Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Salceda expresses dismay over media reports of not toeing party line

LEGAZPI CITY, April 30 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Salceda has expressed dismay over media reports about him not toeing party line for a 12-0 Team PNoy slate in Albay and tagged it as “journalism of the worst order.”

Salceda said there was no statement from him regarding that matter. “Walang ganyan (no statement of such kind); definitely, I did not say it.”

Salceda, who is the Liberal Party (LP) head in Albay, said in a text message that the dropping of the 12-0 Team PNoy lineup and the pushing for the 6-5-1 slate instead were far-fetched political scenarios.

“Because, as a Chinese proverb says, in a rising tide even the garbage goes up, The converse of 10-2 is ‘not 12-0.’ But surely nowhere did I proffer the idea of so called 6-5-1 sample ballots,” he claimed.

Reacting to the Inquirer report where he was quoted on Sunday that he would vote for opposition senatorial candidate Nancy Binay, Salceda said, “This is journalism of the worst order.”

“Walang ganyang statement,” the Albay governor stressed.

Salceda said the role he played on Sunday was to welcome Vice President Jejomar Binay, being the second titular head of the country.

“The (Binay) visit in Albay was an occasion where the Daragang Magayon Festival, a month-long celebration was on its climax,” he clarified. “Everybody is welcome here in Albay, regardless of party, organization, religious affiliation--it’s an Albayano’s trait to be hospitable and friendly.”

“The head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Corp. (HUDCC) requested me to introduce the vice president in the housing conference here where the town executives of Sto. Domingo and Tiwi were recipients of the program,” Salceda explained.

After the program, he said, the vice president asked him to join the top official for lunch at the Oriental Hotel Legazpi.

“There we had a closed-door lunch with the UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) contingent and the party’s embedded media team; there were no media statement there,” Salceda clarified.

He also denied reports that he accompanied the Team UNA in its rally, saying that he was too busy attending to the Daragang Magayon Festival grand street-dancing presentation.

Except for an UNA Rally in Tabaco City, there was no rally in Legazpi and in Polangui, he said, adding the team had a motorcade in Legazpi, Daraga and all the towns in the first district of the province.

Salceda also denied the circulation of sample ballots containing the names of six Team PNoy candidates, five Team UNA members and an independent candidate.

“This is an old practice, a political strategy engaged by some political supporters bent to push for their choice candidates,” he explained.

Salceda refused to comment on the statements made by former senators Ramon Magsaysay and Jamby Madrigal, asking for his explanation why he should not be sanctioned for his loose statement and indiscretion, saying that “they do not have the entire facts.” (PNA) PDS/FGS/MSA/CBD/

Death toll in Bangladesh building collapse nears 400

NEW DELHI, April 29, (PNA/Irna) -- The death toll in the worst building collapse in the history of Bangladesh today rose to nearly 400, even as the fugitive owner of the 8-story structure was arrested dramatically while attempting to flee to India.

Sohel Rana was arrested by the country's elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) from Benapole, one of the 14 land ports with India, just as he was about to cross into West Bengal, making this afternoon's arrest the fifth in the case.

"RAB arrested Sohel Rana from Benapole frontiers as he tried to flee the country," pti reported quoting officials. Rana was later brought from Benapole in Jessore district to the RAB headquarters in Dhaka in a helicopter and was presented before the media.

"The Prime Minister had promised that those responsible will be brought to justice. She has kept her promise," officials said

Those who have been arrested will be prosecuted and those who are yet to be arrested will be caught soon, junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said.

The structure, that housed five garment factories, a bank branch and around three hundred shops employing thousands of workers, collapsed on April 24 leaving at least 397 people dead, a day after authorities issued a warning regarding cracks in the building.

According to officials, Rana erected the building defying safety rules and proper clearance.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi rescuers postponed the second phase of rescue operations using heavy cranes and bulldozers as they said they were trying to retrieve alive manually the last few survivors.

So far, around 2,443 survivors have been rescued from beneath the rubble with nine persons pulled out alive today.

"The second phase of the salvage campaign was halted for hours as it could endanger the last few survivors under the tons of rubble...we will go for mechanical methods as soon as the last (manual) efforts to retrieve them are exhausted," a fire service official told newsmen at the scene.

The authorities earlier today said they were set to launch the second phase of the salvage campaigns as they found little rhythm or pulses of life under concrete rubble or in between sandwiched floors of Rana Plaza.

"We have now unanimously decided to enter into the second phase of the salvage campaign using heavy equipment like cranes (to remove the rubble) instead of manual efforts (to rescue survivors)," said Sarwardy during a briefing after a coordination meeting of the rescue agencies.

Rescuers said they were trying to pull out other survivors manually under an extended first phase of the rescue drill making their ways through a borehole.

Rescuers would now enter the rubles on crane boxes, creating boreholes from the top and pull out survivors, if any, as it appears impossible to penetrate the concrete ruins manually using rod cutters and hand saws, he said.

"But rescuers will select calculated sites for boreholes, cautiously entering inside the rubble, so that the lives of survivors or their own are not in danger," said Sarwardy, who commands the armyˈs Savar-based 9th division.

A senior fire brigade official told newsmen at the scene the time limit for extending the manual rescue operations were extended as survivors were found 'miraculously' alive even after expiry of 72 hours yesterday, a time frame considered maximum for survival under such debris.

"We are going to launch the second phase any moment now," an army spokesman told newsmen at the site in the evening.

Todayˈs arrest came three days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered arrest of Rana and the owners of the five garment factories housed in the structure as they apparently forced several thousand workers to join the production line even after cracks were reported and warnings were issued.

Owners of two garment units and two engineers responsible for building safety were arrested and remanded in police custody yesterday on court orders as the death toll continued to rise, prompting angry workers to take to the streets.

Police said chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories Bazlus Samad and managing director of one of the plants Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash and municipal engineers Imtimam Hossain and Alam Mian would face charges of involuntary murders of several hundred people.

About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, making it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter with Europe being its main destination.

Bangladesh’s booming garment industry has been plagued by fires and other accidents for years. In November last year, 112 workers were killed in a blaze at the Tazreen factory in a nearby industrial suburb.

Building collapses are common in Bangladesh as builders openly flout rules and the official construction code.

The country witnessed the last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi-story garment factory collapsed in the same area. (PNA/Irna) JBP/JNC

DOJ sustains President Aquino's authority to expand membership in NEDA Board
By Perfecto Raymundo

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- The Department of Justice has sustained the authority of the President to expand the membership of the National Economic and Development Authority Board.

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, in a legal opinion, said said President Benigno S. Aquino III "has legal authority to revise and/or expand the membership of the [NEDA Board] so as to include the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO)."

"Insofar as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is concerned, no less than Section 4, [Executive Order] No. 230, categorically mentions DILG as a member of the NEDA Board," the legal opinion said.

"It is therefore suggested that the proposed revision and/or expansion of the NEDA Board membership should thus reinstate or reestablish further the membership of the DILG," it added.

Executive Order No. 230 provides "[t]he President may, however, revise the membership of the NEDA Board whenever the same is deemed necessary for the effective performance of the Board's functions through an administrative or memorandum order."

De Lima's opinion was issued after Arsenio Balisacan, NEDA Director General and Socio-Economic Planning Secretary, sought an opinion on the matter.

Then President Fidel V. Ramos signed on July 26, 1994 Memorandum Order No. 222, which deactivated the NEDA Board and mandating that the "decisions of the NEDA Board Executive Committee shall be final, executory and binding upon the NEDA Board."

The NEDA Board is composed of the President as chairman, the Socio-Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General as vice-chairman and several cabinet secretaries as members. (PNA)


DOLE reminds employers to observe Labor Day pay rules

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reminded all employers on the pay rules of the forthcoming Labor Day which is considered as holiday.

May 1, which falls on Wednesday, had been affirmed by President Benigno Aquino III as a regular holiday under Proclamation No. 459 issued on August 16 last year.

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz had issued Labor Advisory No. 06, Series of 2012, indicating the guidelines on the pay rules that shall be implemented by the employers.

Under the Labor Advisory, if the holiday falls on employee's workday, the employee shall pay 200 percent of his basic wage on the first eight hours while an additional 30 percent of his hourly rate if the employee works more than eight hours.

Meaning, if the employee's basic wage is P456, he shall be paid P912 for the first eight hours and an additional P17.1 to his P57 hourly rate (a total of P74.1) for every hour in excess of eight hours of work.

If the holiday is un-worked by the employee, he is still entitled to 100 percent of the regular daily rate, as long as he was present, or was on leave with pay, on the workday immediately preceding the holiday.

Meanwhile, if the forthcoming holiday is employee's rest day and he worked for that day, the pay rule is, he is entitled to 260 percent of his daily rate on the first eight hours.

So, for a minimum wage of P456, the employee shall be paid P1, 185.60 for his first eight hours.

If the employee works for more than eight hours, he is entitled to an additional 30 percent of his hourly rate.

If the holiday that falls on a rest day is un-worked, the employee must get 100 percent of his daily rate, given that he is present or on leave with pay on the workday immediately before the holiday.

"The law mandates May 1 as a regular holiday in honor of all Filipino workers. It is right but to observe the pay rules and other general labor standards on this day," Baldoz said.

The labor and employment chief also added that all employers shall bear at heart the welfare and protection of all employees not only on worker's day, but each day, by paying them the correct wages and benefits. (PNA) LDV/KMC/EBP/EGC

President Aquino says his administration continues to pour huge investment to implement country’s electrification and infrastructure projects

LUCBAN, Quezon, April 29 (PNA) -- President Benigno S. Aquino III assured on Monday that his administration continues to pour huge investments to implement the electrification and major infrastructure projects in order to boost the agriculture, commercial and tourism sectors in the province.

In his speech during his meeting with local leaders and the community at the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) Gymnasium in Barangay Kulapi here, the Chief Executive said the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA), are working together in carrying out the electrification project in the entire country, including the province of Quezon.

"Reporma rin ang dahilan kung bakit ang dating tatlumpu’t anim na libong sitio na nangangapa sa dilim, unti-unti na nating nabibigyang-tanglaw. Sa ngayon po, may mahigit pitong libo at dalawandaang sitio na tayong napapailawan doon sa 36,000 na ‘yan, halos isandaan at limampu ay mula sa inyong lalawigan. Pumapaspas na po sa trabaho ang DOE at NEA para sa lalong madaling panahon, mapaliwanag na ang bawat sulok ng Quezon at ng buong bansa," the President said.

The Aquino government has put electrification at the forefront of the country's development measures through the Sitio Electrification Program (SEP) that is being implemented by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the electric cooperatives (ECs) nationwide. The program involves the electrification of grid and off-grid sitios through the electric cooperatives.

The President said that a slew of infrastructure projects, including the Lucena Diversion Talao-Talao Port Road, will boost the province's tourism and commercial industries.

"Nariyan ang mahigit walong kilometrong Lucena Diversion Talao-Talao Port Road, kung saan ang pagbiyahe ng mga kalakal at produkto mula sa pantalan ng Talao-Talao ay makakarating sa lungsod nang mas mabilis. Idagdag pa natin ang halos animnapung kilometrong extension ng SLEX na babagtas mula Batangas hanggang Lucena," he stressed.

"Isama na rin po natin ang labing-anim na farm-to-market road projects sa Calauag, Gumaca, Quezon, at Tagkawayan para sa mabilis na pagdaloy ng mga produkto," the President said.

The government, through the Department of Agriculture (DAR) under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, continues to expand the agriculture sector, including the coconut industry.

"Kasama rin sa handog natin sa magsasaka ang halos walumpu't dalawang milyong piso para makumpleto ang labingwalong irrigation projects," he added.

According to the President, the government remains committed to implement programs for the improvement of public schools' infrastructure, equipment, facilities, among others.

"Kaya naman po sa loob lamang ng dalawang taon at sampung buwan, ang dating 66,800 eskwelahan na kakulangan ay malapit na pong mabura. Ang pangako sa atin ng DepEd, dito po sa katapusan ng 2013, wala na po tayong kulang na classroom. Dito lang nga po sa Quezon, may halos isanlibo’t pitondaang silid aralan na tayong naipatayo," he said.

The President expressed his gratitude to the people of Quezon who affirmed his administration’s commitment to tread the straight and righteous path in transforming the Philippines into a progressive nation.

"Umaangat na tayo, at ang dating bukbuking tahanan, ngayon ay tumitibay, umaayos, at lumilinis, at puno na rin po ng dekorasyon. Sa sobrang ganda nito, baka pwede na rin po nating isali sa Pahiyas Festival," he said. (PNA) DSP/PCOO/SSC

Tax Exemptions on bonuses and OTs excluded from PNoy’s Labor Day gifts for now

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- Tax exemptions on Christmas, 13th month bonuses and overtime pays might not be included from President Benigno S. Aquino’s Labor Day gifts on May 1.

Prior the expected dialogue between PNoy and the labor sector this Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing, the proposal must undergo legislative process to amend the current Tax Reform Act of 1997.

Currently, the Tax Reform Act of 1997 includes the ceiling for tax exemption of Christmas and 13th month bonuses, which is P30,000.

Moreover, approving the proposal would mean loss on the government’s revenues, Lacierda said.

Based on the Commission on Internal Revenue, approximately 60 billion pesos would be deducted from the total revenues of the government.

These revenues are allotted mainly for the social programs and projects of the government.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ralph Recto, the proponent of the proposal, said that if workers cannot expect an amount of wage-related benefits on their day, exempting their bonuses and overtime pay from taxes would be a relief.(PNA) DSP/RAR/EBP/EGC

SC rules LGU's power over small-scale mining deals not absolute
By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- The Supreme Court has ruled local government's power over small-scale mining contracts in their areas is not absolute.

In a 20-page ruling, the SC en banc said the enforcement of the small-scale mining law to the provincial government is subject to the supervision, control and review of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The SC, through Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, said under the Administrative Code of 1987, the DENR is empowered to carry out the constitutional mandate of controlling and supervising the exploration, development, utilization, and conservation of the country's natural resources.

"Hence, the enforcement of small-scale mining law in the provinces is made subject to the supervision, control and review of the DENR under the Local Government Code of 1991, while the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991 provides that the People's Small-Scale Mining Program is to be implemented by the DENR Secretary in coordination with other local government agencies," the SC said.

Under the Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, small-scale mining is defined as the mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment.

The case arose from the petition filed by the League of the Provinces of the Philippines asking the SC the nullify Section 17 of the Local Government Code and Section 24 of the Small-Scale Mining Act.

The LPP also asked the SC to nullify the cancellation of small-scale mining permits which was issued by the province of Bulacan.

Then DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes, in cancelling permits issued by the province of Bulacan, said the Bulacan governor went beyond its authority when it issued the small-scale mining permits.

"The decision of the DENR Secretary was rendered in accordance with the power of review granted to the DENR Secretary in the resolution of disputes, which is provided for in Section 24 of R.A. No. 7076 and Section 22 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations," the SC said. (PNA)


3.2 quake rocks Davao Oriental

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- A magnitude 3.2 earthquake rocked Davao Oriental on Monday afternoon, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

In its bulletin, the agency said the quake’s epicenter was traced 53 kilometers southeast of Tarragona in Davao Oriental.

The tremor, which was tectonic in origin, was recorded at 2:58 p.m. It has a depth of 77 kilometers.

Phivolcs said that no intensity was recorded and there was no report of damage or casualty from this quake.

The agency added that aftershocks are not expected as well. (PNA) LAM/CLTC

Death toll in worst building collapse in Bangladesh now 397

NEW DELHI, April 29 (PNA/IRNA) -- The death toll in the worst building collapse in the history of Bangladesh Monday rose to nearly 400, even as the fugitive owner of the 8-story structure was arrested dramatically while attempting to flee to India.

Sohel Rana was arrested by the country's elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion from Benapole, one of the 14 land ports with India, just as he was about to cross into West Bengal, making Monday afternoon's arrest the fifth in the case.

'RAB arrested Sohel Rana from Benapole frontiers as he tried to flee the country,' pti reported quoting officials. Rana was later brought from Benapole in Jessore district to the RAB headquarters in Dhaka in a helicopter and was presented before the media.

'The Prime Minister had promised that those responsible will be brought to justice. She has kept her promise,' officials said.

Those who have been arrested will be prosecuted and those who are yet to be arrested will be caught soon, junior Home Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku said.

The structure, that housed five garment factories, a bank branch and around three hundred shops employing thousands of workers, collapsed on April 24 leaving at least 397 people dead, a day after authorities issued a warning regarding cracks in the building.

According to officials, Rana erected the building defying safety rules and proper clearance.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi rescuers postponed the second phase of rescue operations using heavy cranes and bulldozers as they said they were trying to retrieve alive manually the last few survivors.

So far, around 2,443 survivors have been rescued from beneath the rubble with nine persons pulled out alive today.

'The second phase of the salvage campaign was halted for hours as it could endanger the last few survivors under the tones of rubbles...we will go for mechanical methods as soon as the last (manual) efforts to retrieve them are exhausted,' a fire service official told newsmen at the scene.

The authorities earlier today said they were set to launch the second phase of the salvage campaigns as they found little rhythm or pulses of life under concrete rubble or in between sandwiched floors of Rana Plaza.

'We have now unanimously decided to enter into the second phase of the salvage campaign using heavy equipment like cranes (to remove the rubble) instead of manual efforts (to rescue survivors),' said Sarwardy during a briefing after a coordination meeting of the rescue agencies.

Rescuers said they were trying to pull out other survivors manually under an extended first phase of the rescue drill making their ways through a borehole.

Rescuers would now enter the rubble on crane boxes, creating boreholes from the top and pull out survivors, if any, as it appears impossible to penetrate the concrete ruins manually using rod cutters and hand saws, he said.

'But rescuers will select calculated sites for boreholes, cautiously entering inside the rubble, so that the lives of survivors or their own are not in danger,' said Sarwardy, who commands the army's Savar-based 9th division.

A senior fire brigade official told newsmen at the scene the time limit for extending the manual rescue operations were extended as survivors were found 'miraculously' alive even after expiry of 72 hours yesterday, a time frame considered maximum for survival under such debris.

'We are going to launch the second phase any moment now,' an army spokesman told newsmen at the site in the evening.

Today's arrest came three days after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered arrest of Rana and the owners of the five garment factories housed in the structure as they apparently forced several thousand workers to join the production line even after cracks were reported and warnings were issued.

Owners of two garment units and two engineers responsible for building safety were arrested and remanded in police custody yesterday on court orders as the death toll continued to rise, prompting angry workers to take to the streets.

Police said chairman of New Wave Buttons and New Wave Style factories Bazlus Samad and managing director of one of the plants Mahmudur Rahaman Tapash and municipal engineers Imtimam Hossain and Alam Mian would face charges of involuntary murders of several hundred people.

About 3.6 million people work in Bangladesh’s garment industry, making it the world’s second-largest apparel exporter with Europe being its main destination.

Bangladesh’s booming garment industry has been plagued by fires and other accidents for years. In November last year, 112 workers were killed in a blaze at the Tazreen factory in a nearby industrial suburb.

Building collapses are common in Bangladesh as builders openly flout rules and the official construction code.

The country witnessed the last major building collapse in 2005 when over 70 people were killed after a multi-storey garment factory collapsed in the same area. (PNA/IRNA) HBC/SSC

Aquino says country has started reaping fruits of reforms

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, April 29 (PNA) -- President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Monday that the Philippines has started reaping the fruits of the reforms that his administration instituted as he called on the people to continue their steady march towards the realization of their collective aspiration for equitable progress.

In his speech during his meeting with local leaders and the community at the Alcala Sports Complex Grandstand, Quezon National Highschool in Barangay Iyam here on Monday, the Chief Executive said the massive investments in the people through social services, education, and health, among others, have all led to the renewal of the people’s trust in their leaders.

"Halos magtatatlong taon pa nga lang po tayo sa panunungkulan, pero talaga naman pong ang laki na ng pinagkaiba natin sa sitwasyong ating dinatnan," the President said.

President Aquino said the reforms instituted in key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and infrastructure; and the establishment of a culture of integrity in governance have led to a resurgent economy in the face of uncertainties in the global arena.

"Sa problema sa bigas. Dati, talagang nasanay na po tayo sa pag-aangkat ng bigas na nagbaon sa atin sa utang. Dati pinaniwala tayo na ang kailangan nating angkatin na bigas para mapunan ang ating mga pangangailangan ay 1.3-million metric tons kada taon," he noted.

"Sa ating panunungkulan: halos 855,000 metric tons na lamang po ang kinailangan nating angkatin noong 2011. Kasama na po iyong buffer. Noong 2012, limandaang libong metriko tonelada na lang ang ating kinailangang angkatin. Ayon nga sa ating butihing Kalihim Procy Alcala, harinawa, ay hindi na natin kailanganin pang mag-import ng bigas. Kung papalarin pa, baka maging net exporter na rin tayo ng matataas na variety ng bigas kung makikisama ang panahon," the President said.

He said the government's electrification project is one of the major achievements during his leadership.

"Sa ngayon, umabot na sa mahigit pitonlibo at dalawang daan na sitio ang ating napailawan. Bago po mag-SONA, dadagdagan pa po natin," he assured.

Anchored on the principle of "Tuwid na Daan," the President stressed that his government was able to build on the gains of the anti-corruption campaign and reduce poverty.

"Binibigyang liwanag na rin natin ang kinabukasan ng kapus-palad nating kababayan. Kung dati, halos walondaang libo lang ang kabahayang benepisyaryo ng Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program; ngayon po sa ating panunungkulan, napaabot na natin sa mahigit 3.9 million ang household beneficiaries ng programa. Kabilang po rito ang halos 92,500 na kabahayang natutulungan ng Pantawid Pamilya dito sa Quezon," he said.

The President said various initiatives and development projects are now in place to boost the tourism and business sectors.

"Dumako naman po tayo sa turismo, ang target po nating domestic tourist arrival para sa 2016, ay 35.5 million. Pero 2011 pa lang po, umabot na sa 37.5 million ang naitala nating domestic tourism arrivals. Kaya naman binago na po natin ang ating target --- ginawa na nating 56.1 million para sa 2016," he said.

"At alam po nating magtutuloy-tuloy pa ang pag-engganyo natin sa mga turista at paglago ng ating ekonomiya sa pagpapaunlad natin ng imprastraktura. Dito pa nga lang po sa Quezon, nariyan ang pagpapagawa natin sa susunod na taon ng limampu’t walong kilometrong South Luzon Expressway extension mula Batangas hanggang Lucena," he stressed.

"Isama na rin ang Quezon Eco-tourism Road na babaybay sa Sariaya hanggang Lucena, pati na ang pagpapaunlad natin ng mga daungan sa Lucena, San Andres, Mauban, Cotta, at Gumaca," he added.

Both the international and local communities recognized the positive changes in the Philippines as manifested by the latest Fitch rating, the President noted.

The Philippines has finally won its much-coveted investment grade status from Fitch Group, one of the three major international credit rating agencies that assess the government’s ability to pay back its debt and the chance of non-payment. (PNA) HBC/PCOO/SSC

Migrant worker group camps out at DFA
By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -– Some members of a migrant worker group have set up camps outside the Department of Foreign Affairs to protest what they call the Philippine government’s inability to bring home hundreds of illegal Filipino workers currently stranded in Saudi Arabia.

More than a dozen protesters from Migrante group have set up camps Monday morning outside the main gate of the DFA, blocking the exit and entry of employees and guests.

Migrante chairman Garry Martinez, who said they will hold the “solidarity campout” until Tuesday afternoon, demanded the “free, immediate and mass repatriation” of the workers, of which more than 1,000 are camping outside the premises of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah.

Fearing arrests by Saudi authorities due to lack of legal documents, the Filipinos – most of whom have ran away from their employers or whose permits to stay have long expired – have set up camps outside the consulate.

They were offered shelters by the DFA but majority refused to move in to the facilities provided them.

As of Monday, only 31 of the Filipino campers have accepted the DFA’s offer to stay at one of the shelters inside the consulate.

Two more shelters are being prepared for the campers – a housing facility leased from a Saudi-based Syrian businessman and a school gymnasium.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario met with the protesters at the gate of the DFA and invited them to a dialogue Tuesday morning to hear their side on how the government could hasten the repatriation of the Filipinos in Jeddah.

“It’s not true we’re not addressing your concerns,” Del Rosario told Migrante leaders. “We need to work together, get together.”

Departure procedures for illegal workers are tedious as fines would have to be paid and exit documents must be secured before they are granted permission by Saudi authorities to leave Kingdom.

The DFA said the government is doing its best to ease their plight and to have them repatriated to the Philippines at once.

“You have to differentiate your issues. We’re not the Saudi government. We’re trying to help you,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario invited Migrante to send five representatives to meet with him and discuss how to address the problem of the campers and those who would like to be repatriated from Jeddah.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the protesters will not be dispersed but appealed to them not to block the main gate so as not to disrupt the department’s operations.

“We have appealed that they would allow us to use the gate and not block it so that we can continue on with our work and transact business with foreign government representatives here in Manila,” Hernandez said.

By late afternoon, the protesters were down to less than 10 but the group said at least 100 more will join them tonight. (PNA) HBC/MDC/UTB

Inflation seen no higher than 3.1 percent in April

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- Inflation averaging 3.2 percent in the first three months were seen trending still lower in April, averaging as low as 2.2 percent up to no more than 3.1 percent, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said on Monday.

With inflation well anchored at this point and likely remaining benign over the next 18 to 24 months, there is less compulsion for the monetary authorities to engage in another round of policy rate adjustments to encourage greater economic activities and boost local output measured as the gross domestic product or GDP.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in a text message the forecast inflation in April were a reflection on "lower domestic oil prices as well as price reductions in selected food items, particularly in-season fruits and fresh vegetables, cooking oil, and sugar."

"These factors may have offset the effects of the peso’s recent depreciation against the US dollar and the impact of the upward adjustment in electricity rates due to the increase in electricity demand during the summer season," he quickly added.

Inflation rose from only three percent in January to 3.4 percent the following February before moderating again in March to only 3.2 percent, based on data obtained from the BSP.

There is little room to believe that inflation would rise beyond the forecast rate of 3.2 percent for the year, itself an improvement from earlier forecast of 3.3 percent.

The anticipated price of imported fuel oil during the year and the resilient strength of the local currency the peso in relation to the US dollar were seen as added factors to the continued benign outlook on inflation.

Tetangco had said inflation next year should average a little higher to 3.4 percent instead of 3.3 percent originally to account for the impact of the adjusted cost of cigarettes and alcohol products which had been taxed higher to generate more revenues for the national coffers.

The impact of the adjusted price of so-called sin products will only be felt next year, Tetangco said. (PNA) DSP/JR/UTB

Palace calls on gov't workers, media to participate in local absentee voting

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- Malacanang called on government workers and media practitioners to take advantage of the three-day local absentee voting period and exercise their right to vote.

“We encourage all eligible voters to participate in the electoral process and exercise your right to suffrage,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing on Monday in Malacanang.

The local absentee voting for the synchronized national, local, and regional elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao began last Sunday, April 28 and will end on April 30, Tuesday.

Pursuant to Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 9637, s. 2013, those entitled to vote are some government officials and employees, members of the Philippine National Police, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and members of the media whose applications to avail of local absentee voting were approved by COMELEC.

“Today and tomorrow, all eligible voters under this scheme may cast their ballots from 8 o’clock in the morning until 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” said Lacierda.

Absentee voters could only vote for 12 senatorial candidates and a party-list as required in the local absentee voting.

This is the first time the COMELEC allowed media personnel to vote ahead of the Election day. In the past, only government officials and employees including policemen and soldiers, assigned to poll duties were permitted to participate in absentee voting.

Based on the COMELEC data, a total of 18,322 have applied for local absentee voting but only 12,732 have qualified, and 501 are media personnel. (PNA) HBC/PCOO/SSC

President Aquino lauds Lake Taal Circumferential Road as concrete proof of the country's progress as economic and tourism potential of Batangas is expected to improve

AGONCILLO, Batangas, April 29 (PNA) -- President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the Lake Taal Circumferential Road (LTCR) as a concrete proof of the country's progress saying the economic and tourism potential of the province and nearby areas is expected to be strengthened.

The Chief Executive made this statement during his speech after he was briefed on the status of the Lake Taal Circumferential Road project here on Monday.

"Ngayong araw, narito tayo para saksihan ang isa na namang kongkretong tagumpay sa pag-usad natin tungo sa kaunlaran – ang Lake Taal Circumferential Road, na pihadong maghahatid ng malaking pakinabang hindi lang para sa Batangas kundi maging para sa kalakhang lipunan," the President said.

According to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, who gave the briefing, the LTCR is a road project under the Department of Tourism and Department of Public Works and Highways convergence program to identify, prioritize and implement road access leading to strategic tourism destinations as identified in the DOT Tourism master plan.

The President said the government has set aside P285-million for the LTCR, particularly the concreting and drainage improvement for the 40-kilometer Talisay-Laurel-Agoncillo section.

Once completed, the LTCR will cut travel time from Tanauan City to Lemery, Batangas in half, from 3 hours to 1-1/2 hours.

"Ibig pong sabihin: mas mabilis nang madadala sa iba’t ibang palengke dito sa Batangas ang mga produkto ng ibang bayan, at ang mga produktong galing naman dito sa inyo, tulad ng bangus at tubo, ay mas mabilis nang mailuluwas patungo sa ibang lugar," the President said.

"Mas sariwang mga prutas, gulay, at produkto ang lalapag sa inyong merkado, at mas sasaya ang mga suki ninyo. Ang resulta ay mas malagong kalakalan dito sa inyong bayan, na maghahatid ng malawakang kaunlaran para sa mga kababayan nating Batangueño," he added.

"Sa pagbubukas nga ng inyong pinaunlad na circumferential road, binubuksan rin natin ang Batangas sa mas maraming oportunidad, hindi lamang para sa komersyo kundi maging para sa turismo. Sa pagginhawa at pagbilis ng pagbiyahe rito, asahan na rin ninyong mas dadagsain ang inyong sikat na sikat—at talaga namang maipagmamalaking—dive site sa Anilao, o ang inyong napakagandang aplaya sa San Juan Laiya, o maging ang pamosong Taal Volcano. Idagdag na rin ninyo ang mas maraming turista na lalong mae-engganyong bumisita rito para tikman ang inyong napakasarap na Bulalo," the President noted.

Joining the President were Singson, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Senator Franklin Drilon and Batangas Representative Nelson Collantes. (PNA) DSP/PCOO/SSC

Over 13-K motorcycle-related injuries in the last qtr of 2012 --DOH

April 29 (PNA) -- A total of 13, 883 injury cases of motorcycle accidents for the last quarter of 2012 was reported by the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday.

According to the DOH, the data came from 86 participating government and private hospitals.

It was also disclosed that nine out of ten dead-on-arrival (DOA) motorcycle riders were not wearing helmet at the time of accident, in the DOH’s Online National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (ONEISS)

Health Secretary Enrique Ona meanwhile reminded motorcyclists as well as other vehicle drivers to be more cautious.

“In order to reduce or avoid injuries, the DOH recommends the promotion of “safety first” mindset and attitude,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said, in a statement.

He added that this should start at every community where safety policies, plans, rules and procedures are taught to every member.

Furthermore, Ona noted that road safety is both a personal commitment and a shared responsibility of all road users. Everyone should do their share for an injury-free society.

More than half (59.8 percent) of the total reported injury cases occurred among the 20 to 59 years age group. Injuries among children aged 0 to 19 accounted for 34.7 percent of the total reported cases.

Among those injured, male to female ratio is almost 25:10. The DOH, however, noted that a 30:10 male to female ratio was observed at the 15 to 44 years age group. On the other hand, the 65 years old and above group had a 9:10 male to female ratio.

Central Luzon registered the highest (19.3 percent) reported injury occurrences, followed by the National Capital Region (14.8 percent), Cordillera Administrative Region (12.6 percent), Davao Region (11.7 percent), Cagayan Valley Region (10 percent), Northern Mindanao (6.6 percent), and Western Visayas (6.5 percent).

Majority (71.7 percent) of the total injury cases were unintentional or accidental, about 26.3 percent were intentional (due to violence), and 0.6 percent were self-inflicted injury cases.

For the last quarter of 2012, there were more injury cases reported on the month of October (39.2 percent), followed by November (39 percent), and December (21.1 percent).

The number one cause of reported injuries were transport/vehicular crash (32.1 percent), followed by assault/mauling (23 percent), fall (16.9 percent), and contact with sharp objects (13.2 percent).

Other reported causes of injuries were bites/stings (9.1 percent), burns (1.5 percent), gunshots (1.1 percent), chemicals (0.3 percent), and hanging and drowning at 0.1 percent each.

Most of the reported injuries occurred on the road (41.1 percent), home (26.3 percent), workplace (four percent), and school (2.2 percent).

Almost all (99.5 percent) injury cases reached the hospital alive. Majority (85.4 percent) were discharged after being treated at the emergency room or out-patient department, while only about 9.6 percent were admitted for further treatment. (PNA) DSP/ANP

Workers to expect non-wage benefits on Labor Day
By Kris M. Crismundo

MANILA, April29 (PNA) -- Despite the statement of the Deartment of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that there will be no announcement of wage increase on May 1, Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that they intend to give a non-wage benefits and workers shall expect it on Labor Day.

DOLE is scheduled to have a dialogue with President Benigno Aquino III on the kick off of the labor day job fair on April 30 in Tarlac City.

Baldoz said that the non-wage benefits will include affordable housing facilities for minimum wage earners in government agencies particularly in Metro Manila and scholarship grants from Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Malacanang also confirmed the dialogue between the President and DOLE leaders and said that included in the dialogue are the observance of constitutional guarantees to security of tenure, self organization and collective bargaining tax exemptions for minimum wage earners, and institutionalization of Consultive Council on Overseas Filipino Workers.

Manwhile, Baldoz said that they see no reason for wage increase as she refers to the law.

The law states that all wage orders issued shall not be disturbed for a year from its effectivity and there shall no petition for wage increase entertained within the 12-month period unless there are supervening conditions.

DOLE considers supervening conditions such as extraordinary increase in price of basic commodities and services.

DOLE also sees no supervening events to announce an increase on wage.

Yet, Baldoz clarified that it does not mean that there will be no increase on wage within this year.

She said that DOLE-National Capital Region is in deliberation of the 85-peso wage increase filed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) but it should not be expected to announce the decision on labor day.

In a text message, Director Nicon Fameronag also confirmed that the department is still deliberating the request and is expected to act on TUCP's petition after June 3.(PNA) DSP/KMC/UTB

LP member should endorse partymates -- Palace
By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- Malacanang on Monday said members of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) are expected to endorse their partymates.

"We know our position but we are not involved in the day-to-day operations. But we expect LP people to endorse LP candidates," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during the press briefing in reaction to the reported joining of Albay Governor Joey Salceda during the press conference of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidates in his province.

Salceda, regional chairman of the LP and is running for re-election unopposed, welcomed the UNA senatoriables to Albay on Sunday and even raised the hands of one of its candidate Nancy Binay in the press conference.

The Albay governor also attended the lot distribution event in Legazpi City with Vice President Jejomar Binay.

As a sworn member of the LP, Lacierda said, "we expect you to endorse the candidates -- the national candidates of the Liberal Party."

He, however, said that President Benigno Aquino III will not in anyway prevent other political leaders to support any of the group or slate.

Lacierda said the Palace is not involved in the campaign so "we will leave it with (Senator) Frank Drilon and the LP to discuss it with Governor Salceda."

"Hindi kasi kami involved sa campaign (We are not involved in the campaign). So we would like to put a distance. Bahala na po ang LP at saka si Senator Frank Drilon (It's up to the LP and Senator Franklin Drilon on what action to take)," he said.

Salceda, a former ally of detained Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, earlier was also quoted as saying that the province of Albay can deliver a realistic 10-2 win for the administration coalition Team PNoy.

Without identifying the two administration candidates who will be dropped by Bicolano voters, the Albay governor said San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito and former Senator Miguel Zubiri, who are running under the UNA Party, will likely acquire the two slots. (PNA) FPV/LGI

1st LD Writethru: Cargo plane crashes in north of Kabul, Taliban claim responsibility

KABUL, April 29 (PNA/Xinhua)-- A cargo plane crashed in Bagram 50 km north of Afghan capital Kabul on Monday, an official told Xinhua but declined to be identified, saying authorized officials would brief the media.

Bagram which located in Parwan province is the main military base of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, police chief of Parwan province Abdul Rahman Sarjang in talks with Xinhua confirmed the incident, saying the accident took place on the runway of Bagram airfield due to technical problems when the plane was taking off.

He also confirmed that the plane belongs to the NATO-led troops. Without giving more details, the police official added that some people aboard the plane were killed in the incident.

Taliban militants fighting the government and NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have claimed responsibility for the plane crash.

The armed outfit in a statement sent to media claimed that Taliban fighters targeted a cargo plane of the U.S. forces next to the Bagram airbase at 04:00 p.m. local time Monday. The plane caught fire and all aboard was killed. U.S. military has yet to make comment.

Without giving details on the type of weapons used in the attack, the statement stressed that targeting and crashing the plane is part of Taliban spring offensive codenamed "Khalid Bin Waleed" which was announced last Saturday. (PNA/Xinhua) CTB/UTB

ASEAN, Chinese FMs to meet in Beijing to discuss territorial disputes: ASEAN secretary-general

JAKARTA, April 29 (PNA/Xinhua) -- Secretary-General of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Le Luong Minh said on Monday that foreign ministers of ASEAN member countries will have a meeting with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing to further discuss peaceful settlement on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

"The meeting between ASEAN foreign affairs ministers and Chinese foreign affairs minister has been scheduled in August or September this year in Beijing," Minh told Xinhua on the sidelines of a media briefing on the results of the recent high-profile ASEAN Summit held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.

He said that during the summit, all ASEAN members agreed to assign their foreign ministries to continue to work actively with China on the way forward for early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on the basis of consensus.

In his briefing, Minh said that ASEAN leaders reaffirmed the importance of peace, stability and maritime security in the region. They also underscored the importance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), ASEAN's six-point Principles on the South China Sea and the Joint Statement of the 10th anniversary of the DOC.

"In this regard, we reaffirmed the collective commitments under the DOC to ensuring the peaceful resolution of dispute in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea without resorting to the threat or use of force, while exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities," Minh said in the briefing.

He added that ASEAN is looking forward to continued engagement with China in implementing the DOC in a full and effective manner, including through mutually agreed joint cooperative activities and projects. (PNA/Xinhua) /utbCargo plane crashes in Bagram, Afghanistan

KABUL, April 29 (PNA/Xinhua)-- A cargo plane crashed in Bagram, 50 km north of Afghan capital Kabul, on Monday, casualties feared, an official who declined to be identified told Xinhua.

He added authorized officials would brief the media about the crash.

Bagram is the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan. (PNA/Xinhua) CTB/UTB

Palace: No progress in peace efforts with communist rebels
By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- Malacanang on Monday said there seems to be no progress in the peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines–National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) and is now looking at the possibility of redirecting their peace efforts with the communist rebels.

"What we have realized is that there seems to be no progress talking to the people in The Netherlands -- talking to (CPP chair) Joma Sison, everytime we talk to them," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a press briefing.

This after Government Peace Panel chair Alex Padilla stated that the Aquino administration will no longer push through with the formal talks with the CPP-NDF.

"They (CPP-NDF) were the ones who suggested the special track. But when we talked to them we heard jargons that were already passé -- national industrialization -- These are jargons in the 60s," he said.

"We’ve moved on. They seemed to have not moved on. So how does one talk in a present setting with people who are still in the 50s or in the 60s perspective?" he noted.

Lacierda said that the issue of communism "is no longer existent except perhaps in one country in the world."

"Now, the purée of communism is no longer existent except in perhaps one country in the world. So how does one talk to these people when we don’t speak the same language anymore?" he said.

Despite the bogged down of the peace negotiation with the CPP-NDF, Lacierda said the "Oplan Bayanihan" will continue.

"It is a plan to win the hearts and minds of the rebels in the mountains, in the rebel-infested areas," he said.

The Oplan Bayanihan is the counter-insurgency program of the Aquino administration, which runs from 2011 till 2016.

Aside from the usual military tactics, the program emphasizes non-combat strategies such as building roads, schools and delivering social services to conflict-ridden areas such as Samar and Sulu to achieve peace.

Oplan Bayanihan focuses on winning the peace, not just defeating the enemy. (PNA) CTB/LGI

Petrol, Chevron, Flying V will implement price hike on feul products Tuesday
By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan

MANILA, April 29 (PNA) -- After series of rollbacks in petroleum products in the last four weeks, three oil companies announced on Monday evening that they will implement price increases on their fuel on Tuesday.

In their advisory, oil giants Petron Corp and Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex) said that they would add P.50 per liter on their gasoline products while P.40 per liter for diesel and P.25 per liter on kerosene. The movement would be effective at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Independent oil player Flying V will also implement price increase except for kerosene also effective at 6 a.m. April 30.

Petron, in its price advisory sent to Philippine News Agency Monday evening, said the price hike “reflects movements in the international oil market”.

Other oil companies have yet to announced their respective adjustments as of press time.

Last April 19, oil companies implemented a series of rollbacks in four consecutive weeks while this movement on pump prices is the fifth for the month of April. (PNA) CTB/CLTC

Bangladesh to get first woman speaker for parliament

DHAKA, April 30 (PNA/Xinhua) -- Bangladesh for the first time is going to get a woman speaker for its parliament as the ruling Awami League Parliamentary Party has unanimously nominated State Minister of Women and Child Affairs Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury for the post of speaker of parliament Monday evening.

She is likely to be elected speaker Tuesday uncontested by the parliament as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP) led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia is boycotting the parliament and so far there was no words from BNP that it will contest for the post.

The post of the speaker fell vacant as the speaker of the parliament Abdul Hamid was installed as the president of the country last week.

Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury joined politics after AL came to power early 2009 as she was chosen as a member of parliament (MP) from the reserved women quota.

The 300-seat Bangladesh parliament has 50 seats reserved for women besides having provision for women to contest the national election with their male counterpart. Most of the reserved women seats are filled by the ruling party. (PNA/Xinhua) CTB/UTB

Pakistan Taliban carry out 20 attacks pre-polls in one week

ISLAMABAD, April 30 (PNA/Xinhua) -- Pakistani Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 pre-elections attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190 since April 21, a rights group said Monday.

Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks, Human Rights Watch said. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11.

On March 18, a spokesperson for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP declared elections as part of an"un-Islamic democratic system which only serves the interests of infidels and enemies of Islam,"and warned voters to stay away from political rallies by the major coalition partners in the outgoing government. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and the Awami National Party (ANP) have been particularly at risk.

On April 28, the TTP again declared that it "had decided to target those secular political parties which were part of the previous coalition government." "Pakistan's interim government should use law enforcement agencies and, if essential, the army, to provide as much protection as possible to candidates and political parties from Taliban attacks,"said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch.

"Unless the government, the country's independent election commission, and security forces ensure that all parties can campaign freely without fear, the election may be severely compromised."

Pakistan's interim government, which took over on March 17 after the end of the government's five-year term, should provide protection to individual candidates at high risk, Human Rights Watch said. "It should also facilitate election campaigning by political parties targeted by the Taliban by providing adequate security for rallies and campaign meetings,"it said.

The group urged the interim government to redeploy civilian law enforcement to sensitive areas, particularly in Quetta, in insurgency-wracked Balochistan province, Karachi, Sindh province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on the Afghan border. (PNA/Xinhua) CTB/UTB

Good weather except for isolated rainshowers over Visayas, Mindanao

MANILA, April 30 (PNA) -- Luzon including Metro Manila will experience generally good weather while Visayas and Mindanao will continue to have a mixture of sunny and rainy weather due to localized thunderstorms, according to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astromical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Tuesday.

PAGASA said the easterlies are affecting the eastern section of Visayas and Mindanao while the ridge of high pressure area (HPA) extending across Luzon.

In its advisory, PAGASA said that Visayas and Mindanao will experience partly cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers in the afternoon or evening due to the convective activity brought about by intense heat that will trigger the formation of more cumulonimbus clouds or dark clouds associated with thunderstorms.

When these clouds get heavy, PAGASA said rains will then be accompanied by thunder and lighting.

The weather agency said that localized thunderstorms are frequent during this season due to the prevailing easterlies or the “warm and moist” winds from the east that started blowing into the country.

Meanwhile, the absence of clouds in the HPA makes affected areas more prone to a hotter temperature since no clouds would be able to block the sun.

In particular, the HPA will affect Luzon, resulting to clear skies and hotter temperature and with this development possible brief rainshowers mostly in the afternoon or evening due to localized thunderstorm or convection.

Metro Manila and the rest of the country are expected to have sunny weather.

Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon will experience a maximum temperature of 36 degrees Celsius for Tuesday.

Monday afternoon's temperature in the metropolis only peaked to 35.5 degrees Celsius – far lower from the 36.6 degrees recorded last April 19, which was considered as the hottest temperature so far for this year in Metro Manila.

PAGASA added that light to moderate winds blowing from the east to southeast will prevail over Luzon and Visayas and coming from the east to southeast over Visayas and Mindanao. The coastal water throughout the archipelago will be slight to moderate. (PNA) LAM/CLTC

Banner stories of Manila's leading newspapers, Tuesday, April 30, 2013


BUSINESS MIRROR -- April inflation ranged from 2.2-3.1 percent

INQUIRER -- Rating fall puzzles Binay

MANILA BULLETIN -- Gov't-CPP Talks Collapse

MANILA TIMES -- Binay, Enrile rating drop

MALAYA -- Non-wage 'gifts' derided

PHILIPPINE STAR -- UN, WB back peace process with MNLF

STANDARD TODAY -- Bicol blows up LP's 12-0 bid

TRIBUNE -- Noy bets junked in Bicol (PNA) LAM/EBP

U.S., Japan vow closer cooperation on N. Korea, China
By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 30 (PNA/Yonhap) -- Top U.S. and Japanese defense officials agreed Monday to step up cooperation on two of the thorniest regional security issues -- North Korea's threats and China's growing territorial assertiveness.

"The United States, like all of our allies in the region, as well as over 80 countries of the world, are very concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula," U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said at a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, after talks at the Pentagon. "We have said we are working with our allies to be prepared for any contingency. But I would again call upon the North Korean government to take the path of peace."

Hagel and Onodera suggested that North Korea's continued provocations and threats are prompting Washington and Tokyo to strengthen military ties.

Hagel said the allies made progress on the deployment of a second, cutting-edge TPY-2 radar to Japan, a measure aimed at countering North Korea's ballistic missile threat.

The Japanese minister said, "In addition, we confirm the deployment of a second squadron of MV-22 Ospreys to Japan, which will take place this summer and increase our capabilities in the region." Ospreys are tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane.

The U.S. and Japan also agreed to launch a working group on sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which Hagel described as a "critical priority."

On the longstanding dispute between China and Japan over the sovereignty over a set of islands in East China Sea, the U.S. secretary made clear Washington's defense commitment to Tokyo in case of any armed conflict there.

"The United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, but we do recognize they are under the administration of Japan and fall under our security treaty obligations," Hagel said.

In his opening statement, meanwhile, the Japanese minister said Tokyo and Washington agreed to boost trilateral military cooperation with Seoul, but Hagel did not mention it.

Often-prickly relations between South Korea and Japan are again at low ebb after several high-profile Japanese politicians paid tribute to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war dead, including Class-A war criminals.

Responding to a question from a local lawmaker about whether he would reconsider Tokyo's official apology in 1995 for its colonization of Korea in the past century, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also hinted at the possibility.

"The definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established in academia or in the international community," he said. "Things that happened between nations will look differently depending on which side you view them from."

His comments have further infuriated the Korean people, many of whom believe Japan has not offered a proper apology for its wartime atrocities.(PNA/Yonhap) LAM/JNC

Monday, April 29, 2013

Coconut takes center stage during coco milk production contest By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, April 27 (PNA) – The multi-use coconut, one of the main products of the Bicol region, took center stage Thursday during a contest dubbed as "Pambansang Palarong Kudkod Paga Turo Gata Year 6” at Peñaranda Park here.

The event, part of the month-long activities of the 2013 Daragang Magayon Festival, is a contest among teams on the volume of coconut milk that can be extracted from a pile of coconuts from the beginning of the Albay Hymn up to its last note.

The contest consisted of two rounds, with two tying up in the second round—necessitating a faceoff between the two for a final test of volume production during the entire hymn.

It outsmarted the Legazpi City team.

Thousands of people had fun and experienced the excitement watching the contestants struggle to win.

Spectators were surprised by the presence of well-known showbiz media personalities like Lolit Solis of Star Talk GMA, Ricky Lo and Ambeth Nabus of dzMM Teleradyo, who also enjoyed watching the event.

They were accompanied and introduced to the organizers and crowd by Dorothy Colle, Albay Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs officer.

The over-all grand winner for this year’s competition is the Team of Legazpi Baño Public Market, with the Tabaco City Team giving it a tough and very close fight.

The Legazpi City team bagged the pot of P5,000 while each member of the team that won in the first and second rounds got P1,000.The other participants were teams from Daraga, Guinobatan and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Each team had 15 members.

The event had three rounds, with the first and second round dominated by Team Baño and the faceoff round between the team and that of Tabaco.

The fight between the two teams was very close, with the Legazpi City team emerging as overall winner.

A total of 420 coconuts were made available for the contesting teams during the competition.

The first group of participants was composed of couples and senior citizens.

One notable group that joined the contest was that of American soldiers who were part of the RP-US Balikatan team for Albay and the Bicol Region after the devastation of Supertyphoon “Reming” brought in the region.

Colle said, this event is fully supported by the executive committee of Daragang Magayon Festival headed by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda.

She said watching that event showed that indeed, “It’s more fun in Albay.”

Rose Olarte Orbita, event coordinator, said the activity has been part of the Daragang Magayon Festival since 2007.

“It shows the true characteristics of Albayanos who are resilient, brave, determined and imbued by the spirit of bayanihan,” Olarte said.(PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/cbd/

Albay women faster 'sili' eaters than men during 2013 contest
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, April 27, (PNA) -- Women nowadays are proving themselves to be better than men in many ways.

In the Sili-Eating Contest Wednesday here, an Albayana finished eating two kinds of viand packed with 250 grams of “siling labuyo” in 1:03 minutes compared to the 1:08-minute achievement of the “Sili King” in the annual Hot-Aw sa Kaonan (Chili Viand-Eating Contest) here.

Thirty-one-year-old Arisel S. Moratalla, a resident of Zone 6, Bagtang, Daraga town, bested nine other women as the fastest female sili eater, even outdoing Don B. Lorena, Jr,, 30, fastest male sili eater, who clocked 1:08-minute time frame in finishing off two kinds of viand also with 250 grams of sili.

Siling labuyo (Capsicum frutescens linn) is very hot and spicy and could trigger high blood pressure leading to cardiovascular disease if eaten beyond the bounds.

The sili-eating event is one of the exciting competitions in Albay as even foreigners are lured to come to the province to witness the challenging hottest competition during the equally hot month-long Daragang Magayon Festival .

The organizers proclaimed Moratalla as “Sili Queen” for her record; followed by Mary Rose A. Jacod of Barangay Banquerohan in this city as second fastest eater, consuming the viands in 1:07 minutes; while Genelyn A. Abejuro, also of Banquerohan, bagged the third prize with 1:10 minutes.

For male, “Sili King” Lorena of Barangay Quirangay, Camalig town, who recorded 1:08 minutes, was followed by Jomar P. Balderama with 1:25 minutes.

Third placer Jeson N. Nantes clocked 1:30 minutes.

Like Lorena, both Balderama and Nantes are also from Camalig.

Ten contestants each in both male and female categories were selected and certified qualified to join the contest by the committee under the supervision of the Albay Provincial Health Office.

Based on this year’s guidelines, two kinds of viand would be eaten by the contestants--Bicol Express and “gulay na laing”--mixed with 250 grams of siling labuyo each.

The contestant who could finish the two kinds of viand at the shortest time would be declared winners.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said this is an innovation from the original Sili-Eating Contest, which is the eating of siling labuyo without cooking or mixing with other foods.

Bicol express and gulay na laing are popular viands in the province.

The contest earned international recognition in 2000 after the then 28-year-old Eriberto Gonzales of Barangay Quirangay in Camalig town won it.

He was recorded as the Sili King and joined former First Lady Imelda Marcos and Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Joining this contest is a tough decision for an aspirant because it can cost his or her precious life.

Contestant must be physically fit with no history of cardiovascular ailment, high blood pressure and other diseases to be able to join.

The first prize winners in the two gender categories received P10,000 each with trophy; P7,000 each was given to the second prizes, and P5,000 each for the third prizes.

A consolation prize of P1,000 each was given to non-winners. (PNA) hbc/FGS/RBB/cbd

Army officer faces molestation raps filed by 2 women
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, April 26 (PNA) -- A Philippine Army officer is facing criminal charges filed on Thursday at the City Prosecutors office here by two women he had allegedly molested, a Philippine National Police (PNP) official said Friday. Facing charges of committing acts of lasciviousness, unjust vexation, alarm and scandal, and grave threats is Army 1Lt. Juniedy Omandam, platoon leader of the Disaster Response Operation Unit of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, in Pili, Camarines Sur, according to Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Bataller, in an interview, said the criminal complaints were filed Thursday by the victims identified as Melanie Kristine Lorejo, 21, of Barangay Kimantong, Daraga, Albay, and Joyce Valenzuela, 25, of Pilar, Sorsogon.

The victims claimed that on Tuesday evening, the suspect and 16 companions were drinking at the Chick n’ Bar at the Capitol Annex Bldg, here when he suddenly approached them.

The victims told the police that they were subjected to indecent proposals, physical contacts with sexual undertones and mistaken for prostitutes by the suspect who, they said, appeared to be drunk.

Bataller said that aside from the complaints of the victims, the Legazpi City Police Office is also preparing charges of direct assault on a person in authority, resisting arrest and disobedience to an officer of the law against the suspect.

Police Officer 2 Alex Escoto the desk officer of the City Police Assistance Center (CPAC) 2 in Albay District said Omandam, in a show of force together with 10 Army soldiers in full battle gear on board three military trucks, swooped down the police assistance center at around 2:30 a.m., Wednesday and disarmed one of the police officers on duty.

Quoting police report, Bataller said the suspect arrogantly confronted and threatened the police desk officer to a firefight.

Last year, Omandam was involved in a verbal tussle with Mayor Robert Fernandez of Panganiban, Catanduanes, and at the height of the argument, reportedly slapped the town executive.

Along this, 11 members of the Catanduanes Mayors’ League signed a manifesto for the commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, calling for Omandam’s immediate relief and declaring him a persona non grata.

Omandam was relieved, sent back to the 9th ID and was assigned at the Disaster Response Operation Unit.

He was arrested by Army Military Police on Friday and is now under PNP custody at the 9th ID after going on AWOL (absence without official leave) on Thursday.(PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/cbd/

Friday, April 26, 2013

CHED invites poor Bicol students into government’s scholarship grants
By: Danny Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- Four types of tertiary education scholarships have been opened for application to poor but deserving students in Bicol, an insurgency-torn region that is considered as among the country’s poorest.

The scholarship grants are under the 2013-2014 Student Financial Assistance Program (StuFAP) being offered by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in a bid to make tertiary education accessible to all.

The StuFAPs has three categories: first of these is the full and half merit scholarships while the others are the student loan program and the grant-in-aid.

Grant-in-aid is sub-categorized into four. First is the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process-CHED Study Grant Program for Rebel Returnees which is intended for former rebels and their legitimate and legitimized dependents to expand their access to college education opportunities.

Second is the Department of National Defense-CHED-Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges Study Grant Program which is intended for dependents of soldiers killed-in-action during battle-related operations, Complete Disability Discharged and active military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Third is the CHED Special Study Program for Congressional districts and party- lists and the Senate which is intended for the constituents for congressmen, party-list representatives, and senators.

The fourth category is the Tulong Dunong (TD) that includes other scholarship programs not covered under items one, two and three.

Interested applicants must be a Filipino citizen of good moral character, a high school graduate, must have at least 80 percent general weighted average based on Form 138 and a general scholastic aptitude of National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE).

NCAE passers with a 90-percent mark and higher get full merit scholarship, 85-percent mark passers get half merit and 80 to 84-percent mark passers qualify for the grant-in-aid and student loan programs.

The applicant’s combined annual gross income of parents or guardians must not exceed P300,000.

He or she must not be more than 30 years old at the time of application except for CHED-Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process-Study Grant Program for Rebel Returnees.

Entering college freshmen in any curricular year level are qualified to apply.

For Bicolano student borrowers, applicants must enter into a loan agreement with the CHED regional office for Bicol and must have a co-borrower who is a member of Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in good standing, at least paying contribution for six months for the last 12 months, and has not yet availed of any government scholarship and/or grant.

The needed documentary requirements for the application are accomplished StuFAPs Application OSS Form 01 which is available at the CHED regional office here, high school report card (Form 138), Annual Income Tax Return or Certificate of Tax Exemption of parents/guardian from Bureau of Internal Revenue, certificate of good moral character from the high school principal or guidance counselor, certified true copy of grades during the previous semester attended (SNPLP applicants only), notarized contract between CHED and student-borrower (SNPLP only) and proof of SSS/GSIS premium contribution of co-borrower (SNPLP only).

Incoming freshmen and new grantees shall receive a package of financial benefits per semester but not to exceed eight or 10 semesters for a four- or five-year program.

Under the scholarship program, full merit scholars shall be eligible to receive P15,000 while half merit scholars will receive P7,500.

For grant-in-aid program, those who qualify for the TD shall will receive P6,000 while those who qualify for the CSSGP-CDs/Senate will get P2,500.

Scholars under the Student Loan will receive P7,500 as financial assistance.

The deadline of submission of StuFAPs applications is on April 30, the CHED said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

Organic farming group in CamSur gets P1-M production grant from DA
By: Danny Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 25 (PNA) – The Regional Field Unit 5 (RFU5) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based here has turned over some P1-million worth of farm facility and equipment to an organized group of organic farmers in Ocampo, Camarines Sur.

The recipient of the grant is the Cagmanaba Association of Neutral Domain for Union Yield on Organic Farmers Group (CAANDUYOG) Inc., which is composed of 71 farmer-members all engaged in the production of high-value organic crops.

Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director for Bicol, on Thursday said the farm facility turned over to the group is a P.5-million mini-warehouse constructed under the DA’s Organic Agriculture Program.

The Philippine Army’s 51st Engineering Brigade based at Camp Martillana here helped in the construction.

The CAANDUYOG also received 100 heads of duck as part of the technology demonstration project for organic rice-duck production, a hand tractor, a compost mixer, compost sifter, portable incubator, platform weighing scale, grass cutter, fish nets and palay thresher worth a total of another P.5 million, according to Bragas.

The warehouse, which is a component of the community seed bank for organic agriculture, will serve as storage for the equipment, goods and products of the association, he said.

Earlier, the association also received from the DA one unit of rice seed cleaner for its community organic seed bank now being used by its members in their farming operations.

Bragas said special attention is being given by the DA to organic farming communities in Bicol from where the country owes 74 percent of its organic rice production last year.

The region also contributed 44 percent to the country’s overall production of other organic crops.

DA Bicol’s primary accomplishment in organic rice farming is attributed to the establishment of a 100-hectare technology demonstration farm in Bula, Camarines Sur, that revitalized organic agriculture in the region.

Established within the 800-hectare Pecuria Rice Central that the Pecuaria Development Cooperative, Incorporated (PDCI) is tending in Barangay Lapigna, Bula, the demo farm has been producing high-yielding organic and aromatic rice varieties called JM2 and Basmati.

The PDCI is the leading single producer of organic rice in Bicol and among the five certified organic collaborators chosen by the DA nationwide for its Development of National Organic Rice Seed Production Systems with Informal Sector project.

The DA is also expanding in organic farming this year with the P6-million upland farming project to further boost the region’s hefty contribution to national rice production.

Under this project, the region’s organically-produced upland rice will be further developed for its market potential as some of these traditional strains have been reported to outperform some modern rice varieties.

The advantage of these traditional varieties is in higher grain production and drought tolerance, which has become a critical trait amid the prevailing climate change threats.

Upland rice varieties generally have an average yield of only one to two metric tons per hectare, but selected Bicol varieties, which the new DA projects will use in reviving vast upland rice farms in the region, can exceed such yield average, according to Bragas.

Based on a report of the International Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Bicol has 63,699 hectares of upland farms, some of which were rendered idle by unfavorable weather conditions and pests.

DA’s development of the region’s upland rice is very timely as these varieties have the potential to withstand higher temperature and less water supply, which is what is needed amid the threatening climate change.

Upland rice production is ideal since it can make up for any shortfalls in flood-prone lowland irrigated areas.

This is specifically during wet season cropping when flooding in lowland prevails.

Uplands are now rice production frontier in Bicol as their yield has the potential to improve through improved varieties and cultural management practices that suit the soil, climatic and social conditions.

The upland rice program is fully supported by government as sanctioned by the Organic Agriculture Act (OAA) of 2010 and the adoption of organic agriculture has been a proven approach for increasing productivity and income.

OAA aims to enrich soil fertility, reduce pollution and farming’s environmental destruction, prevent natural resources depletion, save on imported fertilizer, and protect the health of farmers and consumers alike. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/

DA’s ‘Usapang Palay' keeps Bicol farmers' interest in rice farming high
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 25 (PNA) -– In most farming villages across Bicol, rice production matters are more often talked about these days than previous favorite topics like “tupadas” (neighborhood-level cockfighting encounters), jueteng (illegal lottery) and even politics.

This is the handiwork of the “Usapang Palay (Rice Talks),” a barangay-to-barangay campaign being initiated by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to keep farmers and other farm stakeholders abreast of latest developments in the field and to enhance their enthusiasm to learn the best farming practices.

Among the subject matters Usapang Palay is dealing with farmers are the rice Program Roadmap of the government, the Palay Check farming system, rice pest and disease control and post-harvest equipment.

“We are conducting this activity together with local government units (LGUs) in all rice-producing areas of Bicol to disseminate technologies and provide farmers updates on government programs and projects for the sector,” Abelardo Bragas, the DA Bicol regional executive director, said over the week here.

Usapang Palay is an interactive activity focused on the sharing of rice information and technology updates between the DA and agricultural extension workers and farmers concerned, in line with the Aquino administration’s Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program (FSSP), he said.

It also has something to do with the DA’s rice self-sufficiency target before the end of this year with the implementation of a medium-term agricultural and fishery sector mechanization and modernization program that commenced in 2011 and to last until 2016.

The Aquino administration envisions to attain rice self-sufficiency and the DA is bent on providing interventions to ensure that rice production will increase.

That is why 69 percent of the agency’s budget goes to irrigation and farm mechanization, Bragas said.

Jump started last November through the Regional Rice Congress that was participated in by over 300 farmers, agriculture technicians, municipal agriculturists, provincial agriculturists, irrigators’ association officers and other stakeholders, Usapang Palay has spread like wildfire among farming villages in Bicol.

The congress, anchored on the theme "Maunlad na palay-sakahan sapat na bigas para sa bayan," started the ball rolling with issues and concerns on the implementation of programs and projects in the Agri-Pinoy rice, updates on the technologies and appropriate interventions to increase production and alternatives to reduce the demand for rice as staple food in the region.

Since then, farm technicians employed by LGUs and extension workers of the DA would regularly make the rounds in barangays, organize crowds and start conversations with updates unfolding in the rice industry.

Usual topics are prevailing palay price in the local market, the government-subsidized buying price of the National Food Authority (NFA), private trading situations, new farming technologies, rice consumption management, success stories and problems encountered, among others.

Planning for the next cropping season is also done so that synchronized planting in a particular barangay is done for better pest management, irrigation water allocation and seed preparation, Bragas said.

“Farm technicians and extension workers are trained on how to keep Usapang Palay discussions with farmers alive and it is interesting to note that farmers themselves are radiating to their counterparts in neighboring areas significant matters taken up during latest talks,” he said.

“Every round of Usapang Palay talks is interesting and fruitful. We listen and absorb easily inputs that technicians are delivering; we participate in discussions; and listened to by these government experts when we air our concerns,” farmer Henry Naz of Camalig, Albay, told the PNA in local dialect during an interview on Thursday.

Usapang Palay really inspires farmers to devote more of their time in the farm and plant more for more production, Naz added.

Sonny Asejo of Castilla, Sorsogon, said he just followed farming techniques learned from Usapang Palay and achieved a significant increase in palay yield from his one-hectare farm during the latest harvest.

Production cost as in farm inputs, fertilizer and chemicals and labor were also trimmed down, he said.

Apart from producing more rice to meet domestic requirements by 2013, Bragas said, the DA in Bicol is also adopting measures to manage consumption of the staple.

Part of the rice consumption management, he explained, is the adoption of alternative food crops that are also considered as among the primary fares among Bicolanos.

The DA, Bragas said, is taking moves for Bicolanos to adopt alternatives to reduce the demand for rice as staple food in the region and one of these is through the adoption and consumption of alternative staple foods.

Providing alternatives, he said, is a key component of rice consumption management being pushed by the DA under its Agri-Pinoy Rice Program that targets rice self-sufficiency for the country by next year.

While the DA is confident on hitting the target with increased farmers’ productivity and competitiveness facilitated by government support in irrigation, new technologies, farm mechanization, fertilizer and seeds assistance, pest control and technical help, among others, Bragas said “we still need to manage consumption and provide alternatives.”

Bicolano farmers grow root crops like camote, cassava and gabi (taro) among several other varieties of food crops that are already acceptable as alternative to rice and “while we produce more rice, we also produce more of these alternative crops that are nutritious, easy to grow and less expensive to maintain, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

(w/photo) 700 mother-child participants join synchronized breastfeeding in Albay
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) –- About 700 mother-child participants gathered for a synchronized breastfeeding or "sarabayang

pagpadodo" activity at the Albay Astrodome on Thursday morning as part of the month-long Daragang Magayon Festival 2013 celebration.

The event was organized by the Department of Health (DOH) Bicol regional office, National Nutrition Council (NNC), Rotary Club of Legazpi and the Provincial Health Office (PHO).

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the synchronized breastfeeding activity is a social marketing strategy that seeks to piggyback on heightened public attention during the Daragang Magayon Festival in order to widen the reach of information on good nutrition and child-rearing practices.

"The event was timed to take advantage of the heightened public attention in order to promote the practice of exclusive breastfeeding up to the first six months," Salceda said.

The key highlights were a motorcade around the Legazpi-Daraga area; an education through lecture-forum by nutritionists, followed by a well-participated question-and-answer portion with nutrition experts; and distribution of free transportation tickets, food, T-shirts, nutrition kits for infants, personal hygiene kits, and 90-day supply of ferrous sulfate to lactating mothers.

In his inspirational message, Salceda stressed the need for a healthy citizenry as the foundation of a vigorous community and a strong economy.

He also noted that the main objectives of the exercise are right nutrition practices for new-born and under-two-year-old infants; right nutrition for lactating mothers and "birth spacing," an element which, he said, is not just for slower population growth but more so to promote the health of mothers and children since "the breast is not a robot or a vending machine," and to highlight that breastfeeding is not only popular but also the right nutrition so that the rest of the 25,000 births every year in Albay will be guided accordingly.

Salceda requested media's help in propagating the practice of breastfeeding by focusing on the mother-child aspects of the event (no nipples policy).(PNA) FFC/FGS/MDR/CBD

DSWD releases P7.7M for core shelters in CamSur
By: Mike Dele Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)Field Office in Bicol released additional P7.7 million for the construction of core shelter units that will benefit 110 families in Lagonoy, Camarines Sur.

Beneficiaries were either owners of houses found to be vulnerable to disasters or those who are up to the present are unable to restore their damaged houses after disasters.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, during her visit here Wednesday, said the family beneficiaries are from Barangays Bocogan, Kinahulugan, Amoguis, San Vicente and Manggogon.

Each recipient got a check amounting to P70,000 .

The core shelter units are provided to indigent families who were rendered homeless due to disasters.

Core shelter is a structurally strong and environment- friendly shelter unit which can withstand 180 to 220 kilometer-per-hour (kph) wind velocities, intensified for earthquakes, flooding and other similar hazard.

It is a restoration and rehabilitation strategy that uses work teams composed of the beneficiaries themselves to provide labor for the construction of the core shelter units.

The municipality of Lagonoy is one with the highest number of core shelter units completed and occupied in Camarines Sur.

From year 2005 to 2009, Lagonoy was able to construct 251 units and will have additional 110 core shelter units to be constructed.

Soliman was in Albay Wednesday for the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) among the Department of Interior and Local Government, DSWD and Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda in Legazpi City for the pilot testing of the enhancement of provincial local government unit (PLGU) engagement in Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS).

The Kalahi-CIDSS is one of the three core poverty alleviation programs of the DSWD.

According to Soliman, the MOA signing formalized the partnership of the DSWD with the PLGU of Albay, along with the DILG and the municipal LGUs that will participate in the pilot project.(PNA) PDS/FGS/MDR/CBD/

Thursday, April 25, 2013

600 lactating mothers join Albay synchronized breastfeeding
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) -- Around 600 lactating mothers in the province of Albay are set to join the first synchronized breastfeeding here on Thursday.

Organized by the Provincial Health Office (PHO), the activity aims to promote social tourism with significant impact on community, especially on health, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said.

The activity is part of the Infant and Young Child Feeding Program (IYCFP), the government’s response to address the persistent problem of malnutrition among 0-5 years old children in the country and to meet the Millennium Development Goals on infant and child mortality and morbidity.

Salceda said malnutrition has been directly or indirectly responsible for about half of deaths among children under five years old.

“Over two-thirds of these deaths, which are often associated with inappropriate feeding practices, occur during the first year of life,” he added.

IYCFP is a strategy to revitalize attention on the impact that feeding practices have on infant and young children.

The strategy calls for exclusive breastfeeding of infants from zero to six months and complementary feeding after six months while continuing breastfeeding.

Exclusive breastfeeding means giving a baby only breast milk -- no other liquid or solid, not even water.

Drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, mineral supplements or medicines are permitted.

Complementary feeding is giving other foods to complement breast milk, after six months, since breast milk can no longer supply all the nutrients needed by the growing babies.

The PHO has doubled its efforts to promote breastfeeding, especially for teenage mothers.

Aside from massive community advocacy on breastfeeding, the provincial government of Albay, with support from the United Nations Population Fund, conducted a series of group sessions among pregnant women to popularize proper nutrition.(PNA) /JBP/FGS/MDR/CBD

DOLE intensifies workplace inspections in Bicol for possible labor law violations
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) -— The regional office here of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has intensified its inspection of workplaces in the region to safeguard workers from labor law violations of their employers.

DOLE regional director Nathaniel Lacambra on Wednesday said that during their recent inspections conducted, two employers serving as labor sub-contractors of Filminera Resources Corporation (FRC) in Aroroy, Masbate, have been cited for violations and made to pay a total of P1.1 million in back wages to their 592 workers.

FRC, an Australian firm, runs the US$ 250-million Masbate Gold Project (MGP), the largest operating gold mining project in the Philippines today covering an area of 13,000 hectares--representing the single largest investment in the island province of Masbate.

Lacambra identified the labor sub-contractors as NC Lanting Security Specialist Agency and the Galeo Equipment and Mining company, Inc., which were found to have violated labor laws for non-payment of holiday pay, premium pay, overtime pay, night shift differential, and non-payment of service incentive leave.

Immediately after the inspections, Lacambra said the managements of the two firms were informed of the findings which, if not settled, will promptly result in the filing of labor cases against them.

“It was good that upon receipt of the notices of violation we issued to these two employers, they immediately issued payments to the workers,” the DOLE regional chief said.

One laudable part of it, he added, was that no worker was terminated, maintaining the good employee-employer relationship even as the labor law violations of the two companies were uncovered through the cooperation of the workers.

NC Lanting paid at least P1.0 million to its 516 employees while Galeo Equipment settled a total amount of P117,491.66, according to Lacambra.

He said labor violations like these are not difficult to settle under the present system of government interventions that always favor the labor sector every time violations are discovered on the part of employers.

“Periodic inspection is the best tool we are using for the security of workers. Under this system, we no longer wait for complaints to reach our tables before acting as during such activity that are done without any advance notice, we discover for ourselves the real situations,” Lacambra said.

Earlier, he said, a labor subcontractor of the Taiwanese-owned Goodfound Cement manufacturing plant in Camalig, Albay, was also discovered with labor law violations following complaints reaching the DOLE regional office from its workers.

Underpayment of wages and non-payment of other benefits were discovered upon inspections conducted by the DOLE based on those complaints and settlements were promptly made, preventing the filing of labor cases.

“We took that discovery as a wakeup call toward conducting inspections even without receiving any complaint and it proved beneficial, initially to the workers of FRC. Now we are intensifying inspections on other workplaces, particularly mining firms,” Lacambra said.

Another intervention that the DOLE is applying for speedy resolution of cases is the Single Entry Approach (SENA) in the conciliation and mediation of labor disputes.

It is a system 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 of the DOLE.

SENA 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".

It seeks to ensure that all labor cases are disposed of with quality decisions.

So far through the SENA, Lacambra said, employees of a local bank owned by Rep. Al Francis Bichara, whose services were terminated as a result of a recent buy-out by the Manila-based Robinsons Bank, were able to collect cash entitlements resulting from the termination. Within 30 days after the filing of the case, the six terminated employees got a total of P1,402,495.

A settlement of such big amount was the first this year and the fastest so far in Bicol, which prevented it from reaching the status of a long-dragging labor case, Lacambra said.

“This goes to show that our SENA program is the best solution to any labor issue. It is not intimidating for both parties and avoids expensive litigations and settlement can be forged in a matter of minutes. I am happy for this first accomplishment of the program this year.” he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Authorities assure 'HOPE' in Masbate
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) -- The joint forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and Commission on Elections in Bicol are confident that honest, orderly and peaceful elections or HOPE will be attained in Masbate, according to Major Gen. Ceasar Ronnie F. Ordoyo, the commanding officer of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).

In a press conference during the celebration of Albay’s Heroes Day, which was presided over by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda at the Office of Civil Defense 5 here, Ordoyo noted that for the past three years, a lot of improvements happened.

It is because of the cooperation being given by all sectors of society in the province, he said.

He said a peaceful place will gain economic benefits.

Ordoyo cited the confidence given to the Aquino Administration by the business community within the country and abroad.

He said the government is implementing a cocktail of tactical drives toward lasting peace.

The main factors are unity and cooperation, assurance from the authorities that the local folk are protected, continuing advocacy campaign to end or abandon the armed struggle or culture of violence and negotiation or peace talks among the concerned sectors, particularly among the enemies of the government.

Ordoyo said the Bicol media plays a very vital role in the attainment of a lasting peace or in having a gun-less society.

The Solcom commander further said that this cycle of violence in Masbate will be put into end through this procedure, and more reports are welcome.

These pieces of information must be validated and the suspects must be put into jail.

He said that for the past three years, the government has maintained the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center in Masbate to ensure peace stability.

"It brought positive results," Ordoyo said.

The province posted low cases of election-related violent incidents compared to previous elections.

Ordoyo said the joint task will sponsor a Peace Candle Lighting Ceremony in the province a week before the national and midterm elections.

It will be participated in by all sectors in the province, namely, the different political camps, religious sectors, civil society groups and other peace advocates.

This is to ensure honest and orderly peaceful elections.(PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Police file murder rap vs mayor, broadcaster-husband, 5 others
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, April 24 (PNA)--The Philippine National Police filed on Tuesday afternoon at the Naga City Prosecution Office a murder charge against a mayor, her broadcaster-husband and five other persons for killing an incumbent town mayor last year.

Supt. Nilo Berdin, city police deputy director, filed the murder charge for the death of the late Lupi town Mayor Raul Matamorosa against successor Mayor Jocely “Jovy” M. Osabal, her broadcaster-husband Jupre P. Osabal and Wilfredo R. Sasota, David Osea, Eure Terceño and two John Does.

Osabal was the vice mayor of Lupi, Camarines Sur, when Matamorosa was killed on Oct. 27 last year by a lone gunman who approached and shot him from behind as he was about to board his car after he delivered a broken television for repair at a service center.

Berdin said Sasota, a native of Libon, Albay, was the hired gunman and a member of the Concepcion Gang, a gun-for-hire group involved in the killing of an engineer in Malinao, Albay, last year.

Asked how the Osabal couple became involved in the crime, Berdin said they were able to bring together pieces of information from 10 witnesses who linked them to the killing of Matamorosa.

“We came up on the findings based on the evidence on hand that they (Osabal couple) have knowledge of (the killing of Matamorosa) that’s why we were able to file the murder case,” he said.

But Berdin clarified that the Osabal couple and other persons charged have their rights and are presumed innocent unless proven otherwise even as, he said, they have a case.

He said a witness saw Jupre Osabal with the gunman and other persons charged were aboard Osabal’s red car before the crime was committed.

He added that the car was later sold.

Berdin said the getaway motorcycle was also traced to Mayor Osabal even though, he said, gunman Sasota has no sworn statement that linked the Osabal couple.

When asked to react on the murder case filed by the police, Jupre sees the move as intended to muddle the candidacy of his wife Jovy.

Jovy is running against Roberto Matamorosa, elder brother of the victim, who was a last-termer mayor, in Lupi town located in the first district of Camarines Sur in the northwest portion of the province.

Jupre said he had received information that the murder charge would be filed against them before the elections and that he expected it.

He said the police’s assumption that their car and motorcycle were used in the operation is unreasonable because, he said, he would not use vehicles registered to them if he wanted to kill Matamorosa since they will ultimately be traced to them.

Jupre said definitely the murder will affect his wife’s candidacy and that he had also told their children that they had been charged with murder because of the political season.

He said they have to receive yet the subpoena for them to answer the murder charge.

“Our conscience is clear. We have nothing to do with the murder of Matamorosa,” Jupre said. (PNA) DSP/FGS/JME/CBD/

Albay drops 2 Bicolano senators from ‘Magic 12' list - survey

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA)-- Albay province has dropped two prominent Bicolano senatorial reelectionists from its "Magic 12" list in favor of non-Bicolano candidates, according to a survey done here.

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda has admitted that based on a survey, the "Magic 12 list" include United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial bets JV Ejercito Estrada and Juan Miguel Zubiri in lieu of reelectionists Francis "Chiz" Escudero of Team PNoy and Gregorio Honasan, also of UNA.

Escudero and Honasan are both from Sorsogon.

Salceda, the ruling Liberal Party (LP) provincial leader, said the 12-0 pro-administration votes may not be achieved in the vote-rich Albay with 720,000 registered voters.

The governor said a survey he had commissioned showed that Team PNoy will likely get only 10, with the names of Zubiri and Estrada included in the Albay "Magic 12" survey.

But, according to Provincial Board Members Ramon Alsua and Ireneo Sales, both reelectionists, Salceda is not supporting Escudero and Honasan because the two prominent Bicolano senators allegedly have not extended support to Albay even during calamity sufferings.

A poster with the photos of Escudero and girlfriend Heart Evangelista circulated in Legazpi City, saying that “with Chiz’s P2 billion pork barrel this election period, he left nothing for Albay.”

Last week, a controversy surrounding a P100-million ongoing dredging project at the controversial Yawa river here surfaced, but Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials denied implementing it, for reason only known to them.

The contractor of the project, who claimed to be a political protégé of Escudero, admitted implementing the project under the Albay 2nd District Engineering.

The contractor told the media that he was wondering why DPWH officials had to hide the project, saying he had started the works as early as February yet.

Salceda said he knew of the Yawa dredging project being claimed by the contractor and credited to Escudero but said that dredging projects had been banned in Albay by the DPWH itself, citing the strong protest from the church in the past because of alleged corruption involved in dredging projects.

He gave assurance that Albay will deliver votes that will give 10 for Team PNoy and with Zubiri and Estrada completing the Albay "Magic 12."

A source said that Estrada’s name was included in Salceda’s "Magic 12" allegedly because the son of former President Estrada was a favorite of Salceda’s mother, while Zubiri’s mother reportedly originated from the town of Libon in Albay.(PNA) PDS/FGS/MU/CBD/