Monday, June 25, 2012

Poor, far-flung Catanduanes town tops LGU revenue collection in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 25 (PNA) –- A fifth class municipality in the island province of Catanduanes bested all other towns in Bicol under the same classification in revenue generation to become this year’s latest recipient of the Seal of Good Housekeeping award from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Recipient of the award was the municipal government of Baras, Catanduanes, a poor town run by an efficient local administration credited for generating a revenue last year of P1.31 million to post a 296 percent collection efficiency over its P442,000 target for the year.

It was the second Seal of Good Housekeeping award received by the municipality in two consecutive years as in 2011, it also ranked first region- wide in revenue collections for 2010 by generating P697,000 over its P358,000 goal representing a collection efficiency rating of 195 percent.

Both awards were personally handed on by DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo to town mayor Chito Chi who, in the 2012 awarding ceremonies at the agency’s regional office here over the weekend, said his administration’s accomplishments that won for the municipality the honors were product of cooperation between the local government and its constituents.

He expressed gratitude to his fellow workers in the local government for working exemplarily hard for the delivery of better service to their people.

The Municipality of Baras, composed of 12,243 population based on the 2010 count made by the National Census and Statistics (NSO), is one of the 11 municipalities comprising the island province of Catanduanes.

It is located some 50 kilometers southeast of Virac, the provincial capital and bounded around its southern-northern-western arc by the municipalities of Bato, Gigmoto and San Miguel, and by Kaladapan Bay and Philippine Sea on the east.

Once called “Badas” during the early Spanish colonization, Chi said some elders recall that Baras, centuries back, was once a progressive fishing locality located over a small mountain projecting towards the sea on the western side of the Bay.

“We remain today as a major fishing town that produces at least 30 percent of the total fishery yield of the province that are either exported out of Catanduanes or consumed locally. Majority of our businessmen are engaged in fish trading and they are our key taxpayers,” the mayor added.

The municipality is also noted for its “badas”, a sturdy kind of bamboo abundantly growing on its mountain ranges and used as raw materials for handicrafts being exported worldwide. This plant made the place be called “cabadasan” that when hispanized by Spanish colonizers gave the town its name now.

The Seal of Good Housekeeping award being given by the DILG annually is a recognition of local governments that perform exceptionally well in planning, budgeting, revenue mobilization, financial management, budget execution, procurement and resource mobilization.

To pass the test and qualify in the Award, an LGU must score high in these areas wherein good planning requires updated and approved Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Comprehensive Development Plan, Annual Investment Plan and Executive-Legislative Agenda.

In sound fiscal management, an acceptable audit report by the Commission on Audit (COA), approved annual budget compliant to legal and statutory requirement, 50 percent or less cost to collect revenues to total local revenues, growth in local revenues and updated Schedule of Market Values and Revenue Code are required.

The field of transparency and accountability is shown by the functionality of local special bodies, transparency of the procurement process, compliance to the Anti-Red Tape Law and full disclosure of local budget and finances and bids and public offerings through posting and tri-media advertisement.

The fourth and last criterion, valuing of performance monitoring refers to the performance monitoring tool or scorecard system being used, published state of local governance report, state of development report, financial report and awards received for exemplary performance.

Recipients of the award, according to DILG regional director for Bicol Blandino Maceda are also entitled to financial aid through the Local Government Support Fund and the money goes to projects that are in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010.

During the awarding rites, Robredo said governance is not a one-way process as it entails interaction between the local government and its constituents in identifying problems and applying solutions.

“Governance works best when there is synergy between the constituents and public officials. The Seal of Good Housekeeping is an effective way of ensuring that a local government performs at its best for the people it serves,” he added. (PNA) FPV/LQ/DOC/cbd/mec

Friday, June 22, 2012

NEA provides P5M to energize remote villages in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, June 21 (PNA) - The agonies of groping in the dark will soon be over for thousands of residents in various remote communities in Masbate City with the P5-million fund recently released by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for its electrification program.

The fund will be used to energize over a dozen of villages and sitios in the Masbate provincial capital still not served with electricity, NEA project supervisor Edilberto Bassig here said.

This electrification undertaking, according to Bassig is under the NEA’s Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) which is in line with the 16-point agenda of President Benigno Aquino III.

The Masbate City communities to benefit from the project are among the 833 sitios all over the country scheduled to be energized this year by the NEA and the Department of Energy (DOE) with an estimated funding requirement of P589 million, he said.

SEP which during the late part of last year had already energized 1,520 villages and sitios benefiting some 30,014 households, is being implemented in partnership with 96 electric cooperatives nationwide.

Its implementation was started with a funding of P814.41 million released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in September last year. Between October 1 and December 31, 2011 or merely 90 days of actual works, all these 1,520 communities were provided with electricity.

The program was put in place following a directive from President Aquino for the energization of these areas as part of his social contact with the Filipino people, Bassig said.

In implementing SEP in 2011, he said the NEA and DOE deployed about 1,520 crewmen provided by the electric cooperative that set up 2,727 kilometers of power lines, erected 20,709 poles, installed 977 transformers and 30,000 electric meters and connected an initial of 60,000 light bulbs for the over 1,500 communities nationwide.

This is more than the original target of 1,410 sitios for the period.

These accomplishments are now generating significant and focused economic investments and intervention in the remote rural areas, according to Bassig.

In an earlier statement, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said Masbate City was chosen as among the beneficiaries this year of the SEP owing to the provincial capital’s potential as a growth area and investment hub for the Central Philippines area.

Based on the Aquino administration’s anti-poverty reduction plan, Almendras said areas in the country that are considered poor should be developed tapping its local resources towards economic growth starting from the provision of power supply.

Under the SEP, the energy secretary said all remote areas in the island province of Masbate and elsewhere in the country would be provided with electricity before the end of the term of President Aquino in 2016. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/mec

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dengue cases up by 100 percent in Bicol: DOH

LEGAZPI CITY, June 20 (PNA) --- Health authorities here are on alert following the reported 100 perceny surge in dengue cases in Bicol region during first half of this year, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

Jaime Guerrero, DOH public information officer said the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) has recorded 812 people fell ill of dengue fever as reported by various public and private hospitals across the region during the period January to June this year.

Guerrero said the reported cases is 100 percent higher compared to the same period last year, from 406 cases to 812 cases this year.

Camarines Sur topped the list of provinces in Bicol region that recorded a high rate in dengue cases with 692 cases, followed by Albay with 71 cases, Sorsogon – 16, Masbate and Camarines Norte with 12 each, and Catanduanes with only 10.

Earlier, Naga City health authorities placed the city under a state of calamity due to a dengue outbreak with 325 cases reported for the past three weeks.

The DOH report indicated that except for Albay, that posted a 7 percent decrease in dengue cases from 76 cases down to 71 during the first six months of this year, other provinces had an increasing trend in dengue cases.

Dengue is a mosquito borne disease transmitted by an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. Symptoms appear 3—14 days after the infective bite.

Dengue fever is a febrile illness that affects infants, young children and adults.

Symptoms range from a mild fever, to incapacitating high fever, with severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint pain, and rash.

There are no specific antiviral medicines for dengue. It is important to maintain hydration.

He warned that the use of acetylsalicylic acid (e.g. aspirin) and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. Ibuprofen) is not recommended.

Dengue haemorrhagic fever (fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, bleeding) is a potentially lethal complication, affecting mainly children.

Early clinical diagnosis and careful clinical management by experienced physicians increase survival of patients.(PNA) FPV/LQ/MSA/cbd/utb

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Masbate hospital eyes ‘mother-baby friendly’ tag
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, June 18 (PNA) – Very soon, Bicol will have a public health facility that would officially be certified as a “Mother-Baby Friendly Hospital (MBFH)”, the regional office of the Department of Health (DOH) based here said over the weekend.

It will be located in Masbate City, capital of the island province of Masbate which is considered as Bicol’s poorest province.

Nestor Santiago, DOH regional director, said the provincial government of Masbate has been preparing its provincial hospital to become the first and so far, the only MBFH in the region.

"This will be realized following an assessment to be conducted by the regional Center for Health Development (CHD) of the DOH which will officially award the title should the hospital passes the criteria and satisfies the requirements," Santiago said.

Masbate governor Rizalina Lanete said over the phone on Monday that part of their preparations for the assessment is the conduct of a series of trainings among the personnel of the Masbate Provincial Hospital (MPH) to properly orient them on the operations and responsibilities of an MBFH.

To win the title, Lanete said the provincial government is seeing to it that the MPH is ready and able to operate in line with the provisions of the National Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes, Supplements and Other Related Products.

The Code, signed into law through Executive Order No. 51 issued by the late former Pres. Corazon Aquino in 1986, aims to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by the promotion of breastfeeding and-by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk-substitutes and supplements when these are necessary.

The province, she said, badly needs a mother-baby friendly hospital given that its population is increasing more rapidly than the other provinces of Bicol indicating that “we are producing more mothers and babies annually that need to be guided in embracing the practice of breastfeeding”.

According to the National Census and Statistics (NSO) Masbate’s population growth rate was highest among the region’s six provinces based on its 2010 Census of Population and Housing.

Its population rose from 707,668 in 2000 to 834,650 in 2010 for an average annual growth rate of 1.66 percent, the NSO said.

Camarines Sur though, had the biggest increase at 128,550 recording the second highest growth rate of 1.62 percent. In a decade, Albay's population increased by 142,525 registering a 1.23 percent annual average growth rate, the lowest among the six provinces, it added.

As an MBFH, MPH would offer improved services for the care of pregnant women, mothers and newborns as well as provide maternity services for protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, the governor said.

Studies shows that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis, asthma, eczema, and respiratory and ear infections. Adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to develop risk factors for heart disease such as obesity and high blood pressure.

Mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in later life.

“Our soon to be established MBFH would increase the numbers of babies who are exclusively breastfed in line with the worldwide goal to contribute in avoiding child deaths that the World Health Organization (WHO) places as over a million per year” she added.

Santiago said the CHD will evaluate the lactation management capability of the hospital next month and should it is found capable, its accreditation as a mother-baby friendly facility will immediately follow.

Specific criteria for accreditation based on the worldwide program of the WHO and United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) he said, include skills training of all health care hospital on breastfeeding and lactation management and restriction of the use of free formula and other infant care aids provided by commercial companies.

“We are preparing not only to meet these criteria but also upgrading the hospital so that it becomes not only an ideal health care facility for babies and mothers but for all Masbateños particularly the poor who cannot afford the high cost of health services being offered by local private providers,” according to Lanete.

The old and dilapidated MPH building is now undergoing rehabilitation and expansion from 75 to 200-bed capacity based on its standard for the same institution and would be provided with the necessary equipments required by its modernization.

“It will also be staffed with medical specialist like pediatricians, internal medicine practitioners, and surgeons, among others and well-trained support personnel like nurses, attendants, radiologists, dentists, pharmacists, medical technologists and laboratory technicians,” the governor said.

The rehabilitation and improvement, she said is funded by the P63-million supplemental appropriation as an initial funding provided by the provincial government while Rep. Scott Lanete of the province’s third congressional district had also allocated additional amount from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to augment it.

The Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), a specialized health institution under the wing of controlled corporate National Centers for Specialized Health Care under the DOH is also raising fund for the project, the governor added. (PNA) /CTB/LQ/DOC/cbd/

PNP modernization in Sorsogon gets boast from computer donations
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 18 (PNA) – The Philippine National Police Foundation Incorporated (PNPFI) has donated computer sets to the provincial police office of Sorsogon to be used in the modernization of the daily operations of its municipal police stations.

Chief supt. Jose Arne de los Santos, regional police director for Bicol based at Camp Gen Simeon Ola here, on Monday said 20 computer sets and 15 printers were donated by PNFI during a simple turn-over rite at Camp Salvador Escudero Sr., the Sorsogon PNP provincial headquarters in Sorsogon City.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, the PNPFI chairman along with Sorsogueño Sen. Gregorio Honasan and retired police director Victor Batac, the PNPFI executive director personally handed down the office equipments to Sorsogon PNP provincial director Senior Supt. John Jambora during the turn-over ceremony over the weekend.

De los Santos said the computer sets and printers will be distributed to the police stations in one city and 13 municipalities of the province for use in the PNP’s “e-blotter”, “e-warrant” and “e-rogue” systems which are parts of the modernization program introduced by incumbent PNP chief Dir. Nicanor Bartolome into the country’s police organizations.

E-blotter is part of the new Crime Incident Reporting System (CIRS) of the PNP that is meant to modernize data storage in police stations.

It is an electronic blotter system that does not only facilitate crime documentation, but also presents 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 this year, 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.

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 innovative e-warrant or Electronic Warrant System is that enables a policeman tasked to arrest a wanted person anywhere in the country to produce the warrant of arrest by just simply clicking on a link in the internet and presto, he can print a copy of it.

E-rogue system or the Electronic Rogues Gallery database meanwhile is the photo gallery of wanted criminals and other suspected law offenders posted through the internet for easy reference by investigators and tracker teams.

All these new systems are part of the PNP modernization program and its effort to enhance the skills of its personnel and developing their competencies apart from making anti-crime police works more aggressive and well-organized, De los Santos added. (PNA) /CTBLQ/DOC/cbd/

DOLE to implement fixed salary for bus drivers, conductors in Bicol this July

LEGAZPI CITY, June 18 (PNA) – Starting next month, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will start requiring bus companies in Bicol to comply with Department Order (DO) No. 118-12 that provides for the payment of fixed salaries and wages to drivers and conductors.

The DOLE along with the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) is now providing free seminars for bus operators, drivers and conductors who need assistance in computing the would-be salaries and fringe benefits in line with the order.

The seminars are meant to avoid confusions when the time set for its implementation arrives, DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra said here on Monday.

Lacambra said DO 118-12 which was issued by Labor and Employment Sec. Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz last January 13 is a rule that provides for the payment of daily salaries and wages including proper time of work for drivers and conductors of public utility buses.

All bus operators or owners nationwide are duty-bound to comply with it starting July 1 and in Bicol, Lacambra said his office along with the RTWPB will strictly enforce it to ensure 100 percent compliance.

Every bus driver and conductor presently employed as permanent, contractual, reliever or those that are paid in a per-trip basis and boundary system is covered by this rule which bus operators or companies that are holders of Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) must abide by, he stressed.

Under the order, these workers are entitled wages for all actual works during the normal work hours and days not lower than the applicable minimum wage rates. Wages shall be paid at least once every two weeks or twice a month at intervals not exceeding 16 days.

Minimum wage for non-agricultural workers in Bicol to where bus drivers and conductors fall is presently set at P252 daily.

They should be paid holiday pay of 100 percent of the minimum wage even without reporting to work and 200 percent when required to work on a holiday.

They are also entitled to rest day of 24 consecutive hours for every six consecutive working days. If they are required to work on a rest day, an additional premium pay of 30 percent of minimum basic wage should be paid to them.

Overtime pay equivalent to at least 25 percent of the basic wage on ordinary days and 30 percent on regular holidays, special days and rest days for work beyond eight hours per day would also apply.

Night shift pay of an additional 10 percent of the daily basic wage for work between 10 pm and 6:00 am of the following day and paid service incentive leave of five days for every year of service should be observed.

They should be paid 13th month pay pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 851, as amended, which entitles the employee to receive an amount equivalent to 1/12 of the total basic salary earned within the calendar year, not later than 24 December of each year.

Paid maternity leave of 60 days for normal delivery or 78 days for caesarian section delivery, pursuant to Republic Act No. 8282, otherwise known as the Social Security Act of 1997 should also be enjoyed by female conductors or drivers should be enjoyed.

For the males, paid paternity leave of seven days, pursuant to Republic Act No. 8187, otherwise known as Paternity Leave Act of 1996 would apply.

For solo parents, paid parental leave of seven days pursuant to Republic Act No. 8972, otherwise known as the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000 and paid leave of 10 days for victims of violence against women and their children, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9262 otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004 are applicable.

Retirement pay upon reaching the age of 60 or more, pursuant to Republic Act No. 7641 is also provided under the DO.

The implementation of DO 118-12, Lacambra said is expected to help reduce road accidents involving passenger buses due to reckless driving, over speeding and road racing while competing for passengers for more earning.

This new wage rule would serve as the key to careful driving as drivers are assured of substantial earnings either by way of fixed daily wage rate or performance-based determined through the total earning of the bus, safety performance and other indicators, he said.

“Expect to see no more over speeding buses plying various routes in Bicol when this rule comes into force. Racing for passengers will already be curtailed, thus minimizing accidents” he added. (PNA) /CTB/LQ/DOC/cbd

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Poor, far Bicol towns to have new police stations
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 12 (PNA) – The police units in at least three of the poorest and farthest towns of Bicol located in the island province of Catanduanes will soon have homes they can call their own.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome has recently approved the amount of P5.1 million for the construction of a two-storey permanent building that would serve as the municipal police station in Bagamanoc, Catanduanes.

The municipal police station in Bato of the same province will also be housed in a new building now undergoing construction for P4.6-million.

A still undisclosed amount has also been earmarked by Bartolome for the construction of the same structure for the town PNP force in the next town of San Miguel.

All funds for these projects were sourced from the PNP Trust Fund, Bicol police regional director Chief Supt. Jose Arne de los Santos based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here on Tuesday said.

“In just a few months from now, the Bagamanoc police force will be moving from its old and dilapidated station into its new, typhoon-proof building to be constructed a few distance from the municipal government complex where it is squatting now,” De los Santos said.

Bagamanoc is a fifth class municipality that is home to 11,370 population counted during the May 2010 survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO).

De los Santos said the new Bato police station project is now undergoing works by a private contractor at a donated lot near the municipal building.

“The Bato municipal police station needs badly this new building to end its being a squatter in a cramped space inside the town hall compound,” he said.

Situated at the southeastern section of the province eight kilometers from Virac, Bato that is known as home to women with beautiful faces is a historical fifth class town bounded in the east by the Pacific Ocean and the rich fishing ground of Cabugao Bay on the south.

It plays host to the newly established multi-million-peso Doppler radar station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) and emerging as a leading eco-tourism destination in the island.

Meanwhile, the contract for the construction of a similar building in San Miguel town, to be situated on a levelled mountainside along the national road is up for awarding anytime soon, De los Santos said.

Located next to Bato, towards the eastern section of the province, San Miguel is another fifth class municipality of 14, 107 population occupying its 24 coastal and lowland barangays within its 18,372.5 hectares in total land area.

These three police station buildings up for construction in Catanduanes, according to De los Santos would make four the new PNP municipal headquarters rising in the province this year while the provincial police force is under the leadership of Supt. Joselito Pitallano, its incumbent police director.

The first one was the San Andres town police station which was inaugurated last February. Among the 11 towns of Catanduanes, there are two more towns—Viga and Caramoran where the local police forces are considered squatters to their respective municipal halls.

However, De los Santos added, Bartolome has pledged funds for the construction of buildings for the PNP units in these two towns when sites are identified and acquired through donations. (PNA) LAP/DOC/cbd/

Monday, June 11, 2012

Zest Air stops flying Catanduanes route starting July

LEGAZPI CITY, June 11 (PNA) – A big blow to the budding tourism industry of the island province of Catanduanes is looming with Zest Airways (ZestAir) indefinitely suspending its Manila-Virac and vice-versa flights starting July, this year.

Although ZestAir has raised the profitability issue on the flight suspension starting July 1 “until further notice,” it cited the recent directive issued by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) calling on airlines to reduce flight movements out of Manila by 30 percent.

ZestAir chief marketing and sales officer Alfredo Herrera said the company that is also operating flights to Masbate, Calbayog (Eastern Samar), Catarman (Northern Samar), Marinduque, Tablas (Romblon), San Jose (Mindoro Occidental) and Busuanga (Palawan), is rationalizing its commercial flights based on economic parameters.

The airline, which was originally founded as Asian Spirit, to be the first airline in the Philippines to be run as a cooperative, operates scheduled domestic and international tourist services, mainly feeder services linking Manila and Cebu with 24 domestic destinations in support of the trunk route operations of other airlines.

The regional office for Bicol of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) based here has hinted on ZestAir’s financial troubles reportedly coming from its failure to settle its obligations to the agency for its landing and take-off fees, tower communications, ramp parking fees and even rentals of airport terminal counters in majority of its destinations.

For the Virac airport alone, the airline has ran up total payables of P7.5 million covering flights from 2009.

ZestAir owes the CAAP P5.6 million representing unpaid fees as of Dec. 31, 2010 plus P1.9 million more for the period January to October 2011, Nicanor Olonan, the airport’s officer-in-charge said as reported by the Catanduanes Tribune last week.

The same report also quoted ZestAir Virac station chief Evanhoe Arcilla as saying that the company should have reduced its flights to Virac instead of indefinitely suspending them all as the Manila-Virac route is already an established route where it provides a flight daily.

The CAAP said ZestAir accounted for about 30 percent of the 80 tons air cargo shipped through the Virac airport in 2011. It also transported 45 percent of the 43,279 passengers who flew to and from the island in the same year.

With the airline flying daily, its share of the passenger and cargo volume grew to 57 percent and 43 percent, respectively, in the first five months of 2012, records of the CAAP show.

The airline’s operation to Virac, however, has been marred by frequent delays and cancellations, with the latter mostly blamed on “non-availability of turn-around aircraft” and “sunset limitation.”

The two phrases simply means that at the time of the flight status update, the airline still has no aircraft available for the flight, which may not be able to land at Virac due to darkness at dusk.

This sad development will certainly affect the island’s tourism industry that has been showing good performance in the recent years, according to Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua.

Catanduanes, which is known as the " Eco-Adventure Paradise,” has made it to the top 15 tourist destinations in the Philippines with a whooping 115 percent growth rate in the first half of 2009, and sustained until the early period of this year, Cua said.

The whole strip of this pearly island of the Pacific is virtually untouched, unspoiled and unexplored. It also presents a totally laid-back rural allure, a beautiful natural environment and plenty of easy action at a relax pace.

The province's great historical value, rich natural resources, verdant forests, beautiful beaches and fantastic surfing areas as tourism come-ons are reinforced by the Virac Airport, the only air transportation facility in the island responsible for its growing passenger traffic owing to the services of ZestAir, Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines.

The airport is being prepared for improvements and modernization with the recent approval by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) of a US$ 3 million fund in grant for the purpose that is expected to further boost not only local tourism but the development of the island known as the biggest producer of abaca in the country, Cua said

“We, however, believe that a new airline would come in to replace ZestAir or its main competitor, the Cebu Pacific that makes four times weekly flights to and from the Virac airport daily to accommodate the passenger traffic that would be missing ZestAir should it suspends its operations,” he added. (PNA) FPV/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Police, military need priests

LEGAZPI CITY, June 11 (PNA) –- The head of the military diocese has been going around Bicol in search of priests who would fill up vacancies for chaplains in various units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Fr. Paul Reyel De Guzman Jr., the vocation director of the military diocese, over the weekend here said they need 40 Roman Catholic priests who may be interested to serve as chaplains in the uniformed service all over the country.

Twenty of them will be for the AFP covering its three branches of services--the Army, Navy and Air Force, while the other 20 will be assigned with the PNP, De Guzman said.

Initial qualification required, he said is that the applicants who will be given the rank of captain in the military, or senior inspector in the PNP, should be a graduate of Philosophy course in college.

De Guzman said chaplains provide spiritual guidance needed by soldiers and policemen.

A military chaplain ministers to military personnel and, in most cases, their families and civilians working for the military.

They will also work with local civilians within a military area of operations.

Although the term chaplain originally had Christian roots, it is generally used today in military organizations to describe all professionals specially trained to serve any spiritual need, regardless of religious affiliation.

In addition,military chaplains may also advise the executive on issues of religion, ethics, morale and morals.

They may also liaise with local religious leaders in an effort to understand the role of religion as both a factor in hostility and war and as a force for reconciliation and peace.

The Geneva Conventions are silent on whether chaplains may bear arms. However, the Conventions do state (Protocol I, 8 June 1977, Art 43.2) that chaplains are noncombatants: they do not have the right to participate directly in hostilities, it added.

In the Philippines, the Armed Forces, police and coast guard have the Military Ordinariate of the Philippines (MOP) as a personal diocese which has jurisdiction over all military, police and coast guard personnel, their dependents, and the civilian employees of all branches of the armed forces.

Its titular patron is the Immaculate Conception, with SS. Ignatius of Loyola and John of Capistrano as secondary patrons.

Priests who wish to join the chaplain services of the military, the PNP and the Coast Guard are required to satisfy the ordinary requirements of both the Church and of the service branch they are entering.

The endorsement of the Military Ordinary is among the most important of the ecclesiastical requirements; the Ordinary submits the names of priests for a "call to active duty" (CAD).

He gives to chaplains and civilian priests working for the services the canonical faculties to exercise their spiritual ministry among subjects of the Military Ordinariate.

Chaplains in active duty enjoy the prerogatives and privileges of the rest of the officers belonging to the same grade or rank in the service.

Interested parties, De Guzman said may apply at the St. Martin of Tours Parish in Camp Elias Angeles, the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 9th Infantry Division in Barangay San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur. (PNA) FPV/LQ/DOC/cbd/

AFP confident insurgency to wane by end of 2016
By Danny O. Calleja

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, June 11 (PNA) –- The military is preparing local governments and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol in handling the insurgency problem in their respective jurisdictions when it diminishes to a manageable level by the end of 2016.

Col. Felix Castro, the commanding officer of the 903rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) based here said over the weekend that the AFP is optimistic it would be able to tame the communist insurgents in the region in the next four years of the Aquino administration.

When this is realized, Castro said the AFP would focus on its territorial duties and will leave it to local officials and the police to manage whatever is left of the insurgents.

Castro based the optimism on the prevailing sentiment of the people in the barrios who have already realized the true meaning of peace and the reality that revolution is not the solution to the present problem confronting the nation.

In the same manner, the villagers have already rejected war or rebellion as among the means to achieve genuine tranquility in the countryside, Castro said.

The military today however needs the full cooperation of every sector of the community in dealing with the insurgency problem that has been confronting the region in particular and the country in general for more than four decades so it could finally come to an end.

“Let us be together in convincing our misguided brothers in the New People’s Army (NPA) to return to the fold of law and live a normal life,” he said.

“The situation now is different from what it is 40 years ago so that we should let our celebration of the 114th Independence Day on June 12 remind everyone of us that protecting our nation is not a sole responsibility of the AFP which our history has proven how every Filipino fought for our sovereignty in the past and not relying solely on the armed forces,” the PA commander stressed.

The AFP’s optimism for a peaceful countryside by 2016 is also anchored on the gains of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) which is Pres. Aquino’s security agenda that focuses on the people and calls for a multi-stakeholder approach to peace and security, and the protection of human rights and civil liberties.

The thrust of this approach involves four specific elements-- governance, delivery of basic services, economic reconstruction and sustainable development and security sector reform.

Castro said that owing to the implementation of the IPSP, the violence rate of the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year went down by 11 percent and 26 percent, respectively, compared to 2010.

While this peace and security program is being implemented by the 130,000-strong Philippine military, he said there is still a need to add more soldiers to the AFP so that efforts in cooperation with the PNP and other stakeholders to address “internal threats” bear fruits by 2016.

The IPSP, Castro said, emphasizes that the primary focus of the AFP in the conduct of its operations is “winning the peace” and not just defeating the enemy.

In order to win the peace, he said the Aquino administration anchored the IPSP on two strategic approaches, the Whole of Nation Approach and the People-Centered Security/Human Security Approach.

The Whole of Nation Approach is the framework that shall guide how the AFP will implement this IPSP. The People-Centered Approach under the broader frame of Human Security reflects the paradigm shift that the AFP has undertaken in this plan, he explained.

"It recognizes pages in history abound with accounts of how we Filipinos have always sought—and worked for—peace, a continuous aspiration in where one must only look at the many revolutionary changes that we, as a people, have instituted through peaceful means," according to Castro.

He said the AFP, in carrying out the IPSP, acknowledges that there remain structural issues that need to be addressed and reforms that must be made and this is exactly what the Aquino administration sets out to do.

However, he said the ills confronting the nation are multi-faceted and complex so that these can never be addressed through raising arms and wielding force against the democratic way of life as a nation.

“In the same vein, we recognize that a purely military solution will never be enough to adequately address these issues. As peace and security is indivisible, efforts towards these must be shared by all,” Castro said.

“This is why we are engaging all stakeholders in peace and security. It is only by working together can we find creative solutions that work,” he added. (PNA) FPV/LQ/DOC/cbd/

'It wasn't a fight. It was a heist!'
By Eddie G. Alinea

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, June 10 (PNA) -– It wasn’t a fight. It was a heist.

Manny Pacquiao outboxed Timothy Bradley for 10 of their 12-round encounter but lost a split decision, thanks to two of the three judges that worked the fight here Saturday (Sunday in Manila) at the MGM Grand Arena.

If it wasn’t robbery, the majority of the 14,000 crowd that witnessed the high-caliber showdown didn’t know what it was.

From the moment Pacquiao landed the first shot opening the first round, it was all his show from there winning that round and the next nine as he poised to win the battle running away.

But the judges had other things in mind even as judge Jerry Roth gave Pacquiao seven rounds in scoring the fight, 115-113. The other judges saw the outcome in reverse with similar 115-113 verdicts in favor of the American challenger.

The decision was booed lustily by the crowd when announced by ring announcer Michael Buffer.

As a result, the 33-year-old eight-division champion lost his World Boxing Organization welterweight title, while suffering his only fourth loss in 60 fights in his 16-year career.

The 28-year-old Bradley, who extended his unbeaten run to 29, 12 of them by knockouts, thus, crowned the new WBO 147-pound belt-owner.

Even Floyd Mayweather Sr., father of the Filipino ring icon’s arch-enemy Floyd Jr., who is presently in jail was overheard saying Pacquiao should have won.

Top Rank chair and chief executive Bob Arum, promoter of both fighters, branded the verdict ridiculous and “not good for boxing.”

The duo and those who expressed similar view had reason to say so.

Fight statistics showed Pacquiao overwhelmed the challenger in all departments connecting 253 punches of the 751 he threw or 34 percent as against Bradley’s 159-of-839 or a measly 19 percent.

Bradley threw 449 jabs as compared to Pacquiao’s 258, but the Filipino connected 63 times for an average of 24 percent accuracy. The American landed only 51 for a very poor 11 percent.

As for the power punches thrown, Pacquiao swung his Pacquiao though accepted the results, saying he respected the verdict, although adding immediately,” I am 100 percent sure that I won the fight.”

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach concurred in, saying, “those judges must have their eyes examined.” “I accept, which has already been handed. It was part of the game,” he said during the post-fight news conference where he attended with wife Jinkee and sons Jimwell and Michael.

Asked if Bradley ever hurt him, he retorted “I cannot remember Bradley hitting me solid with a solid punch.”

Pacquiao, dejected as he was, still gave his conqueror credit for giving him a good fight, adding he gave Bradley three rounds the most.

Bradley, likewise, was all praised for Pacquiao acknowledging his victim’s power and speed.

“It was a good fight. Manny really showed his punching power and speed, but as I have said before the fight, I am giving him a rematch.

To which Pacquiao answered, rematch, it’s okay with me. I still will continue fighting. But when it is realized, I will make sure the fight won’t go 12 rounds.

“We have to do this again. Let’s do it in November,” Bradley said as he once again showed a mock ticket to a purported Nov. 10 fight. (PNA) DCT/RMA/EGA/rsm

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

JICA grants P450M for six multi-hazard evacuation centers in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, June 6 (PNA) -- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided Albay P450 million for the construction this year of six multi-hazard permanent evacuation centers in the town of Manito, Sto Domingo, Oas, Polangui, Libon and this city.

Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) chief, Wednesday said the multi-hazard evacuation centers would be built in areas prone to landslides (Manito), flooding (Oas, Polangui, LIbon) and lahar or mud flows (Sto Domingo, Legazpi City).

Daep said the six concrete evacuation centers would beef up the existing public school sites used as temporary evacuation camps in these areas during calamities.

APSEMO statistics indicated that in the mentioned areas there are 13 villages with 1,063 families or 6,375 persons that are at risk to landslides; flooding – 71 villages with 16,547 families or 87,881; lahar/mud flows - 13 villages with 8,330 or 36,648 persons.

According to Daep, each multi-storey evacuation building will cost an average of P75 million.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda in an email message said that he personally attended the JICA-PH project tending in Japan on Monday (June 2). The project will be implemented in the second half of this year.

Salceda said he and Nagaishi Masfumi, JICA country representative, signed in 2010 a memorandum of agreement for the construction of six multi-storey permanent evacuation centers.

He said the project is part of the disaster risk reduction program instituted by the Albay Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC).

Salceda said the project was the biggest investment program in pursuing disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the country, specifically in Albay.

He said "the JICA project is a single biggest assistance given by the Japanese government in addressing the province "Zero Casualty" goal in times of disasters such as Mayon eruption, flooding, lahar flows and landslides.

Under the agreement, the JICA will finance the construction of six permanent evacuation centers which can be used as school classrooms in normal condition.

He said the edifice would be constructed in the towns and city central elementary schools of the Department of Education (DepEd). The center will accommodate 10 classrooms and could house 10 percent of the total expected evacuees in times of disasters.

Salceda said currently there are three existing permanent evacuation center in the towns of Daraga, Camalig, and Guinobatan, where two-storey type evacuation center edifice can accommodate some 250 families or 1,250 people.

He said the permanent evacuation centers had been a value added disaster mitigating measure funded by the Spanish government, through the AECID which had been completed and turned over to the respective local government units.

The permanent evacuation centers will declog the existing school building used as evacuation centers in times of calamities.

The strategy makes classes in all public schools in affected areas to continue smoothly and unhampered despite the influx of evacuees in time of calamities. (PNA) FFC/LQ/MSA/cbd

AusAID backs participation of PWDs in 2013 PHL midterm elections
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, June 5 (PNA) – The Australian government supports the campaign on Fully Able Nation (FAN) in the Philippines to increase the participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the 2013 midterm elections.

During the first leg of nationwide campaign held Tuesday at the people’s hall of Albay capitol here, 150 participants from various non-government and government agencies, media and municipal federation of PWDs attended the whole day orientation and workshop.

The Asia Foundation, with support from the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is implementing a three-year program to increase participation of PWDs in the 2013 Philippine midterm elections.

The Foundation collaborated with PWDs, disabled peoples organizations (DPOs), the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), and other elections-focused NGOs to increase awareness of the Comelec and local government units (LGUs) on the needs and concerns of PWDs, as well as to promote their participation in elections and other democratic processes.

The program will provide recommendations to the Comelec to increase PWDs’ access to registration sites and polling places in order to reduce or remove constraints that PWD voters face to freely exercise their right to vote.

The objectives of the program are increase voter awareness among PWDs; promote partnerships to enhance support and awareness of PWD participatory needs; strengthen the capabilities of DPOs and NGOs supporting PWD advocacy.

Ms. Criselle Cudiamat, managing director of the Foundation for Communication Initiatives, Inc. (FOCI), said the Asia Foundation and FOCI would provide technical assistance on advocacy strategies, financial management, volunteer management, and media training for DPOs and NGOs working with PWDs to enhance their participation in the 2013 elections; and develop PWD-responsive election materials.

“Also to assess the current status of PWDs and organizations, policies, and government bodies related to PWD concerns. Additionally, the Foundation will conduct surveys among PWDs and focus group discussions among election officers to assess their awareness of PWDs’ electoral rights and participation, and to provide a baseline from which to measure increased awareness of these rights as a result of program activities,” she said.

The Foundation will also conduct a media campaign to increase public awareness of PWD voters rights and the importance of voter registration in collaboration with the Comelec and DPOs.

On the other hand, the Australian government said that strengthening commitment to people with disability would be a critical part of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meeting Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of persons with Disabilities.

The AusAID has allocated P55.7 million for the FAN project and another P1.2 million for the training of Parent Volunteers for Multiple Disabilities with Visual Impairment. The two initiatives are ongoing and it will be implemented until next year. (PNA) RMA/LAM/LQ/MDR/cbd/

Sorsogon to celebrate Independence Day the ‘Kasanggayahan’ way
By Danny O. Calleja

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, June 5 (PNA) – Sorsogon province will celebrate the 114th Philippine Independence Day anniversary in a different way — the Kasanggayahan way.

For Sorsogueños, the term “Kasanggayahan” means a life of prosperity or “when the fields are green and the grains are golden; when the machines work well and all business prosper; when the birds in the sky chirp freely and men on earth are peacefully happy”.

“We will be valuing sovereignty to a greater extent this time as this celebration on the significance of independence which has been revolutionized over years is designed to leave a long-term impact to the public,” Col. Felix Castro, the commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 903rd Infantry Brigade (IB) here said on Tuesday.

The PA’s 903rd IB is the military unit based in this once insurgency-torn 3rd class municipality and assigned to oversee the internal security of the province from the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that is seeking to topple the government to establish a Marxist-Leninist state.

Castro is the over-all working committee chair of Philippine Independence Day 2012 celebration in the province.

“Unlike the past years when our local celebrations were limited only to flag raising ceremonies, recitations of Pledge of Allegiance to the Philippine Flag, wreath-laying and other traditional activities, this year it will be more meaningful as we are going to showcase the gains of the province from an independent and democratic nation we have now,” he said.

As what was agreed upon among local and national government agencies operating in the province which converged to arrive at this form of celebration, it would look like Kasanggayahan Festival, one of the biggest festivals being held in the province every October, Castro said.

It was agreed that the celebration will run for four days, from June 9 to 12 where they will showcase their programs, projects and activities that have been vital to the prosperity the province is enjoying, he explained.

Kasanggayan which is listed as one of the Philippine’s annual festivals is basically a merrymaking and thanksgiving for what have been achieved by the province.

It is characterized by religious, cultural, historical and economic activities showcasing bountiful harvest, achievements in peace and tranquility initiatives and the unrelenting aspiration for unity and understanding among its people.

The festival is highlighted among others by the famous “Pantomina sa Tinampo”, a street dancing participated in by hundreds of dancers coming from all over the province in colorful native attire.

“Pantomina” is the inimitable traditional Bicolano dance patterned from the movements of doves during courtship and lovemaking.

It is only during the Kasanggayahan Festival that it is danced in the streets (tinampo in vernacular) by droves of eager dancers as they cajole tourists and onlookers to join in the merrymaking.

During the four-day celebration, the participating agencies will offer line services to the public such as a jobs fair to be initiated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Provincial Employment Services Office (PESO) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will exhibit the best of Sorsogon products; the PA and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to offer free hair-cut and massage services and the Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) will provide free blood pressure check-up and first aid services.

The Department of Education (DepEd) will deal on the K+12 and mother tongue-based instruction programs for elementary pupils while Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) will conduct skills assessments, offer scholarship grants and hold skills demonstration programs.

Lectures, demonstrations, audio-visual presentations and other information dissemination activities by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Civil Service Commission (CSC), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) will also be provided for the academe and the general public.

The Provincial Tourism Office PTO) meanwhile will showcase Sorsogon’s tourist destinations, distribute tourism flyers and postcard and usher the public to free tours at the provincial museum.

The four consecutive nights will also be filled with freedom concerts highlighting the local cultural stage performers, the Philippine National Police Band, the Community-Based Theater Group and the Himig Kapitolyo choral group among other local entertainment groups.

All activities will be anchored on this year’s theme of Philippine Independence Day celebration which is “Kalayaan: Pananagutan ng Bayan para sa Tuwid na Daan”, according to Castro. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Smoke free hall of famer Legazpi City vows more intensified anti-tobacco drive
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGZPI CITY, June 5 (PNA) – Fresh from being exalted by the Department of Health (DOH) as Hall of Famer in the prestigious Red Orchid Award, the city government here has vowed to add more vigor to its campaign toward a 100 percent tobacco-free locality.

For three consecutive years, the city has been recipient of the yearly award being accorded by the DOH in salutation to local government units (LGUs) and other public institutions that are successful in their measures to rid their environment of cigarette smoking.

The latest award was received by City Mayor Geraldine Rosal during awarding ceremonies held at the Philippine Trade and Training Center in Pasay City last May 29 in line with the worldwide celebration of World No Tobacco Day.

Since 2005, the city administration then under mayor Noel Rosal, now the city administrator, armed with a local ordinance has been waging war in a “we mean business” manner against cigarette smoking in all public places and crowded areas in the city.

There was no Red Orchid Award then and the city’s only inspiration in strictly implementing that ordinance was its firm commitment to make the city a healthful place for its constituents and visitors.

The city is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country, the Government Center for Bicol, the region’s center of education, health services, trade and commerce, public transportation and now emerging as a favorite venue for national and international conventions and conferences.

“We cannot compromise these standings the city has developed that is why we have been enjoining all the sectors of our society and our communities to enlist their full support and cooperation towards achieving for the city a true tobacco-free environment,” Rosal said.

“Starting this year, our anti-cigarette smoking drive will be more sweeping, aggressive and passionate,” City Mayor Geraldine Rosal on Tuesday said.

Sweeping in a sense that it will cover a broader extent and indiscriminate; aggressive because it will be more assertive and determined; and passionate because it will be fiery and intensified, she explained.

“It’s high time now that we do it this way as the past seven years that the city government has been carrying this policy out is enough time for everyone to adopt to a tobacco-free environment. The campaign now enjoys an impressive public acceptance and compliance so that we see no more looking back,” the lady mayor added.

In making our anti-smoking campaign more sweeping, she said the implementation of the smoke-free ordinance will now cover not only parks, malls, public conveyances, government buildings and premises, school campuses, hospitals and health clinics, public markets and entertainment houses, among other places that are open to the public.

“We are including road sides, public toilets, pub houses and restaurants, sports complex including cockpit arena and practically all spaces of the city that are not considered private. This way, we are applying a constriction to limit the areas where smokers can smoke their lungs to death,” she said.

The added aggressiveness and intensification of the campaign will be meant for those who are still stubbornly violating the ordinance, she said.

If the local policy that imposes fines to violators caught is not enough, the city government will apply the provisions of Republic Act 9211 that penalizes violators with imprisonment.

The Act otherwise known as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 imposes penalties ranging from cash fines amounting between P5,000 and P10,000 and imprisonment for a maximum period of three years.

In its intensified campaign, Mayor Rosal said the city will also see to it that Sections 9 and 10 of RA 9211 that concerns the involvement of minors in tobacco products is strictly enforced.

Section 9 says that “under this Act, it shall be unlawful for any retailer or tobacco products to sell or distribute tobacco products to any minor; for any person to purchase cigarettes or tobacco products from a minor; for a minor to sell or buy cigarettes or any tobacco products; and for a minor to smoke cigarettes or any other tobacco products.

Section 10 states that “the sale or distribution of tobacco products is prohibited within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, public playground or other facility frequented particularly by minors”.

The city will also strengthen its anti-smoking information campaign by way of adding around more billboards and posters carrying striking graphic warnings.

Hundreds of these visual materials are already in place around the city since last year when the DOH failed to enforce its administrative order requiring cigarette manufacturers to print graphic health warnings on cigarette packs due to a preliminary injunction issued by the court in favor of the tobacco industry’s opposition.

While it cannot be done on cigarette packs, the mayor said the city with its large billboards and posters bearing the graphic health warnings mounted on strategic places around the city like parks, terminals, parking lots and major thoroughfares is taking the cudgel.

“Perhaps, these graphic billboards and other forms of signage will serve the DOH’s purpose and be more effective than printing it on cigarette packs as the warning will be delivered not only to smokers so that they give up the vice but also to would-be smokers so that are dissuaded from indulging before they get hooked into it,” Rosal said.

We are going this way not only because of the honor and prestige accorded to us by the DOH when we were recognized into the Hall of Fame of the Red Orchid Award but as part of our deep concern over public health,” the mayor stressed. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

2M students enter classes in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, June 04 (PNA) --- Over two million elementary and high school students entered classes Monday, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol said.

The enrolees this school year is two percent higher than last year’s enrolment, which could be attributed to the high tuition fees in various private schools, according to Dr. Jose Bonto, DepEd administrative officer.

Citing statistics,Bonto said 200,000 are enrolled in kindergarten, 1.5 million in elementary and 400,000 are secondary students.

Dr. Regina Vibar DepEd Bicol Elementary Division head, said the teacher-pupil ratio here is one to 40 but for big schools, it is one to 60.

The text book pupil ratio for grade I - is one is to one, but from grade II to VI - it is one to two.

Vibar said, Bicol’s ranking in last year's National Achievement Test (NAT) jumped by three steps.

Among the regions in the country, Bicol placed 8th with 62 percent rating.

Vibar said she hopes to achieve the 75 percent rating this school year through the full support of the community.(PNA) CTB/LQ/MSA/cbd

Monday, June 4, 2012

DOST organizes Venus Transit viewing for Bicol students
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 4 (PNA) -– A once in a lifetime phenomenon is closely in the offing and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is ushering Bicol students into it.

On June 6, two days after the opening of the regular classes for school year 2012-2013, the agency’s regional office here will assemble about 300 selected science learners from different secondary schools across the region to view the transit of Venus, a rare celestial event that won’t be repeated in the lifetime of anyone alive today.

According to Wikipedia, transits of Venus occur in pairs that are eight years apart. The first segment of the pair that would be completed on June 6 was in June 2004 and the next pair will occur in December 2117 and December 2125.

The venue of the viewing organized by the DOST will be along Bagasbas Beach, a long strip of pristine shoreline in Daet, Camarines Norte that is facing the Pacific where, should the weather permits with no cloud blocking the view, everyone can enjoy an uninterrupted observation of the event.

During the transit, planet Venus will elapse diametrically in front of the sun from Earth's perspective.

“We wanted science students to see this event because it is different from a total eclipse of the sun which is visible only within a long narrow track traced by the moon’s shadow.

At least part of the planet’s solar crossing will be seen from the entire hemisphere of the Earth facing the sun,” Filma Brawner, the regional head of the DOST’s Science Education Institute (SEI) which organized the student viewing project over the weekend said.

The entire transit will be widely visible from eastern Asia, eastern Australia, New Zealand and the western Pacific, as well as Alaska, northern Canada and almost all of Greenland.

For most of North and Central America and northwestern South America, the start of the transit will be seen on the afternoon of June 5 (local time) but not its end since the sun will have set before Venus exits the solar disk.

For viewers in central and eastern Europe, western and central Asia, eastern Africa, India and western Australia, the transit will already be under way by the time the sun rises on the morning of June 6 so they would be able to watch only the transit’s end from those locations.

From Bagasbas, Brawner said only the end part of the transit will be seen from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. of June 6.

During the transit, she said Venus will appear as a small, gently moving black dot which could be viewed without magnification but using filters to protect the viewer’s eyes from exposure to direct sunlight that may cause temporary or permanent blindness.

The safest way to watch a transit, she said is to observe an image of the sun projected onto a screen through a telescope, binoculars, pinhole or reflected pinhole.

It can also be viewed through an astronomical solar filter or eclipse viewing glasses coated with a vacuum-deposited layer of chromium.

Brawner said they are not recommending the use of exposed black-and-white film as a filter at it is no longer considered safe because harmful ultra-violet rays from the sun pass through gaps in it.

“We are providing the students with some eye filters and they will also be allowed to view the transit through eclipse viewing telescopes available with the science explorer bus of the DOST that that we are taking along,” she said.

Lectures will also be conducted inside the explorer bus that is equipped with related audio visual materials, Brawner said.

The viewing is one of the programs of SEI which aims to expose students to various scientific activities in fun and engaging manner so as to encourage them to pursue studies in the sciences.

The SEI is mandated to develop and promote science education through implementing innovative programs that address the need for a highly competitive science and technology workforce.

The students will be joined by DOST Sec. Mario Montejo, Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado, Daet Mayor Tito Sarion, DOST regional director Tomas Briñas and several high ranking regional officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol, Brawner added.

Sarion said over the phone on Monday that the municipal government has already prepared the viewing venue not only for the hundreds of students coming in with the DOST but also for hundreds other people who would be swarming the beach to join the transit viewing event.

The provincial government of Camarines Norte along with the DOST-SEI has prepared a program for the viewers to be held at the Bagasbas Pavilion, the mayor said. (PNA) dct/LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd

DOLE slates more job fairs in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 4 (PNA) – After proving that jobs fair is an effective tool in reducing the unemployment rate in Bicol, the Department of Labor (DOLE) regional office for Bicol here on Monday said it is organizing more of it for the placement this year of more Bicolano graduates.

“We have lined up a total of 40 job fairs all over the region that we started conducting last April and the initial results lead us to the optimism that we would be able this year to get employment for at least 50 per cent of the over 26,000 job seekers who graduated from college last March,” Nathaniel Lacambra, the DOLE regional director said here Monday.

The first two job placement fairs initiated this year, he said, proved that the DOLE was on the right track in helping Bicol lower its unemployment rate, thereby opening opportunities to a better economic life for the Bicolanos.

There have been about 3,000 qualified applicants, who were fresh graduates that registered in these two jobs fairs-- the Magayon Jobs Fair in this city last April and the Labor Day Mega Jobs Fair in Naga City on May 1 and 609 of them were hired on the spot, according to Lacambra.

More hiring have been monitored last May as local commercial establishments in the region anticipated businesses to perk up during the opening of classes.

In result, Lacambra said the unemployment rate in the region has slipped from 6.8 percent as reported by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in January to five percent in May, this year.

The NSO report based on results of the latest round of Labor Force Survey said more Bicolanos were employed in January this year, as unemployment rate was down by 0.3 percentage point compared to the rate registered in the same period during the previous year.

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

Lacambra said that apart from neutralizing the sudden increase of unemployment rate owing to last March’s graduations that added more to the region’s labor force, the job fairs were able to dramatically tone it down to only five percent in April to May.

This measure, he said also showed impressing results last year when about 4,000 Bicolanos were placed in various jobs, 1,800 of them hired on the spot.

These recent developments, Lacambra said helped the DOLE establish an employment trend leading the optimism that all those who have graduated from college this year in the region will be gainfully employed in the next two more years.

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

“The region’s economic situation is steadily growing and if this gain particularly in the construction, services and tourism industries is sustained, then we are assured that local employment could already absorb this year at least 50 percent of the fresh graduates,” he said.

“From there we can already strategize on how to place the remaining bulk” the DOLE regional chief added.

In line with this, he said all DOLE’s attached bureaus in the region are under instruction to maintain close coordination with the CHED along with field offices of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Technical Education and skills Development Authority (TESDA) and Department of Tourism (DOT), among others that are benchmarking the graduates’ courses, skills competency and job opportunities.

Part of this coordination is data gathering that will provide the DOLE’s regional office some perspectives on the local employment needs and trends thereby creating rooms for more direct response in job placement of new and future graduates, Lacambra said.

DOLE assistant regional director Exequiel Ronnie Guzman said that carefully analyzing the job vacancies offered during jobs fair is also part of these measures.

“We have observations that the number of vacancies far exceeds the number of applicants,” Guzman said citing that in Labor Day Mega Job fair alone conducted by the DOLE this year, available vacancies were 6,560 while only about 3,550 applicants registered.

The truth is there are more jobs being offered by employers and placement agencies outside the region and abroad but the close family ties among Bicolanos is difficult to break making it hard for a member to work far from home, he said.

As a remedy to this, Guzman said the DOLE in Bicol was working closely with other government agencies in further improving the local business and economic situation to attract more businesses and investors. (PNA) RMA/LQ/DOC/cbd/

Health authorities battling diarrhea, dengue in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, June 4 (PNA) – Health authorities in Bicol are engaging in a showdown with two killer diseases plaguing some parts of the region.

Dengue is in the frontline of the battlefield that the regional office of the Department of Health (DOH) here over the weekend said was being tackled by local authorities, particularly in Naga City.

The next in the enemy line is diarrhea that is attacking scores of residents in Nabua, Camarines Sur.

In Naga City, the local government has declared a state of calamity in response to the increasing number of dengue cases in the locality.

From last January to May, DOH regional director for Bicol Nestor Santiago here said reports from the City Health Office (CHO) of Naga counted a total of 284 dengue cases that were admitted in various hospitals in the city.

From at least 25 of the city’s 27 barangays, the CHO recorded 68 cases in January, 29 in February, 85 in March, 51 in April and nine in May, he said.

The number is 91.7 percent higher than the cases recorded in the same period last year, DOH records show.

Santiago said four Naga City barangays registered the highest number of dengue so far and these are the urban villages of Dayangdang with 38 cases; San Felipe, 35; Concepcion Pequeña, 22; and Calauag, 22.

The Naga City government under Mayor John Bongat is very much on alert against dengue cases as it was able to develop a high level of apprehension owing to the 685 cases recorded last year.

“When dengue is inevitable due to some factors that are present in Naga City, Mayor Bongat want a significantly lower number this year that is why the city was immediately placed under a state of calamity status so that the available local resources are utilized to contain the outbreak,” Santiago said.

Massive cleanliness measures as well as information campaigns have been put in place in all those barangays affected as Santiago said the 4S (search and destroy, seek early consultation, say no to indiscriminate fogging and self-protection) anti-dengue strategy should always be applied.

Under a state of calamity, the city legislative council, which passed a resolution to this effect, appropriated P1 million for the dengue prevention and purchase of medicines.

Tomas Briñas, the regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) over the weekend said his office gave priority to Naga City in the distribution of Ovicidal-Larvicidal (OL) Traps made available by the agency for distribution to schools nationwide.

The OL Trap is a simple technology developed by the DOST that kills the eggs and larvae of the mosquito that carries the dengue virus.

DOST’s school-based OL Trap program intends to reduce the number of mosquito population in schools and communities and subsequently lower dengue incidents, Briñas said

In this program, DOST works very closely with the health, education and local government departments with each agency given a very important role in the program to significantly reduce the number of dengue cases among school children, he said.

This system, he said has been introduced to the public by the DOST in partnership with the DOH and some local government units (LGUs) in Bicol last year and hundreds of households in the region are already using it and enjoying its benefits in controlling aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the known dengue virus carrier.

The partnership is covered by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) wherein the DOST produces the OL trap while the DOH and the LGUs distribute and identify household beneficiaries, respectively. Under the Aquino administration, the OL trap system has been adopted as one of the multi-pronged government solutions in fighting dengue in the country, Briñas said.

For this year, Briñas said the DOST central office has prepared 435,000 OL traps to be distributed to all public schools across the country in time with the opening Monday of the regular classes.

In the nearby town of Nabua meanwhile, Santiago said at least 70 residents from three of its barangays were reported by the Municipal Health Office (MHO) last week to be suffering from diarrhea suspected to be cause by water contamination.

These barangays were La Purisima, Malawag and Sto. Domingo and Santiago said investigations conducted by the DOH regional surveillance unit found out that the victims got their drinking water from a deep well serving as a communal water source.

This water source, where villagers also do their washing and bathing, could be affected by fecal contamination since septic tanks of several households are located not far from it.

The Nabua CHO has been instructed by the DOH regional office to make use of stock solutions to contain the contamination and avert further diarrhea cases in the area, according to Santiago. (PNA) RMA/LQ/DOC/cbd/

(Feature) Donsol butanding season ends as animals move to nearby Manta Ray Bowl
By Danny O. Calleja

DONSOL, Sorsogon, June 4 (PNA) -– The butanding season here this year has ended ahead of the usual schedule with the early movement of the "gentle giants of the ocean" to a nearby sanctuary being occupied by manta rays.

The whale sharks that make Donsol waters as their very own sanctuary have temporarily joined the original residents of the Manta Ray Bowl at the Ticao Pass, a normal attitude of these sea mammals everytime the temperature of waters here goes higher due to intense summer heat, Mayor Jerome Alcantara over the weekend said.

“They should be here until end of May but due to the hotter temperature of the Donsol waters, they start leaving as early as the first week of the month. Now, seldom that whale sharks could be spotted in the area,” Alcantara said.

There is nothing to worry though for tourists who have been coming to this remote municipality as the butandings are just out there seeking refuge in the nearby Manta Ray Bowl near the coast of Ticao Island in Masbate, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

WWF is an international agency assisting the municipality in the conservation of the whale sharks locally called butanding, an endangered marine species whose presence here has been drawing thousands of tourists from all over the world.

This year, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office in Legazpi City, about 70,000 tourists arrived in the municipality from January to early this month.

The Manta Ray Bowl is located at the Tacdugan Reef in Ticao Pass that lies between the island of Ticao and the southwestern section of Sorsogon province.

It is considered as one of the world’s highest concentration of plankton due to the strong currents from San Bernardino Strait that push large groups of the organisms and similar species to gather in the area.

Butandings feed on planktons and this one reason why they find Tacdungan Reef an alternative place when the water temperature here becomes unfriendly to them, according to Raul Burce, the WWF project coordinator.

It is the same planktons that make huge oceanic manta rays stay in the area. The Bowl that is considered a marine biologist’s paradise also attracts schools of barracuda, as well as whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, thresher sharks as well as different varieties of sting rays.

Manta rays (Manta Birostris) are the largest and most harmless rays in the world, found mostly in tropical warm waters.

Unlike its cousin, sting rays which are extremely dangerous to human, the manta ray does not have a stinging spine, instead they have a short tail which is simply part of its biological design, but not used for any defensive purpose.

In fact, mantas that are known to be extremely curious animals often approach and solicit the attention of divers, but never known to attack.

Their intelligence is often attributed to their high ratio of brain weight to their body weight. They are believed to be one of the smarter sea creatures, although their intelligence has not yet been actively explored.

Ticao Pass is an ideal feeding and cleaning station for manta rays, especially from December to May. The manta does not have any teeth and to eat, they funnel their food into their mouth while they swim, using their two large, flap-like cephalic lobes which extend forward from their eyes. Manta Rays feed on microscopic plankton, small fish, and tiny crustaceans.

Given their size, it is a challenge for the manta ray to clean itself and rely on wrasse like Remora fish to remove small parasites from their skin and gill cavities and the best place for them to perform this is the Ticao Pass bowl that extends to the whale shark sanctuary of this town.

This nature’s gift gives Ticao Island the title “Manta Ray Capital of the Philippines” and now being frequented by tourists who are fascinated by underwater experiences of interacting with these exciting sea creatures.

The voluntary transfer of the whale sharks from the Donsol waters officially ends the Butanding Season here.

In smaller groups, they would occasionally reappear by early November when the water temperature gets normal and just the same the official season is between February and May, when the local waters is at its clearest and calmest and they arrive in large groups to fed on the planktons at the mouth of the Donsol River.

“As long as we protect the habitat of these sea creatures and avoid antagonizing them, they will continue to be here. WWF findings say that whale sharks that are migratory and nature do not actually leave Donsol as they stay here all year-round. They just go deeper under the sea during some months of the year,” the mayor said.

WWF records show that 13 new whale sharks arrived here last January. They were recognized as new through their tails that are different from the dozens that are considered “old residents”, according to Burce.

He said there 48 butandings that are already counted as “permanent residents” of the local sanctuary.

“We also have 49 ‘balik-bayans’ or those which have left and did not show up during the previous season but returned this season,” Bruce said.

Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla of the Department of Tourism for Bicol based in Legazpi City said that investigations recently conducted by professional divers under the WWF revealed that the whale sharks stay deep in the waters of Ticao Pass where it is cooler everytime they left the Donsol waters. (PNA) dct/LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd

Friday, June 1, 2012

Reforms, good economic agenda pushing PHL's GDP growth: Salceda

LEGAZPI CITY, June 1 (PNA) - Albay Governor Joey Salceda said on Thursday that the country was indeed harvesting its bounty from President Benigno Aquino’s reform and economic agenda following a 6.4 percent climb in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year.

Salceda, a known economist, said the country's growth is now principally driven by net exports, overseas Filipino workers' (OFW) remittances and household spending.

The economic momentum on the supply side was driven by an agriculture turnaround of +2.4 percent after two quarters of decline.

He, however, said industry slowed down to 2.2 percent from 3.3 in the previous quarter but the Services sector recovered and jumped two folds by 2.6 percent from 1.3 percent.

On the demand side, the growth came mainly from net exports and the robust household spending, he said.

Salceda validated the National Statistical Coordination Board’s 1st Quarter report, claiming that GDP rose this quarter by 6.4 percent compared to the 4.9 percent growth last year.

Romulo Virola, NSCB Secretary General, in a press statement, said the country’s economy is moving in a high gear after four quarters of lackluster performance last year.

The Philippine economy is off to a rousing start in the year of the “water dragon,” with a growth rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, a 1.5 percent leap from last year, he said.

The NSCB report claimed that on a seasonally adjusted basis, GDP gained momentum, growing by 2.5 percent in the first quarter of this year while Gross National Income (GNI) grew by a slower pace of 1.3 percent.

With projected population reaching 95.2 million, per capita GDP grew by 6.4 percent while per capita GNI grew by 4 percent and per capita of Household Final Consumption Expenditures (HFCE) grew by 4.9 percent, the report said.(PNA) LAP/LOR/LQ/MSA/cbd/

DENR provides fund for ecotourism development in Masbate
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, May 31 (PNA) - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office here has provided fund for the preservation and development of two ecotourism parks in Masbate City.

Two barangay-based people’s organizations (POs) have been assigned in the undertakings that fall under the government’s Integrated Coastal Resource Management Program (ICRMP) being implemented by the DENR.

Under the program, the two organizations - Pawa Women’s Mangrove Guardians Association Inc. (PWMGA) and Samahang Mangingisda ng Puro-Sinalikway (SAMAPUSI) have been granted a total amount of P860,000 in fund to be used in coming up tourism services in the area and in maintaining the natural wonders of the two marine life reservations.

The money was made available through the DENR’s Ecotourism Enterprise Development Assistance (EEDA) project which is among the components of the government’s Integrated Coastal Resource Management Program (ICRMP) that intends to provide livelihood opportunities to poor coastal settlers and fisherfolks across the country.

The women’s association will look after and put up tourism services in Pawa Mangrove Ecosystem and Wildlife Park, a 300-hectare mangrove plantation which is Masbate City’s biggest area of natural mangrove growth.

Located in Barangya Pawa, the site offers dramatic scenery along its 1.3-kilometer wooden boardwalk and fascinates bird watchers for its being a perfect place to see kingfishers, herons and other estuarine birds.

SAMAPUSI on the other hand will be in charge of providing services to tourists for the Buntod Marine Sanctuary, a famous marine life reservation off the coast of Masbate City and being protected and maintained by the local government.

Buntod is 200-hectare marine reservation that ranks second as Philippines’ most resilient coral reef area.

It is the first established marine sanctuary of Masbate City where live hard and soft coral covers highlight the majestic underwater sceneries.

Tourists have been finding Buntod as a good place to relax with one’s feet being massaged by the gentle waves, swim in its clear water and walk on its fine sands.

Felix Mendoza, the regional technical director for Bicol of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) on Thursday here said that through the fund granted to them, both organizations would come up with tour packages to be offered to tourists and visitors in Pawa and Buntod.

Both groups will be allowed to collect fees from these tourists and visitors for their services and as rental for their equipments. They will be under the guidance and supervision of the Masbate City Tourism Office which is also handling the promotion of the city’s tourism industry, Mendoza said.

He said the Pawa mangrove park that offers serene and healthy atmosphere is ideal for bird watching, picnics and marine biology studies for students and researchers, among other worthwhile activities for nature lovers.

The tour packages that the SAMAPUSI could offer for Buntod tourists include food services, boating, snorkeling and reef interpretation.

They can make use of the city government’s Coastal Resource Management Interpretive Center in education information on coastal resources management.

The Center is a great staging point from which tourists, students, researchers and visitors can plan and begin their journey of discovery and exploration of the diverse and amazing natural and cultural wonders of Masbate, Mendoza added. (PNA) LAP/LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd