Saturday, March 31, 2012

DepEd, Intervida tie up to pursue mother tongue education in three Bicol provinces

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) - The Department of Education (DepEd) ties up with Intervida Philippines Foundation, a non-government organization from Spain in carrying out a training program on the use of Mother Tongue Based Multi-Lingual Education (MTB-MLE) and a child reading program in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon.

The tie-up activity would train over 5,000 Grade One public school teachers in 222 public elementary schools in the three provinces, according to Maria Cristina Baroso, Intervida Project Coordinator.

Baroso, at a recently held planning and consultation meeting held here, said the activity aims to improve the learning and reading comprehension skills of grade one pupils on the use of the Mother Tongue.

MTB-MLE is an educational approach where elementary pupils are taught through the use of local dialect as a medium of instruction. This way, children can freely express their ideas and opinions, Baroso said.

Studies indicate that pupils who are monolingual at the start of schooling found difficulty in following the teacher’s lessons when the latter teaches in English including difficulty in comprehension.

The DepEd study also revealed that this method of teaching led to the low achievement and often in dropping-out of school due to the pupils' frustration and shame.

With the use of the mother tongue, the study showed that children taught in their local dialect or language outperformed those who were taught in English as language of instruction.

The mother tongue language of instruction in Bicol, would use either Naga or Legazpi Bicol in their medium of instruction in teaching various subjects in schools.

The mother tongue would be used as the language of instruction in teaching Science, Math, English and Makabayan.

At the consultation meeting, Rosalie Romano, Grade 1 teacher at the Pamplona Elementary School in Camarines Sur, said with the use of mother tongue in teaching, her pupils get interested in and enjoy the lessons.

She said with the mother tongue method, 88 percent of her Grade 1 pupils are now readers.

Aside from the mother tongue program, Intervida would also embark on a training program that would improve teachers' capability in teaching elementary pupils reading proficiency.

The activity have three main actions: Training on library management; workshop on Ready to Read Program which is the implementation of reading remediation for non-readers; read-a-loud sessions for those who have difficulty in comprehension and Project DEAR or Drop Everything and Read; and delivery of reference materials. (PNA)
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Friday, March 30, 2012

DOLE gives Sorsogon ex-cons a break in livelihood
By Danny O. Calle

SORSOGON CITY, March 29 (PNA) – After walking back to freedom, 10 former inmates from the city jail here are now back to the mainstream of the society gainfully earning a decent living out of the assistance especially provided to them by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

These 10 are among the parolees and probationers selected for the Kabuhayan Starter Kit (KSK) project being implemented by the DOLE as part of the Aquino administration’s desire to make every Filipino, regardless of his or her standing in life a productive and self-sustaining member of the community.

“Reborn”. This is how these people commonly called ex-convicts describe themselves now as one of them, Eugenio Canal Jr. of Barangay Bibincahan here on Thursday told the PNA in dialect, “this livelihood assistance awarded to us by the DOLE gave us an opportunity to start a new life after practically losing it behind bars”.

Canal said he tried to get employed after his release from the jail on parole two months ago but every employer he approached turned him down on knowing that he is an ex-convict. He was convicted of illegal gambling and meted a six-month to six-year jail term but was granted parole after his good character showing inside prison.

“I really wanted to start a new life and rise again as a man of dignity but it seemed no one would open a door for me to get into it until the DOLE came in and placed me under its KSK project. That made me realized that in times of social seclusion, the government under President Noynoy is there to help me,” he added.

Under the project, Canal, a certified aluminum and glass fabricator, was awarded by the DOLE a set of tools including an electric drill that he is now using in accepting small work contracts in line with his skill.

Each of the other nine beneficiaries has his own skills like in carpentry, plumbing, mobile phone repair and troubleshooting, furniture making and house painting, among others and they were given the appropriate tools and portable equipments.

One of them, Rose Pamaloy, a lady “ex-con” who was once a beautician was given a steamer ceramic iron and other related paraphernalia while Roberto Francisco was awarded with a sewing machine for his sandal making venture.

The livelihood kits were personally awarded to them by DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra during a simple rite done here over the week in coordination with the Provincial Parole and Pardon Office (PPPO) under the Department of Justice (DOJ).

During the affair, the DOLE regional chief said the 10 parolees and probationers who were carefully selected from among the hundreds of other ex-convicts in the city were given kits of tools in-line with their skills which they will use to put up their own source of livelihood without having to beg for mercy from local employers who are not really inclined to hire ex-convicts.

“Being an ex-con is very difficult. My driver before is an ex-con and nobody, even my wife, wanted to hire him as she found it hard to trust a criminal. But still, I gave him a chance in life so I still hired him. Well, I have proven most people, including her wrong as we found that driver the most trustworthy person we have ever met in our entire life,” Lacambra narrated.

“That fellow formally left us recently, more than eight years after serving us because he was able to save out of salary some amount to buy a passenger jeepney that he now drives. From time to time, that guy would drop by us to repeatedly express his gratitude for giving him the chance for the dignified life he and his family is now enjoying,” he said.

The livelihood kits given to the 10 ex-cons here, were worth a total of P65,000, according to Lacambra.

“These wares will save them from suffering the pain of rejection that often times ends to depression until they come to a point of committing another crime just to survive or out of anguish,” he said.

Case records of PPPO disclosed that the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness in dealing with daily life after being released from prison is the main reason why ex-convicts re-commit crimes.

The KSK intervention of the DOLE regional office will serve the backbone in realizing the full correction and re-integration of the convicts to the community as it will give instant hope in reclaiming their lost lives and livelihood, Lacambra said.

This goes through in partnership with the parole and probation office as “while we provided the funding and materials, the PPPO on the other hand will provide a simple business training to the beneficiaries and conduct regular guidance, monitoring and assessment to ensure that the tools given are put to good use”, he added.

The DOLE KSK project is a livelihood formation strategy that brings about improved socio-economic well-being of workers in the informal economy, in groups or sectors with special concerns and displaced local and overseas workers and their families by providing a package of services that enable them to start quickly a livelihood undertaking and become self-employed. (PNA)
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'Oplan Semana Santa' launched in Bicol, authorities on high alert

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- Civil and military authorities are on high alert as "Oplan Semana Santa" was launched to maintain peace and promote solemnity during the observance of the Holy Week across the region.

"Oplan Semana Santa" is a collaborative undertaking of the elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Army (PA) and various units of the Departments of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to ensure order in various churches, major roads, airports, ports and other critical infrastructures where people flock to observe the Holy Week from April 2 to 8, this year.

Police Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesman, said the PNP and DOTC will be fielding additional personnel to provide support in manning assistance centers established in various highways, airports, ports, including malls and communication relay stations.

Bataller said Oplan Semana Santa would ensure that no untoward incident happens that would endanger the lives of the people from elements who would like to sow terror during this religious event.

He said check points and assistance centers would be set up to assist motorists and other visitors coming from other places to observe this religious event. It is expected that visitors would be arriving in the various parts of the region this week-long religious observance.

The DOTC in line with their Oplan Sumvac (Summer vacation) will also set up similar assistance centers in major airports to assist incoming and outgoing passengers in the cities of Naga and Legazpi, Masbate and in Virac, Catanduanes.

Security checks would be strictly enforced in bus terminals, major seaports across the region.

The PNP, in close coordination with the Philippine Army (PA), would also deploy personnel to closely watch cell site relay stations and towers in remote villages that are prone to attacks by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.
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NHA to build 1,400 housing units for Masbate’s informal settlers

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) – The National Housing Authority (NHA) is putting up a total of 1,400 socialized housing units in Masbate City to address the local government’s problem on the burgeoning number of informal settlers in the locality.

Engr. Alberto Perfecto, the NHA regional project manager for Bicol based here over the week said the project hatched in partnership with the city government of Masbate will be part of the housing agency’s Resettlement Assistance Program for local government units (LGUs).

Under this program, the LGUs’ primary contribution is the land while the NHA provides funds to cover the cost of development.

Although the cost of the project to be shouldered by the NHA was yet to be determined, Perfecto said it has been “approved in principle” by Vice-Pres. Jejomay Binay, the concurrent chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) where the NHA operates under.

The Masbate City Planning and Development Office, according to Perfecto had already identified a about 10-hectare land that can generate 1,400 home lots within Barangays Usab and Maingaran and already preparing the blueprint for the socialized housing project.

The place, located at the outskirt of the city, he said, had a water source that would be enough to meet the need of the families that would be relocated there.

The site will be subjected to geohazard surveys to ensure a safe and environmentally sustainable community. “We are now drafting a master plan that would guarantee the viability and optimum use of the property,” Perfecto said.

For its sustainability, he said the housing project will be provided with socio-economic facilities to make basic services intended for the beneficiaries readily available.

Masbate City Mayor Socrates Tuason, in telephone interview Thursday said that to accelerate the preparations for the implementation of the project, he mobilized the City Urban Development and Housing Board to extend all forms of assistance needed by the NHA.

Sitting on the board are representatives of informal settlers, local business club, the religious sector, Rotary Club of Masbate, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Registry of Deeds.

“We are very much pleased with this project that we asked Pres. Aquino and Vice-Pres. Binay for assistance and now fast materializing. This will greatly help the city government solve the problem on informal settlers that has become its major concern due to their increasing number,” Tuason said.

While these types of settlers are commonly called squatters, “ We do not call them that way because what they are occupying are mostly government lands and that no Filipino should be called squatters in their own lands”, the city mayor said they have been around since time immemorial but their growing number has became alarming for the city.

They occupy the shorelines particularly of the urban center near the public market, fish port and sites adjacent to the city’s commercial seaport to become obstructions to the economic activities in these areas, he said.

Besides, the colony of these informal settlers had become an eyesore because of the crowding of their makeshift dwelling points that are made mostly of light materials thus, fire hazards. “They also contribute heavily to the pollution of our coastal waters and sanitation problems”, Tuason said.

When the city is able to get rid of the structures occupied by these informal settlers and relocate them to the proposed housing project, he said the shorelines of the commercial district of the city will become an open space and add beauty to the city that is working so hard to become a tourist destination and investment hub.

“We cannot however blame these people coming from all over the province in flocking to the city in search of better livelihood opportunities as Masbate City is now booming with businesses and other economic activities that offer jobs and other earning possibilities, he said.

Relocating them to the proposed housing project will not deprive them of those opportunities but instead provide them a decent community with housing units suitable to their needs and capability to own, Tuason added. (PNA)
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Couple drown in Masbate; drowning death toll since Sunday rises to six in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- A couple drowned when their banca capsized due to big waves off the waters of San Pascual town in Masbate, a Philippine National Police (PNP) officer said Thursday.

Belated police report identified the drowned victims as Vicente Rinzales, 55, a fisherman and his wife Delia, residents of Sitio Timog, Barangay (village) Bulod, San Pascual town in Masbate, Police Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said.

Bataller, however, said the couple’s two grandchildren identified as James, 10, and Aslor, 7, both surnamed Rinzales, survived the incident.

The incident happened around 3 p.m. on Tuesday while the couple along with their grandchildren on board a paddled banca were on their way to San Pascual town.

Police investigators said the banca while traversing the sea waters of San Pascual was hit by big waves and then capsized.

Fishermen around 5:45 p.m. fished out Delia’s body while Vicente along with his grandchildren were rescued and brought to a hospital in San Pascual town.

Attending physicians however declared Vicente dead on arrival while his grandchildren survived and were treated.

The two victims of drowning in San Pascual town in Masbate brought to six the drowning death toll in Bicol since Sunday.

The government weather bureau said incessant rains in the region were due to the low pressure area (LPA) in Puerto Princesa and the Tail End of the Cold Front (TECF).
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Virac Bishop De Los Santos hurt in car crash

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- Bishop Manolo de los Santos of the Diocese of Virac was injured in a vehicular accident on Wednesday when his car he was driving hit an electrical post in Barangay Palta Small in Virac town, an official of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Catanduanes said Thursday.

The accident happened at about 10:45 a.m. Wednesday while the Bishop was negotiating a downhill curve road along the Culahaw Farm in said village when he lost control of his car when he crossed path with a passenger bus, according to Edna Bagadiong, PIA provincial director.

Bishop de los Santos was on his way back to Virac town from San Andres town while the passenger bus was on its way to San Andres town from Virac town.

Bagadiong said Bishop De los Santos, 63, was rushed to the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) for treatment.

Attending physician said the bishop suffered a broken palate due to the impact when his white Kia car bumped an electrical post.

Bagadiong quoting attending doctors said the bishop is presently in stable condition, but he has to be airlifted on Friday to Manila and be brought to hospital since according to attending doctors EBMC has no available steel plate for implantation to his fractured palate. (PNA)
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Four drowning victims reported in Bicol flooding

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- The death toll due to drowning across Bicol rose to four following incessant rains that triggered flooding in Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte provinces, a ranking official of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol said Thursday.

Reports reaching OCD regional director Bernardo Alejandro identified the fatalities as Antonette Miserilla, 30, and her six-year-old son Errol John, of Barangay Anib, Sipocot town in Camarines Sur.

The report said the victims were carried by strong current and drowned on Monday when they tried to cross a swollen river on board a carabao and fell. The victims' bodies were recovered in Cabusao town in Camarines Sur.

In Malilipot, Albay, the police report said Dennis de Lima, 24, Barangay 4 Basud, drowned while swimming with friends at Palale Beach resort on Sunday. His body was recovered at the shorelines of Barangay San Lorenzo in Tabaco City.

Alejandro said these three victims brought to four the number of drowning casualties since Sunday.

It was earlier reported that a fisherman from Catanduanes drowned while fishing when he fell from his motor banca hit by big waves at sea.

Bicol was affected by moderate rains for the past five days due to the low pressure area (LPA) spotted in Puerto Princessa.

The incessant rains since Sunday brought flashfloods in Barangay Tuaca, Basud town in Camarines Norte, where 128 families were moved to safer grounds.

The OCD report said at least two people are still missing in the towns of Bulusan in Sorsogon and Gigmoto in Catanduanes.

It also reported that four fishermen from Catanduanes and Camarines Sur were rescued. (PNA)
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DPWH organizes motorist assistance teams to assist Lenten holiday travelers in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) – The regional office here of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for Bicol is establishing dozens of motorist assistance centers along strategic points to provide emergency services to travelers expected to swarm roads and highways in the region during the Lenten holiday.

The undertaking is part of the “Lakbay Alalay” project being carried out as a yearly commitment of the DPWH in cooperation with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Land Transportation Office (LTO) and local government to ensure safety and extend emergency assistance to motorists rushing to provinces from the metropolis during the week-long holiday break.

Danilo Dequito, the DPWH regional director, said at least 30 points along the Maharlika Highway and other national roads across Bicol have been identified as stations for the motorist assistance teams.

These are organized by the agency in the region in coordination with its 14 district engineering offices in six provinces.

One of these stations would be along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Tabugon, Camarines Norte, the entry point of motorists towards the region.

Down in the next province of Camarines Sur, Dequito said six assistance centers will be established.

Albay province will be covered by three motorist assistance teams to be stationed.

Four stations will be designated in Catanduanes while two motorist assistance centers will be set-up in Sorsogon.

Dequito said the entire province of Masbate composed of three islands will be manned by 14 motorist assistance teams stationed in 14 points.

At the DPWH regional office in Barangay Rawis here, he said a skeletal workforce from the maintenance department will be on standby during the long holiday to receive reports from the assistance centers and render emergency services that may be required.

The DPWH regional chief said all district engineering offices in the region have been initiating road maintenance works since early this month to ensure the worthiness of the highways and national roads for the safety and convenience of the motorists and the riding public.

“We are also seeing to it that all informational and directional signs along the roads are in place and easily visible to drivers,” he said.

The Lakbay Alalay project serves as the emergency assistance provider that stand-by along roads in the spirit of public service, he added. (PNA)
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Army soldier killed in NPA attack in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, March 27 (PNA) -- An Army soldier was killed and another wounded when a military truck carrying a platoon from the 83rd Infantry Battalion was attacked on Monday by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Balatohan in San Miguel town in Catanduanes, a Philippine Army (PA) officer said Tuesday.

Killed during the ambush was identified as Private First Class Edel A. Llamas while the wounded as Private First Class Elisio N. Gran.

Gran, was hit in the right leg was brought to Eastern Bicol Medical Center in Virac, Catanduanes and is now in stable condition, said PA Bicol spokesman Major Angelo Guzman.

“Pfc Llamas provided suppressive fires against the rebels with his K3 submachinegun despite heavy enemy fires. This brave act allowed the rest of the platoon unload the truck then engaged the NPA rebels in a five minute firefight before the rebels retreated,” said Ltc Rod Batang, Commanding Officer of the 83rd Infantry Battalion stationed in Catanduanes.

The soldiers came from a security patrol to protect a hydroelectric plant in Solong village in San Miguel town prior to the ambush.

Intelligence reports disclosed that NPA rebels gave notice to destroy the hydroelectric plant after extortion demands were denied by the plant's management.

Pursuit operations were launched against the ambushers.

In 2009, NPA rebels attacked the Solong hydroelectric plant after the firm refused to give in to extortion demands of the rebels. (PNA)
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bicol PNP prepares for e-blotter implementation

LEGAZPI CITY, March 26 (PNA) – Policemen in Bicol are undergoing training on the new Crime Incident Reporting System (CIRS) in preparation for the implementation in the region of the e-Blotter project of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos, the police regional director on Monday said separate training sessions are being conducted in each of the six provinces of the region covering 107 municipalities and seven cities.

Each of the local police stations in these towns and cities would have at least two personnel attending the training that would familiarize them with computer operations and the e-Blotter software that would be used in the new recording system which is meant to modernize data storage in police stations, he said.

The e-Blotter or the electronic blotter system also known as the CIRS does not only facilitate crime documentation, but will also present quick and reliable transmission of crime information from the police stations to the regional offices and to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, De los Santos said.

Once fully implemented in the region and all over the country, the system will facilitate fast, easy and paperless recording of crime information using the computer machine. Through the Internet, other police stations and higher headquarters could access such information for proper coordination and police action.

It is a “cost-free” project since the software is developed locally by the programmers of the PNP’s Information Technology Management Service (ITMS) and shall be installed into the desktop of every police station and unit, he explained.

A project of Police Director Nicanor Bartolome, the incumbent PNP chief and launched late last year, the CIRS, De los Santos said is one way of enhancing the crime reporting system in the country for effective law enforcement, which requires comprehensive, adequate and timely information on crimes.

“We are seeing to it that all PNP units across the Bicol region will be interconnected with the E-blotter system within this year,” the regional police chief said.

The project is designed as a stand-alone system that will be installed in all police stations as means of reporting and monitoring all crime incidents that transpired within the respective areas, as well as results and records of investigation.

While the traditional police blotter is a recognized symbol of the police journal of crime incidents, the e-Blotter presents accuracy in crime date documentation, reliability in storage and hassle-free transmission of data of all police reports, De los Santos said.

He also explained that it is an effective management tool for decision makers and security strategists to have an easy and intelligent way of mapping out peace and order and anti-criminality strategies in their areas.

Its main goal is to get a daily update on what is really happening on the ground, particularly in every police station.“This is vital in mapping out strategies for quick response and crime prevention,” De los Santos said.

“We are banking on the help of the Internet in this project that would facilitate easy and fast reporting system,” he said.

The E-blotter system in is part of the PNP modernization program and its effort to enhance the skills of its personnel apart from developing their competencies.

He, however, said that due to the lack of Internet connection in most precincts, police will have to relay data in computers with Internet connection outside police stations.

With the new system, the PNP hopes to solve its data backlog problem, De los Santos said had plagued the national police organization. Using the manual blotter system however will continue.

Another modernization plan of the PNP which is currently on the drawing table is the innovative E-warrant or Electronic Warrant System.

Under the plan, all that a policeman tasked to arrest a wanted person anywhere in the country needs to do is click on a link in the Internet and presto, he can print a copy of the warrant of arrest.

The system is expected to contribute further to the accounting of wanted persons anywhere in the country since wanted criminals are known to transfer in a place where they cannot be easily recognized and where they can earn a living.

The PNP leadership is also putting up an E-rogue system or the Electronic Rogues Gallery database wherein the photo gallery of wanted criminals and other suspected law offenders will be posted for easy reference by investigators and tracker teams, De los Santos added. (PNA)
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Jubilant members of the PNPA "Sinagtala" Class of 2012 celebrate during their Commencement Exercises


Jubilant members of the Philippine National Police Academy "Sinagtala" Class of 2012 celebrate during the 33rd Commencement Exercises of the PNPA at Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite Saturday (March 24, 2012). The PNPA was created to provide education and training to the three uniformed bureaus of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, namely: the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/ Malacañang Photo Bureau/PNA)
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What the hidden paradise of Matnog has to offer
By Danny O. Calleja

MATNOG, Sorsogon, March 26 (PNA) -– This municipality, located at the southern tip of Luzon about 500 kilometers south of Manila is a “hidden paradise” just waiting to be discovered.

With its bustling roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) terminal, the place serves as the jumping board between Luzon and the Visayas. But tourists and other visitors who have experienced staying here also call the town the “seventh heaven.”

No one proved them wrong as the municipality is gifted with a preserved nature, immaculate white to pinkish powdery sand beaches being kissed by crystalline waters, uphill caves, fish and lobster farms, marine sanctuaries and an amazing view of sunrise and sunset.

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

In the San Bernardino Strait that shares the town’s territorial waters with the Pacific Ocean and separates it from the Visayan province of Samar, small islands with unique characteristics await to be discovered.

One is the Tikling Island at the San Bernardino Strait which is four kilometers offshore or five minutes boat ride from the town proper’s shoreline.

It is a 40-hectare of fully vegetated circular landmass bordered around from the sea by 10 hectares of coastal area classified as government easement.

The island which derived its name from the word “ticlin”, the Spanish word for egret, is quite eerie because of the distinct noise of insects and the chirping of the birds hiding on its lush tropical forest, not to mention the wild shrubs and growing vines near the shoreland.

It has a few small hills, one of which is about 180 feet in height covered with natural bush that provides visitors with a shaded walk. The hillsides provide a water run-off area that is stored in an old unused rice paddies of some 10 hectares. This fresh water area provides a haven for water birds including migratory ones.

Its pristine beach, on the other hand, is long enough for leisure walks featuring its seductive blend of clear blue and light green sea waters. Fishing is another leisure off the nearby reefs.

Tikling is not a fully inhabited island and the people living in small shanties are only the caretakers of the coconut plantation in the area. What really make this island remarkable is its signature powdery pinkish sands.

The next island is Calintaan that is famous for its Subic Beach best known for its secluded clear cool waters, white sandy beaches and cool shades from the trees facing the beach itself.

Its sands are fine enough that visitors enjoy exfoliating their skins by rubbing the grains devoid of coarse particles on their arms and legs for a spa-like treatment. Calintaan Island is also known for its huge underwater and uphill caves populated by giant bats.

Nearby is the Juag Lagoon fish sanctuary which is a wide expanse of shallow salty waters enclosed by small rock formations serving as home to diverse species of fish, turtles, sea cucumbers, lobsters and clams.

This place that is reserved for the reproduction of fish populations is gradually becoming an eco-tourism destination as visitors are allowed to view the fishes in their natural environment.

These fishes are collected for studies and breeding and released in the sea once they reached their full egg spawning potential thereby reducing their probability of extinction. Juag also boasts of a fine pink beach called La Playa Rosa.

In an interview here over the weekend, town Mayor Emilio Ubaldo said local elders say that the name Matnog comes from the word "matonog" (very audible) - that describes the loud sound of the waves.

True enough, as according to the mayor, collisions between the waves of San Bernardino Strait and Pacific Ocean taking place off the town’s shorelines produce loud splashing sounds especially when the waters are turbulent.

Underneath, Ubaldo said the encounter of the sea current coming from opposite directions creates whirling basins that grow wider enough to swallow small sea crafts during stormy weather. The intensity of this action when weather is bad produces loud whistling sounds.

Navigating through the area where the currents of San Bernardino and Pacific collide requires familiarity to avoid the whirlpools, he said.

“Nonetheless our clean sea waters offer an exciting experience of drift snorkeling and discovery of the secrets of the sea,” according to Ubaldo.

Undoubtedly, this sleepy town is blessed with ecological wonders just waiting to be discovered while being continually protected and nurtured. The mayor said his administration is vigorously pursuing environmental protection and preservation measures to save this “God-given gift” for the local tourism industry.

While Sorsogon had rose to fame in the tourism world because of the exciting presence of whale sharks in Donsol town, what most tourists do not know is that aside from these “gentle giants” of the ocean, the province has more wonders to offer in this naturally serene town, Ubaldo said. (PNA)
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President Aquino presents the Presidential Kampilan Award to top graduate of PNPA "Sinagtala" Class of 2012


President Benigno S. Aquino III presents the Presidential Kampilan Award to Cadet Marjorie Samson for topping the "Sinagtala" Class of 2012 during the 33rd Commencement Exercises of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) at Camp General Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite Saturday (March 24, 2012). Samson is the third female cadet to top the PNPA graduating class since 2004. (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/Malacañang Photo Bureau/PNA)
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Bicol assured of stable rice supply -- NFA

LEGAZPI CITY, March 26 (PNA) – The National Food Authority (NFA) regional office for Bicol here has assured Bicolanos of stable rice supply despite its 10 percent cut in daily distribution of the staple grain.

Edwin Atienza, NFA’s regional operations chief over the weekend said the decrease will have a negligible impact on the rice supply in the region because of the ongoing harvest season, showing a very good palay production output that most consumers do not have to rely much on government rice.

The rice distribution reduction is in compliance with the directive recently issued by NFA Administrator Angelito Banayo ordering all its field offices to maintain food security stocks at any given time.

The directive as issued considering the very limited rice importation as the Aquino administration pursues an active policy to raise production and reduce dependence on imports.

Atienza said the NFA national office wanted the current rice supply status in the country to always agree with the Food Security Outlook of the agency so that it could respond to the needs even during calamity or emergency situations.

In Bicol, he said the current rice supply status is highly secured as the NFA here maintains over one million bags of rice equivalent to 50,000 metric tons (MTs) in its warehouses.

This buffer stock mostly derived from local production is more than the 500,000 bags or 25,000 MTs required for the region’s entire population. The stock ensures rice sufficiency and food security even during calamity situations and late part of May.

Despite the ample stock, the NFA remains steadfast in palay procurement program under which the agency buys from farmers at P17 per kilo with a 30-centavo per kilo incentive to farmer’s cooperatives, 20 centavos per kilo for the dying and another 20 centavos for the delivery to the nearest buying stations bringing to P17.70 the buying price being paid per kilo. (PNA)
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Two people killed due to drowning in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- At least two people drowned in separate incidence on Thursday in Brgy. Sabang, Bulan town and Brgy. San Francisco in Bulusan town, all in Sorsogon, a top official of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Bicol reported Friday.

Jomar Gordolo, 19, resident of Brgy. Obrero, Bulan, went swimming with his friend at about 3:10 p.m. Thursday at Sabang Beach, but was carried by strong currents when he suffered muscle cramps while swimming, according to Bernardo Alejandro, OCD regional director.

Bulan Rescue Team conducted search and rescue (SAR) operation and recovered Gordolo’s body and brought to Pantaleon Gutladera Memorial Hospital (PGMH) in Bulan, Sorsogon where he was pronounced dead by attending physicians.

Meanwhile, Aida Fusana, 61, of Brgy. San Francisco in Bulusan drowned while trying to cross a flooded spillway at about 7:15 p.m. also Thursday in said village.

The low pressure area in Palawan has brought low to moderate rains in Albay and Sorsogon provinces for four days.

The rains also triggered a landslide in Brgy G. Del Pilar, Bulan, Sorsogon on Thursday, where a house owned by a certain kagawad Reblora was buried by mudflow. No casualty was reported. (PNA)
FFC/MSA/cbd

Camarines Norte gets P20M more for peace-building projects

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) – Over and above the P140-million fund given last year by the national government for the implementation of peace-building projects under the Aquino administration’s "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan" (PAMANA) program in Camarines Norte, an additional of P20 million has been allocated to the province this year.

PAMANA is the national government’s peace and development framework being carried out by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peach Process (OPAPP) for the empowering of conflict-affected areas (CCAs) in the country.

Bicol is included among these CCAs with Camarines Norte identified as one of its four provinces that yielded indicative plans for the program. The other provinces are Sorsogon, Albay and Masbate.

Sorsogon was the first to be identified under the program and its seven covered municipalities-- Prieto Diaz, Gubat, Casiguran, Barcelona, Juban, Irosin and Magallanes are now implementing development projects worth a total of P30 million.

In Masbate, OPAPP has earmarked an amount of P50 million to finance infrastructure projects in some troubled areas of the insurgency-torn island province where improving the living conditions of residents is urgently needed.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director Blandino Maceda on Friday said, the fresh fund allocated by OPAPP for Camarines Norte will benefit barangays in seven of its 12 towns that were not covered by the P140 million PAMANA fund released last year.

These villages are in Capalonga, Labo, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Mercedes, Sta. Elena, Basud and Jose Panganiban.

Prior to the release of this fund, Maceda said the recipient local government units (LGUs) would be required to submit project proposals focused on economy, security and justice, the three aspects of local development discussed during a recent Planning Workshop on Mainstreaming Peace and Development in Local Governance (MPDLG).

The planning workshop attended by representatives from those LGUs was initiated by the OPAPP and the DILG regional office.

PAMANA, according to Maceda aims to respond to and strengthen peace-building, reconstruction and development in CCAs in line with the government’s goal of putting a permanent and just closure to internal armed conflicts.

In Camarines Norte, he said the Philippine Army (PA) has identified nearly 40 barangays that are considered CCAs due to the occasional presence of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The PAMANA program, the DILG regional chief said is a way towards attaining economic progress for the province as its objectives are based on initiating reforms and development projects in CCAs in line with the national government’s peace agenda and ending internal armed conflicts.

He explained that the strategies being pushed by OPAPP for the implementation of PAMANA involve three pillars—building the foundation of peace, building resilient communities and addressing regional development.

Last year’s release of P140 million for Camarines Norte is now being used in projects such as the concreting of farm-to-market roads in Jose Panganiban, Labo and Mercedes barangays.

Part of this fund or a total of P112 million representing 80 percent was taken from the stimulus fund of President Benigno Aquino, Maceda said.

“The whole of Camarines Norte, a poor province disturbed by insurgency that hinders local development is very grateful to the Aquino administration for this development projects that are in line with the national government’s peace agenda and ending internal armed conflicts,” he added.

On the part of the military, Major Gen. Josue Gaverza Jr., the PA’s 9th Infantry Division commander based in Camarines Sur and in charge of the military’s counter insurgency operations in Bicol said the PAMANA program served as among the effective tools in the peace process in Bicol.

The government’s gains in its peace and development across the region, he said could be traced from the strong relationship and support harnessed among stakeholders in the area by the program. (PNA)
FFC/jfm/DOC/cbd

P2.5-M illegally cut trees confiscated in Bicol in 2011

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- The campaign against illegal logging in Bicol gained headway after the Regional Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (RAILTF) confiscated a total of 201,813 board feet of hard wood worth P2.5 million last year.

Joselin Marcus Fragada, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director, said the seizures of illegally cut trees were the outcome of the intensified anti-illegal logging campaign.

Fragada said that based on the Forest Management Service (FMS) yearend report, a total of nine cases have been filed against illegal logging suspects as a result of the confiscation of 476 cubic meters of illegally cut trees.

Fragada attributed the successful anti-illegal logging operations to the creation of the RAILTF composed of elements from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippines National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippines Coast Guard and Department of Justice (DOJ).

”We are hoping to sustain this campaign with the help of our partners at the RAILTF,” Fragada said.

He noted that the campaign is a deterrent to illegal logging operations in Bicol’s natural and secondary forests which the DENR is trying to rehabilitate under the National Greening Program (NGP). PNA)
scs/jfm/MSA/cbd

NGCP re-schedules Aleco power cut off

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA)--The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has moved to March 28 the scheduled cut off of power supply to the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) for the latter's failure to settle its outstanding electricity bills with the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) amounting to P112.6 million.

The NGCP said the extension was meant to give its direct consumers, like malls, hospitals and other big business establishments notice before disconnection of electricity in the province.

Earlier, the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) had given the local electric cooperative in Albay until March 21 to pay its outstanding obligation of P112.6 million for electricity used in the months of December and January or it would face disconnection from the power grid.

PEMC's electricity bill to Aleco for December 2011 amounted P54 million and and P58.6 million for January this year.

Paul Lopez, acting general manager of the Aleco, said the extension was also an opportunity for the cooperative to raise funds for payment of their dues.

Last week, Aleco was able to raise P20 million as partial payment of the December bill. Lopez said Aleco would settle the remaining P34 million of the December bill by Friday.

Lopez said with Aleco's present financial status, it would be difficult for them to raise the amount demanded by PEMC.

He, however, said that Aleco was still looking for ways to raise funds.

Aside from this, Aleco also has a combined debt of about P3.8 billion to PEMC, NGCP, National Electrification Administration and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.

Critics blamed the debt to Aleco’s high system losses at the rate of 24 to 27 percent or about P17 million a month, low collection efficiency, power pilferage, antiquated power transformers and labor cases.

Lopez said they first received a notice of disconnection from the NGCP on March 12 through a letter signed by Maria Cynthia Manrique, head of NGCP Revenue and Regulatory Affairs Office in Manila.

At noontime of March 13, the 15 towns and three cities in the province of Albay were threatened with a power cut off by PEMC over nonpayment of the account.

The power cut off however was postponed. Lopez said “the PEMC could have considered the request of Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi to postpone the disconnection.(PNA)
RMA/MSA/cbd/

Matnog imitates CCT scheme to preserve environment
By Danny O. Calleja

MATNOG, Sorsogon, March 23 (PNA) – The local government here is adopting a conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme of preserving the municipality’s remaining forest and marine resources that are vital to its tourism and investments.

Under the scheme, residents who derive their income from cutting forest trees and illegal fishing will be given cash subsidies by the municipal government to provide them an alternative source of income.

“This scheme will draw them away from further destroying the town’s remaining forest and spoiling its rich marine resources,” Mayor Emilio Ulbaldo on Friday said.

Ulbado said the municipality had some 5,000 hectares of land classified as forest but only about 1,000 hectares of this remains forested.

“The status is alarming that is why we arrived at this CCT pattern given the fact that the municipality urgently needs its natural resources for its development anchored on tourism and trade investments,” the mayor explained

Under the scheme, he said local upland and coastal dwellers engaged in activities that are disastrous to the ecology will be given regular compensations by the local government on condition that they stop with their illegal sources of livelihood.

“These upland people cut trees for charcoal making, timber poaching and kaingin (slash and burn) farming while those in the coastal villages oftentimes use trawl, cyanide, dynamites and fine-meshed nets in their fishing activities. They are our target in this CCT program”, the mayor said.

While implementing the compensation scheme, Ulbado said those who would be caught violating laws on forest and marine resources conservation will be harshly penalized.

The penalties, apart from those provided under the law, Ubaldo said violators would be required to plant a thousand new trees for every cut full-grown tree while illegal fishers would be banned from the local waters and made to perform community services like coastal cleanup and mangrove planting.

“Preserving what is left of our forest and restoring what have been lost is our ultimate intention because we have investors putting up huge capital to establish ecology-based projects that would help our town become fully developed in terms of trade and commerce,” Ubaldo said, referring to the “Ecological Model City” a Japanese consortium is establishing here.

The US$ 100-million model city will be constructed on a 20-hectare land that would provide a retirement village for Japanese retirees with a hospital and clinic, hotel, resort, fish port, agro-tourism and marine parks and an international airport, according to Ubaldo.

“Undoubtedly, this sleepy town is blessed with ecological wonders just waiting to be discovered while being continually protected and nurtured. We hope that preserving and protecting its environment though our CCT scheme of preventing more man-made destruction will help its boost its ailing economy,” he said.

CCT is a banner program of the national government with P34 billion budget to promoting health and social upliftment of the poor by subsidizing the indigent families on condition that they avail of health and basic education services being provided by the government. (PNA)
RMA/ jfm/DOC/cbd

Thursday, March 22, 2012

VISIT ALBAY!!


Vera Falls of Malinao, Albay, Philippines.
 Exploring the beauty of Nature, so Refreshing and Exciting .
It's more Fun In Albay

Monreal, Masbate Keeps the Bayanihan Spirit Alive


Council pushes for holding of special polls in Camarines town
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 21 (PNA) – The Camarines Sur Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) has passed a resolution urging the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to reconsider its earlier decision postponing indefinitely the special election in a village of Siruma town that would decide who should be the mayor of the that fourth class town.

Citing recent reports on the gains of the government’s peace and order initiatives in the province, Camarines Sur Vice-Gov. Fortunato Peña, who spearheaded the move for the passing of the resolution, said there was no imminent danger or threat present in Siruma or as alleged by some groups.

Reports on those alleged threats were made as basis by the poll body in postponing the election, which was supposed to be held last March 10, to resolve the question as to who should be seating as the town’s chief executive.

The contest is between former mayor Nonito Vier who lost his reelection bid to Sandy Odis, the candidate proclaimed by the COMELEC as winner in the 2010 elections.

The holding of special poll was result of the COMELEC embank decision issued on May 19, 2011 that voided the proclamation of Ondis, a decision based on election protest filed by Vier claiming that 247 ballots from Barangay Batuwanan were not counted.

A recount was ordered by the COMELEC but it failed as it was discovered last year that the same ballots, deemed crucial in determining the final outcome of a mayoral election that was decided by less than 100 votes, had disappeared.

“We in the PPOC are requesting the COMELEC to re-schedule immediately the special election which was indefinitely suspended citing reasons of an impending threat to the security which is actually non-existent,” Pena said.

Peña represented Camarines Sur Luis Raymund Villafuerte in the PPOC during its conference here over the week.

Citing reports from the provincial office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the prevailing peace and order situation of the province, Peña said Siruma is among the two Camarines Sur municipalities that posted the lowest crime incidents since the past several years. The other town is Presentacion.

Siruma, with a voting population of 9,511 as of the 2010 polls is a hinterland coastal town that sits at the northwestern tip of the province while Presentacion is at the province’s eastern coast. These two towns are also considered by the military as less influenced by the New People’s Army (NPA).

The postponement came as a surprise for local lawmen as PNP provincial director Senior Supt. Procopio Lipana had already their forces in the locality.

The deployment of forces in the area was in line with the order issued by Pres. Benigno Aquino III deputizing the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to assist the COMELEC in ensuring the conduct of a free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible special election for the position of mayor in Siruma.

Granting however that the threat exist, Lipana said any threat by armed elements against the peaceful and orderly conduct of the special polls can be handled by the PNP force of Camarines Sur and by the 902nd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in the province.

A report by the provincial PNP office to the PPOC said the comparative crime volume in the province decreased by 490 or 23.2 percent, from 2,101 in 2010 to 1,611 in 2011.

Index crime in 2010 was pegged at 1,204 as against 833 in 2011, posing a reduction of 30.81 percent while non index crime in 2010 registered 897 incidences yet declined by 13.27 percent in 2011 when police recorded only a total of 778 cases.

Crime against person also decreased by 278 or 32.9 percent with 843 cases listed in 2010 as against 565 cases recorded in 2011. Crime against property also went down by 25.7 percent with only 268 cases recorded last year in contrast to 361 cases documented in 2010.

The Average Monthly Crime Rate (AMCR) registered at 8.45 for every 100,000 population province wide or 23.32 percent lower than the 11.02 recorded for the same period last year.

Major Gen. Josue Gaverza Jr., the PA’s 9th Infantry Division commander, attributed the government’s gains in its peace and development in the province and across the Bicol region to the strong relationship and support harnessed among stakeholders in the area.

“Efforts of government troops were sustained to defeat various adversaries who intend to disrupt the country’s peace program,” Gaverza said.

The Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Aquino administration being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) served as among the effective tools in the peace process, he said.

“The men and women of the 902nd IB, 9th ID of the PA had also made themselves visible through frequent barangay visitations, dialogues or pulong-pulong, intensified information drives and other peace advocacy campaigns in the region and these undertaking have been gaining good results,” he said. (PNA)
RMA/LQ/DOC/cbd/

PIA-V Regional Dir. Eduardo A. de Leon, welcome guest and participants during the training of government information officers on Communicating the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 and Regional Medium Term Development Plan held at Estevez Hall, NEDA-V, Arimbay, Legazpi City last March 21, 2012. 
(Alex Cal /PIA V)

Council pushes for holding of special polls in Camarines town
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 21 (PNA) – The Camarines Sur Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) has passed a resolution urging the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to reconsider its earlier decision postponing indefinitely the special election in a village of Siruma town that would decide who should be the mayor of the that fourth class town.

Citing recent reports on the gains of the government’s peace and order initiatives in the province, Camarines Sur Vice-Gov. Fortunato Peña, who spearheaded the move for the passing of the resolution, said there was no imminent danger or threat present in Siruma or as alleged by some groups.

Reports on those alleged threats were made as basis by the poll body in postponing the election, which was supposed to be held last March 10, to resolve the question as to who should be seating as the town’s chief executive.

The contest is between former mayor Nonito Vier who lost his reelection bid to Sandy Odis, the candidate proclaimed by the COMELEC as winner in the 2010 elections.

The holding of special poll was result of the COMELEC embank decision issued on May 19, 2011 that voided the proclamation of Ondis, a decision based on election protest filed by Vier claiming that 247 ballots from Barangay Batuwanan were not counted.

A recount was ordered by the COMELEC but it failed as it was discovered last year that the same ballots, deemed crucial in determining the final outcome of a mayoral election that was decided by less than 100 votes, had disappeared.

“We in the PPOC are requesting the COMELEC to re-schedule immediately the special election which was indefinitely suspended citing reasons of an impending threat to the security which is actually non-existent,” Pena said.

Peña represented Camarines Sur Luis Raymund Villafuerte in the PPOC during its conference here over the week.

Citing reports from the provincial office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the prevailing peace and order situation of the province, Peña said Siruma is among the two Camarines Sur municipalities that posted the lowest crime incidents since the past several years. The other town is Presentacion.

Siruma, with a voting population of 9,511 as of the 2010 polls is a hinterland coastal town that sits at the northwestern tip of the province while Presentacion is at the province’s eastern coast. These two towns are also considered by the military as less influenced by the New People’s Army (NPA).

The postponement came as a surprise for local lawmen as PNP provincial director Senior Supt. Procopio Lipana had already their forces in the locality.

The deployment of forces in the area was in line with the order issued by Pres. Benigno Aquino III deputizing the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to assist the COMELEC in ensuring the conduct of a free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible special election for the position of mayor in Siruma.

Granting however that the threat exist, Lipana said any threat by armed elements against the peaceful and orderly conduct of the special polls can be handled by the PNP force of Camarines Sur and by the 902nd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in the province.

A report by the provincial PNP office to the PPOC said the comparative crime volume in the province decreased by 490 or 23.2 percent, from 2,101 in 2010 to 1,611 in 2011.

Index crime in 2010 was pegged at 1,204 as against 833 in 2011, posing a reduction of 30.81 percent while non index crime in 2010 registered 897 incidences yet declined by 13.27 percent in 2011 when police recorded only a total of 778 cases.

Crime against person also decreased by 278 or 32.9 percent with 843 cases listed in 2010 as against 565 cases recorded in 2011. Crime against property also went down by 25.7 percent with only 268 cases recorded last year in contrast to 361 cases documented in 2010.

The Average Monthly Crime Rate (AMCR) registered at 8.45 for every 100,000 population province wide or 23.32 percent lower than the 11.02 recorded for the same period last year.

Major Gen. Josue Gaverza Jr., the PA’s 9th Infantry Division commander, attributed the government’s gains in its peace and development in the province and across the Bicol region to the strong relationship and support harnessed among stakeholders in the area.

“Efforts of government troops were sustained to defeat various adversaries who intend to disrupt the country’s peace program,” Gaverza said.

The Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Aquino administration being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) served as among the effective tools in the peace process, he said.

“The men and women of the 902nd IB, 9th ID of the PA had also made themselves visible through frequent barangay visitations, dialogues or pulong-pulong, intensified information drives and other peace advocacy campaigns in the region and these undertaking have been gaining good results,” he said. (PNA)
RMA/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Village chief gun downed in Ligao City

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- A village chieftain was shot and killed on Monday evening by an unidentified gun man in Barangay Cabarian in Ligao City, a Philippine National Police (PNP) official said Tuesday.

Killed was Danilo Satona, 40, married, Brgy. Cabarian chairman, according to Police Supt. Renato Bataller PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Barangay Cabarian is a remote village that takes one and half hours ride to Ligao City proper and an hour ride to the neighboring town of Pioduran.

Bataller said the victim was brought by his wife to the Pioduran Emergency Hospital in Pioduran, Albay but died while undergoing treatment.

The incident happened at about 8 p.m. Monday, when an unidentified lone gunman approach the victim and fired in close range.

Initial investigation report said that police investigators are still finding what handgun was used in the killing.

Police investigators said they have established at least two possible motives of the killing, a land dispute and the arrest of an ex-militiaman for carrying an unlicensed firearms by the victim during a benefit dance also on Monday evening at Purok 5 of said barangay. (PNA)
FFC/LQ/MSA/cbd

DA turns over P2.3M farm equipment to Bicol farmers

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 19 (PNA) – The Regional Field Unit (RFU) for Bicol here of the Department of Agriculture (DA) recently turned over under its Agri-Pinoy Rice Program (APRP) farm machineries and equipment worth P2.3 million to farmer’s organizations in the region.

Its recipients were 23 organizations of farmers in the province of Camarines Sur that signified their intentions to avail of the farm mechanization assistance in line with intention of the Aquino administration to make Bicol and the entire country food self-sufficient by 2013.

Jose Dayao, the DA regional executive director, said farm mechanization is a jumpstart of the present administration to modernize agriculture and minimize post harvest losses.

“We have increased our target in procuring farm machineries and equipment like hand tractors, palay threshers and seed cleaners that we distribute to organized groups of farmers in the region,” he said.

Farmers, he explained, when provided the appropriate support mechanism will in return produce more and will continue to be DA's partner in its programs and projects like the Agri-Pinoy.

APRP is one of the banner components of the DA’s National Rice Program (NRP) mainly concerned in rice farming and uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers.

Guided by the principles of the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) framework, the NRP integrates government initiatives and interventions for the agriculture sector such as food security and self-sufficiency, sustainable resource management, support services from farm to table and broad-based local partnerships.

Dayao said the APRP plays a key role in the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP), the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

With the vision of a food-secure society where farmers enjoy a decent and higher standards of living, he said the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples.

Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing and feeds through domestic production.

The key target is to produce the country's domestic requirements by 2013 and strengthen national resilience in staples production beyond that year.

Dayao said the key strategies FSSP are concentrated in raising farmers' productivity and competitiveness, enhancing economic incentives and enabling mechanisms and managing food staples consumption.

To carry out these objectives, various government interventions are undertaken from the national to the local levels in the form of support to rice production; irrigation; postharvest and other infrastructure facilities; and extension, education and training services, among others. (PNA)
LDV/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Albay’s power coop owes energy suppliers over P4B
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 19 (PNA) – Threats of power disconnection or even incidents of actual supply cut off are not new to the sole electricity retailer in Albay, a province that hosts two giant geothermal energy producers supplying about 500 megawatts of power to the Luzon Grid.

Reason: Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) has been infamously delinquent in settling its accounts, making it a regular recipient of power supply disconnection notices, an option being used by its suppliers to compel settlements.

Latest computations obtained by the PNA over the weekend have it that the financial liabilities of the cooperative as of February 2011 was at a cumulative amount of over P4 billion.

This huge indebtedness is generally being blamed on corruption that saw the hands of a local politician and mismanagement resulting to poor collection efficiency, high system losses and labor disputes, among others.

High system losses, reaching about 27 percent, have been causing ALECO to loss around 25 percent of its revenues.

Last week, the latest disconnection notice was issued by National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), which directed ALECO to settle its outstanding account of P112.6 million with the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) for electricity used in the months of December last year and January this year.

Paulino Lopez, the acting ALECO general manager, said the cooperative was able to raise only P20 million as partial payment for the December bill of P54 million and promised to settle the balance of P34 million by March 23, an offer which was turned down by the PEMC.

The January 2012 account amounted to P58.6 million and Lopez said it remained another big problem.

Thus, the disconnection may happen anytime next week should settlement arrangements are not reached by parties involved.

There are initiatives being undertaken involving the private sector for ALECO and meetings are set to discuss payment options on its outstanding account with NGCP to abort the disconnection, Lopez on Monday said.

These initiatives include the resolution passed by the Albay chapter of the League of Municipalities appealing for the deferment of the power cut off and a letter sent by Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi to Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Josefina Patricia Asirit requesting for help in working out the matter with the power supplier.

In February last year, the NGCP also attempted to disconnect ALECO’s power supply in an effort to collect an amount representing its indebtedness with the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) reaching P982 million.

Proceedings, however, were stalled after the government decided to let the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to take over the operations of the Albay power utility. Until now, ALECO remains under NEA management.

In September 2010, PEMC also warned the power cooperative of disconnection involving the same amount, forcing the latter into a debt restructuring at the expense of its consumers as it triggered a P1.66 per kilowatt hour (kwh) rate increase.

The rate increase was reportedly imposed to allow the cooperative to generate more revenues and ensure payments of its liabilities and prevent supply cut off.

The additional charge raised the cost of electricity from P8.56 to P10.22 per kwh being charged to the over 160,000 consumers in the province’s 15 towns and three cities and raised the cooperative’s monthly revenue to P150 million.

It was gathered, however, that notwithstanding the rate increase and additional revenue it has generated, ALECO has not fully settled yet its P982-million account more than two years after the restructuring scheme was applied.

Beyond these liabilities with the WESM and the PEMC, ALECO as of February 2011 was also billed by NEA P1.8 billion in arrears, plus another P1.9 billion by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALMC).

The electric cooperative gets 60 percent of its electricity supply from WESM while the remaining 40 percent comes from Aboitiz Power Renewables, Inc. (APRI) that operates the geothermal energy plant in Tiwi, Albay.

APRI sells electricity to ALECO at P4.40 per kwh which it could have easily sold through WESM at prices that were ratcheting up to P13.50 average daily.

This pricing scheme that saved for the cooperative some P31.6 million in monthly power supply charges was based on a bilateral agreement reached in April 2010 between APRI and the Albay provincial government, through Gov. Joey Salceda.

The province also partly hosts the giant Bacon-Manito geothermal energy field, formerly operated by the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the National Power Corporation (NPC) and now by the Lopez-owned energy Development Corp. (EDC) that sells its entire power production to the Luzon Grid.

“We are continuously finding ways to rescue ALECO from its financial woes as it is very unusual that the entire island of Luzon is drawing a large part of its power supply from Albay through these two geothermal energy firms it is playing host to and yet the province is being constantly being dealt with disconnections,” Salceda said.

In March 15, 2007, Albay’s power supply was cut off by the NPC for the failure of ALECO to pay its debt of P981.3 million. It was restored two and a half hours later following a payment of P5 million made by the cooperative.

The disconnection was repeated on June 26, 2008 over the P1.4 billion liabilities and was restored after an agreement reached between the NPC and the cooperative that the former take over the operations of the latter.

The takeover was said to be for the instituting of financial, technical and operational rehabilitation of the distressed power utility.

The problem is known to everyone—the inability of the cooperative to settle its liabilities but the best solution is yet to be identified as all those that have been already applied served only as palliative care and not measures to liberate ALECO from its huge indebtedness, Salceda said. (PNA)
RMA/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Albay Park and Wildlife generates over P3.5-M income in 2011
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 19 (PNA) – The Albay Park and Wildlife, one of the tourist attractions in the province of Albay, generated P3,582,718.00 gross income in 2011.

Cheryl Rebeta, Albay park and wildlife manager, said the area serves a recreation center for people. “As a tourist destination of outdoor-loving people, it becomes an itinerary stop-over for students under the Lakbay-aral-program of the Department of Education,” she said.

The target income of the park and wildlife for this year is P4 million. “We are optimistic to achieve the target for 2012,” Rebeta said.

From January to February this year, P636,340.00 (more than half million) was generated by the park. For the same previous period, the income generated was P572,264,00.

“This summer we are expecting influx of tourists until June 2012,” Rebeta said.

Albay Park and Wildlife is a government initiated but community assisted establishment which aims to conserve and protect the natural resources inclusive of the flora and fauna, for the enjoyment of the Albayanos and Bicolanos. It also serves as a rescue center for confiscated, injured and donated wildlife.

At present, there are 465 heads of 71 species of animals housed and cared for in the park. Fifty six percent of the animals are avian, 27 percent are mammals and 17 percent are reptiles. Twenty one exotic species came from other countries, 50 species are endemic to the Philippines. Different species of flora are propagated and planted within the premises. (PNA)
LAP/LQ/MDR/cbd/

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sorsogon mourns homegrown journalist, cultural worker, artist, activist, 66

SORSOGON CITY, March 19 (PNA) – At age 66 and after a long bout with paralysis due to a stroke, Reynaldo Jamoralin has succumbed to multiple internal organ malfunctions.

Survived by his wife Ella, sisters Mercia and Millet, daughter Suyin, adopted son Ian and grandson CJ, Jamoralin died in a local hospital last March 12.

His body was laid to rest at the Sorsogon Memorial Park last Saturday.

Founder and president of the Sorsogon Arts Council, Jamoralin was a journalist, artist, book writer and activist rolled into one.

The appelations have helped make him one of the few respected key media personalities in Sorsogon.

He was the editor and writer of the two editions of the book “Tracing: From Solsogon to Sorsogon,” published by the SAC and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in 1994.

He was a member of the board of editors of Letra, a Bicol magazine, the first regional cultural and literary magazine and Centro, another local magazine.

A playwright and folklorist, Jamoralin wrote the dance-drama in the Bikol language, Si Bulusan nan si Agingay, based on the local legend of Lakes Bulusan and Agingay, which received several production and tour grants from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and NCCA.

He was also author of Kantada ni Daragang Magayon and Mandirigma, adopted from Bicolano artist Merlinda Bobis’ epic poetry of the same title.

This was brought around the country and presented at the CCP Little Theater in 2000.

Jamoralin also rewrote, revised, and adapted Sorsogon Sarswelista Asisclo Jimenez’s Pagkamoot sa Banuang Tinoboan, under a production and tour grant from the NCCA in 1994.

A long-time cultural worker, he was a founding member of the Kasanggayahan Foundation, Inc. and responsible for the institutionalization of Pantomina sa Tinampo every Kasanggayahan Festival in October.

He was the brains behind the establishment of the Sorsogon Museum and Heritage Center which involves the adaptive re-use and restoration of the old Sorsogon Provincial Hospital building built during the American occupation in the 1920s.

Jamoralin was also a member of Sorsogon Heritage Society chaired by PDI Founder Eugenia Duran-Apostol and publisher of Sarabihon, a journal of Sorsogon studies where he wrote several articles.

As a member of the Kapisanan ng Mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP), Jamoralin co-anchored the public affairs program “Damayan” over DZGN-FM during the late 80s till early 90s.

A journalist from the 1970s, he edited local weekly community newspapers including the Sentro Sorsogon, which he himself published.

For a time he was correspondent and feature writer for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and credited for exposing the slaughter of whale sharks in Donsol and initiated an early advocacy for its protection even before the giant sea mammals were discovered to be a tourism treasure.

He was also one of the organizers of Pagsurat, the first gathering of Bicolano writers in 2000 at the Aquinas University of Legaspi attended by over 100 participants including a septuagenarian chanter from Albay and New York-based poet Luis Cabalquinto.

As an activist, Jamoralin was among the local key personalities that organized groups against the Marcos administration.

He edited and co-authored Pulang Hamtik, a collection of biographical sketches of Bicolano youth martyrs during the Martial Law years up to 1990s, published by the Bicol Agency for Nationalist and Human Initiatives, Inc. (BANHI).

He earned his academic degree from the University of Santo Tomas, B.S. Major in Psychology.

He taught at the Mass Communications Department of the Aemilianum College, Inc. in Sorsogon City. (PNA)
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Albay LGU and UNDP to ink MOA P1.8-M development plan project

LEGAZPI CITY, March 19 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay (PGA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will sign a memorandum of agreement on Friday (March 23) here for the implementation of P1.8 million worth skills training on recovery plan development.

The training on the formulation of recovery development plan aimed to capacitate humanitarian service personnel and the local disaster risk reduction management council of every municipalities and cities in Albay province.

In mid 2011, six typhoons hit Albay causing landslides and floods in various parts of the province. The PGA and UNDPA seek to collaborate towards the pursuit of early recovery and long term development in typhoon affected communities through the project UNDP Response to Early Recovery of Typhoon affected areas in Albay.

The training will focus on technical planning, recovery program after disaster and early recovery.

The signing of MOA will be held at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) regional office here during the regular Regional Development Council full meeting.

The MOA will signed by Gov. Joey Salceda, concurrent RDC chairman, and Renaud Meyer, Country Director of UNDP to the Philippines. (PNA)
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

NCC head brands Legazpi as ‘very competitive’ city
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -– Makati-based business leader Guillermo Luz, who heads the National Competitive Council (NCC) as co-chairman for the private sector, on Friday branded this city as one of the “very competitive” cities of the country in terms of ease of doing business in the locality.

Luz was in the city for the road show on “Boosting Regional/Local Competitiveness through Public Private Partnership" organized here by the NCC in cooperation with the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) regional office for Bicol to promote partnerships between the private and government sectors in undertaking initiatives towards local development.

“I am deeply impressed by the satisfaction expressed by the local business community over the improvement undertaken by the Legazpi City government for its Business Permits Licensing System (BPLS) that has drawn more business permit renewals and applications for new ones,” Luz said in an interview.

He congratulated city mayor Geraldine Rosal as he expressed optimism over this positive development saying that “this is highly attributable to the continuous concerted government and private sector initiatives to improve ease of doing business in the country and become highly competitive.”

This city is by far among the only LGU in Bicol that has completed its streamlining operations, paving the way for these areas to become “havens of investment,” Luz said noting that the city now boasts of influxes of new businesses serving as proof that indeed it has been able to make putting up investments easier and become “a very competitive city.”

The city is now fully saturated by top class hotels, posh malls, giant bargain centers, convenient stores, recreational accommodations, transport terminals and famous restaurants including internationally known food chains, he also noted.

Luz said reports indicated that 70 percent of businessmen here were able to receive their business permits within three days or less, with 17 percent reporting they secured their business permits within two hours.

In the past, it usually took five to six days to secure business permit renewals and as many as 10 days for new permits.

Prior to the launch of the BPLS program, some cities and municipalities required as many as eight to ten signatures prior to approval and release of annual business permits.

Luz said that according to surveys, improvements have taken place. Today, 37 percent of businesses report needing only two signatures or less while 13 percent required three signatures. Half of the respondents still needed four or more signatures to secure their permits.

Luz was referring the Client Satisfaction Survey that covered almost 800 micro, small, medium-sized and large enterprises, representing mostly single proprietorship firms scattered across 185 cities and municipalities of the country.

It is one of a series of client satisfaction surveys that focuses on specific public services or agency-specific concerns which the NCC conducts as part of the Aquino administration’s thrust to focus on good governance, transparency and accountability towards improving delivery of public services.

These surveys form part of NCC’s Monitoring and Evaluation Projects that track down the quality of government services as well as actual customer experience.

Among the major improvements noted in the BPLS has been in the reduction of forms which applicants have to fill out. Fifty percent of businesses now report having to fill out only one form to use for the entire process. However, 31 percent report still having to use three or more forms in the application process.

Luz also acknowledged the major contribution of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the DTI which are the lead agencies in the BPLS streamlining efforts which covered 185 local government units (LGUs) across the country, including this city, which was among the firsts to streamline their business permit processes.

The BPLS streamlining is a government campaign to achieve robust and long-term growth needed for countryside development and poverty reduction as one of the region’s most business-friendly local government units (LGUs).

The campaign is aimed at addressing the general perception that corruption, attributed to red tape, lack of political will on the part of local chief executives to carry out reforms and lack of vigilance on the part of the private sector to demand bureaucratic reformations is prevalent at the local level.

For achieving this, the city government has been awarded last year by the DILG and DTI a plaque of recognition representing the Business Permit and Licensing System (BPLS) Award that recognizes the city’s best practicing BPLS reforms.(PNA)
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DOST’s consultancy program helps boost Bicol’s agricultural productivity
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -– Camote production in Albay, cassava in Camarines Sur, pineapple in Camarines Norte, and mango in Masbate are showing significant improvements with help from the Consultancy for Agricultural Productivity Enhancement (CAPE) program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the agency’s top regional official here said.

Although there are no available statistics yet to boost this claim, DOST regional director Tomas Briñas on Friday said, “we have been receiving expressions of satisfaction from farmers in these provinces that recently availed of our CAPE program.”

“We consider this program as an unusual, but satisfying, connectivity between farmers and technology specialists in the region. It opened for the former the opportunity to improve their productivity and ensure the quality of their products through modern technology, for free,” he said.

The CAPE program is aimed at institutionalizing effective farm management strategies to improve agricultural productivity.

Briñas said it is done by providing consultancy teams to undertake productivity studies in qualified small and medium scale agricultural enterprise, including individual farmers, farmer cooperatives, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and local government units (LGUs).

The consultancy teams, organized through the Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI) of the DOST, undertake productivity studies by personally visiting the farm of qualified beneficiaries.

After the study is made, matching session between the teams and the farmer beneficiary is initiated to identify problems, areas for intervention and possible solutions and recommendations such as providing the needed technical tools and strategies for proper farm management, he explained.

To avail of the consultancy assistance, farmers make a formal request to the nearest provincial or regional DOST office for endorsement to the TAPI. Included in the request are background information on the farm, type of technical assistance needed, and expertise required.

The program is a one-time assistance given to 10 farmers for every batch. Although participation to the program is free of charge, the farmer beneficiary must also be committed and cooperative to the consultancy teams for the solutions and recommendations to be effective, Briñas said.

For Albay, DOST provincial director Jacinto Alexis said the camote production assistance program is in response to the clamor of Gov. Joey Salceda to make the province the camote capital of the country.

“Albay is the country’s second largest producer of camote (sweet potato). I always cited this as one proof of the spontaneous adaptation of our people given our limited land suitable for rice as staple and the adverse impacts of climate change on rice production,” Salceda had earlier said.

“The province consumes 310,000 metric tons of rice and can produce only 150,000 metric tons. Thus, the recourse to camote is an adaptation given our upland capacity,” he said.

In 2007, Albay produced over 40,000 metric tons of camote from an almost 6,000 hectares of plantations distributed among the three cities and 15 municipalities of the province, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

In the latest national data available with the BAS, the Philippines produced over 560,400 metric tons of camote in 2009 from 114,400 hectares of farm. This volume of production was valued at about P5.3 million.

In his latest trip to Seoul, Salceda said he found out that camote-based liquor was surprisingly widespread. “I was asking if the technology can be brought to Albay or we export camote to South Korea.”

Recently, Salceda said a group representing a Japanese camote wine-making company and a scientist came over and made some documentation of the province’s camote production, management and farming system.

These Japanese are looking at the possibility of maybe using some promising camote varieties for wine making and for fries, the governor said.

In Masbate, where lands are mostly devoted to cattle ranching, Briñas said farmers are now growing mango trees along pasture lands in a manner suggested to them by the TAPI.

“They just need to protect the plants from the animals while not yet grown up as sturdy trees and use the animal manure as fertilizers,” he said.

Cassava production is also seeing good output in Camarines Sur for use in food processing and livestock feed manufacturing while in Camarines Norte, the pineapple capital of Bicol, productivity is being enhanced by the ratooning method and pineapple fiber technologies introduced by the CAPE, Briñas added. (PNA)
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KOICA approves US$ 3M grant for Virac airport improvement
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) – Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of Catandunaes’ lone congressional district over the weekend said the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) has approved “in principle” the grant of a US$ 3 million for the repair and improvement of the Virac Domestic Airport.

In a statement here, Sarmiento said the approval came after a team from the Korean aid agency led by Juesay Hwang conducted last week a survey and inspection of the airport classified as a Class 2 minor domestic airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), a body of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that is responsible for its operations.

The Korean team was assisted by CAAP and DOTC engineers in the inspection that determined the needed improvements the nearly 40 year-old airport that caters to the daily flights of three airlines-- Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Zest Airways all from and to Manila.

Sarmiento, who was undersecretary of the DOTC before elected as congressman in the 2010 elections, said the million funding approved by the KOICA would cover improvements among them the constructions of new apron, passenger terminal building, taxiway, administration building, drainage system, vehicle parking area, perimeter fence and fire station building.

Modern air navigation and communications equipment as well as additional runway lights and crash, fire and rescue vehicles, will also be provided while airport obstructions removed, according to Sarmiento.

The project, he said, was first submitted by DOTC for consideration under the KOICA Grant Assistance Program in late 2008, with the purpose of upgrading the existing facilities for the operational safety of aircraft operations in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

Under the grant, KOICA technical expertise and best practices would also be used in the development and operation of the airport, with local airport personnel to be sent for a two-week training in Korea.

Once completed, the project is expected to increase the island province’s air traffic demand for both cargo and passenger, accelerate trade and commerce and open up new investment opportunities as it would speed up movement of passengers, goods and services to propel growth in the local economy, Sarmiento stressed.

Latest data from CAAP shows that Virac airport has an average annual passenger traffic of 19,845, with a significant increase in the last three years peaking in 2011 with 43,279 passengers taking to the air via propeller aircraft of the Cebu Pacific Airlines and Zest Airways. PAL’s daily Fokker plane flight in the route has been recently restored.

In the same three-year period, cargo loaded on the same aircraft has averaged over 80,000 kilos while aircraft movement is about a thousand per year. The largest aircraft the airport’s runway can accommodate right now is a Boeing 737-300, it said.

When expanded and improved, it could already accommodate bigger aircrafts like jumbo jets or air buses which will certainly boast the tourism industry of Catanduanes which is known for its exotic eco-tourism and sea surfing destinations, Sarmiento said.

At first, he said the Korean technical team was reluctant in approving the project due to low passenger traffic.

However, “I, along with Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua and Virac Mayor Jose Alberto III, appealed to them to consider the virtually untapped potential of the province as a viable tourist destination and its viability as the gateway to the now famed Gota Beach Resort and fascinating islands of the Caramoan Peninsula in the nearby Caramoan, Camarines Sur,” Sarmiento said.

To buttress their arguments, the three officials ushered the visitors to the Codon Port development project in San Andres town which will serve as the jump-off point for Gota and the Twin Rock beach resort in Igang, Virac. “That convinced the Koreans into approving the grant for the project,” the congressman said.

“We now extend our deepest gratitude to the KOICA as the improvement of the Virac Airport augurs well for the full development of the tourism industry in Catanduanes which is still in its infancy,” he said.

Catanduanes, he added, with its great historical value, rich natural resources, verdant forests, beautiful beaches and fantastic surfing areas reinforced by the airport improvement project would naturally lead to the total development of the province not only as the country’s top exporter of abaca but as a leading tourist destination. (PNA)
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Donsol intensifies marine resources preservation to sustain whale shark tourism
By Danny O. Calleja

DONSOL, Sorsogon, March 15 (PNA) – For the local government in this “Whale Shark Capital of the World”, the multi-pronged development and preservation efforts for the protection of its marine resources are not enough to sustain the town’s tourism industry.

Believing so, the municipal government over the week set its sights on the commitment to have a sense of urgency in showing how tourism in the locality should be valued with discipline particularly in the conservation and preservation of local marine resources focused on sustaining the town’s being a prime ecotourism destination.

The local government would be providing heightened security to tourists while treating them with more respect as strict implementation of tourism rules and protection of the whale sharks is observed based on the newly formulated Whale Shark Code of Conduct (WSCC).

Recently formulated by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office for Bicol through and the National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council-Programme Management Centre (NFARMC-PMC), the WSCC seeks to ensure the protection of whale sharks as well as the safety of people, mostly tourists fascinated by having close underwater encounters with them.

Its formulation was inspired by international policies and actual experiences here and apart from the “dos and don’ts” in dealing with the whale sharks, the code also carries with it the Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) in responding to standing incidents of the endangered giant marine mammal and similar species.

The Protocol was put together during past conferences among representatives from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Philippines, Fisheries Regional Emergency Stranding Response Team, Department of Tourism (DOT), Regional Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (RFARMC) and the municipal government.

Mayor Jerome Alcantara said “diving with whale sharks in their natural environment is a breathtaking and rewarding experience as this world’s biggest fish glides slowly but gracefully past, resplendent in its dappled skin, within touching distance and impassive to the presence of the onlooker.”

Thousands of divers from all over the world seek out this opportunity here annually and the newly formulated WSCC would guide them how for their own safety and that of the “gentle giants” locally called butandings, he said.

“While butandings are passive creatures, they can be agitated by any form of aggression such as being touched or chased that is why in the Code, these behaviors are strictly forbidden,” Alcantara said.

Inasmuch as it is a diver’s responsibility as anyone’s to ensure the survival of whale sharks for future generations, he said causing minimal disturbance to the sharks when approaching it by boat or when diving should also be observed according to the Code.

The mayor said under the intensified undertakings to ensure the protection and preservation of the butandings and its natural habitat within the local waters, “we have strengthened our seaborne patrol corps by organizing them into a federation”.

Called the Bantay Dagat (Sea Guard) Federation, the organization will come up with different strategies to protect and conserve the whale sharks, thus improving the existing guidelines in its protection and other marine resource, Alcantara said.

Town councilor Salvador Adrao Jr., who spearheaded the move, said the federation will play a very vital role in preserving the local marine resources with organizational structures involving other agencies mandated to assist in the conservation of the environment and promotion of tourism.

The federation will also be involved in the implementation of the SOP provided under the WSCC particularly responding to whale shark stranding incidents and handle cases of emergency like providing treatment to injured sea animals.

Adrao said it is important that whale sharks are protected not only that it is among the rare marine species listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature but it helps a lot the country’s tourism industry in general and of Donsol in particular.

During butanding the yearly peak seasons that come between February and May, he said the municipality plays host to not less than 50,000 visitors including foreign tourists and this year, “we are expecting around 100,000” based on the flooding of reservations monitored from travel agencies, hotels in Legazpi City, airlines and local resort operators.

Last year, the DOT regional office in Legazpi City recorded over 60,000 tourists that came to this town for whale sharks interactions. (PNA)
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