Sunday, December 29, 2013

Salceda bats for zero-casualty celebration of New Year
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 28 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has issued an executive order aimed at achieving zero casualty in welcoming the year 2014 in the province of Albay as part of its Green Christmas program which is on its fourth year.

Salceda said any job order or contractual employee who will be caught lighting firecrackers on New Year’s eve will be terminated from service while any permanent employee found doing so will receive a memo in his 201 File.

Likewise, any barangay official -- including committee head, volunteer security officer, secretary and treasurer within the area of responsibility of the province -- who will do the same act will be reprimanded, he added.

The governor said he will give a reward to anybody who could give a video or photograph, even unaccompanied by audio tape recording, of any of the aforementioned public servant committing the offense will receive P1,000.

His identity will also be kept confidential. “This is not a joke,” Salceda said, adding “zero casualty is a provincial goal.”

For the past three years, Salceda, also the Green Climate Fund co-chairman, has been campaigning for a green Christmas wherein nobody in Albay must be injured in welcoming the New Year.(PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

Miss International 2013 in Bicol homecoming on Dec. 31
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 28 (PNA) -- Newly-crowned Miss International 2013 Bea Santiago has chosen to mark her Bicol homecoming with a triumphal parade in Legazpi-Albay District-Daraga area on Dec. 31, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said on Saturday.

Santiago will also be a special guest of the Albayanos’ New Year countdown and celebration to culminate the province’s yearly Green Christmas and Karangahan Festival activities.

This will be her first out-of-town non-charity engagement, Salceda said.

The provincial government of Albay headed by the governor and the Karangahan Festival committee under Vice Gov. Harold Ong Imperial will host Santiago’s homecoming. (PNA) SCS/FGS/CBD/RSM

6 die in SUV, passenger bus head-on collision in Sorsogon
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 29 (PNA) -- Six persons died when a Suzuki service utility vehicle (SUV) collided head-on with a passenger bus early Sunday morning along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay (village) Bacolod, Juban, Sorsogon, a Philippine National Police (PNP) official in Bicol said.

Inspector Malu Calubaquid, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said the Suzuki SUV with plate number TGO 350 was negotiating the Maharlika Highway in Sitio Hoyon-Hoyon, Barangay Bacolod, Juban town, when it lost control and collided with a Fortune Bus (UVB-943).

Quoting a report from the Juban Municipal Police Office, Calubaquid identified the victims as Rosalito Malig, SUV driver, and SUV passengers Alfredo Manansala, Jaime Malabanan, Levy Erasga, and Vicente Clarito -- all of Calamba City in Laguna.

Bus driver Danilo Montefalcon of Sampaloc, Manila, also died during the vehicular accident.

Injured were Ronalyn Dosa, Alvin Ruiz, Angelika Pagasertonga, Boy Navarosa and Analiza Macapanas -- all passengers of the bus – who sustained minor injuries and were rushed to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital for treatment.

Calubaquid said the victims were brought to the Hadoc Funeral in Juban town for autopsy.

She added that initial investigation indicated that the driver of the SUV might have lost control of the car’s steering wheel or might have slept when it ran in the opposite direction of the road and collided with the passenger bus.

Calubaquid said the ill-fated SUV was on its way back to Calamba City in Laguna after holding a humanitarian mission in Tacloban City, while the Fortune bus was bound for Tacloban City from Manila when the accident happened.

She said the bus was fully loaded with passengers who would like to visit and spend their New Year with their relatives in Tacloban City. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/CBD/RSM

Salceda urges Filipinos to remember Rizal's principles, cites hero’s role in Philippine Revolution
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 29 (PNA) -- As the nation commemorates the 117th death anniversary of Jose P. Rizal on Monday, Dec. 30, Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has urged Filipinos, especially Albayanos, to remember his teachings, works and principles.

While Rizal’s books, “El Filibusterismo” and “Noli Me Tangere,” had been read by only a few, as not many Filipinos could afford to buy and read these novels written in Spanish, Andres Bonifacio and other Katipunan members had thoroughly gone through their pages, Salceda said.

“These novels had opened their eyes to the oppression experienced by their countrymen under the Spanish colonial rule,” he added.

These, the Albay chief executive said, inspired the Bonifacio-led Katipuneros to push through with the revolution.

“Rizal’s novels, therefore, sparked the Philippine Revolution of 1896,” Salceda pointed out.

The Noli was published in Berlin in 1887 while the Fili came out of the press in Ghent in 1891 through the help of Rizal’s friends.

Rizal did not finish his third novel, “Makamisa,” which he tried to write in Tagalog, since he found difficulty in writing in the local vernacular.

Salceda said Rizal bequeathed to the Filipinos his teachings through his writings and displayed his heroism in his principles and sound judgment, on which he stood steadfastly until his death.

He recalled Rizal’s Napoleonic complex as he related that once his siblings were laughing at him when they saw him making a monument.

“Go ahead, you laugh, but someday people will make monuments of me,” Salceda quoted the national hero as saying.

“True enough, we see his monuments in many places in recognition of his important role in our country’s history,” the green economist said, adding “His face is on the Philippine currency, cigarette pack and match box while his name figures on main roads.”

Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Filipino traits ran in Rizal’ blood, Salceda said.

Rizal was the fifth generation grandchild of Domingo Lam-co, a traditional Chinese from Jinjiang, Quanzhou, while his grandfathers on his mother side were a Spanish engineer, Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo, and a Japanese, Eugenio Ursua, the Albay governor added.

Known for his thriftiness and prudence, Rizal’s favorite food while in the Philippines was “sardinas seco,” or simply “daing at tuyo” (dried fish), while in Europe, he would leave his friends during lunch time or supper hour to eat biscuit as he spent his money on buying books, Salceda said.

The Albay governor recalled that when Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892, he helped found La Liga Filipina that pushed for reforms but the Spanish government abolish it and exiled Rizal in Dapitan.

While in Dapitan, he established a school, taught and practiced medicine.

One of Rizal’s patients was George Taufer from Hong Kong, who brought with him his adopted daughter, Josephine Bracken, with whom Rizal had a child who unfortunately died just hours after birth.

Rizal and Bracken left Dapitan on Aug. 1, 1896 for Cuba via Spain.

Bonifacio’s revolution broke out on Aug. 26 of the same year and Rizal was arrested on Oct. 6 upon his arrival in Barcelona on charges of being involved in the rebellion.

He was brought back to the Philippines, jailed in Fort Santiago and was court-martialed for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy.

On Dec. 30, 1896, Rizal was shot by Filipino civil guards who had behind them Spanish soldiers who were ready to shoot them in case they would not execute Rizal.

“Rizal’s persistence, penchant for women and prudence were part of his being an ordinary man, like us. He was not a superstar nor superman nor God. He was like us, one of us, and therefore, we could be like him and follow his footsteps,” Salceda remarked.

He asked the Filipinos not to grieve on Rizal’s death anniversary but instead rejoice on his meaningful and successful life.(PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/OJN

Saturday, December 28, 2013

15 Legazpi City villages bag ‘Dugong Bicol’ awards
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 27 (PNA) –- Fifteen villages in this city received awards for donating blood taken from at least one percent of the total population of each barangay or 25 blood bags collected in each locality required by the Department of Health.

DOH Bicol Regional Director Gloria Balboa handed over the plaques of recognition to the 15 chiefs of the awardee-villages during the 5th Regional Dugong Bicol Awards day recently held at the Oriental hotel here.

The 15 awardees were barangays EM’s Barrio 1 headed by its Punong Barangay (chairman) or PB Andronico Gerardino; EM’s Barrio 2, PB Echidita Salcedo; EM’s Barrio 3, PB Teresita Alisago; EM’s Barrio 4, PB Felixberto Codorniz; Maoyod, PB Romeo A. Madraso; Ilawod East, PB Joel Buenaflor; Lapu-Lapu, PB Gemma Espiritu; Victory Village, PB Joie Bahoy; PNR Site, PB Beatriz Toledo; Bitano, PB Joel Balinis; Padang, PB Manuel Alagaban Sr.; Dapdap, PB Marites Barcelon; Mariawa, Anabelle Teope; Rawis, PB Oscar Robert Cristobal; and San Francisco, PB Ronaldo Aringo.

The bloodletting activities conducted by the health officers and village officials were done in support of Republic Act 7719 or the National Blood Services Law of 1994 which aims to provide sufficient supply of blood to blood banks and to promote voluntary donations, Balboa said.

The move, she added, would ensure an ample supply of blood and that the donated blood is free from diseases that may cause even more complications to the recipients.

The collected blood will be used by the needy patients to prevent or lessen maternal death cases and save the lives of the people who suffered from illnesses by way of blood transfusion. the DOH official added.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal commended all the barangay leaders who got awards and other government agencies and organizations who actively participated in the regular bloodletting activities of the city administration.

Rosal described them as the heroes of patients who have survived because of blood transfusion.

He urged the barangay leaders to continue participating in the bloodletting activities of the city to promote voluntary donation and provide adequate supply of blood for needy patients.

The city chief executive disclosed that the rehabilitation of the community health office and the construction of the blood bank station in the city will start early next year. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/JSD

DSWD provides homes for orphan children

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 5 (DSWD5) – Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC) recently launched the “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” Program to provide the RSCC children an experience of a family home life this holiday season.

“There is no place like Home although it cannot be avoided that there are infants and children who have to settle for an alternative home due a dysfunction on the part of their biological parents and other immediate family members,” DSWD5 Regional Director Arnel Garcia said.

RSCC children, whose ages range from 0 to 6 years, are either surrendered, abandoned, neglected or abused are in need of temporary shelter or alternative foster families.

With the “I”ll Be Home for Christmas” program, the DSWD invited couples, families and single individuals to bring home an RSCC child and share with him or her the joy of the holidays.

“A child can stay with the foster family for a duration of two days to two weeks, depending on the discretion of the foster family,” Garcia said.

Under this program, before a child is released, the center nurse orients the prospective foster family on the child’s health condition, the food preferences and other information like the child's mood and behavior.

The foster family then signs a child protection policy and discharge slip upon the child’s release to their care for the holidays.

Garcia, assisted by Marissa Paeste, RSCC center head,turned over the children to their respective foster family/parents. (PNA) LOR/FGS/EMC/CBD/JSD

DSWD gives capital for senior citizens of CamSur town

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office V recently released a check P1 million to the local government of Calabanga, Camarines Sur.

The amount is capital assistance to be invested in the opening of a drug store, a livelihood project of the Senior Citizens Municipal Federation of Calabanga.

The project of the local government unit's (LGU) senior citizens was funded under the Bottoms-Up Budgeting program of the government.

The check was received by Mayor Eduardo Severo from Director Honorita Bayudan of the Poverty Reduction Programs Bureau of the DSWD Central Office.

Severo said the LGU will provide a stall for the project at the town’s public market. (PNA) LOR/FGS/EMC/CBD/JSD

Bicol towns now equipped with maps for ‘zero casualty’ during disasters

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 26 (PNA) –- Bicol local authorities are now equipped with maps that will enable them to pinpoint specific areas where to focus disaster preparedness and mitigation measures for “zero casualty” during natural calamity situations.

The maps, technically prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), are now in the hands of Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (MDRRMCs) -- particularly in 83 of the region’s 107 municipalities classified as highly vulnerable areas.

Latest to receive the maps are all the 11 municipalities in Catanduanes, an island province by the Pacific Ocean with no pronounced seasons but regularly visited by typhoons.

The MGB identifies the island as most landslide-prone province in the region based on a study it has conducted.

The study says that Catanduanes’ landslides are mainly because rock formations in the province are already old and have already cracked.

Its mountainous terrains are covered with thick soil that erode during heavy rains due to the past commercial logging activities wherein illegal cutting of trees still happens until now.

The maps in hard copies accompanied by “soft” or digitized copies from where local disaster authorities could identify zones prone to natural hazards such as earthquake, storm surge, rain or earthquake-triggered landslides, tsunami, flood and liquefaction.

These are in 1:50,000-scale, Arlene Dayao, the MGB regional technical director, on Thursday said.

The maps determine flood hazard susceptibility zones based on the geomorphological analysis of land forms and the fluvial system.

Information on flood occurrences, flood depths, duration of inundation as well as topographic information supported the geomorphologically-based flood, Dayao said.

On liquefaction, she said, there are no reported occurrences based on several field interviews.

However, zones of different liquefaction potential were derived based on the geomorphological analysis of the study area following previous studies.

Landslide hazard susceptibility zones, on the other hand, were derived through qualitative map combination using lithology, geomorphology, slope gradient and fault distance.

The Global Information System (GIS) was used in the map with combination and subjective weights were assigned to each unit in the parameter map.

The maps also delineate areas of possible ground settlement through the analysis of the geomorphological lay of the study area, the sub-surface soils and the ground water levels, according to Dayao.

Another set of maps, in 1:80,000-scale of the same hazards but covering the entire island of Catanduanes, was also given to the Catanduanes provincial government for use by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), she said.

These geohazard maps, whose preparation and distribution are under the government’s Ready Multi-hazard Mapping and Assessment for Effective Community-based Disaster Risk Management Project, are designed according to their geographic and tectonic settings with emphasis on areas highly exposed to natural hazards, she said.

The project is funded by the Australian Aid Program through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

It is being implemented nationwide, particularly in 29 of the country’s 79 provinces that have been determined to be of greatest risk to disasters, especially those along the eastern seaboard that include Catanduanes, Dayao said.

With these materials on their hands, she said, it would now be the responsibility of the respective DRRMCs of each local government unit in Bicol to deduce from the multi-hazard maps, particularly the digital version, the risks being faced by each of its barangays so that the vital information could be properly communicated to village officials and residents.

Other Bicol towns that already have these maps in possession are this city and the two other Albay cities of Ligao and Tabaco and all the province’s municipalities -- Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan, Malinao, Malilipot, Tiwi, Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Rapu-Rapu, Jovellar, Manito, Oas, Libon, Pioduran and Polangui.

Albay’s three cities and the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan, Malinao and Malilipot have some of their barangays listed in the maps as highly vulnerable to floods and lahar flows because of their proximity to Mt. Mayon, with some sitting within the permanent danger zone.

The other towns far from the volcano have their own risk factors such as Tiwi, which plays host to the 350-megawatt geothermal energy complex being run by Chevron; Rapu-Rapu, an island town where the Korean-owned Rapu-rapu Minerals, Inc. (RMMI) operates a polymetallic project through open-pit mining; and Manito, site of the giant geothermal field of the Energy Development Corporation.

Oas, Libon and Polangui are also listed as flood-prone areas, being part of the Bicol River Basin (BRB) -- a vast wetland covering various towns of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

In Camarines Sur, those towns mapped as geohazard areas are Baao, Balatan, Bato, Bombon, Buhi, Bula, Cabusao, Calabanga, Camaligan, Canaman, Caramoan, Gainza, Libmanan, Magarao, Milaor, Minalabac, Nabua, Ocampo, Pamplona, Pasacao, Pili, Sangay, San Fernando, Sipocot, Siruma and Tinambac -- all within the BRB.

The other Camarines Sur municipalities are Lupi, Ragay and Del Gallego that are called the railroad towns of mountainous terrain whose forest covers have perished due to logging and other environmental-destructive activities.

The rest listed are Buhi, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, San Jose and Tigaon -- all upland-coastal areas threatened by floods and landslides.

The cities of Naga and Iriga, both in Camarines Sur, are also listed as flood-prone, being parts of the BRB.

In Camarines Norte, all the 12 towns -- Daet, the capital town; Jose Panganiban, Labo and Paracale, the mining towns; and Basud, Talisay, San Lorenzo Ruiz, Vinzons, Capalonga, San Vicente, Sta. Elena, Mercedes all, mountain areas pestered by illegal logging -- are geohazard sites, according to the MGB mapping.

In Sorsogon province, the maps identify Sorsogon City, the provincial capital, and 12 of its 14 towns -- namely Bulan, Bulusan, Barcelona, Casiguran, Castilla, Gubat, Irosin, Juban, Magallanes, Matnog, Prieto Diaz and Sta. Magdalena.

All these LGUs have portions that are considered risk areas, according to the MGB.

Down Masbate, the mapped risk areas are the city -- which is the provincial capital, the gold- mining town of Aroroy and the coastal municipalities of Cataingan, Balud, Cawayan, Dimasalang, Placer and Uson -- all within the province’s mainland. (PNA) FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Monday, December 23, 2013

Salceda asks Soliman to increase 4Ps beneficiaries to solve malnutrition in Albay
By Rhadyz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 22 (PNA) -- Ten municipalities in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes have high numbers of undernourished preschoolers based on the report of the National Nutrition Council in Bicol.

In a bid to address the high prevalence of malnutrition in Albay province, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has asked Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman to increase the number of beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), also known as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) here.

Salceda said the spike in Albay malnutrition from March 2011 to March 2012 among school-age children was a temporary break from the overall structural trend of hard-earned gains in the well-being and nutrition status by the province.

This, he said, was driven by typhoons “Bebeng,” “Chedeng,” “Egay,” “Falcon” and “Juaning,” and the protracted severe weather season from April 2011 to February 2012, which had 20 rainy days out of 28.

The governor noted that of the cumulative damages of P2.8 billion posted, P1.8 billion was the effect of “Juaning” alone which affected 765,000 people.

“In anticipation, we have lobbied with the DSWD to increase the 4Ps families from 11,000 to enable families with school-age children to cope with income stress due to severe weather impacts,” he said.

As of April 2012, 4Ps or CCT beneficiaries increased by 21,000 to 32,000 and another 30,000 in July 2012 to 74,000, which would entail P1.042 billion annually.

This represented an increase of 52,000 4Ps between now and before the malnutrition report came out.

“Almost P760 million went annually to food subsidy directly to poor families. With this alone, the malnutrition rate should readily revert to 10.6 percent in February 2014 (two months away for periodicity of survey) from the malnutrition spike of 17.6 percent,” Salceda said.

Aside from CCT augmentation, the provincial government is pursuing the fortification and and reconfiguration of its provincial nutrition interventions from barangay-based towards school-based for more efficient targeting.

“With these aggressive interventions, we are programming and we are confident to bring down malnutrition rates as computed by the Department of Education from 17 percent to 10 percent or easily at least second best in the region,” the governor said.

“Our policy response has been to seek additional 42,000 4Ps beneficiaries from DSWD since during that time due to low malnutrition in 2007 to 2009,” he added.

Salceda said Albay was given only 12,000.

“Based on the JERRPA (Juaning Early Recovery/Rehab Plan for Albay), which was endorsed by the Office of Civil Defense 5 and the Regional Development Council to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in November 2011.

We asked for additional 4Ps registrants. However, due to logistical requirements in terms of hiring of municipal links, the additional 42,000 approved by Sec. Dinky were implemented only in March 2013,” Salceda said.

“This would entail P640 million annually targetting Albay's poorest families and we expect that the additional P1,400 would essentially be used. We have asked the NNC to conduct another round of Operation Timbang to see whether six months of 4Ps had made significant dent. Our bigger worry right now is the fall in copra prices while rice prices have raised,” he added.

Salceda blamed the high prevalence of malnutrition in Albay to bad weather disturbances which affect the Albayanos.

Officials of NNC down to the nutritionists in the barangays, however, said local government units are focusing on infrastructure projects than basic services that would address the malnutrition problem in the countryside.

Though, according to Arlene Reario, NNC regional chief, more local chief executives across the region are now working for the eradication of malnutrition through better programs on basic services.

In the case of Albay, Salceda explained that the lagged effect of the severe climate impacts in 2010-2011 -- especially Juaning which affected 87,000 persons in Polangui, Libon, Oas and Malinao and also affected food (rice farms) production.

Through the conditional cash transfer program of the government in 2013, Albay had the biggest number of 4Ps beneficiaries, with 62,000 more 4Ps members listed.

The program was fully implemented last March, which is worth P1.05 billion per year for five years.

“This should allow us to improve our educational and health outcomes through better nutrition. Also, after suffering the adverse impacts of climate change, especially typhoon Juaning, came the spike in our poverty and malnutrition. Together with our own aggressive initiatives, our malnutrition should fall from 17.6 to pre-Juaning 10.6 percent or even our best of 4.7 percent with the improving copra prices,” Salceda said.(PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/PJN

Saturday, December 21, 2013

DSWD should provide ‘Noche Buena’ packages to 1.1-M ‘Yolanda’ survivors — Salceda
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 21 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Saturday said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should provide a “Noche Buena” package to each of the 1.1 million families displaced by super typhoon “Yolanda” in the Visayas.

“DSWD should have started repacking Noche Buena packages, but four days to go, we have yet to see such initiative being played up,” he said.

At P500 worth of package per family, the P 500 million should be seen as an investment in national solidarity that no one is left behind the seven-percent gross domestic product growth that the country has recently achieved, the Albay governor who is United Nations’ Green Climate Fund chairman for developing countries, said.

Morever, Salceda said, local government units in hardly lashed areas are now fully normalized as machinery for delivery of government services and thus, it should not be as messy as before.

He also encouraged non-government organizations, international non-government organizations, development partners, civil society organizations and people's organizations to display the same zeal of giving in this most important day for children.

“Christmas, being the birth of our Redeemer, should be a day to recommit the nation to redeeming Yolanda communities from the claws of poverty arising from unfulfilled rehabilitation,” he stressed.

It is a grievous fault to deprive children, in Yolanda-ravaged areas already suffering from displacement, even the most simple of celebration of Child Jesus' birth, he said, adding that another 1.1 million packages should be delivered next week for the New Year’s Media Noche.

For his part, Salceda said, he will be in Basey and Marabut, Samar, on Dec. 24 for Christmas sharing with the affected residents there.

He recalled that for super typhoon “Reming” that hit Albay seven years ago, with less time since it happened Nov 29, Albay, on its own initiative and funding, was able to procure and deliver for all affected families that numbered hundreds of thousands families.

Five apples, one meat loaf and two cans of sardines were in the package. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Salceda moves to save 17 heritage assets of Albay from calamity threats of destruction

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 20 (PNA)--Learning from the tragic experience brought by the catastrophic impacts of climate monster “Yolanda” on Samar and Leyte provinces and the devastating rumbles of earthquakes that hit Bohol earlier, the provincial government of Albay has earmarked P35 million for the preservation of the province’s cultural assets.

“Second to our natural icons like Mayon and geothermal, these assets constitute our most non-replicable and most distinctive properties. They provide the empirical, tangible and qualitative basis for the uniqueness, ethnicity and pride of our place and more so they are our comparative advantage for attracting tourists, investors and traders,” Albay Governor Joey Salceda explained.

Salceda said the province has proposed P35 million as its initial investment in cultural heritage preservation right this year since it is emerging to be the biggest lesson from Bohol and Leyte.

The heritage assets include the Cagsawa Ruins -- the iglesia, casa real and ayuntamiento, Porteria church in Daraga, Sinimbahahan ruins in Tiwi, convento ruins in Malinao, Tabaco church, Manalang house (of well-known writer Angela Manalang-Gloria) in Tabaco City, ruins in Bacacay, double-belfry church of Sto. Domingo, Budiao ruins, 10 colonial houses of Daraga, colonial houses of Camalig, Camalig church, Oas church, Colegio de San Buenaventura in Guinobatan, Gen. Ola museum, Cathedral de San Gregorio Magno, and Nuestra Señora de Salvacion.

The national government has also allotted P365 million for a one-step project in the 15-hectare Cagsawa Ruins area through the combined resources of the US Agency for International Development and departments of tourism and of social welfare and development.

The project involves the rehabilitation of the Cagsawa Ruins and three road networks that will connect Barangays Bascaran, Nabasan, Peñafrancia and Imalnod that lead to Cagsawa.

This will serve not only the tourists but also the local industries in the area.

The Cagsawa Ruins project will have a briefing area, a two-storey museum, three function halls and others.

“Our newly-formed Historico Cultural Unit headed by Abdon Balde Jr. has been compiling documentation that would qualify Cagsawa Ruins as a UNESCO heritage site. Last Oct. 6, I also met with our Paris embassy, our permanent representative to the international body, to follow up on our proposal,” he said.

Salceda said Virginia Miralao, the current direct general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), was her favorite professor in Ateneo de Manila and is actually responsible for much of the socio-anthropological world view that has guided the province in its developmental strategy formulation even for disaster risk reduction.

He said UNESCO experts were stunned by the damage to heritage churches in Bohol, Cebu, Samar and Leyte.

“This means less supply of heritage which should make our own portfolio more valuable, thus, it is more economically viable to invest in protection,” the governor added.

He stressed the need and the timing to focus on the preservation of the heritage assets before it is too late.(PNA) PDS/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Albay ‘Santa Clauses’ to cheer up survivors in 2 eastern Samar towns

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 21 (PNA) -- The Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense 5 will play Santa Clauses to bring happiness to “Yolanda” survivors in Basey and Marabut in eastern Samar this Christmas day.

The team will be headed by Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda himself.

The Team Albay-OCD 5 is composed of personnel from the Provincial Government of Albay, OCD5, Tactical Operations Group 5 of the Philippine Air Force, Naval Forces for Southern Luzon, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Provincial Health Office and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and other Albayano volunteers.

The group members will don the costume of Santa Clause and will do what the legendary does.

Salceda said they will give Noche Buena packs, do some feeding activities and render other Christmas treats like singing and dancing to ease up the sadness and sufferings of the climate monster survivors and, if needed, to render medical services.

It can be recalled that towns of Basey and Marabut were hardest hit by the onslaught of Yolanda on Nov. 8.

Salceda tasked Dr. Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office chief, to prepare activities for the two-day period that the team will stay in the two ravaged towns.

As of press time, some members of the group have already left for the area to prepare the place for the Christmas cheering activities and identify the residents to be given gifts.

It must be recalled that the Team Albay was the first to respond to the plight of the residents of Tacloban City after Yolanda battered Samar and Leyte and stayed there for almost two weeks to help in recovering dead bodies, provide potable water, give medical and psychosocial services and distribute food and medicines. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/RSM

2 officers, 18 troopers of Army’s 9th ID received awards

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 21 (PNA) -- Two officers and 18 troopers of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division of the Philippine Army were among the recipients of awards given by the Armed Forces of the Philippines high command in separate occasions over the weekend.

General Emmanuel T. Bautista, the AFP Chief of Staff, gave awards to ten troopers of the division on Dec. 17 during his visit at the headquarters of the Philippine Army, Capt. Mardjorie Paimela P. Panesa, division public affairs officer, said on Saturday.

On Dec. 19, during the Recognition Day at the General Headquarters at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City, five personnel of the 9th IB and three from the 91st Division Reconnaissance Company were also given Military Merit Medal Spearhead Device and Gold Cross Medal awards, respectively.

On the same occasion where Bautista gave AFP Command Plaque and Military Awards to stakeholders and personnel, respectively, who contributed in the implementation of AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan-Bayanihan, Lt. Col. Delfin Arguelles, commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Battalion, was awarded Distinguished Service Star for the Zamboanga crisis and Lt. Evar Louie Magamay of the 92nd Division Reconnaissance Company received a Gold Cross Medal for gallantry in action in Calatagan, Virac, Catanduanes.

Both MMM and GCM are combat awards although GCM is higher, Panesa explained.

Bautista and Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin also led the blessing of three newly acquired AW-109 helicopters as part of the AFP’s modernization.

Back home at the Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur, the 9th ID celebrated the 78th Founding Anniversary of the AFP by conducting flag-raising ceremony at the division headquarters on Friday, which was simultaneously done by all military units all over the country, Panesa added.

Other activities conducted by all military units are bloodletting and tree-planting activities, she said.

Panesa said the celebration highlighted the significant part of the AFP in the important events in Philippine history and in shaping the country; emphasized the lead role of the AFP in the struggle for independence and assertion of the Philippine sovereignty and stability; showcased AFP’s state of preparedness; and underscored the AFP's high standards of competency and professionalism, and its accomplishment of non-traditional roles.

This year's theme is "Tagumpay Noon, Bayanihan Ngayon, Karangalan nating lahat Bukas."

Considering the recent tragic events that plagued the country, like the Zamboanga crisis, Bohol earthquake and the effects of super typhoon “Yolanda,” the AFP toned down to an austere yet meaningful one its celebration of its anniversary, the lady Army captain said.

This is also to show that the institution is one and among those in solidarity with the survivors of Yolanda, she added.

"Amid all crises faced by the nation, the 9ID responded to any call, even to non-traditional roles and perform its mandate as protector of the people and state, yet still proud towards becoming a part of a world-class armed forces that is a source of national pride," Panesa claimed. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/RSM

Friday, December 20, 2013

Woman dies, 2 injured in 2-motorcycle collision in Masbate

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Dec. 20 (PNA) -- A housewife died while two other passengers were injured when the for-hire motorcycle they were riding collided with another motorcycle along the national highway in Barangay Asid, Masbate City, Thursday night.

A police report identified the dead victim as Leny Ocareza while injured were her husband, Archie, and the driver of motorcycle, locally called “habal –habal,” identified as Jensen Bert Serrano.

Responding residents of the area rushed the victims to the Masbate Provincial Hospital where Archie and Serrano are still recuperating.

Jay P. Arcenal, driver of the other habal-habal, immediately fled the accident site, the report said.

It added that the accident occurred at about 6:30 p.m., Thursday, while the victims were on their home to Milagros town in Masbate. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Team Albay-OCD5 will remain DRRMR model, says OCD official
By Nancy I. Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 20 (PNA) -– The Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense 5 will remain the model in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction Management and Response.

This was the challenge posed by OCD Bicol Regional Director Raffy Alejandro in his emotional message to the 179 members of the team during the "Team Building, Thanksgiving and Recognition Night" held over the week in Albay Astrodome here.

The occasion recognized the efforts and sacrifices of the Team Albay-OCD5 members who participated in the humanitarian mission in Bohol, Samar and Leyte.

Alejandro urged the group to remain united and solid, professional, dedicated and committed to service carried out with excellence.

He stressed the need to upgrade the equipment of the team as well as its other provisions needed for an emergency response.

The OCD official said that the team is always prepared to respond on call, especially with its doctors.

Alejandro recalled the Team Albay-OCD 5’s recent mission in the provinces of Samar and Leyte which, he said, was the most difficult and the most challenging in terms of movement and logistics.

“The group did not have enough space to sleep on and coordination was difficult due to lack of communication so that its members resorted to face-to-face contact among its members as well as with provincial officials and residents of the area,” Alejandro claimed.

He also thanked the men behind the success of the mission led by Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Salceda asks for compassion for children on Christmas day
By Rey M. Nasol

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 20 (PNA)-- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda urged various agencies to emulate what Albay is doing to its poor people, especially the children, in expression of compassion.

Salceda suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development should start repacking Noche Buena packages for 1.1 million displaced families.

“Five days to go and we have yet to see such initiative being played up,” he observed

In the spirit of giving, a sizeable allocation should be seen as an investment in national solidarity so that no one is left behind the seven-percent gross domestic product growth.

“Morever, local government units are now fully normalized as machinery for delivery of government services and thus, it should not be as messy as before,” the Albay governor added.

Salceda recalled that after "Reming," Albay, on its own initiative and funding, was able to procure and deliver for all affected relief packages with each containing five apples, one loaf of bread, two cans of sardines, five packs of instant noodles and one meat loaf.

"It's a grievous fault to deprive children, already suffering from from displacement, of even the most simple of celebration of Child Jesus' birth," he said, adding “We encourage non-government organizations, local and international, development partners, civil society groups and people's organizations to display the same zeal of giving in this most important day for children.”

According to him, Christmas, being the birth of the Redeemer, should be a day to recommit the nation to redeeming "Yolanda" communities from the claws of poverty arising from unfulfilled rehabilitation. (PNA) FGS/RMN/CBD/

How Legazpi’s urban landscape made it to DA’s rice achiever awards
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 20 (PNA) –- Despite its urban setting, Legazpi City this year produced rice more than the volume expected from its farms, landing the city into the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) “Rice Achiever Awards” both in the regional and national levels.

It won the 2013 regional and national awards based on the criteria set by the DA geared toward rice self-sufficiency (RSS), increased farmers’ income and judicious use of Internal Revenue Allotment intended for local rice program, Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director, said here on Friday.

DA records show that the city achieved this year a rice production of nearly 8,916 metric tons (MTs), posting a 10.61-percent increase over its 8,060 MTs last year.

In his report to the DA Regional Field Unit 5, city agriculturist Jesus Kallos said the promotion of RSS initiated by his office resulted in greater participation among local farmers showed by the increase in rice farm cultivation from 980 hectares last year to 2,124 hectares this year.

Other factors that influenced this achievement, Kallos said in his report, are the farm mechanization program initiated by the city government and the strong support extended to farmers in terms of farm inputs.

Legazpi City may have a smaller rice area compared to other localities in the region but it was able to contribute 4.35 percent to the total rice production of Albay province and .74 percent to the regional production of Bicol, thus the awards, Bragas noted.

City Mayor Noel Rosal received the regional award from the DA’s regional office for Bicol based here in a fitting ceremony held in Naga City to become the lone city of the region’s seven to win.

Rosal received a plaque of recognition and a check representing a cash incentive of P30,000 handed down by Bragas and Rep. Maria Leonor Robredo of the third district of Camarines Sur who was the guest of honor in the affair.

The city was joined by another local government unit -- the rural municipality of Polangui, Albay, in the roll of awardees that included the provincial government of Albay under Gov. Joey Salceda, 32 agricultural extension workers and an irrigators’ association.

Next month, Rosal, Salceda and Polangui Mayor Cherry Sampal will be again conferred similar accolades at Malacañang by DA Sec. Proceso Alcala, this time for being winners in the National Agri-Pinoy Rice Achiever Awards.

Aside from plaque of recognitions Alcala is expected to hand over to them along with other awardees nationwide, cash incentives worth P1 million each for winners in city and municipality categories and P5 million for the provincial, Bragas said.

The awards, he said, are conferred on local government units and agriculture extension workers who significantly contributed to the effective and successful implementation of the DA’s Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, which is one of the banner components of the DA mainly concerned in rice farming and uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers.

The Agri-Pinoy Rice Program, guided by the principles of the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) framework, plays a key role in the Food Staples Sufficiency Program, the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

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

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

The key target is to produce the country's domestic requirements by 2013. Beyond 2013, the aim is to strengthen national resilience in staples production by applying strategies such as raising farmers' productivity and competitiveness, enhancing economic incentives and enabling mechanisms, and managing food staples consumption.

During the regional awarding ceremonies Robredo challenged all the other LGUs to emulate what the awardees did -- that of prioritizing agriculture and providing support to agriculture programs.

The congresswoman, the widow of the late Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo who died in a plane accident over a year ago, believes that agriculture remains the answer to poverty as she encouraged the awardees to continue to shine and work in order to sustain the region’s RSS achieved this year, according to Bragas.

Bicol’s rice yield this year is around 1.3 million MTs based on the latest harvest season in end of November which means that from the region’s rice production of over 1.1 million MTs, Bicolanos self-sufficiency in rice grew at the rate of 99.91 percent last year.

This year’s production represents a 100-percent regional RSS owing to an increase in productivity from 3.36 MTs last year to 3.51 MTs per hectare this year.

The region hit the RSS target notwithstanding super typhoon “Yolanda” because the weather in the Bicol region was generally fair for its rice farmers the whole year round, apart from the integration of government interventions for the agriculture.

These interventions include Community-Based Seed Banking to improve farmers' access to quality seeds, provision and rehabilitation of irrigation systems to increase cropping intensity, farm mechanization and reduction of post-harvest losses, and establishment of modern trading center for palay seeds.

Enhancement of rice farmers' resiliency to natural hazards through improved climate change adaptation and risk mitigation, as well as the reduction of demand for rice as staple food in the region by way of alternative food production and consumption also worked favorably for the regional RSS. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Albay receives biggest aid from DSWD in 2013
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 20 (PNA) – “Christmas is a time to say 'thanks' for the total goodness of people. Thank you, Sec. Dinky!”

Albay Governor Joey Salceda was referring to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Corazon “Dinky” Soliman as he expressed on Friday his gratitude for the “biggest that Albay received in 2013 came from DSWD.”

He said 62,000 more poor Albayano families have been enrolled with the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) under the agency’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

These families started reaping the fruits of the program in March worth P1.05 billion per year for five years, according to Salceda.

“This should allow us to improve our educational and health outcomes through better nutrition,” he stressed.

“Also, after suffering the adverse impacts of climate change, especially typhoon Juaning (in July 2011) which hurt 87,000 families, thus a spike in our poverty and malnutrition, together with our own aggressive initiatives, our malnutrition should fall from 17.6 to pre-Juaning 10.6 percent or even our best of 4.7 percent,” he added.

Moreover, Salceda said, DSWD has approved the inclusion of a total of 3,263 poorest of the poor families in the province—1,104 in the municipality of Guinobatan, 913 in Camalig and 1,246 in Oas—for 4Ps coverage starting in 2014.

“Thanks, too, to all our hardworking staff of the DSWD Regional Field Unit for Bicol,” the governor said.

Salceda, who last year fought for the full coverage of 4Ps in Albay’s 15 towns and three cities, said the “program actually constitutes the biggest and the more socio-economically beneficial relief to our province in this period of economic stress.”

The province’s investment in human capital has targeted a total of 180,370 households into the program. However, the magnitude of poor families based on the official record is only 69,803, which means, only those real poor families can qualify for the program,” he said.

The beneficiaries of the program were identified based on a scoring system that utilizes the socio-economic characteristics of the household, such as non-ownership of assets/appliances, type of housing unit, level of educational attainment of household head and non-access to water and sanitation facilities.

The governor said he is grateful to Soliman for the early release of the funds to his province despite disasters that had struck the country recently which had tied up her agency’s priorities.

Since 2011, Albay has been the first province to be fully covered by the 4Ps and achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The program enables families to have decent shelter and put food on their tables, afford necessary vaccinations and send their children to school, reminding them that hope exists and that a brighter future is ahead, the governor said.

Salceda, who sits as head of all Regional Development Councils in the country, cited 4Ps as one of the most important accomplishments of President Aquino in reducing hunger incidence by six percent, only months after he assumed office in 2010 and expanded its coverage.

“The funding for 4Ps has proven to be an inspired move while prompting positive and significant consequences in the lives of ordinary families, particularly food-poor rural families,” he said.

4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.

The money is released to the most responsible adult person in the household, usually the mother, through Electronic Card Banking System.

The program also helps the government to fulfill the country’s commitment to meet the MDGs such as to Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, Achieve Universal Primary Education, Promote Gender Equality, Reduce Child Mortality and Improve Maternal Health.

Being implemented by the DSWD, the program has already enlisted as of last September a total of 361,245 beneficiaries in Bicol whose poverty incidence, according to the latest statistics released by the NSCB, was at 36 percent.

The DSWD, through the CCT or 4Ps, is continuously providing an avenue for Bicol’s marginalized sector to break the string of dearth that for decades pinned most of their communities to the vicious cycle of life difficulties.

Poverty alleviation is a priority of the Aquino administration, according to DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Albay capitol employees to receive P45-M added benefits before Christmas
By Nancy I. Mediavillo













DA names Legazpi ‘2013 rice achiever’
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) -- Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala is expected to give a plaque of recognition and a cash award of P1 million to the City Government of Legazpi as one of the winners of the National Agri-Pinoy Rice Achiever Award in January next year at the Malacanang Palace, DA Bicol Regional Director Abelardo Bragas said Thursday.

The other winning local government units are Polangui in Albay and Castilla in Sorsogon, which will also receive the same incentives, while Albay and Camarines Sur LGUs will both receive P5 million and a plaque of recognition each.

Based on the criteria of the DA, all the LGU winners achieved rice production and sufficiency, increased the farmers’ income and had proper use of the internal revenue allotment allocated for rice sufficiency program.

Legazpi City Agriculturist Jesus Kallos disclosed that in 2012, his office posted a total rice production of 8,059.65 metric tons (MT) while in 2013, they had a total production of 8,915.56 (MT) with an increase of 855.91 MT or 10.61 percent or .54 MT increase in yield per hectare.

He said the promotion of rice self-sufficiency in the farm land areas of the city conducted by his office was the result of greater farmer participation, which exceeded the 980 hectares target of the city government to 2,123.76 hectares cultivated by the farmers.

Kallos stressed that the other factors for the achievement of the city’s rice production goal were the agricultural modernization and farm mechanization program as well as the strong support in the farm input assistance of the city administration that contributed so much to the needs in farming activities of the farmers.

The city agriculturist said the city administration will put up additional irrigation systems in the three agricultural villages of the city to sustain the supply of water in every cropping cycle.

He said he will also continue to conduct training and seminars among the city farmers to give them additional knowledge on how to apply the proper way of planting rice.

Despite smaller rice field areas in the city compared to other localities of the region, Legazpi has posted a total contribution of 4.35 percent rice production to the provincial government of Albay and .74 percent contribution to the record of the Bicol region, Kallos pointed out.(PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/

Bicol sustains economic growth; poverty down by double-figure rate in 21 years (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) – Bicol today is already a far cry from the “poorest region” label it used to wear since time immemorial until a year ago.

In poverty incidence alone, data recently released by the regional unit of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) based here, show figures that local economic planners and managers are happy about.

It say that the 2012 full-year official poverty statistics in the country listed Bicol’s poverty incidence to be down from 48 percent in 1991 to only 32.3 percent in two visits last July 2012 and January 2013 conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) for its Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES).

This means that in a span of 21 years, the region achieved an economic growth rate of over 15 percent and was able to strip itself of the tag “second poorest,” next to the war-torn Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) among the country’s 17 regions.

It was during the first half of 2012 when the NSCB, for the first time released poverty estimates by semester in view of the urgent need for release of more timely statistics that it declared Bicol out of the cellar in poverty rankings and placed it on the seventh, from fourth in 2006 and 2009 and second years back.

It used the Annual Poverty Indicator Survey (APIS) as determinant of this ranking wherein Bicol has overtaken Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Central Visayas and Caraga regions.

Among the population under this improved ranking, the statistical board placed around 43 poor for every 100 Bicolanos during the first semester of 2012, or about two poor persons less than the previous number in 2009.

Food poor or extremely poor families consistently dropped from 16.5 percent in first semester of 2009 to 14.1 percent in the same period of 2012.

Similarly, food poor population posted consistent declines from the first semester of 2006 to the first semester of 2012, it said.

In the same type of survey that the NSO conducts every three years to come up with estimates on the proportion of poor families to the total number of families in regions and the entire country, Bicol’s poverty incidence was 35.4 percent in 2006 and 35.3 percent in 2009, showing consistent decline even as, the NSCB said, it hardly changed -- given the measly 0.1 percentage point drop.

It was also in 2012 that, NSCB said, Bicol’s economy grew by 7.1 percent, nearly four times faster than its pace in 2011.

Industry fueled the region’s economy while Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing (AHFF) and Services recorded accelerated growths.

Services accounted for the biggest share of the region’s economy at 56.0 percent, followed by AHFF at 24.4 percent and Industry at 19.6 percent.

Industry bounced back from a negative 2.6-percent growth in 2011 and grew by 16.1 percent in 2012.

Construction spurred Industry’s growth surging by 25.8 percent from a 12.7-percent slump in 2011.

Similarly, Mining and Quarrying posted an 11.8-percent growth, a complete turnaround from the 4.0-percent contraction in the previous year, according to the NSCB.

Services sector was the largest contributor to the regional economic growth in 2012, accounting for 3.4 percentage points of the 7.1-percent growth.

Industry contributed 2.9 percentage points, while AHFF’s share was 0.7 percentage point.

The regional office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) also based here agrees with these statistics, saying support activities from the government and private sectors contributed to the region’s economic growth.

NEDA Regional Director Romeo Escandor said the region’s agriculture sector improved with increased production of major agricultural commodities -- such as palay, corn, livestock, and fisheries -- while infrastructure programs in support of economic activities were also aggressively implemented in the past three years.

Regional palay and corn production, Escandor, said was at about 626,000 and 140,000 metric tons, respectively, during the first half of this year leading to self-sufficiency in these prime staples.

A significant increase in investments was also recorded in the first quarter of 2013, indicating an aggregate of 323 million was invested in the region during the same quarter compared to 36 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 which represents a 785-percent rise in the total investments.

The tourism industry of the Bicol Region is expected to continue growing due to higher priority of some local government units in improving the sector by way of continual promotion.

This city, Albay’s frontline player in the tourism industry, has adopted the brand “City of Fun and Adventure” while the province uses “Indulge yourself in warm Albay!” in the promotion pitches to sustain its regional leadership in terms of tourist arrivals.

The province achieved a 29-percent growth in the first three quarters of this year, which was better than the national average of 11.4 percent.

According to records of the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office, Albay and this city received some 521,000 tourists during the period to post a 29.01-percent increase over the 403,480 in the same period last year.

As Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) chairman, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda recently spearheaded the formation of the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (Almasor) Tourism Alliance, a new global marketing strategy of bundling up the tourism potentials of these three southernmost provinces of the region.

The employment situation also improved with more Bicolanos employed in October 2012 compared to July and October 2011.

Employment rate in October 2012 was 95.1 percent, posting an increase of 0.4 percentage point from the 94.7 percent in October 2011.

Escandor said one big factor that keeps Bicol rising is institutionalization of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) which, in cooperation with all calamity response agencies and local government units, carried out counter-measures to ensure “zero casualty” from typhoons.

Such readiness also spared the region from sustaining damages to property, livelihood and critical infrastructure.

Among the six provinces in Bicol, Albay accounted for the biggest economic growth as businessmen are very bullish in putting up more investments due to the rosy climate of growth, big number of tourist arrivals and positive economic performance of the province under Salceda, a noted economist, Luis Banua, the NEDA assistant regional director on Monday said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

Typhoon 'Yolanda' raises dramatically Bicol’s inflation rate in November

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) -- Super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) that heavily battered the Visayas regions in early November saw Bicol’s inflation rate dramatically soaring during that month, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

It failed though to pull down the purchasing power of the peso in Bicol as it remained at 72 centavos during the month from P1.00 in 2006's comparative month.

The regional unit of NSCB based here said on Monday that annual inflation rate in the Bicol soared dramatically, posting a record high of 4.3 percent in November.

Such inflation rise caused faster price increases for most of the commodity groups as a result of the tight supply of food and other commodities due to the damages in agriculture and disruption of trade and other business activities brought by the typhoon in the Visayas.

Likewise, the sharp increases in food and fuel prices continued to be a key factor for this dramatically high inflation rate that were more pronounced in areas outside of Metro Manila, according to Gil Arce, the NSCD regional head.

The food group alone rose by 0.7 percentage point while rising price of oil in the global market pushed the inflation rate of the Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels by 1.2 percentage points, he said.

Increased prices of most of the food items included in the region's commodity basket such as rice, meat, fish and vegetables pushed the overall level of the food group, the biggest component of the region's market basket.

The November inflation rate in the region, he said, jumped 0.6 percentage points from the October level and 2.1 percentage points from the rate in the same period last year.

Against the national average, inflation rate in the Bicol Region is 1.0 percentage point higher while across regions, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) registered the lowest at 2.3 percent.

The Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula regions registered the highest at 5.4 percent.

The region experienced a slight hike in the average prices of consumer goods with the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) rising by 0.4 point from an index of 138.8 last month.

Indices in majority of the commodity groups inched up in varying degrees from a high of 1.3 points in the Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels group to a low of 0.1 point each in the Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco and Clothing and Footwear commodity groups.

Transport, Communication and Education remained unchanged from its indices in October, according to Arce.

On a month-on-month basis, Bicol average inflation rate likewise rose by 0.2 percentage point.

Higher inflation rates were registered for commodity groups such as Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas, and Other Fuels (1.8 percentage points), Transport (0.3 percentage point), Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Maintenance of the House (0.2 percentage point) and Recreation and Culture (0.1 percentage point).

On the other hand, lower inflation rates were recorded for other commodity groups like Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages (0.3 percentage point), Restaurant and Miscellaneous Goods and Services (0.3 percentage point) and Clothing and Footwear (0.1 percentage point).

The rest of the commodity groups sustained their previous month's level, Ortiz added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

Legazpi church leader stresses benevolence to others in need

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) -- Amid drizzles and the coldness of the early morning breeze, the Misa de Aguinaldo at 4:00 a.m. at the Albay Cathedral here and other churches in the Diocese of Legazpi Monday was attended by the faithful who did not mind whether there was not much space inside while others were outside wearing jackets and carrying umbrellas.

Bishop Bong Baylon, the bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi that covers the parishes in the 15 municipalities and three cities of Albay, officiated the early morning Mass.

Baylon focused on the Community of Faith, which, he said, must start at home and in the family.

He said every family should have a solid foundation.

The Church leader added that the Community of God must be solid amid trials in life, always ready to help others, like the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda."

He cited the Church's project, “Project Harong,” for the survivors of Samar and Leyte through the cooperation of different sectors of the province, particularly the provincial government of Albay.

Baylon said the Community of God is continuously strengthening the spiritual aspect of life or man's relation to the Almighty God "as the captain of our lives."

Lastly, he stressed the Bicolano word "Tada," which means setting aside, wherein a person who loves his fellowmen gives or sets aside something valuable for them like food, whether in small or big quantity.

The bishop cited, for instance, the ecosystem.

"Everything that God has created has meaning, role and relation to other creatures -- like an insect which balances our environment," Baylon said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/utb

Salceda stresses values of being Filipinos among Albayanos

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 16 (PNA) -- After the emotional and meaningful opening of the Karangahan Festival-Albay Green Christmas this year, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda came out with his message to Albayanos for the Christmas season.

Salceda said despite the mistakes, failures and shortcomings, the Albayanos should not be tired of being Filipinos.

"We should always maintain greatness, purity of heart, goodness, heroism and our selfish dedication to our country and fellowmen," he stressed.

The provincial chief executive urged every Albayano to always answer the challenge of heroism to build a prosperous future and a society with justice and reminded them of the love and graces that God has given to the Albayanos.

He urged them to use these graces and the strength of the Albayanos to further mold and keep alive the spirit of being Filipinos.

"A merry and meaningful Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all," Salceda said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/utb

Salceda orders probe on illegal coal mining in Rapu-Rapu

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 19 (PNA) -- Barely a month after the occurrence of a deadly explosion in an illegal coal mining operation in Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu, Albay, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to conduct an investigation into the reported unabated illegal coal mining operation in the area.

The massive illegal coal mining operations in the island are reportedly rampant and operating under the nose of local officials despite the province’s opposition to all types of mining in the island municipality.

Last month, two miners -- Antonio Grajeda and Jerson Dela Cruz -- were killed and two others -- Moises Boyon and Christian Santillan -- were injured in an explosion while mining underground.

All working at the Sammajo Mining Corp., the victims were inside a 125-meter-long underground tunnel, some 34 meters below the surface, when the explosion took place.

Report said coal mining operations are protected by some authorities even as the mayor of Rapu-Rapu town allegedly has an existing coal mining operation.

“The provincial government is concerned about those reports and will not take them dismissively simply because they are supposed to operate under the convenient camouflage of a Department of Energy approval. So I ask the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on natural resources to conduct an inquiry for possible violation of our Sangguniang ordinance against mining," he said.

The governor said the coal mining operations in Batan Island have allegedly the green light of the DOE.

“In short, it is legal as it has the DOE’s consent but it has no provincial consent and will not have provincial consent. We have an anti-mining ordinance. Our powers are only local but we have consistently adhered to our avowed goals,” he said.

A “camote”-style of illegal coal mining operation is thriving in the Batan Island, reportedly untouched by local officials and clashing directly with the reputation of the province as a pioneer in climate-change adaptation advocacy.

Last year, former provincial board member Arnold Embestro, chairman of the board’s environment and natural resources committee, revealed that there are 20 illegal coal mining operations in Batan Island which have caused water contamination and deforestation that might exacerbate the risks of potential landslides.

Rapu-Rapu, Albay, is not only a host to multibillion-peso gold reserves but also to vast natural coal deposits.

Coal is used as a substitute to petroleum in local and international industries.

It currently has a strong market demand due to the successive spikes in the prices of crude oil in the international market.

The strong demand for coal in the local market resulted in the proliferation of illegal coal mining activities in the town of Rapu-Rapu, prompting the provincial board to take action and urge the DOE to put an office in Bicol to look into the operations here.(PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD

Albay’s Karangahan Festival-Green Christmas opening full of emotions, thanksgiving
By Nancy I. Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) –- The formal opening of Albay’s Karangahan Festival –Green Christmas celebration on Friday night was full of emotions and profuse expressions of thanks.

Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said there can be no other celebrations that can surpass this year’s in terms of happiness and meaning.

Although it was simple and not as fabulous as in the past years, celebrating it with the young survivors of climate monster “Yolanda” from the provinces of Samar and Leyte is nondescript and noncomparable.

While the children sang the original Filipino song “Paano Kita Pasasalamatan” for their Albayano foster brothers and sisters, not only a few spectators noticeably subdued or hid their tears as their hearts were obviously touched by the message and the messengers.

Their heartfelt gratitude and thanks freely flowed from their music as they acknowledged the love of a new family in the arms of the Albayanos.

The vivid videos seen by housewife Virginia Abarquez on television screens on what happened to residents of Samar and Leyte flashed back in her mind as the strains of refrains from the children’s song struck a string in her heart.

Salceda thanked the Almighty for the bounties and graces that the province of Albay has received and the challenges that it has overcome through the years.

He cited, for instance, the typhoons that have spared the province since typhoon “Reming” battered Albay in 2006.

The provincial chief executive noted the successful implementation of the projects and programs of Albay with the help of the Albayanos themselves, all sectors of the society and all the departments of the provincial government, especially the Sangguniang Panlalawigan headed by Vice Governor Harold Imperial.

Salceda appealed to all Albayanos to join and support him next year and the years to come in order to achieve economic development and growth for Albay.

He stressed that no one should be left behind in the process.

According to him, the first year of the celebration started with a giant Green Christmas using recycled drums from the Philippine Air Force – Tactical Operations Group 5.

Last year, the celebration included the Culinaria Albay while this year, the affair includes Abacakarangahan to promote the abaca industry in the province.

Salceda said this will bring big opportunities to the province and the entire region in terms of additional employment and income, among other benefits.

He gave as example the abaca product from Camalig town which has a big market outside the country like Las Vegas, Macau and other countries.

Imperial, on the other hand, said the occasion centers on the campaign of Albay for environmental protection like the campaign against pollution, reduction of carbon emission and zero casualty.

He said there are more reasons to rejoice and be thankful, one of them being the success of the Millennium Development Goals and many best practices of Albay that received accolades not only from the national government but also from abroad.

He commended the governor for his innovative approaches to these concerns. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/rsm

(Yearender) Bicol hits regional rice sufficiency goal
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Dec. 18 (PNA) -– Except for the spillover from the neighboring Visayan regions of the devastation caused by super typhoon "Yolanda", which rendered some P175 million worth of damages to Bicol’s agriculture last November, the region’s weather condition within the duration of year 2013 generally favored its rice self-sufficiency goal set by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The DA’s Regional Field Unit based here said on Wednesday that this year’s rice yield in the region is around 1.3 million metric tons (MT) based on the latest harvest season in end of November.

From Bicol’s rice production of over 1.1 million MT that placed Bicolanos self-sufficiency in rice at the rate of 99.91 percent last year, this year’s production represents a 100-percent regional rice self-sufficiency (RSS) level owing to an increase in productivity from 3.36 MT last year to 3.51 MT per hectare this year, according to DA Regional Director Abelardo Bragas.

“We hit the target notwithstanding super typhoon 'Yolanda' because the weather in the Bicol was generally fair for our rice farmers the whole year round. Besides, in times of weather disturbances that threatened the region, Bicolano farmers are armed with good practices that keep them resilient from the effect of climate change,” Bragas said.

He disclosed this as DA Secretary Proceso Alcala said during a visit in Sorsogon last week that the targeted 100-percent RSS for 2013 in the national level fell short by around two percent.

Alcala’s visit was in consultation with farmers, cooperatives and local government officials and was organized and facilitated by partylist COOP NATCCO through its representative, Anthony Bravo, who hails from Sorsogon.

The country was able to attain only about 98 percent of the target because of the damage brought by typhoons "Santi" in Central and northern Luzon and Yolanda in the Visayas, Alcala said.

Storm Santi, which landed in October, damaged rice crops in the country’s main rice-producing province of Nueva Ecija and other areas, leading to a loss of 400,000 MT of rice.

Losses from Yolanda are estimated at 200,000 MT.

Alcala, however, told some 1,000 leaders of farmer and fisherfolk cooperatives in Sorsogon that despite failing to achieve a full RSS for the country this year, the 98 percent is already a significant increase compared to the country’s rice sufficiency level of only 82 percent in 2010 when he started his stint at the DA as secretary.

DA records say that 77,000 hectares of rice were damaged in some 17 provinces affected by Yolanda which tore through the country last November 8, badly hitting central Philippines’ large agricultural area.

Leyte and Iloilo, two of the most devastated provinces, rank among the top 10 rice-producing provinces in the country.

With the impact of this super typhoon and all the others that hit the country over the year, the annual production fell one million MT short of the current target of 19.03 million MT, which the government says is needed to achieve self-sufficiency.

In the past years until 2010, the Philippines became the world’s largest rice importer due in part to lack of investment in production.

The Philippines consumes 114 kilograms of rice on a per-capita basis and except for a brief period in the 1970s, when the government stepped up its rice production program, the country has been a net rice importer for the past five decades -- in part because it was cheaper, particularly in recent years, to buy rice from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand than produce it locally.

After 2010, the government, under Pres. Benigno Aquino III and with Alcala as DA chief, invested more in boosting its rice output and the country began exporting some varieties last year.

In Bicol, rice is second in rank next to coconut among the region’s agricultural crops.

Areas harvested to rice, according to the National Economic Development Authority, involved 313,602 hectares, 248,550 hectares of which are irrigated and the rest are rainfed based on the records of the regional office in Naga City of the National Irrigation Administration.

The province of Camarines Sur has the biggest rice area with 158,348 hectares supplying 45 percent of the regional rice regional requirement, followed by Albay with 48,638 hectares.

Masbate ranks third in terms of area devoted to rice with 39,148 hectares; Sorsogon, 33,804 hectares; Camarines Norte, 20,671 hectares and Catanduanes, 12,993 hectares.

Elena de los Santos, the regional in-charge of the DA’s rice program, attributes the rice production increase to the integration of government interventions for the agriculture sector such as food security and self-sufficiency, sustainable resource management, support services from farm to table and broad-based local partnerships.

These interventions include Community-Based Seed Banking to improve farmers' access to quality seeds, provision and rehabilitation of irrigation systems to increase cropping intensity, farm mechanization and reduction of post-harvest losses, and establishment of modern trading center for palay seeds.

Enhancement of rice farmers' resiliency to natural hazards through improved climate change adaptation and risk mitigation, as well as the reduction of demand for rice as staple food in the region by way of alternative food production and consumption, also worked favorably to the regional RSS, De los Santos said.

And since DA is steadfast in achieving RSS not only for Bicol but also for the entire nation to be able to do away with importations, the RFU is not only focusing on paddy rice production but also aggressively revitalizing organic agriculture as part of the Aquino administration’s National Rice Program.

This initiative has been producing good results as the region produced in 2012 some 74 percent of the country’s total production of organic rice to top other regions, primarily attributed to the establishment of technology demonstration farms for organic agriculture.

These organic farm projects are pursuant to the Philippine Organic Agriculture Law which encourages propagation, development, implementation and promotion of organic agriculture in the Philippines, among other things.

“We have expanded in organic farming this year with the P6-million upland rice organic farming project in Bicol to further boost the region’s hefty contribution to national rice production,” Bragas said.

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

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 MT 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, Bragas added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Legazpi ties up with Japanese funding agency for dump site informal sector
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) – The implementation of a project designed to improve the social well-being of families relying on local dump sites for their livelihood will take off soon here through funding provided by a Japanese agency.

The project called “Social Inclusion and Alternative Livelihoods for the Informal Waste Sector” is funded by the Japan Social Development Fund (JSDF) through the World Bank (WB).

It will be implemented jointly by the city government and the Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines (SWAPP), a non-profit organization composed of solid waste management practitioners from local government units (LGUs), national government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the academe.

At least 300 waste pickers and collectors called informal waste sector (IWS) at the existing sanitary landfill dumps and from households in the 45 urban barangays of the city are the target beneficiaries of the project, city Mayor Noel Rosal on Wednesday said.

“We are now ready to implement the project as preparations, such as the profiling of the eco-aides and waste pickers, have already been completed through the initiative of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO). They have also been formally organized and registered with the city government,” he said.

Rosal recalled that the city government last February signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SWAPP covering the implementation the project.

As part of the partnership, the city and the SWAPP will jointly implement various activities such as organizational development, preparation and delivery of information campaigns, technical assistance, conduct of trainings and business and market development programs to support the social inclusion, alternative livelihood and business enterprises for the local IWS.

The project is a nationwide undertaking in behalf of over a hundred thousand families of men, women and children in the Philippines who are commonly migrants with limited opportunities and assets, living near dumps or in informal settlements in urban communities.

Close to 6,000 informal garbage workers and collectors in several areas in the country are expected to benefit from the US-million grant extended by the JSDF for a project designed to improve their incomes and livelihood, Grace Sapuay, SWAPP’s executive vice-president, said during the project conference held over the week at the Aquinas University here.

Administered by the WB, JSDF supports community-driven development and poverty- reduction projects for the poorest and most vulnerable groups in developing countries.

“We are helping LGUs, communities, and the private sector improve their capability to manage solid waste problems in their respective areas through research, training, technical assistance, information exchange, and network building,” Sapuay said.

The project, she explained, is providing support to the informal garbage workers and itinerant waste buyers located in selected cities and municipalities which are modernizing their solid waste management systems.

Under the country’s Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act No. 9003), LGUs are required to modernize their solid waste management practices and convert open dumps to sanitary landfills.

These changes may affect the livelihood of garbage workers and itinerant waste buyers.

Apart from this city, which has complied with the requirements of the law, two other LGUs — Tabaco City and the municipality of Polangui in Albay province -- are beneficiaries of the project.

A total of 515 families in Albay’s leading urban localities will receive a comprehensive package of assistance from the project.

This grant, which is intended to improve the livelihood of informal garbage workers in selected areas and provide better opportunities for them, will thus help address the impact of the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, according to Sapuay.

This is a very important project because it helps address the plight of one of the most marginalized groups in society -- men, women and children earning a living from garbage, she added.

Informal garbage workers (waste pickers and itinerant waste buyers) are commonly unable to access livelihood opportunities through formal, safer or more lucrative means because of constraints like lack of education and basic livelihood skills as well as limited access to start-up funds for small business.

The project, according to Rosal, fits squarely with the mission of the city government which is to deliver direct benefits to the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

“It could make positive tangible effects in the lives of informal garbage workers in the city and in the modernization programs of the city government for waste disposal sites,” the mayor said.

Some of the grant money will be used for investment in equipment, bins and carts; formalization of the sector through registration, recognition and contractual arrangements; and improving working conditions, including the health and safety of informal workers, he said.

Under this project, local recycling organizations will get technical assistance for expanding their business operations and sources of income -- including litter cleanup and cleaning services, collection and transport, and curb side recycling, he said.

The project will also provide training for entrepreneurship and job placement, Rosal added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/

DOH-Bicol sends engineering team to Samar

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- An engineering and construction team has been sent by the Department of Health-Center for Health Development-Bicol to typhoon-ravaged areas in Samar to do immediate repair of district hospitals and rural health units (RHUs), DOH Regional Director Dr. Gloria Balboa said Wednesday.

The team led by engineer William Sabater, which will visit eastern and western Samar areas, is composed of a civil engineer, an architect, a foreman, two electricians, four carpenters, four masons and five administrative personnel, the regional director added.

Dr. Balboa said the team is equipped with fogging machines complete with the necessary insecticide as well construction and electrical supplies and materials to assist local officials restore the health facilities which are very crucial in the recovery and rehabilitation of the victims.

Balboa said some locals will be hired as laborers under the cash-for-work program to provide them with livelihood even on a temporary basis.

“This is part of the efforts of the DOH to assist in every way we can in the early rehabilitation of the typhoon victims, especially now that Christmas time is fast approaching,” she stressed.

The DOH-CHD-Bicol had earlier sent medical teams to various areas in Samar and Leyte provinces right after typhoon "Yolanda" hit the Visayas regions last month.

Balboa said funding for the relief efforts had been sourced internally from the regional office’s funds.

The engineering and construction team, which left last December 7, will stay in the area until the 23rd and will return to Bicol just in time for Christmas.(PNA) LAP/FGS/BQL/CBD/

DOH fetes 16 mayors in Dugong Bicol Awards

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- For initiating blood donations in their localities, 16 local chief executives (LCEs) have been awarded by the Department of Health (DOH) regional office for its Dugong Bicol Awards, the head of the Regional Voluntary Blood Service Program (RBVSP) said Wednesday.

Dr. Janish Alcala, RVBSP coordinator, said that aside from the mayors, they also conferred awards to barangay captains who made similar efforts which helped DOH gather blood supply from various individuals as donors.

Based on the list of awardees, the LCEs who received awards were the mayors of Tabaco City and Tiwi in Albay and those of Naga City, Ragay, Sipocot, Cabusao, San Fernando, Milaor, Camaligan, Canaman, Magarao, Bombon, San Jose, Tinambac, Bula and San Fernando in Camarines Sur.

Alcala said hundreds of village chairmen were also conferred the award which included barangay captains from the towns of Gubat, Pilar, Donsol, Prieto Diaz, Casiguran and Matnog in Sorsogon; Bagamanoc and Virac in Catanduanes; San Pascual in Masbate; Legazp City, Tabaco City, Libon, Camalig, Malinao, Guinobatan, Tiwi, Ligao City, Manito, Oas, Rapu-Rapu, Sto. Domingo and Polangui in Albay.

Also included in the list were selected Barangay chairmen from Ragay, Sipocot, Lupi, Cabusao, Libmanan, San Fernando, Pamplona, Minalabac, Milaor, Camaligan, Canaman, Magarao, Monbon, Calabanga, Pili, Ocampo, Tigaon, San Jose, Sagnay, Lagonoy, Siruma, Baao, Tinambac, Bula, Bato, Buhi, and Naga City in Camarines Sur.

For the barangay or municipality to qualify for the award they must have achieved at least one percent of its qualified residents as volunteer-donors and that the local government unit itself initiated the blood donation activity, Alcala said.

According to Alcala, the DOH-Regional Blood Center targets to collect the equivalent of one percent of the entire population of the region which is the estimated blood supply requirement in the region which would translate to about 55,000 blood units.

As of now, however, the agency was able to collect only about 34,000 units. Each unit is 450 cc of blood.

Some 40 to 60 units of blood are needed daily by patients based on the requests being received by the center, Alcala said.

The blood donation program coordinator said all blood that are collected from the donors are subjected to strict screening process to ensure that these are free from the five highly contagious diseases which included HIV, Hepatitis B and C, syphilis and malaria. Among the five, hepatitis B is the most common disease detected from the blood collected from donors, Alcala said.

Blood supplies that show signs of the disease are immediately forwarded to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila.

While the blood supply is given out for free by the center, the recipient is required to pay for the cost of the screening which amounts to P1,500 per one bag of 450 cc, she added.

Alcala said patients intending to obtain blood from the center must have a doctor’s request and a referral from the rural health unit or the local government.

Since the program began in 2008, the volume of donated blood has been increasing except last year and this year due to change in policy regarding payments of screening fee, Alcala said.

She, however, clarified that there are some individuals who do not qualify as donors which include illegal drugs users especially those who use syringe, persons who have multiple sexual partners, men having sex with men and the commercial sex workers. These individuals have high risks of acquiring the five diseases which are being screened out.

Among the blood types, the most common being requested by patients is type O, Alcala said.

The other blood types are type A, AB and B. There are also the blood groups called RH, or the positive and negative of the blood types, Alcala added, saying that the rarest blood type is AB negative.

Asked about the “walking blood bank program,” Alcala said the program has been discontinued due to errors in blood-typing method being used in the field called slide method.

The RVBSP center uses the tube method.

She advised individuals who want to know their blood type to have it checked in hospitals or in laboratories.(PNA) LAP/FGS/BQL/CBD/

Aid to barangays to continue sans PDAF -- Sorsogon solon
By Bobby Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- Assistance to barangays and municipalities in the first district of Sorsogon will continue despite the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which was recently declared illegal by the Supreme Court.

This was the assurance made by Congresswoman Evie Escudero as she met recently with 255 new and re-elected barangay captains from the first district of the province for the orientation and briefing conducted by two government agencies.

In her message, Escudero said the abolition of the PDAF, also known as pork barrel fund, would not hinder her efforts to extend assistance to her constituents through programs and projects that are responsive to the needs of the people.

“Let it not be said that my ability to fulfill my duty depends solely on the PDAF,” she stressed, adding that she had been coordinating with various government agencies to source out funds or to tap their existing programs for the need of the people.

“Even before I assumed office, the PDAF had already been suspended so I have never experienced how to utilize it and yet I continue to deliver programs and projects to the barangays,” she pointed out.

As proof, Escudero said, several school buildings in Castilla, Donsol and Pilar are due for implementation before the year ends.

She announced that she would be visiting all the barangays in her district again to hold dialogues with the barangay officials on their priority programs and determine how she could assist them.

The briefing and orientation held at the Escudero residence in Barangay Buhatan was part of the initiatives to tap existing programs and projects and direct these to specific barangays and municipalities where it would suit the needs of the people.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Labor and Employment conducted lectures and fora relative to their programs and projects which directly involve the participation of barangay officials and their constituents like the solid waste management program, land titling, national greening program and many more.

The labor department, meanwhile, explained the processes and procedures that have to be followed in availing of livelihood programs for marginalized sectors.

Simultaneous with the activity, a separate orientation was also held by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for the Municipal Solid Waste Management Councils of Casiguran and Castilla at Fritz Homestay in Barangay Tugos.

The solid waste orientation, which was also an initiative of Escudero, aims to expedite the implementation of the solid waste program in the two municipalities as pilot areas.

The lady lawmaker requested the DENR through regional executive director Gilbert Gonzales to provide shredder for the processing of wastes.

She stressed that the solid waste program is a potential source of livelihood especially in the barangays.(PNA) CTB/FGS/BL/CBD

CamSur power coop rate up by P3.89/kwh in December
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- With almost simultaneous shutdown of power sources in the Luzon grid as reason, a cooperative here serving this city and nine towns announced on Wednesday an increase in power rate of P3.89/kwh in the December bill.

Emmanuel Rojo, spokesperson of the Camarines Sur II Electric Cooperative (Casureco II), said the power rate will increase from P11.50/kwh in November to P15.30/kwh in December for residential consumers.

“This happens because the power rate was jacked up by expensive price of power from the spot market with the highest rate at P62/kwh,” Rojo said.

He blamed the shutdown of major power suppliers, BacMan and Masinloc power plants, which forced Casureco II to buy its power supply from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), a spot market trading electricity to power distributors.

Rojo said Masinloc, which had an unplanned shutdown from Nov. 11 to Dec. 10, provided 50 percent of power supply, and BacMan that shutdown as scheduled on Oct 16-Dec. 15 contributed 40 percent to the total power requirement of Casureco II areas.

Rojo said that before the shutdown of Masinloc and BacMan, the power coop only bought 10 percent of the power supply from WESM but now it has totally relied on the spot market that sells P9.46/kwh.

He said the power supply and power rate will normalize in February 2014. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/

Employees’exec group lauds bonus-sharing tradition at Naga city hall
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- Amid the controversy over a letter of the mayor here asking the city council to revert funds from the bonus of permanent and casual workers, an official of the city employees’ group lauded the continuing tradition of sharing to other personnel part of their bonuses which, he said, started during the administration of the late Jesse M. Robredo.

Under the set up, the amount to be received by permanent and casual employees is less than the actual amount signed.

Phil Rodriguez, a permanent employee and president of Naga City Local Government Employees’ Alliance (Nacilgea), said an overwhelming majority of employees approved of the practice so that every employee can enjoy the benefits during Christmas time, even as, he said, there were a number who opposed it.

In a letter dated Dec. 6 addressed to the members of the Sangguniang Panlunsod through Nelson S. Legacion, city vice mayor and presiding officer, Mayor John Bongat asked the city council to pass an ordinance reverting the amount of P32.7 million from the salary savings of various departments and offices for Personnel Enhancement Incentive (PEI) bonus.

Bongat further instructed the council members on the manner by which the bonus will be disbursed.

“As a matter of disclosure, permanent and casual employees will sign for P35,850 but will only collect P25,000, with the excess pooled for sharing to job order and contractual personnel of the city government, who under the rules, are not entitled to the PEI,” he said.

Bongat said “the job order and contractuals will receive P25,000 but inclusive of the adjustments in their rates effective Oct. 1, 2013.”

Budget Circular No. 2013-3 dated Nov. 21, 2013 excludes consultants, laborers, student laborers and apprentices, and individuals and groups hired through job contract to receive PEI.

Rodriguez recalled that the first-time it was practiced was when mayor Robredo asked permanent and casual workers to sign for P7,000 bonus but to actually receive P5,000.

“The bonus then was not as much as now,” he said.

Rodriguez revealed that the Nacilgea issued a “manifesto of commitment” to institutionalize the practice” that has been going on for years.

A “manifesto of commitment” that casual and permanent employees have to sign that they “voluntarily waive and/or donate such amount in excess of net sum fixed by concerned city officials less the required tax in favor of the city’s job order, contractual and consultant employees as our way of showing our benevolence as well as appreciation to their support to our work.”

With the passage of the ordinance appropriating P32.7 million for PEI, casual and permanent employees will actually receive P10,000 less than what they have signed.

City Councilor Nathan Sergio raised alarm that the directive from the mayor may be violating the basic rights of casual and permanent employees as it appeared to be arbitrary.

Sergio said he did not mind the intention of sharing and compassion to the employees who are not included to receive the PEI but it must be done on voluntary basis.

“Let those employees receiving the PEI determine how much they will share but do not dictate on them how much they are giving,” he said.

Sergio acknowledged the tradition of sharing to employees not covered by PEI during Christmas season started during Robredo’s time but he reiterated that it was done after a long process of consultation with the affected employees and never arbitrary.

Francisco Mendoza, a long-time city hall employee of the city hall and now the budget officer, cannot remember exactly when the tradition of sharing to non-qualified city employees the bonuses of permanent and casual employees started.

Mendoza could only say that it may have started during the time of mayor Robredo’s second three-term as mayor of this city in 2001 after the latter finished a short-term course in governance at the Harvard University.

He said the practice has been there for years and the same people who approved of it during the past consecutive years are the same; and that from those who approved the sharing of bonus for the past years are now against it.

Mendoza admitted that the consultation with the employees was done after the city council approved the budget but emphasized that the consultation was held before the bonuses were released.

He is confident the procedure and practice of chipping-in from casual and permanent employees to share to other employees is legal.

Mendoza said city hall has a total of 540 casual and permanent employees and 355 employees working under job order or contractual basis.(PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/