Friday, September 28, 2012

Rebel leader killed in Bicol

LIGAO CITY, Sept. 27 (PNA) -- Joint military intelligence operatives from the Regional Public Safety Battalion in Bicol killed a rebel team leader while patrolling to secure an area against insurgency on Thursday.

Regional Police Information Officer, Renato Bataller, said a certain Antonio Perelonia, who is known as "Ka Eddie" was killed in the five-minute encounter that took place around 6:10 am Thursday in Barangay Uma Uma here.

“This Ka Eddie is the team leader of five rebels spotted in Sitio Managanaga, Barangay Uma Uma, Ligao City an upland village of this city. His residence is not established but his cadaver was recovered and is now at a morgue,” Bataller said.

Recovered from the slain rebel was a hand grenade and a .45-caliber pistol.

Pursuit operation is ongoing against Perelonia's companions, said Bataller. (PNA) LAM/LQ/RMN/CBD

PNP goes after gun owners with expired licenses in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 27 (PNA) -- The Masbate police is running after gun owners who have not renewed their licenses and permits.

PNP regional director Chief Supt. Jose Arne de Los Santos said he has ordered Masbate provincial police director Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit to go after these gun owners.

De los Santos said there are a total of 2,178 guns in Masbate with expired licenses and permits.

“We are advising owners of these firearms to renew their papers as soon as possible and if they are no longer interested in renewing, they should surrender them to the nearest police station to avoid criminal prosecution,” De los Santos said.

"Should they fail to do so within a given time, our next recourse is to secure search warrants to seize the firearms and file criminal charges for illegal possession of firearms,” he explained.

He said he ordered policemen in Masbate to conduct home visits to the gun owners to convince them either renew their licenses or surrender the firearm.

Guns with expired licenses are considered loose firearms "and those guns with expired licenses would be added to the list of about 4,400 illegally owned firearms in Masbate,"de los Santos said.

He said the local police has launched the “Opland Kontra Boga,” in Bicol as it intensify its campaign against loose firearms.

"There are 29,975 unregistered firearms in Bicol," De los Santos said adding that “the problem is that we do not have a concrete idea as to who are keeping them now and where exactly these firearms are”.

Based on the regional PNP records, Camarines Sur had the highest number of unregistered firearms at 11,412, Albay came next with 7,829, Masbate with 4,403; Camarines Norte with 2,860; Sorsogon, 2,777; and Catandunes, 694.

Records also show that the island province of Masbate which is known as the “Murder Capital of Bicol” had the most number of deaths from loose firearms by registering 225 cases in 2009, the highest in the region.

The figure was, however, slightly lower compared to the following year owing to the massive disarming operations conducted by government forces against private armies employed by local politicians during the 2010 election period.

Task Force Masbate, an elite unit of lawmen from the PNP’s Special Forces, Regional Mobile Group Battalion and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), backed up by the local police force and the Philippine Army (PA) recovered around 4,000 loose firearms from various political camps and individual holders during that period.

As the election period draws near, the entire organization of the PNP in Bicol is doubling its efforts to recover more loose firearms to minimize if not totally eradicate election-related violence in areas considered as troubled spots like Masbate and some parts of Sorsogon, De los Santos added.(PNA) GHG/LQ/DOC/CBD/

NGCP expects to complete improvement of Luzon Grid in early 2013

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 27 (PNA) -- The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) announced on Thursday it expects to complete by the first quarter of 2013 the P269-million system improvement project it has started for the Luzon Grid in 2011.

Nelson Bautista, the NGCP corporate communications and public affairs officer for South Luzon said the project is installing additional capacitor banks at the high-voltage buses of various substations in the area to improve voltage and boost system reliability of the grid.

Bautista explained that the project is part of NDCP’s regular maintenance activities and expansion projects aimed at enhancing the reliability and quality of electricity delivered to customers.

It involves the installation of shunt reactors in the Naga City substation in Camarines Sur and capacitor banks in four substations in Dona Imelda, Quezon City; Cabanatuan City; Marilao, Bulacan and Muntinlupa City.

The shunt reactor in Naga City would address the over voltage problem being experienced in its area of coverage, particularly in the entire Camarines Sur during off-peak load condition with the Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant in Tiwi, Albay at minimum generation.

The reactors,according to Bautista, are also expected to address over voltage during the switching of the filters of Leyte-Luzon High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Station in Naga City.

The Leyte-Luzon HVDC Transmission System commissioned in August 1998 was part of the overall plan of the National Power Corporation (NPC) to connect the existing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao grid into a single national grid.

The capacitor components of the voltage improvement project in the four substations will improve the voltage profile during normal conditions and address the potential under voltage during contingencies, he added.

To do this, he said the company intends to upgrade, expand and strengthen its transmission facilities with cutting-edge technology.

As the system operator of the power grid, Bautista said, NGCP balances the demand and supply of electricity to serve efficiently all of its customers—generators, private distribution utilities, electric cooperatives, government-owned utilities, economic zones, industries as well as directly connected companies.

It is responsible for putting online the right mix of power plants that generate the high-voltage electricity and transmitting this to the various distribution utilities which, in turn, deliver the electricity at a lower voltage rating to households and other end-users, he added.

Luzon Grid, composed of Metro Manila, Northern Luzon and Southern Luzon is the largest in NGCP’s network. It is the country’s main industrial and commercial region, hosting a population of over 50 million that accounts for 77 percent of the country’s total power demand.

NGCP is a privately-owned corporation in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid. It transmits high-voltage electricity through “power superhighways” that include the interconnected system of transmission lines and towers, substations and related assets.

The corporation, a consortium formed by the Monte Oro Grid Resources Corporation, the State Grid Corporation of China and the Calaca High Power Corporation won the concession for the power grid in December 2008 with a bid of USD3.95 billion.

Its fifty-year franchise provides NGCP with the right to operate, maintain, expand and further strengthen the country’s power transmission system which, as of end-2009 involved 19,425 circuit kilometers of transmission lines and 23,853 MVA of substation capacity.

The award of the franchise to NGCP was in line with Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that was enacted in 2001.

Bautista said the capacitor banks would benefit not only the substation supporting the installation but the neighboring substations as well.(PNA) GHG/LQ/DOC/CBD/

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

NFA rice cargo faces seizure as consignees fail to present import permit and attend hearing

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept 26 (PNA) -- The 94,000 bags of imported rice from Vietnam worth P112.8 million faces possible confiscation after the National Food Authority (NFA) in Albay failed to present the necessary import permits to prove that the cargo was not smuggled, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Bicol said Wednesday.

Lawyer Christopher Inducil, Customs hearing officer said the cargo were consigned to five multipurpose cooperatives.

Representative of the Ming Truong Shipping lines, the agent of Vietnamese vessel M/V Minh Tuan 68 that brought the cargo on Sept. 2 was present during the hearing.

The shipping agent requested that the ship be released and its cargo be held at a government warehouse.

The vessel, however, faced charges in violation of eight of the ten provisions of the Philippine Marine Pollution convention.

Inducil said another hearing were set on Oct. 17 and 18 to give the consignees chance to present the documents of their cargo claim.

"However, if again they fail to appear and present the required import documents at the prescribe date, the BOC would be compelled to confiscate the cargo," Inducil said.

"Once the cargo is confiscated the goods would now be owned by the government. It would be auctioned later on," Inducil added.

The 94,000 bags of Vietnam rice arrived here on Sept. 2. It was consigned to the NFA for the account of at least five private importing companies : Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Isidro, Inc., Magumbali, Candaba, Pampanga with 21,000 bags of Vietnam rice; Karapatan Takusa Multi Purpose Coop of Mapanicqui Candaba, Palawan with 21,000 bags;

Malipampang Concern Citizen Multi Purpose Coop, Malipampang, San Ildefonso Bulaca, with 18,000 bags, Samahan ng magsasakag Capangpangan at Katagalogan Multi Purpose Coop, Garlang San Ildefonso, Bulacan with 18,000 bags and Sili Multi Purpose Coop, Sili Naguilian La Union with 16,000 bags.

The BOC issued last week a warrant of seizure and detention order (WSD) to the National Food Authority (NFA) in Albay after it failed to present the import permits. (PNA) GHG/LQ/MSA/CBD/

New monitoring team closely watches operations of Bacon-Manito plan it Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) -- The newly installed head of the Bacon-Manito Geothermal Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (BMGMMT) has assured it will watch closely the operations of Energy Development Corporation (EDC) Bacon-Manito (BacMan) geothermal field complies with environmental policies.

BGMMT is a multi-sectoral body. Its primary responsibility is to conduct monitoring and validation of projects and activities of EDC at BacMan and formulate necessary recommendations based on the results of its observations.

Roberto Sheen announced this as he assumed the BMGMMT chairmanship and regional technical director helm for Bicol's Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

“I am assuring Bicolanos that under my stewardship, the BMGMMT will work efficiently as a team to ensure that EDC’s geothermal energy generation activities are in accordance with its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC),” Sheen said here on Wednesday.

He said he will be open to suggestions and observations from members of the team and the public.

BacMan is a 25,000-hectare geothermal energy reservation located within the forests of Sorsogon City and Manito, Albay. The 150-megawatt EDC supplies power to the Luzon power grid.

Sheen said BMGMMT should be vigilant in monitoring the quality of water and air within areas covered by the EDC. It should be particularly looking after the health of the people working in the geothermal field and communities surrounding the area, he said.

The group should also be watchful over the effects of the company operations on the watershed and forest and help in educating adjacent communities on the socio-economic impact of the project.

Sheen said EDC is pushing through with its P20-billion geothermal expansion project that entails construction of additional steam production complexes covering the areas of Manito, Rangas and Tanawon forests.

All sites to be developed, according to the EDC are expected to generate 120 MW of power or 40 MW from each field. Each site carries a cost of over P6 billion to develop and survey.

"These expansion projects require the close watch from the monitoring team," Sheen said.

He said that there have been previous complaints from villages down the sites where water flowing on their rivers had turned murky owing to reported soil erosion at the project sites.

The siltation in Sorsogon City’s Cawayan River, a prime waterway near the Tanawon project site has been earlier blamed on the construction activities of the EDC but the company claimed it was caused by natural landslides and partly by illegal quarrying at some portions of the river.

As EMB regional chief, he said he wants all Bicolanos to cooperate with him in protecting the region’s environment, to call the attention of his office issues concerning the ecology particularly in areas where mining, geothermal and quarrying operations are taking place.

Bicol’s ecology need special attention given the fact that of the region’s forest area covering a total of 541,189 hectares, only about 25 percent remains forested, meaning around 75 percent of it is already denuded, Sheen added.(PNA) GHG/LQ/DOC/CBD/

Albay authorities alarmed by rising number of teen-age pregnancies

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 25 (PNA) -- The increasing number of teen-age pregnancies and teen-age marriages in Albay has alarmed health service providers and non government organizations.

Data presented during the Smart Chart Communication training among nurses and midwives by the Health Action Information Network here showed that in 2010, there were 42 teen-age pregnancies (age bracket 10-14) and 1,625 pregnancies (age bracket 15-19) while teen marriages (age 18-19) had 838.

Zita Tamor, registered nurse and one of the participants in the training, said young Filipinos today are too involved in technologies, believing these could help upgrade their individual capacities to cope with globalization.

In 2011, there were 1,698 (age 15-19) teen age pregnancies, only 1 recorded teen pregnancy age 10-14. During the same year Albay population office also recorded a total 568 female teen- age marriages (age bracket 18-19).

From January to June 2012, there were 407 teen-age pregnancies recorded by the provincial population office.

Catherine Panti, another Smart Chart participant and high school nurse, said the increasing number of teen-age pregnancies and marriages is alarming.

“We need an effective promotion approach towards a conscious and sustained behavior change among teenagers.”

Aside from unwanted pregnancies and early marriages, another issue involving the young is sexually transmitted infection.

In 2011, there were 52 (aged 13-17) cases of sexually transmitted infections (gonorrhea, non gonococcal infection and bacteria vaginosis) in Albay.

During the first quarter of 2012, there were 22 STI cases (50% higher compared to the same period last year).

Jean Villanueva, Albay population officer, expressed alarm over the prevailing problems among the young population.

”We are seeking (the help of) local government units and school officials to promote leadership community peer educators to increase awareness and initiate policy change,” she said.(PNA) HBC/LQ/MDR/CBD/

Greenpeace says overfishing a major threat to Bicol marine ecosystem
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 19 (PNA) -- Overfishing which endangers not only the fishing industry but also livelihood and food security is the major threat in Bicol’s marine ecosystem, according to Greenpeace.

The biggest single threat to the region’s marine ecosystems today is overfishing. Bicol’s appetite for fish is exceeding the ecological limits of its fishery resources, rendering devastating impacts on marine ecosystems, according to Greenpeace Southeast Asia ocean campaigner Vince Cinches.

Greenpeace Philippines has visited the adjoining coastal waters of Burias and Ticao Pass in Masbate province of the Bicol region to gather data for scientific and objective intervention on the problems threatening the marine ecosystem.

The area that covers municipal waters on the southwestern sections of Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon and the entire Ticao and Burias Islands of Masbate is considered the widest fishing ground of the region.

Greenpeace is an international organization working in the Philippines with its campaign to protect and conserve the environment and promote peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse and championing environmentally responsible solutions.

“The Bicol visit is part of the peaceful global campaign set out by the Greenpeace to protect and preserve our oceans. We are advocating for changes to ensure that our needs are met without harming our environment,” Cinches said here on Wednesday.

Illegal and unregulated fishing mechanisms especially those used by large fishing vessels contribute to the significant depletion of local resources. At times, the massive fish catch of these vessels in one night is far more than the total weekly catch of ordinary fishers, he said.

Many fishers in the area catch fish other than the ones that they target and in many cases, these are simply thrown dead or dying back into the sea. In some trawl fisheries for shrimp, the discard may be 90 percent of the catch. This is called the by-catch or untargeted capture, the most devastating fishing system, Cinches said.

The incidental capture or by-catch of mammals, sea-birds, turtles, sharks and numerous other species is recognized to be a major problem in many parts of the world.

It has been estimated that a staggering 100 million sharks and rays are caught and discarded each year. Tuna fisheries, which in the past had high dolphin by-catch levels, are still responsible for the death of many sharks. An estimated 300,000 cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) also die as by-catch each year, because they are unable to escape when caught in nets.

This figure includes non-target species as well as targeted fish species that cannot be landed because they are, for instance, undersized. In short, anywhere between 6.8 million and 27 million tonnes of fish could be being discarded each year, reflecting the huge uncertainties in the data on this important issue.

The scale of this mortality is such that by-catch in some fisheries may affect the structure and function of marine systems at the population, community and ecosystem levels. “By-catch is widely recognized as one of the most serious environmental impacts of modern commercial fisheries,” Cinches said.

The impact of this practice along with other unsustainable fishing mechanisms has been affecting the local fish supply, he said noting the continuous soaring of prices but deteriorating quality and quantity.

“The problem is true in the entire Philippines and it is ironic that as an archipelagic country with around 1,707 islands, the fish supply from its oceans is diminishing. Our fishes these days are getting smaller since the larger ones are gone. Even the smaller and younger ones that should not have been caught are sold,” Cinches said.

More often than not, he said the local fishing industry is given access to fish stocks before the impact of their fishing can be assessed and regulation of the fishing industry is, in any case, woefully inadequate.

The reality of modern fishing is that the industry is dominated by fishing vessels that far out-match nature's ability to replenish fish. Giant ships using state-of-the-art fish-finding sonar can pinpoint schools of fish quickly and accurately.

The ships are fitted out like giant floating factories - containing fish processing and packing plants, huge freezing systems, and powerful engines to drag enormous fishing gear through the ocean. “Put simply: the fish don't stand a chance,” he stressed.

Instead of trying to find a long-term solution to these problems, the fishing industry's eyes are turning towards the Pacific - but this is not the answer. Politicians continue to ignore the advice of scientists about how these fisheries should be managed and the need to fish these threatened species in a sustainable way, according to Cinches.

“We need to defend the oceans now more than ever, because they need all the resilience they can muster in the face of climate change whose potentially disastrous impacts are already beginning to produce in the marine world,” he said.

The Greenpeace Defending our Oceans campaign sets out to protect and preserve the oceans now and for the future by setting aside swathes of the global oceans from exploitation and controllable human pressure, allowing these areas the respite they so desperately need for recovery and renewal, Cinches said.

Also part of the team’s local advocacy is a public forum on Overfishing and Ocean Protection on October 25 at Donsol, Sorsogon, the Whale Shark Capital of the World.

Cinches is encouraging everyone to join the event and be part of the advocacy towards the protection and conservation of the environment. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD

Mayor says gov’t programs helping lower Daet poverty incidence
By Danny O. Calleja

DAET, Camarines Norte, Sept. 26 (PNA) -- This prime town serving as provincial capital and center of the province’s trade and commerce has achieved the lowest poverty incidence among Bicol’s 107 municipalities and its mayor attributed the achievement to economic programs implemented by both the local and national governments.

According to the latest report on City and Municipal-level Small Area Poverty Estimates of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), this town posted a poverty incident of 21 percent in 2009, the lowest in the region where 36 in every 100 families were poor.

This translates to about 45 in every 100 individuals that showed poverty situation in Bicol hardly changed compared to the 2006 level with a measly 0.1 percentage point drop in incidence both in terms of families and individuals, according to the NSCB.

Poverty surveys are being conducted by the NSCB every five years, the latest in 2009 and the next in 2014. Results of the latest were released last March.

In the same survey, the town of Virac, the provincial capital of the island province of Catanduanes followed Daet with the lowest poverty incidence by posting a 22.7 percent rate. The next lowest was Naga City with 24.4 percent.

The highest on the other hand was posted by Garchitorena, a fourth-class farming municipality at the outskirt of Camarines Sur while the second was Rapu-rapu, Albay, the site of the multi-billion-peso Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project, a zinc-copper mining venture owned and managed by the Korean-Malaysian-owned Rapu-Rapu Minerals, Incorporated (RRMI) and Rapu-Rapu Processing, Incorporated (RRPI).

The third with the highest poverty situation in Bicol based on the NSCB report was Siruma, a fourth-class coastal town at the northernmost tip of Camarines Sur.

Mayor Tito Sarion here on Wednesday said the 21 percent poverty rate means that only two of every 10 families here live below poverty line or with family incomes lower that P231.

Perhaps, when the NSCB makes its next report for the years between 2009 and 2014, “our poverty incidence will be lower or maybe down to zero,” the mayor said as he expressed elation over the statistics that show the good results of the economic programs that the local government unit (LGU) has been initiating.

Besides, he said the administration of President Benigno Aquino III through its countryside development agenda has been so generous in helping the LGU with programs and projects towards poverty alleviation.

One of the government programs, Sarion said is the microfinance services that under the LGU’s Technology Livelihood Development Center (TLDC) provides capital to families for the livelihood projects of their choice.

The TLDC conducts training on applying new technologies in business skills development to ensure that the capital provided to the families is used wisely to earn and not wasted, Sarion said.

For families who opt to go into bigger scale of entrepreneurship, he said the LGU and TLDC help them secure loans from other financial institutions in the locality.

“The microfinance system that we introduced among our poor families is characterized by innovation, dynamism and continued growth because of its critical innovations in the fields of micro-insurance, wholesale lending, mobile banking and social performance management,” the mayor explained.

It effectively pursues financial empowerment and sustainable growth and encourages greater accountability, efficiency and transparency across the LGU and the beneficiaries, he said.

The One-Town, One-Product (OTOP) program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is also a big help in raising the economic status of Daeteños as it was able to open income generating opportunities to poor families, Sarion said.

This town, also known as the Gateway to Bicolandia is a first-class municipality known for its Queen Formosa, the sweetest pineapple in the world.

Located 350 kilometers from Manila, the municipality had also emerged as a tourist destination famous for its surfing and kiteboarding spot at its long stretch of beach in Bagasbas.

Because of the attention it has gotten from the local surfing community, the Department of Tourism turned it into a local accredited surfing spot.

Aside from being a spot for surfing and kiteboarding, the virgin islands Calaguas group to its north has garnered attention from local and foreign tourists.

Sarion said his town is one big beneficiary of the national government’s very aggressive promotion of local tourism that is another job generating industry here. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/CBD/

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bayong regains fame with vengeance

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 19 (PNA)–- In the early 1980’s, the use of indigenous bags has started to wane when the plastic counterparts took its place until this very recently.

But the next time you see somebody use a ‘bayong’, take a closer look-- that person must be in, once again.

Soon, at the Market Week Philippines, a Bayong special setting will feature the 'Best of Bayong' from all over the country, which means all the regions that are into bayong development will showcase three of their best bayong.

Region 5, being the bayong champion, will feature the three best bayong products each per province, DTI regional director Jocelyn Blanco said.

The regions under the program are the Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON), Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (MIMAROPA), Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Southern Mindanao.

The Bayong special setting would tell that bayong has evolved from traditional to high end uses.

It has evolved into various kinds and designs,from bayong pamalengke, pang opisina, pang eskwela to bayong pang fashionista.

With product developments, new markets-- both domestic and international, are reached.

Why Bayong? Natural resources like karagumoy, pandan, buri, bacbac, abaca, tikog, sabutan and romblon abound in the countryside.

It also conveys the green advocacy by making a shift in the use of the traditional, non-biodegradable plastic materials to the use of eco-friendly raw materials.

“The program, indeed, contributed significantly to the local economy aside from its role in protecting and preserving the environment. The Bayong Development Program was conceptualized with the two-fold benefit of boosting the economy and diminishing ecological imbalance,” Blanco explained.

Market Week Philippines, a trade fair and showground of home, food and fashion products from all the regions of the country will be held at the MegaTrade Halls of SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City on Sept. 19-23, 2012, the official said. (PNA) FPV/RMN/CBD/

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Muslim community gets role in Catanduanes’ socio-economic development

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 18 (PNA) –- Apart from peace building, Muslim communities in Catanduanes province are now officially recognized as partners of local governments in socio-economic development.

Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, in a statement, said the provincial government had officially accepted and recognized the participation of Muslim communities in the development of the province following the recent approval of the ordinance creating the Catanduanes Muslim Community Consultative Council (CMCCC).

Principally authored by provincial board member Edwin Tatel, the ordinance which was unanimously approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), Cua said, emphasizes the important role and participation of the Muslim Community in the socio-economic development of the province.

The CMCCC, according to the governor “shall serve as a coordinating and advisory body to the Provincial Government in the formulation of policies, plans and programs for the well-being of Muslim Filipinos in Catanduanes, in conformity with existing laws, orders and issuances and in consonance with local and national unity and development.”

In response, Ibhahim Cabrera, president of the Catanduanes Muslim Community assured the utmost cooperation of the Muslim Community to the different programs of the provincial government, Cua said.

There are presently about 2,000 Muslim families that have left their places in Mindanao and have chosen to settle in Catanduanes particularly in the municipalities of Virac, the provincial capital, Bato and San Andres. Cua said, they are engaged in trade and commerce by establishing stores and vending along sidewalks consumer items.

“They are industrious, law abiding and peaceful people who, through their trade are helping the local economy. They are closely knitted with each other and ready to cooperate with local governments in its social development programs,” according to the governor.

For the Philippine National Police (PNP) whose provincial office is a member of the Council’s Peace and Order Committee, Bicol regional police director Chief Supt. Jose Arne de Los Santos based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here said this is a welcome development for the island province’s quest for economic development and maintenance of peace and order.

The Committee is responsible for the formulation of plans, programs and strategies for the promotion and enhancement of peace and order as well as provisions of security measures in Muslim communities in the whole province, De los Santos said.

It may also advise and/or recommend to the provincial governor measures to address grievances, disputes and legal problems involving misdemeanors involving Muslim communities which would be tackled by the Council.

Moreover, the Bicol police chief said the CMCCC will serve as an avenue to the Catanduanes Porvincial Police Office (PPO) program on Salaam Police Center (SPC) which is the operating unit of the Salaam Police actively providing assistance on anti-terrorism campaign and coordination of police matters in Muslim communities.

The SPC is a division under the Directorate for Police Community Relations (PCR) with its functions assimilated at the police regional, provincial and community office levels to support government’s campaign against terrorism and criminality involving lawless Muslim personalities, according to De los Santos.

The functions of the SPC include close monitoring, networking and liaising activities with Muslim communities addressing terrorism and lawless violence in their respective areas to ensure respect of cultural elders, ulama and Muslim scholars.

It is also tasked to conduct training, seminars and continuing education to the Muslim and non-Muslim PNP personnel in terms of counter radicalization and deradicalization efforts of the PNP.

Counter radicalization and deradicalization is a reverse process of radicalization to discourage the extremists to use political violence and terrorism and to prevent recruitment from Muslim communities.

The scope of the strategy in counter radicalization and deradicalization, De los Santos explained is to eradicate the intent of the radicals to commit crime and terrorism.

The SPC also conduct information dissemination about Muslim beliefs, culture and traditions to non-Muslim personnel, students from different levels and the tri-media through dialogues, radio guesting, school visitations and flyers distribution to promote harmony and awareness.

At the same time, the Center serves as a coordinating body among regular PNP operating units, other Salaam Police offices in the ground and Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP0 units in the conduct of police operations against Muslim personalities or in Muslim communities including arrest, investigation and filing of cases to safeguard the proper implementation of law and observance of human rights.

The Salaam Police, De los Santos added, operates with autonomy as a separate police unit with appropriate personnel and logistical and financial capabilities. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD/

216 KALAHI-CIDSS community projects in 20 Bicol towns to be inaugurated this 2012

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 18 (PNA) -- At least 216 community and poverty alleviation projects in 20 Bicol towns worth some P248-million are set to be inaugurated this 2012, according to the top official in Bicol of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The projects are being implemented through the government’s poverty-reduction program dubbed as Kapit- Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan—Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS).

Remia Tapispisan, DSWD director for Bicol, said that the Kalahi-CIDSS projects in Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon are funded by World Bank, while those in Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur are financed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the United States of America (USA).

According to Tapispisan, in Kalahi-CIDSS, funds for community projects are released directly to communities as it has an open menu system for small scale community projects. The communities, through the Municipal Inter-Barangay Forum, will approve which projects to be funded, she said.

In a statement, Tapispisan said while barangays are allowed to decide which projects to implement, these usually fall under the following sub-categories: general public goods or access projects, community enterprise projects, and human resource development projects.

Projects under public goods or access projects are intended to deliver public services and/or address an issue of access to basic services while community enterprise projects are those intended to directly contribute to increasing income of its intended beneficiaries and human resource development projects intend to increase local capacities and capabilities.

Kalahi-CIDSS is the flagship poverty-alleviation program of the government which adopts the community-driven development (CDD) approach as its overall strategy in identifying and helping the poorest municipalities in the country.

“It is one of the three core poverty alleviation programs implemented by DSWD in partnership with local government units (LGUs),” she said.

Tapispisan said the objectives of Kalahi-CIDSS are to improve local governance; reduce poverty; empower communities by honing capacities of the people to analyze their local situation; identify community needs; and implement small-scale community projects in partnership with their LGUs. (PNA) FFC/SMT/CBD

Legazpi, Malolos join forces toward eco-tourism, climate change adaptation
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 17 (PNA) –- A covenant that covers commitments toward best working local practices in eco-cultural tourism, climate change adaptation (CCA) and sustainable development here and in its sister city of Malolos is now in operation following its formalization last Saturday.

Called the 1st Malolos Green Covenant which is an offshoot of the Legazpi Declaration during the 1st Philippine Tourism Conference on Climate Change Adaptation (PTCCCA) held here last August 23, the bond was formalized and signed during the celebration of the 114th Anniversary of the Malolos Constitutional Congress held at the Barasoain Church over the weekend.

The Legazpi Declaration recommends eco-cultural tourism policies for the advancement of the country’s tourism industry.

Signatories to the covenant were this city’s mayor Geraldine Rosal and Christian Natividad of Malolos City and the signing was officially witnessed by Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD), Inc. president and chair Manuel Rangasa and My Shelter Foundation executive director Illac Angelo Diaz.

LCCAD was the organizer of the PTCCCA that gathered together here thousands of tourism industry stakeholders and CCA community practitioners from all over the country last August 23 to 25 as part of actions showcasing the benefits of the nation’s economy from eco-cultural tourism which is now a new platform that includes tourism industry as a focus of the global campaign for CCA.

The conference was in response to the call of the President Benigno Aquino III for more actions from both the government and the private sectors to complement government efforts on the new Climate Change Risks Management strategies (CCRM).

The 1st Malolos Green Covenant is the joining of forces among sister cities Malolos and Legazpi supported by national government agencies, the tourism industry, transport, communications and education sectors, media and other stakeholders to fully support and implement best working practices in eco-cultural tourism, CCA and sustainable development throughout the Philippines.

This covenant will be showcased in the upcoming 18th Conference of Parties (COP 18) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on November 29-December 7, 2012 in Doha, Qatar, Mayor Rosal here on Monday said .

Other commitments embodied in the Covenant include among others the attainment of the “quadruple bottom line of environmental, social, economic and climate responsiveness” to reduce poverty as declared by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals targets for 2015, Rosal said.

The other commitments are the adoption of the Legazpi Declaration urging wide participation in the “Nationwide Search for the Climate Change Awards; preservation of proclaimed cultural heritage sites and properties for current and future generations; and implementation of science-based programs and initiatives that will promote and utilize climate and disaster-proofing measures in the tourism and cultural sectors.

The Covenant also calls upon local government units as well as other agencies of the government to incorporate the cultural and tourism sector in sustained and intensified efforts to fulfill existing national commitments to the UNFCCC guided by the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC), the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP), and local climate-and risk-sensitive development programs.

It also seeks to develop national mechanisms to support tourism enterprise, green jobs competitiveness, including access to finance, development of small and medium enterprises, access to global information and distribution systems and programs for the public recognition of best working practices in local development like the Philippine National Search for Climate Change Awards, among others.

The tourism sector, on the other hand, Rosal said is called upon to abide by and promote within the sector’s official guidelines and procedures promulgated for compliance with international commitments and Philippine laws for the practice of responsible environmental management and tourism.

The sector is also enjoined by the Covenant to seek opportunities for improved access to knowledge and environmentally-friendly technologies to protect and develop biodiversity, cultural and natural heritage properties, she said.

All other stakeholders, the lady mayor said, are called upon to establish public, private partnership initiatives to facilitate learning and practical experience in eco-cultural tourism and to enhance capabilities to fulfill their commitments under this Covenant.

They are also urged to promote and support the nationwide installation of the Solar Bottle Bulb under the Project Isang Litrong Liwanag of My Shelter Foundation in homes of the most vulnerable families and communities in the Philippines, she added. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD/

PCA distributes salt fertilizers to coco farmers in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 17 (PNA) –-The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)regional office reported Monday that it distributed over 9,000 bags of salt among coconut farmers in Camarines Norte.

PCA regional director Eduardo Allorde, in a statement, said the bags cover 2,257 hectares of plantations in Camarines Norte, one of the region's top coconut producer.

The distribution is part of PCA's continuing program (to help the farmers augment their production).

Pres. Aquino has allocated over P336 million for the Salt Fertilization Project (SFP) this year to fertilize some 20 million low-bearing coconut trees or approximately 200,000 hectares with salt or a combination of salt and organic fertilizers from chicken manure and coir dust.

Allorde said recipients of the commodity were farmers tilling one-half hectare to 10 hectares of plantation.

He explained that the area covered by the distribution was, however, still very small.

"There are 232,000 hectares of coconut land in the province occupied by around 16.228 million of coco palm trees. Some 8.7 million of these trees are old growth and the rest totaling around 7.6 million are new plants," he explained.

The new plants and salt distribution has been put in place under the government’s National Coconut Productivity Program (NCPP) being undertaken by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the PCA.

As a vital economic portal of the country, the coconut industry, with annual export earnings reaching USD2 billion, provides livelihood activities to at least a third of the country's population.

Its excellent performance through the years has earned the country the pride of being globally recognized as the coconut leader.

NCPP which covers the Participatory Coconut Planting Project (PCPP) and Salt Fertilization Project (SFP) promote immediate and long-term coconut development to address the decline in coconut production, to cope with the expanding local and international markets demand for coconuts and to reduce poverty in coconut farming communities.

The NCPP marked the biggest mobilization of coconut farmers in the country.

The PCPP targets to plant 13 million seedlings of coconut on a 138,125 hectares plantation with a budget of P506 million, the biggest the PCA had in the history of coconut planting.

In 2011, 3.11 million coconut seedlings were planted under this program and a fraction of these will be used for the production of coconut methyl ester (CME) or coco-biodiesel.

Coco-biodiesel is a lighter fuel containing no odd-number carbon atom so it is more volatile than diesel. The Department of Energy (DOE) says that coco-biodiesel provides for more efficient combustion, increased engine power, longer mileage, and less emission in cars.

As the country implements the ten-percent biofuel blend, market demand for coco-biodiesel and other biofuels will continue to rise.

And aside from attaining energy security, the development of coco biodiesel in the country is expected to create 89,000 jobs and to benefit 577,000 farm families.

About 32 percent or 3.4 million hectares of the total agricultural land in the country are planted with coconut, according to a 2009 study of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

"PCA is applying participatory approach in planting this year by letting farmers do the work rather than just government’s field workers. This has been proven effective. It showed the eagerness of farmers to help and to engage in planting owing to the economic well-being they see in the project," Allorde said.

The increase of coconut production will benefit 65 out of the 79 coconut producing provinces in the country and 25 million Filipinos who are dependent on the industry.

SFP that uses locally sourced agricultural grade salt (NaCl) in the fertilization is an initiative of the DA under Agrikulturang Pilipino or AgriPinoy.

NaCl or common salt as fertilizer is a practical means of increasing coconut production. Salt is the cheapest and best source of chlorine to increase copra yield.

Chlorine deficiency in coconut is widespread in inland areas and a PCA survey conducted nationwide showed that at least 40 coconut-producing provinces are severely chlorine deficient.

Apart from being the cheapest coconut fertilizer, salt is very easy to apply, accelerates crop growth and development, increases copra weight and number of nuts, minimizes leaf spot damage and environment-friendly under judicious practice.(PNA) GHG/DOC/CBD/

Coast Guard Bicol conducts 'Basic Life Support' seminar in coastal villages

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 17 (PNA) -- The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Bicol command is conducting series of "basic life support seminar" across the region, particularly in the peninsula's coastal villages.

Capt. Felipe Macababad, Coast Guard Bicol Deputy Commander for Operations, said the purpose of the seminar is to equip coastal folks with the basic skills in saving life, particularly during disasters and emergencies.

Macababad said that if at least five people are exposed to the basic life support training then they would share later what they learned through series of re-training activities.

He said that trainings were already conducted in Masbate and Sorsogon. The same seminar is also set in the Camarines, Albay and Catanduanes.

Macababad said the scheme is also aimed at multiplying the number of people who possess basic skills in saving lives due to accidents in the sea.

"Accidents happen during the least expected times. And because only very few know the basic life saving techniques, lives who could have been otherwise saved are untimely lost and wasted," he said.

Due to its very long coastlines, Bicol is prone to sea tragedies during bad weather conditions spawned by different natural calamities, particularly typhoons and monsoon rains.

Inter-island trips also expose more residents to sea tragedy risks everyday, Macababad said. (PNA) FFC/SMT/CBD

Monday, September 17, 2012

VP Binay asks police to intensify manhunt against Morales killers

MALINAO, Albay, Sept 16 (PNA) -- Vice President Jejomar Binay requested the Philippines National Police (PNP) in Albay to fast track the investigation on the killing of Engr. Nelson B. Morales, chair of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and former Makati City Engineer.

Binay was in Malinao to pay his last respect to his former staff who was laid to rest during the weekend. Morales was gunned down while walking off the Estancia Church after attending a wedding ceremony over a week ago.

In his meeting with Morales family, Binay has assured them that he will personally see to it that justice for his death would swiftly prevail.

Malinao Vice Mayor Alice Morales, sister of the slain UNA leader, was quoted saying that Binay, during a private meeting, directed Police Senior Supt. Ruben Sodsod, Albay police director, to intensify the manhunt against the five suspects.

Binay also requested for a deeper investigation of the case to determine the identity of the mastermind. Initial investigation showed that the suspects were hired gunmen and former military personnel and military officers are allegedly cuddling them.

He said it is still speculative to say that politics might be behind the killing of Morales though local political observers said Morales’ killing was politically motivated.

Morales plans to run for mayor next year challenging incumbent Mayor Billy Ceriola.

Meanwhile, police arrested on weekend, Roderick Saysay Sarahan, 37, at his residence in barangay Molosbulos, Libon, Albay while he was about to board a motorcycle with no plates.

Police Supt. Paulino Belga, Albay PNP deputy provincial director for administration, said Sarahan was one of the five suspects witnesses have identified from the police roster of rouge gallery. He was found positive with powder burns after undergoing a paraffin test.

Other suspects were brothers Gilbert and Ramson Concepcion, both former Army soldiers assigned in Sorsogon, but were discharge from the service due to their alleged involvement in criminal activities; Wilfredo Sasota, a certain Peter and Alan Doe’s.

Another suspect Christian Saysay, 22, died from a gunshot wound on Friday. Report of the incident where he was shot was not given.He was one of the gunmen positively identified by witnesses. The others served as look out.

Belga said that all the suspects have the same middle name, Saysay, and residents of barangay Molosbulos, Libon. Police theorized that Gilbert Concepcion is the leader of the group.

Police crack team are having difficulty in tracking down the suspects as they are transferring from one area to another traversing the remote villages of Albay and Camarines Sur.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD/

3.5 magnitude quake jolts Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 16 (PNA) -- Two 3.5 magnitude earthquake jolted Legazpi city, Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon and Naga City, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported Sunday.

The earthquake of tectonic origin was felt at about 5:36 a.m. Sunday with epicenter in Naga City. It was followed by another at about 11:28 a.m. of the same magnitude with epicenter traced in Prieto Diaz.

Ed Laguerta Phivolcs resident volcanologist said no report of casualties and damages to properties were observed.(PNA) GHG/MSA/CBD/

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bicol Customs holds unloading of NFA rice pending submission of import permit

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 14 (PNA) -- The Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Bicol issued on Thursday a warrant of seizure and detention order (WSD) to the National Food Authority (NFA) in Albay after it failed to present the import permits for 94,000 bags of Vietnam rice worth P112.8 million.

Legazpi Custom collector lawyer Leovigildo Dayoja said the BOC was compelled to issue the WSD after the NFA failed to meet the deadline last Monday to submit the required certificate of import permits.

Dayoja said BOC customs police will now secure the imported rice cargo loaded at the Vietnamese vessel M/V Minh Tuan 68, which arrived last September 2.

A copy of the order was also given to the Minh Truong G.S.C the shipping agent.

Nelsy Alcantara, NFA Bicol spokesperson, in a phone interview, has confirmed that the NFA in Albay had received on Thursday the WSD.The order was immediately transmitted to the central office for appropriate action.

Yoly Navarro, NFA Albay manager, in an interview said they are still waiting for the memorandum of undertaking (MOU) between the five consignees and the NFA.

Navarro said “we have already informed our central office to send immediately the memorandum of undertaking and other import permit documents required by the BOC so we could unload the cargo.”

She said the import documents submitted to them by the NFA central is the authenticated Notice of Award and Notice to Proceed to import signed by the NFA Administrator.

The cargo was consigned to the NFA for the account of at least five private importation consignee these are : Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Isidro, Inc., Magumbali, Candaba, Pampanga with 21,000 bags; Karapatan Takusa Multi Purpose Coop of Mapanicqui Candaba, Palawan with 21,000 bags; Malipampang Concern Citizen Multi Purpose Coop, Malipampang, San Ildefonso Bulaca, with 18,000 bags, Samahan ng Magsasakag Capangpangan at Katagalogan Multi Purpose Coop, Garlang San Ildefonso, Bulacan with 18,000 bags and Sili Multi Purpose Coop, Sili Naguilian La Union with 16,000 bags.

Philippine Coast Guard Ensign Joy Villegas, PCG Bicol spokesperson, meanwhile, said that even if the BOC gets its necessary import documents the Vietnamese vessel still faces impounding after PCG ship inspection found out that the vessel violated eight of the ten provision stated at the marine pollution 7378 convention.

Villegas said they will require the vessel’s local agent to comply with the deficiency found by the inspectors before they will allow the vessel to sail.(PNA) GHG/LQ/MSA/CBD/

Bicol’s rare wildlife species now protected
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 13 (PNA) –- Rare and endangered wildlife species found in Bicol are now enjoying special protection jointly being provided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Energy Development Corporation (EDC).

Among these species are the Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus), Golden Crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus), Philippine Warty Pig (Sus philippensis), Philippine Brown Deer (Cervus Marianus) and Philippine Eagle Owl (Bubo philippensis) that are all endemic in Albay and Sorsogon.

The Large Flying Fox locally called “kabug” is among the largest species of bats that inhabit primary and mangrove forests of these two Bicol provinces notably within the 250,000-hectare Bacon-Manito (BacMan) Geothermal Power Reservation covering the mountains of Sorsogon City and Manito, Albay.

Felix Mendoza, the regional technical director of the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), on Thursday said here Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje recently signed with the EDC an agreement under the agency’s "Adopt-a-Wildlife Species Program (AAWSP)" for the conservation and protection undertaking for these species.

The program is being implemented through DENR Administrative Order No. 16 issued in June 2010 to give local governments and the private sectors to take part in the government’s biodiversity conservation initiatives and prevent the total extinction of the country’s wildlife species that are already considered endangered.

Under the AAWSP, Mendoza said interested parties shall formalize the "adoption" by signing a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the department.

An adopting party can either directly implement a conservation program, engage an implementer or make direct financial contributions to existing conservation programs, Mendoza said.

Under the DENR-EDC agreement, the energy firm now operating the giant BacMan Geothermal Power Field allots P1.3 million in fund for the first year of the project implementation.

The project, Mendoza said, will last for five years and may be extended depending on the pleasure of both parties.

Richard Tantoco, the EDC president, in a statement over the week said the conservation of wildlife is part of bio-diversity program it is implementing in all sites of the power firms operations in the country.

The situation of the so called “flagship wildlife species,” Tantoco said, explains the health status of the habitat of these species upon which operations of EDC geothermal plants.

A recent update by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) according to Wikipedia has listed the species as "near threatened" because of its significant decline owing to ongoing degradation of its primary forest habitat.

Flying fox is sometimes hunted for food and the controls on hunting seem to be unenforceable. In some areas, farmers consider flying foxes pests as they sometimes feed on their orchards.

The Golden-Crowned Flying Fox, also known as the golden-capped fruit bat is a rare megabat and one of the largest bats in the world. The species is endangered and is currently facing the possibility of extinction because of poaching and forest destruction.

Studies show that since this bat is a forest obligate species, conservation requires the preservation of forest areas. Human encroachment on the bat's habitat in forest and lowland areas is a major factor in the species endangered conservation status.

The giant golden-crowned flying fox is primarily nocturnal, and can travel at least 40 kilometers in one night searching for food. One economic importance of this bat is that it is considered a pollinator and seed disperser for many fruit trees within its habitat.

Known as "The Silent Planter", they release seeds in their droppings, often while flying. This helps maintain the rainforest.

The giant golden-crowned flying fox is under threat from deforestation and has completely disappeared from many smaller islands and some larger islands, such as Panay and most of Cebu, according to Wikipedia.

The Philippine Warty Pig or “baboy damo” is a pig species endemic to the forests of Albay and Sorsogon but getting extinct due to hunting and losing its natural habitat to deforestation, uncontrolled logging.

The Philippine Brown Deer is a species of deer native to the forests and grasslands on most larger islands of the Philippines. It is classified as "vulnerable" by the IUCN due to its increasingly fragmented populations as a result of habitat loss and hunting.

The Philippine Eagle-Owl is a vulnerable species of bird belonging to the Strigidae family. It is known locally as the “kuwago”. This owl inhabits forest edges near streams. They rest in a tree during the day and hunts at dusk to feed on small vertebrates. The Philippine Eagle-Owl is the largest in the country.

Although considered as one of the 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, the Philippines, Tantoco added has also been looked at as one of the "hotspots" in biodiversity, with several species now under threat of near extinction. (PNA) LAP/DOC/CBD

"Virgin" pili nut oil finds its niche in the national market
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, Sept 13 (PNA) –- Bicol’s pili nut oil is finding its niche in the national market as a good skin moisturizer, an anti-aging agent and hair growth enhancer.

”It is “virgin,” no alteration is made in its composition,” said Victor Ramon Goyena, a 52 year-old civil engineering graduate, who painstakingly started coming up with natural product from fresh pili nuts.

The mechanical process extracts oil from freshly harvested pili nuts using minimal heat and simple cooking and filtration tools. The process retains the aroma and natural color of pili and the extracted oil is of premium or virgin quality.

Started two years ago, Goyena said “I initially sold them in small bottles through several outlets here and in Legazpi City. Now, I intend to expand its production and establish new outlets in Metro Manila and other big cities in the country.”

With the assistance of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which developed the machine that extract oil from the nut, Goyena said his pili processing facility is now capable of commercial production.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provided him with the latest packaging technology.

”Before, oil extraction was done manually, thus I have a very limited production. Now, with the DOST machine, production has increased. I can already supply a wider market and meet the growing demand for my product,” Goyena enthused.

Oil yield, computed as percentage by weight of whole fresh pili nut, varies widely and is clearly associated with the variety of pili nut. The maximum yield recorded so far is about six percent, which translates to about 65 milliliter per kilogram of fresh whole nuts.

The demand, he said is drawn by the health benefits of natural pili oil that include hair and skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength.

”These benefits can be attributed to the anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and soothing properties of natural pili oil,” Goyena said.

Laboratory tests showed that the oil produced by the Goyena’s process is free fatty acid (FFA) and moisture content (MC) which favors a longer shelf life.

”Chemical and nutritional analysis of pili oil are very similar to olive oil. However, pili oil has more beta-carotene, a known source of vitamin A and carotenoids. This makes it more nutritious than olive oil,” he explained.

Goyena, a beneficiary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) said he got the idea of producing the virgin pili oil from a government-sponsored pili nut food processing course three years ago.

He was awarded a three-hectare farm under CARP in 2008 and has developed the land into a “Pili Park” where he showcased various pili nut products.

He had around 400 pili trees in his farm, most of them expected to bear nuts in the next two years.

"The 50 fully-grown pili trees in my farm which I planted over 20 years ago are the source of the fresh nut being processed into virgin pili oil and other products like pili nut candies," he enthused.(PNA) GHG/DOC/CBD/

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Albay to distribute UN midwifery kits and equipment in all towns
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 12 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay will be distributing the first batch of midwifery kits in different municipalities and cities throughout the province including obstetric equipment and medicines.

The distribution of midwifery kits, obstetric equipment of medicines is part of the United Nations Population Fund 7th Country Programme with Albay as one of the areas identified for the five-year implementation.

The 7th Country programme covers maternal health, family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted infection and HIV, adolescent reproductive health and gender equality.

Midwifery kits will be used by barangay health providers (midwives) to assist pregnant women in geographically isolated and disadvantage areas (GIDAs).

The ultimate purpose of this programme is to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Albay. One of the leading causes of maternal and infant death was due to lack of equipment or facility to respond the needs of pregnant mothers and their infant.

Last year, there were 16 maternal deaths reported in the province. As of the 2nd quarter of 2012, there were already 6 maternal deaths recorded.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda’s policy statement is to achieve zero maternal and infant mortality by 2015.

“Birthing facilities have been equip to accommodate clients. Pregnant mothers must deliver or give birth in a birthing facility not in their houses to prevent any complications,” governor Salceda said.

The provincial government with support from the UNFPA has trained all midwives to serve the poorest of the poor in far-flung areas as inadequate access to skilled health professionals, emergency obstetric care and family planning services are the main causes of preventable maternal deaths. (PNA) LAM/LQ/MDR/CBD/

Tourist arrival in Bicol continues to surge
By Samuel M Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 12 (PNA) -- The arrival of domestic and foreign tourists in Bicol is expected to further increase this year due to the series of conventions and festivals across the peninsula, the Bicol's Department of Tourism (DOT) said.

DOT-Bicol director Maria 'Nini' Ravanilla said big conventions involving both government-sponsored and private-initiated were held in Bicol, particularly in Albay and Camarines Sur until mid-2012.

"And more are scheduled to take place in the remaining months of the year," Ravanilla enthused.

Compared to the 2010 data, Bicol posted a 9.33 average percent increase in both domestic and foreign arrivals in 2011.

The DOT-Bicol data showed that the highest number of tourist arrival was recorded in Camarines Sur with 2,475,820; followed by Albay with 350,629; tailed third by Masbate with 172,446; Camarines Norte, 155,106; Sorsogon, 132,696; and Catanduanes,126,913, or a total of 3,413,610 visitors for 2011.

The biggest number of foreign tourists visited Camarines Sur with 496,603; followed by Albay with 138,373; Catanduanes, 48,049; Camarines Norte, 35,536; Sorsogon, 20,960; and Masbate with 2,517.

The bulk of the visitors came from the Unites States of America, United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, and Germany.

Ravanilla said that the top destinations drawing thousands of tourists include the Caramoan Peninsula's white beaches; the Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex; Mayon Volcano; Albay's and Masbate's scenic spots; Butanding in Sorsogon; and surfing waters in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte.

The forthcoming fluvial procession as the very highlight of the annual festival of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia is anticipated, too, to attract thousands of visitors to Naga City.

"While it is true that the number of tourists who came to Sorsogon to experience Butanding interaction in Donsol town dropped this year due to fewer whale-shark sightings, the big conventions that Bicol hosted and festivals which highlighted added attractions compensate much for this loss," Ravanilla explained.

The bulk of tourist arrivals were contributed by national conventions of engineers, governors, vice governors, mayors, vice mayors and councilors; and the three-day first tourism conference on climate change adaptation in August, which had some 700 delegates coming from different regions as well as other countries, Ravanilla said.

Another event also attended by at least 30 representatives from ten Asian countries was the ASEAN Conference-Workshop on Climate Change and Tourism that ended this Wednesday.

Ravanilla, however, said that her office is yet to receive reports from the different local government units (LGUs) in Bicol for their respective tourist arrival figures, as part of the new monitoring policy being implemented by DOT this year.

"We are now merely relying from the reports of the LGUs on the tourist arrivals in their respective jurisdiction. This is our new adopted scheme in reporting. Unlike before, our office (DOT) was the one gathering and collating the data on arrival of domestic and foreign tourists in the Bicol," Ravanilla clarified.(PNA) GHG/LQ/SMT/CBD/

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ALECO privatization stalled

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 12 (PNA) -- The Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) is still facing a depressing prospect to revive the ailing electric cooperative after attempts to privatize the local coop failed, an Aleco official said.

Albay Bishop Joel Baylon, Aleco’s Interim Board of Director (IBOD) chairperson said Aleco failed twice to adopt the National Electrification Administration (NEA) proposal for ALECO to pursue a Private Sector Participation (PSP) as a management option to bail out the cooperative with its financial and operational woes.

Baylon, at a media forum said, Aleco attempted twice to undertake a negotiated bidding for a consultancy service to prepare the cooperatives Terms of Reference for the PSP initiative, first bidding was in June 25, this year, then it was followed in July 20.

The two bidding failed because only three consultants participated and the amount of consultancy services they sought was way above the P2 million ceiling the cooperative had required.

Baylon, determined to carry out the PSP initiative said the Board decided to increase the consultancy service bidding by P4 million.

He hopes that the IBOD could be able to employ a consultancy service by February next year.

The winning bidder would pass through a technical working group formed to evaluate the bids for submission to IBOD for approval, he said.

The consultant is task to prepare the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the private sector participation in rehabilitating Aleco either through concession agreement or joint venture participation, Baylon said.

The NEA, during the Aleco stakeholder forum last year, said the government could no longer bailout the ailing electric cooperative in providing electricity to some 250,000 consumers across the province.

Edgardo Piamonte National Electrification Administration (NEA) deputy administrator said that the best option to revive the ailing Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) is for it to be privatized.

He said the government could no longer save the cooperative since it has no more funds to assist financially-ill electric cooperative.

He proposed the involvement of private sector participation in its operation to improve electric service reliability and dependability.

The private sectors participation would also improved its financial standing and assist in meeting its obligations with the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation and other private power suppliers.

ALECO insiders said the Aboitiz, Lopez EDC and Manny V.Pangilinan and other IPPs are interested to buy out ALECO.

Baylon said the IBOD have introduced reforms aimed to ensure transparency and accountability of every officer and employees in the cooperative.

The reforms include the correction and replacements of defective meter in households, regular reshuffling of meter readers, strict implementation of “one bill policy,” payment of power bills only in collection offices, apprehension of illegal connections.

He, however, said despite the reforms it instituted the cooperative still cannot sustain its operation because the firm is currently saddled by the very high system losses it incurred and slow collection efficiency.

ALECO’s current system loss is at 25.17 percent way above the 13 percent allowable cap by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) guidelines.

ALECO subsidizes the system loss above cap which amount to P14.16 million a month.

The cooperatives collection efficiency is only 85 percent of sales but this is insufficient to cover the monthly operation as result of the high system loss.

The high system loss is attributed to the antiquated, defective power transformers, power meters in various sub stations and power lines while the substations are not compliant to the Grid Code.

To solve the problems of system loss it needs huge funding requirements to improve electrical distribution, system reliability and reduction of the system loss.

ALECO is operating at a loss as the cooperatives financial status as of September this year indicate that it owes power suppliers close to P3.4 billion in liabilities.

To lower the liabilities and to avoid disconnection of power supply the cooperative implemented a Special Payment Arrangement scheme among consumers.

Baylon laments that the SPA scheme failed to get support from the 250,000 consumers as only 58 percent of them complied with the SPA payment for the period from Sept. last year to June this year, collecting only P196 million.

At the rate the SPA collection is going, the 58 percent participation would slide down to 20 percent by the end of the year, Baylon claims.

ALECO one of the problematic electric cooperative in the country is presently under the NEA this agency has entered to an agreement with the cooperative to assist the ALECO in their financial and technical operation.

ALECO still owes the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) P1.8 billion in outstanding debts, PEMC– P974 million and NEA with P192 million, NGCP P142 million.

The cooperative’s current power bills amounted to P269.1 million and it owes its material suppliers, contractors and retirement benefits by P12.2 million.

ALECO has entered into a bilateral power contracts with Independent Power Producers (IPP) for supplying 70 percent of the 300 million kilowatt hour yearly electricity requirements while the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market provides 30 percent of that requirement.(PNA) GHG/LQ/MSA/CBD/

Fishermen engaged in illegal fishing nab in Bicol, vessels confiscated
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 12 (PNA) -- At least 19 fishermen engaged in illegal fishing were arrested and four sea vessels were confiscated in series of operations off the waters of Camarines Norte and Masbate provinces this week, reports reaching Camp General Simeon Ola said here Monday.

The joint members of the Sta. Elena police and personnel of the Bantay-Dagat Intensified Campaign Against Illegal Fishing (BDICAIF) were in Barangay Pulonguit-guit when they spotted F/V Ka Jovel manned by Capt. Levie Castroverde,62; and crew Leonilo Padernal, 42, and Edgar Veron,34, of Barangay San Lorenzo off its protective coastal waters.

The group also intercepted F/V Kerby, manned by Capt. Dante Manalo, 43 and his crew Joven Nopia,23, and Eric Veran,31, also of Barangay San Lorenzo, while catching fish using banned fish nets at the shallow portion of the coastal waters.

Crews of another fishing boat, locally known as 'kalansisi' were apprehended for also using fine mesh nets also in the same coastal waters. The police identified its captain as Tiotimo Allego,56; and his crew Manuelito Cabantoc, 61, and Romeo Bituin,52, also of San Lorenzo, a fish-rich fishing ground in Sta. Elena.

The police said the arrested fishermen were later released after they posted bails. Charges of violation of the Fishery Code of the Philippines and local ordinances were filed against them at the Camarines Norte Prosecutor's Office.

The three fishing vessels along with their prohibited paraphernalia's were confiscated At least 11 kilos of assorted fish were also seized.

In Masbate, members of the Masbate Police Public Safety Company (MPPSC) nabbed 10 fishermen engaged in illegal fishing off the waters of Balud during their seaborne patrol operation.

They identified those arrested as Jim Villalobos, 31; Joe Montillano, 39; Alberto Aplicador, 37; Jerry Mae Mendoza, 23; Gilbert Bantulay, 34; Romy Visitacion, 34; Erry Parira, 29; Arby Alabuag, 19, and Jupiter Espinosa, 22, of Sagay, Negros Occidental.

Charges for violating fishery laws were already filed against them. Their fishing boat, fine mesh nets and other fishing gears were also confiscated.(PNA) GHG/LQ/SMT/CBD/

P'Noy's good governance improves anti-illegal drug campaign --PDEA
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 11 (PNA) -- The "matuwid na daan, which is a Filipino expression for good governance, being implemented by the Aquino administration is a big boost to the anti-illegal drugs campaign being spearheaded by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) across the country.

This was the statement made by PDEA Assistant Secretary Carlos F. Gadapan, deputy director general for operations, in a press briefing Tuesday morning in their office at Camp General Simeon Ola here.

Gadapan issued the statement in reply to reporters' query if President Benigno S. Aquino III's straightforward policies and reforms in government transactions contributed to the big catch of drug pushers and users, and big haul of illegal drugs, particularly shabu and marijuana since the change in leadership gears up in two years' time.

"Yes, the good governance being seriously carried out by the Aquino administration is paving the way for more extensive and effective campaigns against the continuing illegal drug trade in the country," Gadapan said.

He said that the order of the Aquino administration to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs does not have any strings attached, sacred cows, untouchables or VIPs who are spared in the crackdown.

"Our agents are confident in enforcing the law to stop transactions involving prohibited drugs because the order is not attached with exceptions or special treatments for any party," Gadapan said.

Gadapan though admitted that their 1,400 agents detailed in the country's 17 regions are not enough to cover PDEA's various activities against thousands of illegal drug peddlers.

He said that in order to fix this lack of personnel, the agency is implementing schemes to seal off the identified vulnerable areas, particularly Metro Manila, which they consider as the illegal drug trade's 'center of gravity' in the Philippines.

"When we say sealing off of illegal drug trade's center of gravity, our agents are blocking the pre-identified passageway of illegal drugs, such as the coastlines through the roll-on, roll-off form of goods transfer so that their movement from one place to another could be prevented," Gadapan explained.

The PDEA official said their agency is implementing different tactics in dealing with drug syndicates, depending on the circumstances existing in a particular area or region.

Gadapan cited, as example, the case of Northern Luzon where marijuana plants are being grown in places that are difficult to access, such as in cliffs or mountainous terrains.

"In Mindanao, for example, our agents are having so much difficulties in arresting drug syndicate members because they either carry guns or hire heavily armed bodyguards. Our agents are practically risking their lives during operations in these areas," he said.

Gadapan also revealed that Bicol has low illegal drug transactions or even consumption, but was quick to theorize that the peninsula could very well serve as passage highway of the illegal drugs.

"We are really confronted by different situations peculiar in every region, that's why there is a need to adapt to the schemes of the syndicates in order to effectively fight them," Gadapan added. (PNA) SCS/LQ/SMT/CBD/

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suspects in UNA provincial chair killing nabbed, five others hunted by police

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 10 (PNA) -- Police operatives collared on Saturday the second suspect in the killing of Engr. Nelson Morales, while five others are still being hunted by police operatives, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday.

Morales said the city engineer of Makati City was gunned down on Friday while attending a wedding ceremony at the Estancia Church in Malinao, Albay.

Police arrested Roderick Saysay Sarahan, 37, of Molosbulos, at his residence in barangay Molosbulos, Libon, Albay while the suspect was about to board a motorcycle with no plates and an expired drivers license, according to Police Supt. Paulino Belga and Albay PNP deputy provincial director for administration.

Belga said the first suspect Christian Saysay, 22, was found dead from a fatal gunshot wound in his abdomen on Friday at the Josefina Belmonte Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City, police operatives said.

Belga said that aside from Sarahan there are so far five suspects identified by witnesses in a police rough photo gallery shown to them and are subject of a manhunt operations.

The suspects identified by witnesses at the police gallery to be at the scene of the crime were: brothers Gilbert and Ramson Concepcion, both are former Army soldiers assigned in Sorsogon, they were dishonorably discharge from the service due to their alleged involvement in criminal activities, Wilfredo Sasota and a Peter and Alan Doe’s.

Police theorized that Gilbert Concepcion might be the leader of the group and Christian Saysay was one of the gunmen positively identified by witnesses, while the others served as look outs, Belga said,

Belga said that all the suspects carry a middle name of Saysay and are residents of barangay Molosbulos, Libon, a town some 70 kilomenters from this city.

The victim is the brother of incumbent Malinao Vice Mayor Alice Morales. Reports have it that the victim plans to run for town mayor next year challenging incumbent Mayor Billy Ceriola.

The victim is the City Engineer of Makati City and was appointed as provincial chairman of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), a party coalition of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and convicted plunderer and former President Joseph Erap Estrada.

Belga told newsmen in a phone interview that they are looking into the angle of business rivalry, and politics as behind the possible motive of the killing.

Vice Mayor Alice Morales at a press conference said the family is leaving the case to the authorities for a full dress investigation.

Town councilor Erwin Pajot was quoted as saying that the killing was politically motivated. (PNA) CTB/LQ/MSA/CBD/

Monday, September 10, 2012

DA moves to strengthen agricultural engineering in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Sept. 10 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit (RFU) in Bicol is strengthening the region’s agricultural engineering sector by providing them the necessary technical and engineering support to carry out the smooth and expeditious implementation of agricultural infrastructure projects.

The measure is being done through trainings and workshops, one of which was recently conducted at the RFU complex here by the agency’s Regional Agriculture Engineering Division (RAED) which dealt on agricultural infrastructure, post harvest facilities and farm mechanization.

Attended by dozens of registered agricultural engineers and local government representatives from all over the six provinces and seven cities of the region, the training cum workshop was aimed at harmonizing the targets, guidelines and implementation of agriculture-based projects from the regional level down to the local government units (LGUs).

The activity also updated the participants on the status of implementation of the different projects, introduce new technologies on postharvest and small scale irrigation and identify possible recipients to fast track implementation of various agricultural engineering projects.

In the training, Board of Agricultural Engineering (BAE) chairman Ariodear Rico, who discussed the Agricultural Engineering Competitiveness Road Map for Food Sufficiency underscored the need for the DA and the LGUs to strengthen the AE sector so that it is able to provide the necessary technical and engineering support in carrying out the smooth and expeditious implementation of projects.

Rico said strengthening of AEs is provided under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) that promotes industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform, through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets.

He also reminded LGUs of one important memorandum circular issued by the late Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo one month before he died in a plane crash last August 18 to all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, members of local legislative bodies and DILG regional directors.

The circular, Rico said, provides additional guidelines in the institutionalization of AE profession in the LGUs to further ensure compliance with Republic Act 8559 or the Philippine Agricultural Engineering Act of 1998.

This Act promotes and upgrades the practice of agricultural engineering profession in the Philippines by instituting measures that will result in relevant agricultural engineering education and better career prospects for professional agricultural engineers.

It also guarantees the delivery of basic and technical services to accelerate agricultural modernization through adequate and well trained professional agricultural engineers throughout the country.

Practice of agricultural engineering, according to the same law refers to the profession requiring the application of the fundamental and known principles of engineering to the peculiar condition and requirements of agriculture as an industry and as a field of science.

An agricultural engineer is a person who has been issued a certificate of registration by the BAE and has taken the oath of profession of agricultural engineers.

The responsibilities of AEs as defined under RA 8559 Rico said, include the preparation of engineering designs, plans, specifications, project studies and estimates for agricultural, aquaculture and fishery and forest product machinery.

They are also tasked to manage or supervise agricultural buildings and structures, farm electrification and energy systems, agricultural processing equipment, irrigation and soils conservation systems and facilities, agricultural waste utilization systems and facilities.

Conducting research and development, training and extension work and consultancy services on agricultural engineering services, system and technologies also fall under the responsibilities of AEs, Rico said.

AEs, he said should also be involved in the interventions for Climate Change Mitigation and Environmental Protection such as soil conservation and watershed management; agricultural meteorology; agricultural waste management; and renewable energy.

Arnie Ilan, the RAED chief, said that to ensure quality and efficient agricultural machineries and postharvest facilities, his agency coordinates and supervises at the regional level the enforcement of the Philippine Agricultural Engineering Standards.

This task, Ilan said is part of the implementing guidelines of various programs and programs of the DA that encourage the agricultural engineers to give their comments and suggestions on how to facilitate implementation of local agricultural projects.

In the training-workshop, Ilan said the regional draft of guidelines, strategies of implementation of various agricultural projects as well as the updating of the directory of AEs in the region have been finalized. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/CBD/

Bicol self-sufficient in rice by 2013
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Sept 10 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) expressed confidence that Bicol will achieve a rice production output this year that would make the region self-sufficient by 2013.

“Go around the region and you will see that every farm is bustling, promising abundant harvest and substantial income for farmers," DA regional executive director Jose Dayao said.

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.

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.

Dayao said the farmers are now equipped with the right formula that would help advance Bicol to a lofty status as a rice exporting region.

"The implementation and adoption of the PalayCheck, a technology developed by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)have helped the farmers (become more productive and efficient),"Dayao said.

PalayCheck, the DA regional chief said, provides the farmers an integrated rice management approach that developed their capability to effectively manage their rice farms and improve their crop yield.

It was introduced in 2008 and to reach the targeted half a million farmers throughout the country, the PhilRice trained 8,000 agricultural extension workers that now serve as its technology transfer arm assigned in 48 low-yielding provinces in the country.

These areas include the Bicol provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

Thousands of farmers from these provinces have already completed the two-season Location Specific Technology Development (LSTD).

"Farmer-graduates to this training are now vigilant in monitoring their farms and religiously applying all the eight key palay checks they have learned that revolve on seed quality, land preparation, crop establishment, pest management and harvest management," Dayao explained.

Farmers had the biggest surprise when after applying the system, a hectare farm could now yield not less than 160 sacks of palay.

Dayao expressed his confidence that the formula would help the country attain rice self-sufficiency as the system is being applied in all rice-producing areas nationwide.

Lowell Napasi, a LSTD graduate from Barangay Inarado, Camalig, Albay related that his one-hectare rain-fed farm gave him 178 sacks of palay during the first cropping season this year.

“All of us here who applied the PalayCheck technology harvested almost the same amount of palay during the last cropping season and as you will see, our farms are now again teeming with good growing palay that surely will again give us bountiful harvest in the next few weeks,” Napasi said.

Apart from the farming formula, the climate in Bicol had been favorable to rice farming during the past two cropping seasons and still cooperating this time.

“We expect the weather during last three months of this year to be more favorable especially to rain-fed farms. And we are confident that when the rainy season is over, the irrigation being built now by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will be completed and put to operations,” he said.

William Ragodon, the NIA regional director said that under the Aquino administration, Bicol will have functional irrigation systems covering a total of 317, 941 hectares (has) of rice lands or an additional 69,391 has. to the presently irrigated 248,550 has.

This year, he said NIA is irrigating at least 6,972 has. more bringing to a total of 255,123 has. of irrigated lands in the region with expected output of 682,375 mts of rice or 84.62 percent RSS of the 805,206 mts rice requirement to feed a population of about 5,953,902.

"This irrigation target is backed up by the P1.033 billion approved budget provided by the DA to the NIA regional office which is about 350 percent more than the P300 million provided last year," Ragodon said.(PNA) GHG/LQ/DOC/CBD/

Poor households in Catanduanes get funds for agri projects from AKBay

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 9 (PNA) -- The Agrikultura: Kaagapay ng Bayang Pinoy (AKBay), a poverty reduction program of the Aquino administration being undertaken through the National Agricultural and Fishery Council (NAFC), has released start-up funds for livelihood projects of 231 poor farm and fishery households in Catanduanes.

NAFC executive director Ariel Cayanan and Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua led the distribution over the week of the interest and collateral-free loan checks amounting to P10,000 each to beneficiaries held at the Catanduanes State Colleges in Virac town.

Thirty of the loan recipients are from the town of Bagamanoc; Baras, 28; Bato, 29; Gigmoto, 31; Pandan, 30; Panganiban, 25; San Miguel, 23; and Viga, 35. Most of them chose to engage in swine raising.

No beneficiary was picked up from the three other Catanduanes towns of Virac, San Andres and Caramoran as the poverty reduction program targets only the poorest farm households in the 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities in 31 provinces nationwide.

Each covered province is allocated P4.4 million, with the first tranche of P2.09 million released in Catanduanes in June 2011.

AKBay is funded under the Japan Grant Assistance for Food Security Project for Underprivileged Farmers Program (GAUFP) and supports the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 1, the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.

Beneficiaries undertake resource-based, short-gestating, micro-scale livelihood projects in agriculture and fisheries. They are required to put up some equity in the form of land, labor, cost of utilities and required project materials harvested freely in the project area.

Aside from the start-up funds, the program extends technical assistance to the beneficiaries in project identification, project proposal writing/development, and project implementation, as well as in marketing the goods.

The funds are recovered from the beneficiaries at an agreed-upon schedule, with the payments pooled into a Roll-Over Fund (ROF) managed by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and the Provincial Agricultural and Fishery Council (PAFC). The ROF is then used to fund the projects of newly-identified farm households.

Regional AKBay coordinator Aloha Gigi Bañaria, in a statement reaching here over the weekend, said the province of Catanduanes led Bicol Region in terms of repayment performance from the first tranche, with project agencies collecting a total of P802,000.

She said 99 percent of the first tranche in the province released last year had already been liquidated and 27 additional households were earlier granted P10,000 each for livelihood ventures out of the ROF.

The AKBay recipients’ integrity so impressed the NAFC executive director that his office would consider additional beneficiary households in Catanduanes as AKBay checks for release in some areas in the country have lapsed for inaction of implementers, Bañaria said.

Thanking Pres. Benigno Aquino III for this national government assistance to farming and fishing communities of the island province, Cua reminded beneficiaries that the AKBay loan is not a dole-out and that they have an obligation to repay based on the terms of the program, according to Bañaria.

AKBAY components include financial assistance to agri-and fishery-related micro-income generating activities, including the acquisition and establishment of pre and post harvest facilities and thus strengthening agricultural and fishery activities, including processing.

Among its components is the Project for Rehabilitation of Small-Scale Irrigation for Upland Productivity and Resource Sustainability, amounting to P300 million intended to improve the living conditions of upland farming communities by creating opportunities for increased productivity and income while protecting upland resources.

It includes the rehabilitation of 185 small-scale irrigation activities, enhancing agricultural productivity of around 6,300 hectares of unproductive upland areas as well as capacity building for upland farmers.

GAUFP, previously known as the Increased Food Production Program or 2KR Program, focuses on uplifting the lives of disadvantaged farmers. Japan has been assisting the Philippine government in attaining food security by enhancing agricultural productivity in rural areas for four decades. (PNA) RMA/DOC/CBD/

Catanduanes embraces DOH’s new anti-malaria campaign

DARAGA, Albay, Sept 9 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Catanduanes has vowed to strengthen its anti-malaria advocacy by embracing the new form of campaign introduced by the Department of Health (DOH) to totally eliminate the dreaded disease in the country.

The DOH’s new campaign being carried out nationwide under the theme “Saving Lives, Preventing Deaths and Sustaining Investment for Malaria” and highlighted by the “Traveling Long-Lasting Insecticidal Net (LLIN)” is aimed at cutting malaria incidence by 2015 in the country in line with the Millennium Development Goal (MDG).

The campaign wherein the DOH and its partners distribute insecticide-treated mosquito nets in malaria-endemic areas was recently launched in Bicol. The net symbolizes the government’s effort and struggle against malaria by travelling to each province until all provinces have eliminated the disease.

Camilo Aquino, the DOH’s Regional Mosquito Borne Diseases coordinator based at the regional Center for Health and Development (CHD) for Bicol here over the weekend said the provincial government of Catanduanes through its governor Joseph Cua readily accepted the advocacy campaign during a ceremonial transfer on Friday.

During the ceremonies, Cua led the affixing of the provincial logo at the governor’s office on the ceremonial LLIN as a symbol of full adoption of the campaign, Aquino said.

“The LLIN will serve as a reminder to every malaria endemic areas up to malaria-free provinces that the government is serious in its campaign to totally eradicate the occurrence of the fatal disease in the Philippines,” according to Aquino.

The campaign in Bicol is a shift from malaria eradication to elimination involving areas that have already been noted as malaria-free based on assessment that reported no incidence of malaria in all parts of the region for at least three years.

Reports of the DOH on the malaria situation in Bicol show that the prevalence and death rate of the disease in the region were zero percent from 2006 to 2010. The latest rate of morbidity registered at 0.7 percent was in 2005 with no mortality since 1990. The rate is computed based on per 100,000 population.

With this development in Bicol, the DOH, along with its partners in anti-malaria advocacy such as the local government units, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global-Fund Malaria through the Filipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. is now embarking on the new advocacy campaign in the region.

The campaign’s theme “Saving Lives, Preventing Deaths and Sustaining Investment for Malaria” would be the principle that will support malaria control programs with the objective of totally eliminating the disease in the country.

Under the National Malaria Strategic Plan (NMSP), the target year for total eradication of malaria in the country is 2016 while total elimination target is on year 2025.

The DOH is confident to meet the elimination ahead of the target year saying that in 2020, the entire Philippines could be malaria-free based on positive trends that showed an 80 percent decrease in malaria incidence last year or from 43,441 cases in 2003 down to 9,642 in 2011.

This decrease is the lowest malaria level on record for the country in 42 years which means that Philippines is effectively meeting its MDG of cutting malaria incidence by 2015.

The WHO likewise revealed that death from malaria in the country had been declining by 63 percent since 2005. However, it remains a significant problem, now the eight leading cause of illness affecting up to 10.2 million people worldwide. Ninety percent of malaria cases are found in the poorest provinces.

High-risk provinces in the country, according to the DOH include Tawi-tawi, Occidental Mindoro, Bulacan and Tarlac that are presently being carefully monitored and provided with free medicines for those diagnosed with the disease and vector control measures including insecticide-treated mosquito nets to affected areas.

Other areas of concern are the provinces of Palawan and Tawi-Tawi which reported more than 1,000 cases a year and Sulu, Maguindanao and Zambales that have more than 100 cases but less than 500 cases a year.

At least 24 provinces on the other hand have been declared malaria- free midway 2012, which translates into having recorded no malaria cases for three years while 34 provinces have reached the free elimination level in 2011 or less than one case of malaria for every 1,000 population.

In spite of Bicol’s malaria–free status, Aquino still warned Bicolanos from becoming complacent of the non- existence of the mosquitoes carrying the disease.

“We should exert more effort to ensure that there is no way that this contagious disease will again find its way in our homes and in our community. Let us all continue, with renewed efforts, what we have started to make our neighborhood free from malaria,” he said.

LLIN is the government’s main defense now against mosquitoes that brings malaria, a disease caused by a parasite transmitted via bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. If can also be transmitted through blood transfusion or from pregnant mother to child.

Its symptoms include high fevers, shaking chills, flu-like symptoms, anemia, bloody stools, nausea, and vomiting. Although it can be treated, the disease may be fatal. (PNA) FPV/DOC/CBD/

2 high school students die, 73 others hurt in Camarines Norte road mishap

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 9 (PNA) -- Two high school students died while 73 others were hurt when a garbage truck they were riding fell into a deep ravine in Barangay Itok, Capalonga, Camarines Norte Saturday afternoon, a Philippine Army officer said Sunday.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, 9th Army Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the fatalities as Sarah Jane de Mesa, 14, of Barangay Mataki, and Robert Gomar, 16, of Barangay Orhap, both of the same town.

Guzman said the wounded students were rushed to the Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital in Daet for treatment.

Investigation showed the accident occurred at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday as the garbage truck bearing 80 students lost its brake while negotiating a road in Barangay Itok.

Guzman said the students were on their way home after participating in a school sports competition in a neighboring town.

It was learned that a teacher earlier requested the town mayor to shoulder the expenses for a bus rental, but the town executive gave the garbage truck to transport the students to the sports competition site.

Police are conducting further investigation. (PNA) SCS/MSA/CBD

Friday, September 7, 2012

Salceda: Cabinet approves P4.9B for Bicol International Airport

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 7 (PNA) -- An amount of P4.9 billion has been approved by the Cabinet for the completion of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga town of Albay, according to Governor Joey Salceda.

“At about 3:20 p.m. (Thursday) after landing in T3, I received texts about the final Cabinet approval of the P4.9 billion for the Bicol International Airport in Daraga. I thanked His Excellency P-Noy (President Benigno Aquino III) and Secretary Mar (Roxas) for taking good care of Bicol, especially Albay. I also texted Secretary (Paquito) Jojo Ochoa,” Salceda said in a text message circulated here Friday.

Considered today as the biggest countryside development project in Bicol funded by the national government under President Benigno Aquino III, the BIA is currently under construction in a 140-hectare prime land straddling Bicol’s premier town of Daraga and neighboring municipality of Camalig.

The ongoing construction activities involving works on the two-kilometer runway being undertaken by Sunwest Construction based here is funded by the initial P900-million fund earmarked in the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) 2010 budget.

The two-kilometer access road from the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Tabon-tabon, Daraga with a separate appropriation of P100 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had already been completed early this year.

The new airport, targeted for completion in 2013, will answer the need for a modern airport in Southern Luzon, which should cater to more business activities in the area and conveniently link Bicol to the rest of the country and the world.

It will serve the needs of 9.8 million people - 5.7 million in Bicol and 2.1 million in the three provinces of nearby Samar islands. Bicol is under the Central Philippines cluster along with the three Visayan regions, which focuses on tourism development.

Touted as one of the biggest and most ambitious government projects in the Bicol so far, the BIA carries with it prospects of even greater returns on investment that is certain to spur the region’s economy and thrust its tourism industry to the international stage.

In his latest State of the Nation Address delivered last July 23, President Aquino stressed on the countryside development agenda of his administration mentioning the BIA as among its priority components.

Salceda, a major proponent of the project assures that the new airport “will catapult the tourism potentials of Albay, serve as anchor for modern business platforms and as a fulcrum for spatial integration of Albay and neighboring Sorsogon province into one common economic market.”

Conceived through the proposal of Salceda by the Regional Development Council (RDC) in 2006, the project was first given by the DOTC in 2007 an amount of P85 million for the advance engineering works such as the feasibility study and site development plan which were completed before the end of that year.

Later, the DOTC provided an amount of P250 million for the acquisition with the parcellary survey of the land for the airport in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, a site deemed safe from the risks and threats entailed when the majestic Mayon Volcano erupts.

Barangay Alobo is some 15 kilometers southwest of the volcano. The present Legazpi City Domestic Airport is about 10 kilometers from the foot of Mayon whose perfect cone and spectacular eruptions are both tourist attractions. The volcano regularly erupted once every three to five years during the past two decades.

An additional amount of P23 million was provided by the DOTC to complete the right-of-way acquisition on top of the P82 million to compensate the land owners whose property the new airport will occupy and families who were displaced from the site.

This airport will be the first international airport to be built in Bicolandia which according to Legazpi City Mayor Geraldine Rosal would be a testament to economic growth in the region that despite its vast natural resources including mineral deposits, geothermal power and tourism potentials, has remained among the poorest regions of the country today.

On its own, the city government has been opening and constructing a new road network from the heart of the city’s commercial hub to the new airport passing through rolling mountainous terrains that offer awesome views of the volcano, the Albay Gulf and the entire landscape of the metropolis.

This new Legazpi road network, Rosal said will boost the commercial and tourism development role that BIA is going to play. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/CBD/