Thursday, January 31, 2013

Divers from Japan, China, Australia to explore Albay reefs
By Alfredo L. Vargas Jr.

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- Divers - both neophytes and experts, young and senior citizens - from China, Japan and Australia, are set to explore the various dive sites in Albay Gulf next month.

Jin Masuda, a Japanese dive master who has been into diving the 16 dive sites in this city and other flourishing reefs in Albay Gulf, confirmed the arrival next week of seven elderly divers from Japan who he will guide in underwater tour of the reefs.

It was learned that there are two types of underwater attractions for divers: fish species abounding in the sites and the corals and reefs which they regard as “the rainforests of the sea.”

Either or both, Masuda assured his visitors of satisfaction comparable to diving in the famous reefs in the country such as Tubbataha Reef in Palawan and those in Anilao in Batangas as far as the types of corals and species of fish are concerned.

His most encouraging promise to visiting fellow Japanese is that Albay Gulf is the calmest dive destination, the reason he has stayed in this city in the past three years--doing voluntary services to the local governments of Albay province and the city of Legazpi such as exploration, rehabilitation and promotion of the dive sites.

Now on his 11th consecutive year of stay in the country, Masuda has been inviting Japanese to come to this city.

Late last year, he provided guide services and itinerary of underwater tour in Albay Gulf to a group of elderly divers from Japan - the oldest of them, 75 years old.

Masuda will also provide the same to the group about to arrive next month, the youngest among them, he said, is 54 years old.

Matsuda is the vice president of the Pacific Blue Dive Center (PBDC) that has established an office in this city and has been providing free dive trainings to residents in Albay islands who are to be tapped in the ongoing coral farming and coastal resource management programs of the local governments.

Masuda’s group installed last December 31 the first ever coral garden in Albay Gulf at no cost on the part of the government and has vowed to put up more underwater nurseries, especially near the dive sites and on damaged reefs - all free of charge.

Another Japanese dive master, George Nakano, the head of PBDC, left for China after the installation of the first coral garden to provide dive training in Beijing.

At least 30 among Nakano’s trainees in Beijing are set to experience their first open-water diving in Albay Gulf, also next month.

“The training in Beijing was done in pools. They have not experienced the open seas and because Albay Gulf is a calm dive area, they were convinced to come here and experience open water diving for the first time,” Masuda said.

Also next month, 22 divers from Australia will be brought in by Lee Michael, a Sydney-based journalist who is into free promotion of tourism destinations in Asia.

Michael has featured in his own broadcast station the various tourism attractions of Albay province.

City Mayor Noel Rosal revealed that Michael had been in this city last September and indeed promised to bring divers from Australia for them to discover the natural underwater beauty of Albay Gulf.

It was learned that Michael had explored the various dive sites here and was all praises that he pledged continuing promotions through his radio station in Sydney and to invite fellow Australians to come to this city.

Nong Dawal, the action officer of the provincial government’s ongoing poverty alleviation program in the four islands within Albay Gulf which PBDC strongly supports through provision of free dive trainings, said that what makes local dive sites more attractive to tourists is their proximity to tourist destinations, particularly in the provinces of Sorsogon and Masbate.

“After each dive, they can go climbing to Mayon Volcano or hop to Donsol, Sorsogon for whale shark interaction tours, or to Masbate for other flourishing dive sites and various festivals such ‘Rodeo Masbateño’. We are at the center, and from here they have plenty of accessible tourism sites to visit,” Dawal said.

More foreign divers and nature lovers are expected to visit the area with the strengthened programs of the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (Almasor) tourism alliance that started middle last year. (PNA) LAP/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

Bicolano physician promotes goat milk as human health booster

NAGA CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- At first, Dr. Rufo Llorin Jr., a noted internal medicine specialist here, raised goats as a hobby, a respite from the daily stress of his medical practice.

Today, his passion for goat-raising has become an integral part of his health advocacy.

"Drink your goat's milk" is now the general medical advice he gives his patients.

After seeing all his patients for the day, the doctor would leave his clinic at 5 p.m. not to go anywhere else but to see his goats, the ruminant considered in the Philippines as the "poor man's cow."

As a hobby several years back, Llorin had only four heads of native goats in the family farm until he and his wife, Lynette, realized that they could sustain their health advocacy by engaging in the business of goat milk and meat production.

The couple's interest in such venture was caught by the health benefits derived from the goat's meat and milk.

They came across scientific researches that say goat meat is the healthiest red meat and goat milk is second to human milk.

Llorin's professional training in evidence-based medicine led him to probe further into the health benefits of goat meat and milk.

His findings showed that goat milk has colostrum which nearly replicates a human mother's milk. It also contains vital bioactive components and higher Vitamin A, Vitamin B1/Thiamine and Riboflavin.

Llorin said over the weekend here that his studies showed that goat milk also contributes significantly to disease prevention.

With 3.8 times more calcium than a mother's milk, it is proven to be best for women who are pregnant, those who have just given birth and those in menopausal stage.

It is good for those who suffer from osteoporosis and arthritis.

Llorin said goat milk contains no allergen which is common in other milk.

It has higher content of potassium; sodium, iron, vitamins A and C, Niacin, Riboflavin, B6 and B12, minerals, and amino acids.

It aids in forming blood cells and brain cells, he said, adding that, "There is also evidence that goat milk soap rejuvenates, protects, moisturizers and exfoliates human skin."

The doctor's interest in goat-raising was further fueled by other enthusiasts, some of whom eventually became his friends and mentors–among them former Governor Emmanuel Piñol who owns Braveheart Farms in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato.

Llorin said Piñol introduced to him the La Mancha breed of dairy goats and later gave him a buck and four does which are now parts of the stock of the Naga City Goat Farm (NCGF) that the Llorin couple established in 2007 to become the first commercial goat farm in the province of Camarines Sur.

Located in a 15-hectare land in Barangay San Felipe here, the farm today has nearly 200 heads of superior breeds of dairy- and meat-type goats of five types--Anglo-Nubian, La Mancha, Saanen, Alpine and Boer.

Some of these stocks were imported from California and Tennessee, USA.

Llorin views NGCF as a social enterprise as it promotes health through the product that it sells.

"We have the dairy goats with the best milking performance and constantly infusing superior breeds to upgrade the genetics of the present stock," he said.

For fellow goat-raisers and Bicolanos who are planning to start their own goat farm, the couple had this pointer: Nutrition and environmental conditions play a key role affecting goat milk production.

Thus, NGCF has a garden inside the farm growing various pasture grasses like guinea, napier and seagrass.

Some parts of the farm also bear legumes like indigo, mulberry from Brazil, flemingia, calliandra and centrosema.

With these, the NCGF was able to formulate its own feed supplements.

Recognized now as one of the top goat raisers in the country, Llorin has been elected national vice president for Luzon of the Federation of Goat and Sheep Raisers of the Philippines.

NCGF is also a member of the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA), the International Nubian Breeders Association and the American Lamancha Club, thus, its goats are registered with the ADGA.

In 2010, Llorin was one of the recipients of imported goats from the USA under its Public Law 480 by which US products can be used for overseas aid.

Under the Dairy Goat Development Project of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which focused on herd build-up through an appropriate animal loan scheme, Llorin has also availed of the eight hi-breed does and one buck package.

Indeed, the pace of growth that NGCF has achieved is marvelous, former DA regional executive director Jose Dayao, said.

NCGF has by far the finest imported and island-born goat stocks in the country, Dayao further said, noting that Llorin imports them from the US and chooses the goats with the strongest potential to contribute to the farm's breeding program.

It no longer raises the native breed and focuses on upgrading its stocks through line-breeding.

Llorin takes pride that he has goats with distinguished ancestry or pedigree, either former champions or off-springs from superior lineage.

The NGCF, for example, has "Contessa," which was declared Best in Show and "Playgirl" as Champion Junior Nubian doe during the 5th National Goat Congress held in Clark, Pampanga last year.

Both were adjudged as the goats with the perfect characteristics for dairying.

Because his goats are of superior genetics, these command prices ranging from P20,000 to P25,000 or more, depending on the breed and lineage.

Llorin guarantees that his dairy-type goats are healthy, well adapted to Philippine conditions and can produce no less than 1.5 liters of milk per day.

The fresh milk is packed at 500 milliliter and 1000 ml or 1 liter and sold at P100 and P200, respectively.

The packs are brought to his clinic where it is made available to his patients and consumers.

The farm has its own in-bottle pasteurizing unit.

Goat milk soap is also available and goat milk cheese can be processed when ordered.

NCGF has been a goat supplier to different parts of the country.

The Bureau of Animal Industry has been eyeing its accreditation as a nucleus farm which produces and maintain top quality breeders and distributes these to multiplier farms.

In Bicol, only the Masbate Breeding Center of the DA is accredited as a nucleus farm.

The local government here has also identified NCGF as an agri-tourism destination, making the farm regularly visited by students, entrepreneurs, health buffs and tourists to whom Llorin speaks with pride and fondness about his goats that he all knows by the names he has given them. (PNA) LAP/PTR/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

9 NPA rebels surrender in Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- At least nine New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in Catanduanes gave up their armed struggle and surrendered on Monday to a Philippine Army (PA) official, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman, PA Bicol spokesperson, said Thursday.

Guzman said the strength of the communist movement is slowly waning after government forces heightened its “Bayanihan” program, an internal peace and security initiative aimed to end the four decades-old insurgency problem in the country.

Quoting Army Lt. Col Rodolfo Batang, commanding officer of the Army’s 83rd Infantry Battalion, he said the surrender of nine NPA rebels here is an indication that the command’s Bayanihan program is going on in full throttle.

Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the newly installed AFP chief of staff, in a command conference in Manila told various AFP commanders to make “insurgency insignificant” by 2016.

“They (rebels) have made the right decision to go down the mountains and abandoned the armed struggle and joined the main stream of society,” Guzman said.

He identified those who surrendered as Victor Soriao alias Vicvic, Edna Tavera alias Rona, Dante Coranes alias "Nhads", father and son Domingo dela Cruz Sr. alias "Kikay-Kikay" and Domingo Dela Cruz Jr., Eddie Tesorero alias "Taptap", Quimpo Ralla alias "Lilo", Florida Francisco alias "Pida" and Francisco Mejares alias "Ikwi."

Guzman said the NPA rebels surrendered in separate occasions from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27.

Last year, a total of eight NPA rebels in Catanduanes surrendered to the command, he added.

NPA rebels operating in the island province of Catanduanes belong to the Nerissa San Juan Command.

Guzman said those who surrendered are presently detained at the Army camp in San Andres town in Catanduanes and would undergo screening for the government’s “Balik-Loob” program.

The rebels also surrendered an M16 rifle, an M203 grenade launcher and 46 pieces of 40mm grenade ammunition. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Catanduanes leads in human development in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- The island province of Catanduanes is reportedly leading in human development in Bicol region as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI), according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB).

At an HDI of 0.630, Catanduanes ranked 21st among the provinces in the country, based on the 2009 Human Development Index (HDI) jointly released by the NSCB and the Human Development Network (HDN).

In the regional level, Catanduanes ranked first followed by Albay at 0.518, Sorsogon at 0.512, Camarines Sur at 0.511, Camarines Norte at 0.488 and Masbate at 0.422.

Camarines Sur had the longest estimated life expectancy at birth in 2009 at 74.6 years, 2.6 years longer than the national average.

This translates into a life expectancy index of 0.864, the seventh highest among the provinces of the country.

Albay’s education index of 0.858, topped all other provinces of the region and ranked 25th highest among the provinces of the country.

Catanduanes ranked second with an education index of 0.841, landing at rank 34th at the national level.

Sorsogon’s education index of 0.820 was third highest in the region and 43rd in the country.

In terms of income, Catanduanes again surpassed the income index (0.393) of the other five provinces and ranked 14th at the national level.

It was followed by Camarines Norte at 0.205. Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur followed closely at 0.192, 0.191 and 0.189, respectively.

Masbate ranked sixth with income index of 0.134.

It should be noted, however, that all the income indices of the region’s six provinces are classified as low, considering that Bicol is the fourth poorest region of the country.

There were provinces, however, that may have leveraged their resources relatively well for human development.

These are the provinces whose HDI ranks were higher than their per capita income ranks like Albay (+12), Camarines Sur (+7) and Sorsogon (+6).

This maybe an indication that these provinces have redirected their resources towards essential basic services to further human development of their constituents.

Human development is defined as a process of enlarging people's choices that can be infinite and change over time.

At all levels of development, the three essential ones are for people to lead a long and healthy life (measured by the life expectancy index), to acquire knowledge (measured by the education index) and to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living (measured by the income index).

The absence of these essential choices can give rise to inaccessibility of many other opportunities.

The HDI aggregates these three basic dimensions into a summary measure.

The 2009 HDI has undergone refinements just as global refinements have been made by the Human Development Network (HDN).

One of these refinements is the computation of the education index which used to be two-thirds of the high school graduate ratio and one-third of basic enrollment ratio.

The refined HDI now uses mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling having equal weights.

For the income index, instead of using the 1997 real per capita income in NCR as base, it now uses the 2009 real per capita income in NCR.

Life expectancy at birth remains as the health index of the HDI.

And finally, while before the aggregation method of the HDI used the arithmetic mean of the three sub-indices, it now uses the geometric mean of the three sub-indices. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MDR/CBD/ABB

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

15 farmer groups in Albay get farm tools from DA

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- At least 15 farmer groups each received shallow tube well pump capable of irrigating up to 20 hectares of rice fields during a ceremonial turnover here Wednesday led by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Aside from the pumps, Alcala also personally turned over to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda a four-wheel drive mini-tractor worth some P1-million.

Recipients of the farm implements are the farmer associations in Bongabong in Camalig; Malobago and Cabaloaon in Guinobatan; Santicon in Polangui; Maogog and Del Rosario in Jovellar; Cabasan in Bacacay; Nagas in Tiwi; Matanglad in Pioduran; Maslog and Taysan in Legazpi City; and Maopi in Daraga, all in Albay. The three other barangay-recipients will still be determined.

Each farmer group was required to put up P100,000 as equity.

Alcala said the distribution of farm implements is part of the government's effort to achieve its rice sufficiency target by 2014.

He also lauded Albay for continuously increasing rice production despite its being constantly hit by different disasters, particularly typhoons.

"It is important that the government is providing our farmers what they need in order to increase the production of their farms," Alcala said.

He is also optimistic that the government's goal for rice supply sufficiency would not only be realized by next year but would even result in exportation.

"We do not only aim to be rice sufficient. We also intend to export rice to our Asian neighbors," Alcala said.

He also expressed confidence that the improving rice production in the country due to the active farmers' participation would gradually kill the rice cartels.

"Rice cartels will just die a natural death once we fully become rice sufficient and start to even export our produce," he said.

At present, the country is importing at least 2.4 million metric tons of rice a year, Alcala said.(PNA) FFC/FGS/SMT/CBD/ABB

42 guns hauled, 2 PAGs identified in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- Since the start of total gun ban implementation, at least 42 assorted firearms have already been seized while two private armed groups (PAGs) have been positively identified in a series of anti-loose firearms operations in Masbate being led by the Regional Special Operations Task Group (RSOTG) in the province.

Senior Supt. Arnold Albis, RSOTG-Masbate chief, said that of the 42 firearms, 16 were voluntarily surrendered, while 26 were confiscated in checkpoints and through search warrants.

Despite this, Alvis admitted that the continuing loose firearms proliferation remains as their main concern in Masbate, where at least 14 towns found in the third district have already been placed under close watch by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Albis confirmed that two suspected PAGs had already been identified and are now the subject of the task group's tight surveillance. He did not name names.

"Those although surrendered but with either expired licenses or no license at all will be forfeited in favor of the government," he said.

Alvis said their group already met with local officials and candidates in Masbate and discussed steps to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections. (PNA) LAP/FGS/SMT/CBD/ABB

CamSur takes lead in wind energy development in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- There are various points across Bicol identified as perfect wind power resources, and the province of Camarines Sur is taking the lead to harness this natural power source.

Camarines Sur Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte over the week announced that works on the P5-billion wind energy farm had started with the construction of meteorological facilities at the project site in Libmanan town.

When completed and put into operation, the energy generation facility could produce at least 60 megawatts of electricity which would be more than enough to meet the province’s requirements reaching only more than 20 megawatts, the governor said.

The Department of Energy (DOE) last year awarded the franchise for the Bernacci Mountain Wind Power Project in Libmanan to Cornerstone Energy Development, Inc.

This development is hoped to earn a reputation for the province as the greenest in the country in terms of energy use and generation, Villafuerte said.

Earlier, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S. Department of Energy identified through its wind mapping for Southeastern Luzon several points in Bicol that are ideal sites for utility-scale power applications.

These sites are coastal areas that include several kilometers inland, as well as the plains south of San Miguel Bay in Camarines Sur, the plains west and south of this city and the coastal and interior plains from Prieto Diaz to Barcelona down westward to Casiguran towns in Sorsogon province.

A franchise for the development of the Prieto Diaz Wind Power Project was also awarded by the DOE last year to Coastal Power Development Corporation.

The NREL mapping also identified as the best wind resources in the coastal areas of Bicol are found at Gumaus Point in Camarines Norte and Quinabungan Point and the far eastern end of Camarines Sur at Rungus Point.

Good-to-excellent wind resources, a report on the mapping results of the NREL reaching here over the week said, also exist in the high interior areas of Mt. Labo in Camarines Norte; the mountains west of San Miguel Bay; Mt. Isarog and the east–west-oriented mountain chain from Buludan to Bitaogan in Camarines Sur, and the mountains in Albay and Sorsogon.

The wind resource on San Miguel Island, Cagraray Island, Batan Island, and Rapu Rapu Island in Albay are also rated moderate to good for rural power applications and marginal to moderate for utility-scale power applications.

The best resources are found on the higher terrains of Batan Island and Rapu Rapu Island, the report said.

In Catanduanes, the NREL report said, a moderate-to-good wind resource for rural power applications and marginal-to-moderate for utility-scale power applications exists along the north, east, and south coastal sections of the province.

The best coastal resources appear to be at Binorong Point and Nagumbuaya Point in the southeast part of the island, and at Virac Point in the south.

A good-to-excellent wind resource exists on the higher terrain in the north-central part of the island, on the eastern side of the island west of Gigmoto town, at the southern end in the higher terrain north of Virac, and in the terrain east of Codon in the southwest part of the island, the report said.

In Masbate, which includes three separate islands—Burias, Ticao, and Masbate - , the distribution of wind resource is very similar to other areas of the Philippines, according to the NREL.

For Burias Island, the north-, east- and south-facing coastal sections have, in general, a moderate-to-good wind resource for rural power applications and a marginal-to-moderate resource for utility-scale power applications.

The coastal and interior plains at the north end of the island and in the center have a similar resource.

A good-to-excellent resource for rural power applications is indicated at the far north end of the island and in the northwest.

Ticao Island, the NREL said, has a similar distribution of resources with a moderate-to-good wind resource for rural power applications and a marginal-to-moderate resource for utility-scale power applications along east-facing coastal sections.

However, the best wind resource is on the highest terrain in the northwest part of the island, but this only ranks as good for utility-scale applications.

Masbate mainland also has large areas classified as moderate to good for rural power applications and marginal to moderate for utility-scale power applications.

This includes all coastal sections and the plains in the southwestern and northwestern parts of the island.

A moderate-to-good resource exists at Cadurnan Point at the southern tip of the island, the high terrain northwest of Cataingan, and the high terrain directly south of the town of Masbate.

The best resource on the island is the high terrain directly west of Masbate and north of the municipality of Milagros, it added.

According to the regional office of the National Economic Development Authority here a 5-MW wind potential in Baleno, Masbate is considered under the Wind Investment Promotion Round with three other potential sites also presently being eyed in Donsol and Matnog, Sorsogon and Jovellar in Albay. (PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

NIA targets irrigation of 69,000 hectares in Bicol this year

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- The National Irrigation Administration (NIA)regional office for Bicol, with a fresh allocation of P1.2 billion, is implementing projects that will add over 69,000 hectares more to currently irrigated rice lands in Bicol this year.

With this, the region will have around 317,940 hectares of irrigated farms that are seen to produce some 1.3 million metric tons (MT) of palay, representing over 102 per cent in regional rice self-sufficiency (RSS).

Last year’s total of irrigated areas in the region was placed by NIA at 255,123 hectares, including irrigation systems put up by private developers and those that are rain-fed fields.

These areas achieved for the region an over 84-percent RSS based on a net rice production of some 681,000 metric tons last year.

The new allocation is slightly higher than last year’s P1.0 billion used by the NIA regional office based in Naga City to finance projects for the irrigation of nearly 57,000 hectares.

With the expansion of at least 69,664 hectares this year, the projected production is over 843,300 MT of rice based on 65 percent recovery from the total projected palay yields of 1.3 million MT.

This would provide for the region a rice surplus of some 2.58 per cent considering an expected 822,115-MT regional consumption.

The P1.2 billion earmarked for Bicol’s irrigation projects is part of the P27.4-billion allocation for NIA national irrigation program this year, NIA Regional Director William Ragodon said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.

“We have lined up 200 irrigation projects for this year and we are proceeding with their implementations as soon as possible once we are granted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) an authorization to do so while the ban on public projects is in effect within the election period,” Ragodon said.

The NIA, he said, has requested the Comelec for exemption from Resolution No. 3479 that provides for “Rules and Regulations Governing Public Works Ban and Release, Disbursement and Expenditures of Public Funds” in connection with the May elections.

The ban covers any and all kinds of public works, except the maintenance of existing or completed public works project; work undertaken by contract through public bidding held or by negotiated contract, awarded, before the 45-day period before election; and emergency work necessitated by the occurrence of a public calamity.

The prohibition, however, does not apply to ongoing public works projects started before the campaign period or similar projects under foreign agreements.(PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bicol police arrest 10 people for poll gun ban violation

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- Philippine National Police (PNP) regional operatives arrested ten people in various police checkpoints in Bicol in connection with the Commission on Election (Comelec) gun ban drive which started on Jan. 13, official said on Tuesday.

Sr. Supt. Lito Pitallano, officer-in-charge of the PNP Regional Operations and Plans Division (ROPD), cited in his report that two 9mm pistols, seven .38-caliber revolvers and a .22-caliber revolver were confiscated from the arrested individuals. All the seized firearms were loaded.

He said only one of the seized firearms was licensed; all the rest were considered loose or undocumented.

Pitallano said four of the arrested gun ban offenders were from Camarines Sur, three from Masbate and one each from Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

Bicol police director Chief Supt. Clarence Guinto said in his report that they had already set up 188 checkpoints manned by over a thousand police officers in various towns and cities in the six provinces of Bicol.

Guinto said the campaign against loose firearms had gone on high gear since the start of the election period where the Comelec ordered the ban on carrying of any type of firearms by civilians as well as policemen and soldiers in civilian clothes.

He said the PNP is closely watching at least 26 towns and a city in Bicol tagged by the Comelec as election hot spots because of intense political rivalries and the presence of private armed groups and New People’s Army rebels.

Police statistics indicate that 14 towns in Masbate are considered election hot spots; followed by Camarines Sur, with five towns and Iriga City; Sorsogon, with four towns; Camarines Norte, with two towns, and Albay, with only one. The island province of Catanduanes has none. (PNA) PDS/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

P1.2-B irrigation projects to boost agri yield in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) will embark on some P1.2 billion worth of projects this year to improve and construct new irrigation facilities that would spur agricultural productivity in Bicol, a NIA official said today.

Eduardo Yu, NIA Bicol spokesperson, said this year's allotment is P167 million or 14 percent higher than last year’s P1.0-billion funding.

He said the budget allocation forms part of the P24.7 billion funding received by the NIA central office from the General Appropriation Act of 2013.

”Bicol has received a 5-percent slice from our national budget,” Yu said.

This year’s budgetary allotment of the NIA regional office is expected to finance 200 irrigation projects in the six provinces of Bicol.

He said these projects would be implemented as soon as a clearance is secured from the Commission on Elections in line with its resolution Number 3479 with regard to the implementation of government infrastructure projects during election period.

The projects include the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of water facilities, irrigation dams, canals, farm-to-market roads, irrigation facilities and small water impounding systems in some 150,000 hectares of irrigable lands.

NIA records indicate that the country has 1.2 million hectares of irrigated lands. Of this 368,000 or 30 percent are not functional.

In Bicol, 54,000 hectares are irrigable areas but 15,000 hectares of this area non-operational. (PNA) FPV/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Monday, January 28, 2013

Japanese firm finances FIDA’s abaca rehab project in Sorsogon town

IROSIN, Sorsogon, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- A Japanese industrial firm is funding an abaca rehabilitation project that would provide for replanting in about a hundred hectares of farms near the foot of Mt. Bulusan here.

The project, now being implemented by the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) under its abaca industry rehabilitation program, is financed by Itochu, a Japanese firm helping revive the long mothballed local abaca industry.

Funding the project is a community service of the Japanese firm aimed at helping the municipality reclaim its prominence as the province’s industry leader, which it lost decades back to abaca diseases such as bunchy top and mosaic that nearly demolished local plantations, town Mayor Eduardo Ong Jr. said here on Monday.

Ong, however, did not disclose the amount of the funding.

Part of the project were technical trainings conducted as early as last November by FIDA among local abaca farmers who are identified as direct beneficiaries.

The trainings, done in tandem with the municipal government, involved disease management.

This armed the farmers with the proper knowledge in fighting dreadful plant diseases severely affecting the local fiber industry.

It was more on training farmers on how to deal with bunchy top, bract mosaic and abaca mosaic, the “deadly trio” of abaca, which have the capability of wiping out the industry when not put under control or totally eradicated, according to FIDA development officer Daniel Lachica.

Ong said some 60,000 genetically-developed disease-resistant planting materials produced by the Department of Agriculture (DA) through FIDA’s tissue culture laboratories in Sorsogon City and Virac, Catanduanes will be planted by the project on nearly 100 hectares of farms in five barangays within the municipality.

FIDA, with its regional office inside the main campus of Bicol University (BU) in Legazpi City, has already been involved since about two years ago in producing such planting materials to support the requirements of farmers for the expansion and rehabilitation of plantations in the region.

Ong said the project is the best opportunity for his municipality to revive abaca as an industry.

“It is the best plant that can be propagated here given the town’s topography, land classification and weather conditions,” he said.

Being the only landlocked municipality among the 14 towns and one city of Sorsogon, Irosin--which sits by the foot of Mt. Bulusan--has been assessed by the FIDA as the most ideal place in the province for a wide-scale abaca production, Ong said.

The municipality covers a land area of nearly 15,000 hectares classified mostly as agricultural and timberland.

Its major crops are rice, coconut and abaca.

“We need to take advantage of this characteristic of our place to win back our reputation as the province’s leader in abaca fiber production and raise the living conditions of our farmers and other industry stakeholders in the locality,” Ong said.

Sorsogon province has been one of the Bicol region’s biggest suppliers of top quality abaca fiber until the 1980s when the “deadly trio” flattened its vast plantations.

These have not been able to recover up to now despite efforts of the FIDA and local governments toward the abaca industry revitalization.

The province used to place close second as top abaca producer to Catanduanes, the consistent leader of the industry in the region and even in the country.

But today, although the former has maintained its hold on the second spot, the production gap has widened tremendously.

While Catanduanes produced 5,866 metric tons of abaca fiber in the second quarter of last year, Sorsogon contributed only a meager 496 metric tons during the same period, Ong lamented.

One problem being encountered by government efforts toward putting back to life the industry here, according him, is the loss of confidence of the farmers, given their sad experiences from being badly displaced economically following the massive destruction rendered by plant diseases.

Most of them have already converted their farms to short-term crops to survive the economic difficulties brought about by the malady, he said.

“With this abaca replanting project coupled with disease management, our farmers are back into the abaca industry with the assurance that the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is committed to helping us regain our lost glory in fiber production,” the mayor said.

Very soon, he said his municipality will rejoin Bicol’s top abaca producers and lead once more Sorsogon province in getting close to Catanduanes in production.

Starting in 2009 until today, Bicol has emerged as the biggest producer of abaca in the country, outranking Eastern Visayas which occupied the top spot during the past decade.

From among the abaca-producing provinces, Catanduanes, with its production of 18,971 metric tons (MT)--representing 33.2 percent of the total national output, remained as the biggest producer last year.

Leyte ranked far second with a production of 7,089 MT, FIDA records show.

Before 2009, Eastern Visayas stayed for a decade as the top abaca-producing region, contributing an average of 23,564 MT or 35.9 percent to the annual average production, followed by Bicol with an annual average of 19,670 MT or 29.9 percent.

From 2001 through 2010, the country’s production of abaca fiber averaged 65,701 MT per year and had been decreasing at a minimal rate of 0.8 percent per annum.

This was due to the devastating typhoons in 2006 coupled with abaca viral diseases that continued to affect the plantations.

Lachica said abaca production in Bicol in the past years until 2009 declined due to abaca bunchy top and abaca mosaic diseases.

Supertyphoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” that hit the region in 2006 worsened the slump by rendering heavy damages on local abaca plantations.

Albay and Sorsogon suffered the most devastation.

Since abaca fiber, known worldwide as Manila hemp, is Bicol’s most important crop next to coconut and among the region’s vital contributions to employment and to the country’s exports, the DA and the FIDA embarked on the massive disease eradication and rehabilitation activities.

Disease eradication started in 2009 by cutting down affected plants and burying or burning them while rehabilitation and replanting immediately followed by way of providing farmer-beneficiaries with agricultural inputs.

The inputs included abaca seed pieces and hardened tissue-cultured planting materials. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

DA’s greenhouse technology helps Bicol farmers earn more

PILI, Camarines Sur, Jan. 28 (PNA) –- In some areas of Bicol, farmers are now harvesting seasonal crops on year-round basis and raking in more profits, courtesy of the greenhouse technology introduced over two years ago by the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) regional office here.

With the greenhouse technology combined with plant nurseries also established by the DA in some focus areas in the region, farmers save a considerable sum of money in production, thus, increasing profit from their crops, Emily Bordado, the agency’s regional spokesperson, said over the weekend.

Introduced in late 2010 under the DA’s Agri-Pinoy High Value Commercial Crop Development Program (HVCDP), the technology is also proven effective in combating the negative impacts of climate change on crop production, she said.

Its introduction was in response to the growing market demand for fresh, safe and pesticide-free vegetables that only greenhouses could effectively produce.

The technology requires no hazardous chemicals to control plant pests and diseases.

Irrigations in greenhouses are also efficiently utilized since drip systems are installed while farmers have been very innovative in constructing the structures using indigenous materials such as bamboos and coconut leaves, among other locally available stuffs.

There are also greenhouses made from steel pipes, plastics and fine wire nets distributed by the DA as prototype structures that could cover up to 60 square meters of gardens where vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflowers and melons are grown all year round without using fertilizers and pesticides.

“With greenhouse technology, local consumers enjoy even off-season fruits and vegetables anytime of the year,” Bordado said.

It has become popular since under the present climate change condition, weather is unpredictable that, without the greenhouse, could affect the plants.

Under such erratic weather situation, numerous species of pests also abound in farms. These become easily controllable through greenhouses, the DA official said.

Modern greenhouses are often built with polyethylene roofing, fine mesh net and other lightweight materials to serve as shelter, windbreaker and barrier.

Among the notable greenhouse and nursery projects in Bicol are located in the municipalities of Pilar and Casiguran, both in the province of Sorsogon, owing to their organically grown vegetables.

The Pilar project is being maintained in Barangay Marifosque by the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) headed by municipal agriculturist Victor Yee.

Bordado said that since the economy of Pilar depends on agriculture, Yee decided to produce high-value organic vegetables in the municipal nursery for local consumers.

The greenhouse started operating in February last year and now produces cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce.

Outside the greenhouse, the nursery is being utilized to propagate other vegetables like cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, pechay and tomato.

The municipal nursery, since then has been serving as show window for students and farmers in the locality.

Since it is situated in front of Pilar Comprehensive High School, students and teachers visit the nursery and conduct planting of vegetables and seedlings.

The Pilar nursery also produces seedlings in trays for distribution to communal gardens in barangays.

In support to the pili development program of the municipality, it is also growing pili seedlings for distribution to interested farmers.

Another municipal greenhouse and nursery project that is gaining ground in Sorsogon is located in Barangay San Juan, Casiguran town, which is part of the convergence initiative under the DA’s Pili Development Project.

The project, which was started last year, has already produced over 15,000 pili seedlings that have been distributed to local farmers.

Visited by the PNA on Monday, fruit-bearing trees like guyabano, guava, star apple, and chico were also observed growing within the over-a-hectare nursery while its greenhouse grows lettuce, herbs and spices.

The project maintains a vermi-composting facility from where vermicast for sale to farmers is produce.

According to MAO Benigno Bejison, farmers in Casiguran are now educated on the use of grafted pili seedlings.

They are now convinced that planting grafted seedlings ensures that the plants are female and will be fruiting in three years.

Rose Imperial, the regional HVCDP coordinator, said the key to popularizing the use of greenhouses is to show to the farmers the cost-efficiency that can be derived from the technology.

She stressed that organically grown vegetables in greenhouses command better price, are safe to eat and can be produced anytime of the year.

Indeed, with greenhouse technology, nothing is impossible when it comes to food production, Imperial added.

“It only requires skill, patience and industry to produce organic high-value fruits and vegetables. Besides, this technology is the best answer to ensure food supply during unstable weather conditions," she said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Catanduanes photo exhibit to feature Catandunganon culture

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 28 (PNA) -- The Center for Catandungan Heritage, Inc. (CCHI) will launch a photo exhibit on Feb. 10 at the Virac Center Mall, which will feature images depicting the culture of Catandunganons.

The event dubbed as “Hudaw,” a local term which means “a closer look,” is in celebration of the National Arts Month.

The exhibit aims to showcase the province’s people, places, events, artifacts and typical scenes of life through pictures.

In this connection, the organizers are encouraging the public to submit a maximum of five photos, either printed or in digital form, which must bear the title, description and the name of the sender.

Photos can be submitted at the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO), Old Capitol Bldg., or through email to strelleprof@yahoo.com, tourism_catanduanes@yahoo.com, tourism.catanduanes@gmail.com, or monxar@yahoo.com.

Contributed photos will be screened by the event organizers and the selected photos will be mounted and exhibited at the venue.

The CCHI’s activity is in partnership with the provincial government of Catanduanes through the PTO. (PNA) PDS/FGS/CBD/ABB

Legazpi nets 737 anti-smoking ordinance violators in 2012

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- The local government here was able to collect thousands of pesos in fine from a total of 737 cigarette smokers apprehended for violating the city’s anti-tobacco ordinance last year.

The figure is about 13 percent higher compared to the 650 violators caught and fined in 2011.

Records of the city’s Public Safety Office (PSO) indicate that the 2012 violators were mostly non-residents of the city or of Albay province where the provincial government is also seriously campaigning against tobacco use.

Most of the violators were from the province of Sorsogon who reasoned out that they were not aware of the smoking ban being enforced in the city’s public places and conveyances, an alibi that is not considered valid as signboards and posters informing the public of the ordinance are all over conspicuous places here, according to PSO chief Menjo Ofracio.

The signages include giant billboards bearing graphic presentations on the ill-effects of cigarette smoking.

All those apprehended were first-time violators, Ofracio said, but not all were made to pay fines as several, especially those who do not have money, were only required to render community services like street sweeping and cleaning of the surroundings.

“The penalties may be harsh and inasmuch as we do not want to deprive smokers of their right to plague themselves with the life-threatening consequences of the vice, we are not totally banning smoking here in our city,” city Mayor Geraldine Rosal told the Philippines News Agency in an interview Tuesday.

Violators are fined P500 for the first offense; P1,000 for the second and P1,500 for the third and subsequent offenses.

However, she said, tobacco-hooked cancer-risk takers may still smoke to their hearts content while here but not before public eyes, but in isolated places around the city designated as smoking areas.

“We in the city government are fully aware of the hazards being posed by cigarettes not only to smokers but also more among non-smokers who are exposed to its fumes, that is why we are, by all legal means, forbidding smoking at least in public places like mass conveyances, school campuses, parks, churches and government offices, among others,” Rosal explained.

Otherwise, aside from the consequence of tobacco-related diseases that most of the times end in painful deaths, smokers have to pay fines when caught violating the three-year old ordinance that declares the city a smoke-free territory.

Classified by the International Agency for Cancer Research as a carcinogen, second-hand smoke has been the cause of death of more than 600,000 people each year worldwide, of which 168,000 or 28 percent are children.

According to the World Health Organization, exposure to second-hand smoke in the Western Pacific that includes the Philippines is generally high.

“We mean business in this anti-smoking drive not only that we are recognized nationwide as one of the few local government units fostering a 100-percent tobacco-free environment, but also because we are firm in our commitment towards public health for the sake of our people and of the thousands who come around either as tourists, shoppers, businessmen, dignitaries, students or even passers-by,” the mayor said.

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

For its consistency in its anti-tobacco drive, the city has been a Hall of Famer in the Red Orchid Awards of the Department of Health (DOH) for becoming its recipient for three consecutive years from 2010 to 2012. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd/abb

DOT promotes specialized tour guiding in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Tourism (DOT) here is initiating moves to promote specialized tour guiding by way of partnering with the region’s tourism sector in providing training to workers engaged in this field.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, DOT regional director, over the week said her office aims to hone the talents and skills of workers in the local tourism industry by providing them training on specialized tour guiding so that the services they are providing become special and different from the traditional manners.

“Our tourist guides in Bicol should now specialize in eco-tourism and action tourism that most tourists are now looking for--combined with safety, adventure, fun and comfortable facilities that are making the industry an exciting proposition today,” Ravanilla said.

She said the region has pulled a surprise as outdoor adventure tourism expands at a fast rate and promises to remain one of the most dynamic and innovative industries in the travel sector for years to come.

Awareness of this development should be developed among local tourist guides as this is what majority of the region’s leading tourist destinations, notably this city, offer nowadays-- given its comparative advantage in this sector based on several assets.

These assets, she said, include guaranteed peace and order, healthful environment, hospitable communities and a base of powerful cultural attractions plus a wide range of very different, often stunning natural environments that are easily accessible and virtually undiscovered by the tourism industry.

Local tourist guides should also be provided with special knowledge about quality hotels and restaurants throughout the region where thrill-seekers among tourists who want to pamper themselves in-between adventure treks and fun engagements are given a wide range of facilities to choose from, according to Ravanilla.

In the case of this city for example, she said, the exciting new horizons in adventure tourism in the city’s outskirts allow visitors to push themselves in-between the adventure and endurance while soaking up natural marvels and dramatic cultural attractions from the natural world.

Nature enthusiasts, according to Ravanilla, have many options here such as the magnificent Mayon that offers a silent drama of mountaineering and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides around its lava-laden rugged terrain.

Burying feet under the fine black volcanic sand bordering the city beaches with enticing waters, on the other hand, provides relaxing interludes for adventure vacationers who want to rest their spirits and soak their bodies, she said.

Likewise, the sparkling lower slopes surrounding the volcano beckon hikers who seek new adventures and unconquered terrains, the DOT regional chief added.

Bicol has so many other places, most of them undiscovered and undeveloped destinations, which tourists are looking for to discover.

Among these are the exciting islets of Matnog, Sorsogon; the thrilling surfing sites in Catanduanes; the marine wildlife parks and unexplored ancient caves in Masbate; historical landmarks of Albay; adventure islands in Camarines Norte; and many more, she said.

“Local tourist guides therefore should be familiar with these places for them to be specialized as workers in the frontline of the local tourism industry,” Ravanilla said.

In promoting specialized tour guiding, she said her office recently conducted in Naga City a training-seminar in cooperation with the Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the local government unit (LGU).

The affair was attended by over a hundred tourist guides, students and young professionals who wanted to learn the trade and other industry stakeholders in Bicol.

The event had Paul Po, a noted tour guiding trainer accredited by the DOT, as guest lecturer on new developments in the industry and latest techniques in giving tourist the right guidance when staying in any part of Bicol.

In his lecture, Po, according to DOT regional spokesman Milo Oropeza, emphasized that good and specialized tour guiding greatly contribute to the growth of local tourism, particularly in Bicol where LGUs and the private sector have been very aggressive in developing new destinations and introducing innovative services to visitors and tourists.

Legazpi, Oropeza said, has been mentioned as the new “City of Fun and Adventure,” a label now recognized worldwide and posted in its latest update on the city by Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia.

The city has also been emerging as the new convention center of the country while maintaining its being the regional government, academic and medical services center of the region.

“What is exciting about Legazpi City, which is home to the majestic Mayon Volcano, is that it posted a 65-percent tourism growth rate last year and indications show that it could maintain or even improve it this year,” Oropeza said.

Legazpi, she said, has been developing itself into a world-class city with an influx of investment and tourism-related developments that pushed the region’s journey towards the prominence it has achieved among tourist destinations nationwide.

Bicol, meanwhile, is presently second to Manila and has outshined Cebu and Boracay in the country’s top tourism sites ranking, Oropeza added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd/abb

3rd Catanduanes summer trade fair set in March

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan 28 (PNA) -- The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) announced on Monday here the holding of the 3rd Summer Trade Fair at the Plaza Rizal in Virac, Catanduanes from March 25 to April 7.

The activity, dubbed as “Summer Barakalan sa Plaza Rizal,” is an annual event which aims to promote and showcase the flourishing local crafts, delicacies and other products, said Hegino Baldano, chief of DTI in Catanduanes.

Local manufacturers and producers of food, handicraft, and other merchandise are expected to provide a variety of products seldom found all in one place.

The DTI is coordinating with concerned parties across Bicol to ensure that this year’s event will equal, if not surpass, last year’s activity, said Baldano.

He said this year’s Summer Barakalan will be sponsored by the local government unit of Virac and the Catanduanes Producers Association, Inc. (PNA) LAM/FGS/CBD/ABB

DA has new regional chief for Bicol

PILI, Camarines Sur, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has assigned Abelardo Bragas, an engineer, as his department's new regional chief for Bicol.

Bragas, who took over the DA’s Regional Field Unit (RFU) based in Barangay San Agustin here effective Jan. 14, replaced regional executive director (RED) Jose Dayao who has been re-assigned as special assistant to the Office of the Secretary as he works on his retirement set in April.

Dayao, who is the most senior official in the DA hierarchy in the region and so far is the only one with a Career Executive Service Officer (CESO IV) eligibility, had served as the DA’s top man in Bicol for six years.

He graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City and has academic units in Masters Degree in Management.

He also underwent a training course in Management and Rural Development in Australia.(PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

Automated weather station gives Legazpi residents 24/7 weather update

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) –- Residents of this city can get updates about current local weather situation anytime of the day through the automated weather station (AWS) recently installed at the beachfront here, either to anticipate or affirm the regular daily state weather bureau forecasts.

The station, worth not less than P100,000, was a donation from the Weather Philippines Foundation (WPF).

It has an antenna system, a rain gauge and barometric readings for temperature, wind speed, humidity and positions of low- and high-pressure systems within and outside of this city.

The donation was an offshoot of the disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) seminar last year in Laguna jointly hosted by the League of Cities and the WPF.

This city and other cities in Southern Luzon received free full station units each.

Other cities that took part in the event were only given free rain gauges such as Pasig City, said Pecos Intia, city DRRM chief.

WPF, which aims to become the country’s premier private weather information content provider, combines the resources of the private firm, Aboitiz Group, and the technical expertise of the Swiss company, Meteomedia, in providing accurate weather forecasts with the hope of improving nationwide disaster preparedness and timely response to variable weather condition.

It aims to provide free 1,000 units of AWS across the country.

The station has been installed at the roof top of the two-storey city Bureau of Fire Protection building at the boulevard, fronting Legazpi Bay.

“The location is strategic and the elevation is conducive for better weather element readings. The station is manned 24/7,” Intia said.

Although no forecast from the station reading is being made public, it helps local disaster managers and staff in continuous monitoring, especially during impending or real-time weather disturbances.

“We do not make use of it to contest the data provided by Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) but we can anticipate the forecasts for local implementation of DRRM and to check whether our data are accurately the same with Pagasa,” Intia said.

This city has been consistently adjudged model city on DRRM in Bicol Region and placed second last year and in 2011 in the national level.

The station was among the areas visited last week by 30 DRRM officials and staff and department heads of Taguig City who were on study tour regarding best DRRM practices they can replicate in their place. (PNA) FPV/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

Two-hour gun battle erupts between police, NPA rebels in Masbate

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- A two-and-half hour hostilities erupted on Saturday between police forces and the communist rebels in Barangay Cantorna, a remote village in San Jacinto town in Masbate, a police officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Monday.

Members of the PNP 5th Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB), while responding to a call about sighting of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, engaged the group in a running gun battle that started at about 2 p.m. and ended at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, said Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Bataller said nobody from the police force was hurt during the skirmish in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Cantorna, San Jacinto town, while the NPA rebels fled towards Sitio Dao, a neighboring zone in the said village.

The RPSB 2nd Manuever Company led by Police Inspector Nicolas Malipot, Company Commander, set up a blocking force after receiving an information that another group of RPSB encountered a group of NPA in the said village.

The police blocking force then engaged in a fire fight the undetermined number of NPA belonging to the Jose Rapsing Command operating in the island province of Masbate.

San Jacinto is among the 14 towns in Masbate considered as election hot spots due to the presence of NPA rebels. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

PDEA seizes shabu, nabs 6 suspects in Cam Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Joint operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the local police in Camarines Norte arrested six suspects in the illegal drug trade and recovered from them methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu worth P96,000 in two separate raids over the weekend.

In his report to PDEA Bicol Director Archie Grande at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in this city, Agent Erwin Magpantay identified the suspects arrested in the Sunday morning buy-bust operations as Rodelmar Ocan, 28, a motorcycle sales agent and resident of Barangay San Roque in Mercedes, Camarines Norte and his cohort, Marcelo Gallardo.

Seized from the suspects were three medium-sized heat-sealed plastic sachets containing shabu with a street value of P90,000.

An unnamed civilian reportedly tipped off the operatives on Ocan's active involvement in drug distribution.

This was subsequently confirmed by a series of surveillance operations and test buys.

Gallardo was with Ocan when the sale of the drug to a poseur-buyer was consummated.

The PDEA filed a case for violation of Section 5, Article II of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002 against the suspect before Prosecutor Cornelio Roll of the Provincial Prosecutor's Office (PPO) in the capital town of Daet.

Three days prior to the operation in Mercedes, joint operatives of PDEA and Camarines Norte police arrested a drug den maintainer and three other suspects in the act of sniffing shabu in Barangay Borabod in Daet.

Armed with a search warrant dated Jan. 22 issued by Executive Judge Roberto Escaro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 38 in Daet, the operatives raided the residence of Francisco Ace Simeon in Borabod and seized six plastic sachets containing shabu with a street value of P6,000.

The PDEA also caught three suspects while in the act of sniffing shabu inside Simeon's residence.

Magpantay identified them as Lamberto Inciong, Anthony Castillar and Larry Nazareno, all of Daet.

Based on a chemistry report of the police crime laboratory in Camarines Norte, the seized drugs from Simeon weighed 4.09 grams.

Magpantay also reported that Simeon is among the watch-listed drug personalities in Camarines Norte and is subject to immediate neutralization due to his key participation in the drug supply chain.

The suspect converted his residence into a drug den where pot sessions are held.

The PDEA also filed charges Saturday against Simeon before the PPO for violation of Sections 6 and 11 of Article II of RA 9165.

It also did the same against Inciong, Castillar and Nazareno for violation of Section 7 of RA 9165.

The six suspects have all been locked up inside the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail. (PNA) FFC/PTR/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

PHL Navy spreads better service image in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- They are the guardians of the seas, but in Bicol, members of the Philippine Navy (PN) have gained the public’s recognition as all-terrain and all-weather friends from whom civilians can expect good service anywhere, anytime.

Officers and men of the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) have been actively taking part in preemptive and full evacuations during impending or real-time disasters.

They have also been into supporting and promoting tourism, sports, healthy lifestyle, efficient solid waste management, coastal clean-up, environmental conservation and protection, and various community education and outreach programs.

The most recent was the partnership with the local government of this city in the enforcement of the local anti-smoking ordinance.

The fleet-marine personnel of NAVFORSOL have been deputized as enforcers of the ordinance after completing a series of enforcement trainings and orientation.

Representatives from the city government turned over deputized enforcers' paraphernalia to NAVFORSOL on Jan. 24.

Navy personnel also regularly conduct career opportunities in the Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)for high school seniors inside the station.

NAVFORSOL holds festivals inside the station such as Masbate’s “Rodeo Masbateño,” this city’s “Ibalong,” Albay province’s “Magayon” and “Karangahan sa Pasko” and the most recent was Quiapo’s “Feast of the Black Nazarene.”

These are open for the public to watch and take part.

NAVFORSOL holds various events for the local media in the area.

Its personnel make themselves visible to the public not only during times of disaster and other emergencies but also during various community-based events such as their regular participation in locally-sponsored fun runs and the regular morning “Hataw” physical fitness sessions at the city boulevard. (PNA)
PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

PhilHealth holds run for mother, child protection

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) regional office in Bicol is targeting a total of 4,000 runners during the first simultaneous nationwide run for mother and child protection on Feb. 17.

The nationwide run will be held in 18 sites across the Philippines.

In Bicol, the activity is locally dubbed as “SINARu,” a Bicol term meaning unified, joined or tied.

The event will start at the Penaranda Park, Legazpi City.

Proceeds of the run will go to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center as the national beneficiary and to the chosen local beneficiary–the Kabihug Tribe in Camarines Norte.

Interested runners may register for the 5k category, with P300 participation fee but with singlet, race bib, race kit, finisher’s certificate and raffle coupon; 10k for P350 and 18k for P450, both with singlet, race bib, race kit, finisher’s certificate, raffle coupon and finisher’s medal. (PNA) PDS/FGS/CBD/abb

Sunday, January 27, 2013

CHR: Murder still top crime in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Murder remains among the top human rights offenses committed last year in Bicol, an official of the Commission on Human Rights said Friday.

Ameeh Espinas, CHR Bicol spokesperson, said aside from murder, the ranking human rights violations were torture, women and child abuse, grave threats, serious physical injuries and unlawful arrest.

Espinas said her office recorded a total 74 HRV cases last year: 31 percent or 23 cases were murder; followed by torture and violence against women with 7 cases each; serious physical injuries, 5; grave threats, unlawful arrest and child abuse with four cases each.

Other HRVs committed were harassment, malicious mischief, slander, grave misconduct, rape, illegal detention, victims of crossfire and direct assault.

On the 23 murder cases recorded, Albay topped the list among Bicol provinces with 11 cases or 48 percent, followed by Masbate and Sorsogon with four each, Camarines Sur with 3 and Camarines Norte, one.

Espinas, quoting a CHR report, claimed that human rights cases dropped by 9 percent from 81 cases in 2011 to 74 cases last year.

Of this number, Albay once more ranked first with 37 cases, followed by Camarines Sur with 20, Masbate-7, four each in Sorsogon and Catanduanes, Camarines Norte with only 2.

Espinas, however, took note that despite the decreasing trend of human rights abuses during the previous years, still murder cases remained the top-ranking human rights offense.

Among the top offenders were the Philippine National Police, government officials, Philippine Army and New People’s Army.

Victims of abuses were women, farmers, laborers, children and minors.

CHR records indicate that highest HRV incidence occurred in 1988 and 1989 with 205 cases and 243 cases, respectively.

In the ‘90s, 103 cases were recorded in 1995.

In 2000, a total of 95 cases were reported, followed by 81 cases in 2001, 73 cases in 2003, 77 cases in 2006 and 81 cases in 2011.(PNA) hbc/FGS/MSA/cbd/abb

Friday, January 25, 2013

Donsol whale shark tourism starts earlier than regular season this year

DONSOL, Sorsogon, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- An early start of the season for whale shark tourism looms here as the “gentle giants of the ocean” have already started public appearances about three months ahead of the regular peak period.

As in the past years, the peak season starts February going through May, the period that groups of whale sharks, locally called butanding, would arrive from nowhere of the ocean and stay near the mouth of the Donsol River to take advantage of the continuous abundance of planktons that fill their diet, to mate and even to breed.

This species of giant sea mammals, scientifically called Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving, filter-feeding shark and the largest extant fish species -- reaching as big as 13 meters in body length and weighing more than 21 metric tons -- are migratory in nature but some of them have already adopted the Donsol waters as residence.

This resident group composed of around eight fully matured butandings would stay behind and continue entertaining tourists and visitors until September then disappear from public view and stay not farther than the nearby Manta Bowl to wait for their next season.

The Manta Bowl is a deep portion of Ticao Pass that is a sanctuary of manta rays, an equally-protected marine wildlife species.

As early as November, however, they started appearing off the shorelines here and of the adjoining Pilar town, signaling an early start of whale shark interaction that the local government offers to tourists and visitors who have actually started coming around on the first news of sightings last December.

“All our eight resident butandings have already reclaimed their Donsol sanctuary earlier than we expected. They would even go around through the waters of Pilar as if announcing to the public their early return,” town mayor Jerome Alcantara on Friday told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

“Their early appearances tell us here that we are also on to earlier busy days, catering to the needs of thousands of tourists coming around to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of communing and interacting with our gentle giants, a nature’s gift that we treasure a lot,” he said.

Alcantara said that last year, 40 visiting whale sharks joined their eight local counterparts at the Donsol sanctuary to the excitement of around 60,000 tourists and visitors who arrived even as the season was cut short by their early disappearances due to the intense heat of summer.

They cut the peak season by about a month by leaving in early May last year to find cooler waters elsewhere.

The eight locals temporarily joined the original residents of the Manta Bowl, a normal attitude of these sea mammals every time the temperature of waters here goes unbearable for them, Alcantara said.

“Perhaps this year, our butandings are making up for their early absence last year that is why they are now around drawing tourists this early and we are ready,” the Donsol executive said. (PNA) PDS/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

DOLE-Bicol advises bus operators to secure clearance

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Bus operators in the region on Friday were advised to secure a clearance from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as a requirement for their renewal of franchises.

These bus operators should secure the clearance at least two months before the lapse of their Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) bus franchise, DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said here recently.

The clearance is in line with DOLE Department Order (DO) No. 118-12 issued last year to ensure road safety by making a more conducive and more "relaxed" environment for drivers and conductors of buses.

Lacambra said his office strictly adheres to the procedural guidelines in the processing of the clearance and that there would be “no shortcuts” on this.

He denied allegations that several bus operators came knocking and urging the office to release their clearances two days before the lapse of their franchises.

A two-day window is very impossible to issue such clearance because a routine inspection is necessary to be conducted within the premises of the operator, according to Lacambra.

“We cannot just issue a clearance. We have to examine their records through routine inspections to determine whether or not they are complying with labor standards. They cannot come and order us to give clearance for reasons that they will incur penalties due to delay. They should have applied with us earlier instead,” he stressed. (PNA) PDS/FGS/CBD/ABB

NGCP blames right-of-way violators for 44 power outages in 2012
By Alfredo L. Vargas Jr.

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has put the blame on residents squatting and into other activities within the immediate vicinity of its transmission towers and cables for the 44 episodes of power outages and line trip-offs that occurred last year.

Areas directly beneath transmission towers and cables and at certain safety clearance on both sides are considered a grid right-of-way (ROW) where human activities are prohibited for technical and safety reasons, said Nelson Bautista, NGCP South Luzon corporate communication and public affairs officer, in his letter to the Philippines News Agency.

Transmission lines are open power wires that carry a minimum of 69,000 volts and a maximum of 500,000 volts.

Electricity induction may occur once the safe clearance is breached, Bautista said, adding that the danger of being electrocuted by getting near enough is very high even without touching the lines.

“Our lines carry electricity that is more than 300 times the power of the electricity flowing in our households, which is just 220 volts. Breaching our safety clearances can be fatal,” he warned.

Common violations range from planting of trees and crops within ROW corridors, igniting grass fires at or around the facilities, squatting and putting up of structures under transmission lines, and playing, such as kite flying.

All of these activities can disrupt the transmission of power and trigger outages, damage transmission lines, hamper the speedy delivery of electricity, and compromise the safety of the public, Bautista said.

These problems also make it more difficult for NGCP linemen to efficiently and effectively carry out regular maintenance operations because a substantial amount of time is spent in clearing the ground of vegetation and structures.

Apart from these, some ROW violators are preventing NGCP teams from coming in for maintenance or to fix damaged lines making the operations more risky.

NGCP incurs huge expenses in clearing activities and on cases where the ROW violations cause damage to facilities.

The cost implication multiplies in the form of repairs and restoration works and additional manpower and man-hours.

In the 44 recorded outages and trip-offs last year, 25 of them occurred in Mindanao. (PNA) LAP/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

Trillanes supports clamor to pass FOI bill into law

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Senator Antonio Trillanes IV on Thursday expressed support to various groups pushing for the passage of the House version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill with less than a week left before Congress takes a recess for election campaign.

Local media practitioners in Albay province share the same stand with the Right-to-Know-Right-Now Coalition and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (NASSA) in pushing for the 15th Congress to fast-track the bill within the remaining session days.

“We have done our part in the Senate. We are simply waiting for the version of the House, but personally, being a principal author of FOI, I am for its passing into law,” Trillanes said.

“Without access to information, the people are kept in the dark. They remain unaware of the projects and contracts the national and local governments make for them. Our people then eventually tend to develop distrust in government institutions and activities,” a NASSA statement furnished the Philippines News Agency (PNA) said.

The Right-to-Know-Right-Now Coalition has dared House leaders in a separate statement with updated signatories furnished the PNA “to cast their personal fears aside and take a stand for FOI. We exhort Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to be a leader, and rally his colleagues to pass the FOI bill now.”

Trillanes, a Bicolano from Ligao City, was here for the swearing in of the new set of officers of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-Albay Chapter as inducting officer and keynote speaker.

Prior to the ceremonies, a press conference was hosted for him by the host KBP chapter. (PNA) PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

Navy fast attack craft arrives in Legazpi naval station

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) –- The Philippine Navy fast attack craft BRP Bienvinido Salting (PG112) has arrived at the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) station in Barangay Rawis in this city Friday to boost maritime security within the territorial waters of the Bicol Region.

The PG112, led by Lt. Commander Nerelito Martinez, its acting commanding officer, will be incorporated in the newly reorganized task forces of NAVFOSOL for its enhanced operational capability and preparedness.

Martinez is the Philippine Fleet acting chief of staff for plans and programs.

He was welcomed by Commodore Manuel Natalio, NAVFORSOL commander, in a simple ceremony attended by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and officials from the Office of the Civil Defense, other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other government agencies.

The craft is a Tomas Batillo class which arrived in the country from South Korea in August 1995 and commissioned to the Philippine Navy on May 22, 1996.

It underwent refurbishing and updating works but remained sporting its original weapons fit-out.

It is the class’ only ship using the twin Emerlec 30mm guns and does not have the provisions for Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat.(PNA) PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

DSWD awards homes to 1,528 calamity-displaced families in Albay

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has formally turned over newly built core housing units to each of the 1,528 families displaced by recent calamities from villages near the foot of Mt. Mayon here.

The new housing units, built under the DSWD’s core shelter program in Barangay Anislag, are permanent structures that could withstand strong typhoons with up to 220 kilometers per hour wind velocity.

Vice-Mayor Carlito Baylon said Friday that recipients of the houses were families from eight barangays who lost their homes to flashfloods from the slope of Mayon Volcano that were triggered by past typhoons and heavy rains.

Through the spirit of “bayanihan,” the beneficiaries themselves helped in clearing their relocation sites and the construction of the sturdy housing units, Baylon said.

He said the municipal government provided the relocation site and additional construction materials.

The DSWD’s core shelter program involves a restoration and rehabilitation strategy that uses work teams composed of beneficiaries who provide the labor for the construction of houses, said Corazon Pitero, head of the agency’s Regional Social Protection Unit.

“Hence, the houses they now own were built out of their labor and desire to start a new life away from the hazards of living along the path of floods emanating from Mt. Mayon,” she said.

These new core shelter units are among the over 8,200 houses provided by the DSWD to families in Bicol displaced by calamities.

An additional 135 units are also now readied for turn over to beneficiaries in Polangui, Albay, Petiro said. (PNA) LAM/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB

Quit smoking before age 40 greatly reduces death risk: study

VANCOUVER, Jan. 25 (PNA/Xinhua) - A study published Thursday found smokers who quit when they are young adults can significantly reduce their risks of dying sooner.

"Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking," said the study' s lead author Dr. Prabhat Jha.

However, Dr. Jha, who is also the head of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael' s Hospital in Canada, said that does not mean it is safe to smoke until one turns 40 and then stop.

"Former smokers still have a greater risk of dying sooner than people who never smoked. But the risk is small compared to the huge risk for those who continue to smoke," he said.

Dr. Jha' s team obtained smoking and smoking-cessation histories from more than 200,000 people who were interviewed between 1997 and 2004 in the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, and related these data to the causes of deaths that occurred by the end of 2006.

They found people who quit smoking between ages 35 and 44 gained about nine years and those who quit between ages 45-54 and 55-64 gained six and four years of life, respectively.

According to the researchers, about 30 million young adults begin smoking each year worldwide and most do not stop. On current trends, smoking will kill about 1 billion people in the 21st century as opposed to 100 million in the 20th century.

Dr. Jha noted that smoking rates in the United States, China and India would decline much faster if those governments levied high taxes on tobacco, as seen in Canada and France.

Taxation is the single most effective step to get adults to quit and to prevent children from starting, he added. (PNA/Xinhua) LOR/EBP

Ona conducts assessment of Bicol RHUs

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Health Secretary Enrique Ona arrived here on Thursday for a two-day ocular visit and assessment of medical supplies, facilities, structures, equipment, human resources and the responsible parenting program impact of rural health units (RHUs) in Bicol mainland.

Upon his arrival here, Ona immediately proceeded to the Department of Health-Center for Health and Development (DOH-CHD) regional office in the adjacent town of Daraga to meet local health officials and to hold a media briefing.

Ona assessed RHUs in the towns of Pilar, Castilla, Matnog and Bulan and Sorsogon City in the province of Sorsogon.

He is set to visit RHUs in Albay province on Friday.

Jimbo Guerrero, DOH-CHD Bicol spokesperson, said abuse of government facilities in the health sector in the region is one of the concerns of Ona’s visit. (PNA) PDS/JMC/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

Trillanes admits coming to Bicol to de-stress

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Bicolano Senator Antonio Trillanes IV admitted Thursday afternoon that the main purpose of his coming to Bicol was to relieve himself from the stresses of the past few Senate sessions, especially on his continuing drive to oust Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Trillanes was in this city on invitation of the Albay provincial chapter of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster Ng Pilipinas (KBP) as its keynote speaker and inducting officer of its newly-elected officials at the St. Ellis Hotel here.

Prior to the induction ceremonies, a press conference was hosted by KBP for the visiting senator where he boldly claimed that he had no plans to cease from working to oust the concurrent Senate president who, he said, “has sins committed from the northern end to the southern end of the Philippines.”

“I don’t care about the baseless accusations he will say against me or against other senators he knows involved in this campaign. I will always repeat the same question to him, ‘how and where did he use the P500 million MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) fund?’, and I also expect he will deviate the issue against me,” stressed.

Hermogenes Alegre, Jr., KBP-Albay Chapter president, said he also invited Senators Chiz Escudero and Gregorio Honasan, also both Bicolanos from the province of Sorsogon, to grace the occasion.

Escudero, who had earlier visited Albay and met the local media, instead gave way to Trillanes while Honasan did not confirm attendance but promised to do his best to come if given an opportunity, Alegre said.

“I could not decline the invitation because I am an Albayano, and I really want to stay in Bicol for while to de-stress. The past few sessions were too loaded, mentally and physically, that I deserve at least some relief,” Trillanes explained. (PNA) PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/EBP

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Police nab one of Bicol's most wanted persons

LEGAZPI CITY,Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Police operatives collared on Wednesday one of Bicol's most wanted persons, a report reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) here said.

Arrested was Felix Espinosa, Jr., 37, a resident of Barangay Syndicate, Aroroy town in Masbate,Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson said on Thursday.

Bataller said Espinosa was arrested at his residence by joint police operatives from the regional and provincial offices who were armed with a warrant of arrest.

Espinosa is the number eight most wanted person in Bicol and is facing murder charges.

The arrest of Espinosa, who also carries a P90,000 bounty on his head, is the result of the heightened campaign of the police against criminal elements in Masbate.(PNA) PDS/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Gov't pours in P6.6-B worth of infra projects to spur Bicol economic growth

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The Bicol region received about P6.6 billion funding this year for vital infrastructure projects that are expected to bolster the region’s economic growth, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.

Danilo Dequito, DPWH regional director, said this year’s infrastructure funding is higher by 20 percent or P1.1 billion over last year’s P5.5 billion expenditures.

Dequito said the fresh funding came from the General Appropriation Act and some P5.3 billion will finance various projects by the different district engineering offices (DEOs) in the provinces of Bicol.

Camarines Sur gets P1.6 billion, followed by Albay with P1.0 billion; Camarines Norte, P922.5 million; Catanduanes, P681.6 million; Masbate, P524.2 million, and Sorsogon, P520.7 million.

Dequito said P1.3 billion worth of projects would be carried out by the regional office.

Asked why some projects are being implemented by the regional office but are supposed to be done by the agency’s district offices, Dequito explained that those are projects that go beyond the limit of authority granted to district offices.

District offices are only allowed to implement projects that do not exceed P150 million as per DPWH order issued by Secretary Rogelio Singson.

These regional office projects are: Camarines Sur-Albay Diversion Road or the San Fernando-Oas Section of the Pan-Philippine Highway (PPH), including bridges with an allocation of P300 million.

The 0pening of Bacon-Manito Road, P100 million; Bicol River Basin and Watershed Management Project (Flood Mitigation Component), P455 million; Legazpi City Urban Drainage Project, P300 million; and, Drainage/Protection Works along National Roads, P147 million.

“On top of these locally funded projects (LFPs) is P637 million worth of foreign- assisted projects for implementation in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Catanduanes which will be handled by our Central Office,” Dequito said.

Another P15 million was earmarked for the preliminary and detailed engineering activities of all these projects for implementation, the DPWH regional official said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

OFW fresh from Africa charged for violation of gun ban

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) –- An overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who has just arrived from Africa, has been charged for violation of election gun ban.

Charged on Monday was Benir Bello, Jr., 51 and resident of Zone 1, Barangay Bahay in Libmanan town.

Reports reaching the regional police office at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in this city revealed that Bello returned to the country last Jan. 18 and immediately proceeded to his hometown.

Four days later, he attended the wake of a deceased relative in Bahay where he had a heated argument with Pablo Bonsol, 43 and a resident of the neighboring Barangay San Isidro of the same municipality, who he shot once with a 9mm pistol.

Police investigators revealed that the gun used by Bello is a licensed gun.

Bello admitted he fired a warning shot because Bonsol was about to attack his cousin, the son of the deceased, and that he never knew of the ongoing enforcement of the gun ban.

Camp Ola records revealed that Bello is the first violator of the gun ban since it came into effect last Jan. 13.

The regional police have set up at least 188 checkpoints manned by over 1,000 policemen across the region.

Aside from the recovery of the 9mm pistol used by Bello, the police were also able to recover at least two explosives on separate occasions - an abandoned fragmentation grenade in Santo Domingo, Albay and a 81 mm vintage bomb. (PNA) PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

Protective agents warned of possible arrest if not in proper uniform

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- Policemen detailed as protective agents (PAs) of incumbent politicians have been warned by Chief Supt. Lawrence Guinto, newly-installed Bicol regional police director, of possible arrest and being subjected to investigation should they be found not wearing proper and complete uniforms while performing their duties.

In a memorandum issued Monday by Guinto to the six provincial police offices in the region, he asked them to monitor PAs within their respective areas of responsibility on the proper conduct of protective duties and wearing of uniforms as defined by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for them to be allowed to carry firearms and other protective deadly weapons.

The regional police director also reminded PAs, both male and female, to be in proper gear from head to foot such as a navy blue cap with legitimate identification patches and navy blue t-shirt with collar embroidered at the back with “Protective Agent,” with PNP badge on the left chest and a name plate bearing the surname and initials on the right chest.

Also, PAs have to wear dark blue pants and black leather shoes and sport a duty rig for their side arms.

The wearing of complete uniform is the PAs’ “license” to carry firearms and the provincial police directors in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate were ordered to arrest violators of the dress code that, Guinto made clear, is tantamount to violating the gun ban. (PNA) LAP/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

36 arrested in Bicol's 'Oplan Motorsiklo'

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) –- The two-day implementation in three provinces in Bicol mainland of "Oplan Motorsiklo" by the Philippine National Police (PNP)regional office netted 36 violators of the Mandatory Helmet Act and the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.

Consolidated reports from the six provincial police offices reaching Camp Gen. Simeon Ola in this city revealed that there were 13 violators of R.A. 10054 or Mandatory Helmet Act and 23 violators of R.A. 4146 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.

There were 11 violators arrested in Albay: no helmet, 4; no driver’s license, 6, and one for traffic obstruction.

Eleven violators were also recorded in Camarines Norte: no helmet, 4; no driver’s license, 2; over-speeding, 2, and one each for being out-of-line, reckless driving and disregarding traffic sign.

Thirteen were recorded in Camarines Sur: no helmet, 5; no driver’s license, 6, and noise pollutant muffler, 2.

In Masbate province, it was a team from the Land Transportation (LTO) regional office based in this city that conducted a two-day field operation and arrested at least 65 violators.

Not one of them, however, was found in violation of R.A. 10054, said Mar Jose Mahistrado, LTO regional operations division chief.

“The good news, and a surprise to the law enforcers, is the observance and strict compliance of motorcycle riders in the use of standard helmets provided in R.A. 10054 with Product Standards (PS) and Importation Commodity Clearance (ICC) stickers,” Mahistrado said.

The LTO team, which he led, also conducted re-orientation seminars on the R.A. 10054 and R.A. 4136 to deputized policemen in Masbate City and the town of Milagros. (PNA) PDS/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

LTO counsels ‘habal-habal’ drivers, operators in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) –- The proliferation of “habal-habal,” the local name for motorcycles transporting passengers in rural areas in Bicol mainland, has been among the focus of week-long operations by enforcers from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) regional office based in this city in an effort to legitimize their operations and emphasize safety and compliance to existing laws.

Over 100 habal-habal drivers and operators from at least eight barangays in Pili, Camarines Sur were gathered in three separate venues in two days over the weekend by a team from LTO regional operations division.

The drivers and operators attended seminars on LTO functions, the Land Transportation and Traffic Code (Republic Act 4136), the Mandatory Helmet Act of 2009 (Republic Act 10054), and other relevant laws, rules and regulations.

The participants were from barangays Tagbong, Binobong, San Antonio, San Isidro, San Juan, Caroyroyan, San Antonio and Binanuaan.

“The main issue is the seeming public acceptance of habal-habal as a mode of transportation in rural communities. We reminded them of the impropriety of their operations, although we emphatize with their struggle to eke out a living,” said operations chief Mar Jose Mahistrado.

The first seminar was held at the Barangay Hall of San Antonio with 53 participating drivers and operators from the host area and barangays Tagbong, Binobong, San Isidro and San Juan.

It was recommended that habal-habal drivers and operators organize themselves in every area and form a federated association before bringing the matter to their congressional representative or directly to Congress and propose the necessary legislation in the protection, defense and regulation of their way of living.

A lecture on road safety in the context of the “Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020,” which has been recommended for adoption by the United Nations, was also conducted.

The lecture content and recommendations were provided to drivers and operators from Caroyroyan in the second seminar held in the place and in San Antonio, the last venue, that was participated in by clients from Binanuaanan and Tagbong. (PNA) FPV/FGS/ALV/MMG/ABB

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

21 fishermen arrested, charged in Camarines Sur, Sorsogon
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- At least 21 fishermen were charged Tuesday before the Bicol courts following their arrests the other day in separate anti-illegal fishing operations in the waters of Sorsogon and Camarines Sur.

Charged for using illegal fishing methods and gadgets under the Fishery Code of the Philippines and other local ordinances were the 18 fishing crew members of FV Bernie and FV Bernie 1 caught in the Balatan-Pasacao waters in Camarines; and three on board a motorized banca in Castilla, Sorsogon.

Frank Ombao, Bicol operations chief of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Wednesday morning said the fishermen, including their boat captains, were facing charges ranging from fishing inside the 15-kilometer distance from the coastlines to using fine mesh nets and illegal methods, particularly the “pahulbot” or “buli-buli” (Danish seine), which can destroy corals and catch even small fish.

Ombao said those charged would be released once they could post the bail to be issued by the courts while the confiscated fishing vessels and paraphernalia would remain in the safekeeping of the authorities as evidence in pursuing the charges against the suspects.

“We will further step up our campaign against these illegal fishing activities, particularly in the municipal waters of Ragay, Del Gallego, and Balatan in Camarines Sur; San Pascual in Masbate, and Pioduran in Albay,” he said.

Illegal fishing activities are among the headaches of authorities in Bicol, it being a peninsula. (PNA) FFC/FGS/SMT/CBD/EBP

PCA to apply salt fertilizer in coconut plantations in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- In order to improve production and the sustainability of coconut plantations, salt fertilizer will be used in over 2,783 hectares of coconut lands in Albay.

Salvador Alban, acting senior agriculturist of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in Albay, said the area coverage this year is 1,590 - more than the 1,193 hectares provided with free salt fertilizer last year.

Alban explained salt fertilizer is favorable for coconut production, noting it has become a practice following a study that shows coconut trees along the seashore are more productive.

In fact, applying two kgs of salt fertilizer per tree will double its production, he said.

Thus, the organic salt fertilizer is now widely used instead of inorganic fertilizer, the PCA official said.

The salt fertilizer to be distributed can cater to 110 coconut trees per hectare, serving a total of 306,130 trees for this year.

Yet, the area covers only one-tenth of the coconut plantations in Albay that also need attention, and the agency continues to ask for government’s support to the development of the coconut industry, Alban said.

Coconut products are highly in demand and have great potential to help boost the local economy and the Philippine economy as a whole. (PNA) PDS/FGS/CBD/ABB

Legazpi City gets P300-M funding for urban drainage project

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The city government of Legazpi recently received P300-million additional funding to finance the implementation of the city’s urban drainage project.

Lucy Castaneda, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Bicol spokesperson, said they granted the additional funding on top of the P500 million released last year to the city government.

With this additional funding, the project will have a total cost of P800 million, she said.

The project is designed to prevent the frequent flooding in almost 20 urban villages of the city during moderate-to-heavy rains spawned by bad weather events.

Castañeda said in an interview Wednesday that the urban drainage project involves the construction of three pumping stations in the barangays (villages) of Victory, Bonot and San Roque.

The project will also involve the repair and construction of a dike along the Macabalo River and the canals and streams that encircle the area.

Engineers will set up jetty structure in Yawa river channel to secure the flow of water and prevent floods due to clogged dikes. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/ABB

Giant tent set up in place of burned classrooms in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The administration of a public high school in Camarines Sur has set up a giant tent to serve as temporary classroom for 500 junior and senior students after their rooms were razed by a fire last January 7.

Ramon Bolivar, principal of the Milaor National High School in Milaor town, said the tent, built inside the school compound, would be partitioned into several classrooms using plywood to accommodate the big number of affected classes.

Bolivar said the classes were previously held in different venues-- including the faculty room, administrative offices and the town's evacuation center.

He said the scheme would solve the problem of possibly not meeting the required number of school days for the affected students, particularly the one graduating this March.

The principal though expressed concern that heavy rains and strong winds may still affect the holding of classes in the big tent.

Nine classrooms were razed by a fire believed triggered by faulty electrical wirings. (PNA) PDS/FGS/SMT/CBD/ABB

DA unit promotes pigeon pea production to save on wheat importation

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) is bankrolling the production of pigeon pea which is a potential substitute for flour, an energy-rich food ingredient that the Philippine imports mainly from Australia.

The BAR is initially providing a P1.7-million fund as support to local production started by the Benguet State University (BSU) in three different sites in Benguet.

Bicol is another target area for this crop that can be grown on its vast highlands.

Locally called garbanzos, the pigeon pea--also called chickpea--that is available in the local market, usually comes for repacking into canned forms from Australia.

“For the first time, we are doing field tests and trying to use it as substitute for flour,” BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar said in a statement received here Tuesday.

“Chickpea is a nutritious ingredient for food. It is also a crop that has the potential to withstand extreme temperature from climate change, so we are finding ways to grow it in the country for our own food security,” he said.

Yield in Benguet is initially seen at 800 kilos per hectare.

At P25 per 200 grams, revenue can reach P100,000 per hectare if the product is at canned form.

The BSU, however, still has to go through a process of convincing farmers to plant the crop.

“It is working on the acceptance of chickpea by local farmers by making known the crop’s advantage of being a legume that is used for special dishes like ‘igado’,” Eleazar said.

Once farm production is established, numerous products can be developed from garbanzos.

The chickpea is an ingredient in sauced dishes like menudo.

It is also a crunchy snack and a sumptuous dessert — alone, with syrup or with other sweets in halo-halo.

Other products are chickpea tea, chickpea cookies and chickpea steamed cake.

For its use as wheat flour substitute, its value can be immense in reducing the country’s flour import.

Eleazar said garbanzos can be turned into protein-rich chickpea veggie burgers fit for vegetarians who want a vegetable substitute for their meat.

The peas are mashed and mixed with other ingredients like onion, pepper and carrots.

As to its nutritional properties, garbanzos, he explained, is a source of zinc, folate and protein.

It is high in dietary fiber, making it a good source of carbohydrates ideal for diabetics.

Being low in fat, it also helps lower cholesterol in the bloodstream.

Every 100 grams of the small variety of boiled garbanzos contain 2.6 grams of fat (of which only 0.27 grams is saturated), 7.6 grams of dietary fiber and 8.9 grams of protein.

Its dietary calcium is placed at 49 to 53 micrograms (mg) per 100 grams.

According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which is the source of the seeds of BSU, garbanzos seeds have, on the average, 23 percent protein, 64 percent total carbohydrates (47 percent starch, 6 percent soluble sugar), five percent fat, six percent crude fiber and three percent ash.

Mineral content is high with phosphorus at 340 mg per 100 grams, 140 mg per 100 gram magnesium, seven mg iron and three mg zinc per 100 grams.

BSU is now using it as an ingredient for noodles, crackers and other finger foods under BAR and the DA’s Agri Pinoy Project, according to Eleazar.

The ICRISAT, donor of drought-tolerant garbanzos seeds, reported that the potential area in Benguet for garbanzos totals 10,000 hectares.

Taking advantage of this potential, Eleazar said, chickpea production in the area alone can already make for at least five percent of the US$ 200-million yearly wheat importation for use in flour-making.

It could contribute some P400 million in local jobs and revenue generation.

The BSU chickpea production project expects its first harvest in April this year, which will be bottled as sweets in syrup.

It will be easier to bottle it since canning requires more expensive processing equipment, he said.

For food safety, the bottled products will go through sterilization which is a usual process for BSU’s other bottled goods like strawberry jams.

Even with bottling, mass production at BSU is possible.

In order to ensure long-term viability of the farm production, Eleazar said BSU is establishing canned form greenhouses that will protect the garbanzos seeds while on germination stage.

At canned form, greenhouses are effective in controlling not only temperature but also wind impact on crops.

Eleazar said the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) had also conducted the introduction and promotion of chickpea in the highlands of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The yields of this PCARRD project to the Baguio market is expected soon following production tests conducted in the past two years, which have provided very encouraging results suggesting that chickpea has a potential for cultivation in highlands of the Philippines, including Bicol region, Eleazar added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ABB