Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dengue cases up by 600% in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- Health authorities in Albay are on heightened alert following the surge in dengue cases by over 600 percent, with one death during the past two months of the year, the Albay Provincial Health Office said Wednesday.

A PHO surveillance team reported that 308 people fell ill of the mosquito-borne disease from January to February 27 this year, 684 percent higher than the 45 cases reported during the same period last year, Dr. Nathaniel Rempillo, assistant provincial health officer, said.

The first dengue casualty this year was a six-year-old girl form Tabaco City.

Provincial epidemiology data showed that among the 15 towns and three cities in Albay, Ligao City had the highest number of cases with 112; followed by Legazpi City with 77 cases; Tabaco City, 33; Daraga and Guinobatan town, 24 each, and Camalig, 11.

Oas had six; Polangui and Sto. Domingo had five each; Manito and Pio Duran, three each; while the towns of Bacacay, Jovellar, Libon, Tiwi and Rapu-Rapu, one each.

Rempillo said that of the 15 towns and three cities in Albay, only the towns of Malilipot and Malinao had no reported dengue cases.

He said the factor that triggered the increasing trend in dengue cases was the presence of rain that had prevailed since January.

He said mosquito thrives and breeds in water-filled containers, and flower pots.

Last year, five persons died due to dengue while 1,477 people fell ill of the mosquito-borne disease.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol reported that during the period January to February 27 this year, at least 522 dengue cases were reported by various provincial health offices in Bicol.

Albay had 308 cases; followed by Camarines Sur with 92; Catanduanes, 68; Sorsogon, 27; Masbate, 23, and Camarines Norte, four cases.

Jaime Guerrero, DOH Bicol public information officer, said the agency has dispatched six provincial health teams (PHT) to closely coordinate with local chief executives and local health officers for the possible clustering of dengue cases and to take appropriate intervention to control the surge of the mosquito borne disease in villages.

Guerrero said at least three villages in Virac town and a village in Ligao City are being closely monitored.

He dismissed speculations of a dengue outbreak, saying there are no identified parameters yet for the agency to declare an outbreak.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease transmitted by 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. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Bicol police chief hopes more Bicolano cops will be nominated to Search for 2013 Best COPS

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- The regional chief of police for Bicol has expressed hope that a good number of policemen from the region will be nominated to this year’s Search for the Country’s Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS).

“We have many Bicolano police officers and men who are champions of community mobilization in their respective areas and they deserve to be nominated and even win the awards,” Chief Supt. Clarence Guinto, the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional director based at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, said.

Civic, people’s and non-government organizations or even ordinary individuals can nominate police officers who they believe are deserving of a salute from the recognition program for responding daily to the call of protecting and serving the people, Guinto said on Wednesday, one day before the deadline set for nominations.

This year’s COPS Search was launched during the signing of a memorandum of agreement on November 7, 2012 by and among the PNP, Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), Rotary Club of New Manila East (RCNME) and Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank).

The deadline for nomination is on February 28, 2013.

The search--principality sponsored by the MBFI in partnership with the PSBank, RCNME and the PNP--looks at the police force as a crucial pillar that ensures the nation’s stability through peace and order.

“Through the COPS, the morale of the PNP personnel is considerately uplifted and those who have exemplified themselves in the field of law enforcement and public service are duly recognized,” PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima said in a statement.

COPS is a nationwide search that honors the career achievements of gallant police officers of the nation with a minimum of seven years in service and has actively mobilized, involved and organized the community to become fellow vanguards of peace and order.

Qualified to participate in the search are “Commissioned Officers” who possess the rank of at least “Police Inspector” to “Police Superintendent” while those participating in the “Non-Commissioned Officers” category must possess the rank of at least “Police Officer 1” to “Senior Police Officer 4”--all until the official conferment of the award in June 2013.

The COPS awardees will receive a total of P300,000 cash prize each, Metrobank Foundation Medallion, PNP Medalya ng Katangi-tanging Gawa and COPS trophy.

COPS awardees also become members of the COPS alumni organization named “Policemen Responsible for Organizing, Transforming and Empowering Communities (PROTECT).”

Certainly, Guinto said, Bicol has many policemen in service who are qualified for the COPS award and what they need is for some people or groups to nominate them, “say as a small gesture to express their gratitude to the police in their localities who are actively serving as agents for community and nation building.”

What brought him to this belief is the result of the latest survey wherein the PNP organization has a satisfaction rating of 65 percent, which is an all-time high since the Social Weather Station (SWS) started including the national police organization in its survey in 1998.

This high satisfaction rating garnered by the entire national police force is an expression of public appreciation of the police now whom they see untiringly facing the challenges of maintaining peace and order in the community, according to Guinto.

The rating refers to the entire PNP organization and nominations to the COPS, on the other hand, will give names to the police officers in particular places who are outstanding in the performance of their works that led to this high public satisfaction, he stressed.

The recognition program, he said, also intends to continue honoring the best among the best in the PNP and further strengthening the professionalism in the police force.

The entire police organization is supporting this program as it enhances the efforts of the PNP to reform the institution as spelled out in the Peace and Order Agenda for Transformation and upholding the rule-of-law and geared towards achieving a highly capable, effective and credible police force, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Bankrupt Albay power cooperative finally going private

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- To save from total collapse the country’s second biggest power cooperative, which is also touted as among the 10th worst electric firm, the management of the Albay Power Cooperative (Aleco) is finally moving towards its privatization.

Aleco has about 250,000 electric consumers.

The locally-based Justice Retribution Restitution Coalition (JRRC), however, is crying foul, saying the privatization move is the brainchild of a few people in the government with vested interests.

JRRC is composed of and backed by professionals and businessmen who have expressed strong opposition to the privatization move.

It said it had written President Aquino, requesting a dialogue to prevent the privatization, said engineer Melvin Romano, JRRC president.

Rey Reverente, National Electrification Administration (NEA)-appointed Aleco general manager, would not answer calls and text messages to confirm the privatization plan but Aleco Employees Union president Dexter Brutas was quoted by JRRC officials as saying that Aleco and NEA executives had begun ironing out the privatization program with apparent consent of the Aleco interim board of directors headed by Legazpi Diocese Bishop Joel Baylon.

According to former Albay Vice Gov. James Calisin, JRRC vice president, the Aleco privatization was raised by Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda in 2010 after the NEA and the National Power Corporation undertook a rehabilitation of the power coop in 2007, and in 2008–2009 period, in which the Albay governor rated Aleco’s performance as poor.

The privatization proposal, however, was then outrightly rejected by the Church and multi-sectoral groups.

A church-led Aleco crisis management committee was created in early 2011 when the consumers-elected Aleco board of directors was forced to resign by Salceda as a condition for NEA to take over control of Aleco management to save it from imminent collapse.

Early last year, however, the Church-led committee was abolished in favor of a newly created interim appointed board of directors headed by Bishop Baylon.

JRRC officers said Aleco and NEA have already prepared the terms of reference for the privatization.

Among the developments in Aleco under NEA-controlled management is the creation of a special payment arrangement (SPA) equivalent to 10 percent of consumers’ monthly billings, starting 2011 to raise funds for the settlement of the now P1.3 billion financial obligations from power suppliers.

Aleco’s total debts now stand at close to P4 billion amid power consumers’ complaints of frequent brownouts, high system losses, padded billings, and constant threats of power cutoff due to failure to settle power bills from the Wholesale Electric Spot Market (WESM) and its other creditors.

The SPA, according to JRRC, has been rejected by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB) but collections continue as evidenced in the consumers’ monthly billings. It will end in December 2014.

According to the JRRC officers, Aleco has all the leeway to recover as a cooperative if only it is rightly managed.

They lamented that the NEA could not even liquidate the P250 million Calamity Assistance Rehabilitation Efforts spent for Aleco rehabilitation in 2007 after the power coop was devastated by Typhoon “Reming” in November 2006.

JRRC officers said the P250-million fund was exclusively handled by the NEA without Aleco participation by appointing a local project supervisor who was terminated after the project.

A year later, Aleco was put again under NPC operational and maintenance control.

Romano claimed that Aleco had technically settled its obligations with WESM with the P1.66 power rate increase in 2010.

He said that despite rejection by the ERC, the P1.66 rate increase had been included in the monthly billings in the guise of other inserted charges.

Romano computed that in two and a half years, the collection from P1.66 rate increase would have already reached P1.4 billion. (PNA) FPV/FGS/MU/CBD/ABB

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Polangui town named among 2012 ‘National Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers’

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- The municipal government of Polangui in the third district of Albay province was named as a "National Agri-Pinoy Rice Achiever” for 2012, recognizing the local government unit’s (LGU) high performance in rice production.

Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella Sampal said on Wednesday that the feat of the local government in agriculture won for the municipality a P1-million cash award and P20,000 each for its seven agricultural extension workers.

Sampal cited the Municipal Agricultural Services Office, led by municipal agriculturist Alfredo Mariscotes, Jr., for its exemplary achievement and efficient implementation of agricultural programs, particularly on rice sufficiency and agricultural development.

She also commended agricultural extension workers Leticia Quian, Jonel Llagas, Robeto Barra, Sholenor Bongapat, Corazon Ginete and Amiel Osma.

The search, launched by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in 2011, is one strategy that envisions to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013, which will be sustained until 2016 and beyond.

It honors top rice-producing provinces, cities, towns, irrigators’ associations (IAs), small water impounding systems associations and outstanding agricultural extension workers (AEWs).

Municipalities and cities were judged based on their incremental rice production volume and area harvested from 2011-2012, total funds allocated for rice production, number of LGU personnel deployed to rice production, LGU program on rice-initiated/funded by the LGU, and high quality seeds utilization of at least 50 percent.

For AEWS, the criteria include production increment over 2011 production, production performance over 2012 target, number of cluster/farmers assisted (at least 30), trainings attended, FFS conducted, techno demo established and reports submitted.

The same program aims to encourage the full participation of LGUs, IAs, and AEWs involved in the production of rice, sustain awareness, support and commitment to the rice sufficiency program.

The search will cover the 2011-2012 dry and wet seasons.

The rice achievers' award is also part of the campaign to promote the DA’s flagship Food Staples Sufficiency Program, a program that would ensure food sufficiency for Filipinos not only in rice but also other food crops like corn, cassava as well as some fruits and vegetables in the future. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD/ABB

PNR soon to resume Manila-Legazpi train trips

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- The rehabilitation of the south rail track is currently on its finishing touches, making the Philippine National Railways (PNR) confident that it could soon resume train trips between here and Manila.

A recent test run on the Naga-Legazpi route proved successful and PNR general manager Junio Ragrario said in a statement reaching here Wednesday that construction crewmen are fast-tracking the works so that southbound trips ending here are resumed by next month.

Apart from the Legazpi-Manila operations, Ragrario said the PNR is considering the fielding of train trips between Naga and this city for the benefit of the burgeoning volume of local commuters being generated by the fast-growing trade, commerce and tourism relations between these two cities of Bicol.

“We are fielding two ordinary three-coach trains each with a seating capacity of 240 and well-ventilated seats designed for comfortable travel,” he said.

The recent test run, he said, established that a one-way train trip between Naga and Legazpi takes one-and-half hour, which is more than an hour faster than an ordinary bus plying the same route through the Maharlika Highway.

Besides, according to Ragrario, local ordinary train trips would charge only P82 in fare for a complete trip, which is cheaper by about P50 than bus fares.

“We are doing all these pursuant to the government’s commitment to the total rehabilitation of the railways and provision of safe, cheaper and convenient alternative to the riding public,” he stressed.

“We are therefore appealing to settlers along the railway in this route or in any area where PNR trains operate to strictly observe the three-meter clearance provided along both sides of the track. We have been constantly reminding them on this for their own safety,” Ragrario added.

Rehabilitation of the PNR south facilities from Calamba City in Laguna to this city covering a distance of 483 kilometers, which was allotted an amount of P35.15 billion, was started in 2005 and scheduled for completion by 2011.

The project, however, suffered a major setback when super typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” successively battered Bicol in 2006, rendering crippling damages on the railways between Naga City and here.

Plans then to restore the Legazpi trips were shelved even as the Naga City-Manila trips were maintained intermittently.

In 2011, the administration of President Benigno Aquino III pushed for the resumption of the rehabilitation of the damaged Bicol section of the railways which was eventually completed up to Ligao City, Albay, a year after.

Manila-Ligao trips were restored in early December last year with Albay Governor Joey Salceda expressing optimism during the inaugural run that rehabilitation works for the railway line down to here would be completed at once so that trains would be once more seen traversing its original route deep into the central point of Albay.

Train trips, famously called Bicol Express, have been an important component of the regional economy because of its contributions to trade, tourism and transportation, Salceda noted.

The governor said that with the imminent restoration of train trips to Legazpi, trade activities would greatly improve as products from Albay and manufacturers from Calabarzon and Manila would use the railways, thus, this would result in cheaper products, freight cost and fast travel time.

“Rail transport is the cheapest while exerting competitive pressure on the other forms of transportation by increasing supply,” Salceda said.

He also noted that the rail transport is government-subsidized up to 70 percent anywhere in the world in order to equalize opportunities for the rural countryside and promote tourism as well.

For tourism, Bicol Express also offers a different and distinctive perspective of the countryside to tourists both domestic and foreign as it gives unrestricted view of Mayon Volcano surrounded by the rich greenery of Bicol farmlands, he added.

“With Bicol Express, passengers have all travel options--rail, road or air options--between Albay and Manila and the rest of Luzon,” Salceda added.

According to Ragrario, the resumption of the Legazpi trips “closes the loop” linking the North and South Rail project.

He said the refurbished coaches from Japan being used by the PNR for the Bicol Express and Mayon Express offer comfort to passengers with a line of first-class coaches, sleepers' coaches, economy coaches, restaurant, and cargo coaches.

PNR is now using five coaches for the Bicol Express that accommodate 300 passengers per trip.

Of these five coaches, four are sleeper cabins and the other one is for reclining seats good for 60 passengers, Ragrario said.

PNR dispatches two trips through the route daily—the Bicol Express that leaves Ligao City for Manila at 6:30 p.m and the Mayon Limited at 8:30 p.m.

Mayon Limited has two types of trips--the De Luxe that is scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the ordinary during Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Mayon Limited De Luxe, which is an air-conditioned cabin and with reclining seats, charges a fare of P717 while the ordinary, P344.

Bicol Express, on the other hand, collects P416 from its economy passengers, P548 for reclining seats, P665 for sleeper and P998 for executive sleeper.

Students and senior citizens are entitled to 30 percent discount.

The restoration of PNR trips between Bicol and Manila, Ragrario said, proves that trains remain an important component of the mass transportation system in the route for its being more economical, convenient and safe.

With these developments, the PNR, Ragrario added, expects its passenger base to increase from the previous 400,000 a month to 600,000. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

JCI-Legazpi reinvents Alay Lakad in 25K walk
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- It was not just an Alay Lakad which top officers and members of the Junior Chamber International (JCI)-Legazpi have staged, but a “Great Alay Lakad” which they believe set a record for the 40-year-old walk-for-a-cause episode.

Nine JCI-Legazpi officers, including its president, Yves Eli Yu, last Saturday walked the entire distance between this city and Tabaco City, covering 25 kilometers, to post a historic feat not only for the local chapter but also for similar charity walks staged earlier by other organizations in the country.

The other chapter officers who were certified finishers of the walk were Martin Reynoso, executive vice-president; Pao Brondial, secretary-general; Jed Sallao, public information officer; Geoffrey Pabilona Dy, Enrique Manly, Cecil Abarrientos and Isabel Reynoso, board members; and senator Charlie Chua.

“I called the executive director of Alay Lakad Foundation in Manila to verify if similar stretch or farther had been staged in its 40 years of operations and initially, not one from the organization could recall any group walking that far,” Yu said on Tuesday.

“We hope this recent feat will eventually spark a new event for the Alay Lakad Foundation. They will have a board meeting within this week to further discuss this type of ultra walk to create more hypes for the foundation’s cause,” he added

Alay Lakad was launched in 1973 with membership that included the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education), Ministry of Local Government and Community Development (now Department of Interior and Local Government), Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Media Production Center (now Philippine Information Agency) from the government sector.

Its private sector membership included the JCI Philippines (Philippine Jaycees, Inc), Rotary International, Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club, the Young Women’s Christian Association, Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster sa Pilipinas and the Philippine National Red Cross.

Alay Lakad was registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 9, 1975 as Alay Lakad Incorporated.

In 1986, a few months after the February People’s People Power Revolution in EDSA, Alay Lakad was reorganized and became a foundation.

Geared towards continuing the annual walk-for-a-cause, the re-organization likewise expanded the government sectoral composition of the foundation and ensured a more meaningful yet realistic commitment to assist the out-of-school youth.

On September 8, 1986, then President Corazon C. Aquino signed Proclamation No. 27 declaring Sept. 14, as “Alay Lakad Para sa Kabataan Day” and made the first Sunday of September of every year the day for the same affair.

Today, the contributions of the Alay Lakad are recognized by its youth beneficiaries, as well as by government and private individuals and organizations which join the yearly walk.

For the past four decades, Alay Lakad has proven to be an effective scheme in promoting the development of the needy and underprivileged youth.

All these years, people from all walks of life annually gather together nationwide to step forward and be counted in an activity manifesting a continuing concern for the welfare of the Filipino youth, especially the out-of-school youth.

None of these walks, however, registered a distance as far as the Legazpi-Tabaco cities route, which the JCI-Legazpi conquered.

Yu said their recent 25-kilometer walk formed part of the JCI team-building activities, also complementing initiatives to promote healthy lifestyle not only among its members but also among those who have actually witnessed and become aware of the feat.

“Later on, we will make this into the 'Great Mayon Walk',” Yu said, referring to an upcoming team-building activity anew for the JCI chapter here that plans to cover the over-30-kilometer distance around the foot of Mt. Mayon.

JCI-Legazpi, according to Yu, is all about the passion of living life and experiencing what one normally cannot, “as we seek ways to live out the monotony and regulars of life.”

JCI members, also known as Jaycees, take on the challenges around them through local development initiatives as responsible citizens in a globalized world--complementing what governments can achieve in society, he added. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

Catanduanes State University seeks accreditation of 12 curricular programs

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- Fresh from being elevated from state college stature to what it is now, the Catanduanes State University (CSU) has submitted for accreditation 12 of its various curricular programs to elevate its standard of excellence in Bicol's education.

CSU president Dr. Minerva Morales over the weekend here said that among these programs are courses in Accountancy, Business Administration and Nutrition and Dietetics which will be placed on third survey evaluation by the Accrediting Agency of Chartered State Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACCUP) on February 25-March 2.

This stage of evaluation comes after the Level II Re-accredited status of the programs for five years.

Morales explained that passing a higher level standard of quality entitles the program to apply for Level III.

The program is then evaluated and must excel in four areas; two of them are instruction and extension, which are mandatory.

Two more areas are to be chosen from among research, performance in licensure examination, faculty development and linkages.

On the same AACCUP visit, CSU's programs on Biology and Mathematics, on the other hand, will undergo second survey while Civil Engineering, Information Systems, Agriculture and Public Administration are for first survey assessments.

This stage involves the evaluation of an accredited program that has passed the standards set for the higher level of quality than the first survey conducted five years ago, whose results qualified the programs for an award of Level II Re-accredited status good for five years.

Likewise, Morales said the university's Graduate School programs--Doctor of Education and Master of Business Administration programs--will also undergo first survey evaluation while the Agriculture program of the CSU Panganiban Campus will go through the preliminary survey.

The first survey visit is the evaluation of the program which has attained "Candidate" status and if it has attained a higher level of quality to qualify for a Level I-Accredited status that is good for three years.

A preliminary survey visit involves the evaluation of the program for the first time.

Passing this assessment entitles the program to a candidate status award valid for two years, according to Morales.

A continuing evaluation is thus undertaken by AACCUP, until the programs have reached the Level IV status which when hurdled would entitle the school to an institutional accreditation.

Curricular programs, however, are still expected to sustain their quality even if they have acquired the highest accredited level.

According to Morales, the AACCUP uses 10 criteria in the assessment of programs.

These are in the areas of mission, goals and objectives; faculty, curriculum and instruction; students, research, extension, community involvement, library, physical facilities, laboratories and administration.

Morales, meanwhile, announced that the CSU presently has already 19 accredited programs and the school is working on the accreditation of all its academic offerings, and should the six submitted for the first survey pass the AACCUP evaluation, "we will be having a total of 25 following this survey."

AACCUP accreditation is a process by which an institution at the tertiary level evaluates its educational activities, in whole or in part, and seeks an independent judgment to confirm that it substantially achieves its objectives, and is generally equal in quality to comparable institutions.

Accreditation is voluntary on the part of the higher education institution that may want to be accredited.

The evaluation is undertaken by peers, who are the external accreditors and who are mostly faculty members from other higher education institutions.

As a benefit, being accredited lends prestige to member institutions, justified by the possession of quality standards and constant efforts to maintain them at high level.

It also helps parents to know which program they may send their children to for quality education.

It further makes all those engaged in education aware of standards of excellence which they should strive to attain, and make possible for those proposing funding and those who are to fund, to know what to support and how much support is needed.

Evaluated programs are also given the opportunity to know their strength and weaknesses, and in what aspects these need to develop.

AACCUP accreditation has also been used as a criterion in administrative decision-making in a variety of ways such as applicants for teaching in the Department of Education who are graduates of accredited programs are granted credit points.

The school's accredited status is also used, among others, as criteria in the leveling of state universities and colleges, for normative financing, and as a factor in the selection of center of development and center of excellence, Morales added. (PNA) LAP/PTR/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

DSWD wants Sorsogon ‘epals’ to leave 4Ps alone

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- “Epals” are persons who are annoying and obnoxious, or those who do incredibly stupid things to attract attention, and they are the kind of politicians in the province of Sorsogon whom the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) wants to leave its Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) alone.

Agnes Mayor, the DSWD’s regional public affairs office chief for Bicol based here, said over the weekend that some local politicians in Sorsogon--particularly those who are campaigning for reelection--have been causing confusions among beneficiaries of the 4Ps by spreading words that they dictate how the program in their respective localities are implemented.

By doing so, Mayor said, these “epal” politicians are impressing upon the public that they could remove beneficiaries from the list or include those who want to avail themselves of the benefits of the program through the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme under its anti-poverty campaign.

These epals also called “mapapel” (attention seeker) are obviously after the votes of those that they would be able to convince by the misinformation they are spreading, she said.

The province has a total of 53,726 CCT beneficiaries distributed among its 14 municipalities and one city.

This is already a big vote once the beneficiaries are carried by the wrong impressions that the epals are sowing, the lady local chief executive said.

“What is very clear in 4Ps is that no municipal and city mayor or even governor is given the power or authority to remove anybody from or include in the master list of beneficiaries. These local officials are not even allowed to recommend somebody into the program because the agency has its way of determining who are qualified and who are not,” Mayor stressed.

Beneficiaries are identified through the DSWD’s National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction while removal from the list or forfeiture of benefits is only done when a household beneficiary fails to abide by the conditions set by the program.

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

Each of these households that complies with the requirements receives their cash subsidy allocations amounting to a maximum of P1,400 monthly and will continue enjoying such monthly benefit until the program is terminated.

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

The DSWD serves as the lead agency in the implementation of the program.

Felix Armeña, the DSWD assistant regional director, revealed that they have been receiving reports from Sorsogon that several persons, including barangay officials, have been warning 4Ps beneficiaries that they would be removed from the program once they do not vote for the local candidate they are campaigning for.

To counter this misinformation, Armeña said DSWD regional office teams have been going around the province re-orienting beneficiaries on the program, with emphasis on the facts that no local official could make changes in its implementation.

“We have also intensified our ‘Bawal ang Epal Dito’ drive in Sorsogon,” he said.

In line with this, the DSWD regional public affairs office headed by Mayor, has also been regularly airing over local radio stations vital information that would further enlighten the public and 4Ps beneficiaries on the program so that they are not easily carried by the misrepresentations of epals, according to Armeña. (PNA) DSP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Aussie agency to fund classroom constructions in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) will fund the construction of classrooms in areas of Bicol where Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) has successfully been implemented.

To this effect, the AusAid has entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office in Bicol and the local government unit (LGU) of Donsol, Sorsogon where the project is to be piloted.

DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia signed the MOA in behalf of his agency while Mayor Jerome Alcantara signed for the LGU during the recent project launch held in Donsol.

Garcia on Monday here said that for the first semester of 2013, a total of 83 classrooms and day-care centers in the pilot areas will be constructed to address the needs of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) children in terms of improving their access to education.

Other pilot areas are the municipalities of Claveria, Palanas and Cataingan in Masbate; and Libon, Pioduran, Manito and Rapu-Rapu in Albay.

A total grant of P89.76 million has been earmarked by the AusAid for this project, Garcia said.

All these pilot municipalities are beneficiaries of the Kalahi-CIDSS, a community-driven development approach wherein the community collectively gathers data on conditions existing in the community, analyze these conditions, and define appropriate development interventions to address identified needs.

The KALAHI-CIDSS is a national government program being implemented by the DSWD to address poverty by way of countryside development projects to improve the living conditions of rural communities.

These are then validated through the conduct of barangay assemblies.

The KALAHI-CIDSS ensures community empowerment by giving the people authority and control over decisions and resources. (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD/ABB

Sorsogon Bay eyed for commercial-scale culture of oysters for export
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) –- Sorsogon Bay is one of the various areas in the country being eyed in commercial-scale culture of oyster to boost the about 20,000 metric tons (MT) Philippine yearly production which has prospective export markets in China and South Korea.

Oyster farms in the country as of 1987 totaled 707 hectares and production in 1982 was 19,017 MT.

One of these farms is located in Sorsogon Bay but its production is plagued by poor sanitary quality and siltation in coastal areas.

Serafin Lacdang, fisheries division chief of the Provincial Agricultural Office (PAO), said his office intends to do considerable work on deputation of bivalve, the class of marine mollusks where oyster belongs, to address this situation.

There is a simple purification unit which has been successfully tested in oyster farms in the Visayas that the PAO wants to apply but its installation should be carefully studied as it may not be economically feasible due to the prevailing low price of oysters, Lacdang said.

Aside from the Sorsogon Bay farm that is designed for commercial production, oysters in the country are found in the coastal waters of Bataan, along the coast of Lingayen Gulf, Tayabas, Cavite, Batangas Bay, Banate Bay in Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Western Samar, Northern Leyte, Palawan, Capiz and Pangasinan.

Natural oyster beds bearing species such as the slipper-shaped oyster Crassostrea iredalei, the subtrigonal oyster C. malabonensis and the curly or palm-rooted oysters C. palmipes and Saccostrea cucullata are also all around Sorsogon Bay.

The Sorsogon Bay farm covering about five hectares, each capable of around 50 tons annual production, however, pays specific attention to the culture of particular species such as the C. iredalei, which is usually about nine-centimeter long when marketed, and the moderately sized C. malabonensis, which is usually five-centimeter long, Lacdang said.

Perhaps, he said, the national government, through the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA), could extend help in terms of technology and financial support to improve the performance of this farm.

Although the present supply of oysters hardly meets local demand, Lacdang said Sorsogon farmers want to contribute to the export of this product by way of producing oysters that would meet the quality required by the international market.

A statement of BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar reaching here over the weekend said the Surigao Del Sur State University (SDSSU) and the BAR have been working on the culture technology of Tikod Amo (Spondylus sp.) oyster species after finding this possible with the present natural growth process in the wilds.

Eleazar said the support for its culture will generate livelihood among residents around Lianga Bay, Barobo, Surigao del Sur with its extensive demand even for export.

Koreans and Chinese who come to the Philippines to buy sea cucumber for export are also willing to export Tikod Amo if there’s a supply.

One interested supplier wants to buy at least 300 kilos per week at P400 per kilo of unshelled meat, the BAR chief said in the same statement.

The culture technology being developed by the SDSSU and BAR will enable sustainable production as the practice of gatherers of spat (baby oysters) from the wilds destroy very small oysters.

Because of the dire practice, oyster catch was observed to have declined by 40 to 60 percent between 2006 to 2008.

With the culture technology, environment-friendly systems can be employed.

“The culture of these unique oyster species will not only create an alternative livelihood for oyster gatherers but will also make them collaborators in a sustainable farming system that will preserve our coastal resources,” Eleazar said.

BAR funded the project on the “Culture Technology Generation for Tikod Amo."

The SDSSU is also proposing for BAR’s financing a P1 million verification study of the newly generated Tikod Amo culture technology in a polyculture system and P3-million project for hatchery development for the same species.

It recommended that culture system is the bottom polyculture where oysters are grown together with seaweeds and fishes like milkfish and siganid in the mariculture areas of Barobo Bay.

This is seen to expand employment both among mariculture fishermen and oyster gatherers.

Tikod Amo is an oyster under the genus spondylus.

The SDSSU researchers are further trying to determine its species identification.

This may be important in the culture of this special species that has uniquely delicious taste reportedly owing to its adductor muscle.

“What is more interesting is that this species seems to be unknown in the international species nomenclature database. We found no information that describes its biological features, so we assumed Tikod Amo is a new species,” Eleazar said.

Tikod Amo is even aesthetically attractive with the five colors of its internal parts.

The SDSSU is now determining the difference between Tikod Amo and a very related oyster species, Spondylys squamosos, to which it has a five-percent difference in DNA, Eleazar added. (PNA) DSP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Monday, February 25, 2013

Albay is highlight destination in 2013 ITB-Berlin
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- Albay province will be featured as the Philippine Pavilion’s highlight destination at the 2013 Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB)-Berlin, the world's leading yearly travel trade to be held in Berlin, Germany on March 6-10.

Besides featuring Albay, the Philippine Pavilion will also introduce Bicol’s Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Alliance (ALMASORTA) in that big event where it will occupy a large stand at the International Congress Centrum-Berlin along with exhibitors from other Asian countries, including Indonesia -- this year ITB-Berlin partner country, Taiwan and China.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director for Bicol, relayed this information to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda over the weekend.

“For your info, from Ms Venus Tan of DOT-Europe: While ALMASORTA will be introduced, Albay Province will be featured as the highlight destination at the Philippine Pavilion during the ITB-Berlin, March 6-10, 2013,” Ravanilla said in a text message to the governor.

ALMASORTA is an integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the potentials of the three Bicol provinces complementing the Catanduanes-Camarines Sur-Camarines Norte Tourism Link, another Bicol regional tourism cluster.

Salceda, as chair of the Regional Development Council, spearheaded the formation of these two pioneering concepts in tourism marketing strategies that targets 1.5 million foreign tourist arrivals annually within the next five years.

Albay’s booth in the Philippine Pavilion stand, according to Ravanilla, will be equipped with two giant audio-video monitors that will present all the eco-tourism marvels of the province and the fun and adventure that this city offers to visitors.

A pre-ITB publication in Germany that will also feature the travel wonders of Albay and Legazpi, highlighting the outdoor adventure surrounding Mt. Mayon -- the province’s majestic icon known as the world’s most perfect cone -- which has introduced dynamic and innovative features in the travel sectors.

The publication will be released on Feb. 28, she said.

As Europe’s premier travel trade fair, ITB Berlin is the key place to learn about new trends in the travel industry, market developments and to deepen existing business relations, Ravanilla said.

In 2012, the event drew a total of 10,644 exhibitors from 187 countries that displayed their products and services to 172,000 visitors from the world’s travel industry.

Ahead of the 2013 ITB-Berlin, a group of Russia-based European tour operators has vowed to promote this city and Albay province as a destination for tourists and leisure travelers from their country following their recent three-day familiarization visit of the place.

Familiarization tours provide a unique platform for Bicol’s tourism industry, which showcases, among others, Albay and Legazpi’s unique destinations for sports adventure lovers, leisure and business travelers.

The tourism industry, Ravanilla said, indeed sells experiences which comprise a mosaic of phenomena occurring in both origins and destinations and encompassing much more than hospitality industry.

“It brings economic impact as the European market, particularly Germany and Russia, is showing a great interest in our products and facilities which slowly but surely would make its way to the global and international markets,” she added.

Among those that will be included in the audio-video presentations of Albay in the ITB-Berlin Philippine Pavilion are Misibis Bay, Ligñon Hill, Cagsawa Ruins, Legazpi Boulevard and several others of the province’s leading eco-tourism sites.

Misibis Bay is a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of beach along the southern tip of Cagraray island in Bacacay, Albay, which is considered a luxury island playground in the Philippines whose diversity offers exquisite adventures arise from a treasure trove of infinite possibilities.

Ligñon Hill and Legazpi Boulevard are the newest additions to the city’s travel destinations that offer exciting encounters with nature with the picturesque Mt. Mayon and Albay Gulf at the backdrop.

Tours on Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga town also include the adventure of going around lava-laden trails on board all-terrain vehicles (ATV) down the volcano, the most active in the country that erupted in 2009.

The introduction of ALMASORTA in the ITB-Berlin will further enhance the structural attractiveness of the three Bicol provinces—Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon--in synergistic positioning and brand franchising, according to Salceda.

Albay last year posted the highest growth rate among the six provinces in Bicol by leapfrogging by as much as 49 percent, from a total of 350,629 domestic and foreign tourists in 2011 to 523,832 in 2012 and with this grand international fair, “we are certain on gaining more acceleration not only for Albay but Masbate and Sorsogon,” he said.

The travel fair features trends and events with youth travel, ecotourism, experience adventure, economy accommodation and travel for disabled people.

Training and employment in tourism, travel technology, wellness, culture tourism, cruises and the Book World are also presented on a grand scale, he added. (PNA) JBP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

LGU seals Sorsogon town vs illegal logging
By Danny O. Calleja

STA. MAGDALENA, Sorsogon, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- A multi-sectoral team of enforcers deputized by the municipal government here is now guarding all strategic points in this biodiversity-rich far-flung town to ensure that its forests and other ecological properties are sealed from illegal activities.

Town Mayor Alejandro Gamos over the week said here that he tapped the cooperation of various agencies--among them the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Philippine Coconut Authority--in manning the multi-sectoral checkpoints set for the purpose. The Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and Philippine Coast Guard are the law enforcing agencies involved in the measure while all barangay authorities, the local media and volunteers from non-government organizations are also embedded into the undertaking, Gamos said.

All entry and exit points of illegal loggers, timber poachers, wood charcoal makers, coco lumber smugglers and wild animal hunters are now sealed with these checkpoints, making it impossible for them to further destroy the town’s upland ecological resources, he added.

Coastal areas have also been placed under tight guarding against illegal fishers, mangrove cutters and any other persons involved in activities that are destructive to the local marine resources, the mayor said.

“We are doing this to protect and preserve the richness of our natural environment for the benefit of the generations next to us. Ours is a locality gifted with ecological beauty and resources that we need to take good care of. The checkpoints and coast watch function 24/7,” Gamos stressed.

“Barangay residents have also been made to understand what we are doing and they, too, are staying alert against any form of illegal activities that may transpire under their noses,” he added.

All members of the multi-sectoral checkpoints have specific roles in the measure and practically, every citizen of each community is supporting it that is why, Gamos said, “tiyak, wala nang lulusutan itong mga gumagawa ng labag sa batas para sa kapakanan ng kalikasan dito sa amin (surely, those lawbreakers will no longer be able to do their operations, thus, nature’s interest will be protected here).”

Gilbert Gonzales, DENR regional executive director, lauded the move of the Sta. Magdalena LGU and asked his men to cooperate closely and assist the town’s local officials.

Sta. Magdalena, a fourth class municipality located about 72 kilometers southeast of Sorsogon City--the provincial capital, or roughly 120 kilometers from Legazpi City, Bicol’s regional government center, is generally rugged and mountainous with a peak reaching as high as 1,100 feet above sea level.

A big river coming from the hinterlands in the western boundary of the municipality flows out to the Pacific Ocean.

Its wilderness that plays home to exciting flora and fauna also boasts of beautiful waterfalls, the Ubo and Paloktok Falls.

The territorial jurisdiction of the municipality is composed of some 4,706.4 hectares of land mass.

The local government unit is politically subdivided into 14 barangays, dispersed geographically in the lowlands of poblacion composed of four barangays, and upland, with 10 barangays.

It has 13 coastal barangays lined along clean and fine white sand beaches that are considered undiscovered by the tourism world, according to Gamos.

Strategically located at the southernmost tip of Luzon, this municipality, which lies along 12.8 degrees longitude and 124 degrees 2 minutes latitude, is bounded from the east by the San Bernardino Strait, from the north by Bulusan, from the east by Irosin and from the south by Matnog towns. (PNA) dsp/FGS/DOC/cbd/abb

Cayetano pushes for government support to small enterprises in Bicol

DARAGA, Albay, Feb. 23 (PNA) -- Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said on Thursday here that a realistic and concrete government and legislative intervention is needed to push and enhance small and medium enterprises in Bicol.

Cayetano said this is in response to his discussion with members of farmers, fisherfolk, urban poor and transport groups in Albay during his “listening tour” at the Cagsawa ruins here on Thursday.

The issues on high cost of farm inputs, equipment, fuel, subsidies, land acquisition and government loan availability were among the concerns shared by the group at the meeting.

Cayetano, the Senate minority floor leader, held his PiTiK (Presyo, Trabaho, Kita) listening tour against the backdrop of the famous Cagsawa Ruins and the Mayon Volcano, the Icon of Bicol.

The PiTiK tour, according to Cayetano, is an approach to get an update on how the benefits of today’s 6.6-percent growth of the economy will trickle down to the people, particularly how present inflation, employment opportunities and wage level have affected the rural communities.

“The masses do not feel the 6.6-percent growth rate, rather what they feel is 5-6 practice,” he said, referring to a loan scheme that charges a hefty 20 percent in interest as opposed to bank rates that average around 6 to 8 percent or 15 percent for rural banks.

The senator lamented that the people are forced to engaging in this loan shark operation because they either cannot afford today’s high prices or lack jobs or are forced to accepting lower wages.

Cayetano said that during his listening tour in Metro Manila and other provinces, the victims of the 5-6 operations are mostly market vendors and sari-sari store owners.

He was dismayed to learn that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) offers P100-million funding for capital of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) but because of the stringent requirements and paper work, including red tape, people still turn to 5-6 operators.

“Market vendors said it takes only a call to do business with 5-6 operators but so much of their income is lost due to high interest rates these lenders charge,” he said.

Reacting to the situation, Cayetano said he would urge the government to implement measures increasing the access of SMEs to capital by putting up more cooperatives that would provide more capital for lending at lower interest rates.

“Instead of people spending so much of their income paying debts, they can borrow from the cooperative with less interest, say, offering a 3-percent interest,” he added.

The lending strategy would then erase the 5-6 lending practice and improve the income of small and medium enterprises. (PNA) dsp/FGS/MSA/cbd/abb

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DSWD targets 3,286 poor youths for skills, self-employment training in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is targeting 3,286 youths from poor families in Bicol for its training program that would provide them skills toward decent earnings either through wage jobs or self-employment.

The program, which was recently launched in Donsol, Sorsogon, was provided by Malacañang with over P1.3 million budget, DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia said here on Wednesday.

The amount is for use in the training of 3,286 young adults, each allocated P20,000 in the form of training materials, toolkits and other expenses to be incurred during the entire training course, Garcia said.

In the Donsol launch, he said, 50 youths have been selected; half of them are girls who have been chosen to undergo training in commercial cooking and the other half, all boys, in welding.

At least 21 of them come from the poorest of the poor families in the municipality that are presently enrolled with the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer for poverty-stricken households.

All the trainings will be undertaken by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) under the partnership deal entered with the DSWD in implementing the program called “Trabaho at Sariling Hanapbuhay” or the Cash for Training Program.

The program aims to train the youth for possible employment in targeted communities and provide them basic requirements that will enable them to easily have gainful occupations.

Garcia said that with these over 3,200 slots, the national government, through the DSWD and TESDA, would be able to contribute to the continuous growth of the employment rate in Bicol once they complete the training and hit the field either as performers in technical jobs or self-employed individuals.

The latest Labor Force Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office in the region shows that in October last year, the region’s employment rate went up by 0.4-percentage point compared to the same period in the previous year.

It settled at 95.1 percent, compared to 94.7 percent obtained in October 2011.

Unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent, correspondingly, the October survey shows.

The labor force participation rate or the proportion of those in the labor force to the population aged 15 years old and over also declined from 67.2 percent in October 2011 to 65.5 percent in October 2012, it added.

“We are in close coordination with local governments’ social welfare and development offices in identifying qualified trainees in their respective localities and it is expected that the training for this batch will be completed before the end of this year,” Garcia said. (PNA) FFC/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

DOLE cautions SPES applicants on fixers
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Local government units (LGUs) in Bicol have started accepting applicants for this year’s Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) even as the regional office here of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is cautioning applicants on dealing with fixers.

These fixers introduce themselves as employees either of the DOLE or the Public Employment Service Office (PESO) of a particular LGU and ask for cash from applicants in exchange for “sure slots” in the SPES, DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra, said over the week.

To get rid of these unscrupulous individuals, Lacambra said that applicants should go directly to the PESO in their respective LGUs and submit the complete set of requirements to qualify for the hiring.

The SPES program requires applicants to be aged 25 years old and below, and has not availed of any scholarship grant from other institutions.

Annual family income should not be not more than P36,000.

Documents that should be submitted include the student’s third grading report card, photo copy of his or her birth certificate and family income tax return.

This opportunity is open to qualified high school and college students and to those taking up vocational courses.

Out-of-school youths (OSYs) who are high school graduates and willing to enroll next school year may also be accepted, according to Lacambra.

“Applicants may bring to our attention any person who would be asking for other requirements,” Lacambra said.

Reports on this were monitored in Sorsogon province where the same also say applicants, to be accepted, are being made to commit their family into voting certain candidates in the coming May elections.

Lorna Hayag, the Sorsogon PESO manager, denied such allegations.

Almost all the provinces, cities and municipalities in Bicol that have SPES pledges have already started accepting applicants with Sorsogon province, whose PESO opened last Feb 11, being the earliest starter in the region, Lacambra said.

Naga City over the week has also announced its opening of its SPES which will accommodate summer jobseekers, specifically students who want to earn money for their enrolment next school year.

Lacambra said the Naga City government has allotted 150 slots for graduating high school students this year and another 50 vacancies for incoming college students for the first semester.

Naga PESO head Roderick Reforsado, in a report to the DOLE regional office, said each successful applicant will be paid a daily rate of P252 per day while other government offices or other partners can also give as much as P327 on a daily basis.

The LGU assumes 60 percent of the entire salary, while 40 percent comes from the DOLE.

In the report, Reforsado said that every year, the Metro Naga PESO ties up with DOLE in the implementation of its SPES program.

Applicants for this year have only until March 15 to submit the requirements, he added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

CSU bags awards during 12th Luzonwide college press confab

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- The Catanduanes State University’s (CSU)’s Statesman and CSU-College of Health Sciences Herringilya won top awards during the 12th Luzonwide Higher Education Press Conference held recently at The Oriental Hotel here.

CSU topnotch writers Dave Tolentino, Karen Ailene Benavidez, Marian Claire Tulod, Jerard Paul Tulod, Abygale Bagadiong, Angelica Terazzola and Chille Marlyn Vargas composed the team of winners who brought home the bacon for the island state university.

Tolentino placed second in Editorial Writing; Benavidez and Ms Tulod, 5th and 6th places in Opinion Writing, respectively; Jerard Tulod, 8th place in Sports Writing; Bagadiong, 8th place, News Writing; Terazzola, 8th place, Poetry Writing, and Vargas, 10th place, Editorial Writing.

Around 800 student writers from seven regions in Luzon, including guest contestants from Cebu, participated in the annual journalism conference and contests with the theme: “Responsible Journalism in the New Media Technology.”

Abacatanduanes: Ikalimang Paghahabi, another CSU publication, was awarded 3rd place, Best Page Design; 8th place, Best Literary Content; and 8th Place, Best Publication in Literary Folio Category.

Under the Newsletter Category, The CSU Statesman landed 9th place, Sports Page; 7th place, Page Design; 9th place, Features/Literary Page; and overall 9th place, Best Publication.

The CSU Statesman-Tabloid issue also bagged 5th place, Best Layout/Page Design category; 9th place, Best Feature/Literary Page Category; and 9th place, Best Sports Page Category.

Meanwhile, Heringgilya Newsletter landed 9th place for Best Editorial Page; 9th place, DevCom Page and 9th place, Page Design.

The Bicol delegation to the competition was declared champion in the individual writing competitions and first runner-up in group contests.

The Luzonwide press conference is the largest gathering of college campus journalists in the country. (PNA) FPV/FGS/CBD/ABB

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exhilarting view atop Mayon in Albay

Mountaineers from Tribu Guinobateño Mountaineering Club enjoy the breathtaking view atop the summit of Mayon Volcano, a natural park and a protected landscape declared by the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources in the year 2000. Rising 2,421 meters above sea level, it is also touted as one of the most challenging peaks to scale and the country’s most active volcano. (PNA photo courtesy of DENR V) ron

BFAR offers facilities to push canning industry in Bicol

BULA, Camarines Sur, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)is offering its packing facilities to entrepreneurs to push canning industry in Bicol with the abundant supply of fish the whole year-round.

Miguel B. Bañez, project development officer of BFAR’s post-harvest unit at the Regional Fisheries Freshwater Center (RFFC), told the Philippine News Agency on Wednesday they are encouraging investors to venture into fish canning with at least P4.5-million capital to yield P1.5-million profit in a month of operation tapping the services of the canning plant here.

Bañez said the P30-million canning plant that the fisheries bureau has been operating since 2011 is providing technical assistance to prospective investors, from creating recipes for canned fish to production to products’ packing.

He said BFAR is only asking toll packing service equivalent to seven percent of the total manpower and cost of raw materials and the investors would just pick up the finished packaged products ready for sale.

Being employed in companies of known canned-fish brands since late 1980s before working with BFAR, Bañez was involved in the plant’s design, fabrication of pieces of equipment and the actual fish processing and canning operation in the plant.

He said that once an investor agrees with the final recipe of the fish sauce, the production could start.

Bañez said the plant’s full capacity to process and pack fish materials is five tons per day.

Combining manual and mechanical means, the plant’s full operation requires 36 workers tasked in various processes of production.

Bañez assured that given the right marketing strategy, which they will also provide, BFAR hopes to instill to interested investors the profitability of canning in this region that produces more than 200 metric tons of fish every year.(PNA) PDS/FGS/JME/CBD/EBP

Bicol’s most wanted falls

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Police operatives arrested on Monday one of Bicol’s most wanted persons and a ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay (village) Bacayon, Batangas City, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Wednesday.

Arrested was Ramon Ariente, 53, alias Fausto and Butch, a native of Del Gallego town in Camarines Sur, according to Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Battaler said police operatives from Bicol and Batangas City, armed with a warrant of arrest, had an entrapment operation that collared Ariente on Monday in a hideout in Barangay Bacayon.

The suspect carried a P2.3-million bounty on his head for a string of criminal cases for murder, robbery in band, arson and attempted homicide.

A police intelligence report said Ariente is the current political officer and a member of the executive committee of the NPA Romulo Jallores Command operating in Camarines Norte.

Before his arrest, Ariente replaced Nancy Ortega as the communist movement’s political officer after she was earlier arrested in Camarines Norte.

The suspect was brought to Manila on Tuesday and was turned over to PNP custodial center in Camp Crame in Quezon City. (PNA) FPV/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Brillantes to lead 10,000 Masbateños in peaceful polls march

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes will lead a huge crowd of Masbateños who will stage a mass action for a peaceful conduct of the May 13 elections on Saturday.

Organized by the Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP), a church-led, multi-sectoral group that seeks to end the culture of violence and impunity in the province, the mass action is expected to be joined by over 10,000 people from different sectors of the province.

Practically, the degree of participation is counting people from all walks of life who seek social reform in the province, Masbate Regional Trial Court Judge Igmedio Camposano, the MAP convenor, said on Wednesday here.

They will march around the city to show a strong force in calling for a clean, honest and peaceful elections and hold a rally with Brillantes and PCCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa as lead speakers.

Brillantes is also expected to assess the situation in consultation with the local police office and Philippine Army contingents.

The march, which will start at 6:00 a.m., will cover a five-kilometer stretch of the city’s main thoroughfare and end at an open field for the whole day rally.

“We did this kind of undertaking in 2010 and are doing it again now, at least to defuse the tension brewing as the May 13 elections draw near. With this show of force, we expect that local politicians who intend to use their goons will have a change of mind,” Camposano said.

Apart from massive activities, MAP primarily takes its campaign from town to town, gathering Masbate people for community-based discussions on how to deal with the partisan armed groups employed by some local politicians to work on their electoral victory by force.(PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Legazpenos plant 5,000 trees around Mayon

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb 20 (PNA) -- The once-barren spaces in Barangay Pawa here are now dotted with about 5,000 seedlings of pine and ipil-ipil trees.

The tree seedlings were planted by over 1,000 Legazpeños who briskly walked en masse the five-kilometer stretch from the Legazpi Domestic Airport complex to Barangay Pawa, which is located near the foot of Mayon -- the majestic Bicol tourism icon known as the World’s Most Perfect Cone, in celebration of Valentine’s Day's “Lakad Tanim para Sa Puso.”

The yearly walk here, now on its seventh year, was led by City Mayor Geraldine Rosal, who told the Philippine News Agency Wednesday, “We do tree planting during this event which is only among the many yearly occasions we are celebrating with similar activity to demonstrate our love for our environment.”

“In this city that is prone to natural calamities like floods, typhoons and volcanic eruptions, we are vigorously pursuing reforestation and environmental programs so that we are able to maintain the high livability and most-visited status of our place,” she added.

On the reason for the choice of the tree seedlings, Rosal explained that pine trees are among the most commercially important of tree species, valued for their timber and wood pulp throughout the world.

The pine tree is a coniferous tree of the genus Pinus in the family Pinaceae while ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) is a type of a fast-growing tropical rainforest plant used for variety of purposes such as firewood, fiber and livestock fodder.

In temperate and tropical regions, they are fast-growing softwood that will grow in relatively dense stands, with their acidic decaying needles inhibiting the sprouting of competing hardwood.

Pine wood is widely used in high-value carpentry items such as furniture, window frame, paneling, flooring and roofing, and the resin of some species is an important source of turpentine.

It is also commercially grown and harvested for Christmas trees.

Pine cones, the largest and most durable of all conifer cones, are craft favorites. Pine boughs, appreciated especially in wintertime for their pleasant smell and greenery, are popularly cut for decorations.

Ipil-ipil trees are commonly planted as hedgerows to prevent erosion in the soil and act as mulch or other things as well.

“In time for the celebration of Valentine’s Day, the people of this city celebrate by way of caring for our hearts and the environment. We walked to be physically fit and plant trees to protect and practice our care for the environment,” Rosal said.

She said she was impressed that the number of participants in this yearly love month affair has been continuously growing from different government agencies and the private sector, which shows that more and more Legazpeños are getting aware of the importance of physical fitness for a healthy living and planting trees for the care of the environment.

Barangay Pawa was chosen as the venue for the tree-planting activity this year considering its being a key destination for adventure tourists.

It is the site for lava hill trekking, extreme motor sports, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides and rugged terrain runs, among others.

The place badly needs trees as its old-growth ones have been ravaged by lava and lahar flows and flash-floods, Rosal said, adding that it is also in line with the National Greening Program of the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (PNA) JBP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Summer job program for 2013 already on in Sorsogon

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol on Tuesday announced that, in cooperation with the provincial government of Sorsogon, registration of applicants for the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) or the summer job program for 2013 on the province had already opened.

“Actually almost all the municipalities that have SPES pledges are starting to accept applicants. It so happens that Sorsogon started full blast registration ahead of the other Bicol provinces,” DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel V. Lacambra said.

Requirements for the SPES program are the following: applicants must be high school graduate, aged 25 years old and below, currently enrolled this school year, has not availed of any scholarship grant from other institutions and with not more than P36,000 annual family income.

“There are no other requirements needed for SPES, and it is true not just regionwide but nationwide. If there are persons asking for other malicious requirements, please tell us (DOLE),” Lacambra said.

With the opening of the SPES Program, he cautioned applicants from dealing with fixers and the modus operandi of some individuals posting as DOLE or Public Employment Service Office employees of local government units asking for cash in lieu of a a promise of sure SPES slot. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD/EBP

Albay tops in Bicol tourist arrivals

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- With high investment spending in tourism promotion and holding of festivals, Albay became the top tourist hub in Bicol last year with over a half a million tourists visiting the province, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said Monday.

Maria Ravanilla, DOT regional director, in her yearend report, said topping the list of tourist arrivals in Bicol provinces last year were Albay with 49-percent growth rate or 523,832 arrivals, followed by Sorsogon with 31 percent or 173,700, and Camarines Norte with 23 percent or 190,918.

The province of Masbate registered a three-percent increase with 176,700 arrivals while Camarines Sur and Catanduanes both posted only a one-percent growth.

DOT statistics indicate that last year, 3.6 million tourists visited Bicol with only 8-percent growth rate as compared to the 2011 arrivals.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda claimed that the holding of regional, provincial and local festivals in the 15 towns and three cities significantly contributed to the robust tourism growth in Albay, with a domestic market share of 67 percent, or two to three new tourists went to the province, and 23 percent in foreign market.

“Albay indeed is the fastest tourist destination, almost doubling in domestic and 23 percent in foreign tourism. It is just our first salvo as a ‘united’ people,” he said.

Albay offers to showcase historical and cultural festivals that include: The Daragang Magayon, a month-long provincial festival; Karangahan Festival; Ibalong Festival in this city; Tabak Festival in Tabaco City; Cagsawa Festival in Daraga town, and Pulang Angui Festival in Polangui.

Other festivals even for small towns like Manito, Pioduran and Jovellar were virtually upscaled, inviting tourists to visit these places.

Salceda said the 49-percent tourists’ arrival growth for Albay last year was further bolstered by advertising collaterals published in magazines, newspapers, and aired in broadcast outlets--including the social media.

Citing a survey of Cebu Pacific Airlines, he said Magayon Festival had a 14.7 percent market share among Philippine festivals, coming third to Sinulog and Bangus festivals.

In the case of tourists visiting the Cagsawa ruins in Daraga town, total paying visitors reached 322,000 in 2012 versus 551,000 tourists coming to Albay--or more than three of every five tourists went to Cagsawa, making it the most visited destination of the province.

Salceda expects to sustain, if not surpass, the 2012 performance due to aggressive foreign reintroduction, closer collaboration with key tourism stakeholders.

Salceda, also Bicol’s Regional Development Council(RDC) chair, said the council will also launch the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (ALMASOR) tourism alliance, a package that would enhance the structural attractiveness of all three provinces in synergistic positioning and branch franchising.

He said he looks forward for the opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Daraga town, a growth kicker in the future.

The SLIA is originally targeted to open this year, but, due to some glitches, the full operation is estimated to be delayed for three years, Salceda said.

Tourism in Albay is expected to further perk up following the successful staging recently of Albay’s ballet epic Daragang Magayon: An Istorya ni Mayon at the Cultural Center of the Philippines main theatre which drew superlative reviews from critics and a mixed crowd of celebrities. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Not Salceda but Congress to blame for Albay power coop woes, says lawyer

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- A senator blaming Gov. Joey Salceda for what ails Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) is floating a dud insinuation, according to a lawyer here who once headed Aleco's board of directors (BOD).

Recently, over dzMM Radio/TV, Sen. Serge Osmeña blamed Salceda for what ails Aleco as he announced that the Senate has approved an amendment to PD269, to authorize the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to replace the erring directors or governing boards of electric cooperatives, in lieu of the existing practice of “self-regulation.”

“Obviously, Osmeña is unaware of Congress’ failure to oversee the electrification program in the country. When it passed RA9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or Epira) in 2001, the electric cooperatives owed the government (through NEA) P18.1 billion in loans,” said lawyer Oliver Olaybal, who once led the fight for the survival of the presently cash-strapped cooperative as head of its elected board members.

Instead of allowing the subscribers to bail out their cooperatives through stock issuance, it (Congress) decided to let the government assume the liability through Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM), he added.

Hence, the government lost P18.1 billion in taxpayers’ money through erroneous legislation, Olaybal recalled.

The new “amendment” to PD269 that Osmeña announced, according to him, is redundant, because PD1645 has already authorized NEA since 1979 to replace the governing boards of electric cooperatives, including the designation of acting managers and project supervisors, he added. “And, this has worked against the interest of electric cooperatives like Aleco because outgoing NEA managers and supervisors do not render exit reports or accounting reports,” the lawyer said.

Due to this, he added, Aleco’s financial position deteriorated and operating deficits escalated, for lack of accountability by NEA.

Aleco has been under a NEA-designated project supervisor since over a decade ago and until now.

Salceda became Albay governor only in 2004 several years after Aleco’s financial status collapsed due to huge indebtedness generally blamed on corruption that saw the hands of a local politician (not Salceda) and mismanagement resulting in poor collection efficiency, high system losses and labor disputes, among others, Olaybal added.

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

Olaybal said that during the early years of Salceda as the province’s chief executive, he worked on placing the cooperative under private receivership in order to bail it out from its financial woes, a measure which did not work due to oppositions from various sectors, including NEA’s old administration.

Aleco’s financial liabilities under NEA management then ballooned from less than P1 billion to an unimaginable amount of about P3.4 billion and what Salceda could do with his hands tied was to intervene every time a threat of power supply disconnection emerged.

Then finally last year, the NEA started working on the privatization of the cooperative, a move which, according to the Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, is seen to finally put an end to its troubles that have been endangering its over-250,000 member-consumers with power supply cut-off.

This move, according to NEA, has been resorted to as the government could no longer bailout the ailing electric cooperative.

Aleco’s two attempts last year to undertake a negotiated bidding for a consultancy service to prepare the cooperative’s Terms of Reference (ToR) for Private Sector Participation (PSP) initiative, however, failed due to poor turnout of bidders.

For Olaybal, on the other hand, the only immediate solution to this problem of imminent power disconnection is for Aleco to file with the local commercial court a petition for corporate rehabilitation. >p>“This will have the following effects: a rehabilitation receiver will be appointed; creditors and power suppliers shall be prevented from taking action against Aleco, including power disconnection; and the rehabilitation receiver shall prepare a rehabilitation plan, for court approval, which shall state the strategy for capital buildup,” he explained.

Aleco, Olaybal said, has a choice between raising interest-bearing capital or interest-free capital.

The first would involve loans, but the interest charges will delay the onset of rehabilitation, and the second strategy is to raise interest-free capital, through corporate finance.

“This is the best option, because Aleco would have no obligation to pay interests,” he said.

The rehabilitation plan should involve all congressmen in the province of Albay.

These congressmen must sponsor a resolution in Congress authorizing Aleco to issue shares of stock, to be sold to Aleco members only, but limiting stock ownership on the part of one member and/or related interests, to 10 percent of the authorized capital stock.

“In this manner, Aleco will be able to generate interest-free capital of P5 billion to be used in retiring its financial obligations, as well as in modernizing Aleco by replacing its third-world multi-ground distribution system (that uses aluminum wires), to prevent common-place pilferage (through polarity reversal),” he said.

Stock issuance means that Aleco need not pay interests on its P5-billion capital buildup.

“This is the only solution to Aleco’s imminent power disconnection. The petition for corporate rehabilitation must be filed immediately,” he added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Monday, February 18, 2013

Legazpi gets ready to receive thousands of ‘balikbayans’ in July

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- This city is preparing for another “something big” for its tourism load this year with the coming of thousands of Bicolano “balikbayans” from the United States for the 30th Bicolano National Association of America (BNAA) Convention in July.

“We are making this grand event memorable more than ever for these ‘kababayans’ of ours who have been successful in their respective careers and crafts in continental USA,” said City Mayor Geraldine Rosal on Monday.

“They will find Legazpi, now internationally referred to as the Philippines’ ‘City of Fun and Adventure’, very much different from what it was seven years ago--the last time the same affair was held here with over 4,000, including the BNAA second generation, in attendance ,” she added.

The number would be bigger this year, Maria Ong-Ravanilla, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director for Bicol, said, noting that this year’s convention themed “Balik-Bikol IV” would be a celebration of BNAA’s 30th year of humanitarian services to Bicolanos.

The BNAA was founded on Nov. 17, 1983 at the Capitol Site, Washington, D.C., in the presence of US-based Bicolano leaders or presidents of the Bicol organizations already in existence.

The association gives importance to one united umbrella organization of Bicolanos in a continental territory far away from their native land, Rosal said.

“BNAA membership provides opportunity to become connected with other Bicolanos in the US and work with other members in addressing the needs of our local community and the Bicol Region,” Adolfo Manlangit, its incumbent president based in Houston, Texas, said in a statement reaching here over the weekend.

For the past 30 years, the BNAA has been involved in relief assistance to victims of calamities and scholarship grants.

In yearly trips to Bicol, its teams would hold medical missions and build potable water systems in far-flung barangays.(PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

First anthology of Bicol fiction makes a buzz

NAGA CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- Hot off the press featuring 22 writers, the book “Hagong, Mga Osipon (Buzz, Fiction Pieces)” launched last week at the Ateneo de Naga University (AdeNU) made a buzz here as it is the first anthology of Bicol fiction written in various dialects.

Prof. Paz Verdades M. Santos, who edited book in tandem with Francisco V. Peñones Jr., hailed the collection of Bicol fiction as the first volume ever published in the 21st century.

Santos explained that they adopted the term "osipon" for Bicol fiction-- which is the Bicol word for a tale, to tell, tell on, squeal, gossip, accuse and complain about--that was traced to the term used in the early 20th century of Bicol publication.

She said the resurgence of Bicol literature in the recent decade is characterized by a flood of rawitdawit (Bicol poems) with many books already published.

However, there’s a dearth of osipon, she added.

“Several collections of poetry have been launched in less than a decade, but not one volume of good short stories in Bikol has appeared,” Santos observed.

She was a literature professor at the De La Salle University for 10 years and is presently teaching at the Ateneo de Naga University.

Santos is in the forefront of collecting Bicol literature pieces and publishing them into books, which included “Hagkus Twentieth Century Bikol Women Writers “ (2003), “Maharang Mahamis na Literatura sa Mga Tataramon sa Bikol” (2010), and “Sagurong” (2011).

She said several osipon pieces in the 183-page book have won awards and seen publication in school and local publications and the 22 osipon had been selected from more than 100 pieces submitted.

“Some are definitely worth critiquing and studying, and eventually translating and submitting to national and international anthologies to represent contemporary fiction in Bikol,” she added.

There are two stories in mythical forms that make use of local legends, four pieces in historical fiction, and the bulk of the stories deal with harsh social realities.

Peñones said the book title “Hagong” was chosen because, he said, these "osipon" will most likely resonate among Bicol readers who will recognize their own stories in the collection.

Bernadette T. Dayan, chair of AdeNU’s literature and language studies department, said the stories provide significant pieces of experience helpful for the new generation to understand the entire sphere of Bicol spirit.

“Hagong” is published by Ateneo de Naga University Press headed by Fr. Wilmer Tria. (PNA) PDS/FGS/JME/CBD/ABB

Friday, February 15, 2013

DOLE sees more jobs in Bicol this year

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 15 (PNA) -– With the recent launch of its campaign for the “provision of respectable and decent jobs in pursuit of growth and progress,” the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol is optimistic more Bicolanos will be employed this year.

This campaign is in line with the directives of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz based on agreements reached during a recent employment planning conference held in this city, DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said here on Friday.

Lacambra said his office is working this year on strengthening its employment promotions program through jobs fair, utilization of the government’s official job portal--PHIL-Job Net, institutionalization of Public Employment Service Offices among local government units and widening the scope of the Special Program for the Employment of Students.

The agency will also vigorously pursue the establishment of a strong and working labor relations program through improved conduct of workplace inspection, technical assistance visit and the Single Entry Approach (SENA) in the conciliation and mediation of labor disputes, he added.

The SENA was established in pursuit of the goal of President Benigno Aquino III in his 22-point labor and employment agenda which provides for a 30-day mandatory conciliation-mediation efforts made operational through the Single Entry Assistance Desks.

It is a reform program that answers the President’s directive to the DOLE to “reform labor arbitration and adjudication systems by streamlining procedures, removing red tape, and at the same time, restore integrity and fairness in the system and to ensure that 98 percent of all pending labor cases are disposed of with quality decisions by April 2011.”

Lacambra said they are also seeing to it that employers follow the provisions of the Domestic Workers Act of 2012 or the Kasambahay Law and the strict implementation of DOLE Department Order (DO) 118-12 on the benefits of bus drivers and conductors.

Under the Kasambahay Law, employers are responsible for the safety of their domestic workers and shall provide a decent place for resting, at least three meals a day and hours of rest.

“They shall also be entitled to only eight hours of work otherwise overtime pay will be required if they have extended their hours of service,” he said.

The law, also known as Republic Act 10361 or An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers signed by President Aquino on Jan. 18, institutes new minimum labor standards for domestic workers, covering minimum wage, regulation of work hours, leaves, social security, health insurance, and the provision of a written contract.

DOLE’s DO 118-12, on the other hand, requires operators of public utility buses to pay their drivers and conductors wages not lower than the prevailing minimum wage.

“We are also expediting this year the convergence of all programs of member-bureaus of the DOLE Regional Coordinating Committee in compliance with the directive from Sec. Baldoz for the convergence of all programs of the different agencies under DOLE to come up with a coherent approach in providing services to the people," Lacambra said.

All these activities were firmed up during the four-day Employment Enhancement and Luzon Regional Operations Joint Conference held in this city last Jan. 16-19.

Lacambra also based his optimism on more jobs for Bicolanos this year on the trend established by the latest Labor Force Surveys conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in the region.

The NSO October 2012 survey shows that employment rate in the region went up by 0.4-percentage point compared to the same period the previous year.

It settled at 95.1 percent, compared to 94.7 percent obtained in October 2011.

Unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent, correspondingly, the October survey shows.

The labor force participation rate or the proportion of those in the labor force to the population aged 15 years old and over also declined from 67.2 percent in October 2011 to 65.5 percent in October 2012, the survey added.

In fact, Lacambra said, Bicol’s employment trend could absorb all the over 26,000 fresh graduates in the region within the next two years.

He said that with the advent of more new investments that the region, particularly this city, is receiving in the Business Process Outsourcing sector, 40 percent of these latest graduates will be employed within this year and the rest may be placed in the succeeding two years.

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

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

“Our conservative projection based on the regional trend is that all these new graduates may land on gainful employments by 2014,” he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Government allots P1.3-M for cash training project in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 15 (PNA) -– To provide a sustainable intervention to improve the plight and condition of the youth, the government has allocated P1.3 million for a cash training project for them in Bicol region.

Arnel Garcia, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional director, said the cash training which was launched last Feb. 12 in Donsol, Sorsogon, aims to train youth for possible employment in targeted communities and provide them with basic requirements that will enable them to facilitate their trade to gainful occupation.

The project is a joint initiative between DSWD and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Garcia said the training will be organized by TESDA, with two independent components: training for wage employment or “trabaho” and training for self-employment or “hanapbuhay.”

In Bicol region, about 3,286 slots were allocated and an amount of P20,000 per trainee will be provided in the form of training vouchers and toolkits.

In Donsol, 50 youth beneficiaries qualified in the training for commercial cooking and welding.

Out of 50 trainees, 21 of them are already beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya.

According to DSWD, their office is still waiting for the lists of qualified trainees to be submitted by the respective municipal social welfare and development offices in Bicol. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MDR/CBD/UTB

WHO pledges help vs endemic cholera problem in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 15 (PNA) -– The World Health Organization (WHO) has vowed to help address the cholera problem in Catanduanes which the Department of Health (DOH) considers as already endemic in that island province of Bicol.

Endemic means there is usually a number of cases in any given month that are attributed to the absence of established source of safe water distribution system, the DOH explained.

Local residents, particularly those in rural villages, usually source their drinking water from deep wells that are prone to contamination from fecal material that, according to the DOH, develops Vibrio cholera, the bacteria that causes cholera.

The latest outbreak of the killer disease in the province was in the first half of last year which killed at least 14 people and hospitalized nearly 3,000 others.

The same occurrence also killed eight and hospitalized over 1,000 other people in 2011.

WHO will help the province in addressing the problem based on the specific needs of local government units (LGUs) but first, a refresher course for clinical physicians will be conducted for early diagnosis, recognition and treatment of diarrhea and cholera cases, particularly with provision of technical expertise from other countries where cholera is also endemic.

This was according to Dr. Nerisse Dominguez, the WHO representative who joined a DOH team headed by Health Undersecretary Enrique Tayag that conducted a four-day post-cholera assessment mission in Catanduanes last week.

During their presence, Tayag announced that “there is no more cholera outbreak in the province, but the possibility remains that it would occur again, especially in six of its 11 towns where sources of drinking water were found to be unsanitary and toilets are inadequate.”

In a statement reaching here over the week, Dominguez said WHO would consider implementing in Catanduanes its water safety plan (WSP), a concept introduced in the Philippines in 2006 and included in the 2007 Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water.

A total of 190 water districts, out of total 831 in the country, have been trained on this approach and completed nine water safety plans, serving at least 15 million people, as well as drafted 15 WSPs.

And yet there is more than 6,000 water systems in the country, including those in Catanduanes, that need to know about this concept and make WSPs to ensure safe drinking water supply in their areas.

Selected areas in the country that experienced waterborne disease outbreaks form part of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)- assisted Phase 3 Project, from 2012 to 2016.

The project will develop WSP models for new types of water systems, according to Dominguez.

She said waterborne diseases still confront the country, despite high coverage of water supply at 92 percent as identified causes of outbreaks are open defecation; unprotected water sources; uncontrolled disposal of animal wastes; non-chlorination of community-based systems; and inadequate water monitoring.

The use of WSPs will contribute in reducing the environmental risks of waterborne diseases, in order to minimize these disease outbreaks.

The risks will be clearly identified and addressed in developing and implementing the plans, she explained.

The WSP, according to Dominguez, is the most effective means of maintaining a safe supply of drinking water for the citizenry.

The plan analyzes the risks of contamination, from the water source to the consumer.

At any given point of risk, appropriate control measures are then put in place.

WHO's work with the Government of the Philippines from 2011 to 2016 is defined by the Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) jointly developed by WHO and the DOH.

It contains the vision and priorities for WHO to support the Philippine Government in achieving universal health care goals of better health outcomes, sustained health financing and a responsive health system, Dominguez added.

During last week’s DOH team visit, Tayag told Catanduanes local government and health officials that cholera is now endemic in the province and would take some time to totally eliminate it through proper implementation of water sanitation and hygiene programs and projects, according to a report of the Catanduanes Tribune, a local newspaper.

The disease can only be addressed through the implementation of water chlorination and provision of safe and adequate water supply, better personal hygiene, early provision of Oresol to combat dehydration in stricken patients and the immediate hospitalization of those affected--especially children, pregnant women and the elderly, Tayag said, according to the local newspaper.

“LGUs easily forget what they have started,” Tayag was quoted as saying in the Tribune report as he said DOH wants to see what has been done by local governments so that the health department can see where it will step in. “We believe that good coordination between the provincial government and the DOH would serve as a model of cooperation against cholera.”

During a dialogue with the DOH team, Catanduanes local officials led by Gov. Joseph Cua said the province does not have enough fund and suggested to the mayors that their LGUs allocate a portion of their 20 percent Economic Development Fund for water system projects in villages in their respective towns that were hit by the cholera outbreak.

Mayor Jose Alberto III of Virac, the capital town, said his LGU has already allotted P500,000 for the construction of condominial toilets in 2012, plus another P1.5 million for the same project as well as water systems for the current year. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Muslim community in Bicol lauds President Aquino's peace initiative

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 14 (PNA) -- The Muslim community in Bicol has lauded President Benigno Aquino III for his initiative in bringing peace to the Mindanao region.

Liningling Sarip, who keeps watch over members of Masbate Muslim Brothers Association in the island province of Masbate, praised President Aquino’s recent visit to the camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Maguindanao.

He said the visit was a big step in the quest for lasting peace.

Sarip, who also manages a self-funded social welfare fund, said Muslims in Masbate are optimistic that the lot of their relatives and fellow Muslims will improve under the Aquino administration’s social development program for the Bangsamoro communities.

The Muslim community as well as residents in Naga City said President Aquino’s move to strengthen the link between the government and the MILF gained positive response.

Nathan Sergio, city councilor, said it was a brilliant move toward lasting peace that will bring about development in Muslim areas in Mindanao.

This, he said, is a concrete show of sincerity on the part of the national government leadership and that of the MILF.

Abdullah Borres, a Bicolano Muslim convert from this city and an officer of the Bicol Muslim Islamic Information and Dawah Center here, said in a phone interview that there are over 6,000 Muslims living in Bicol.

Borres said majority of the Muslims here are Maranaos from Maguindanao doing business in the cities of Legazpi in Albay, Naga and Iriga in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon in Sorsogon, Masbate in Masbate as well as the towns of Virac in Catanduanes and Daet in Camarines Norte. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Sorsogon dad asks Ombudsman to charge gov, vice gov, board members with plunder

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 14 (PNA) -- A member of the Sorsogon provincial legislative board has filed a complaint asking the Office of the Ombudsman to charge Gov. Raul Lee, Vice Governor Antonio Escudero and nine members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) with plunder.

Board Member Vladimir Frivaldo, in documents filed with the Ombudsman over the week, based his plunder accusation against his fellow provincial officials on a complaint for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act he had earlier filed.

The graft complaint is in connection with the P350-million loan secured by the provincial government from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) last year which, he claimed, was “grossly disadvantageous to the government.”

He said Lee, Escudero and the nine SP members committed the offense for violation of Section 3 of RA No. 3019 for, among others, “entering on behalf of the Government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.”

The nine SP members named in the complaint are Rebecca Aquino, Fernando David Duran III, Arnulfo Perete, Franco Eric Ravanilla, Angel Escandor, Benito Doma, Bernard Hao, Patrick Rodrigueza and Neson Maraña.

Two bank officials — Hil Benedict Manzanades, head of LBP Legazpi City office, and Renato Eje, the bank’s vice president who facilitated the loan transaction--were also included in the complaint for allegedly conniving with the provincial officials over the multi-million-peso loan.

All accused have denied the accusations in counter-affidavits submitted to the Ombudsman.

“They should also be held liable for violation of Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 or the ‘Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder’,” Frivaldo said in an affidavit answering the respondents counter-claims, a copy of which obtained by the Philippine News Agency Thursday.

This P350-million graft case is the latest among the string of cases Lee is facing in the graft court.

Graft charges are pending with the Sandiganbayan against him for his alleged direct involvement in the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo administration.

In this case, the Ombudsman, which filed the case last year, said Lee caused undue injury to the government by approving the purchase of 2,133 liters of liquid fertilizer at P1,500 per liter against prevailing market price of only P180 per liter.

Another case also pending with the graft court is in connection with the alleged anomalous implementation nine years ago of the province’s Distance Learning Center Program (DLCP) that involved a total amount of P22 million in funds sourced through LBP and Philippine National Bank loans.

Findings of the Ombudsman said that despite spending all the money, no DLCP was ever implemented.

Filing of the case with the Sandiganbayan was recommended, also last year, following a long wait for more than five years after the original complaint was filed with the Ombudsman in 2006. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB