Monday, April 30, 2012

‘Bayong’ goes back to Albay markets as plastic ban rolls on
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 30 (PNA) -– Outmoded for a long time, the native “bayong” (hand-woven basket) is reclaiming its popularity and has gone back to local markets as the provincial government of Albay rolls on the implementation of an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and other environmentally offensive materials as wrappers and packaging materials.

The ban will actually take effect in June but this early, shoppers in malls, public markets and department stores in most parts of the province have already shifted to the traditional “bayong”, a kind of bag made of indigenous materials like “buri”, anahaw, abaca, “karagumoy” or rattan.

Eco-bags or non-disposable shopping bags made of paper and cloth are also emerging as alternatives for the old-fashioned basket.

“We are impressed by the acceptability and support being expressed by the shopping public to the ordinance,” Albay Governor Joey Salceda said during the launch over the weekend of Provincial Ordinance No. 2011-3 that marked the start of the 30-day countdown for the phase out of the banned materials from local commercial establishments.

“We can now observe many shoppers in the city and other commercial centers in the province carrying with them “bayongs” and other types of native baskets which is a very impressive development for us who have been insisting and doing all we can to make Albay an environmental champion,” he added.

The ordinance directs all grocery, department and sari-sari stores, supermarkets, chain retailers and even sidewalk and street vendors in the 15 towns and three cities of the province not to use plastic, styrofoam and synthetic materials as packaging or bags for goods sold to their customers.

It explains that such materials are considered non-biodegrable as it can only decompose after about 400 years. They end up as litters bringing bad effects to the environment when wittingly or unwittingly dumped into waterways, river channels, parks, beaches, streets, canals and esteros to cause clogging then floods.

Once burned, he said these materials infuse toxic fumes into the atmosphere contributing heavily to the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming, it added.

The passing of the ordinance and its implementation in the interest of public health and safety, Salceda said, makes Albay the first province in Bicol to regulate the use of non-environment-friendly wrappers and packaging materials in the market.

The province, he said has been championing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management so that regulating public the use of these materials would contribute significantly to the government’s campaign towards environmental conservation.

“We appeal to all Albayanos, to our visitors, shoppers from different parts of Bicol and transient traders coming in for cooperation. We also have met with owners and operators of leading commercial establishments in the province to discuss with them the salient features of the ordinance so that it is clearly explained and understood,” he said.

The ban is directly addressed to commercial establishments but public cooperation and support are very important for it to be effectively carried, the governor stressed.

Establishments that will be caught violating will be penalized with fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 while cancellation of business permits could also be an additional penalty.

Municipal and barangay officials have also been oriented on its provisions so that they take part in its implementation in their respective areas of jurisdictions.

The ordinance was enacted way back in 2011 but its implementation was deferred for one year due to the moratorium given by the province to business establishments.

In the launch, Salceda announced that the provincial government had officially lifted the moratorium and the countdown period until June 1 would give the public and commercial establishments ample time to adjust into the use of recyclable materials such as bags and baskets made of paper, cloth, abaca, buri and rattan or other environment-friendly wrappers like banana and anahaw leaves.

“We are grateful to the provincial government of Albay especially to our governor for this ordinance that relived our industry,” Victoria Nuñez, owner of a native basket weaving establishment based in the nearby Daraga town said. (PNA) DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

Saturday, April 28, 2012

DENR launches search for environmental champions in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) --The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Bicol is now accepting nominations for this year’s Saringaya Awards, an annual search for environmental champions in the region.

Now on its 12th year, the Awards acknowledges efforts and dynamic support of diverse individuals, groups, sectors and entities in the implementation of government programs for sustainable use of natural resources, environmental protection and management, and ecological conservation in the region.

“Saringaya”’ is a Bicol term for abundance , lush and healthy environment.

Nominees may come from non-government organizations (NGO), local government units (LGU), corporations and academe, DENR regional executive director Joselin Marcus Fragada said over the week.

Fragada rallied the public to continue supporting the green cause and pursue further excellence in environmentalism and conservation.

Deadline of entries is on May 15 and the tentative date for awarding will be on the culmination of the Environment Month celebration on June 29, this year, he said.

Saringaya Awards was conceived by the Bicol’s DENR regional office in 2000, which marked the government’s all-out drive to preserve the remaining natural resources of the region then being confronted by massive degradation owing to both man-made and natural calamities.

“Illegal cutting of trees, unregulated mining, illegal fishing and other activities destructive of forest and marine resources were then relentless. Floods and landslides have become massive during heavy rains and typhoons,” Fragada said.

“The sad fact about Bicol’s forest is that while the region had 541,189 hectares land classified as forest land, its remaining forest cover as of December 2003 was only as 156, 476 hectares or only about 30.4 percent,” he said.

Gradually, following the launching of Saringaya Awards, 11 years ago, the environmental awareness of Bicolanos was awaken and participation in activities and programs initiated by both the government and private sectors multiplied.

“Almost every Bicolano now is an environmentalist rallying behind causes on environmental protection, forest and marine life preservation, anti-pollution and responsible mining, among other undertakings protective of the environment,” Fragada said.

One proof to these, he said, was their impressive participation to the National Greening Program (NGP), the flagship environmental program of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III that sought to restore the country’s forest cover by planting 1.5 billion tree seedlings in 1.5 million hectares all over the country from 2011 to 2016.

Passions for planting trees and seeing them grow now run high among Bicolanos as nearly 22,000 of them achieved about four million tree seedlings planted last year.

This year, as the NGP continues to heighten these passions and the Saringaya Awards instilling among them the love for environment, Fragada said his agency expected the participation of around a million locals in attaining the target of planting eight million trees in around 10,000 hectares across the region.

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

Saringaya Awards continues to drum up support of various stakeholders in environmental conservation, protection and management while the NGP has been serving as the lifetime inspiration of Bicolanos in doing their share towards these ends, he said.

Among last year’s Saringaya awardees were the Energy Development Corporation- Bacman Geothermal Production Field, Environmental Management Department for the Special Category; Amelia Gonzales, a professor at Bicol University for Individual Category; Tactical Operations Group 5, 1st Air Division Philippine Air Force (PAFTOG) for the Other Government Agency.

Other awardees include the Corporate Network for Disaster Response of Calabanga, Camarines Sur in the Non-Government Organization Category; and Masbate Gold Project of FILMINERA Resources Corp. for the 1st award and the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project of Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. for the 2nd in the Large-Scale Industry Category.

In the LGU Category, the municipality of Ragay, Camarines Sur under the leadership of Mayor Ricardo Aquino was the lone awardee. (PNA) RMA/DOC/cbd/

DSWD identifies Albay as expanded Makamasang Tugon program beneficiary
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 27 (PNA) – More community-based development (CDD) projects are expected to flow into Albay following its identification as pilot province in the scaled up implementation of the Aquino administration’s Makamasang Tugon (MT) program in partnership with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

MT is an anti-poverty program of the government implemented through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It is a community-driven development project introduced through a Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Service (CIDSS) approach.

It was first implemented in 2003 under the name Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) and within its initial six years of implementation, the project was able to cover only 25 percent of the poorest 42 of the 79 provinces of the Philippines representing more than 4,000 villages in 182 municipalities.

In Bicol, that program has benefited 45,284 households in 633 barangays covering 24 municipalities in the six province of the region with community sub-projects including basic social services facilities, such as water systems, school buildings, health and day care centers, access roads and small bridges, and environmental and disaster control infrastructure.

Now called the Makamasang Tugon (MT), the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is scaling up its implementation with ADB as partner.

Three provinces in the country have been identified as pilot areas for this expanded version of the program with Albay for Luzon, Leyte for Visayas and Compostela Valley for Mindanao.

As part of its the implementation, a scoping mission was sent to Albay by the ADB over the week to evaluate the engagement of the province’s local government units (LGUs) in the past implementation of CDD programs under the KALAHI-CIDSS, Remia Tapispisan, the DSWD regional director for Bicol said here on Friday.

The mission, headed by education specialist Joel Mangahas with social development specialist Yukiko Ito from Japan and health specialist Gerard Servais from Belgium as members was accompanied by DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman.

Part of the ADB’s scoping mission was a consultation meeting with Albay Governor Joey Salceda from whom relevant information, suggestions and best practices on the successful implementation of the project in the province were noted.

The DSWD and ADB really wanted to work with Salceda knowing that Albay has been very innovative in many aspects of governance and the governor is an advocate of CDD, Tapispisan said.

Salceda has earlier expressed his desire to help the implementation of the MT in the province as he pledged counterpart funding on top of the cost-sharing to be shouldered by the seven Albay municipalities—Pioduran, Jovellar, Rapu-rapu, Malinao and Manito that were placed under the coverage of the program.

DSWD assistant regional director Evelyn Lontok said a total of P90.5 million in grant will be provided by the program to the province for the projects amounting to a total of P129.2 million.

This means that the total required counterpart contribution from the provincial government and the LGUs is P38.7 million, according to Lontok.

The scoping mission consultation also involved representatives from the LGUs, national government agencies (NGAs) and civil society organizations in the region to encourage support and explore mechanisms for provincial implementation of CDD.

Lontok said the CDD approach supported by the MT is one of the Aquino administration’s “three legs of convergence” for enhancing the capacity of the poor to escape poverty. The other two are the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Sustainable Livelihood all being administered by the DSWD.

Using CDD approach, the MT helps poor communities develop the necessary skills and provides them with resources to select, implement, and sustain small-scale community infrastructure projects and social services. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

BIR collects P1.3B in Bicol during Q1
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) – The first quarter of 2012 was fruitful for the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Bicol which collected P1.313 billion, surpassing by .08 percent its target of P1.312 billion, according to the agency’s regional office here.

BIR regional director Esmeralda Tabule said collections in March alone reached P442.655 million, exceeding by 3.09 percent or by P13.28 million the target for the month of P429.374.

It was also higher by P103.6 million of 30.58 percent over the collection of P338.9 million in the same month of last year, Tabule said.

BIR has seven district offices in the region.

Revenue District Office No. 69, covering the island province of Catanduanes and headed by Ma. Teresa Noemi Pizon, topped the collection performance for a P26.2 million with 21.55 percent increase against goal of P21.620 million.

RDO 64 which covers Camarines Norte under the leadership of district collector Nemesia Giano placed second for its more than P41 million collection of a 20.66-percent excess against its goal of P33.989 million.

RDO 67 in this city, headed by Ariel Calabia, ranked third with its P164.9 million collection, having an increase of 18.32 percent against goal of P139.440 million.

The fourth top collection performer was RDO 68 in Sorsogon, headed by Maria Thelma Pulhin, which collected P44.680 million, surpassing by 21.55 per cent its goal of P40.339 million.

Last January, the regional collection showed remarkable improvements when it hit the over P.5 billion mark.

“We were able to realize a P525,524,777.40 collection in the first month of this year surpassing by 6.01 percent our P495.7 million goal for the month and 23 percent or P99 million over of our collection for the same period last year,” she said.

The January collections came mostly from remittances made by tax withholding agents in the region and from annual registration payments of regular suppliers of goods and services by the top 5,000 to 20,000 individual and private corporations including large taxpayers, Tabule said.

Excise Tax return for sale of gold and other metallic mineral products by small-scale miners to the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was additional contributor, she added.

In an interview, Tabule expressed optimism for more achievements in the coming months with the continued cooperation of the taxpayers, tax agents and the collaborative efforts of the revenue officials to pursue its thrusts for a strong republic.

This year’s collection target for Bicol was set at P5.7 billion.

Tabule said although their P4,714,368,943.79 collection last year fell short from their P4.996 billion target, it posted an improvement of 8.55 percent or more than P374.4 million over the 2010 collection.

“Thus, we are confident that this year, we would be able to reach the target of P5.7 billion,” she said. (PNA) hbc/DOC/cbd/

21 LGUs in Bicol sign MOA on Pantawid Pamilya expansion
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) – Twenty-one local government units in Bicol region signed Friday a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the expansion coverage of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Albay governor Joey Salceda, representing the host province, said the entire province had been saturated by the Pantawid Pamilya program. “At this point 157 thousand families have graduated from survival – meaning their condition have been developed to the next level of sustaining their basic needs."

Four of the 21 towns came from Albay, namely Camalig, Guinobatan, Tiwi and Oas.

Salceda said that the role of the local chief executives (LCEs) was not limited in promoting pantawid pamilya, but with more emphasis on promoting the rights of children for survival and development.

In the province of Albay, the beneficiary (per family) receives P1,400 monthly.

The number of household beneficiaries in Bicol region reached 309,548 last year, 31,211 of whom were in Albay; 28,481 in Camarines Norte ; 102,378 in Camarines Sur; 14,991 in Catanduanes; 75,564 in Masbate ; and -56,923 in Sorsogon.

Bicol region disbursed P1.38 billion last year. With its 90,140 children beneficiaries, the region garnered 93 percent attendance in Day Care Center and 95 percent attendance rate among 544,278 total beneficiaries in primary and secondary school.(PNA) RMA/MDR/cbd/

Aussie envoy urges Bicol gov't leaders to avail AAD scholarship

LEGAZPI CITY, April 27 (PNA) - Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell is urging local government leaders and other Bicolanos to take advantage of the Australia Awards for Development (AAD) scholarship grant that could enable them to contribute to the accelerated and equitable growth of the region.

"The Development Awards, through extensive scholarship programs, aim to contribute to the long term development of the Philippines and to promote knowledge, education links and enduring ties between Australia and the Philippines," Tweddell said during a visit here over the week.

"Through its aid program, the Australian Government places a high premium on improving the human capital of the Philippines by increasing access to quality education and training for people," he added.

There are 120 scholarship slots available for the year 2013, half of which are allocated to Australia's key partner agencies delivering priority development initiatives, with the remainder open to the public. Deadline for applications is on April 30, this year.

Interested applicants are encouraged to take English proficiency tests immediately with Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) as passing these tests are prerequisite for the scholarship.

TOEFL evaluates the ability of an individual to use and understand English in an academic setting. It has become an admission requirement for non-native English speakers at many English-speaking colleges and universities. Likewise, IELTS is an international standardized test of English language proficiency.

Australia Awards for Development covers travel, study and living expenses for study at Australia's world-class universities. Awardees will also join the Philippines Australia Alumni Association upon their return.

Many of the Australia Awards scholars are from various regions of the country who are now undertaking groundbreaking development projects, upgrading educational curricula in universities, pursuing biosecurity and agricultural productivity programs, initiating enterprise building projects for local governments and a host of other outstanding development efforts, according to Tweddell.

Highly encouraged to apply are people with disabilities, women leaders, ethnic communities, aspiring young leaders, members of the academe and other development pacesetters.

AAD include the Australian Development Scholarships and the Australian Leadership Awards administered by the Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID). These awards aim to develop capacity and leadership skills so that individuals can contribute to development in their home country.

In the Philippines, the Australia Awards for Development is part of the Australia-Philippines development cooperation program and are targeted at priority development needs in the areas of basic education, social protection and welfare, peace and development, public financial management, disaster risk reduction and management, climate change adaptation, organizational development, trade, foreign relations, and pandemics.

AAD Scholarship applicants who demonstrate the most potential to impact development in the Philippines will be considered for the additional prestigious Australian Leadership Award.

"Awardees will experience and benefit from cutting-edge and high-quality Australian education. Australian universities are consistently ranked among the top educational institutions in the world for teaching and research, offering a complete range of programs and courses that lead to highly regarded and internationally-recognized qualifications,” Tweddell said.

In 2011, eight Australian universities were among the world's top 100, he noted. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bicol farmers, fisherfolks to hold agri-fiesta in May
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) –- Summer spells fiesta in Bicol as well as the turn of homegrown farmers and fisher folks to hold a celebration of their own fiesta come May 10 to 12.

To be hosted by this city and the provincial government of Albay, the event, dubbed Agri-Fiesta 2012 under the theme “Organikong Pagsasaka: Tungo sa Maayos na Kalusugan, Tugon sa Nagbagong Klima (Organic Farming: Towards Proper Health, Response to Climate Change), will be sponsored by the Regional Field Unit of the Department of Agriculture (DA-RFU).

It will come right after Magayon Festival, Albay’s ongoing month-long festivity that is entertaining tourists and visitors with dazzling road shows and stage presentations in a fresh outlook with magic exploration and mystery of the province’s mythical past.

While Magayon Festival presents a package of events that feature culture and the arts, trade and industry, tourism spectacles, culinary food trips, sports and special interests, the Agri-Fiesta will be a grand affair to celebrate the efforts of Bicolano farmers and fisher folks in making the agricultural sector the most important component of the regional community.

The Magayon 2012 edition not only showcases the artistry and beautiful spirit of the Albayanos but also offers opportunities to promote and enhance trade and tourism designed to advance Albay’s drive towards the fulfillment of its socio-economic development goals.

Among the newest events of the festival is the staging of the Dance of the Three Mountains, a play written by multi-awarded Albayano writer Abdon Balde in the vernacular.

The legendary saga tells the story of the three sister mountains – Magayon, Masaraga, and Malinao which is actually the legend of Mayon Volcano.

The festival highlights include the Ginoo ng Magayon Festival 2012, hosted by actress Lovi Poe; Concierto sa Magayon, with Jhong Hilario and Kiss Jane; Concierto Pasasalamat; Magayon Lyre, Drum and Baton Competition; Gayon Bicol Festival Showdown; Daragang Magayon Legend Showdown and the street dancing and festival queen presentation.

Also included are the Hot-Taw sa Karaonan, culinary exhibition and the Sili Viand Eating Contest, among more others.

The DA-RFU on the other hand is right now preparing the events that would be staged to make the two-day agri-fiesta a truly once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

It will include games and contests to be participated in by the farmers and fisher folks from the six provinces of Bicol themselves, City Mayor Geraldine Rosal on Tuesday here said.

Among the games are agri-crop guessing, goat fun shows, native pig races, rawit-dawit sa pag-ugma (fun poems) and tiriladan ki pili (pilinut shell cracking) while the contests are in alimango (mudcrab) tying, piglet catching, ostrich egg painting, quail egg guessing, fish catching by the lagoon and one liter goat milk drinking.

During the celebration, the DA will also come up with a forum among farmers, fisher folks and various stakeholders where issues and concerns involving the agriculture industry would be tackled.

It will also discuss matters regarding the theme of the celebration focused on organic farming for healthful food crops and on the impact and adaptation of climate change in agriculture, Rosal said.

Agri-Fiesta 2012 will be the first of kind celebration in honor and recognition of the farmers and fisher folks in the whole region, she said.

“While the conceited upper class society humbles these people in the agriculture sector as a lowly class, this fiesta will reclaim for them the honor and dignity of being a farm and fishery hand responsible in feeding the whole nation and the world with the food they produce out of their back-breaking works,” the lady mayor added.

DA regional executive director Jose Dayao in a telephone interview Tuesday said the agri-fiesta would also be a thanksgiving celebration for the outstanding achievements of Bicol’s agriculture sector in the past years.

The region's economy is basically agricultural with close to 50 percent of its workforce dependent on the industry.

Bicol has 94 coastal municipalities with 1,067 coastal barangays that cover four major fishing grounds-- San Miguel Bay, Ragay Gulf, Lagonoy Gulf and Sorsogon Bay measuring a total of 1,666.28 square kilometers.

Bicol have been showing a significant growth of agriculture for the past three years that posted an average of 4.1 percent average annual acceleration.

In rice production alone, Dayao said the region is expected to produce about 843,335 metric tons (mts) of the staple grain by 2013 to generate a surplus of about 21,200 mts over the 822,115 regional requirements to achieve a102.58 percent rice self-sufficiency.

The Agri-Fiesta 2012, he said is a fitting tribute for Bicol farmers for this achievement among others.

“They will be treated to a grand celebration by the DA and local government units in gratitude to their very significant contributions to the regional economy and food sufficiency,” he added. (PNA) DCT/LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd

Salceda appeals for inclusion of more Albayanos in 4Ps
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) – Albay Governor Joey Salceda has appealed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the inclusion of 14,000 more Albayano families with the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) anti-poverty scheme under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

He also vowed to continuously support the implementation of the program in the province where 31,396 households are listed as current beneficiaries.

Stressing on the positive response of the Bicolanos to this poverty alleviation initiative of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III being implemented by the DSWD, Salceda said “no one among the poor sectors Albay should be spared insofar as the implementation of 4Ps is concerned that is why my administration is fully and continuously supporting this program”.

The provincial government had recently initiated a consultation dialogue with the program’s municipal links and co-implementers at the DSWD’s regional office here that focused on implementation updates, exit strategy and level of beneficiaries’ well-being.

The initiative further strengthens the partnership between the DSWD and the provincial government and identified problems and concerns encountered by the Municipal Links and co-implementers to come up with effective strategies on how to systematically respond and address such problems, Remia Tapispisan, the DSWD regional director on Tuesday said here.

“The activity had given faces as well as recognition to the workers of 4Ps on the ground. It also gave an opportunity for the city and municipal links to express to the governor the support they need from the province,” Tapispisan said.

Of the 320 city and municipal links of 4Ps regionwide, 37 were deployed in the province of Albay. They are hired as DSWD staff deployed to the different areas covered by the program and responsible in ensuring that the program is implemented in accordance with its guidelines, policies and objectives, she said.

In response to Salceda’s appeal, the DSWD regional chief said “we are seeing to it this year that all the local government units (LGUs) not covered by the first four sets of 4Ps are reached under Set 5. This will include the Indigenous Peoples.”

To date, 4Ps has been serving 309,474 household beneficiaries from all cities and municipalities in the Bicol region and 31,396 of them are from Albay.

Latest poverty statistics listed 36 of every 100 Bicolano families as poor and the according to the DSWD, over 80 percent of them have already been placed under the coverage of the CCT program.

This means that of the 360,000 Bicolano families representing the region’s current number of households placed at around 1.1 million based on its 5.7 million population, over 305,000 households or 83 percent are already CCT beneficiaries.

CCT is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.

Each of the beneficiaries of the program with three qualified children receives a subsidy of P1,400 a month during the school year to be used for educational expenses. A maximum of three children per household is allowed and an additional P500 a month per household is given for health and nutrition expenses.

Under the program household-beneficiaries must comply with certain conditions to continue receiving the cash grants, which could go on for a maximum of five years, Tapispisan said.

These conditions are: children of the beneficiaries must regularly go to school 85 percent of the school time, receive vaccinations and visit the health center for regular cash checkups and treatments while parents must attend responsible parenthood seminars, mother's classes and parent effectiveness seminars.

The DSWD serves as the lead agency in the implementation of the program being coordinated with partner agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (DepEd) as well as local government units (LGUs), among others. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DA eyes IT as tool in empowering farmers
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 23 (PNA) – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is advancing agricultural entrepreneurship by empowering farmers with critical information such as soil nutrients and farm goods markets using the modern Information Technology (IT) as a potent tool, according to the agency’s regional office for Bicol here.

The idea is to revolutionize Philippine agriculture by tapping the power of IT so that the farmers are well-informed on updates and other new developments in the field of agriculture, DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said here on Monday.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is leading in enhancing the welfare of the farming community in the country according to the agricultural productivity and food security agenda of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Dayao said.

The idea is to provide DA’s extension workers—technicians that educate farmers ubiquitous access to critical farm information through a very affordable tablet computer which the agriculture department and its Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), together with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is seeking to be developed.

The DA central office in Quezon City, he said is seeking partnership with developers in coming up with the tablet computer that should have a 24-7 access to internet purely focused on vital farm information and geographic information system (GIS).

The GIS will be pivotal in enabling farmers to determine whether the crop they are planting in a particular location is suitable to that location. It will help then determine if the type of soil needs certain types of fertilizer, or whether water or moisture needed in plant growth may be sufficient in this farm area, Dayao explained.

A GIS system similar to that provided to Indian farmers through India’s National Remote Sensing Institute may enable Filipino farmers to have ready information on their soil and its needed fertilizers.

The GIS system in Karnataka, India has enabled an impressive increase of 50 to 60 percent on farmers’ harvest of crops like corn or soybean on over three million hectares of land even if these farm areas are really a dry land, Dayao said.

The ICRISAT network based in India through its director-general and former DA secretary William Dar will extend the Philippines assistance in fabricating the hardware and the tablet computer, Dayao said.

BAR will provide content for the tablet. ICRISAT is also facilitating to provide the Agropedia, a farm management system that a consortium of seven institutions, including ICRISAT, developed to aid Indian farmers.

The Agropedia will be very useful to Filipino farmers, initially to DA’s extension workers and BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar in a stamen received here said “we are discussing how to implement this project with our partners in DA, the Information Technology Center for Agriculture and Fisheries (ITCAF) along with the private sector”.

Eleazar said Indian Telephone Industry, run by the Indian government, can fabricate the tablet for the Philippines given government’s approval.

“We will have a bilateral agreement and Dr. Dar is using his experience and influence in India to produce for the Philippines the kind of tablet computer that India will have for its students in three to six months,” he said.

The tablet will cost around US$ 100 or P4,300 each and it may be provided to the DA’s extension workers for free by the government.

In India, a tablet computer for students costs only US$ 50 of which US$ 25 is shouldered by the government and the US$ 25 is paid by the student.

Access to internet is provided by the Indian government, which also controls the telecommunications business, at only an equivalent of P100 per month. An initial 100,000 tablet computers will be produced in India for the pilot stage of the project. A similar volume may be produced for the Philippines.

“When I first saw Agropedia in India, I thought it’s really revolutionary. It will be a giant leap for us in sharing experts’ information and practical knowledge between us and our farmers. We don’t want to miss the train. We will seek enough support for it to be approved,” said ITCAF Director Gary Glenn Fantastico in the same statement.

The Philippines must be fortunate that the Agropedia has an intellectual property nature that may be available to anyone.

However, the country also needs to partner with other institutions for internet connectivity and for customizing the software for Filipino farm workers and farmers.

According to Dar, ICRISAT is partnering with US Healthcare Chairman Arun Tiwani to make it a platform for Philippine agriculture utilizing initially Agropedia which was funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Since it is for public good, it can be used globally. “We can customize it for Philippine condition. That’s where we need partnerships,” Dar said. (PNA) RSV/DOC/cbd/

Bicol’s hidden natural, historical treasures await summer vacationers
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 23 (PNA) -– People tired of rat race and packing for summer vacations have good places to go in Bicol that offer discoveries of hidden natural and historical treasures.

Bicol, a beautiful region southeast of Manila is boundless in terms of natural and century-old man-made wonders distributed among its six provinces composed of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

It is a peninsula famous for its majestic mountains and volcanoes like Mount Mayon, Isarog and Bulusan.

Apart from hospitality that Bicolanos offer as a priceless present, the region also has a lot of “must visit” places for vacationers -- hot springs in Sorsogon, water falls in Albay and Catanduanes and world class resorts making it the right destination for people who love to have a cool, relaxing and adventurous vacation.

From Manila or elsewhere out of the region, they could come directly to this city, the regional center of government, transportation, communication, commerce, hospital services and education.

The city is served by at least five commercial flights of leading domestic airlines daily and land trips are available 24/7 to and from almost all points of destination and origin.

Hotels, logging houses and restaurants for all classes are in here for vacationers to stay while enjoying the fantastic view of the famous Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone as they plot shorter routes to other parts of the region.

Shopping for provisions and later, take home commodities is not a problem in this city where giant department stores, food shops and souvenir stores abound.

From the city, the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) could guide them where to go first and where to stay last to complete a once in a lifetime journey through the wilds, islands, deeps and heights of the region.

For those taking a luxurious option, the DOT says they could come and stay at the Misibis Bay Resort and Spa, a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of beach along the southern tip of Cagraray island in Bacacay, Albay.

This breathtaking, five-hectare island resort with lavishly furnished villas and world-class amenities could be reached via 45-minute scenic travel by land, 15-minutes by a private helicopter or 30 minutes by fast watercraft.

Vacationers can experience the diversity of Misibis Island where exquisite adventures arise from a treasure trove of infinite possibilities and discover Misibis Bay, the country’s leading luxury island playground.

Great things to do in Albay apart from getting up close with Mt. Mayon, according to DOT regional director Maria Ravanilla are cooling down at the waterfalls, exploring caves, feasting on the local cuisine, burying feet in the volcanic black sand beaches, hiking up Ligñon Hill, exploring the wild of off-shore islands, scuba diving and visiting century-old churches including the Cagsawa Ruins.

From here, Catanduanes, an island province in the Pacific Ocean could be an ideal destination for its virtually still untouched by development and ecological treasures that makes it a great vacation getaway.

The island is two and a half hours via ferry boats with regular daily trips from Tabaco City, 30 minutes away from this city.

Catanduanes boasts of Puraran Beach in the town of Baras which is the site of the so-called “Majestic” waves prized by surfers. The island also has yet-unspoiled white beaches all along its coastline, as well as diving spots for snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts, and cascading waterfalls farther inland.

It is paradise waiting to be discovered.

Another destination is Sorsogon, so as not to miss the chance of interacting with the “gentle giants of the ocean”, the butandings (whale sharks) of Donsol.

The month of May is the peak season for butanding interactions.

Staying in Donsol overnight at any of the dozens of resorts and lodging houses in town would also be exciting because of the natural attraction of fireflies while watching along the beach and river banks right off the sanctuary of whale sharks.

Down southeast of the province are clean beaches along the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean and San Bernardino Strait, the vast virgin forest within the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park that lies down the slopes of the restive Mt. Bulusan rimming the magnificent Bulusan Lake and the sprawling mangrove forest of Prieto Diaz town that serves as sanctuary of hundreds of bird species including migratory ones.

Along the way between these sites is Barcelona town, the home to the oldest church in the province built in 1874. The church was beautifully built out of corals that form its walls and the enchanting carvings on the coral façade make it a priceless relic.

Matnog town at the southern tip of Sorsogon that serves as the jumping board between Bicol and the Visayas is another paradise to discover being gifted with preserved nature, immaculate white to pinkish powdery sand beaches kissed by crystalline waters, uphill caves, fish and lobster farms, fish and marine turtle sanctuaries and an amazing view of sunrise and sunset.

The larger portion of the municipality’s mainland is rimmed by high mountains teeming with coconut palms and residual forests that offer a soothing feeling of relief from the air pollution in urban cities because of its lush green growth.

Accommodation and food in these areas are less expensive.

From Sorsogon, Ticao Island in Masbate province would be the best destination where sea diving in the Manta Ray Bowl down Ticao Pass off Fernando and San Jacinto towns is a once in a lifetime experience.

It will be an hour boat trip from Bulan town. Accommodations and good foods are available at beach resorts along the Pass.

From Ticao, access is easy to the Burias Island for a visit of the historic Claveria town that offers a lot of cultural experiences, beautiful sceneries, religious antiquity, superb cuisine and impressive hospitality.

The municipality locates an underground cave that can be reached through an underwater entrance called Boca Engaño where stone caskets with human remains believed to be more than 500 years of age exist and the San Isidro Beach that is being compared to the Miami Beach of Florida, USA and Cancun of Mexico.

Lacing the southern strip of Burias Island and spanning more than 10 kilometers of pure white sand and turquoise water and boasting of diverse marine ecosystem that houses endemic species of sea plants and animals, San Isidro Beach is more of a sanctuary for fairies and searching souls severely bruised and beaten by the intricacies of urban living.

For those introverts trying to avoid the din from bars and entertainment houses in the cities, the entire length occasionally interrupted by few thrusts which serve to decorate it for more effects, the beach is an enchanting paradise for the living coral reefs and crustaceans that outnumber the people residing alongside its shores.

Claveria could then be the last island hopping stop and daily boat trips across the Burias Pass to Pioduran town in Albay available to facilitate a return trip to the Bicol mainland.

The boat trip is about two hours and Pioduran is an hour and a half by land to this city or nearly three hours to the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC).

Located in Pili, Camarines Sur, CWC is the wake boarding playground of Bicol for those who are looking for real water sports adventure.

The place could be a take-off point to the Gota Village Resort in Caramoan town which is another world-class vacation and eco-tourism spot of Camarines Sur.

Indeed, completing this vacation island hopping in Bicol would show a vacationer that the region is a combination of the old and the new.

Old churches, untouched natural wonders, rich history and culture and the picture of modern Bicol never ceases to impress even as newly-built structures in support of its fast-pacing development takes place.

Come and experience the wonderful destinations in the region and feel the real meaning of vacation and relaxation.

It's cool to be spending summer Bicol. (PNA) DCT/LOR/DOC/cbd

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PHL ‘Sapinit’ breaks through market with therapeutic food products
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 17 (PNA) -- A Philippine wild raspberry “sapinit” processed into juice, jam, and wine has broken through in the market with its unique taste and richness in leucoanthocyanin, anti-Alzheimer’s, and anti-cancer phytochemical content.

Likewise, "sapinit" is considered a plant useful for environmental sustainability as it does not need continuous cultivation, and it can live for many years and retains retains soil fertility,said Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) director Nicomedes Eleazar.

The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) has seen an initial success in its P1.55 million-funded project that has sent the market craving for "sapinit" food products.

Unique Philippine products like "sapinit" particularly in the wilds, really need a big boost in research and marketing support from the government, said Eleazar.

“Sapinit can't just be found anywhere since they thrive in the wilds without need for delicate nurture and care. They are actually protectors of our environment,” Eleazar said.

"Sapinit" is a shrub that has prickly stem, thereby identified with the rose family and making it a raspberry rather than a strawberry.

It reaches a height of six feet and grows in a higher elevation of 1,000 to 2,000 feet above- sea- level.

Its fruit has bright red-orange color that accounts for its phytochemical richness. It has sweet-sour-bitter taste that makes for its uniqueness.

Other fund contributors to the project are the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council NAFC) and Japan’s KR2 Program.

Having high market value, "sapinit" has a bright potential as a specialty product. Farmers can sell it fresh at P300 per kilo and its juice is sold at P35 per 350 milliliters (ml), P85 for 250 ml jam and P300 for 350 ml wine.

The preparation into a delicious juice, jam, and even wine is part of BAR’s project with the Quezon Agricultural Experimental Station (QAES).

It is is also processed into vinaigrette for salad dressing by a proprietor in one Quezon resort. Tea is another potential product from the leaves.

“Sapinit" has a very important role in uplifting the livelihood of communities because without it, they just depend on cash crops,” Eleazar said.

The BAR program also funded a phytochemical analysis of "sapinit" by the Industrial Technology Development Institute and the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Biotech.

This has shown the presence of anti-cancer phytochemicals including eucoanthocyanins, anthraquinones, saponins, deoxysugars, free fatty acids, hydrolysable tannins (inhibitors of HIV duplication), unsaturated steroids, and benzopyrone nucleus, said Eleazar.

An important function of anthraquinones is it inhibits formation of Tau aggregates and dissolve paired helical filaments thought to be critical to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

With anthraquinones, "sapinit" also gets an industrial use potential. Anthraquinones is a precursor to synthetic dyes, an additive in paper pulp making and is a material for hydrogen peroxide as well.

Leucoanthocyanin is a flavonoid found in many plants including berries which are potential modifiers of carcinogens.

Some saponins have been shown to very significantly augment the cytotoxicity of immunotoxins and other targeted toxins directed against human cancer cells.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) also carried out microbial analysis, preparation of nutrition facts, and packaging as funded by the BAR-QAES project.

Many investors, including candy manufacturers that seek raw materials for flavoring, have expressed interest in putting money into "sapinit".

Its product expansion may even extend beyond Quezon as this wild raspberry is widely distributed in open secondary forests from Luzon to Mindanao at low to medium altitude, as long as there is abundant soil moisture. (PNA)

80 percent of Bicolanos now Philhealth members
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 17 (PNA) - Eight out of every 10 Bicolanos are now covered by the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) being implemented by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

This means that 80 percent or 4.72 million of Bicol’s nearly 5.9 million population is now covered by the program that provides affordable health care in accordance with the universal health care agenda of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

In his Executive Order (EO) No. 10 issued on October 2, 2011, the President said that one of the priorities of his administration is to ensure that all Filipinos, especially the poor, have access to health care services through universal health care in three years, or less thus, their enrollment in PhilHealth should be ensured.

The EO is in compliance with the provision of the 1987 Constitution that “directs the State to adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all Filipinos at affordable cost”.

Orlando Inigo, the PhilHelath regional director for Bicol on Tuesday said most of the Bicolanos or 58 percent who are now covered by the program and listed as members of the PhilHealth belong to the indigent sector and enrolled through the sponsored registration scheme of the government.

Under this scheme, contributions of these members who were identified by the National Household Targeting System (NHTS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as poorest of the poor are shouldered by the national and local governments.

Inigo said 17 percent of the members in Bicol not covered by the NHTS are listed as workers in the private sector; nine percent are government workers; nine percent, individual paying members (IPP); five percent are Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); and two percent are classified under the PhilHealth’s Lifetime Member Program (LMP).

“We have in our list 489,372 members registered under the sponsored program and identified by the NHTS and those that were not part of this identification system numbered a total of 291,152 distributed all over the region. Every member usually is head of a family whose dependents are also covered,” he said.

Under the local government unit (LGU)-sponsored scheme, Inigo said members have been given continuous services by the PhilHealth until last March which may extend up to this month until June once their memberships are renewed by their sponsors before the end of June.

He said PHilHealth spent P607 million for the hospital services availed by these members last year.

LGUs have to pay P600 for each member for the month of July until December. Next year, the amount to be shouldered by sponsoring LGUs would be P1,200 for each member for a six-month coverage as the increased rate to be collected by the PhilHealth would be in effect by then.

For individually paying members, the new annual premium starting July, this year will be P2,400 or P200 monthly or an increase of 100 percent from the old rate of P100 per month.

Self-employed professionals earning an average monthly income of more than P25,000 meanwhile will pay an annual rate of P3,600.

Premium contribution of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) had been increased from P900 to P1,200 up to June and starting on July 2012, their annual payments would become P2,400.

For the employed sector, contribution of each member is pegged at three percent of the basic salary shared equally by the employer and the monthly salary base is equal to P7,000 and salary ceiling, P50,000.

Inigo explained that the increased members' premium contribution is necessary in sustaining the enhanced health benefits the PHIC is providing its members.

He cited that PhilHealth benefit packages under this new premium rates have been enhanced mentioning among others the boosted newborn tests and care services worth P1,750 in addition to Normal Spontaneous Delivery (NSD) of P8,000 in Level One hospitals or P6,500 in Levels Two to Four hospitals, and the Indicated Caesarian Section (Cs) package of P19,000.

Also under the new procedure, rates for medical services and surgical procedures have been pre-fixed for 25 different cases that include dengue 1, P8,000; dengue 2, P16,000; pneumonia 1, P15,000; pneumonia 2, P32,000; essential hypertension, P9,000; cerebral infarction (CVA), 1, P28,000; cerebrovascular accident with hemorrhage (CVA) 2, P38,000; acute gastroenteritis, P6,000; asthma, P9,000 and; typhoid fever, P14,000.

New packages for surgical procedures are: radiotherapy, P3,000 per session; hemodialysis, P4,000 per session; appendectomy, P24,000; cholecystectomy, P31,000; dilatation and curettage; P11,000; thyroidectomy, P31,000; herniorrhaphy, P21,000; mastectomy, P22,000; hysterectomy, P30,000 and; cataract surgery, P16,000.

Under PhilHealth Circular No. 22 s-2011 entitled New Premium Contributions to the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) in Support to the Attainment of Universal Health Care and Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the new premium rates took effect starting last January 1. (PNA)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alcala hands in P12-M agri goods, projects to Catanduanes farmers

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 11 (PNA) – Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has turned over P12.3 million worth of agricultural supplies and projects to farmers in the island province of Catanduanes, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Field Unit (DA-RFU) for Bicol here.

DA Regional Executive Director Jose Dayao on Wednesday said the awarding of the supplies and projects took place during a two-day visit in the province made by Alcala on April 9 to 10.

During the visit, the DA secretary also inspected agricultural projects and held dialogues with local farmers and other industry stakeholders including farm investors and local government officials led by Gov. Joseph Cua, Dayao said.

The agricultural supplies given by Alcala composed of farm equipment such as a mini-tractor worth P28,300, two units hand tractors worth P114,500 each, a palay thresher worth P108,575, a seeder drum costing P6,500, seed cleaner amounting P78,000 and seven units of shallow tube wells worth P75,000 each, Dayao said.

These equipment acquired through a counterparting scheme of financing with local government units (LGUs) were turned over to farmer’s groups and irrigator’s associations in the province.

Alcala also provided vegetable and high value-crop farmers in the province with two bags of organic rice seeds, 150 bags organic fertilizers and assorted vegetable seedling tray garden tools costing a total of P226,000.

A vermin culture set worth P163,000 was also given to an irrigator’s association, Dayao said.

The municipal governments of San Andres, Bato, Gigmoto, San Miguel, Virac and Bagamanoc on the other hand were provided two units each of knapsack sprayers with a total cost of P3,900 and two units PH meter amounting P9,900, he said.

For livelihood projects of 32 DA Akbay Livelihood Project beneficiaries in the province, Dayao said the DA secretary awarded checks worth P10,000 each as start-up capital for swine fattening ventures. An additional of 12 recipients were also given P10,000 each in roll-over fund.

The four local coconut farmer’s associations also received a total of 10,892 pieces of stabilized coconut seedlings amounting P217,772 under the Prairie Crop Protection Planner (PCPP) phase II project, Dayao said.

Meanwhile, seven fisherfolk associations, five barangay councils and the LGU of San Miguel received P2.3 million worth of fishery projects that include technology demonstration farms on polyculture of mudcrab and bangus in brackish water pond, aquasilvi project, fishcage culture, squid pot project, fish pen project and innovative technology on crablets collection.

The Catanduanes State Colleges (CSC), the premier higher education institution in the province offering agriculture courses and training was also given funding assistance amounting P1.5 million for its research and development project on sustainable technology infusion in inland fisheries development program.

For the school’s community-based multi-species hatchery and tilapia hatchery, Alcala also provided a funding worth P3.4 million, according to Dayao.

During his stay, the DA chief led the launching of the mangrove reforestation project implemented in partnership with the DA-RFU and the provincial government in a 90- hectare coastline in Bato town. (PNA)
Photo Courtesy of Wang Regalado


Albay is top tourist destination in the country -– DOT

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) -- Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said on Tuesday that Albay is becoming top tourist destination in the country after pursuing an aggressive tourism program that's helping propel the province's economic growth.

Jimenez, who graced on Tuesday the opening rites of the province annual month-long Magayon Festival, said the big investment poured in by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on its tourism program would indeed boost economic activity.

Jimenez, citing tourism statistics said in 2011 Albay posted 350,069 tourist arrivals -- a 17 percent growth rate that surpassed the national growth rate of 15 percent.

Jimenez at a press conference said there were 3.9 million tourist arrival in the country in 2010 and 4.6 million in 2011.

Jimenez said, “It is more fun in Albay because Albayanos are known for being hospitable."

He said Albay has distinct tourism features with its people, festivals, history, culture and arts.

"Tourism needs to invest in people since “tourism is a business of the people, there should be a concrete road map that would attract and be a destination.

“Mayon volcano should not only be an attraction, it should rather be a destination.”

Jimenez lauded Salceda for initiating a three-pronged event that showcases a 30-day festivals, including the Magayon Festival depicting Albay’s cultural heritage, the Cagsawa Festival, and Karangahan Festival, featuring the province's culinary arts.

Salceda said that the province, after making distinction in the field of health, education, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, is now moving toward tourism and agriculture development.

Salceda said the province is now shifting from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to economic growth by attracting more industry players who would invest in agriculture modernization and tourism development.

Salceda, adapting "Albay Rising" as the province’s slogan said the slogan is largely anchored on the development of the tourism industry.

Among the province's tourist attractions are the active and near perfect cone-shaped Mayon Volcano, the historic Cagsawa Ruins, and many fine beaches.

Salceda said “Albay is investing heavily on tourism as among its revenue generating concerns designed to spur the economic development.”

With Magayon Festival on its fifth year, the provincial government has set a package of close to 150 events that feature culture and the arts, trade and industry, tourism spectacles, culinary food trips, sports and special interests that are expected to titillate the interest of tourists and visitors.

Among the event highlights of Magayon Festival 2012 is the staging of the Dance of the Three Mountains, a play written by multi-awarded Albayano writer Abdon Balde in the Bicol vernacular.

The legend tells the story of the three sister mountains -- Magayon, Masaraga, and Malinao which is actually the legend of Mayon Volcano.

Taking center stage is the Mutya ng Magayon Festival 2012, a pageant which has already produced world-class beauty titlists like Dianne Necio, the 2011 Bb. Pilipinas International.

Likewise, the Higantes, a parade of giant effigies which are all Albay mythological characters.

The festival highlights include the Ginoo ng Magayon Festival 2012, to be hosted by actress Lovi Poe; Concierto sa Magayon, with Jhong Hilario and Kiss Jane; Concierto Pasasalamat; Magayon Lyre, Drum and Baton Competition; Gayon Bicol Festival Showdown; Daragang Magayon Legend Showdown, the street dancing and festival queen presentation; Hot-Taw sa Karaonan, and the Sili Viand Eating Contest; among others.

Magayon’s Beer Plaza, will present bands and artists as nightly guests at the Penaranda Park in here, and is expected to keep the festival’s night life wake until dawn.

Quick response recovery team vs possible rocket debris activated in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) - The Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) on Tuesday activated the Quick Response Recovery Team (QRRT) in case missile debris from the North Korean rocket falls in two Bicol provinces.

Raffy Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and RDRRMC chairperson, said the provinces of Camarines Norte and Catanduanes are the areas being threatened by the missile debris fall.

The activation of QRRT composed of personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) are on high alert and on stand-by for any eventuality.

Alejandro said the QRRT would be immediately deployed at sea or land to assist in the recovery of missile debris in case it falls in Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

The RDRRMC on Monday has activated Oplan Bicol Watch as a precautionary measure on the possible falling of debris from the North Korean rocket.

NDRRMC advisory said rocket debris might fall approximately 190 kilometers east off Polillo Island or 130 km north off Catanduanes.

Capt. Abraham Celso, commander of the Naval Forces of Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) at the RDRRMC meeting on Monday, said he ordered the deployment of two naval ships near Polillo Island where a missile debris is estimated to fall.

The RDRRMC also issued an advisory placing on Red Alert Status disaster regional agencies for possible mobilization and response operation.

Communities along coastal areas in the eastern seaboard where advised to stay indoors between April 12 to 16, the date where the North Korean rocket would be launched this year.

Residents were also advised to report to the nearest authorities sightings of falling debris and other related events.

The advisory also warned residents not to get in contact with the debris as same may be harmful to their health.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) directed local government units threatened by the possible missile debris fall to implement the “no fishing/plying policy” at specific areas. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

P3 to P23 increase in daily wage of private sector workers in Bicol takes effect

LEGAZPI CITY, April 10 (PNA) – The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) has announced that the P3 to P23 approved increases in the basic daily wages of private sector workers in Bicol took effect last Saturday, April 7.

“This is the most logical range of increases reached by the RTWPB following deliberations on results of a series of dialogues and public consultations involving the workers and the employers in the region,” Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional director and RTWPB chairman Nathaniel Lacambra said here Tuesday.

The adjustments were made official through Wage Order No. RBV-15 that took effect last April 7. Lacambra said the daily minimum wage rates of workers and employees in the private sector will now be P252 for non-agriculture establishments employing more than 10 workers.

This new rate carries daily increases ranging from P5 to P18 as the previous, under Wage Order No. RBV-14 issued on March 2011, non-agriculture workers in private establishments employing more than 15 workers received P247 while those in establishments with 11 to 15 workers were entitled to P234.

For workers in non-agriculture establishments employing less than 10 workers, the new rate is now P228 per day, the same rate given to cottage industry and agriculture workers both in the plantation and non-plantation sectors, he said.

This rate represents increases of P23 for non-plantation agriculture workers, P3 for plantation, P16 for cottage industry workers in establishments with less than 20 workers and P6 in establishments of more than 20 workers.

Lacambra said these new rates are based on the adjustments decided upon by the Board to simplify the old minimum wage rates in the region and enable the workers to cope with the rising cost of living without impairing the viability of the business and industry sectors.

The approval of the new wage rates, he said is consistent with the government’s policy of achieving higher levels of productivity to promote economic growth, generate employment, augment the income of workers and address the need to build the capacity of business enterprises to be competitive through productivity improvement and gain sharing programs.

This new minimum wage rate is in response to the petition filed with the RTWPB last November by the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and Pinag-isangManggagawa sa Kooperatiba sa Koryente-Bicol/National Solidarity of Unions in the Electric Cooperatives (PMKKB/NSUEC).

APL president Fernando Turiano said the amount could compensate for the lost value in the real wages of workers due to the increasing cost of living brought about by the rising prices of basic goods and services.

Turiano said the labor sector will abide by the new wage increases.

“We are, however, pressing on the DOLE to see to it that the employers religiously comply with the wage order. The DOLE must strictly enforce it, otherwise the workers will continue to be at the losing end,” he said. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NSO says Bicol’s inflation rate continues to improve in February

LEGAZPI CITY, April 02 (PNA) -- The purchasing power of the peso (PPP) in Bicol remained at 76 centavos in February 2012 from P1.00 in the same month of 2006 and the National Statistics Office (NSO) said it is still sound as the region’s annual inflation rate continues to improve.

The rate placed the year-on-year change at 2.8 percent, 0.4 percentage point lower than last month's level.

In its latest report, the NSO regional office for Bicol here said on Monday, drops in inflation rates in almost all the commodity groups in the region resulted in the current level of inflation.

Commodity groups with lower inflation rates for the month were clothing and footwear, shedding 1.0 percentage point; food and on-alcoholic beverages, dropping 0.6 percentage point and; furnishing, household equipment and routine maintenance of the house, down by 0.4 percentage point.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco, also dipped by 0.3 percentage point and recreation and culture and restaurants and miscellaneous goods and Services, fell by 0.1 percentage point apiece.

On the other hand, communication posted a minimal 0.1 percentage point increase in inflation rate, while the rest of the commodity groups remained at their last month's level.

Eight of the eleven food items included in the region's market basket registered declines in inflation rate, enough to pull down the overall inflation rate of the food and non-alcoholic beverages commodity group, which accounts for about half of the consumer basket of goods and services in the region.

Average prices of commodities in the region did not move with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) staying at 130.8, the level recorded a month ago.

Average price in food and non-alcoholic beverages commodity group, the biggest item in Bicol’s market basket was 0.2 index point lower.

This and the 0.1 point drop in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels and communication commodity groups subdued the rise in the average CPI.

Transport rose by 0.3 point while alcoholic beverages and tobacco inched up by 0.1 point. Indices of the rest of the commodity groups remained at their previous month's levels, according to the NSO.

On a month-on-month basis, it said Bicol registered a 0.1 percentage point drop in inflation rate in February. Six of the eleven major commodity groups reflected slower inflation rates while two commodity groups posted faster inflation rates for the month and the rest also remained unchanged from their previous month's level.

In its last month’s report the NSO said that the PPP in most Bicol provinces in January was sustained for the previous two months as increase in the prices of goods and services slowed down with the drop in the annual inflation rate in the region.

In January, it earlier said PPP which is the value of money as measured by the quantity and quality of products it can buy was sustained at P0.79 in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Masbate, and Sorsogon while it increased slightly to P0.80 in Albay.

Inflation rate in the region drops from 4.2 percent in December 2011 to 3.2 percent in January this year based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all income households.

Compared to the 4.3 percent inflation rate in the same period last year, the rate for January 2012 is lower by 1.1 percent, it added. (PNA)