials for sustainable industry.

Trade fair organizer, regional director Jocelyn Blanco of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for Bicol, said here the products included wearable, house wares and furniture crafted out of Bicolano ingenuity, processed foods derived from Bicolandia’s culinary originality and native health and wellness concoctions, all from locally available raw materials.

“On its 15th year this year, making OKB-Gayon Bikol the longest running regional trade fair in the entire country has joined the world in promoting green trade as it transformed Bicolano micro, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs) into direct and indirect exporters that have been contributing significantly to the region’s socio-economic growth,” Blanco said.

“Started in 1996, the yearly fair indeed has gone a long way and every step of the way, it has made its over-reaching goal to market the distinct products of our homegrown entrepreneurs in the national and international market,” she said.

For this year, OKB-Gayon Bicol garnered a total sales of P17 million, the highest so far in its history and considered to be remarkable since sales jumped up by 70 percent of the target, the first time that it happened in 15 years, according to Blanco.

“That made the trade fair hit the total sales of P131.2 million generated since its inception in 1996 which in many ways perked up the business transactions in the region. This figure only includes the sales generated during the staging of the fair. It has also contributed much to job generation in the Bicol’s countryside,” the DTI regional chief said.

It is worth mentioning that Bicol MSMEs have already developed a world-class packaging of their processed food products which are now more competitive and the international market as far as Europe and America, she said.

The DTI also endeavors to support MSMEs in areas of product development by tapping the services of local designers to assist OKB participants in developing new designs for their handcrafted products to keep pace with the changing times.

The fair, being an example of a public-private partnership had for its private partner the OKB Association, the group which the DTI is grooming to be the front-runner of OKB Regional Trade Fair in the next years with the agency staying around to support the activity, she said.

On the part of the Department of Tourism (DOT) which is behind the Gayon Bikol tourism fair, tourist destinations and the rich cultural heritage of Bicolandia were highlighted the beauty and bounty of the region.

“With the DTI-DOT tandem, OKB back-to-back with Gayon Bikol has drawn a lot of people to the fair and brought in excellent sales,” DOT regional director Maria Ong-Ravanilla said.

The ever undying support of its sponsors like the PhilExport, Bicol’s local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs), the Rural Micro Enterprise Promotion Program (RuMEPP), Albay governor and Regional Development Council (RDC) chairman Joey Salceda was also worth mentioning in this success, Ravanilla said.

In acknowledging the success of the fairs, Salceda said much still has to be done for Bicol to move steadily forward on the road to progress as a continuing partnership of all concerned sectors is much needed.

“It is heartening to note that our partners in development have taken worthy steps to strengthen the collaboration and as the partnership moves toward more substantial outcomes, we remain optimistic that its gains will remain to be our pride, the tradition continues and our heritage goes on,” the governor said. (PNA)