Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Catanduanes consumers seek PNoy’s help vs power rate hike

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) – Multi-sectoral groups representing over 30,000 power consumers in the province of Catanduanes have appealed for an intervention from President Benigno Aquino III towards the stay in the province of the imposition by the National Power Corporation (NPC) of the latest power rate increase recently approved by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB).

According to the NPC, the rate increase amounting to P1.4282 per kilowatt hour (kwh) which was imposed this month is meant for the government-owned energy firm to recover within a four-year period P4 billion of its P12 billion losses to fuel and foreign exchange incurred by the operations of its several Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) in the country from 2005 to 2009.

Part of these fuel cost losses amounting to P537 million according to the NPC was incurred by the Catanduanes SPUG facility which is the 2.2-megawatt Marinawa diesel plant which supplies 30 percent of the province’s total power requirement. It also operates the 1.8-megawatt Balombong mini hydropower plant.

The other power need of the province is being provided by the two hydropower plants in San Miguel and Caramoran tows established and operated by the Sunwest Water and Electric Power Co. Inc. (SUWECO), a private non-renewable energy developer that currently supplies a total of 3.6 megawatts of electricity to the locality.

Power rate being charged by this firm to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO), the local distributor, is only P5.4148 per kwh or more than 50 percent lower than the NPC rate.

Through twin resolutions approved on Aug. 1, 2011, the ERC granted the six separate petitions of the NPC for the approval of rate increase under the Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and the recovery of incremental costs on foreign currency exchange fluctuations under the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Mechanism Adjustment (ICERA).

The rate hike brought the cost of electricity being supplied by the NPC through its petroleum-fed generating facilities and also distributed by the FICELCO to residential and commercial users from P11.15 to P12.58 per kwh. This new rate will be applied within four years until 2016.

The increase came at the time when local businesses, majority of which are of micro-level capitalizations, are scrambling to comply with an enormous increase in municipal taxes and the increasing prices of commodities spiked by a global fuel price hike, the multi-sectoral groups said in a joint-petition letter sent to Pres. Aquino last week.

“We are terribly worried that the power hike, implemented abruptly, would deprive a large number of consumers of whatever savings from their monthly income, with the extra cost of power better spent for other vital household needs such as education, health and food,” they said in the letter, copy of which to the PNA here over the weekend.

They pleaded with the President to intercede with the NPC or the ERC so that the approved power rate hike is implemented on a staggered basis for six years, instead of just four years.

“Such modification in the implementation of the ERC resolution would result in a lower rate of increase from P1.4282 to only about P0.95 per kwh, thus accordingly cushioning its effects on the people of Catanduanes,” they said.

Signatories to the petition include Bishop Manolo delos Santos representing the local hierarchy of the Catholic Church, Rotary Club Virac Chapter president Susan Ordinario for the civic sector, Catanduanes Consumers Association president Eddie Rodulfo, Catanduanes Producers Association president Cesar Angeles and Contractors Association president Samuel Laynes.

Other signatories are Virac Association of Barangay Chairmen Rosario Arcilla, Provincial Agriculture and Fishery Council chairman Ulysses Tabilin, Catanduanes Chamber of Furniture Industries president Edgar Balmadrid, Seniors Citizens Association president Arsenio Romero, Catanduanes Tribune publisher Fernan Gianan.

Virac Vendors Association president Rey Castelar, Conception Ang-Hung representing the traders’ group, Ports Arrastre and Stevedoring Cooperative president Manuel Sarmiento, Lily Co representing the hardware and construction material dealers organization and Holy Name Society president Hermin Zafe. (PNA)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Suspected NPAs torch passenger bus in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) - Suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels torched on Thursday night a passenger bus in Barangay Cagbacong, a remote village in this city, a Philippine Army officer reported on Friday.

The air conditioned Silver Star passenger bus was set on fire for refusing to pay extortion demands by the communist movement, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division spokesperson, said.

The bus carrying 21 passengers including three rebels was bound for Manila from Bulan, Sorsogon.

It was negotiating the Maharlika Highway at the vicinity of Barangays Cumadcad and Sogoy in Castilla town in Sorsogon when the three passengers with handguns introduced themselves as NPA rebels and subsequently hijacked the bus about 7:30 p.m. Thursday and ordered the driver to proceed to Barangay Cagbacong, an interior village in this city, where three more rebels with high powered assault rifles were waiting.

The passengers were told to get off after which the NPAs poured gasoline and set the bus ablaze.

After torching the bus, the rebels allowed the passengers to leave on foot trekking their way back to the national highway in Barangay Sogoy in Castilla.

An eyewitness stated the three rebels boarded the bus at the terminal in Sorsogon City.(PNA)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

More studies and mapping of Bicol’s geohazard zones underway
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is conducting more studies and mapping of landslide and flood prone areas in Bicol as it moves ahead this year into formulating for the region another geological hazard maps in 1:10,000 scale.

Unlike the first maps prepared by the MGB for at least 113 towns and cities in the region which were in 1:50,000 scale two years ago, the 1:10,000 scale maps will be more detailed and extensive in coverage, according to MGB regional technical director Luis Loyola here on Tuesday.

“Given its geographical location that makes it the front door of typhoons developing over the Pacific, Bicol Peninsula is considered under high risk area for natural disasters resulting from the prevailing climate change that is why this new set of geohazard maps is a must for use by local authorities for their disaster mitigation and risk reduction programs,” Loyola said.

Apart from this, Bicol’s forests have already lost about 75 percent of its original cover owing to man-made destructions ranging from illegal logging and slash-and-burn farming to forest clearing to give way to the developments like geothermal energy explorations, mining and opening of access roads. This situation is particularly true in Sorsogon, Albay, Camarines Norte, and Catanduanes.

And while most of the localities that are considered priority areas already have their first set of geohazard maps in 1:500,000 scale, still, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its MGB, Loyola said wants a more comprehensive material in scale 1:10,000 maps.

“We call this project densification of geohazard and climate change maps that would specific in a more precise and wider-scope detail of areas whose population are highly vulnerable and the parameters that could affect the stability of soil including the type and magnitude of landslides that may take place,” he explained.

Besides, according to the MGB regional chief, the formulation of this new set of maps is specified in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) entered into last year between the DENR through Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje and Albay Governor and Regional Development Council (RDC) chairman Joey Salceda.

The MOA has tasked the DENR to come up with the 1:10,000 scale maps and help in the information drive in high risk areas as part of the campaign to educate communities on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, Loyola said adding that these maps would be flood and landslide hazard models identifying high risk areas.

The MOA provides for more thorough studies on the hazards being posed by landslides and floods in Bicol provinces and cities.

To be included in the studies are the disaster risk reduction plans of local government units (LGUs) of Albay province particularly of this city and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco and the municipalities of Rapu-Rapu, Manito, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Sto. Domingo, Oas, Pioduran, Malinao, Tiwi, Jovellar, Bacacay, Malilipot, Polangui and Libon.

The three cities and the municipalities of Sto. Domingo, Malinao, Bacacay, Malilipot, Daraga, Camalig and Guinobatan all sit near the foot and along major crevices and rivers emanating from the slopes of Mt. Mayon while Rapu-Rapu is site of a giant mining operation.

Manito on the other hand is host to the operations of the geothermal power generation facilities of the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC) within the 250,000-hectare Bacon-Manito Geothermal Field while Tiwi is site of another geothermal energy facility being operated by Chevron.

Jovellar, Libon, Oas, Pioduran and Polangui are low-lying areas that serve as catch basin of flood waters from nearby mountains.

Meanwhile that the new maps are not yet ready, Loyola said local officials and disaster management authorities should maximize the use of the existing geohazard maps in 1:50,000 scale as it is their tools in identifying communities that need priority attention especially under the present situation that La Niña is dumping heavy rains in the region.

This weather phenomenon that could trigger flash floods and landslides has been prevailing in the region since the past three months and expected to last until February and “we are reiterating our reminders to LGU officials and residents with identified risk areas to take extra precautions to avoid any untoward incident that may result in loss of lives”, Loyola stressed. (PNA)

PNoy’s Proclamation 313 to accelerate tropical fabric technologies commercialization—DOST
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 24 (PNA) – Pres. Aquino’s recent proclamation declaring January as “Philippine Tropical Fabrics (PTF) Month” will encourage industry stakeholders to be more aggressive in coming up with strategies to accelerate the commercialization of the country’s tropical fiber technologies, according to the Departmentof Science and Technology (DOST).

Signed by the President last January 12, Proclamation No. 313 promotes the judicious use of indigenous fibers in the country such as piña, banana, abaca and Philippine silk. It aims to sustain the increasing interest on local tropical fibers brought about by the celebration of the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Day on January last year as mandated by Proclamation No. 86.

In a statement received here Tuesday, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo hailed the proclamation as it supports the competitiveness of indigenous tropical fibers developed by the DOST’s Philippine Textile Research Institute PTRI which is becoming well known.

Moreover, Montejo said research and development (R&D) works done on these fibers reveal they can have a broad variety of uses, from traditional formal wear to fashion accessories. “Its prospects are bright.”

The DOST-PTRI, which leads the research and development of technologies on the country’s tropical textiles, will spearhead the tropical fiber month celebration to be highlighted by a fashion show featuring local fibers given a new twist.

Dubbed “Bagong Habi, Salinlahi: Cutting-edge Philippine Textiles”, the show will unveil fresh, modern and exciting fashion pieces on February 8, 2012 at the InterContinental Manila, Makati City.

Some of the most successful and promising designers of this generation will showcase their creations using innovative indigenous weaves known as neo-ethnic fabrics.

It would include the “pinukpok” from Bicol, “abel” of Ilocos Norte, “hablon” of Iloilo and the “inaul” of Maguindanao. The show will also reveal several interesting pieces made of PTRI-developed tropical fibers from saluyot (jute), water hyacinth, and maguey, Montejo said

Bicol’s “pinukpok” is the fine, smooth and silky fabric processed by manually pounding abaca strands or fibers. It is hand-woven as pure abaca fiber or blended with cotton, silk, polyester or piña. This fiber is said to be three times stronger than cotton and silk fiber and could last for several years.

This fiber product has already evolved into a fine high-end fabric and has weaved its way into the textile industry and into the fashion scene with known designers like Rene Salud and Ditas Sandico Ong featured in their fashion shows. Prominent personalities like former first lady Ming Ramos, Sen. Loren Legarda, Patis Tesoro frequently order this fabric.

To guide all initiatives in promoting tropical fabrics and other hand-woven textiles, the PTRI, according to Montejo, has prepared the Philippine Tropical Fiber (PTF) Roadmap in 2010 which involves not only government agencies but also key players in the industry and the academe.

This year, the PTRI promises a sustained promotion of local tropical fibers and neo-ethnic fabrics through proactive advocacy campaigns.

“Through this roadmap, we can unify our efforts in advancing local tropical fabrics and ethnic textiles, thereby increasing competitiveness and opportunities of the local fiber, textile and garment industry,” Montejo said.

PTRI’s partners in developing the local fabric industry include among others the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Civil Service Commission (CSC), University of the Philippines-College of Home Economics, Textile Mills Association of the Philippines and the farmers group represented by the Labo Progressive Multi-Purpose Cooperative based in Camarines Norte.

In the full implementation of the PTF roadmap led by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD-DOST PTRI also intends to erase misconceptions on indigenous fabrics as a sartorial choice during weddings and other formal occasions rather than as chic and sensible outfit for everyday use, Montejo added. (PNA)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

P-Noy orders release of P300M to bolster R&D for semiconductor and electronics industry
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 24 (PNA) – President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release an amount of P300 million to bolster government’s research and development (R&D) support for the semiconductor and electronics industry, an established driver of economic growth amidst the weakening of export markets.

The fund will be used by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in establishing an Advanced Failure Analysis Laboratory that the country’s manufacturers could use to test their products, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said in a statement received here Tuesday.

This project clearly signals that the Aquino administration is committed to the competitiveness and sustainability of the semiconductor and electronics industry as a priority area for job generation, Montejo said.

The industry, which has bolstered economic growth and job generation in the past, should be supported now that global markets continue to be weak, he explained.

With this facility which was positively endorsed by Montejo, local companies that do not have their own laboratories need not send their product samples abroad for testing. This will shorten the turn-around time and reduce costs, Montejo said.

The initiative was one of the agreements forged between the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) and the DOST along with the DBM, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Education (DepEd), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

To be initially funded by the P300 million provided by the President is the establishment of the advanced failure analysis laboratory that includes the purchase of major equipment and rehabilitation of the building located in DOST Compound to meet the International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements for a state of the art failure analysis facility.

The second phase of the project will deal with the enhancement of the into a “Nanotechnology Testing Center”, Montejo said.

The establishment of such facility is consistent with the Information and Communication Technology and Semiconductors Roadmap of DOST, where nanotechnology research will be geared towards building core facilities for nanometrology, solar cell testing, and failure analysis, he explained.

The electronics and semiconductor sector is considered one of the leading and important industries in the Philippines. Over the last two decades, the industry’s total share to the country’s exports has been steadily increasing from about 20 percent in 1991 to a peak of about 70 percent in 1998. In 2010 alone, the industry generated revenues of about US$ 31 billion, he added. (PNA)

Bicol DA chief allays fear over new rice farm pest
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Jan. 24 (PNA) – The regional head for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has allayed fear over the recently reported new insect pest confronting several rice farms in the region, saying there is nothing to fear as the infestation is limited to only a very small area.

“Bicol farmers have nothing to be alarmed about this new rice menace as its infestation is not widespread. We are urging farmers and agricultural technicians, though, to closely monitor rice farms and immediately report to us any presence of the pest and other disease incidences,” DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said on Tuesday.

The new pest was first noted several months ago to have infested some rice farms in Ragay, Camarines Sur and Dimasalang, Masbate where a total of about 100 hectares have been affected with an extent of at least 50 percent damages.

Promptly upon receiving the reports sometime in September of last year, Dayao said, Dr. Evangeline de la Trinidad, the chief of the Regional Crop Protection Center (RCPC) conducted ocular inspections of the affected areas and collected several specimens of the unidentified insect pest which she submitted to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for analysis.

Several other regions of the country like Central Visayas or Region 7, Eastern Visayas (Region 8) and Caraga (Region 13) that also noted the presence of the insect pest initially called it by different names like rice seed bug, dirt-colored seed bug and rice grain bug.

It was however temporarily identified by the Eastern Visayas RCPC based in Tacloban City as Paromius longulus. It was found to be infesting rice panicles, from flowering stage to milking stage, which results to unfilled or discolored grains that eventually reduces its quality and subsequently yield.

Earlier this month, Dayao said he received reports that the infested farms in Ragay and Dimasalang have already been harvested and the pest had disappeared. “We are however not putting our guard down as it may resurge following within the ongoing cropping season that is why we wanted our technicians and the farmers themselves to stay vigilant,” he said.

The DA regional chief said that measures and strategies recommended by the BPI and attached agency of the DA through its director Dr, Clarito Barron include the plowing under soil of rice straws or stubbles right after harvest to kill the bugs.

The BPI also advises farmers to ensure sanitation and cleanliness around their farms including the dikes, monitor the field regularly to determine early pest appearance and in case the pest is already present, apply “green label” contact insecticides at early morning or late afternoon, Dayao added. PNA

Friday, January 20, 2012

Siltation of waterways down Mt. Bulusan alarming, says DOST
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) - There is an alarming state of siltation in the major river and all its tributaries that serve as receiving ends of volcanic debris swept down by rain waters from the slopes and crevices of Bulusan Volcano, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

All smaller tributaries of Cadac-an River, the main river system that traverses the municipalities of Juban and Irosin are now heavily silted even as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had recently conducted dredging operations, Gerry Asuncion, the DOST provincial chief said here on Wednesday.

The huge volume of lahar and other volcanic debris stored at the slopes of Mt. Bulusan during its series of eruptions starting since about three years ago and cascaded with rain waters into these river system brought about these siltation, said Asuncion as he warned local disaster management authorities and residents against its consequences.

This scenario is very likely to cause overflowing of the river and tributaries and trigger flash floods that could ravage nearby communities particularly these days that La Niña has been dumping heavy rains in the area, he said.

The DOST, Asuncion said has been monitoring the developments taking place in areas surrounding Mt. Bulusan which is still abnormal and presently under alert level which means more ash explosions or even a major eruption may occur anytime even as it has not been manifesting signs toward these events in the past days.

Latest bulleting issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) monitoring station based in Barangay Cabid-an here on Wednesday said “seismic network did not detect any volcanic earthquake during the past 24 hours. Weak emission of white steam clouds 50 meters high could be observed from southeast and northwest vents”.

Alert Level 1 status is strongly reiterated and the public as well local government units (LGUs) affected are reminded that entry to the 4-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) is strictly prohibited due to the possibility of sudden steam and ash eruptions.

Civil aviation authorities must also warn pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ejecta from sudden eruptions may be hazardous to aircraft while people living within valleys and along river channels should be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahars in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall, it added.

Asuncion said that DOST had come up with the river map of these areas for regular monitoring and have also installed a mechanism to find out the volume of mudflow, its increase and its impacts on these certain identified areas.

“With the heavy siltation of Cadac-an river, the barangays of Tampi, Taboc, Biriran and Binanuahan in Juban have now become highly threatened by floods as heavy downpours have been causing river overflowing which if not given immediate intervention, will also create a greater problem in terms of water supply needs,” he stressed.

Asuncion also explained that they are now devising a water filter out of clay that can be used to filter water and remove the particles of sand and silt to come up with safe water for immediate needs.

With the prevailing situation in Juban and Irosin towns, some highly flood-prone areas should be given attention in terms of clean and potable water supply, he said advising that water filter made out of clay can also be used to remove particles on water affected by the silting.

“This water filter can be used for immediate needs in evacuation centers as part of DOST’s disaster risk reduction mechanism intervention to have access to clear water supply to people in evacuation centers affected by flooding or other calamities,” he said.

“Evacuation centers should be able to use alternative means to provide safe drinking water and this water filter made out of clay can be mass produced so that areas affected by flooding can use these as a means to have clear water supply including for bath and toilet needs,” Asuncion added. (PNA)

DA putting up more aggie tramlines in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Jan. 18 (PNA) -– Where farm-to-market roads are impossible, the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) had a solution: aggie tramlines.

This mode of transportation has been proving its usefulness since the DA, through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) put up two of its kind in the abaca-rich island province of Catanduanes last year.

The two tramline systems are now making hauling of products from the mountainous abaca and coconut plantations in Viga and Panganiban towns of Catanduanes faster and convenient.

“We have identified three more sites for this project in Bicol--one in Ligao City, another one in its nearby Polangui town, both in Albay and the third in Camarines Norte. We are encouraging more local government units (LGUs) in the region to avail of it by submitting proposals,” DA regional executive director Jose Dayao over the week here said.

Remote agricultural areas that are not accessible by roads or any other form of transportation to transport their products to the market will greatly benefit from this project, he said.

There are still many farmlands in the region that are difficult to reach due to the absence of roads or isolated by wide rivers, steep ravines and mountainous terrain. The common sights in these areas are animal-pulled sleds loaded with crops and farmers on foot carrying farm products on their back from a distance to the market.

These modes of transport and movement cause deterioration of the farmers’ produce given the time consumed and punishment of negotiating rugged terrains. Thus, the PhilTech developed the agricultural tramline system to reverse the situation and at the same time minimize production losses.

Based on the study conducted by PhilMech, post-harvest losses are at 40-60 percent in horticultural crops in difficult areas with no road network and appropriate transportation system.

Given the importance of Catanduanes as the country’s leading abaca producer and the transportation woes being experienced by its farmers, Dayao said the DA and PhilTech made the province the first recipient of the tramline system project. (PNA)

Countryside development programs to go full blast this year

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 18 (PNA) -- National programs on countryside development would go on full throttle this year, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Development Council National Board said.

The NEDA RDC Board recently passed a resolution that would intensify, expand and accelerate national program thrusts towards development of the regions, said Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and national president of the RDC national committee.

Salceda who was unanimously elected president of the RDC Chairpersons, presided the other day over the 10th meeting of the NEDA Board Regional Development Committee held at the NEDA central office.

Salceda in an emailed statement said vital business tackled were the organization of an RDC Special Committee on Mindanao Power to find solution of the regions continuing power instability as well as the threat of illegal logging to Lake Lanao, a watershed that contributes almost 54 percent of energy in Mindanao.

Salceda also steered the RDCom in focusing on high power costs as the biggest single stumbling block to faster, more sustained and more inclusive economic growth.

“With improved governance, high power costs have emerged as the biggest disincentive to more domestic and foreign investments,” Salceda said.

He said the power sector has “transmogrified" into an instrument of inequitable distribution of wealth while provinces like Albay has been providing Luzon cheap geothermal energy of almost 464 megawatts (MW) while getting virtually nothing, under EPIRA it is now compelled to purchase the same power at WESM for P7.8/kwhr.

Salceda claim that with the national thrust being expanded and downloaded in the countryside, regions may see a more resolute phase towards development.

Salceda, elected as national chairman of RDC, would be assisted by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama as area chairman for Visayas and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for the Mindanao cluster.

Last week, Salceda was earlier chosen as chair of the Luzon Area Cluster of Regional Development Councils (RDCs), which coordinates the pursuit of development concerns of 38 provinces and 67 cities. (PNA)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bicol Pili included in the Intellectual Property Geographical Indication (GI) list: DTI

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 17 (PNA) --- The Bicol Pili nut will soon be included in the list of Philippine food product registered with the Intellectual Property Office Philippines (IPOPHL), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Bicol said on Tuesday, today.

The registration of “Bicol Pili” is part of the agency’s developmental approach in the use of industrial property for the total development of the pili nut industry here, Jocelyn Berango DTI spokesperson said.

Under the IPOPHL Geographical Indication (GI) it identifies a product that originates from a given territory or a region, it is also a sign used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that place of origin.

Berango said a geographical indication consists of the name of origin of the goods, citing as an example is the famous Champagne the wine product is used exclusively for French Wines in the champagne province of France.

GI is a powerful intellectual and economic asset not only of the region but also of the nation as it leverages products to compete globally.

As a valuable marketing tool in today’s global economy, the department’s move towards GI for “Bicol Pili” aims to promote and protect pili nut in the local and international markets.

This dynamic instrument leads to wider market reach including trade negotiations between and among economies.

Corollary, as pili is indigenous to Bicol, it is also important to build an institution from a cross section of stakeholders of the pili industry, which will eventually own the “Bicol Pili”.

The DTI with IPOPHL will conduct on Tuesday a Forum on Geographical Indication (GI) for “Bicol Pili” this would give stakeholders and entrepreneurs vital inputs in the promotion, development and protection of Bicol Pili. (PNA)

Sorsogon City to adopt low cost typhoon-resistant housing

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 17 (PNA) –- The city government here is adopting the standards of low cost typhoon-resistant housing set by an international group in its urban housing policies as part of its climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation strategies.

The city government now is using the impacts of typhoons and other weather abnormalities brought about by the prevailing climate change as basis in assessing houses specially those located along the shorelines and other vulnerable communities.

City Mayor Leovic Dioneda on Tuesday said he had recently directed the City Engineering Office (CEO) to formulate the standards based on the United Nations Habitat Foundation Urban Planning (UNHFUP) prototypes introduced in various low cost housing projects it has implemented in the locality.

The Foundation has piloted here several housing units that have been either constructed or retrofitted according to the standards of typhoon-resistant dwelling structures for the poor.

These houses, located in six pilot-barangays in the city would serve as the prototype models for the local government’s low cost typhoon resistant housing program and policies, the mayor said.

On the part of the CEO, its chief Tito Fortes explained that the thrust of the city is to make people more aware in the style of houses that will be more resistant and situated in areas identified in the city urban planning mechanisms in creating resilient communities.

“We will also be guided by the geological hazard map prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to identify flood and landslide prone areas in the city,” Fortes said.

The CEO, he said is already conducting a rapid assessment and profiling of communities within the areas indicated as highly vulnerable to certain kinds of climatic conditions and the proper mitigation will be part of the city ordinance’s housing standards.

The standards set for the creation of typhoon resistant houses will partly be provided funding coming from international funding agencies involved in climate change adaptation and mitigation projects and from local government budgetary allocations for urban planning, he said.

Hand in hand, Dioneda said all other departments of the city government are putting up efforts for the city to arrive at an action plan that would be transformed into community action plans so that doable projects are accomplished with the participation of all stakeholders.

Capacity enhancement trainings on governance skills, bench markings of environmental situations and the vigilance mind set especially in promoting disaster risk reduction efforts within the confines of their homes will also be provided among communities in vulnerable areas based on the UN Habitat program, the city mayor added. (PNA)

DENR reminds Bicol LGUs to review geological hazard maps
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 16 (PNA) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reminded local governments in Bicol to review their respective geological hazard maps.

This is intended to determine which portion of their localities are prone to floods or landslides amidst the La Niña phenomenon.

Most of the Bicol local government units (LGUs) have been provided with the geohazard maps prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR as early as 2009.

This followed its massive hazard mapping activities to determine areas vulnerable to natural disasters.

These maps were prepared to be used as tools to help local governments in their disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs.

"This is why local officials should not just leave it earning dust in one corner of their offices," DENR regional executive director Marcus Joselin Fragada said here on Monday.

Fragada said: “They should use it and refer to it in identifying places and communities that need special attention in their anti-calamity preparations.

"While we in the DENR have already provided them the maps and taught them on how to use it, the responsibility of using it is now laid on the hands of the local officials.”

The LGUs that have been provided with the geohazard maps, according to MGB regional director Luis Loyola, include all the Albay towns of Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Libon, Malilipot, Malinao, Manito, Oas, Pioduran, Polangui, Rapu-Rapu, Tiwi and the cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco.

In Camarines Norte, its 12 towns--Basud, Daet, Capalonga, Jose Panganiban, Labo, Mercedes, Paracale, San Lorenzo Ruiz, San Vicente, Sta Elena, Talisay and Vinzons -- have the maps.

In Masbate, the towns of Aroroy, Balud, Cataingan, Cawayan, Dimasalang, Placer, Masbate City and Uson also have the maps.

In Camarines Sur, all its 35 towns--Baao, Balatan, Bato, Bombon, Buhi, Bula, Cabusao, Calabanga, Camaligan, Canaman, Caramoan, Del Gallego, Gainza, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Libmanan, Lupi, Magarao, Milaor, Minalabac, Nabua, Ocampo, Pamplona, Pasacao, Pili, Presentation, Ragay, Sagnay, San Fernardo, San Jose, Sipocot, Siruma, Tigaon and Tinambac -- and two cities-- Iriga and Naga -- are also provided with the maps, according to Fragada.

The towns of Barcelona, Bulan, Bulusan, Casiguran, Castila, Gubat, Irosin, Juban, Magallanes, Matnog, Sta. Magdalena and Sorsogon City in Sorsogon and Gigmoto, Pandan, San Miguel and Viga in Catanduanes have their maps as well.

There are some towns in the region -- in Masbate and Catanduanes -- which have not been provided with the maps.

Loyola explained these towns, like all the six in the islands of Ticao and Burias of Masbate and seven in Catanduanes, are not considered flood or landslide-prone.

For LGUs which have not yet claimed their geohazard maps from the MGB, Loyola said they can claim theirs at the regional Geosciences Division in digital format (JPEG or BMP formats) at Php500 per geohazard theme.

The different geohazard themes are landslide susceptibility, flood hazard, liquefaction potential and ground subsidence/ground settlement susceptibility maps, Loyola added.

Fragada said LGUs covering some gold panning areas such as in Jose Panganiban, Paracale, and Labo in Camarines Norte and Aroroy, Baleno and Mobo in Masbate should learn an example from the latest incident of landslide in Pantukan, Campostela Valley where scores were killed in the gold panning community hit by the calamity.

Following the calamity, Fragada said DENR Sec. Ramon Paje, had called on LGUs to desist from issuing small scale mining permits in their areas.

The DENR has decided against issuing any Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) that is required before starting with mining operations.

Under the mining law, local government units are given jurisdictions over the issuance of permits to small scale mining operations in their respective localities while the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), also of the DENR, just serve as monitors in the compliance of law by mining firms, he said.

Moves are now being initiated toward the amendment of the Mining Act to remove that privilege from LGUs because of the indiscriminate issuances of permits without properly considering environmental hazards, the DENR regional chief revealed.

Other towns that need to be extra vigilant are the Sorsogon towns of Irosin, Juban and Casiguran near Bulusan Volcano, Magallanes where several barangays were identified landslide risk and Sorsogon City.

The provincial capital city is at risk because flashfloods are likely from the mountains covered by the operations of geothermal energy facilities of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC). (PNA)

Naga City formalizes shift to eco-friendly vehicles (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

NAGA CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) -– The city government here has formalized its position of gradually phasing out vehicles in the local public transport industry that use air pollution-causing conventional fuels by passing an ordinance that allows and promotes the use of ecologically-friendly vehicles.

Eco-friendly vehicles for not emitting pollutants to taint the air for a healthy atmosphere was the foundation of the recently passed City Ordinance No. 2011-065 which allows the operation of electricity powered vehicles particularly tricycles or e-trikes in the city.

The ordinance provides for a program on electric-driven vehicles that when made fully operational, according to City Mayor John Bongat, will pave the way for the fielding of a total of 1,600 e-trikes to ply the routes within the territorial limits of the city.

The legislation aims to provide the community with an alternative means of transport that will promote, among others, a less polluted setting and for the drivers and operators to have an opportunity to earn a higher and complementary source of income, Bongat said.

Since such vehicles will be using electric charges and not the conventional petroleum like gasoline, he said the ordinance also specifies that charging stations will be established in strategic public places within the city outskirts.

Recently, Bongat said the city government received 10 units of e-bikes, courtesy of a climate change adaptation program of the United Nations, making Naga the first local government unit (LGU) to be a recipient of the donation in the country, free of cost and for use by selected LGU departments in the delivery of basic services to its constituents.

Last year, the city government entered into a partnership with a private firm for the deployment of a fleet of electric vehicles into the city’s public transportation scene as the local government steps up its fight against the worsening air pollution which is being principally attributed to smoke emissions of petroleum using motor vehicles.

Bongat said 70 percent of some 3,000 passenger jeeps and tricycles plying the city streets are smoke-belchers even as their operators are constantly being warned of penalties provided for under the Clean Air Act of 1999.

Under the partnership agreement, Enzolutions Inc., a Manila-based private firm engaged in renewable energy generation and development of innovative clean technology products, will initially make available 50 units of e-trikes in the city.

The Enzolution’s electric vehicles program is in association with Eco-Merge Philippines, Inc., a Filipino-Japanese joint venture firm involved the development of solar energy projects all over the country and Gerweiss Motors Corporation the leader and the pioneer of various models and types of electric vehicles in the Philippines.

Eco-Merge will put up solar-powered charging stations within the year as a necessary component as the e-trikes program goes full swing and in anticipation of the e-jeep deployment, he said.

The same firm is also behind the ongoing establishment of the US-million 11-megawatt solar power farm in a 22-hectare property in the nearby Pili town in partnership with the Australian-owned engineering firm, SMEC Philippines Inc.

Bongat said that under the electric passenger vehicle program, the city government will endorse drivers who will operate the units under a lease scheme to be entered with the Enzolutions.

The deployment of the initial number of units of electric vehicles in the city is contained in the project’s first phase which aims to determine its commercial viability and demonstrate to the public the technical aspect of the vehicle as a cleaner and economical alternative mode of transportation, the city mayor said.

A study shows that an electric tricycle would do away with five to six liters of gasoline equivalent to P200 to P300 a day. Daily battery recharging costs only around P45 and based on the research conducted by the University of the Philippines-National Center for Transportation Studies, gasoline-fed vehicles emit fine-particulate matters that bring serious illness to people.

The emissions become even worse due to vehicle age, poor maintenance, lubricant misuse and fuel adulteration, it said.

Bongat said the program is also in line with the desire of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to lessen pollution by way of fielding e-bikes across the country that are totally with no emissions.

A study of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) says that if all Philippine tricycles are e-bikes, the country can save much as 20 million metric tons of carbon footprints a year and tricycle drivers can save up to P300 in daily fuel costs.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has offered to provide loans for the Philippine government to finance a proposed re-fleeting program for tricycle drivers and operators shifting to e-bikes. (PNA)

BFAR renews campaign vs cyanide, blast fishing

PILI, Camarines Sur, Jan. 13 (PNA) - Cyanide puts the blue in blue jeans and that low level of cyanide is found in many plants that Filipinos eat such as potatoes, sugarcane, radishes, beans and cabbage, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

But when living things or organisms including humans and animals are exposed to a compound that produces cyanide ions when dissolved in water, poisoning occurs. The chemical makes the cells of an organism unable to use oxygen and inhalation of high concentrations of cyanide causes a coma with seizures and cardiac arrest with death following in a matter of minutes.

At a lower dose, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said, loss of consciousness may be preceded by general weakness, giddiness, headaches, vertigo, confusion, and perceived difficulty in breathing.

The MGB is trying to justify the usefulness of cyanide that is common in mining operations where numerous forms of cyanide exist, including gaseous hydrogen cyanide (HCN), water-soluble potassium, sodium cyanide, mercury, copper, gold, and silver cyanide salts.

The BFAR on the other hand is discouraging its application especially in fishing, a method in which divers squirt the chemical into reef crevices and onto fish, stunning them and making them easy to catch. From mining operations, when cyanide is leaked into the sea, fish kill is certain to take place.

Besides, according to BFAR regional director Dennis del Socorro here over the weekend, small organisms, especially coral polyps are killed by the cyanide in this process.

The BFAR has renewed its campaign against cyanide as well as blast fishing in Bicol’s fishing grounds as it urged local government units like municipalities and cities to take the lead role in this drive as primary responsibilities on these marine resources belongs to them and the BFAR’s function is only general supervision on municipal fisheries, Del Socorro said.

Both fishing methods are destructive of the marine resources and among the consequences is low fish production owing to the destruction of established sea organism communities, he said.

Humans destroy coral reefs directly through unfriendly fishing habits. Many coral reefs are overfished, destroying their sustainability. Practices like cyanide fishing and blast fishing destroy reefs. Blast fishing, in which explosives are sent into the reefs, can completely destroy the reef structure.

The use of cyanide on fishes, usually lapu-lapu, siganid, talakitok and maya-maya he said, is difficult to detect through its physical appearance when already in the market as it is only through laboratory examinations that it could be determined. “This means it could easily victimize unsuspecting consumers.”

Any person who would eat them may experience numbness of the throat, vomiting, lock jaw, uneasiness, rapid palpitation, hypertension, respiratory seizure then loss of consciousness leading to death, he said.

“We do not want to pinpoint particular municipal fishing grounds in Bicol where cyanide and blast fishing are rampant as for sure, local authorities are aware about the presence of such illegal fishers in their area of responsibilities. Our campaign is just o remind them and the fishing communities of its ill effects,” Del Socorro said.

Latest reports from all over the region however have shown significant drops in the number of persons apprehended by local authorities for using dynamites and cyanide in fishing because of the government campaign against these fishing methods but he said there are still some and we wanted it totally eradicated for the protection of our coastal environment,” he said.

He also reminded fish traders and vendors of the provision of Section 88 of Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 that provides for the development, management and conservation of the fisheries and aquatic resources.

Under this law, selling of fishes caught through illegal methods like cyanide and dynamite is punishable with imprisonment from six months to two years.

It would be better if the traders and consumers would help each other in protecting themselves by way of rejecting fishes being delivered by illegal fishers and report them to the nearest police station or other local authorities, he added. (PNA)

Purple color campaign for Corona slows down in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) --- The Purple campaign expressing support for Chief Justice Renato Corona failed to gather steam among judges and court employees in the 13 Regional and City Trial Court branches in the second district of Albay.

Court hearings in the 10 RTC branches and three Municipal and City Trial Courts went normally on Monday.

RTC Judge Pedro Soriao, RTC Branch 5 presiding judge and concurrent executive judge of Albay, in an interview on Monday, said his office had not receive from the Philippine Association of Court Employees (PACE) any communication enjoining employees and judges of various trial courts here to join the Purple Campaign designed to express support to CJ Corona.

He said that he believed on the “Freedom of Expression,” so every employees under the court have their rights to express their personal feeling about the impeachment trial CJ Corona is facing.

Soriao said “the battle field is right now in the hands of the Senate and not in the Supreme Court.”

Lawyer Jaime Anonuevo, Jr., assistant Clerk of Court said that 189 court employees and thirteen judges have mixed feeling about the impeachment trial.

He said some were silent about their personal opinion on the matter saying “let’s wait for the outcome”, while other says that the impeachment process is on the right track, “SJ Coronacshould face it.”

Asked about the Purple Campaign, Anonuevo pointed out that there was no big deal about the purple color since this is the official color of the courts under the Supreme Court.(PNA)

DPWH on for early start of P5.5-B infra projects in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) -– Works on the P5.5-billion infrastructure projects for Bicol this year are set for an early start under the government’s accelerated expenditure program to help drive domestic consumption and spur economic growth in the countryside, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office here.

Regional director Danilo Dequito on Monday said most of the projects have already been bidded out as of the end of December last year and the rest are for bidding to constructors before the end of this month.

Bicol has been allocated an amount of about P5.3 billion from this year’s national budget which has been earmarked for the implementation of vital infrastructure projects in the region in line with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016.

Dequito said that this budget will finance a total of 146 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 this 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 level 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.

Dequito said that out of the total 146 projects to be constructed under the 2012 infrastructure programs of DPWH in Bicol, 80 have already been bidded out for a total cost of P1.2 billion as of December 31 last year while the next 46 worth P1.4 billion will be offered for bidding by the end of this month and the remaining 20 worth P2.9 billion will be all be up for bidding in February.

The projects worth P1.5 billion of the total allocation, he said, have been assigned for implementation by the DPWH regional office and these are the P500-million Legazpi City Urban Drainage System, the Bicol River Basin and Watershed Management Project flood mitigation component worth P350 million, the P500-million Camarines Sur/Albay diversion road and the P150-million drainage works along national roads.

The rest are for implementation by the 14 district engineering offices of the DPWH across the six provinces of the region.

Dequito said that most of the road projects that are leading to tourist destinations in support to the region’s tourism development programs are part of DPWH Secretary Singson's commitment to pave all arterial road by 2014.

Apart from the P5.3-billion fund, he said another P500 million worth of calamity fund was released for the region early December of last year and the rehabilitation projects it covers have also been awarded to contractors.

Actual implementations are set to start this month to repair or restore typhoon damaged flood control structures, roads and bridges, Dequito added. (PNA)

All Catanduanes LGUs pass DILG’s ‘good housekeeping’ check; get P20.7-M incentives
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) -– All the 11 local government units (LGUs) of Catanduanes, including the provincial government, passed the “good housekeeping” test of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) last year.

As incentive, they would be receiving a total amount of P20.7 million for their priority development projects.

DILG regional director Blandino Maceda said it is impressive that Catanduanes, despite being isolated by a wide body of water from the Bicol mainland, not one of its LGUs failed the “housekeeping” test.

Catanduanes, among the six provinces of Bicol, has performed perfectly with none of its local units failing the good local governance test, Maceda said.

According to the latest statistics released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), Catanduanes, with a rating of 132.56, had the highest Good Governance Index (GGI) among the six provinces of Bicol and ranked 25th among the 79 provinces, Maceda said.

The NSCB explained that governance, as defined in the GGI framework it had developed “is the manner in which power is exercised in the management of the country’s economic and social resources for development.

"It also refers to the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage the nation’s affairs at all levels”. (PNA)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sorsogon City puts up hygiene clinic for ‘commercial sex workers’
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) - The number of “commercial sex workers” (CSW) is steadily growing in this second class city which, as part of its “good practices,” established a new hygiene clinic for these women in the sex trade.

City Health Office (CHO) Senior Medical Technologist Rosanna Jordan, who heads the clinic, said the city is proud of being the first local government in Sorsogon province able to put up the facility for the CSWs they call “Guest Relations Officers” (GROs).

“From now on, these GROs would be required to submit to testing and hygiene at the clinic as a requirement for the issuance of sex yellow cards which would serve as their health clearance certificates,” Jordan said.

This requirement would enable the CHO to monitor possible cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as gonorrhea, syphilis and other non-gonococcal infections through a weekly cervical smear among CSWs or GROs, she explained.

Without this card, she said these women would be considered unfit to work in beer houses or other night establishments hiring them as GROs, entertainers or food servers.

Jordan said the CHO does not have an exact figure on the number of GROs or CSWs but the increasing number of pub houses and other night clubs indicates a growing number of women here getting into the prostitution trade.

Those who would be found positive of the infections will not be issued the card and advised to “take a rest” from work and undergo treatment and medications. Should they insist on working sans the yellow card, they will be declared illegal worker and meted with corresponding penalties when caught, she said.

That would be the time that men should start requiring CSWs or GROs to present their yellow cards to them before getting their services to be sure that she is not an STD carrier, she said.

The yellow card, according to Jordan would bear the name and photograph of its owner GRO and the last time that she underwent a hygiene test as attested by the City Medical Technologist.

City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) personnel, meanwhile, have been going around to convince these sex workers to undergo regular examinations at the hygiene clinic.

On the part of the local police, Supt. Edgar Ardales, the city Philippine National Police station chief said men who would be caught having sex with GROs could be arrested and charged in court. “These sector of workers are protected by the law against sexual abuse and they are considered victims under the circumstances,” he said. (PNA)

DOST tags thieves of Phivolcs monitoring equipment in Albay as ‘murderers’
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) –- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) had likened to murderers the thieves who stole several meters of cables and five pieces of 12 volts batteries at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) seismic relay stations in Albay.

In a statement received here Thursday, DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said “these unscrupulous individuals are not only thieves they could also qualify as murderers as stealing the equipment jeopardize the safety of the people of Albay.

The thieves could be called economic saboteurs as they also put to risk properties as well as the resources of the province in the event of a major volcanic activity, Montejo said in expressing his dismay over the theft in the unmanned Phivolcs relay station near Mayon Volcano in Sto. Domingo, Albay.

According to an official report, the seismic station of the DOST- Phivolcs in Legazpi has not received any data from the two relay stations in the municipality of Sto. Domingo since December 14 last year.

Upon inspection of the team from the Phivolcs monitoring station based at the Ligñon Observatory here, it was discovered that meters of cables connected to the seismic sensors from the relay stations and five pieces of 12-volt batteries were missing.

The relay stations are equipped with seismic sensors and radio transceivers that transmit seismic data to the Phivolcs central station in Quezon City. These stations transmit vital information on seismic and volcanic activities of Mt. Mayon.

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the incident has caused 50 percent loss in data transmission.“It is a good thing that Mayon Volcano is not active as of this time,” he said.

Mayon Volcano is on Alert Level 1 which, in a scale of 0-5, it is considered abnormal.

However, Solidum stressed that the incident, although it caused temporary disruption in seismic data transmission, did not hinder the normal operations of the agency in terms of volcanic and seismic monitoring. “The incident did not cripple Phivolcs because other relay stations in Albay are functioning efficiently,” he added.

Montejo has urged the people who live near DOST weather and seismic forecasting and monitoring stations to be vigilant in reporting malicious activities that compromise the safety of the people.

“The safety of the people is our primordial concern, which is why the government is aggressively installing weather forecasting and other monitoring equipment like rain gauges and water level sensors critical to monitoring flood prone areas,” he added.

This year, the government is set to install water level sensors and rain gauges in all major river systems in the country as part of the national flood forecasting, monitoring and mitigation program spearheaded by the DOST .

He has requested the local through the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into ways on how to protect these vital monitoring equipment in the local level and immediately prosecute those caught stealing them.

Montejo also appealed to the community and their leaders to help protect these equipment. “More importantly, people in the areas where monitoring equipment are installed should help safeguard these equipment. After all, their lives, properties, and communities’ safety are all at stake here.”

He said Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III has certified as urgent the proposed bill in Congress penalizing the stealing of weather and disaster monitoring equipment of the DOST. (PNA)

Pagasa, Phivolcs warn Sorsogon residents on possible landslides, floods

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) -– Heavy rains caused by the prevailing La Niña phenomenon may trigger landslides in identified vulnerable areas of Sorsogon province including barangays around Mt. Bulusan, government authorities cautioned residents.

Weather forecast on Thursday said the eastern seaboard of southern Luzon that includes the province will continue to experience cloudy skies and isolated rains during the week.

A Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) advisory released here Thursday said communities down the slope of Bulusan Volcano should be extra watchful against the possibility of flashflood and avalanches of volcanic debris that may be triggered by heavy downpour.

The Phivolcs Mt. Bulusan monitoring station based in Barangay Cabid-an here said a huge volume of lahar and other by products of the recent eruptions are still stored at the upper slopes of the volcano and may cause major disasters on lives and properties when loosened by rain waters into the low lying communities.

There are at least seven barangays within the municipalities of Irosin and Juban that are considered vulnerable areas to these form of disasters, it said.

Mt. Bulusan is currently under alert level one due to its abnormal condition that has resulted to several eruptions since March 2010. The alert warning means possible eruptions may occur anytime. Human activities are forbidden within the four-kilometer permanent danger zone of the volcano.

Elsewhere around the province, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) warned that continuous heavy rains could trigger landslides and floods in identified prone areas covered by the municipalities Magallanes, Irosin, Juban, Donsol and this city.

These areas have already been determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through hazard mappings conducted by the Environmental Management and Mining and Geosciences Bureaus to be highly vulnerable localities due to existing mountains and rivers.

The Pagasa said rivers in these areas could easily overflow due to the excessive volume of rainfall brought about by the weather situation so that residents along its banks are cautioned of sudden floods and raging current.

Latest rainfall forecast of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Manangement Council (RDRRMC) in Legazpi city said rivers, stream and its tributaries in sorsogon and all parts of Bicol will be affected by rainfalls.

At least 24 persons were killed when a major landslide buried several homes in Barangay Hobo, Magallanes town at the height of typhoon Dante in May 2009. Several families that survived the landslide have already been relocated to resettlement areas but some other barangays within the municipality still have to be vigilant for similar occurrences, the Pagasa said.

The agency has enjoined the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Mananegement Council (PDRRMC) to remind residents and local officials about their contingency plans should emergencies take place amidst the prevailing La Niña phenomenon.

Evacuation centers should always be ready to accommodate evacuees in events of calamity while each local government should keep its disaster response operatives available for rescue operations. Relief goods should also be at all times readily available, the Pagasa added. (PNA)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Police tighten public security in Masbate City
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) – With the 120 policemen now manning the public safety and security setup of Masbate City, the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) here on Thursday said it is confident the maintenance of peace and order in that provincial capital will be closely attended to.

The number already represents one policeman to 700 population, a ratio that exceeds the standard 1:1,000 set up and with that, according to Bicol PNP regional director Chie supt. Cecilio Calleja Jr., “we are confident the crime volume in the locality would be further reduced, crime solution efficiency enhanced and orderliness managed”.

The fielding of so many policemen in Masbate City, the provincial capital, is in support of the PNP to the aspiration of the island province to keep abreast with the economic developments taking place in the Bicol mainland owing to the growing business investments and tourism industry particularly in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes, Calleja said.

“This is to help Masbate detach itself from being one of the poorest provinces of the country and as the ‘murder capital of Bicol’ tag earned from intense political rivalries resulting to a long series of killings and other violent occurrences which happened in the past,” he said.

That political situation is already under control starting in the conduct and after the 2010 elections which saw local political camps yielding to the intensified anti-loose firearms and private armies drive put in place by the police and the military, the Bicol police director said.

“Masbate local officials are now focused on developing the economic potentials of the province by way of creating a favorable investment climate, implementing tourism programs and protecting its marine resources towards better productivity.The police is in full support of these initiatives,” according to Calleja.

Since last year, he said the city has improved its investment climate earning for it a citation last month from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as one of the “most business-friendly cities” in the region while latest statistics showed that the province had already gained headway in its economy by significantly elevating itself from the second to the 12th of the country’s poorest provinces.

“Sustaining those gains is now a concern of not only the local officials of Masbate but also of the PNP that is why we are providing preferential attention to the island in the placement of our forces,” Calleja said.

Part of the Masbate City police force now under the disposal of Supt. Rodolfo Abella, its station chief is a unit trained as Special Weapons and Armory Tactics (SWAT) that has been tasked to go after the so called “contract killers” that operate in tandems on board motorcycles.

In intensifying the security and public safety operations, checkpoints searching for loose firearms, patrols and quick response teams are now common sites around the provincial capital which according to Calleja has been effective in the maintenance of peace and order in the locality.(PNA)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Albay braces for floods, landslide

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 9 (PNA) - The Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Council (PDRRMC) is on heightened alert Monday and placed the province on a state of preparedness as intermittent rainfall spawned by the tail-end of the cold front affecting Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas might trigger floods and landslides in low lying areas, including mountain slopes.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda on Monday issued a PDRRMC advisory placing the province on disaster alert and preparedness status and directed 15 MDRRMC and three CDRRMC to be on 24-hour watch and to be ready to operationalize their respective flood and landslide evacuation plan once the volume of rainfall exceeds its normal levels.

Salceda also directed the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) to closely monitor in coordination with the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) the hourly rainfall events and other weather instruments that would issue advisories to enable various disaster councils to keep track with the ongoing bad weather condition prevailing in the area.

He said the intermittent rains produced by the tail-end of the cold front may trigger floods, lahar flows and landslides in low-laying areas and mountain slopes in the towns and cities of Albay.

The landslide-prone areas are 127 villages in the towns of Libon, Polangui, Oas, Tiwi, Malinao. Sto. Domingo, Jovellar and Guinobatan, while flood-prone areas are 173 villages in the towns of Libon, Polangui, Oas, Malinao, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Camalig, including the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao.

Lahar flows would affect villages in the southeast quadrant of the volcano such as Guinobatan, Daraga, Camalig and Sto. Domingo and this city.

The PAGASA weather bulletin on Monday at 5 a.m. said the tail-end of a cold front will affect Southern Luzon and Visayas and Mindanao. These areas will have mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and isolated thunderstorms becoming cloudy with widespread rains over eastern Visayas and North Eastern Mindanao which may trigger flashfloods and landslides. The rest of Luzon will be partly cloudy to cloudy skies with light rains.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the Northeast will prevail over Luzon and Visayas and coming from the Northeast and East over the rest of the country. The coastal waters throughout the archipelago will be moderate to rough.

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

Bicol's greening program overshoots goal by 12%

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 9 (PNA) -- The government's National Greening Program (NGP) in Bicol gained headway by surpassing its greening target by 12 percent with 6,303 hectares of open and denuded forestland planted with close to four million tree seedlings, a top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the region said on Monday.

When the NGP was launched in Bicol in May last year, various stakeholders across the region were able to plant 3.9 million tree seedlings in some 6,303.9 hectares of open and denuded forest land, way above (12 percent) its 5,584 hectares target for 2011, Joselin Marcus Fragada, DENR regional executive director said.

“Despite the fact that the NGP was carried out by the 2nd Quarter of 2011, we were able to exceed our target -- a significant achievement of our commitment to the government’s greening program,” Fragada in an interview said.

Fragada, quoting a yearend report from the Forest Management Service (FMS) on the agency’s National Greening Program (NGP) implementation in Bicol, said Camarines Sur led with 2,102,578 trees seedlings planted in 3,005.98 has.; followed by Albay with 478,999 seedlings planted in 854.5 has; Camarines Norte was third with 413,448 seedlings planted in 641.2 has.

Masbate has 357,305 seedlings in 714.5 ha, Catanduanes was fifth with 332,486 seedlings planted in 663.2 has., and Sorsogon with 227,561 seedlings planted in 407.3 has.

Based on the report, some 21,690 stakeholders have already enlisted in the program and took part in planting the seedlings during the year.

They represented a cross section of public and private volunteers from government agencies, schools, civic organization including the church, local government units, and business sectors.

Because of the positive development affecting the NGP Environment Sec. Ramon Paje announced recently that the DENR intended to double the national target at 200,000 hectares for 2012.

Meanwhile, Paje reiterated NGP’s goal of posting a minimum survival rate of 80 percent for the seedlings by tapping science and sound upland practices and confining identified NGP planting sites only in areas where there are communities who will be tapped to maintain and ensure growth of planted seedlings into mature trees.

The NGP targets to plant 1.5 billion tree seedlings in 1.5 million hectares nationwide from 2011 to 2016.

Priority areas for planting include mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domain areas, civil and military areas, urban areas under the greening plan of LGUs, inactive and abandoned mine sites, and all other suitable lands for reforestation.

“This year, we will double the effort to have practically all Bicolanos do their share in planting 10 trees each,” Fragada said. (PNA)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Senate to amend law creating Climate Change Commission

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 3 (PNA) --- The Senate will pass a bill that seeks to amend the composition of the Climate Change Commission (CCC), replacing the President with a full time chairperson that will work 24/7, Senator Francis Escudero said over the weekend.

Escudero said while the government coped and did what it could to address the impact of Climate Change, it needed to reorganize the composition of the CCC and be a 24/7 fully functioning commission.

He said that Congress had made a mistake when it passed the bill creating the commission and putting the President as its chairman.

The President has so many work to attend to, and placing him to chair various commission under him would not be manageable and efficient.

Escudero said: “When the President heads a commission, meetings are always dependent on his availability, and therefore vital issues and concerns could not be immediately resolved.”

The Bicol solon at a press conference here said the impact of Climate Change was indeed felt in the communities, citing that Mindanao has always been free from typhoons but because of climate change, the path of typhoons now passes this area.

He also cited that in Bicol being a typhoon belt area where Super typhoons Reming and Milenyo ravaged the region in 2006, killing over thousands of people and displacing tens of thousands of families, while damages to infrastructure and agriculture have reached over billions of pesos.

But because of climate change, the region for the past five years was lucky enough that no typhoons hit the place, as typhoons that usually moves towards the Bicol peninsula is now moving towards the north and south.(PNA)

DOH offers free flu vaccine to indigent senior citizens in Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Jan. 3 (PNA) – The Department of Health (DOH) through the facilities and health service personnel of the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital (SPH) here is providing free vaccine against flu to indigent senior citizens in the province.

Dr. Edgar Garcia, the provincial health officer and SPH chief on Monday said the free medical services and vaccines are under the health department’s Code White Alert being implemented as mitigating health strategy and as part of the disaster risk reduction management mechanism of the Aquino administration.

“The program wants to see to it that public health, as one of the priority concerns is well served in providing early interventions so that mitigation for health concerns is addressed,” Garcia said.

The prolonged rainy season and cold weather call for this preventive intervention as the elderly sector is exposed to flu contamination under this climate conditions, he stressed.

Flu or influenza, according to Garcia is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory tract. Compared to common colds, flu can cause severe illnesses and can lead to serious complications in all age groups.

While other viral infections carry symptoms that usually are mild and do not prevent most afflicted individuals from doing normal daily activities, flu symptoms are severe and prolonged and can cause the individual to miss days of work or school. The infection stresses the body, he said.

“Flu may cause high fever, cough, sore throat, a runny nose, headache, more malaise and severe body aches. Some people describe the flu as being like the worst cold of their life. Most people feel better after one or two weeks, but for some, the infection leads to serious, even life-threatening diseases, such as pneumonia,” Garcia explained.

Because of its infectiousness, severity of symptoms, time lost for work or other physical activities and the potential to lead to serious complications, it is important to prevent flu and the best way to avoid it is to get the vaccine each year before the flu season.

Each year, he said the influenza virus can change slightly making the vaccine used in previous year ineffective.

A world-wide flu surveillance has been established by the World Health Organization (WHO) to detect and select the most likely strains to circulate in the forthcoming flu season. These selected strains are used to develop the new vaccine formula.

The flu vaccine contains three different strains of the virus which scientists believe are most likely to show up. Flu vaccine is safe and almost all people who received it have no serious problems from it, Garcia said.

The vaccine is generally effective against the flu virus within two weeks of the vaccination. It works by exposing a person’s immune system to the virus as the body is enabled to build up anti bodies to the virus to protect you from getting the flu, he said.

The flu vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing the flu in healthy people. Some people who get the vaccine will still get the flu, but they will usually get a milder case than people who were not vaccinated, Garcia said.

He however reminded everyone especially the senior citizens and children that are age groups highly flu vulnerable to maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise to reduce the impact of the infection.

The provincial health chief said indigent old people usually suffer respiratory diseases due to cold weather condition, poor living conditions and poor diet, thus it is exigent that vaccine to fight flu be given to this sector.

Local health workers from the province down to the barangays and local government officials were already informed of this free vaccination campaign and they were requested to advice indigent senior citizens within their areas of responsibility to avail of this services being given at the SPH, he said.

“They will not be charged of any amount for this as the vaccines are provided free by the DOH and the services are from government health works and doctors,” he added. (PNA)