Thursday, May 31, 2012

Albay anti-plastic ordinance takes effect this June

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) -- The ordinance banning the use of plastic bags, polystyrene and other synthetic packaging materials takes effect on Friday, June 1, in the entire province of Albay.

The anti-plastic ordinance would be strictly enforced starting this June, said Board Member Arnold Embestro, the Committee on Environment chairperson.

He said the ban on plastic would be strictly enforced after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) gave a one-year moratorium to commercial establishments in the 15 towns and three cities of the province.

The anti-plastic ordinance (SP ordinance 2011-3) was passed and signed by Albay Governor Joey Salceda last February 21, 2011, prohibiting the use of plastic bags, polystyrene and other synthetic fabrics as packaging materials for goods sold by supermarkets, groceries, stores and other commercial establishments in Albay.

Albay is the first province in Bicol to pass an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials that is harmful to the environment.

The ordinance directs owners of groceries, department stores, supermarkets, chain retailers including sari-sari stores not to use plastic, Styrofoam and synthetic materials as packaging bags for goods sold to customers.

Embestro said they also appealed to the public to use or bring along during their shopping alternative bags made of paper, cloth, abaca, buri and other recyclable and environment friendly materials.

The ordinance carries a fine ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 including the cancellation of the business permit.

Embestro expects that the ordinance would be carried out smoothly after holding a series information drives, dialogues, consultation with the public, stakeholders and law enforcement agencies.

Environmentalists claim that the use of plastic bags and other synthetic materials, although convenient, are responsible for causing pollution and harmful effects to the environment.

Plastic bags end up as litters, they find their ways into waterways, river channels, parks, beaches and streets.

Once burned, they infuse the air with toxic fumes.

One of the worst environmental effects of plastic bags is that they are non-biodegradable, decomposition of plastic bags takes about 400 years.

Plastic bags kills animals, many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, the toxic materials remains intact that it kills them.

As this developed, another milestone environment ordinance signed by Salceda this month was the Albay Smoke Free Ordinance, authored by Provincial Board Members Herbert Borja and Niel Montallana.

Salceda signed Provincial Ordinance 10-2012, otherwise know as "An ordinance regulating the use, sale, distribution and advertisement of cigarettes and other tabacco products, imposing penalties therefore in the province of Albay."

The ordinance would take effect on the last quarter of this year, Borja chairman of the SP committee on health.

Borja said the legislative measure aims to protect and promote the right to health of the people in doing so the ordinance prohibits smoking in public, private places whether enclosed or outdoor.

It also prohibits the purchase and sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors, likewise it imposes restrictions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship activities of tobacco companies.

Borja in an interview said the Albay Smoke Free Ordinance is a "model ordinance" the first anti-smoking ordinance to be passed in the Bicol region and the third province in the country to implement a total ban on cigarette smoking.

He said before the provincial ordinance was crafted and passed, similar Smoke Free Ordinances were passed and enforced in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao, and the towns of Daraga and Guinobatan. (PNA) DCT/LAM/LQ/MSA/cbd/ebp

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty verdict renders just and fair
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY,May 29 (PNA) -- The conviction of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona on Tuesday by 20 Senator-Judges has rendered a just verdict and indeed explained and fairly presented the issues in the 44 days of the Senate Impeachment Trial, according to legal luminaries here, including public elected officials.

Twenty Senator-Judges voted for a guilty verdict after they found that CJ Corona had culpably violated the Constitution and Ethical Standard of a Government Official by deliberately failing to disclose all his assets in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Networth.

Only Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr who voted for the Chief Justice acquittal.

Following the guilty verdict of CJ Corona, the following are some reactions:

Albay Gov. Joe Salceda said: "It restores the credibility of our institutions and reinforces the workings of democracy.

Thus it brings about immense economic gains in terms of heightened foreign confidence, thus greater FDI’s ODAs, and domestically , as it bolsters governance, it translates to better economic efficiency."

Cong. Alfredo Garbin: “The guilty verdict is a reaffirmation that a public office is a public trust and that public officials and employees are accountable to the Filipino people at all times. Public officials should not enrich themselves while holding public office but instead should serve the public with utmost integrity and must live modest lives.”

Cong. Rodel Batocabe said “the impeachment court has spoken. The Chief Justice is proven guilty. Our people might have been divided but our nation and its democratic institutions will be strengthened by this experience, let us move forward and heal wounds caused by this bloodletting process.”

Prosecutor Dominador Barrameda: “ It is expected , Chief Justice Corona admission did it. Impeachment being more political than legal process public sentiments counts. ”

Lawyer and law professor Mariano Baranda, “the verdict of guilty is fair and just and based on the law.”

“ I agree with the conviction for the reasons cited by those who voted. It’s the right decision, ” said retired Regional Trial Court Judge Dong Candolea,

Lawyer Arnaldo Espinas said “the impeachment proceedings were far to both sides and with that perception it would be easy to accept the verdict of the senator judges.”

Beverly Baranda, a law graduate said: ”I believe CJ Corona deserves a guilty verdict, his credibility, integrity and probity are already doubtful and not befitting the position of Chief Justice. The senator judge that convicted him did well and explained their votes well. ”(PNA) RMA/MSA/cbd/

Sorsogueños take pride for Chiz, Gringgo verdicts
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, May 29 (PNA) – For thousands of Sorsogueños who attentively watched over televisions how impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona was judged by the impeachment court Tuesday afternoon, the pride was theirs for having two senator-judges who voted for conviction as their own.

They were referring to Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Gregorio “Gringgo” Honasan who are both Sorsogueños.

Escudero hails from Casiguran, Sorsogon and Honasan is from the town of Bulan.

Both voted for the conviction of Corona in Article II of the Articles of Impeachment that in a 20-3 vote found the chief justice guilty of dishonesty and culpable violation of the Constitution for inaccurately declaring his worth in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) involving millions worth of dollar and peso bank deposits and real estate properties.

“Iyan ang mga senador na sariling atin. Maipagmamalaki at karapat-dapat na papurihan (They are our very own senators. We are proud of them as they deserve the praises)”, tricycle driver William Paje of this provincial capital said as he emerged from a crowd who watch on TV the Senate proceedings at a terminal cafeteria.

Not one among those men on the street here asked for comment by the PNA on the verdict had expressed opposition to the conviction. Not one even expected nor wished for an acquittal.

Rodel Lacay, a 26-year old insurance underwriter said “tama ang 20 senador na humatol na may kasalanan si Corona at dapat nang tanggalan sa puwesto (the 20 senators who decided that Corona was guilty and should be removed from his post were correct)”.

Roland Areola, a councilor of Barangay Pangpang here said at least justice was served for the Filipino people who were “cheated” by Corona when he hid his real assets contrary to the provision of the law that as a government official should be declared in his SALN.

Areola’s fellow barangay councilor Bert Balde ,who also works as a local radio reporter, agreed and extended his appreciation to Senators Escudero and Honasan for showing that Sorsogueños are already politically matured.

“We Sorsogueños who condemn irregularities and immorality in government deserve Chiz and Gringgo as our provincemate. They are brilliant lawmakers and outstanding decision-makers,” Balde added.

A restaurant at the downtown here looked like a cockpit arena during the Senate promulgation as known local gamblers mostly cock fighting aficionados gathered to watch on TV the proceedings with bets put on how the decision would come out.

No one would placed a bet on acquittal even as some have offered a “double-your-money” chance for those who would take bets in favor of Corona. The betting were on the number of votes for the conviction and Betoy Novela said he won about P10,000 for placing bets on the 20-3.

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla’s vote was the most applauded as it sealed the victory of the prosecution for being the 16th vote for conviction.

Senator Joker Arroyo’s vote for acquittal was the most that earned disapproval from the crowd. “Joker lost our sympathy and approval as his fellow Bicolano for his vote,” Novela said. RMA/DOC/cbd

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jose Panganiban: Bicol’s gold-rich town where big miners come and go
By Danny O. Calleja

JOSE PANGANIBAN, Camarines Norte, May 29 (PNA) –- The vast ground of this far-flung mineral-rich town is riddled with footmarks imprinted over time by big-time miners who, one after another would turn up for its gold and ore then walk off afterwards.

The cycle was started by the Spaniards when they first showed up in 1626 on hearing about the huge deposits of gold in this municipality conservatively estimated at 23 million metric tons inclusive of the reserves in the adjoining towns of Paracale.

Before the arrivals of the Spaniards, Aeta tribes have been settling in the area known since 1571 as the town of Mambulao, a name coined from the Bicolano word “mabulawan” which means rich in gold.

The Aetas then were already digging open pits, canals and narrow tunnels from where gold nuggets used for filigree crafts were derived. They traded the jewelries with Chinese merchants that regularly sail into the town’s shores.

As the Spaniards worked on the gold-bearing gravel in the town’s rivers and streams, they drove away deep into the upper woodland the peace-loving early aborigines.

Came next the Americans who set up huge dredges and mined primary lode deposits as the natives went ahead with small gold mining works along the perimeters and continued with the home industry they have developed— jewelry making.

From 1900 until the early twenties though, Mambulao was sleepy town, isolated from the other towns of Camarines Norte. It lies on a strip of seashore off the Mambulao bay and is bounded by a hill on the northeast of the bay within the province.

In 1934, the town’s name was changed into what it now in honor of a homegrown patriot Jose Maria Panganiban Y Enverga and owing to the extraordinary skills inherited from several generations behind by homegrown goldsmiths, the municipality, out of its rich supply of gold was able to establish a reputation for its distinctively designed jewelries of fine gold filigrees.

Until today, the municipality is known for this craft which made it one of the major players in the Philippine jewelry industry.

“Bulawan: the Gold of Camarines Norte”, a suite of eight design lines in high-quality 18-karat gold jewelry is one brilliant result of this craft inspired by the natural motifs and unique cultural heritage of Camarines Norte.

Among the themes culled from this unique cultural heritage are the “Sinahâ” which is the form of an abaca stem cut crosswise; “Hinâgot”, the shape of hand-decorticated pineapples leaves; “Pinalaspas”, the shapes of hand-folded palm fronds used during Palm Sunday masses; and “Balisô-sô”, which are local glutinous rice or cassava-based cakes shaped into triangles.

Others are “Ilog”, the meandering, pristine rivers which bear precious gold dust; “Pabitin”, the playful bamboo grid hung with gifts which children grab at during Easter Sunday; “Pinalay” which mimics the golden kernels of life-giving rice which is at the heart of local agriculture; and “Alon” that follows the gentle curves of the ocean waves of this primarily coastal province.

Each of these motifs has corresponding jewelry items, in the form of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, rings and bangles in 18 karat yellow gold which occupy a prominent space at the Ayala Museum in Makati City.

Indeed, Jose Panganiban has grown into a thriving municipality with its gold mining industry, iron ore deposits and vast marine and aquatic resources serving as the backbones of its economy.

Home to the Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) then dubbed as the biggest iron mine in Asia during the gold bloom decades back, the municipality, particularly Barangay Larap was dubbed as “Little Manila”, owing to the flourishing businesses operated by Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese and Syrians, among others.

After 50 years of mining from (1925 to 1975) PIM terminated its operations in Larap leaving behind only mementos of that part of the municipality’s history in the village.

Outside Larap, the Jose Panganiban–Paracale Gold District (JPPGD) has been another site of mining operations for centuries. It most prominently came into operation when acquired in 1933 by American entrepreneurs who established the San Mauricio Mining Company.

For six years, the company extracted 643,000 metric tons of gold ore from the area and halted its operations before World War II broke out.

No major operations were resumed until 1987 when J. G. Realty and Mining Company (JGRMC) which owned the mining rights over the area and Benguet Corporation, the Philippines’s leading gold producer, entered into a joint venture agreement to undertake exploration and development activities.

The exploration resulted in the estimation of indicated underground reserve of 776,520 metric tons with an average grade of 6.6 g/t Au over a 0.83 meter wide quartz vein, an attestation to the richness of gold deposits scattered all over the municipality.

Turn of events,however, forced Benguet to shed its operations starting in 1994 until it shut down completely in 1997.

The exit of Benguet gave way to Johson Gold Mining Corporation (JGMC) to control the 257.3-hectare Bonito Gold Project covering the old site of San Mauricio Mining Company.

Today, JGMC operates a gold processing plant capable of 150 tons of gold ore per day. Its gold recovery is up to 95 percent from a head grade of 3-10 g/t Au. It now controls about 426.7 hectares of mineral rights within the JPPGD.

VSAP Builders Holdings on the other hand has recently acquired Insight Multi-Mining Development Corporation (IMDC) which is involved in the mining of gold and magnetite. It has over 400 hectares of mining area here that extends to Paracale.

Since 2008, Ferro Management and Consultancy Group Inc. (FMCGI), a Filipino company that exports iron ore to China, Japan and other parts of the world is also in operations in the municipality.

In about three years as of today, FMCGI has already produced a stockpile of more than 30,000 tons of iron ore and so far shipped over 7,500 metric tons to China.

PanCentury Surfactants, Inc., a chemical producing company is also presently working on a big mining site in Barangay Osmeña, complimented with a wharf where ocean-going vessels dock.

Likewise, Investwell Group of Companies is developing an iron mine in Barangays Nakalaya and Larap, in partnership with FMCGI.

Barangay Larap, having been declared as Special Economic Zone, shall be the site for future economic activities when local and foreign investors shall be putting up factories and small to medium industries, ranging from software manufacturing to that of heavy equipment, Mayor Ricarte Padilla on Tuesday said.

This will be materialized upon the completion of the Jose Panganiban-Larap Road Concreting which is already being implemented by the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, he said.

Meanwhile, the barangays of Luklukan Sur, Luklukan Norte, Sta. Rosa Sur, Sta. Rosa Norte, San Rafael, Nakalaya, Sta. Elena, and some other barangays are pockmarked by the works of the small-scale gold miners and panners.

These gold produce have been triggering economic activities for the entire municipality and keeping the local jewelry industry alive.

Padilla said, Jose Panganiban is a town with a glorious past. It is considered the richest town in Camarines Norte with all the potentialities that could make it commercially and economically progressive.

The town had progressed from fourth to first class municipality, without having to pass through a second class township.

It has been interpreted that the upward trend of change was due to the influx of capital investments, business and mining operations, the kind of government administrations that it has lived up to and the geography and potentialities it has kept.

The municipality also has a way in attracting tourists through its unique Jose Panganiban Social Center, the smelting plant operated by National Shipyard and Steel Corporation (NASSCO) at Barangay Bagong-bayan and the mementos of the PIM at Larap.

“We have a first class airport, a wharf for foreign vessels and inte-island ships and many others which other towns dream to have”, the mayor added. (PNA) DCT/lor/LQ/DOC/cbd

DOLE says Bicol could absorb all the region’s fresh graduates in next 2 years

LEGAZPI CITY, May 29 (PNA) –- Bicol’s employment trend could absorb all the over 26,000 fresh graduates in the region within the next two years.

This was the optimism expressed on Tuesday by the regional office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here saying 40 percent of these latest graduates will be employed within this year and the rest may be placed in the succeeding two years.

Records of the regional office of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) here said Bicol had more than 26,000 students who graduated from various courses leading to college degrees in different schools across the region during school year 2011-2012.

DOLE-Bicol is using the CHED data in determining or devising strategies in addressing the unemployment trend brought about by the influx of new graduates, according to its regional director Nathaniel Lacambra.

“Our conservative projection based on the regional trend is that all these new graduates may land on gainful employments by 2014,” Lacambra said.

The trend agrees with the rate of employment in the region as seen by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

Based on the results of the latest round of Labor Force Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO), the NSCB said more Bicolanos were employed in January this year, as unemployment rate slipped to 6.8 percent, 0.3 percentage point lower than the rate registered in the same period the previous year.

This goes to show that employment rate in the region improved to 93.2 percent from 92.9 percent in the past year, it added.

Lacambra said the employment plight of what is said to be Bicol labor’s ‘fresh meat,’ will rely mostly on the ability of the region’s local job market in absorbing the graduates and the open mindedness of the graduates in overseas work.

“The region’s economic situation is steadily growing and if this gain particularly in the construction, services and tourism industries is sustained, then we are assured that local employment could already absorb this year at least 40 percent of the fresh graduates,” he said. (PNA) DCT/LQ/DOC/cbd

Monday, May 28, 2012

CSC official at NIB/PNA 2012 Gender and Development Workshop

Atty. Elenita P. Ugay (left, upper photo) of the Civil Service Commission Legal Service Division-Cordillera Administrative Region, lectures on "Gender Disparity in the Government Service: Myth or Truth" during the News and Information Bureau (NIB) 2012 Gender and Development Workshop II from May 24-26 at San Fabian PTA Beach Resort, Barangay Bolasi, San Fabian, Pangasinan. The workshop is themed "Empowering Women Through Media." Upper right photo shows some of the 50 NIB employee-participants of the workshop. In lower photo, NIB Director Brando F. Merrera hands over a certificate of appreciation to Atty. Ugay after her lecture. (PNA photo by Luisito L. Iglesia)

DPWH completes P57-M school building projects in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, May 26 (PNA) – A total 82 new public school buildings constructed under the P57.1-million infrastructure program of the Department of Education (DepEd) for calendar year 2011 are ready for occupancy in Bicol next month.

Constructed by the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), 26 of these new school buildings are in Camarines Sur, 20 in Masbate, 16 in Albay, 10 in Sorsogon and eight in Camarines Norte and two in Catanduanes, DPWH regional director said.

These projects were finished ahead of the school opening on June 4, Dequito noted.

“At least, we were able to finish them and made ready for the June 4 opening of classes,” Dequito said, recalling that last year and in early part of 2012, almost all areas in the region encountered heavy rains, tropical storms and typhoons which hampered works for these projects.

It was only during the second quarter of this year that the good weather condition enabled the DPWH to go full blast for the constructions.

He said the DPWH is also fast tracking completion of their regular maintenance works on road and highways across the region.

The works include patching of potholes, road shoulder clearing and repainting of road markings especially pedestrian lanes and other traffic signs near schools.

“This is to ensure the safety not only of school children but also of other pedestrians and motorists," he said. (PNA) hbc/DOC/cbd/

PNP names top 10 in Masbate’s 1,262 most wanted fugitives
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 26 (PNA) – The regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) based at Gen. Simeon Ola here has come out with the identities of at least 10 of the 1,262 wanted persons in Masbate.

These 10 that come on top of the list are wanted for various criminal offenses mostly murder based on the records of the local PNP office.

They were ranked in the top 10 based on the gravity of the offense, length of time of hiding and the details surrounding the perpetration of the crime that make the most dangerous among the rest, PNP regional director for Bicol chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos said over the week.

De los Santos identified them as Reynante Agotera, alias Wonder Boy"; Pantaleon Bajandi, alias "Joyjoy"; Francis Atanoso Balmes; Renel Capellan; Eric Benig Godinez; Elias Mardrilejos, alias "Okong"; Benjamin Sandig Milla III; Noel Cañete Ompoc; Godofredo Ruado Rufo; and Danny Sayson.

All 10 are facing murder charges and have pending warrants of arrest issued by local courts. An amount of P15,000 has been placed as reward money for any information from civilians that may lead to their arrest.

De los Santos said Madrilejos had two counts of murder cases and a frustrated murder while Bajandi had one count of murder and illegal possession of firearm. Capellan had attempted murder charges while Milla III with arson and rape charges.

These people, he said, were subject of intensified manhunt operations by the Masbate PNP under “Manhunt Charlie”, a directive issued late last year by PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome aimed at arresting most if not all of the country’s fugitives from the law.

Since its implementation early this year, the Masbate police had already accounted for 182 wanted persons who were served with warrants of arrest and placed behind bars from January to April.

At least 11 of these 182, who were listed as among “Bicol’s most wanted criminals,” were suspected guns-for-hire commonly called “contract killers” employed by some local politicians in advancing their political interest by way of eliminating their staunch rivals.

Each of these 11 listed carried a P90,000 bounty for their head.

“We are vigorously implementing Manhunt Charlie to continuously minimize the number of contract killers in Masbate, which had terrified the province with a series of murders of highly-placed local politicians for the past several decades,” according to De Los Santos. (PNA) DCT/RMA/DOC/cbd

DAR to expedite land distribution in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, May 26 (PNA) -- Some 43,000 hectares of agricultural land in Camarines Sur are to distributed to thousands of farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, a top official of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform in Bicol said Saturday.

Maria Tam, DAR regional director, said her agency will expedite the distribution of the identified areas as part of the land distribution program pushed by the Aquino government.

Tam said the scheme is pursuant to the department’s desire to provide an equal chance for farmer-beneficiaries to own the land they had been tilling for a long time.

DAR, as the lead implementing agency of CARP, is also tasked to acquire a zero-backlog in land distribution. Tam added they will fast track the distribution of the Certificates of Land Acquisition to their target farmer-beneficiaries before the end of 2014.

Ramon Fuentebella, DAR Camarines Sur-B OIC PARO II, said they are bent on completing the delivery of land acquisition title and pipelining covering 17,845 hectares covering different municipalities in the this year. (PNA) hbc/MSA/cbd/

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Masbate has 1,262 suspected criminals in PNP wanted list
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 23 (PNA) -– Wearing the moniker “Murder Capital of Bicol,” Masbate has a total of 1,262 suspected criminals distributed among the 20 towns and one city of the island province listed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as among Bicol’s most wanted persons.

Masbate City, the provincial capital, has the most number with 128, while Cataingan, a third class municipality considered as the province's biggest, has the least with 27, Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos, regional police director based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, said on Wednesday.

Milagros, also a third class town at the province’s western coast and located 20 kilometers from the provincial capital, has the second highest at 105 followed by its neighboring town of Baleno with 101.

The other Masbate towns listed in the PNP are San Pascual in Burias Island with 99; the gold-rich Aroroy with 95; the fishing town of Balud, 82; 69 each for Claveria and San Jacinto; Placer, 61; 57 for San Fernando; Cawayan, 47; Mandaon, 44; Monreal and Dimasalang, 41 each; Batuan, 38; Palanas, 37; Pio V. Corpuz, 36; Mobo, 34; and Esperanza, 28.

De los Santos said these wanted persons have pending warrants of arrest issued by various local courts in Masbate.

From January to April this year, 182 wanted persons were arrested in the province that include 11 suspected “contract killers” or guns-for-hire now detained at the Masbate Provincial Jail (MPJ).

Each of these 11 suspects listed in Bicol’s “Most Wanted Persons” carried a P90,000-bounty on their heads.

Of these 182 arrested wanted persons, he said 28 were from Masbate City, 11 from Cawayan town and eight each from the municipalities of Balud, Mandaon and Uson.

The arrests, according to Delos Santos, came as part of the accomplishments of the Masbate-PNP in line with its intensified operations to account for wanted persons dubbed “Manhunt Charlie” as ordered by PNP chief Director-General Nicanor Bartolome through Letter of Instruction (LOI) 03/11.

Under the LOI, De Los Santos said he had directed all police field units in Bicol to strengthen their warrant sections and arrest wanted persons in their respective areas of responsibility.

Some of the most wanted persons in Masbate are accused of murder and the recent arrest of the 11 suspected guns-for-hire delivered a major blow to the ferocious “contract killing industry” that the province has developed over the years of intense political rivalries.

“We are vigorously implementing LOI 03/11 to continuously minimize the number of contract killers in Masbate which had terrified the province with a series of murders of highly-placed local politicians for the past several decades,” De Los Santos said.

This “industry”, he said, is seen to be behind the fall one after the other of various top political personalities in the province that included former congressman, mayor and governor Moises Espinosa Sr. who was gunned down by a hired killer at the Masbate Airport on March 17, 1989.

His younger brother, Tito, suffered the same fate when while serving as congressman for the first district of the province in 1995 was gunned down in Quezon City, also by a gun-for-hire.

The elder Espinosa’s son, Moises Jr. was also murdered in August 2001, while serving his term as the first mayor of Masbate City.

Their heirs accused Antonio Kho, now congressman for second district of the province, to be behind the killings but was acquitted even as some of the perpetrators who were arrested and convicted by courts have been identified as his followers.

In October 1991, Jolly Fernandez, a staunch opposition to the Espinosa political clan and aligned with Kho was also killed in broad daylight near his residence in Masbate City. The two suspects who were linked to the Espinosas and arrested by the police were acquitted by the Regional Trial Court in Legazpi City following an over three-year trial.

Several other murder cases believed perpetrated by hired killers and motivated by politics have been recorded in Masbate giving reasons for the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to place the province under its control every elections.

The latest of these was in 2010 when both the police and the military were mobilized into a campaign to tame the volatile political situation in the province by initiating massive crackdowns on hired and heavily armed political goons.

The campaign yielded thousands of loose firearms either confiscated from or surrendered by politicians and placed under watch several armies of hired political goons making that election relatively peaceful compared to the past. (PNA) LAM/DOC/cbd

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Diarrhea downs 58 villagers in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, May 23 (PNA) -- Diarrhea downed at least 58 residents in four villages in Oas town in Albay, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) said Wednesday.

Dr. Nats Rempillo, assistant PHO, said 17 of the 58 diarrhea cases were hospitalized on Monday at the Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City.

Rempillo said the 17 hospitalized residents suffered dehydration due to loose bowel movement, while the rest of the cases were sent home after treatment at the rural health unit in Oas town.

Provincial health surveillance team said diarrhea cases were monitored in the villages of San Juan with 48 cases, San Vicente with two cases and once each in Pistola and Gumabao. These villages are located 5 to 10 kilometers from the Oas town proper.

The surveillance team said the incidence of the water borne disease began last Wednesday (May 16) and surged until Monday (May 21)

Records showed that of those who suffered diarrhea, 32 were males, 20 females and the rest were children.

Asked if the diarrhea incident could be considered as an outbreak, Rempillo said only the Department of Health (DOH) Regional Epidemiologist could declare it.

Initial findings showed that the diarrhea patients were infected either with bacteria or virus that may lead to Ameobiasis, Typhoid and Cholera, Rempillo said.

DOH epidemiologists said the diarrhea in the three villages was due to contaminated water from deep wells, where most of the villagers get their drinking water.

Rempillo, who visited the three villages, said most of the household have deep wells as their source of drinking water, he however said that these deep wells were installed 5 to 8 meters away from the households' toilets.

As control measures, the PHO have distributed chlorine tablets to residents to chlorinate their deep wells, however the water sources found contaminated with e-coli were recommended to be closed.

Rempillo also said they have distributed IV fluids, antibiotics drugs to the municipal health unit and to JB Duran district hospital to augment their medicine stocks.

Hospitalized patients were provided free medical treatment and rectal swabs and bacteriological examination were conducted by the DOH epidemiology team.

The four affected villages has a population of over 4,000 people or 863 families. (PNA) FFC/MSA/cbd

Mines bureau identifies new groundwater resources in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, May 22 (PNA) – The regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has identified several groundwater sites in Bicol that could be developed into sources of supply for communities experiencing scarcity of potable water.

Among those identified through the intensified groundwater assessment program of the MGB are the Palhi Spring in Sorsogon City; Tulay na Lupa, Mampurog and San Vicente watersheds in Camarines Norte; and Mandali River in the municipality of Milagros, Jubuyuan Watershed of Aroroy and Tugbo, Nadawison and Domarog of the towns of Cataingan and Uson, all in Masbate.

Others are Bagong Silang, Macad, Caraman, Balogo and Odicon Springs within the watershed of Pasacao; and Nalalata Spring, Ballester Panoypoyan, Upper Casugad, Nadal, Casugad ff1, Casugad ff2, Casugad ff3 and Casugad ff4 located inside the Bula Watershed, both in Camarines Sur.

The assessment program was conducted by the MGB under its hydro-geological project whose implementation was started as early as the 1990s in response to the need to identify more water sources to address the region’s dwindling water supply, particularly during the dry season.

When developed into water supply facilities, these groundwater sources could address the problem on potable water being encountered by various areas in the region, Luis Loyola, the MGB regional technical director based here on Tuesday said.

Palhi Spring in Barangay Capuy of Sorsogon City, Loyola said had 12 sub-springs that discharge a maximum total of 600 gallons per minute enough to supply all its adjoining eight barangays and even part of the nearby municipality of Castilla.

The Mandali River of Milagros, Masbate that accounts for about 3,300 gallons per day could provide sufficient supply to fill up the projected water demand of the town of Mobo and Masbate City that are presently living through water scarcity, he said.

Assessment of groundwater potential for Milagros was focus on collection of relevant information regarding the town’s present water resources within a five kilometers radius and to formulate a water development plan for the construction of a water system, Loyola added.

In Aroroy, Masbate, Loyola said the Jabuyuan Watershed had eight springs with varying combined discharges from 0.019 to 5.760 liters per second.

He recommended that a water impounding structure is constructed and a cooperative is formed to manage a small water system in the area.

In Uson, Masbate, a total of five live springs were identified during a mapping survey and assessed to be potential potable water sources for the municipality whose communities rely on deep and shallow wells for their household water supply, EMB regional chief said.

Results of geological and geophysical survey in Cataingan, Masbate, meanwhile, showed limestone which underlies 70 percent of the municipality.

This mineral, according to Loyola is relatively an acquifer which contains water of undetermined capacity which can be tapped for domestic use.

In Camarines Norte, the groundwater sources identified are concentrated in the southern portion of Mt. Labo while in Pasacao, Camarines, five springs were located and measured for the water discharges.

A similar geo-hydrology was also conducted in Bula watershed to identify potential potable water sources for development and maximum utilization.

Discharge measurements were conducted on different artesian wells and springs within the area and it was found out that Nalalata, Ballester and Nadal springs are potential water sources. Pasacao and Bula watersheds are located in Camarines Sur.

The identification and assessment of these groundwater sources in several areas of Bicol, Loyola said would guide local authorities in providing safe water supply to their constituents.

Identifying and assessing the potential of these possible water sources will also serve as pointers for local government units covering them in instituting measures for the protection and preservation of these resources in line with “Water for Life” campaign of the government which was used a theme for the recent Earth Day celebration.

Parts of these measures, he added, are the protection of the forest cover from illegal tree cutting and timber poaching activities and the preservation of the ecological balance of these areas. (PNA) RMA/DOC/cbd/

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

After gold, pineapple now keeps Camarines Norte famous
By Danny O. Calleja

DAET, Camarines Norte, May 21 (PNA) -– Gold has been mined in the lands of Camarines Norte from the earliest times and since then until lately, the province became known for its huge deposits of the precious mineral.

And owing to the extraordinary skills inherited from several generations behind by homegrown goldsmiths, the province out of its rich supply of gold was also able to establish a reputation for its distinctively designed jewelries of fine gold filigrees.

The large gold deposits estimated at 23 million metric tons in the province particularly in the municipalities of Paracale and Jose Panganiban was discovered by the Spaniards in 1626.

As the Spaniards worked on the gold-bearing gravel in these towns’ rivers and streams, they drove away deep into the upper woodland the large group of Aetas, the peace-loving early aborigines originally settling in the area.

Later, the Americans set up huge dredges and mined primary lode deposits in Paracale while townsfolk went ahead with small gold mining works by digging open pits, canals and narrow tunnels from where gold nuggets used for filigree crafts were derived. The town got its name from the Bicolano term “para cale” which means canal digger.

Today, although the fine art of jewelry making being kept alive by the province’s gold craftsmen remains a signature craft in the locality, its concentration has been reduced from industry level to a home-based calling whose contribution to the local economy has been steadily shrinking.

From thousands, the number of people engaged in and earning from the craft has dropped to only hundreds and continuously falling. This is because of the dwindling supply of gold as a consequence of the reduced workers’ interest in small scale mining or open pit operations that has become less profitable.

Perhaps, what is remaining of the province’s gold deposits is already buried down too deep by now or dangerously under the seafloor, according to Rene Camacho, the head of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO).

Besides, government regulations against gold extracting and processing by way of open-pit mining, gold panning and other practices that pose health and environmental hazards have been strictly enforced.

Last November, six gold processing plants in Paracale and Jose Panganiban, the two leading gold mining towns of the province were shut down by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) for operating in violations of environmental laws governing mining operations.

Large-scale mining activities in the province have also been sluggish following the stoppage of the operations of Benguet Mining Corporation several years back, and the five big mineral firms granted permits by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as early as 1999 to mine gold in the municipalities of Paracale, Jose Panganiban and Labo towns were yet to go into full blast production.

These firms are the Johnson Gold Mining Corp. which holds a mining exploration permit for gold in Jose Panganiban; San Cristo Mineral Exploration Corp also for gold in the towns of Labo and Paracale Trans; Asia Oil and Energy Development for gold and copper, also in Jose Panganiban; Guo Shen for gold and iron in Jose Panganiban and; Pargum Consolidated Corp for gold in Jose Panganiban and Paracale.

As of today, signs of gold are already rare in Camarines Norte and entering the province by land after cutting through the rainforest of Quezon Province, what await commuters and motorists are the long lines of stalls selling pineapple fruits along the national highway.

Indeed, amidst the diminishing popularity of the province earned from gold, pineapple particularly the succulent queen Formosa, noted as the sweetest in the world is keeping Camarines Norte more magical.

This is not to mention its being home to the “Mother Tree,” a 440-year old red lauan (Shorea negrosensis) which is Bicol’s biggest tree, mightily standing at 30 meters tall and 2.5 meters in trunk diameter within the 57-square kilometer Bicol National Park (BNP), a protected area established in 1930 and shared with Camarines Sur.

Of the 2,840 hectares of the BNP that belongs to the territory of Camarines Norte, 600 hectares are virgin forest, the largest in the region and habitat of numberless variety of wildlife. The rest are second-growth.

The province according to an estimate of the Department of Agriculture (DA) had over 5,000 hectares of land planted to pineapple that yield an average of 100,000 metric tons of fruits per year.

The DA said expansion of the pineapple area in Camarines Norte is a continuing process, considering that of the 98,000 hectares coconut plantations in the province, 50 percent is available for intercropping with pineapple that could accommodate at least 30,000 plants per hectare. Open areas now growing pineapple could hold 35,000 plants per hectare.

Around 92 percent of the pineapple supply of Bicol comes from Camarines Norte that is now the third nationwide in terms of production. The first largest is Bukidnon with 16,000 hectares, followed by South Cotabato with 10,000 hectares.

“But we have the edge over these top pineapple producing provinces as we are the only one producing the queen Formosa, the sweetest in the world and now gaining headway as an export commodity to the United States, Japan and Australia and continuously become competitive in the world market,” according to provincial governor Edgardo Tallado.

He said this variety is very much adaptable to the province’s soil that is rich in potassium and climate of well distributed rainfall.

On June 15 to 24, the province will hold its annual Pinyasan (Pineapple) Festival in time with the celebration of the feast day of St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of this provincial capital.

Now on its 20th year, the festival is one of the province’s tourism promotion tools being initiated by the municipal government here featuring pineapple as the major agricultural crop.

Since pineapple particularly queen Formosa is the most distinct agricultural product of the province, Pinyasan Festival was born and the rich culture of Camarines Norte was relived to once more prove that indeed Camarines Norte, once noted for its gold is still a “Land of Golden Opportunities”, the governor said. (PNA) DCT/DOC/cbd

PCG trains marine resource protectors, water rescuers in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, May 21 (PNA) -– Catanduanes is ready to deploy highly-trained marine environmental protection and water search and rescue operatives to look over safety at sea and coastal resource protection in the island province.

Trained by the Philippine Coast Guard in cooperation with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils of the province’s 11 towns, the operatives are composed of 78 selected volunteers from different barangays.

These volunteers have passed the five-day Marine Environmental Protection and Water Search and Rescue training conducted recently, according to Joel Garcia, the PCG regional commander for Bicol based at the Naval District III headquarters in Barangay Rawis here.

The activity pursues the Memorandum of Agreement entered into between the provincial government of Catanduanes and the PCG Bicol regional headquarters.

It provides for a program for water safety and coastal environment protection.

The program aims to bring down water safety measures at the barangay level to empower local constituents in minimizing the loss of lives of marginal fishermen and fishing implements during inclement weather at sea, he explained.

It also seeks to establish WASAR teams at the barangay levels to enable coastal villagers to respond to emergencies and render first-hand rescue services.

Garcia said the recent WASAR training was the second conducted in the province. The first was in November last year wherein 57 participants from five municipalities passed the training.

One component of the WASAR is the need to protect the local coastal waters from oil spill or any forms of contaminants and toxic substances which may endanger the marine’s flora and fauna.

To institute preparedness and enhance the emergency response capabilities of the local folks, MAREP training was also conducted.

Catanduanes which lies at the Philippine Sea and separated from the Bicol mainland by the Lagonoy Gulf and Maqueda Bay has been a recipient of the project “Saving Lives and Marine Resources thru Safety Practices” introduced by the 905th Auxiliary Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard.

The project being implemented in partnership with the municipal government of Bato, Catanduanes trains local fishermen and seafarers on survival and life saving techniques when caught by offshore tragedies.

The project also undertakes a program designed to protect marine resources in the light of the continuing degradation of the marine environment of the province.

The project, according to Garcia was conceived by the PCG because Catanduanes is situated at the path of typhoons developing over the Pacific Ocean and the rising number of marginal fishermen and travelers lost at sea during inclement weather conditions.

It also considers the protection and restoration of the island’s coastal vegetation and other marine resources as a way to combat the life threatening impacts of climate change, the PCG regional chief said.

The project carries with it three components—the mandatory registration of fishing vessels three gross tons and below; conduct of training-seminars on basic safety, life-saving and survival measures, weather and typhoon dynamics and navigation; and “ways to save the ocean”. It also provides survival kits and life jackets to fishermen.

The PCGAS has been active in supporting local governments and the local PCG unit in implementing activities concerning marine environmental protection, maritime search and rescue, maritime safety administration, community development and youth development.

With a very strong spirit of volunteerism in the heart of every 905th CGAS member, it has continuously sustained its mission despite limited resources, said Garcia. (PNA) hbc/LAM/DOC/cbd

Albay’s college scholarship program suspended due to IRA cut

LEGAZPI CITY,May 21 (PNA) -- Some 4,000 incoming college students applying for scholarships this school year from the local government of Albay would not be granted the college educational opportunity.

This, after provincial officials suspended temporarily the scholarship grant because of the cut in its Internal Revenue Allotment this year.

Arnold Embestro, Provincial Board member and Education Committee chairman, said with a P45-million fund cut in IRA the Sangguniang Panlalawigan decided to suspend temporarily the scholarship program under the Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

Embestro, however, said the suspension would only be for two years, as soon as sufficient funds for the program are available scholarship grant would be restored.

He explained that for every school year, the province is accommodating some 4,000 qualified college students to be enrolled in any state college and university, community colleges and private schools in the province.

He said the province is spending at least P40 million a year to finance the new entrants to this kind of educational grant, so with the P45 million IRA cut other projects would be put on hold.

Embestro, in an interview, said the IRA cut indeed affected the new and on-going projects lined up for implementation, after intense deliberation “we deemed it right to suspend it.”

Under the AHECS, Albay provincial government is spending at least P164 million to finance the college education of 16,400 students currently enrolled this school year.

AHECS seeks to produce one college graduate per family in the province. A student who qualifies would receive P5,000 in tuition per semester.

The program is entering its third year. Gov. Joey Salceda said the province borrowed P150 million from the Land Bank to partly finance the program. The loan carries an interest rate of 8 percent per annum and is payable in 12 years.

Salceda said at least 27,000 students graduate from high school in the province every year.

The governor said Albay is the only province in the country with its own education department and it “now has the single largest college scholarship program in the history of the Philippines.” (PNA) hbc/LAM/MSA/cbd

Catanduanes seeks DOE, NPC interventions as power supply crisis hits province
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 21 (PNA) -– Catanduanes has turned to the government’s power agencies for immediate interventions as crisis hits the supply of electricity in the province.

“We are experiencing paralysis of our economic activities under this severe situation of power shortage that is hitting the province with six to eight hours brownouts. We need immediate interventions from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Power Corp. to avert it,” Gov. Joseph Cua said last weekend.

In a statement, Cua said that in behalf of the province’s 35,000 energy consumers, he is bringing the matter personally to DOE Sec. Rene Almendras and NPC president Froilan Tampinco.

It was very unfortunate that the problem broke out three days after the visit to the island province of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III early this month to lead the ceremonial switching-on ceremony of the two mini-hydroelectric power plants built and operated by the Sunwest Water and Electric Company, a private industrial developer based in this city.

During his May 2 visit, the President also inaugurated the multi-million-peso Doppler radar weather monitoring facilities installed by Japanese engineers in Bato, Catanduanes.

The two new power plants backed up by another hydropower facility owned by the NPC have a total rated capacity of 5.4 megawatts or 80 percent of the province’s electricity requirement.

Low water levels in its reservoirs however have reportedly reduced its capabilities to only two MWs during peak hours and one MW during off-peak hours.

The situation was aggravated by the breakdown of the bunker-fuel generator set of the Catanduanes Power Generation, Inc. (CPGI) allegedly caused by a defective fuel purifier.

CPGI, an independent power producer is under contract with the First Catanduanes Electric cooperative (Ficelco) for the supply of 3.6-megawatt to the province’s power grid.

Owing to these debacles, the entire island of Catanduanes is now experiencing six to eight hours daily brownouts that started last May 4.

The CPGI has ceased operations while invoking that it cannot be held liable over the damages caused by power outages for reasons beyond its control.

Cua said he is seeking the intervention of Sec. Almendras for the immediate provision of three generators sets with a combined capacity of 4.5 megawatts that could be operated in place of the CPGI’s power plant.

Cua said: “The generators I am asking for are those that were originally included in the 2012 budget for the NPC’s Small Power Utilities Group in Catanduanes.

"But (they) were deferred with the inclusion of the province with the areas placed under the Private Sector Participation program for power generation.

"The inclusion phases out the existing NPC local operations in favor of new private providers.”

It was found out that even with the presence of private hydropower facilities, the province still needs those generator sets of the NPC to serve as back up electricity suppliers under the same situation besetting it, he said.

“We cannot afford further power outages particularly now that the province is at the height of economic activities that are seen to improve the living conditions of the people of the island. Our trade and commerce, tourism and agricultural industries are booming but it will certainly go home to square one once this power crisis situation is not remedied at once,” he stressed.

Perhaps, NPC Pres. Tampinco could reconsider the provision of the three 1.25-MWgensets for the province in a long-term basis “as we now consider these facilities as the power supplier of last resort given the incompetence of the CPGI to provide stable power”, Cua added.

The restoration of the budget for the aborted acquisition of these gensets were among the issues discussed among the Department of Budget Management, NPC and Cua with Pres. Aquino during the recent presidential visit.

Cua said he was also assured by the President that the P250-million funding he had requested for the installation of additional power transmission lines to reach areas still not served with electricity in the province will be considered. (PNA) hbc/LAM/DOC/cbd/

Monday, May 21, 2012

Albay’s SLIA construction to continue full blast despite NPA rebels attack

LEGAZPI CITY, May 21 (PNA) -- Despite the huge damages it suffered, the Sunwest Construction and Development Corporation (SCDC) on Sunday announced their commitment to continue and finish the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA), a Public Private Partnership Project (PPP) in Barangay Alobo, in Daraga town in Albay.

Elizaldy Co, SCDC president, said "when we accepted the contract to do the construction work of the said airport, we did the same not only as a business venture but, importantly, we want to contribute our share in uplifting the lives of our fellow Bicolanos by giving livelihood and pump priming the local economy."

Co, in a press statement, said despite the loss of 12 heavy equipment worth P100 million, the company is determined to rise again and overcome the minor setback by immediately continue and carry out the construction work of the airport.

Co said they were deeply saddened by the arbitrary burning and destruction of the company's equipment at the SLIA construction site.

The burning of the company's equipment was a major loss for the company, including the trauma and anxiety experienced by the employees who were there during the terroristic attack.

The company also bared that so far P200 million investment in the construction business were lost due to atrocities made by the NPA (New People's Army) in the Circumferential Road Project in Catnaduanes (P50 million), Bula Rinconada Road project (P50 million), Camalig road project (P10 million) and the SLIA project P100 million.

The burnt heavy equipment owned by the ALRO and RAMAR construction was estimated at P20 million.

The Southern Luzon International Airport is a P3.4 billion airport project funded by the national government located at a 400-hectare land in Barangay Alobo, in Daraga town, 10 kilometers from the city.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said some P600 million funding was already released this year to start-up civil works for the construction of concrete roads leading to the airport site.

The SLIA project is expected to be finished and be operational by 2014, Salceda said.

He said the Provincial Government of Albay and Regional Development Council believe in the commitment and the capacity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in providing security to strategic installations and infrastructure vital to the development of the Bicol Region.

The international airport is critical to the achievement of 650,000 foreign tourists in Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate by 2016.

In the short-term, with Legazpi now being served by 11 flights, it is critical to avoid the 22 percent cancellation rate in 2011 due to bad weather while the existing airport could not be fitted with ILS due to its location while sundown restriction curtails flight options.

Moreover, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas has approved last week the realignment of P2 billion of the unspent P8.5 billion PPP fund in 2011 to accelerate the SLIA development, he said.

Salceda said another P2 billion is expected to be budgeted in 2013 to allow the completion of the airport by end-2014. This incident will not move back the completion target date of end-2014 for the airport.

NPA rebels swooped down Friday night in a simultaneous attack on a nearby Army detachment and burned 18 heavy equipment at the construction site of SLIA at Barangay Alobo, Daraga, Albay

The communist rebels, armed with assault weapons, fired at the Army detachment manned by 12 soldiers that led to an exchange of fire that resulted to the injury of Army Private First Class (PFC) Kristian Cornal and Ryan Gapayao, both members of the Army's 2nd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Albay.

An undetermined number of communist rebels swooped down at 9:35 p.m. Friday on a 12-man Army detachment and at the same time raided the two motor pool with 18 units of heavy equipment and swiftly poured gasoline and set them on fire, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman 9th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson said.

Army Col. Arthur Ang, commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said hot pursuit operation is being conducted to hunt down the NPA rebels belonging to the Jose Binamira Command a guerrilla front operating in Albay.

Ang, in a phone interview, said the motive of the burning of the heavy equipment by the NPA rebels was extortion, the failure of the construction firm to give in to the demands for their “revolutionary tax.”

Ang said “This is a desperate move by the NPA rebels because Sunwest Corporation will never concede to their extortion demands.”

The SLIA site in Barangay Alobo is few kilometers away from the the Army brigade camp in Barangay Villahermosa, Daraga and about 6 kilometers from the Regional Police Camp in this city. (PNA) DCT/FFC/MSA/cbd

Albay to enhance voters’ participation among PWDs
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) – Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are getting special attentions from the provincial government of Albay and this time, their participation in the forthcoming national and local elections is getting a boost.

“Giving PWDs the necessary assistance to enable this sector to exercise their rights of suffrage is part of the provincial administration’s full recognition of their participation in the development process,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda over the week here said.

And while the Albay government is providing PWDs with all the assistance they need in terms of financial, medical, livelihood, capability building and educational reliefs being coursed through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), “we also want them to be part of the electoral process, a privilege that every eligible Filipino must enjoy”, the governor said.

There are several organizations of PWDs in the province, among them the Visually Impaired Voice in Albay (VIVA), Albay Federation of PWDs and Albay Women with Disabilities that are actively pursuing a good life for their rank and participating in local development activities where their capabilities are suited to.

Salceda said the province would launch next month a program designed to increase the participation of PWDs in the 2013 midterm elections and all the other coming electoral processes.

The program dubbed “A Fully-Abled Nation” intends to increase voter awareness among PWDs and strengthen the capabilities of disabled people’s organizations (DPOs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) supporting advocacies for the welfare of the sector.

Supported by the Asia Foundation, Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), local government units (LGUs), NGOs and civil society groups, the program would also promote partnerships to enhance support and awareness of PWDs’ participatory needs.

Through the program, stakeholders will recommend to the COMELEC a system to provide PWDs easy access to registration sites and polling places in order to reduce or remove constraints that they face in freely exercising their rights of suffrage, according to Salceda.

Preparatory to the launching of the program set in June, the Asia Foundation is now assessing the current status of PWDs in the province, including the capabilities of their organizations to participate in its implementation and policies as well as government bodies related to PWDs.

A survey and focus group discussions among election officers to assess their awareness of PWDs’ electoral rights will also be conducted.

In these discussions, it was expected that elections authorities would understand and find solutions to the multifarious problems that PWDs across the spectrum faced in trying to access the electoral processes, and the lack of access to fundamental rights and freedoms that the rest of society took for granted, Salceda said.

It will be an eye opener to the fact that very little has been done to sensitize the country’s sole elections management body on the numerous problems that PWDs face in accessing the electoral process, he added.

Salceda said the Foundation would provide technical assistance on advocacy strategies, financial and volunteer management, and media advocacy training. PWD responsive election materials will also be produced.

“We arrived at the idea of initiating this program on realizing that most PWDs in the province are being prevented by their disabilities to fully participate in election processes or being denied of their rights to vote by the lack of awareness and access. With this program, those barriers will be removed,” he said.

Barriers identified include the distance of polling places, lack of accessibility and disability-friendly directional signs to the voting site, inaccessible routes, and inaccessible parking space to cater for both the vehicle and the wheelchair.

DPWH takes advantage of summer to fast track anti-flood structures in Legazpi City
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA)— The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is racing against time this summer as it takes advantage of the good weather to complete several anti-flood structures in this city and other Albay areas that serve as path of flood waters from the slopes of Mayon Volcano.

“We are now expediting the completion of several projects along Daang Maharlika that include the reconstruction of a concrete bridge at the junction linking the city and Sto. Domingo town, as well as the bridge in Peñaranda Street, one of the city’s busiest and flood-prone thoroughfares,” DPWH regional director for Bicol Danilo Dequito said here over the week.

Several other flood control projects are ongoing construction within the city proper and Dequito said all of them were being rushed for completion before the end of summer and in anticipation of the rainy season after that.

Street flooding had been a perennial problem of the city during rainy days as huge volume of flood waters from the slopes of Mt. Mayon passes through and overflow its waterways en route to the Albay Gulf.

City Administrator Noel Rosal said the city government, now under the administration of Mayor Geraldine Rosal, is doing all possible means to address the problem despite limited resources.

“We are improving and with the help of Pres. Benigno Aquino III through the DPWH, this flooding problem that has been pestering the city since time immemorial is nearing a lasting solution,” the city administrator said.

One breakthrough against the flooding problem, he said is the recent approval of the initial allocation of P500 million by the DPWH for the city’s urban drainage system whose implementation is set to start this year.

The allocation, which was requested by Rosal from the President last year, has been made part of the P5.3-billion budget of the DPWH for Bicol to finance this year a total of 146 projects that include roads, bridges, flood control structures and other vital infrastructures that are urgently needed to attain inclusive growth, alleviate poverty, generate jobs and spur economic growth of Bicol.

These projects, according to Dequito, are under the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan that contains an infrastructure development program which 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.

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

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

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

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

The bridge reconstruction along Peñaranda Street, according to Dequito is worth P11.30 million sourced from the DPWH’s Regular Infrastructure Program for this year.

“The bridge’s original length of 12.60 meters is being stretched to 15.60 meters while its elevation would be higher by one meter, purposely to accommodate the great volume of water discharge that resulted to flooding on the road pavement during heavy rains,” Dequito said.

Its completion is set before the end of this year’s third quarter, he said. (PNA) RMA/DOC/cbd/

NPA rebels torch 18 heavy equipment worth P100-M in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, May 19 (PNA) -- Over P100 million worth of heavy equipment were burned on Friday evening after communist rebels simultaneously attacked the motor pool at the construction site of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) and a nearby Army detachment where two Army soldiers were hurt during the attack in barangay (village) Alobo in Daraga town in Albay, a military official said today.

An undetermined number of communist rebels swooped down at 9:35 PM Friday on a 12-man Army detachment and at the same time raided the two motor pools with 18 units of heavy equipment and swiftly poured gasoline and set them on fire, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson, said.

Guzman said around eight New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels were reportedly involved in the attack of the detachment and the setting on fire of the heavy equipment at the motor pool. However, sources who refused to be named for security reason said that there were 20 NPAs involved in the assault.

A group of communist rebels, armed with assault weapons, fired at the Army detachment manned by 12 soldiers and a brief exchange of fire ensued that resulted to the injury of Army Pfcs. Kristian Cornal and Ryan Gapayao, both members of the Army's 2nd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Albay.

While the firefight was going on, another group of NPA rebels attacked the construction motor pool and set ablaze 4 dump trucks, 2 articulate trucks, 2 pay loaders, 2 road rollers, a grader and a pay loader owned by Sunwest Construction and Development Corporation (SCDC) while another 4 heavy equipment, owned by ALRO Construction and two heavy equipment owned by RAMAR Construction were also burned.

Army Col. Arthur Ang, commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade said hot pursuit operation is being conducted to hunt down the NPA rebels belonging to the Jose Binamira Command, a guerrilla front operating in Albay.

Ang in a phone interview said the motive of the burning of the heavy equipment by the NPA rebels was extortion, the failure of the construction firm to give in to the demands for their so called “revolutionary tax.” (PNA) DCT/MSA/cbd

Thursday, May 17, 2012

PNR sets test runs for ‘Bicol Express’ in July

NAGA CITY, May 16 (PNA) -- Now more than 97 percent completed, the rehabilitation of the Travesia Bridge in Guinobatan, Albay is expected to end in July this year.

This is when the management of the Philippine National Railways is set to conduct trial runs on the 90-km Naga-Legazpi line.

The development on PNR’s rail service is in line with the planned expansion of the existing Manila-Naga Bicol Express route.

Constancio Toledano Sr., PNR’s Legazpi-Tagkawayan division manager, said rehabilitation is also being done on railroad tracks in Legazpi, Naga, Camalig and Guinobatan. Works on these tracks are expected to be completed also in July.

Other than the planned regular route of air-conditioned and ordinary trains between Legazpi to Naga and Manila, the management of the rail transport system is also planning to transport passengers between Legazpi to Guinobatan and Naga.

According to Toledano, the revival of the Legazpi-Naga rail transport will make possible the operations of PNR’s express shipment carrier services that will transport heavy products and merchandises to and from different municipalities and provinces under Bicol Express operations.”

Bicol Express is destined to boost the local tourism industry and perk up economic activities in Southern Luzon as among the major catalysts in the country’s development by connecting provinces via a wide-reaching railway system.

Bicol businessmen have regarded the PNR’s rail services as the backbone of economic activity between Manila and Bicol Region with its dependable, reliable, and reasonably affordable fare in the transport of both people and goods for more than seven decades now.

The rail transport service in Bicol ceased operations in September 2006 due to extensive damages wrought by Typhoon Reming on bridges and PNR tracks and locomotives.

During the Arroyo administration, P1.25 billion has been earmarked to finance the full rehabilitation of the damaged facilities.

In a bid to provide entrepreneurs with freight service that is inexpensive and reliable, Toledano said that PNR General Manager Jun Ragragio is looking for old railway wagons which can be converted into baggage cars remodeled to carry tons of products.

PNR is charging only P2.50 per 1,000 kilo/kilometer of distance traveled.

Passengers taking the air-conditioned bus-type (with reclining seats) Bicol Express Train from Naga to Manila are charged P548 each; Executive Sleeper, P998; Family Sleeper (air-con, four beds in one cabin), P665/bed; and Ordinary Train (non-aircon with ceiling fan), P344.

Toledano assures the riding public of the security and safety of their belongings while traveling. Uniformed and plainclothes personnel of the PNR police are assigned to closely monitor the situation inside coaches. (PNA) dct/hbc/LAM/LQ/JBN/cbd

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Albay launches climate change guidebook

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -- The Albay provincial government, the Manila Observatory (MO) and Chevron Geothermal Philippines Holdings, Inc. (CGPHI) have launched the Albay Sustainable Development Guidebook (ASDG), a pioneering planning tool to help address climate change and disaster risks through effective resource management.

“With this guidebook, we hope to address key climate change issues and disaster preparedness in the localities. This will be our primary tool in building the capacity of Albay in terms of managing natural disaster risks,” said Albay Governor Joey Salceda.

In 2010, the Albay LGU signed a memorandum of understanding with MO, the Philippines’ leading scientific research institution on climate change, and CGPHI.

With the public-private partnership, MO was tasked to embark on a 20-month program to study the geological, climate, disaster risks, and socio-economic indicators specific to the province, and to provide effective recommendations to address these risks. The study focused on the area spanning the critical Malinao watershed and Tiwi coast.

“We are proud to be part of this partnership that created the ASDG. We designed the Albay guidebook as an innovative tool to meet the challenges of climate change and various disasters. Its analysis is interdisciplinary since we recognize the need to address dynamics and complexity of sustainable development. We hope that other provinces and municipalities will be able to use the ASDG as a template for designing their planning tools,” said Antonia Loyzaga, MO executive director.

A first of its kind, the ASDG combines climate and geo-hazards technical studies with socio-economic data to provide the Albay local government with planning and development inputs. Specifically, it assesses water resource and geo-hazard concerns and sectors that are likely to be affected by future climate changes.

CGPHI, which pioneered geothermal development in the country beginning in Tiwi, Albay, has funded the guidebook as part of its corporate responsibility and community engagement program.

“This project attests to our commitment to continuously protect people and the environment in our host communities. Among other benefits, this guidebook will help the community identify water resource planning opportunities to support the Tiwi and Malinao municipal governments in mapping vital resources,” said Wilson Clemente, CGPHI Tiwi Geothermal Field asset manager. (PNA) dct/RSV/LQ/MDR/cbd

OPAPP allots P40M for PAMANA projects in Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) -– Malacañang, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), has approved the release of P40 million for the establishment of various projects designed to spur countryside development in seven insurgency-torn municipalities of Sorsogon province.

Paul Escober, the OPAPP area manager for Bicol, identified on Tuesday here the town beneficiaries as Casiguran, Magallanes, Irosin, Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Barcelona and Juban, seven of the 14 towns of Sorsogon classified by the OPAPP as conflict affected areas (CAAs).

The projects assigned to these municipalities are the concreting of the five-kilometer Calayugan-Burgos Farm-to-Market Road for Casiguran; establishment of an evacuation center, construction of mechanical flat bed dryer and development of three eco-tourism sites such as the Bucalbucalan Spring, Parola Beach and Sta. Lourdes Grotto in Magallanes town.

Other projects are the concreting of the Barangay Liang Farm-to-Market Road in Irosin; concreting of the Gogon-San Rafael Farm-to-Market Road in Prieto Diaz; concreting of the Union-Sangat Farm-to-Market Road in Gubat; water system and a river control project in Barcelona; and concreting of two farm-to-market roads in Juban.

The OPAPP allotted an amount of P5 million for each of these projects in the seven towns while another P5 million has been earmarked for the construction of the provincial cold storage and cold chain facilities in Barangay Abuyog of Sorsogon City for a total of P40 million, Escober said.

These projects are to be implemented under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a peace and development framework program of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III being handled by the OPAPP.

PAMANA that underscores the resilient communities program is one of the two tracks of the Aquino administration in pursuit of a just and lasting peace, the first being the negotiated political settlement of all armed conflicts through formal peace talks.

The second and equally important track to peace, seeks to close the gap between what happens on the negotiating table and the realities on the ground as it also serves as a guide for national and local government agencies, international donors and non-government organizations in providing various interventions to address conditions that create unpeace, according to Escober.

Apart from Sorsogon, three other Bicol provinces —- Masbate, Camarines Norte and Albay -- have been placed by OPAPP under PAMANA.

Besides being a hotbed of communist insurgency being carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA), Masbate is also Bicol’s poorest province based on the assessment of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Camarines Norte which is another NPA infested province is the third poorest next to Camarines Sur.

Sorsogon is the most insurgency-troubled province in the region according to the military while Albay stands as the linking point of CAAs with progressive localities.

Masbate has been earlier allocated by the OPAPP an initial amount of P50 million for various peace-building projects while Camarines Norte got P140 million. Albay is still awaiting fund allocation.

OPAPP coordinator for Sorsogon Aileen Jose said that while the bane to peace and development being borne by insurgency has been waning in other parts of Bicol, Sorsogon, one of the country’s underdeveloped provinces, is constantly being disturbed by atrocities arising from the presence of NPA insurgents.

The need to communicate government peace initiatives for the awareness of the constituency, according to Jose, should be highlighted and well-articulated as the primary tool to build the culture of peace and development in communities that are resilient against the anti-government whims of the NPAs.

To build resilient communities in Sorsogon, PAMANA, Jose said, is also focusing on empowering households and communities to include delivery of basic services at the community level through conditional cash transfer approaches, community driven reconstruction and development and community livelihood interventions.

Alcober said funds allocated this year for all the Bicol provinces placed under PAMANA are just initial allocations.

More funds will be poured into these provinces by OPAPP to widen the implementation of the PAMANA program so that the residents in CAAs are relieved of the agonies being suffered due to armed conflicts that beget extreme poverty.

The Aquino administration is hell-bent on restoring peace in these barangays one way through the PAMANA program and liberating its people from poverty under the government’s anti-poverty agenda that includes countryside development, Alcober stressed. (PNA) DCT/LAM/LQ/DOC/cbd

Masbate City’s Bontod reefs Marine Sanctuary rising as tourist destination in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, May 15 (PNA) ---- Bontod reefs in Masbate City are fast becoming an ecotourism destination in Bicol because they had been found to be the second most resilient reefs in the Central Philippines, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Bicol said today.

DENR regional director Joselin Marcus Fragada said sprucing up the Bontod reefs has made the marine sanctuary a showcase of resiliency by exhibiting its ability to recover and return to its desirable state from ecological ruins.

Fragada quoting a study from group of marine scientists,that among the 18 reefs assessed in the Central Philippines the Bontod reef ranked second in terms of resiliency; the reef is located in the Masbate Pass, southwestern coasts of the Bicol Peninsula.

The Bontod Marine Sanctuary is located at the western portion of Brgy. Nursery, Masbate City. It is a shoal with an approximate depth of 10 meters and the gradual slope of up to 30 feet, occupying 52 hectares (ha) of core zone and 100 ha of buffer zone.

A variety of marine life forms inhabit the sanctuary including hard and soft corals, target species (e.g. coral breams, parrotfish, snappers, goat fish, among others) and green sea turtle.

Tito Velza, Masbate City Coastal Resource Management Chief Bontod said Bontod marine reserve was cited by the study for three reasons, these are: the thriving of Conch Shells locally known as “Budyong,” a widely acknowledged predator of crown of thorns sea stars that thrives on coral reefs.

As a marine sanctuary it has strictly enforced the “no fishing” order where it protected the area from fishing activities for the past five years, that led to the abundant presence of parrot fishes and surgeon fishes that fed on brown algae. The protection measure also produced brown algae or “Sargassum” that lives in coral cover.

The reefs’ proximity to deep water in Masbate Pass, and declared as a protected area, makes it a deterrent to growing fishing activities commonly occurring in shallow municipal water.

In the context of local fisheries and how it is affected by disturbances the extent by which we can anticipate fisheries decline and therefore prepare for what lies ahead is largely hinged on the resilience of its coral reefs.

Masbate City Mayor Socrates Tuason fully supporting the Bontod Reef protection, acknowledged the ecotourism based livelihood assistance extended by the DENR Integrated Coastal Resources Management Project (ICRMP).

Fragada said the livelihood assistance would support the communities that were once dependent on the Bontod Marine Reserve for their sustenance.

To carry out the Bontod Marine Sanctuary ecotourism based livelihood enterprise, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was recently signed by the DENR, the city government and the Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway (SAMAPUSI).

The ecotourism-based livelihood enterprise would offer travel packages that suit the budget and the needs of both local and international tourists. Part of the tour packages are activities like swimming, snorkeling, boating, and a trek into the mangrove forest.

It will also showcase the reef adventure which will enable tourists to enjoy viewing the thriving helmet shells in their natural habitat.(PNA) RSV/LQ/MSA/cbd/

Thursday, May 10, 2012

PAGASA says Catanduanes Doppler radar would not be affected by power outages

LEGAZPI CITY, May 10 (PNA) -- The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) assured disaster authorities that the multi-million peso Doppler radar in Bato town in Catanduanes and all other weather monitoring equipment set up across the Bicol region would not be affected by the threats of power outages, an official of PAGASA said on Thursday.

Landrico Dalida Jr., PAGASA regional director, belied earlier reports that the newly inaugurated Doppler radar equipment in Catanduanes would be rendered unoperational in times of weather disturbances due to power brownouts currently occurring in the island province.

Dalida, in a phone interview said, as a contingency measure, the Doppler radar equipment in Catanduanes has a 75 KVA generator set and five drums of diesel fuel to supply the needed electricity requirements in times of power blackout.

The Genset could power up the radar and monitoring equipment installed at the Doppler station, including its lighting facilities, he said.

Dalida said that the PAGASA Southern Luzon Bureau under his watch has eight Surface Observatory Stations. These include Legazpi City; Daet, Camarines Norte; Sorsogon; Virac, Catanduanes; Calapan, Mindoro; Catarman, Eastern Visayas; and Romblon.

All these stations have their back-up generator set and corresponding stocks of diesel fuel to operate the station 24/7 in times of calamities.

He said, on a regular basis, his agency conducts weather observation every three hours a day, and this would only take 15 minutes per observation.

Dalida dispelled earlier reports from disaster officials in Catanduanes that the Doppler radar would be functional amidst fear of lack of power supply to engine the radar station.

Carlos Briones, spokesperson of Catanduanes Governor Joseph Kua, in a text message, said the island province would be experiencing rotating brownouts starting on Friday because, according to him, the Catanduanes Power Generator Inc., (CPGI) could no longer supply the required diesel- fed electricity to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO) due to financial constraints.

FICELCO is being supplied with electricity by CPGI via their diesel fed generator and two hydrothermal plants operated by Sunwest Corporation (SUWECO). (PNA) DCT/LQ/MSA/cbd

DA eyes no more rice importation next year
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, May 9 (PNA) – Filipino farmers are ready to produce all the rice required to make the country self-sufficient and make importation a thing of the past by next year, according to the Department of Agriculture.

“We will have enough rice sans importation in 2013,” Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala stressed in a statement released here by the DA’s regional office Wednesday.

This will happen since, according to Alcala, the government would reach its rice production target by the end of this year with the earlier completion of the irrigation facilities for 191,000 ha. of land and the participation of farmers in Central Luzon, the country’s rice granary in the DA’s early cropping program.

“This August, Central Luzon farmers will already be harvesting from over 200,000 hectares used in the early cropping program,” he said.

For irrigation, the DA has provided this year the National Irrigation Administration with a budget of P24.5 million for the construction of new systems that would cover 87,405 ha., restore non-operation structures for 57,199 ha. and rehabilitate existing ones to service 79,246 ha. for a total 224,850 has. of service area nationwide.

With that, Alcala said what would be remaining of the 250,000 has. of the country’s irrigable lands would only be 25,150 has. which certainly will be irrigated next year given the assurance of substantial funds.

Achieving the irrigation target of over 224,000 ha. for 2012 would mean rice production of 18.75 million metric tons (mts) as against the national requirement of 20.05 million mts or a deficiency reduced from 2.46 mts in 2011 to only 1.3 million mts.

Next year, with the completion of the irrigation systems for all those irrigable lands within the target, the country’s rice production would be 20.44 million mts as against the national requirement of the same volume. With this rice self-sufficiency (RSS), importation will surely be no longer necessary, according to Alcala.

The DA is also vigorously pursuing its nationwide promotion of organic farming to entice more farmers into rice production the more economical way.

Through organic farming, farmers are saved from the high cost of fertilizers and other chemical-based farm inputs.

In Bicol, DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said, Alcala has instructed the National Irrigation Administrator regional office to work on the immediate rehabilitation of the Daet-Talisay River Irrigation System in Camarines Norte where he appropriated a P15-million fund.

Works for the project would start this week along with the rehabilitation of other irrigation facilities in that province which were given a budget of P8.4 million, NIA Regional Director William Ragodon based in the nearby Naga City said.

Bicol, according to Ragodon, will have functional irrigation systems covering a total of 317, 941 has. of rice lands or an additional of 69,391 ha. to the presently irrigated 248,550 ha. that in 2011 produced only 599,362 mts of rice for a 76 percent regional RSS rate.

This year, he said, NIA is irrigating at least 6,972 has. more to achieve a total 255,123 ha. of irrigated lands in the region.

This irrigation target is backed up this year by the P1.033 billion in approved budget provided by the DA to the NIA regional office which is about 350 percent more than the around P300 million provided last year, Ragodon said.

With it, Bicol is expecting to achieve a 102.58 percent RSS in 2013 as the region would be able to produce about 843,335 mts of the staple grain by that year to generate a surplus of about 21,200 mts over the 822,115 regional requirement, he added.

This rice production is based on the expected 1.3 million mts of palay production at 65 percent rate of recovery.

The rice requirement and surplus level on the other hand are based on the projected regional population of about 6.1 million at 1.22 percent annual growth rate and per capita consumption of 120 kilograms.

And while waiting for rice-importation-free 2013, The Philippines is now looking for bids from either, Cambodia, Thailand or Vietnam for the importation of 120,000 mts of rice to be purchased through a government-to-government deal.

Reports quoted Alcala last week as saying that the DA will sign this week a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia that would qualify that country as a new supplier for Manila’s rice requirement.

The same reports said that the terms for the trade agreement with Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce, which would help expand agriculture trade between the two Southeast Asian nations, are now being finalized.

The National Food Authority on the other hand has said is sending letters of invitations seeking offers from qualified countries for the supply of the 120,000 mts of rice within this year. (PNA) hbc/LQ/DOC/cbd/

(Feature) Capalonga shines as tourist paradise and religious devotion site
By Danny O. Calleja

CAPALONGA, Camarines Norte, May 9 (PNA) -– For the thousands of people who come yearly to this far-flung coastal town, the place is a tourist haven, a summer vacation paradise and a venue for divine devotion.

Dressing the entire town into fiesta mode started as early as a month ago and over the week, everything in sight — the streets, town hall, parish church, parks, public market, school and other public structures, houses, commercial establishments and beaches --has been spruced up for a grant celebration.

The most awaited date here is May 10 as it marks the beginning of the four-day Palong Festival, the local folks’ way of expressing gratitude for their town’s etymology and for the abundance of “palong-manok” (rooster’s comb plant), the red flower of an ornamental plant that noticeably grows abundantly only in the town’s meadows all year round.

The festival is highlighted by colorful street dancing, agro-industrial fairs, sports competitions and ethnic games, cultural parades, stage shows and many other public presentations that delight tourist, vacationers and visitors who also come to commune with the fresh air and lush foliage around Itok Falls that sits deep in the woods four kilometers from the poblacion.

Other local eco-tourism sites that are always in the must-visit places list are the boat-shaped Bangka-bangka Falls, the Albino Beach of fine gray sand and relaxing smooth waves and Mount Samat, a vast mountain covered by undiscovered species of ferns, orchids and other wild plants.

The mountain also boasts of a series of waters falls with fresh, crystal-clear and cold water.

The festival is culminated by the town fiesta in May 13 in honor of the Black Nazarene whose antique wooden image enshrined on a hilltop overlooking the sea is said to be miraculous.

Its feast is particularly celebrated by Chinese businessmen from all over the country who pay annual homage and ask for long life and good fortune.

During the day, bus loads of pilgrims from all over the country come not only to express their devotion to the Black Nazarene which is similar to the centuries-old image in Quiapo carved in Mexico in 1600 but to enjoy the natural beauty of the place.

Various historical accounts is credited to the Capalonga Black Nazarene and among them is that a native carved the image of a kneeling Jesus carrying the cross from a log with red sap found floating on the ocean. When the image was done and dried, the red sap turned black.

Another account says someone found the Black Nazarene image washed ashore by the waves from nowhere and brought it to the church where it later showed miraculous breakthroughs.

While the May 13 religious feast is celebrated in honor of the Black Nazarene, the parish founded in 1634 is also dedicated to St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr.

No one could tell which came first, the Black Nazarene of Capalonga or St. Lucy.

What locals would assure is that the former’s image is old and miraculous and is very popular among Chinese-Filipinos because their requests for “good health, fortune and long life” are fulfilled.

Black Nazarene of Capalonga has been popular in the province of Camarines Norte since time immemorial and that popularity spread until it started to draw thousands of devotees yearly several decades back, town mayor Senandro Jalgalado over the week told the PNA.

On noticing the attention of devotees the image was drawing, Bishop Gilbert Garcera of the Diocese of Daet declared on May 5, 2009 the Capalonga Parish church as the Shrine of the Black Nazarene.

He also declared May 11,12 and 13 as the annual feast days of the famous icon in time with the celebration of Palong Festival, which is now on its 10th year.

“This year’s celebrations will be grander than the past. We have lined up new activities that will surely make the coming and stay of the over 10,000 visitors, tourists and vacationists that we are expecting awesome for them and for us,” Jalgalado said.

The pilgrimage will also be well-organized to ensure orderliness. Parking areas for buses and private vehicles carrying pilgrims have been designated and the local police force along with barangay tanods have been tasked to safeguard the pilgrims, he said.

“This is our way of expressing our gratitude to them for without these tourists and pilgrims coming, our municipality would not be able to attain the bustling economy it is now enjoying,” the mayor said.

This town which is 76 kilometers or four hours away by land from Daet, the provincial capital and 331 kilometers south of Manila he said became a third class municipality in 2008, three steps higher from its sixth class municipal classification in 1990.

“This we owe to our tourism industry as we are making our town a leading socio-cultural and ecotourism destination of Camarines Norte with Palong Festival and the Feast Day of the Capalonga Black Nazarene as the best of our offerings to the industry, apart from our wonderful eco-tourism sites,” he said.

Under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the municipality sees more economic advancements as roads are now being concreted.

“Today, there are already two ordinary buses with daily trips to and from Manila while local buses and air conditioned vans are already plying the Capalonga-Daet route regularly,” he said.

The present program thrusts of the local government are directed towards full economic development.

“To achieve this goal it has adopted liberal investment policies that are expected to spur the influx of business in the municipality which hopefully will improve the quality of life of its inhabitants”, Jalgalado added. (PNA) RMA/LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

DENR awards 100-ha mangrove dev't project to fisherfolks in Sorsogon
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 7 (PNA) -– The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has placed a 100-hectare coastal site, classified as tidal mudflat, in Sorsogon City under the stewardship of a local people’s organization which would develop the area into a mangrove forest.

The forest would be under the government’s National Greening Program.

NGP, launched by President Benigno Aquino III early last year, intends to plant 1.5 billion tree seedlings in 1.5 million hectares nationwide from 2011 to 2016.

It is one of the government's priority programs aimed at greening bald forests, uplifting the living condition of the upland and coastal dwellers and reducing poverty confronting poor households and indigenous people in rural areas.

Priority areas for planting under NGP include mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domain areas, civil and military reservations.

Others are urban centers under the greening plan of LGUs, inactive and abandoned mine sites and all other suitable lands for reforestation.

Its implementation in Bicol includes the restoration of the denuded forest lands through rehabilitation approaches like upland and coastal reforestation.

Under the agreement entered into between the DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Sorsogon City and the PO called Seaweed Grower and Aquaculture Association of Sorsogon, Inc. (SEAGRAS), the latter will serve as the steward of the site in Barangay Gimaloto.

It will develop this into a protected mangrove area for the next 25 years.

Under its development plan, half of the entire area or 50 hectares will be devoted solely to mangrove trees which will serve as buffer zone against tidal surge and sanctuary for marine lives and birds.

A study is being conducted by the CENRO in the area to determine what types of mangrove propagules would be suited in the area.

The DENR will initially provide propagules for planting, which will be tended to by the organization’s members for six months.

The area is teeming with coastal forest species like the tropical evergreen tree of tidal coasts called bakawan (mangrove), pagatpat, miyapi, lapis-lapis, and nipa.

These are among important plants used as raw materials for handicraft making.

SEAGRASS, composed of over 100 farmers and fisher folks from the village, is tasked under the agreement to oversee the protection of the 100-hectare site, as well as benefit from whatever livelihood opportunities it may offer.

DENR regional executive director for Bicol Joselin Marcus Fragada said Monday the members will be allowed to harvest pruned branches of mangrove trees and nipa leaves.

These are to be harvested for shingle making and aquasilvi culture yields under the supervision of the CENRO and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Also under the agreement, SEAGRAS members would produce mangrove propagules within the awarded site which the DENR would buy directly from them including those that would be used in the same area’s mangrove reforestation project.

The Sorsogon City Agriculture Office also agreed to establish a one-hectare Mangro-vetum, a mangrove propagule nursery in the area for sustainability of the mangrove project.

The BFAR has granted SEAGRAS a P150,000 financial assistance for the group’s aquasilvi culture project that include seaweed farming and tahong (green mussel) production.

A motorized banca was also provided by BFAR to be used in the organization’s management of their projects and in patrolling the area against illegal fishing activities like trawl and use of dynamites that are rampant in the sea waters covered by the Sorsogon Bay.

Fragada said the stewardship award is part of the several approaches being undertaken by the DENR in the implementation in Bicol of the NGP.

“This way, we can muster more participation from the private sector particularly among barangay residents who would directly benefit from reforestation projects that they would be putting up in their villages,” he said.

The organization Parasirang Donsolanon Abante Biriyong Aagapay sa Kauswagan (PADABAKA) has adopted a vast coastal area along the sea waters which serves as sanctuary of whale sharks or butanding as their mangrove reforestation site.

The group is working on the protection and preservation of the municipality’s coastal ecological treasures gifted with butandings, a major tourist attraction drawing thousands of visitors all year round.

PADABAKA is joined by volunteers mobilized by the local chapter of the World Wildlife Fund that is overseeing the protection of the whale sharks, soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 903rd Infantry Brigade based in Castilla town, members of the Philippine National Police and other local organizations. (PNA) DCT/hbc/LQ/DOC/cbd