Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Iriga to hold Gayon-Bicol, Tinagba Festivals in time for hosting of Davis Cup in February
By Danny O. Calleja

IRIGA CITY, Dec 27 (PNA) -– Preparations are now in place in this modest Bicol city for its hosting on February of the grand Gayon Bicol Festival and the prestigious International Davis Cup tennis tournament in time with the celebration of its very own Tinagba Festival.

Gayon Bicol is a week-long conjunction of all the famed festivals from the six provinces, seven cities and several municipalities of the region as they compete with each other in the Festival of All Festivals Showdown organized by the regional offices of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Among these festivals are the Ibalong of Legazpi City, Magayon of the province of Albay, Peñafrancia of Naga City, Kasanggayahan of Sorsogon Province, Sosogon of Sorsogon City, Bantigue of Masbate City, Catandungan of Catanduanes, Bantayog of Camarines Norte, Simarrones of Pili, Camarines Sur, Tabak of Tabaco City and Sunflower of Ligao City.

Street dancing among youths of school age in colorful costumes and effects will be highlighted by the themed festival showdown.

Now on its 8th year, Gayon Bicol, the region’s tourism strategy in promoting its numerous attractions will feature the festival showdown here on February 11 as the city culminates the celebration of its own Tinagba Festival, a harvest-offering celebration which also coincides on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the city’s patroness.

Tinagba is a yearly week-long festivity held from February 5 to 11 featuring farmers parading in carabao-drawn carts filled with the best of local produce that are blessed at mass and distributed to the needy. This feast originated from the early rituals of ancient Bicolanos who offered their first harvest to their Gods as a way of thanksgiving and to ask more bountiful harvest.

It also features revelers in mardi gras and native costumes who dance and parade around the city.

Tinagba is based on the Bicolano legend that tells of a people who lived under the shadow of a mighty mountain where the gods were said to reside. Here they spent their years giving birth, nurturing, planting, harvesting and dying.

They endured the elements, fought wars against neighboring tribes and survived the challenges of a pre-historic existence. But a time came when, no matter how hard they labored and toiled, the land refused to yield its fruit. The sun burned and the dry ground cracked under its glare. In desperation, the people begged the gods for mercy.

Apparently, their supplication reached divine ears and in no time at all, refreshing rain poured out from the skies. The fallow earth drank thirstily and life sprung forth from seeds once more. Grateful for the gods’ blessings, the people rejoiced and remembered this kindness through rituals and festivities celebrated since then.

This story serves as the backdrop for the festival and although the celebration may have been held sporadically throughout the centuries, it was revived in the ‘70s by the late Atty. Jose Calleja Reyes, whose research among the accounts of Franciscan chroniclers became the basis for the celebrations.

As host, the city’s Tinagba Festival will not participate in the regional competition, according to city mayor Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen on Tuesday. Instead, the city government had slated a float parade competition among its barangays and civil society organizations that will depict the various values and characters the city is promoting in its Character City program.

The float parade will be held in the morning and in the evening when the self-same floats are expected to acquire a nocturnal look as they recreate and imitate Disneyland’s Fantillusion Parade with their varicolored lights and mechanical contraptions, Gazmen said.

For the first time in Bicol, the prestigious International Davis cup tennis tournament will be here here from February 10 to 12 next year and Gazmen said preparations of its venue which is the Iriga Coliseum is now in full swing. The preparations include its renovation and refurbishing into a world-class sports arena.

The Davis Cup gathers the best tennis players and tennis buffs within the Asia Pacific region and leading the Philippines team are five-time South East Asia gold medalist Cecil Mamiit; Treat Conrad Huey, a Filipino-American counted among the top 60 Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) players and; Ruben Gonzales, ATP world trained singles and doubles player.

Also with the Philippine team are Jeson Patrombon, Junior Australian quarter finalist and Junior world top 10 player and Johnny Arcilla, Philippine Columbian Association (PCA) five-time Open Champion.

“We are expecting not less than 5,000 tennis buffs and players, visitors and tourist for these triple events that is why the city government is seeing to it that every detail of the preparations is in place. Hotels, restaurants, resorts, shopping areas, peace and order, transportation and cleanliness are among the primary concerns of the preparations,” she added.

As a tourist destination, this city is a fast growing urban center in the Bicol Peninsula which offers breathtaking natural wonders, a safe community and the warm company of kind, creative people.

It is known as the City of Crystal Clear Springs with more than 30 natural springs spread everywhere in the quaint city. It is also famous for its most prominent natural landmark, the majestic Mt. Iriga that offers a captivating view of the Bicol River Basin area. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/DOC/cbd

Monday, December 26, 2011

DA provides Sorsogon pili shell craft makers modern production equipment
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has provided organized groups of pili shell craft producers here with mechanical equipment that will help them produce more high-value items.

“The agriculture department is impressed with the creativity of these people engaged in the crafting of highly salable decorative and wearable items out of pili shells, a once trash by-product of pili nuts that in the past were useful only as kindling if not dumped elsewhere to rot,” DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said here over the weekend.

Dayao who is based in the DA-Regional Field Unit (RFU) office in Pili, Camarines Sur was in the city for the yearend conference of the Provincial Agricultural and Fisheries Council (PAFC) where the pili shell processing machines were turned over to five groups of pili shell craft manufacturers organized under the PAFC.

“We have observed the way pili shells have evolved in terms of its usage into a new industry that now provides both the domestic and international markets with valuable items like home decors and even body accessories like native necklace, earrings, headbands and bracelets that has already gained some fashion statement within ecology-conscious circles,” Dayao said.

With its entrance in the global market, pili shell now offers opportunities for agricultural communities in Bicol particularly in Sorsogon province which is the region’s leading producer of pili to make use of the shell in an industry that promises more economic returns, he said.

Started several years back by the Rural Improvement Club (RIC), a barangay-based organization of women in the city, the shell has been creatively produced as elegant fashion jewelry and as add on local material that goes with beautifully crafted home products displayed in souvenir item stores and malls in the region as well as in Metro Manila.

PAFC chairman Godofredo Ditan said the industry has opened a livelihood opportunity to rural families that produce very saleable being low-priced but artistically made hand-made products now usually worn casually or even with office uniform by women who loves donning a bit of style in their daily dressing concepts.

It has also entered the market of innovative fashion jewelries as one of the best exportable biodegradable products, Ditan said.

“This ingenuity of the village men and women in using pili shell into different fashion jewelries has now gained some global recognition based on the different demand for this product which the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) seen during recent trade fairs and as monitored from local and Manila outlets,” he added.

Dayao said the DA arrived at the intervention of providing equipments to the frontline pili shell industry players in the province to facilitate wider production of the industry that has become a home-based agri-entrepreneur engagement among pili producing barangays in the province.

“The equipment we have just provided to groups of enterprising individuals will make pili shell craft production less tedious as this will lessen the time for crafting the shells into the desired designs. It would make them abandon the usual way of doing it manually for faster and more refined craftsmanship,” Dayao said.

Indeed, Dayao said these people are further proving that pili that has emerged as another “Tree of Life” next to coconut is the flagship crop of Bicol which has opened additional opportunities for Bicolanos to liberate themselves from poverty that makes the region one of the poorest in the country.

According to Dayao, pili plays a significant role in the regional economy as it provides additional income to some nearly 20,00 farmers, farm laborers, processing factory workers and handicraft makers.

Realizing that, concerted efforts are presently being initiated by various agencies like the DA, DTI, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and some non-government organizations (NGOs) to hasten the development of the industry in the region.

Pili has also been elevated as the 8th subnetwork under the Philippine fruit Research, Development and Extension (RDE) Agenda with much hope for this crop to become an export winner in the near future, Dayao said.

In Bicol, Sorsogon has the biggest area devoted to pili with 669 hectares followed by Albay 145 hectares, Camarines Sur 100 hectares, Camarines Norte 50 hectares and Catanduanes four hectares, he added. (PNA)
LAP/DOC/cbd

No more empty Bicolano table on Christmas under PNoy (Yearender)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) — The Aquino administration in 2011 had shown to Bicolanos how to break the string of dearth that for decades pinned most of their communities to the vicious cycle of life difficulties.

“We are fully confident that even the poorest of the poor families in Bicol that have skipped “noche buena” in the past Christmases have something on their dining tables this time,” according to Remia Tapispisan, the regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWD) on Monday.

She based her optimism on how the administration’s anti-poverty agenda like the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Makamasang Tugon (MT), Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC), Cash for Work Program (CWP) and other poverty alleviation programs, all implemented by the DSWD worked for Bicol’s poor during the year.

CCT, which is also called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), now provides assistance to over 143,000 households in 65 of the region’s 99 municipalities. All these households are receiving maximum cash subsidies of P1,400 per month depending on the qualified beneficiaries.

Each child up to 14 years old is subsidized P300 monthly while the mother gets P500 on conditions that she undergo regular health checkup at nearest health center and the children attend required time in school.

CCT 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.

“So far we can say that the implementation of the CCT in Bicol has provided hope to these marginalized sector of society which, under the PNoy’s administration, is a priority so that poverty in the countryside is remedied", Tapispisan said.

MT, on the other hand, is the Aquino administration’s national government's framework program for a focused, accelerated, convergent and expanded strategy to reduce poverty by providing interventions on asset reforms, human development services, capacity building and participation in governance.

Under MT, the communities are the builder of the project not just passive recipients who most of the time, silently perceive government projects to be attended by graft and corruption.

The program applies refinements from the lessons learned in first phase of KALAHI-CIDSS covering among others financial controls, user-friendly community tools to assess environmental sustainability, management information system and rigorous impact evaluation to assess its impact on social capital and welfare measures.

The MT program’s effectiveness in empowering communities to be able to participate in and contribute to nation building, was proven in Barangay Tuboc, one of the 29 villages in Mobo, Masbate placed under the program by the DSWD being among the poorest of the poor communities based on the average poverty incidence of 53 percent of the small area poverty estimates of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

“This experience in the barangay is testimonial to the fact that through an empowered community, hopes to reverse the miserable economic condition of communities in Masbate, one of the most depressed provinces in the country and the entire Bicol, the country’s second poorest region are relived,” he said.

So far, 18 municipalities in Bicol — eight in Camarines Sur, three each in Camarines Norte and Sorsogon and two each in Catanduanes and Masbate, covering a total of nearly 400 barangays -- have been chosen into the MT implementation and once fully realized, the projects under it would promote sustainable growth across the region.

The SPISC provides a monthly stipend of P500 to 3,741 elderly 80 years old and above in 63 municipalities of Bicol who are not receiving any pension from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security system (SSS) or Armed Forces of the Philippines Mutual Benefit Association, Inc. (AFMBAI) and other insurance companies.

Its implementation is based on the mandates of Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior citizens Act of 2010 that provides for an additional government assistance to poor senior citizens all over the country.

The quarterly release of the money to Bicol’s qualified beneficiaries was started in July this year which means, the second release was made by the DSWD this month or in time for the Yuletide Season. With that, Tapispisan said, the region’s elderly have the money for “noche buena” and perhaps even for “media noche” on the eve of the New Year’s Day.

The CFW meanwhile is an emergency employment program representing a short term intervention for farmers and fishermen and their families to help them cope with the effects of increasing prices of commodities and fuel and to tide them over during the lean months.

Under the program, the beneficiaries received cash assistance in exchange for undergoing four-day training and rendering community service for seven days. Each beneficiary received P900 cash for the training plus a total of P1,575 for seven days of work at P225 daily based on the local minimum wage rate.

“All these programs and interventions have been effectively implemented in the region in 2011 which brings us to the optimism that none of Bicol’s poorest families gathered home on Christmas Day were with empty dining tables. We are also pretty sure that the whole year saw no one among them starving for even a day due to extreme poverty,” Tapispisan stressed. (PNA)
DCT/DOC/cbd

DPWH saves P130M from Bicol’s P4-B infra projects this year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) – Sans shady deals in the awarding of contracts and supply procurements, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol saved for the government some P130 million in the implementation of projects under its P4 billion regular infrastructure program (RIP) in the region this year.

“We implemented a total of 160 projects under our P4.044-billion RIP for the region this year and by applying the open competitive bidding process, we were able to push the cost of each project down by as much as 4.23 percent, saving for the government a total of P130.761 million,” DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito on Monday said.

He said P80.925 million of the savings were generated by the regional office while the remaining P49.836 million were saved by the 14 engineering district offices of the DPWH covering the 14 congressional districts in the six provinces of the region.

Out of 160 projects implemented under the RIP this year, Dequito said 33, costing P1.997 billion, fall under the implementation of the regional office while 127 worth P2.047 billion went to the district offices.

At least 84 of these projects have been completed while 63 were still on-going and 13 were yet to be started to post an over-all 45.05 percent accomplishment, or 1.64 positive slippage for the region.(PNA)
RMA/DOC/cbd

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Iriga City is Bicol’s best in nutrition performance

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 22 (PNA) -– Iriga, a third class component city of Camarines Sur, had been adjudged Bicol’s Best in Performing City on Nutrition for 2010 in the yearly evaluation being conducted by the National Nutrition Council (NNC).

The latest evaluation was started by the Regional Nutrition Evaluation Team (RNET) in November last year and the judging and deliberations made by the panel of judges ended recently which put Iriga city on top followed by this city and the City Ligao, also in Albay that placed third.

Awarding ceremonies were held Dec. 19 at the posh St. Ellis Hotel here with city mayors Madelaine Alfelor-Gazmen, Geraldine Rosal and Lilia Gonzalez of Iriga, Legazpi and Ligao respectively personally receiving the awards.

Gazmen said the award is a reaffirmation of the effective and efficient health programs being implemented by her administration that attends to the nutritional and health needs of a population of 97,983 based on the 2007 census.

According to Arlene Reario, the NNC coordinator for Bicol, all the seven cities of the region underwent thorough evaluation conducted by the RNET and the entire judging panel of the search to ensure that the winners are indeed the best in their implementation of programs and projects in line with the government’s agenda towards the health of its people.

Apart from the winning the 2010 Best Performing City on Nutrition award, Iriga also bagged the top Performing Barangays award with two of its barangays—Sagrada and San Pedro adjudged as winners.

These barangays both registered an average rating of 90 percent during the regional evaluation conducted by RNET.

Reario said the search for outstanding performers in nutrition among local government units (LGUs) is being conducted by the NCC yearly to give recognition to those with outstanding performances in initiating local nutrition programs in the region especially in areas identified with high malnutrition incidences on preschool children.

Bicol is among the three regions of the country that fall under the more nutritionally at risk as based on the latest Family Income and Expenditures Survey of the NSO, the region had the lowest average family income in the country, thus poverty appears to be a major factor involved.

To address the problem, she said the NNC and LGUs in the region jointly implement programs for nutrition under the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) that underscores the involvement of health, agriculture, food production, food processing and manufacturing sectors to ensure adequate supply of safe, nutritious and quality food products to the people.

Its programs for nutrition are home, school and community food production; livelihood assistance; micronutrient supplementation; food fortification; nutrition education; food assistance; nutrition in maternal and child health services; and enabling mechanism, Reario added. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

Albay to send WASH team to Cagayan De Oro
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 21 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Salceda has ordered the deployment of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Team to Cagayan de Oro, a mission to provide the victims of tropical storm Sendong with clean and potable drinking water.

Salceda said based on the ground assessment and localized consultation in coordination with the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol, the province will be dispatching a WASH team like the Isabela Mercy Mission "including our purifying machine with a capacity for 33,000 liters/hr."

Salceda commended the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID) for committing to significantly fund the operating expenses of the team.

WASH Team is being utilized by the provincial government of Albay and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council during emergencies to provide immediate potable drinking water and other sanitation support to calamity victims.

WASH is part of the Minimum Initial Service Package that respond to the immediate needs of the dislocated families in a very minimum approach.

The local government of Cagayan De Oro and Iligan can also seek assistance from the United Nations Population Fund Agency (UNFPA) through the Minimum Initial Service Package that include the provision of kits for pregnant, lactating mothers, drugs, hygiene kits, and other medical supplies. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/LQ/MDR/cbd

Albay sends medical and Watsan teams to CDO and Iligan

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 22 (PNA) -- Albay has dispatched on Wednesday a Watsan (Water and Sanitation) and medical teams to the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, the hardest hit areas by tropical storm "Sendong" in Northern Mindanao provinces, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said.

Salceda in an email message said the Albay-OCD Watsan and medical teams is composed of 96 medical, sanitary and security personnel, including a water liquefying machine.

The teams left this city at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and will enplane for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Thursday.

Also, the governor said another team composed of sanitation personnel and water purifying machine proceeded to Pasacao Port and board a Philippine Navy vessel BRP Antonio Luna bound for Cagayan de Oro.

The medical team, with four doctors and 14 nurses led by Dr. Luis Mendoza, Albay Provincial Health Officer (PHO), will assist disaster and health authorities in CDO and Iligan in providing post disaster health intervention services.

The Watsan team, with 17 members led by Sanitary Engr. Willaiam Sabater of the Department of Health (DOH), will operate and distribute water to residents that badly need potable water in the two cities in Mindanao.

The water purifying machine can produced 33,000 liters of potable water per hour.

Salceda said the overall strategy of Team Albay was patterned to the Watsan and medical services interventions in Isabela, Iloilo during typhoon Frank, and Bagong Silangan, Quezon City when hit by tropical storms "Ondoy" and "Pepeng."

The 118-man team will render service for 15 days from December 23 this year to January 7, 2012.

This is a joint undertaking composed of the province disaster and health service personnel, Office of Civil Defense (OCD), DOH, Bicol Regional Training Teaching Hospital-Health Emergency Management Staff, Philippine Navy, Army and Air Force. (PNA)
FFC/LQ/MSA/cbd

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PNP introduces new ecotourism destination in Masbate
By Connie B. Destura

SOMBRERO Island, Masbate, Dec. 20 (PNA) —- Nothing in the local tourism circle had been said yet about this quaint, hat-shaped (thus the name) islet at the middle of Burias Pass belonging to the political jurisdiction of the town of San Pascual, Masbate.

But San Pascual town Mayor Job Willard Rivera is hopeful the initiative over the week of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in Legazpi City in introducing the place to tourists would reveal its exotic secret.

The RPSB First Maneuver Company led by its company commander Senior Inspector Ebuenga Dipad Jr. with over a dozen of tourists from Manila and several local journalists in tow explored the islet with a land area of about 10 hectares enclosed by a coastline of glittering white sand and crystal clear beach water.

Sombrero Island belongs to a six group of islets at the western tip of the Burias Island covering the municipality of San Pascual and Claveria is one of the three major islands of Masbate Province. The nearby islets of Arena, Templo, Taguingui, Tinalisayan and Busing that bare fantastic rock formations are exciting places for island hopping.

Sombrero Island, with a latitude of 13.14 (13° 8' 32 N) and a longitude of 122.85 (122° 50' 43 E), is a hypsographic (island) situated 93 kilometers west of Legazpi City, Bicol’s regional government center and and 259 kilometers south east of Manila.

San Pascual is a fourth class municipality of over 8,000 household representing a population of nearly 40,000 residents that rely mainly on farming and fishing for their livelihood.

The exploration expedition started with an over two hour boat trip from Pasacao, Camarines Sur. From San Pascual town, another one-hour boat ride took the group to Sombrero Island.

The exhaustive boat ride vanished to the sumptuous meal of heavy seafood for lunch—grilled tuna, kilawing posit squid), calamares, stewed vegetables and fresh fruits.

A fulfilling feeling after heavy meal drew everyone to a nap under a relaxing wind blowing mildly from the surrounding waters of Alimang Bay.

At near dusk, the group frolicked around the fine white sand around the island while watching the beautiful view of the sun setting and being sent off by skin soothing cool wind that at the same time welcomed the rising of the full moon whose bright glare illuminated the clear and meekly tamed sea water.

At nighttime, the fishing lanterns used by fishermen off the island’s coast provided the sea with flickering lights. The tourist group joined by Dipad’s security group set a bonfire and music from group singing accompanied by guitars broke the silence of the night.

“The biggest lure of the island is the fact that it is quaint. It remains uncongested, affordable, very private and secluded,” Police Inspector Domingo Tapel, Assistant company commander of the RPSB’s First Manuever Company said.

“You should visit Sombrero because its rich biodiversity of marine ecosystem offers a once in a lifetime experience to those who love to commune with nature. The secrets Sombrero and its neighboring islets are exciting to discover,” he added.

Tapel said that aside public safety and eco-tourism makes Sombrero Island a stand out. He also assures travelers that a trip here will not burn a hole in the pocket.

Mayor Rivera said the municipal government is mulling on offering tour packages to tourist that could as low as P3,000 to P5,000 for them to be able to visit the islet.

“The food is fresh and affordable, the area is clean and crime is almost non-existent. It is very safe and convenient for tourists,” Tapel added. (PNA)
DCT/LOR/LQ/CBD

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bioethanol generates 180,000 jobs; saves foreign exchange savings
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 20 (PNA) -– The country’s bioethanol industry has the potential of generating about 180,000 jobs and generate foreign exchange savings of nearly US$ 800 million by 2015, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Over the last five years, the BAR has been funding field testing of sweet sorghum varieties in different sites in the country in the vision to make Philippines less dependent on expensive, imported ethanol oil and generate rural jobs, its director Nicomedes Eleazar said in a statement here on Tuesday.

Through this initiative, Eleazar said it is estimated that bioethanol has the potential to generate jobs totaling to 179,386 by 2015 and 289,611 by 2020. It may also generate foreign exchange savings placed at US$ 789.3 million in 2015 based on a study of the National Sweet Sorghum Program (NSSP).

“Sweet sorghum is a good alternative to other ethanol feedstocks. It can stand alone as a life-giving crop to farmers in far flung areas because it is used to make many food products like juice and syrup. But we will maximize its economic value by producing ethanol from it,” Eleazar said.

BAR has already obtained outstanding varieties of sweet sorghum through its partnership with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and a distillery has also been developed with the assistance from Department of Science and Technology (DOST), he said.

The machine was developed by scientist Sergio Capareda following his recent return to the country after a long stint with Texas University in the United States.

Capareda designed the distilling column and guided its fabrication, while Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) Material Science expert, Samuel Franco designed the furnace.

The NSSP, Eleazar said already sees hope of Philippines’ commercial production of sweet sorghum ethanol as several large companies have also positioned themselves for its processing. Among these are Seaoil’s Fuel Inc. and Philippine National Oil Company-Alternative Fuels Corp. (PNOC-AFC).

The Green Future Innovation Inc. (GFII) is also presently completing an ethanol plant in San Mariano, Isabela which will have a capacity of 250,000 liters per day. While its feedstock will primarily be sugarcane, it intends to use sweet sorghum as a complementary crop which may be used as feedstock in between sugarcane milling seasons.

An NSSP master plan being drafted indicates that from the collection of hydrous ethanol from the village level, this product should be transported to a Central Dehydrating Plant (CDP) near a fuel depot.

At the CDP level, the BAR director said bigger processing firms are expected to participate in this potential industry that is hoped to be supported by many government agencies. More investments may be required at the CDP-fuel depot level.

The “bench-type”distillery that processes sweet sorghum into ethanol in Ilocos Norte is seen to pave the way to Philippines’ mass production of biofuel that is using sweet sorghum as feedstock among small hold farms which will create jobs in rural areas.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has financed with P1 million through its KR2 program the establishment of the village-type distillery and now in its commission, the distiller has a capacity of 50 liters per day, merely a pilot scale. However, the government has a vision of massively replicating it in a bigger scale, Eleazar said.

“When they saw that it’s possible to put up this village-type distillery, NEDA saw the potential for sweet sorghum to create jobs in rural areas and create an industry since its low cost can enable its replication elsewhere,” Dr. Heraldo Layaoen, the NSSP head said in the same statement.

With more bench distillery in an area, farmers’ cooperatives may also be able to produce 1,000 to 5,000 liters of hydrous ethanol per day, he said.

Ilocos farmers, according to Layaoen have already been planting sweet sorghum in Batac, Ilocos Norte over the last five years with the assistance of the BAR. They are currently planting on 65 hectares but the target area is 100 hectares.

Field trials, he said have shown that farmers can achieve an average yield of 55 metric tons (MTs) per hectare of sweet sorghum stalk and 4,500 kilos of grains per harvest.

There can be as much as three harvests from one planting in a year-- that is one seed crop or from the one planted and two ratoon crops.

At a cane price of P700 per MT and at P10 to P12 per kilo of seeds, farmers can earn a net income of P83,000 to P95,000 per cropping. If cane price goes up to P900 per MT, farmers can earn a net income of P103,000 to P115,000 per cropping, Layaoen said.

Along with job-generating benefits, sweet sorghum ethanol production may generate for the country carbon emission reduction benefits, he added. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

DPWH resets to 2013 start of P1.5-B road project in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) – The start of the implementation of the P1.5-billion Catanduanes Circumferential Road Improvement Project (CCRIP)-Phase II previously set early next year had to wait for another year due to some delays in its pre-implementation processes, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office here announced on Monday.

While the bidding and awarding processes of the project are expected to be completed in January next year, the start of the civil works had to be moved to 2013 to accommodate the changes that need to be done on its design, according to DPWH regional director for Bicol Danilo Dequito.

Besides, Dequito said the acquisition of the road right-of-way as a matter of new policy had to be completed first, way ahead of the actual civil works with the owners of the properties to be affected by the road widening compensated as early as February next year.

While waiting for all those processes to be completed however, the DPWH Catanduanes district engineering office would be busy implementing next year dozens of other multi-million infrastructure projects in the island province that the Aquino administration has included among the priority areas for its countryside development agenda.

Among these, according to Dequito are the concreting of 16 national road upgrading projects worth a total of P562 million whose implementations were started early this year and completion scheduled by the middle of next year.

Works on these projects whose funding were taken from the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) were supposed to be 80 percent complete by the end of last November as required by DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson but only about 53 percent was achieved due to work delays owing to frequent heavy rains and bad weather, the regional public works chief said.

Four of these projects are the concreting of the Virac Port Road, Kanglangka Road and box culvert, Balongbong National Road, Puraran-Bentiocayan Road in Baras town and the Buenavista Junction leading to the radar station of the PAGASA. Completion rate of these projects were at 61.13 percent, Dequito said.

The others are the concreting of the Mabini-San Jose Road whose completion was at 50 percent; Milaviga Road, 61 percent; Inalmasinan-Hitoma Road, 39.30 percent; Marambrag Road, 51 percent and Puting- Baybay Road, 38 percent. These projects are within the 64-kilometer San Andres-Caramoran-Pandan national highway.

The rest of these ongoing projects for completion next year are the Agban Road with 48 percent completion as of November; Dororian Road, 43 percent; Sioron Road, 46 percent; Villa Aurora-Tinago Road, 58 percent and Tambongon Road, 52.50 percent, all within the Baras-Gigmoto-Viga National Secondary Road.

Dequito said another 16 new road projects worth a total of P341 million will be implemented in the province next year under the DPWH’s regular infrastructure program.

All these projects including the CCRIP, he said are geared towards the massive development of the island province that is considered by the Aquino administration as a vital economic growth area given its being the biggest producer of abaca in the country and wide tourism potentials. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

Monday, December 19, 2011

Farmers ask DA to hold back onion importation permits to allow full market access for local harvest

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) - A group of onion farmers has asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to put off any issuance of import permit for onion so as not to detriment the December local harvest that is now reaching the market by around 10,000 bags.

In a statement released here over the weekend, the Sibuyas ng Pilipinas Ating Alagaan (SIPAG) said it has just submitted a data with DA showing a stable inventory of 500,000 bags of 25 kilos each of onion nationally which is enough to supply the 350,000 bags of the country’s monthly consumption.

Ilocos farmers have a separate production of an estimated 10,000 bags for red shallots in December consisting of 4,000 bags from the north and 6,000 from the south, it said.

“DA Secretary Proceso Alcala has been very supportive of our farmers. We understand that he has to hear others who want an import permit now. But we will be making farmers sacrifice for us if imports are allowed now,” Francisco Collado, SIPAG president, said in the statement.

While government may be concerned about sufficiency of supply during the holiday season, SIPAG said price of onion has been relatively stable at P45 to P50 per kilo at farm gate for small onions and P55 to P60 per kilo for medium to big onions.

“Even if price becomes a little higher, our money just goes around the economy, from a farmer’s hand to another. But if we will just allow imports deliberately, it will be Chinese farmers that will benefit from it. That will not benefit our economy at all,” Collado said.

And even after Ilocos farmers will have been done with harvest by end-December, Collado said onion farmers in Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija will start harvesting by January.

“We would not have a shortage because before the older inventory from Ilocos runs out, harvests in other areas of the country are already approaching,” he said.

Collado said SIPAG takes the position that government should not at all allow anymore importation of onion in order to help this industry survive.

“How can we make the industry self-sufficient if we will allow importation every time? Because of the imports, farmers are hesitant to plant. Imports gave farmers reason to stop planting because imports push down local onion prices,” he said.

SIPAG is concerned that containers with imported onion are already in port areas and just need import permits so that they may be taken out of the ports.

Onion farmers nationwide have been pleading for government support since they have already lost their garlic industry to imports from China and Taiwan.

They said the government should regulate the industry so as to protect the remaining onion industry even in Ilocos which produces shallot onions that have some special uses for salads and fresh dishes.

The industry is concerned that imported onion has been dismally proliferating in Mindanao so that some stocks could even been seen in front of DA’s office in Davao, Collado added. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

Albay gives P1-M aide to 'Sendong'-hit Cagayan de Oro, Iligan cities

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) - Albay province is donating P1 million in cash to the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Misamis Oriental province in Northern Mindanao, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said Monday.

He said the amount was sourced from the province's calamity fund. The two cities will receive P500,000 each.

“The financial aid would be given to the local government of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities on behalf of the people of Albay who expressed gratitude to other LGUs and the national government for the assistance it gave to the province in past disasters that hit the province,” Salceda said.

He said the cash assistance was decided as the better option in lieu of a Wash Mercy Mission (water, sanitation and health) and considering the local circumstances specifically the distance of the province to the Mindanao area.

A team from the provincial legislative board, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) will leave for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Tuesday to deliver the cash assistance.

Salceda, in a text message, said “more than the amount which is modest, the Albay Sendong Aid Mission brings with them the spirit of solidarity and sense of kinship between our peoples so critical in overcoming this period of distress.”

They will also make an assessment based on face-to-face consultations with the local officials and communities affected on how Albay could further help in the early recovery and rehabilitation period.

On the other hand, the Ako Bicol (AKB) Party list will also donate P250,000 to the victims of Sendong in Cagayan de Oro.

AKB Representatives Rodel Batocabe and Christopher Co will go to Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday to personally deliver the financial aid. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/MSA/cbd

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bureau of Agricultural Research pursues stevia production in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) – Given the great potential of stevia in the foreign market as a natural sweetener, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is funding under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP) the commercial production of the plant in Bicol.

A project called “Commercialization of Stevia Rebuadiana: A Natural Sweetener” is now ongoing in Ocampo, Camarines Sur under the stewardship of the Naga City-based Bicolandia Greenfields Development Organization (BGDO), a non-government organization pioneering a private sector climate change adaptation strategy in high-value crop production in the region.

BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar in statement here over the week said the project now being funded by the Bureau through the NTCP is an adaptation and adjustment effort given the threat of climate change and its imminent impacts to the crop sector.

In Naga City, Dr. Maria Elena Quimio, the BGDO head said on Friday adaptation strategies are being conducted in response to climate change disturbances in the country and ensure the success of the project.

“Since stevia plants are not native in the Philippines, growing them has to be managed well through effective cultural management and technological interventions provided by the BAR,” Quirnio said.

Raised beds were established to prevent water log and peripheral drainage canals were built around the periphery of the farm area while ratooning, applications of organic sprays on plants and proper distancing to avoid crowding are being done to prevent infestation of fungus and pests brought about by rains and frequent rainy cloud conditions, she explained.

Her group, Quimio added, uses bamboo sticks to anchor newly planted stevia in table beds when sown during the typhoon season. Use of table beds is ideal for urban agriculture or for rooftop gardening.

"Proper timing of application of vermi-compost to prevent being washed out by rains and proper timing of planting of cuttings to avoid stress on roots caused by frequent rainfall should also be noted," she said.

Eleazar said that although stevia plant originated from Paraguay, it is now being widely cultivated and used in other countries including the Philippines. As a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners, the plant is being utilized as an ingredient in coffee, tea blends, and some health products.

“Leaf parts of stevia are about 10 times sweeter than sugar. Only tiny amounts of purified steviol glycosides, the sweet compounds in stevia are needed for food sweetening and drink preparations,” he said.

Eleazar also noted that stevia which is commonly called sweetleaf is widely grown for its sweet leaves and is popularly in demand abroad. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a lower onset and longer duration than that of sugar.

With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.

Through this BAR-funded project on stevia, Eleazar said nursery production in plastic pots, table beds and in field conditions has been established. The plants are being grown in trays and pots in three screen houses and in fields in three areas located in Camarines Sur and Albay.

Farmer cooperators were already cited as part of the activities of the project. They will then be provided with planting materials and will be trained on nursery production and on good agricultural practices, he added. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DA formulating next five-year’s Bicol agri-fisheries development
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 14 (PNA) – Starting next year until 2017, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office for Bicol will heighten the modernization of agriculture and fisheries in the region based on the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and on the principles and practices in Agri-Pinoy 2011.

“Our Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan (AFMP) 2012-2017 would translate into operational terms Chapter 4 of the PDP and Agri-Pinoy under the Aquino administration that incorporates principles and practices in optimizing the development of the country’s resources to achieve national development goals,” DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said here on Wednesday.

It will help optimize use of limited resources; provide strategic, medium-term and consistent context for the DA annual budget and strengthen "culture of performance", Dayao said.

Chapter 4 of the PDP aims for a competitive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector toward attaining the targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while Agri-Pinoy or Agrikulturang Pilipino is the over-all strategic framework of the DA that guides its services and programs from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

One of the strategies that would be applied with the Bicol AFMP under the PDP, according to Dayao is productivity enhancements to make agriculture and fishery products more competitive, contributing to the growth of the other economic sectors.

This strategy involves production diversification; improvement of rural infrastructure and support facilities such as irrigation and drainage systems, farm-to-market roads and post harvest facilities like trading posts; market development; and more research and extension.

Among the guiding principles of Agri-Pinoy on the other hand are food security and self-sufficiency that seeks to minimize dependence on food imports and; sustainable agriculture and fisheries to insure that producers and other stakeholders in the whole value chain “from farm to table” receive economic benefits that enable them to sustain their participation.

These principles also include natural resource management focusing on the natural resource endowments of the region and how to manage them so that they are not exhausted, while enhancing their competitive advantage; and local development based on the devolution of governance and the recognition of an eco-system framework of development.

“We are now in the finishing stage of the process of formulating our AFMP being done through series of workshops and consultations with local government units (LGUs) in the six provinces of Bicol. This process is required under the provisions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997 and Republic Act 7160 or the Local government Code of 1991” according to Dayao.

“Under the AFMA, the clients of the DA are the LGUs and the clients of the LGUs are the farmers. The LGUs are responsible for devolved support services under their respective areas of jurisdiction and to perform their ‘rowing functions’, LGUs are provided by the DA with the funding, capacity-building, and other ‘enabling supports’," he explained.

The DA's complementary "steering role" is to perform core functions which are infrastructure support, research, development and extension, regulation, policy, planning and legislative liaison and risk reduction including climate change adaptation.

The workshops and consultations seek to generate immediate and priority needs in every municipality by utilizing simplified area-based value chain analysis focused on value creation, innovation, product development and marketing. The analysis aid in deriving costs efficiencies as well as help the LGUs come up with appropriate interventions.

DA Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations Edgar Madrid said the LGUs are urged to mainstream their priority projects in the formulation of the AFMP for the LGUs and the national government to achieve a unified direction. (PNA)
DCT/LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

21 barangays qualify for Bakas award in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) - Twenty one (21) barangays in the province of Albay have qualified in the first level screening of the search for outstanding Barangay Kasangga sa Edukasyon (Bakas).

The Bakas search aims to recognize the initiative of barangay in improving quality education in the community.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said Barangay Kasangga sa Edukasyon (Bakas) is an expansion of the Gawad Albay sa Edukasyon which will recognize barangays in the province with exemplary education related projects.

Bakas is another award system that recognizes and rewards the significant contribution of barangay through their barangay officials and community to the cause of quality education in the province of Albay.

The provincial government started the reward system in 2008 under the Education for Quality Albayanos (EQUAL) now being organized by the Provincial Education Department (PED).

The Provincial Education Department is expected to announce the finalists before the end of the month. Awarding of winners will be done during the Titser's Nayt set on April 2012.

The goal of the provincial government is to provide universal education. The budget for education was increased from virtually nothing outside of the Special Education Fund (SEF) to P178 million in 2010 or another 17 percent of the budget while the SEF itself increased from P5 million to P18 million. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/MDR/cbd

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Naga City bet dominates barangay nutrition workers’ battle of wits in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) – The knowledge of Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) on the role they play in the delivery of health and nutrition services at Bicol’s grassroots level has been tested here anew and Naga City’s bet proved to be the best.

The contest now on its third year and held at the Pacific Mall in this city over the week is a project of the Nutrition Communication Network (Nutricomnet)-Bicol that fitted 11 finalists who represented the six Bicol cities and five provinces of the region.

The two contestants for Masbate province and city were prevented by inclement weather from making it to the competition, according to Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional director Eduardo de Leon who chairs the network on Wednesday said.

The contest was focused on testing the wits of each BNS through their answers to questions asked by the panel of judges that were centered on the important role they play in the delivery of nutrition and health services to improve the living conditions of family members especially infants and children in their respective barangays, De Leon said.

Naga City’s bet, Marilou Jimenez of Barangay Carolina, a densely populated urban village of the city emerged as the champion. She got a trophy in citation of her wit and microwave oven as prize.

The other winners were Mary Jane Macapagal who represented Sorsogon City and Eugenia Paa from Camarines Sur won the first and second runners-up respectively.

As consolation prizes, all the other finalists earned P1,000 each. They were Karen Ortega Cortez of Albay, Babelyn de Luna of Camarines Norte, Ederlina Avila of Catanduanes, Rey Lofamia of Sorsogon province, Edvit Balang of Iriga City, Aura Jane Toledo of this city, Emily Atienza of Ligao City and Marsha Bondoy of Tabaco City.

The conduct of the Bicol Regional Nutri-Quiz Year-Three was a collaborative effort of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Health Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) Bicol, National Nutrition Council (NNC), Commission on Population (POPCOM) and the inter-agency Nutricomnet.

De Leon said it is an annual friendly competition designed to test the current skills of BNS in the performance of their task and responsibilities as volunteer workers in the field of health and nutrition in the barangay level.

The BNS Program as mandated under Presidential Decree No. 1569 is a human resource development strategy of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition which involves the recruitment, training, deployment and supervision of volunteer workers in every barangay to serve as links of the community with service providers.

They locate and identify malnourished children through a regular community survey that involves weighing of all preschoolers and interviewing mothers to determine how the child is cared for, and the resources available in the family for their participation in nutrition and related interventions.

The regular weighing provides the basis for corrective actions which may include referral to the appropriate service or implementation of nutrition projects, together with the community.

Apart from this task, the BNS also moves the community to organize into networks of 20-25 households, or into community-based organizations working for the improvement of their nutrition situation.

They may not necessarily deliver direct nutrition services to the community but serve as linkage-builder to ensure that members of the community, especially those with underweight children, avail of nutrition and related services.

The BNS thus, must be aware of the services available and of those who need these services, and establish a system through which those needing certain services are referred to the appropriate service provider. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

DA formulating next five-year’s Bicol agri-fisheries development
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 14 (PNA) – Starting next year until 2017, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office for Bicol will heighten the modernization of agriculture and fisheries in the region based on the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and on the principles and practices in Agri-Pinoy 2011.

“Our Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan (AFMP) 2012-2017 would translate into operational terms Chapter 4 of the PDP and Agri-Pinoy under the Aquino administration that incorporates principles and practices in optimizing the development of the country’s resources to achieve national development goals,” DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao said here on Wednesday.

It will help optimize use of limited resources; provide strategic, medium-term and consistent context for the DA annual budget and strengthen "culture of performance", Dayao said.

Chapter 4 of the PDP aims for a competitive and sustainable agriculture and fisheries sector toward attaining the targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while Agri-Pinoy or Agrikulturang Pilipino is the over-all strategic framework of the DA that guides its services and programs from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

One of the strategies that would be applied with the Bicol AFMP under the PDP, according to Dayao is productivity enhancements to make agriculture and fishery products more competitive, contributing to the growth of the other economic sectors.

This strategy involves production diversification; improvement of rural infrastructure and support facilities such as irrigation and drainage systems, farm-to-market roads and post harvest facilities like trading posts; market development; and more research and extension.

Among the guiding principles of Agri-Pinoy on the other hand are food security and self-sufficiency that seeks to minimize dependence on food imports and; sustainable agriculture and fisheries to insure that producers and other stakeholders in the whole value chain “from farm to table” receive economic benefits that enable them to sustain their participation.

These principles also include natural resource management focusing on the natural resource endowments of the region and how to manage them so that they are not exhausted, while enhancing their competitive advantage; and local development based on the devolution of governance and the recognition of an eco-system framework of development.

“We are now in the finishing stage of the process of formulating our AFMP being done through series of workshops and consultations with local government units (LGUs) in the six provinces of Bicol. This process is required under the provisions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997 and Republic Act 7160 or the Local government Code of 1991” according to Dayao.

“Under the AFMA, the clients of the DA are the LGUs and the clients of the LGUs are the farmers. The LGUs are responsible for devolved support services under their respective areas of jurisdiction and to perform their ‘rowing functions’, LGUs are provided by the DA with the funding, capacity-building, and other ‘enabling supports’," he explained.

The DA's complementary "steering role" is to perform core functions which are infrastructure support, research, development and extension, regulation, policy, planning and legislative liaison and risk reduction including climate change adaptation.

The workshops and consultations seek to generate immediate and priority needs in every municipality by utilizing simplified area-based value chain analysis focused on value creation, innovation, product development and marketing. The analysis aid in deriving costs efficiencies as well as help the LGUs come up with appropriate interventions.

DA Regional Technical Director for Research and Regulations Edgar Madrid said the LGUs are urged to mainstream their priority projects in the formulation of the AFMP for the LGUs and the national government to achieve a unified direction. (PNA)
DCT/LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rebels attack Army-CAFGU detachment in Albay; militiaman killed, two others hurt

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) - A militiaman was slain while two others including a civilian were wounded when New People’s Army (NPA) rebels bearing assault rifles fired upon on Monday a Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment in Barangay Caguiba, Camalig town in Albay, a Philippine Army (PA) officer said Tuesday.

The rebel attack killed Jesus Canuel, a member of the Army-CAFGU detachment while those hurt were a certain Santiago, a CAFGU member, and Bryan Maravillas, 18, a civilian and resident of said town.

Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, in a text message said the incident happened around 8 p.m. Monday, when at least five NPA rebels armed with assault rifles fired from a distance at the CAFGU detachment in that remote village in Camalig.

Guzman said the para-military detachment was set up to provide security to a government road opening project in that remote village some seven kilometers away from the town proper.

Army militiamen were securing the heavy equipment owned by the Sunwest Corporation, a construction firm contracted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to carry out the road project there.

The road opening project forms part of the Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and Legazpi (GUICADALE), an economic platform program of Albay Governor Joey Salceda.

The Guicadale Project comprises economic corridors that will consist of a circumferential road and new arterial roads to interconnect these urban centers and its surroundings to the Bicol International Airport in Daraga town, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) South Central Station, the new regional center site and various resettlement sites.

The project was designed to encourage new economic activities safe from the threats posed by Mayon volcano eruptions, lahar flows, floodings and tsunamis.

The Guicadale Economic Platform is designed to spur economic activity in the province by integrating Albay and Sorsogon into one common economy enlarging demand base and resulting in better economies of scale that would attract domestic and foreign investments. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/MSArguelles/cbd

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bicol DPWH to get P5.3-B infra fund next year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 8 (PNA) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office in Bicol has been allocated an amount of about P5.3 billion from next year’s national budget which it has earmarked for the implementation of vital infrastructure projects in the region in line with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016.

DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito on Thursday said his office has lined up 156 projects that include roads, bridges, flood control structures and other vital infrastructures that are urgently needed in line with the Aquino administration’s thrust to attain inclusive growth, alleviate poverty, generate jobs and spur economic growth of Bicol as contained in the PDP.

The Plan’s infrastructure development program aims to contribute to inclusive growth and poverty reduction in support to the performance of the country’s economic sectors and ensure equitable access to infrastructure services, especially as these affect the people’s health, education and housing, Dequito said.

Toward these ends, the government is accelerating the provision of safe, efficient, reliable, cost–effective and sustainable infrastructure. “That’s all these projects we have programmed for next year under the P5.265-billion allocation are all about,” he said.

With this regional budget for 2012 which is higher by 30 percent than the P3.9 billion or P1.3 billion over the 2011 allocation, Dequito said his agency would be able to accelerate infrastructure development in the region as planned by the Aquino administration.

The 2011-2016 PDP, he said, recognizes the country’s inadequate infrastructure as a critical constraint to economic growth. This inadequacy, in both quantity and quality is the past result of low levels of public and private sector investments in infrastructure which fall short of the requirements of a progressive economy and a growing population.

Moreover, inequitable access to basic infrastructure services has also become an obstacle to poverty reduction and more generally, to inclusive growth because it limits the opportunities for economic and social advancement available to marginalized sectors.

Implementation of these new projects, he said would also be in accordance with the PDP’s intention of making the infrastructure sector contribute significantly to community employment generation and harness skills and technical expertise of the local workforce.

“We are adopting an employment-intensive or labor-based scheme of implementation whenever it is most optimal in infrastructure development while ensuring at all times the safety and health in public works undertakings,” Dequito said.

The approved 2012 General Appropriation Act that carries with it a P1.816 trillion national budget appropriates an amount of P125.5 billion to the DPWH, the second highest among national government agencies next to the Department of Education (DepEd).

A huge portion or about P800 billion which is some 44 percent of the national appropriation has been allocated to the countryside in response to clamor for a greater dispersal of the budget to the regions to ensure that national government spending benefits people, especially those in the regions, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Sec. Florencio Abad had earlier explained.

This policy in the 2012 budget that provides higher budgetary outlay for the regions, provinces and municipalities also ensures that funds would be remitted to the implementing units of national agencies and that programs and projects go directly to where they are needed most, at the soonest possible time, Abad said.

Along that line, Dequito said 132 of the total of 156 infrastructure projects for the entire Bicol region next year amounting to some P2.4 billion will be implemented by the respective engineering offices of the DPWH in the 14 districts of the six provinces of the region.

All these projects for the district offices, he said cost no more than P50 million and those that are more than that amount up to P150 million composed of 20 individual projects will be under the implementation of the regional office.

Dequito said that DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson had earlier directed the DPWH regional office and the district engineering offices to fast track the pre-construction activities meaning that all these projects should undergo bidding by the end of this year and construction should start immediately by January.

They will be implemented in adherence to Singson’s 3Rs (right project, right cost, right quality) policy, the regional DPWH chief added. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd

Thursday, December 8, 2011

TB stigma kills, World Vision says
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Dec. 7 (PNA) – Once a top killer disease in the Philippines, tuberculosis (TB) is now highly curable but the stigma it develops among some of its hosts kills, according to the local chapter of the World Vision Development Foundation.

World Vision Community Development Officer Leo Legaspi on Wednesday was referring to the case of a 54-year housewife from a farming village here who died of TB last June.

Legaspi said the victim, identified only as Aling Clara, “reminds us that TB stigma still defeats a victim’s morale as what happened to this poor housewife who feared being discriminated, isolated and ridiculed by the community once found out that she was ailed with this once dreaded disease”.

Aling Clara’s case was referred to the World Vision’s local office by its volunteer health worker based in the same village where she lived when symptoms of TB were noticed two years ago.

Legaspi said the health worker, a midwife encouraged Aling Clara to visit the rural health center for a TB test but she dismissed the suggestion saying “ubo lang ito dahil sa sipon. Wala akong TB. Bigyan mo na lang ako ng antibiotics (this is only cough due to cold. I do not have TB. Just give me antibiotics).”

Over the years, she repeatedly insisted on the same excuse to hide her disease despite constant encouragements made for her to submit herself to free diagnostic attention like sputum examination and chest X-Ray being offered by the health center and other local medical institutions under the Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) strategy, Legaspi said.

The DOTS strategy combines diagnosis with a secure supply of quality anti-TB drugs and supervised treatment and assessment of patients by community members.

When she could no longer bear her sufferings from pains and excessive coughing, Aling Clara finally agreed to be taken to the health clinic where she was diagnosed with acute TB. But it was too late. She died soon after, Legaspi lamented.

Legaspi explained that stigma can be experienced internally (self-stigma) or externally (discrimination). Internal stigma can lead to a person’s unwillingness to seek help or access resources.

He said that external stigma can lead to discrimination based on one’s perception. It can be seen through negative reactions that prejudices seriously the sick person. There is no researched facts however about the impact of discrimination and TB stigma in this city.

Stigma according to Legaspi as scientifically defined is the process by which the reactions of others spoil normal identity and this is the usual behavior displayed by persons afflicted by tuberculosis as in the case of Aling Clara.

He said the World Vision is taking this case as a challenge as it strengthens its campaign to articulate to the community that TB is a disease that is curable and reduce stigma of persons afflicted for them to develop health services-seeking behaviors toward its cure.

World Vision is an international Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. TB is one of its major concerns in its local works that focuses on defeating its stigma.

In the Philippines, he said TB claims 75 lives everyday most of the victims confronted by stigma and resigned to living fearfully with TB discouraging them from seek the treatment they need.

As part of the global campaign against TB, World Vision is helping communities in the Philippines respond through a network of local volunteers dedicated to supporting those affected by the disease.

“People would rather suffer in shame and silence than seek medical attention and this is what we are working on closely so that we are able to convince people with symptoms of TB to seek diagnosis and access free treatment from local health services,” Legaspi added. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

Albay gets P45.5M under DOH potable water supply program

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec 7 (PNA) -– The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) recently released P45.5 million to finance the establishment of water supply systems in various resettlement sites in Albay under the Department of Health’s (DOH) Potable Water Supply Program for this year.

DBM regional director for Bicol Rebecca Olayon on Wednesday said the amount was part of the P210-million fund intended for 2011 to address potable water supply problems in 21 provinces across the country.

The P45.5 million that Albay got would be solely used to put up potable water supply system projects in several resettlement sites in the province where thousands of families displaced by the past calamities particularly from near the foot of Mt. Mayon have been permanently relocated, Olayon said.

The projects will be implemented by the Bicol DOH regional office and its regional director Nestor Santiago said they have already identified the specific resettlement sites where the water supply systems will be put up, among them the Anislag Resettlement Village in Daraga town.

This resettlement site, the newest in the province is hosting to more than 1,000 families from at least five Daraga villages whose houses were either swept away by floods or buried under volcanic debris as part of the massive devastations triggered by super typhoons Reming and Milenyo in 2006.

The housing units that these families are now occupying in the resettlement sites were built for them by the government and humanitarian groups like the Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Life and although they are now living comfortably in their new-found community and decent abodes, Santiago said source of potable water is indeed a problem.

The other resettlement areas that would be recipient of the project, he said, are the Taysan and Banquerohan Relocation site in this city and those that are in the municipalities of Camalig and Sto. Domingo and the City of Ligao, among others.

The projects will be immediately implemented to address this problem once and for all according to the desire of the Aquino administration to reduce the number of communities without access to potable water in line with the government’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the President’s Social Contract to the Filipino People, he said.

The potable water program of the DOH, he added is in synergy with the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), a poverty alleviation program being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other social protection programs initiated by the government.

The potable water supply program is covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) entered into among the DOH, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) for its implementation in communities chosen.

The identification of its beneficiaries is based on poverty criteria of the NAPC, “Seal of Good Housekeeping” standards of the DILG, priority areas identified by the DOH for the reduction of water-borne diseases and guidelines of the National Economic Development Authority-Investment Coordination Committee pertaining to national government grants for devolved services. (PNA)
DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DENR padlocks 6 mineral plants in Camarines Norte
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 6 (PNA) – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here has closed down six mineral processing plants in Camarines Norte that were found operating illegally and causing water pollution.

MGB regional director Luis Loyola on Tuesday identified the facilities served last week with cease and desists orders (CDOs) by his office as the P&F Mineral Experts Corporation, Green Gold, Triple A and Talla, all in the municipalities of Paracale and the Escober and Romeo Diaz mineral processing plants located in Jose Panganiban town.

“All six processing plants were subject of public complaint, particularly from fisherfolks allied with Samahang Mangingisda ng Paracale for polluting the town’s fishing grounds including two major rivers, Malaguit and Bato-Balani in Jose Panganiban,” Loyola said.

He said that the issuance of CDOs came following the conduct of investigations by a team from the MGB joined by personnel from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) which discovered the mineral processing plants, except Green Gold, to be in active operations despite expired permits from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).

Under the People’s Mining Act of 1991, the PMRB is in charge of issuing licenses for the operation of custom mill and other mineral processing plants subject to the pollution control and safety standards.

The board is chaired by the MGB regional director, vice-chaired by the provincial governor, with representatives from the small-scale and large-scale mining industries and local non-government organizations (NGO) as members.

Green Gold was closed down due to defective wastewater treatment facility as determined by the EMB, according to Loyola.

“The closure of these mineral firms is part of our regional crackdown on illegal mining and operations of facilities that produce materials that are hazardous to the environment. It would serve as warning to others that commit similar violations that they should comply with the law or be shut down and penalized criminally,” he said.

There are still several mineral processing facilities in Camarines Norte that are being closely watched by the MGB and EMB given the fact that hundreds of small-scale gold mining activities are ongoing in several parts of the province and “we will not hesitate to close them down once found guilty of violating environmental and mining laws”, Loyola said.

Based on the department’s rules and regulations, any company that generates wastewater should secure a wastewater discharge permit from the EMB and once a mining permit of a project expires, its wastewater discharge permit also expires with it, he explained.

“We are under strict instructions from DENR Sec. Ramon Paje to always apply our policy in DENR that any company that discharges wastewater with an expired EMB permit or no permit at all will be held liable for violating Republic Act No. 9275, otherwise known as the Clean Water Act,” the MGB regional chief said. (PNA)
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DA says ‘uraro’ could save PHL US$ 200M in wheat importation
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 6 (PNA) – The Philippines spends over US$ 200 million yearly for food wheat flour importation, an amount that could be saved had it has been established earlier that arrowroots locally called “uraro” is a good substitute.

It is not too late however as the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) had already developed technologies for the commercial production of the crop and its processing into flour for bread, pastry and other flour-based products, according to DA regional executive director for Bicol Jose Dayao.

In a statement released here Tuesday, Dayao said the production technology is now being applied to pilot farms established by the DA-BAR and the Southern Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center (STIARC) in Catanauan, Quezon for its arrowroot production enhancement program.

The technology interventions in the program include land preparation as farmers began plowing and harrowing their soil unlike in previous planting where no land preparation was practiced, use of new planting stock each season unlike the use of the same old stock prior to the program and cutting of top leaves and excess roots of the planting materials before planting, Dayao said.

STIARC assistant manager for technical programs Rosemarie Olfato said in a separate statement that the program raised farmers’ “sense of ownership” in the project which enable able them to realize that agriculture can be a lucrative business.

The use of organic fertilizer was one of the major interventions of government in raising arrowroot production in the project, she said.

“We adopted the concept of participatory action research method derived from Social Psychology and Group Dynamics model developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin in formulating the uraro production program. It is aimed at improving performance quality of a community in an area of concern, agricultural productivity in this case, Alfato explained.

Farmers were also taught planting of three suckers per hill at 30 centimeter (cm) by 50 cm distance compared to the disorderly ”bugsok-tanim” done previously. They were also told to do weeding two-three times yearly.

In results, Alfato said yield increased over three times from 4.04 metric tons (MT) per hectare in 2010 to 12.7 MT in 2011. Growth was also impressive from 9.59 MT per hectare in 2010 to 20.8 MT. From planting to starch generation, gross income increased from P45,000 to P227,272 in 2011.

Non-government stakeholders on the other hand are helping Calauan farmers in providing for drying and food grade processing facilities while the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had committed to provide the farmers involved in the project an equipment to be used in the mechanized recovery of starch from uraro tubers, according to Alfato .

The STIARC is also eying on the acquisition of a hammer mill for the uraro flour processing while the Quezon Provincial Agricultural Office will grant a cabinet type drying facility, she said.

While end-product from uraro at present is mainly cookies, Olfato said that with a product development program, STIARC can expand products to include baby food and starch-based food for adolescents with digestion problems.

“Our product is favored by our customers because of its color, purity, and consistency,” she added.

Dayao said uraro thrives anywhere in the country for as long as there’s enough moisture and “we are replicating the project in Bicol where a vast area of land could be used for a larger scale production of the crop and farmers need more government interventions toward better agricultural productivity.

According to BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar, “addressing the felt needs of farmers should be paramount to all development efforts as it encourages sustained people’s participation in government’s programs”.

The Philippines has long been in a search for food and wheat-based flour substitutes that may help reduce the country’s dependence on food wheat importation. Among these potential alternates are corn flour used in pan de sal, pigeonpea flour used in noodles and pasta, squash flour used in Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s “yellow pan de sal”, Eleazar said

A US Wheat Associates data indicated that the Philippines imported 2.28 million MT of wheat in 2010. Wheat is used for food and feed. With food accounting for around half of this, the country spends an estimate of more than US$ 200 million for food wheat import, Eleazar added. (PNA)
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