Monday, September 29, 2014

Elderly Bicolanos rejoice passing of bill for wider PhilHealth coverage (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 28 (PNA) -– Sixty-six-year-old Donato Marbella beamed with a smile on hearing from news that the Senate has already approved a bill providing mandatory health insurance coverage to all Filipino senior citizens regardless of their economic or social status.

A passenger jeep driver here, Tata Don, as his fellow drivers address him, is not among the nearly 11,000 elderly in Bicol who are considered indigent to be automatically entitled to coverage by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) under Republic Act (RA) 7432 as amended by RA 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.

Under the same laws, PhilHealth now covers roughly four million senior citizens nationwide either as lifetime members, dependents or sponsored indigents.

RA 9994 also mandates a social pension program that provides additional government assistance in the amount of Php 500 monthly stipend to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs of an indigent senior citizen.

As defined in Section 3 of the same Act, indigent senior citizens refer to any elderly who is frail, sickly or with disability; without pension; and no permanent source of income, compensation or financial assistance from relatives to support his/her basic needs.

Once Senate Bill 172, introduced by Senate pro tempore Ralph Recto and sponsored by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, is enacted into law, what Marbella and all the at least 2.16 million senior citizens across the country who have yet to get the health insurance coverage needs is only a valid identification card to be able to avail of it.

The bill, which was recently approved by the Senate on third and final reading, will in effect amend RA 9994, which places only indigent senior citizens under PhilHealth coverage to make it automatic and not optional among senior citizens.

“Malaking tulong ‘yan sa amin na hindi nga naturingang lubhang hikahos ay hindi naman kaya ang kontribusyong hinihingi ng PhilHealth para maging miyembro at libreng makapagpagamot sa ospital kung nagkakasakit (It’s a big help to us who, despite being not being considered indigent, cannot afford the contribution being asked by PhilHealth to become a member and avail of free hospital services when sick),” Marbella said.

He was once a PhilHealth card holder, paying a monthly contribution of Php 100 but when the amount was raised last year to Php 200, Marbella said, he gave it up.

“Hindi ko na kaya. Tumaas ang presyo ng lahat nang bilihin kasabay ng labis na pagtaas ng presyo ng krudo at gasoline samantalang ang aming kakarampot na kita sa pamamasada ay ganu'n pa rin (I can no longer afford it. Prices of all commodities have gone up along with the excessive hikes in diesel and gasoline prices while our earnings as public utility drivers remain the same),” he lamented.

At least, when the mandatory and automatic PhilHealth coverage for all senior citizens becomes a reality through the Senate measure, he said, his worries over hospitalization cost should he get sick are eased.

The government, however, will need about Php 5.2 billion annually to provide the remaining 2.16 million citizens with health insurance that also goes in line with the Aquino administration’s Universal Health Care program seeking access to quality health care for all Filipinos, especially the poor when they need it.

The needed amount, however, would be small compared to the hope that would be given to the senior citizens, according to Guingona in his sponsorship speech.

“This is a small price to pay for the promise of universal health care we have promised our citizens. The way we treat our aging citizens, and how we spare them from the misery brought by lack of access to health services, is reflective of a nation’s collective character,” he said.

According to Recto, PhilHealth, which has Php 116 billion in reserves and Php 62 billion in income as of end of last year, could more than afford to provide insurance to all the country’s elderly citizens that is only six percent of the present population.

“Let me remind you that insuring our elderly should not be viewed as a revenue loss. Rather, it should be viewed as a productive expenditure and debt paid to those who gave the best years of their lives so ours will be better,” Recto said, referring to the budget required by the measure.

Senior citizens, he added, have “invested in our future and they are entitled to dividends. This bill settles but a small portion of what we owe them. No obligation is more outstanding.”

In passing on third and final reading of the bill, Senate president Franklin Drilon said he shares the belief that the country's elderly population must be provided with accessible and sufficient health care that will help them in their twilight years, “and we can attain it by enrolling every senior citizen in PhilHealth.”

“Magaling. Kapuri-puri ang panukalang batas na ito. Masaya ako’t masasakop na rin ako sa wakas ng PhilHealth (Very well. This proposed legislative measure is laudable. I am happy that I would be at last covered by PhilHealth),” Arsenio Antonio, a 70-year-old vegetable vendor at the public market of the nearby Daraga town, said.

At least, he said, he can already seek medical attention from a hospital, not from “albularyo (quack doctor),” when he gets sick.

“Sa edad kong ito ay sakitin na ako. Rayuma at high blood ang nagpapahirap sa akin na hindi naman mabigyan ng lunas ng albularyo. Kaya kung magkakaroon ako ng PhilHealth, sa ospital ako pupunta (At my age, I am already sickly. Rheumatism and hypertension are the ones troubling my health that quack doctors cannot provide cure. When I have my PhilHealth coverage, I will go to the hospital),” Antonio said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

DA says latest climate impacts won’t spoil Bicol’s rice self-sufficiency this year
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, Sept. 28 (PNA) -- While recent climate impacts brought by prolonged summer and the onslaught of typhoon "Glenda" could trim down this year’s overall performance of Bicol’s rice sector, local agriculture authorities believe it would not impair the earlier-achieved rice self-sufficient status of the region.

According to the regional office here of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the late onset of the rainy season for the third quarter cropping season, which forced Bicol rice farmers to move their May-June rice planting period to July-August, is expected to decrease the region’s total palay harvest this year by 62,189 metric tons (MTs), or 27.29 percent lower compared to the same period last year.

Abelardo Bragas, DA’s regional executive director, revealed this over the weekend, citing a recent report submitted by Cesar Calleja, the regional head of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

In addition, Calleja’s report noted about 28,400 hectares of rice plants most of them in vegetative stage were destroyed by Glenda, which ravaged Bicol last July 15.

The BAS translate the extent of this destruction to around 97,898 MTs of rice production losses for the region, Bragas said.

All in all, Bicol’s rice sector would be losing 160,087 MTs in palay yield to these twin climate troubles this year, he said, while assuring that the region’s rice self-sufficiency (RSS) status realized last year would not be disturbed by these production losses, given that DA has swiftly put in place packages of response toward instant farm recovery.

“As soon as the debris left by the typhoon had been cleared two weeks later, we immediately launched the Bicol Rehabilitation Assistance for Glenda in the Agriculture Sector, which is a massive rehabilitation-recovery effort to recoup production losses before the end of the year,” Bragas said.

The rehabilitation assistance, he said, initially provided 6,000 bags of certified rice seeds which were distributed for free to affected farmers in the provinces of Sorsogon, Albay and Camarines Sur during the series of visits made by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in line with the project launch.

As the project moved, the initial figure reached 10,065 bags of the same kind of seeds distributed to the region’s six provinces as of last week, according to Bragas.

At the same time, the DA regional chief said a total of 18,370 bags of fertilizers good for 9,185 hectares of rice farm were distributed to the same recipients while farm machineries were made available for farmers’ use as additional assistance.

The target of these emergency interventions is to immediately rehabilitate the 28,400-hectare damaged rice areas to generate around 106,945 metric tons in additional palay production, which is nearly enough to cover the foreseen production shortfall, he said.

And even if the rehabilitation efforts would be effective only in 50 percent of the damaged area or about 14,200 hectares, it would still generate 53,472 MTs of palay or short by 9,050 MTs of the region’s production target for the year but enough to come up with an increase of 2.65 percent or an additional 32,916 MTs over last year’s production.

Bragas said this would mean Bicol remains rice self-sufficient to the fact that the region’s palay production during the first semester of this year increased by 3.08 percent or 19,231 MTs compared to the same period last year.

Bicol’s palay production last year was placed at 1.2 MTs, which represented 99.75 percent of the target and recorded a 5.96-percent production growth rate over 2012.

With that, Bicol achieved a 118.19-percent RSS level, which means Bicolano farmers produced 18.19 percent more than the amount local consumers could eat.

Palay yield also increased from 3.51 MTs per hectare in 2012 to 3.62 MTs last year, representing a 3.13-percent growth rate, DA records show.

For that achievement, Bicol ranked sixth in production performance among the country’s 16 rice-producing regions and contributed 6.74 percent to the over-all national rice production last year.

The region’s record of RSS is always through self-help and active participation of those involved in the production and in line with the government's strategy for the country to meet RSS wherein Pres. Benigno Aquino III has emphasized the need for an intensified information campaign and social marketing to encourage producers, consumers and policymakers to help achieve such goal.

Such goal requires a sustained and nationwide campaign to boost farmers' morale and motivate them to adopt technologies to further improve farm productivity and encourage the general public to be responsible rice consumers are necessary to complement the government's efforts to achieve rice self-sufficiency, Bragas quoted the President as saying. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

DOT-Bicol head now also ecotourism committee chair (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 28 (PNA) -- The lady behind Bicol’s rise to the rank of top performers in tourism among the country’s regional subdivisions has assumed another challenging role—chairing the powerful ecotourism committee of the region.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla recently succeeded Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales as chair of the Regional Ecotourism Committee (REC)--a development welcomed by peers and local tourism industry stakeholders.

Gonzales served as REC chair for two years marked by the successful organization of 45 REC-licensed mountaineering guides who were trained on environmental conservation through Naturalist Guiding Seminars and the formulation of ecotourism plans for various government-protected natural parks across the Bicol Peninsula.

REC is a group of government and private sector representatives formed under a joint DENR-DOT memorandum circular issued in June 1998 in line with the basic government policy of ensuring sustainable use, development, management, protection and conservation of the country’s environment and natural resources and cultural heritage.

Organized as the regional arm of the National Ecotourism Committee (NEC), REC is also an answer to the call for the promotion of sustainable tourism that is designed to improve the quality of life of the people and the integrity of the environment.

Its primary tasks are to review, evaluate and approve major ecotourism project proposals; formulate and recommend plans and programs on ecotourism; and devise an accreditation and incentives mechanism for ecotourism project proponents.

The memorandum circular defines ecotourism as a low-impact, environmentally-sound and community participatory tourism activity in a given natural environment that enhances the conservation of bio-physical and cultural diversity, promotes environmental understanding and education, and yields socio-economic benefits to the concerned community.

REC membership includes the DOT, DENR, National Economic Development Authority, local government units, non-government organizations and a private sector representative.

“Director Ravanilla fits this new task well. Her competence and dedication to the development and promotion of Bicol tourism which contribute significantly to the tremendous growth of the industry in the region will help a lot in the achievement of REC’s goals,” City Mayor Noel Rosal here said on knowing of the DOT regional head’s new task over the weekend.

For his part, Gonzales committed his full support to the leadership of Ravanilla as new REC chair.

As DOT regional head—a position she had been holding for around 15 years now -- Ravanilla has relentlessly pursued local tourism projects and programs that catapulted the entire Bicolandia into the rank of top tourism destinations.

Last year alone, Bicol tourism gained more headway by posting 3.2 million tourist arrivals, which generated 3.9 million jobs for the local work force and achieved for the region total gross income receipts of over Php 1.9 billion.

Among the projects that Ravanilla vigorously pursued was the recent formation of the new local tourism industry development alliance called the “Gems of the Pacific” involving the cluster of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes.

Also known as the “Triple C” cluster, the alliance is identified as another tourism development area (TDA) in the region included in its 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

The cluster is named “Gems of the Pacific” owing to its geographical location along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

It is composed of two sub-TDAs--the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) covering the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

For the CCTL, Caramoan, which lies at the northeastern tip of Camarines Sur separated by Maqueda Channel from the island province of Catanduanes, covers Caramoan Peninsula where a group of exotic islets serving as a major ecotourism destination sits.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues along its long string of palm-fringed beaches backed by jungle-covered mountains and crowned with jewel-like islets.

For the CTC, Camarines Sur has been a long-time tourist destination with its Camarines Watersports Complex and Peñafrancia Festival of Naga City while Camarines Norte is famous for its Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Islands, which is known for its pristine beaches of a long stretch of powdery white sand.

Triple C complements the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon (AlMaSor) tourism alliance which was formed two years ago, also under the NTDP and through the auspices of the Regional Development Council’s (RDC) tourism committee which Ravanilla also chairs.

AlMaSor, was conceptualized by the RDC, which Albay Gov. Salceda heads as chair, as the tourism road map designed to achieve development not only in the mainland provinces of Albay and Sorsogon but also in the island of Masbate.

Like AlMaSor, it is expected from Triple C that the collaborative efforts of the three provinces would propel the influx of tourists in the region by leaps and bounds, with continued drive and exposure -- making the potential for growth unbounded.

AlMaSor’s first global exposure worked out by Ravanilla was at the 2013 Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB)-Berlin, which put in place a more integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the tourism industry potentials of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon -- eyeing some 650,000 foreign tourist arrivals annually within five years.

By featuring AlMaSor, which was tagged as the “Soul of the South” of Philippine tourism industry, ITB -- the world's leading yearly travel trade held in Berlin, Germany, on March 6-10 last year -- notably helped increase arrivals of European visitors here and in other parts of the cluster.

Ravanilla believes that “every part of Bicol is practically a tourist attraction that is why all its six provinces are included in Bicol tourism development clusters defined by the NTDP.”

Under this clustering, strategic directions and programs that make local tourism products more competitive are formulated.

Improvement of market access, connectivity, destination infrastructure; and enhancement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities, are the primary strategies toward this end.

Gonzales said Ravanilla, as REC chair, will now concurrently head the policy-making body that oversees the management and conservation of the region’s key ecotourism sites that include Mayon Volcano Natural Park (MVNP), Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP), Mt. Isarog Natural Park (MINP) and the Bicol National Park (BNP).

MVNP is in Albay covering 5,776 hectares of forest down the slopes of Mt. Mayon is an important ecotourism destination owing to its dense forest while BVNP, which is located around the foot of Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon, is a 3,672-hectare ecologically precious forest gifted with lush vegetation that teems with exotic flora and fauna.

MINP, which is in Camarines Sur, on the other hand, is 10,112-hectares lush forest that is home to a number of important species of birds, mammals and reptiles seen as a basis for the conservation of its biodiversity threatened by degradation due to prohibited forest activities.

BNP is a 5,201-hectare government-protected area straddling the boundaries of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, which is considered as one of Bicol’s natural heritage sites for its endemic tree and wildlife species, pristine rivers and other ecological wonders.

“Coming up with a corresponding monitoring and evaluation strategy to ensure proper review of ecotourism projects in close coordination with the Protected Area Management Board of the DENR is the first thing that I will be doing with the REC,” Ravanilla told the Philippine News Agency here over the weekend. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Friday, September 26, 2014

DA-Bicol bares this year’s winners in corn achiever awards

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 25 (PNA) -– The Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur has named five local government units (LGUs) in the region as among this year’s awardees in its Agri-Pinoy Quality Corn Achievers awards.

These LGUs which will receive the awards -- along with their respective agriculturists, municipal corn coordinators and 17 agricultural extension workers -- during ceremonies slated at the Limketkai Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City on Oct. 22, DA regional spokesperson Emily Bordado said in a statement reaching here Thursday.

Named as 2014 Agri-Pinoy Quality Corn Achievers for their exemplary performances in implementing the corn program in their respective localities, according to Bordado, are Ligao City, Albay; Naga City; and the municipalities of Baao, Calabanga and Tigaon -- all in Camarines Sur.

These localities, she said, performed commendably in the promotion and development of the corn sector using quality seeds, specifically hybrid corn seeds and other modern technologies that their farmers have adopted.

These LGUs will be recognized also for producing corn over and above their target and obtaining an average yield higher than the regional average, and for allocating budget from their local funds to support corn production, Bordado said.

As rewards, the three municipalities and two cities will receive Php 1-million project grant each and Agri-Pinoy Corn Achiever Trophy while the local government agriculturists will receive Php 30,000 cash award each.

The project grant will involve farm productivity infrastructure, equipment, post-harvest facilities and other relevant matters.

The corn coordinators, on the other hand, will get Php 25,000 each and the 17 extension workers will receive Php 20,000 cash award and also a trophy each.

According to DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas, this recognition is one way of expressing gratitude to LGUs, their agricultural field workers and farmers for their efforts and contribution in the goal of attaining increased and sustained corn production in the region.

“This competition intends to recognize the important role of LGUs and to harness local level participation in ensuring the production of quality and safe corn,” he said, adding that it should inspire other local governments identified under the corn cluster areas to join in the succeeding search that encourages increased corn production without sacrificing its quality.

According to Bragas, more Filipinos are now consuming white corn grits or “bigas mais” as shown by the increase in the per capita of 10.26 kilograms in 2012 from 7 kilograms in 2009.

Meanwhile, according to Ed Lomerio, the regional corn coordinator, the Agri-Pinoy Corn Achievers Search is now on its third year and the region is bent on recognizing more achievers in the next years.

He disclosed that the judging for LGU category was based on technical requirements such as the corn grain samples in compliance with the maximum aflatoxin level of 50 ppb and minimum Grade No. 3 as per quality grade requirements on shelled corn of the Philippine National Standards for Grains-Corn.

As to the yield, an LGU qualifies in the search once its annual average corn yield for the past three years reaches at least 3.5 metric tons per hectare for yellow and 1.5 metric tons for white varieties.

In terms of area planted, the LGU must have an effective area of 400 hectares or minimum of 200 hectares physically devoted to corn farming, Lomerio said.

“We are helping Bicol LGUs into these achievements, one way through training on corn mechanization and post-harvest technologies and grant of various post-harvest facilities and equipment to qualified farmer-beneficiaries,” he said.

The trainings are under the DA’s “Mechanization and Post-harvest Technologies for Efficient and Quality Production,” according to Lomerio.

The primary aim of the training is to equip the farmers with the necessary skills and knowledge on the operations and maintenance of the facilities like corn mills as well as production and post-harvest technologies to ensure production of quality corn for human and animal consumption and increase in farmer’s income, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

DOH directs Bicol hospitals to reactivate dengue ‘fast lanes’

DARAGA, Albay, Sept. 25 (PNA) -– The regional health office for Bicol based here has directed all government hospitals and health sentinel units across the region to reactivate their “fast lanes” that would facilitate immediate management and diagnosis of dengue cases.

The directive was issued over the week by Department of Health (DOH) Regional Director Gloria Balboa amid the seasonal rainy days threat of resurgence of the mosquito-borne killer disease sets in over the region.

Dengue “fast lanes” remain necessary even as all necessary measures primarily leading to vector control to prevent the disease’s resurgence and spread in local communities are already being undertaken, Balboa on Thursday said.

First among Bicol’s six provinces to come up with reports on suspected dengue cases was the island of Catanduanes wherein its Provincial Health Office (PHO) as of last Aug. 30 recorded a total of 458 cases -- with the capital town of Virac accounting for 375 monitored from at least 15 barangays.

On receiving the first report of dengue resurgence in Catanduanes as early Aug. 2, which listed a total of 162 suspected cases, Balboa said she immediately sent a team from the Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (RESU) to conduct entomological surveys.

Such surveys determined the extent of the presence of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in particular areas where search-and-destroy operations against its breeding grounds have been initiated through the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) organized by Rural Health Units (RHUs) and the community.

Following its deployment, Balboa said, the RESU reported that at least 41 percent of all households surveyed in Virac barangays considered as hotspots yielded dengue virus- carrying mosquitoes and Aedes larva.

Breeding sites were discovered from salvaged used tires, empty bottles, drums, tin cans and coconut shells around surveyed areas -- including the compound of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EMBC), the largest government health facility in the province based in Virac.

Aside from coordinating with the PHO, RHUs and local hospitals, the RESU team also provided anti-mosquito paraphernalia as well as on-site training of RHU medical technologists in the conduct of entomological survey.

The team also advised the public to practice Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue (ABKD), especially by searching for and destroying mosquito breeding places apart from prompt referral and timely reporting of cases.

The RESU team also tasked RHUs to conduct entomologic surveillance every other week until such time that incidence of vector mosquitoes has decreased in the surveyed areas while barangay health workers were oriented on the monthly collection of mosquito larva and pupa for vector surveillance, according to Balboa.

Public hospitals in the island were also placed under a “Code White,” an alert advisory for situations with potential for mass casualty so that medicines, health supplies, equipment and facilities are set ready 24/7 and health personnel, including those based in the regional office, are placed on standby for fast and well-coordinated actions.

Under Code White, medicines and supplies are reviewed and increased to meet instant requirements.

These are made available and not required to be purchased by patients.

Following these interventions, Balboa said, Catanduanes PHO chief Dr. Hazel Palmes over the week reported that the number of dengue cases in the province has significantly dropped to only 11 hospital admissions as of the first week of this month.

Nonetheless, the regional health director said dengue “fast lanes” should be maintained by public health facilities in anticipation of possible cases, especially that the rainy season has already set in across the region.

“We are not letting our guard loose,” she said, recalling that dengue plagued Bicol with an alarming surge in number of cases last year.

During the first two months of 2013 alone, Balboa recalled that at least 522 dengue cases were reported by the six PHOs in the region with Albay accounting for 308 cases; Camarines Sur, 92; Catanduanes, 68; Sorsogon, 27; Masbate, 23; and Camarines Norte, four cases.

One dengue death involving a six-year old girl from Tabaco City, Albay, was reported last year, Balboa added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says dengue, whose global prevalence has grown dramatically in recent decades -- with the countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific the most seriously affected, is a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children.

WHO said some 2,500 million people — two-fifths of the world’s population — are now at risk from dengue estimated to be behind 50 million infections every year, a figure that may continue to balloon to an unimaginable level.

Balboa said the transmission of the mosquito-borne virus is no longer a mystery as the disease and its lethal complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is caused by one of four closely related viruses.

It is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, a day-biting mosquito which lays its eggs in both clear and stagnant water.

These dime-sized mosquitoes, according to Balboa, attack anyone — young and old, rich and poor, male and female -- and as the rainy season sets in, everyone is faced with the responsibility of bringing dengue under control.

“For one, no one knows which among the pesky insects flying around bears the disease. But one lethal bite enables the virus to enter the bloodstream and what follows is a struggle between life and death,” she added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Phivolcs warns of worst-case scenario as Mt. Mayon lava dome swells

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 25 (PNA) -– Intense pressure being generated by the build-up of magma underneath Mt. Mayon has been steadily enlarging the lava dome at its crater, hinting that a major eruption of worst-case scenario magnitude could be possible, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

As of Thursday, the lava dome has bulged to about a hundred-meter in diameter occupying nearly half of the entire crater floor which is 250-meter wide and to approximately 400 meters in height or as high as a 40-storey building, according to Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta.

The same lava dome was notably smaller when first seen through telescopes last Aug. 12, he said.

In volcanology, a lava dome or volcanic dome, according to Laguerta, is a roughly circular mound-shaped protrusion resulting from the slow extrusion of viscous lava from a volcano.

The characteristic dome shape is attributed to high viscosity that prevents the lava from flowing very far.

This high viscosity can be obtained in two ways: by high levels of silica in the magma, or by degassing of fluid magma.

Lava domes evolve unpredictably due to non-linear dynamics caused by crystallization and out-gassing of the highly viscous lava in its conduit and it is this characteristic that prevents it from flowing far from the vent from which it extrudes, creating a dome-like shape of sticky lava that then cools slowly in its position.

Domes may reach heights of several hundred meters, and can grow slowly and steadily for months, years or even centuries, according to Laguerta.

The sides of these structures are composed of unstable rock debris and due to the intermittent buildup of gas pressure, erupting domes can often experience episodes of explosive eruption over time, he said.

The build-up of lava dome characterizes shallow, long-period and hybrid seismicity, which is attributed to excess fluid pressures in the contributing vent chamber that may result in onsets of a violent explosive activity.

The average rate of dome growth may be used as a rough indicator of magma supply, but it shows no systematic relationship to the timing or characteristics of explosions.

Laguerta said that once part of a lava dome collapses while it is still molten, it can produce pyroclastic flows -- one of the most lethal forms of volcanic event that could also trigger other forms of destruction such as forest fires and lahars.

Lava domes that are prone to unusually dangerous explosions since they contain rhyolitic silica-rich lava are one of the principal structural features of many of the world’s stratovolcanoes, like Mt. Mayon.

Phivolcs said the volcano remains under alert warning level 3, which means an eruption is possible in weeks even as its seismic network recorded on one rockfall event during the 24-hour observation period ending Thursday morning.

Weak-to-moderate emission of white steam plumes was observed but crater glow was not observed during the night.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at an average of 606 tons per day on Wednesday—which was lower than the 1,048 tons per day recorded on Monday.

Ground deformation data showed no significant change from August, based on the precise leveling survey conducted from Sept. 21-23, although the edifice remains inflated compared to baseline measurements.

Tilt data also indicate continuous inflation at the base of the edifice since August.

All the above data indicate that the volcano is still in a state of unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma, according to Phivolcs.

Under the prevailing alert level, it is recommended that the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) around the volcano and the seven-kilometer-radius extended danger zone (EDZ) on the southeastern flank be enforced due to the danger of rock falls, landslides and sudden explosions or dome collapse that may generate hazardous volcanic flows, it added. (PNA) FFC/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Legazpi agri office introduces Japanese 'camote' for commercial production

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 25 (PNA) -– For Filipinos, any variety of sweet potato -- the starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous root crop commonly cultivated in upland farms and backyard gardens regardless of its color, texture and sweetness -- is always camote.

In other parts of the world, the plant is called either as manthet, ubi jalar, ubi keladi, shakarkand, satsuma-imo, batata or el boniato.

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.

Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens.

And since it is a very important cash crop here and all over the country that is highly marketable either as raw or processed, the Legazpi City Agriculture Office (CAO) is now promoting a more vigorous commercial production, not of the native varieties, but of Japanese sweet potato.

“This Japanese variety may look very similar to our native red-skinned camote but the difference could be noticed when exposed to the air after peeling it -- Japanese sweet potatoes quickly begin to turn brown which when sliced and immersed in water becomes incredibly starchy and dry,” city agriculturist Jesus Kallos said Thursday.

Grown from slips or sprouts taken from the parent tuber, the Japanese sweet potato is easier to propagate and grow, being tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions—meaning a rich soil is not required since they thrive in poor soil that would not support other root crops or vegetables.

Production, Kallos said, is best obtained from well-drained sandy soil which happens to be the most common soil condition in farms around the city.

For a start in the commercial production, the CAO is supporting a privately established two-hectare Japanese sweet potato nursery on an upland farm in Barangay Dita from where planting materials for the initial 25-hectare plantation sporadically distributed in several barangays will be sourced, he said.

The project will support poor agricultural households in the city generate income by way of building their capabilities in sustainable yield of alternative food like vegetables and root crops and also an effort towards diversifying local consumers’ food base and diet to lessen their dependence on rice, according to Kallos.

“We should produce and consume these alternative crops so that the demand for rice that the country is still importing now is lessened,” he explained.

Kallos described Japanese sweet potato as a long and tapered tuber that typically has a beautiful dark-pink-to-purple skin with white inside.

The skin color, however, can vary from red, to purple, to brown; and its flesh can range from white through yellow, orange and even sometimes purple.

Its flesh has a delicious sweet chestnut-like flavor and is sweeter than the local variety while the leaves are considered a cheap source of nutrition and forage.

Today, according to Kallos, the main commercial producers of Japanese sweet potatoes include Vietnam, which exports about 70 tons of its monthly produce to China where it is utilized in maltose production and glucose syrups that are sent to western countries for baby foods.

It is also used in Japanese tempura and made into shochu--a Japanese liquor.

Some of the constituents included in Japanese sweet potato are very high levels of vitamin A, C, E, B-6 and other B vitamins; plus manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, phosphorus, calcium, alanine, phenylalanine, arginine, isoquercitrin, quercetin, linoleic acid, monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, phytosterol, proteins, polyunsaturated fat, squalene, thiamine, tocopherol, tryptophan, pectin and rich dietary fibers.

It is also called an "anti-diabetic" food as recent research claims that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, which is caused when cells do not respond to the insulin hormone.

Insulin is thought to act as a key to unlock the cell in order to allow sugar to pass from the blood into the cell.

Kallos said the heavy concentration of carotenoids in Japanese sweet potato is thought to be inversely associated with insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels and it is said to show unique healing properties in the area of blood sugar control, particularly when ingesting carbohydrates -- without causing glucose fluctuations such as the high spikes and ultimate drops in blood sugar.

With a unique ability to store proteins, the crop is also said to possess significant antioxidant capacities.

In one study, he said, the proteins were said to contain about one-third of the antioxidant activity of glutathione -- one of the body's most effective, internally produced antioxidants.

Vitamins A and C contents in Japanese sweet potato are also tested to be powerful antioxidants that work in the body to neutralize free radicals, the chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like arteriosclerosis, diabetic heart disease and other serious illness.

These vitamins help promote healthy heart function and may guard against stroke.

Many health professionals believe that the carotenoids in it not only fight free radicals, but are also chemo-protective against invasive infection, and antioxidants are also essential for good brain functioning and in delaying in the effects of ageing on the brain.

Moreover, its vitamin E content also works to protect against heart attack and arteriosclerosis by reducing the harmful effects of low-density cholesterol and preventing blood clots.

This activity is also thought to benefit deficient blood circulation problems throughout the body.

It is also an excellent source of fiber which lowers the risk for constipation, diverticulosis, colon and rectal illness, heart disease, diabetes and obesity by providing a feeling of fullness that helps to curb the appetite.

Further supporting its role as a highly nutritious supplement, Japanese sweet potato is an excellent source of potassium, a mineral that plays a major role in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and cell integrity.

Its distribution in the body is important because it affects many aspects of homeostasis, or metabolic equilibrium, including a steady heartbeat.

Japanese sweet potato is considered an anti-inflammatory as the carotenoids and vitamins in it are both thought to be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions where inflammation plays a role -- such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, Kallos added, citing various studies. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB

Life goes on for Mayon evacuees

GUINOBATAN, Albay, Sept. 25 (PNA) -- Life in an evacuation camp is not at all boring, hard and inconvenient.

For enterprising Rosario Orpiana, 52, of Sitio Mabualud, Tandarora village in this town, it is rewarding if you are resourceful.

A mother of an 18-year old daughter, she tried to be productive within the four corners of the classroom she and others are temporary sheltered by vending goods.

Rosario brought with her their sari-sari store at the evacuation camp to continue earning for their daily needs while her husband, Hilario, 52, returns home to watch over their home and farmland at the foot of the restive Mount Mayon.

“It’s hard to stay here at the evacuation camp. We’re in a home away from home but without comfort and we need to bear it for our safety. We’re forced to stay here until the alert status of the restive Mayon volcano is lowered by the Phivolcs,” she said.

Rosario hopes that the volcano’s restiveness will not take any longer so they could go back to their normal life.

At daytime, the male evacuees go back to their respective villages to look after their dwellings and agricultural crops while the elderly, women and children stay in the congested evacuation camps.

At least 11,255 families or 51,963 persons living within the six to seven- kilometer-radius danger zones in the municipalities of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Sto. Domingo and Malilipot and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco were evacuated to various temporary shelters by government forces for safety.

When asked why she allows her husband to go back at the foot of Mayon volcano, Rosario said Hilario needs to go back to their home everyday to look after it and their farmland.

Evacuees in Guinobatan town are complaining of lack of clean drinking water.

Mayor Gemma Ongjoco of Guinobatan admitted that no matter how prepared the local government unit in their town is, still potable water is still insufficient as 2,637 families or 11,881 people are currently housed in schools.

Aside from lack of water, she said, they lack comport rooms to accommodate all evacuees.

“We are doing all the best we can but we need assistance from other agencies to provide sufficient water supply for hygienic and drinking purposes,” the neophyte workaholic lady mayor of Guinobatan said.

In Ligao City, Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of the third congressional district, in partnership with the city government of Ligao led by Mayor Patty Gonzalez-Alsua, provided early psycho-social care for Mayon evacuees.

The Dora, the Explorer play brings happiness to the children, elderly and mothers taking care of their children in various evacuation camps.

Gonzalez said not only shelter is needed by the evacuees but also entertainment to get rid of their anxieties in evacuation camps.

At night, evacuees are enjoying movies shown at the big screen installed by the city government of Ligao at the evacuation centers in Tuburan and Binatagan elementary schools.

The 3rd district solon and the city government of Ligao have provided several entertainments to the displaced families of restive Mayon volcano wherein during nighttime, evacuees can either sing or watch movies in the big screen installed by the officials.

A singing program, dubbed as “Patiribayan sa Ligao evacuation center edition," is being held nightly wherein the elderly and children can sing and compete among them to be the best evacuee-singer.

Meanwhile, Governor Joey Salceda has provided free hotel rooms for married evacuees so that the couples will not to go back to their houses at the foot of Mayon, provided that they secure access card.

The access card is given to the couples for them to have its private time.

“DRR is a way of life that enables human development to proceed in the mid of risks and that no one should lose his life due to disaster,“ Salceda said.

The tens of thousands evacuees will be staying in various evacuation camps for about 90 days, depending on the abnormalities being exhibited by the restive volcano.

Salceda admitted that the government’s coffer is dwindling and they could not sustain the needs of the evacuees without the help of national government as well as international funding institutions.

He said the provincial government needs at least Php 300 million to support the needs of Mayon evacuees within 90 days to attain its zero casualty goal.

The Albay governor is optimistic that no one will be hurt nor perish in the impending Mayon eruption if everybody will heed the government’s call to stay away from six to seven-kilometer-radius danger zones.

“Nothing to fear, as long as you are outside the 8-km PDZ. Lava never breaks the 6-km distance since 1616 and pyroclastic flows never went beyond 8 kms. LGUs and the AFP have evacuated every restless soul so we just have to keep it that way,” Salceda said.

He said the Mayon volcano eruption is actually the biggest touristic event of the Philippines this year.

"It is the grandest fireworks display for 2014. The challenge is making tourists, especially foreign media, conform to our safety practices to achieve zero casualty,” the governor added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/UTB

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Volcanologist sees short-lived canon-like explosions if Mayon erupts

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) -- The present lull of the Mayon Volcano is not an indication of calmness but a big eruption with canon-like explosions that are short-lived -- lasting for only minutes to a few hours and often with high-velocity ejections of bombs and blocks that are accompanied by hazardous lava flow, ashfall and pyroclastic flow, an official of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Wednesday.

Eduardo Laguerta, resident volcanologist in Phivolcs Lignon Hill Observatory, said Mayon is now exhibiting a behavior similar with the 1984 vulcanian eruption where the volcano had been lull for two weeks before the eruption.

The eruption then recorded no casualty but brought hazardous pyroclastic flows and caused the evacuation of at least 73,000 people.

"What Mayon is telling us is that we are looking back to the 1984 eruption wherein there had been a lull for two weeks, then early in the morning of Sept. 23, it exploded -- resulting in the scar or destruction of the crater wall sliding to the southeast portion of Mayon," Laguera said.

He said the volcano has been at a lull for five days now, which means, activities have lessened based on the seismic network but it may still erupt.

In the Sept. 24 bulletin, no volcanic quake has been noted, only four rockfall events while the sulfur dioxide flux has decreased to 569 tons per day compared to 1,048 tons per day recorded on Sept. 22.

The volcanologist said the decrease in the volcanic quakes and the rockfall events are effects of slow movement of magma towards the crater but this does not mean that the volcano has calmed down.

The decrease in sulfur dioxide emission also means an eruption might happen, he said.

"The sulfur dioxide emission has lessened but this means that the volcano is building up more strength or pressure for a big eruption," Laguerta explained.

The Phivolcs official said Mayon Volcano's alert level cannot be lowered because of the visible lava dome, which is an indication of a lava extrusion.

As of this date, the dome is now about 563,604 cubic meters in volume and 45.79 meters in height, which means that if eruption happens, more than 140,000 truckloads of rocks can explode.

On the aerial survey, Laguerta said that because the lava dome is tilted towards the southeast quadrant, it will cause more danger in the areas of Legazpi City and the municipalities of Camalig, Daraga and Sto. Domingo.

If Mayon's alert status is raised to level four, population at risk in the southeast quadrant will be evacuated.

Phivolcs has raised Mayon to alert level 3 since Sept. 15, which means the volcano will erupt in a matter of weeks.(PNA)

Legazpi goes for slot among country’s top convention cities
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) – After hosting 17 conventions and similar big gatherings earlier this year and as it prepares to host at least eight more before the year ends, this key Bicol metropolis known in the world’s travel industry as the “City of Fun and Adventure” believes it is scoring high to become a leading convention city.

“This year, we are confident of being recognized as one of the country’s five favorite venues of big regional, national and international gatherings like conventions, summits and similar grand occasions,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Wednesday told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) here.

Rosal based his confidence on the city’s being chosen this year as host to at least 25 big official gatherings organized by various national and international groups, among them the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which held last May their series of conferences on International Tourism and Climate Change.

This series of gatherings held for six days—May 15 to 20—and attended by 2,000 delegates from 32 member-states and national tourism organizations was held at the plush Oriental Hotel and Resort that sits atop Taysan Hill overlooking the alluring and cordial cityscape and the blue waters of Albay Gulf with the iconic Mayon Volcano at the backdrop.

That UNWTO-ASEAN conferences and all the 16 other gatherings during the first eight months of the year alone already brought in to the city around 50,000 people from almost all corners of the world who enjoyed not only the view of majestic Mt. Mayon but also the ambiance of this city as a world-class travel destination, according to Rosal.

While the city has been playing host to big occasions, the local government, at the same time, caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers, the mayor said.

“Our quest for preference as venue of big national and international gatherings is anchored on our being highly capable now of hosting and properly handling friendly visitors from any part of the world,” Rosal said, as he assessed during the recent local government corporate planning conference the city’s execution of its role as host city to those occasions.

As seen in the assessment, he said, the city has been making it to its best as it considers all those past events as additional inspiration for the local government and for every Legazpeño to strive more toward finally achieving the ‘convention capital of the Philippines’ recognition.

It may be an ambitious goal but the mayor sees it as not an impossible dream as the city have the attributes leading to such recognition -- given its almost year-round favorable climate, clean and pollution-free environment, beautiful scenery, stable peace and order situation and world-class facilities.

Other attributes, he said, are the city’s being officially named as “most business-friendly, “most competitive” and now finalist in the ongoing Livable Cities Design Challenge, a competition organized by the National Competitiveness Council, World Wildlife Fund and the Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction with Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The city is also eyeing this year a slot in the country’s top 10 best tourist destinations where it placed 14th last year for achieving an impressive tourism industry growth represented by the listed 579,470 domestic and foreign tourist arrivals, which was higher by a whopping 32.27-percent rate from the previous year counted at only 141,370.

After surpassing that half-million tourism-arrival mark, the city government this year expects to achieve more improvements in its tourism performance by hitting the 700,000 count for an industry growth rate of at least 25 percent which perhaps would be good enough for the city to capture one of the top 10 slots in the country’s best tourist destinations.

“Our daily arrivals either via the average five daily commercial flights from Manila and Cebu or land trips coming from Metro Manila and several other origins in Luzon and the Visayas islands are the biggest contributors to our tourist arrivals, averaging around 1,500 daily,” he noted.

The city’s airport has also been opened as a gateway for direct international flights which this year and until last month saw the coming in of hundreds of Chinese tourists flown in via pre-arranged chartered flights from Xiamen City, China.

This direct flight project was arranged as a continuing tourism activity this year but was cut short by an advisory issued last Sept. 12 by the Chinese government warning against travel to the Philippines, following some unfortunate events involving security.

Rosal said this travel warning will certainly hurt the city’s tourism industry but not much “because we have many other international markets and I believe that this advisory is only temporary and will be lifted soon.”

Nonetheless, he said, without the Chinese coming in during the remaining months of this year, the city would still realize its 700,000 tourist arrivals expectation for 2014, given that it expects around 24,000 more from the remaining eight conventions slated in the city before the end of the year.

From January to June this year, the City Tourism Office (CTO) has recorded a total of 352,318 arrivals for an increase of 12.42 percent from last year's similar period.

The target for the last half of the year is 400,000 arrivals, according to the CTO.

“Tourism is indeed taking a crucial role in the city’s continuing pursuit of inclusive and horizontal growth that benefits not only big investors such as hotel operators but also the people in the countryside, where most of its tourist destinations are located, by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures,” the city mayor added. (PNA)

Former Rapu-Rapu mine site being developed into corn, camote plantations
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) – After it yielded billions of pesos worth of gold and other precious minerals which were hauled by mining firms run by foreign nationals, the vast upland property in the island town of Rapu-rapu, Albay, is now being rehabilitated into an agricultural site where huge plantations of corn and camote are to rise.

Since last November when the operations of the Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project (RRPP) was terminated, the rehabilitation works have been in progress and will continue until the Final Mine Rehabilitation/Decommissioning Plan (FMR/DP) is completed, Regional Director Theodore Rommel Pestaño of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Bicol based here on Wednesday said.

The works are being performed by field personnel of the Rapu-Rapu Minerals Inc. (RRMI), a subsidiary of Korea-Malaysia Philippines Resources, Inc. (KMPRI), which ran the mining project for five years starting 2008 after taking it over from the Australian-owned Lafayette Philippines, Inc.(LPI).

The project, which used over 180 hectares of agricultural land in barangays Pagcolbon and Binosawan -- found to be rich mineral deposits, was started by LPI in 2003 but abandoned it in 2005 after coming up with vast gold yield in mining operations marred with controversies arising from serious violations of environmental laws.

Pestaño said the RRMI is currently undertaking three out of five major activities specified in the approved FMR/DP for the RRPP.

These include the stabilization of the Open Pit (OP), Upper Tailings Storage Facility (UTSF) and the Lower Tailings Storage Facility (LTSF).

“RRPP has been doing the rehabilitation works since last November and is continuing until all the major activities in the FMR/DP are completed,” he said.

Among the specific rehabilitation-related activities now being undertaken by the company are sidecasting of the materials from the Run-Of-Mine (ROM) pad to the open pit area and from the mobile crushing plant area to the LTSF, according to Pestaño.

Hauling and dumping of boulders and Base Metal Gold (BMAu) materials into the LTSF and slope final stabilization and construction of canal at the (UTSF) are also in progress, he said.

Also being done are installation of conveyor system at the open pit to be used for dumping of materials; trial planting at the waste dump slope; pumping of water from the mine pit; monitoring of piezometer and water quality; and sloping and benching of soil stockpile at the Orica area.

Likewise, side casting of oxidized materials from BMAu stockpile to LTSF, installation of pipe line from LTSF to open pit, dumping of soil in preparation for corn plantation, surfacing of soil at UTSF and workshop dismantling are ongoing, the MGB regional chief said.

Road detouring, sloping and benching at UTSF, hauling and dumping of soil for the camote farm, repair of drainage system at ROM pad oxide stockpile, surfacing of road access from ROM pad to Orica conveyor and establishing drainage at UTSF embankment are also being undertaken, he said.

There are two other major activities that are to be undertaken under the FMR/DP -- the rehabilitation of the company’s water treatment facility (Bio-Reactor) and decommissioning which were yet to be started, pending the completion of its first three components whose works are ongoing.

The entire rehabilitation activities -- all based on the approved FMR/DP is worth Php 338 million, which is almost twofold of the first plan worth Php 158 million submitted last year by the mining firm but was revised after it was rejected by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje, Pestaño said.

A committee to supervise the implementation of the FMR/DP was created last June 10, 2014 by Paje through Special Order No. 2014 – 275 with DENR Regional Executive director Gilbert Gonzales as chair and Pestaño and representatives from the RRPP and the provincial government of Albay as members.

The committee is tasked to supervise the implementation of the plan, evaluate the results and recommend revisions, if any, and to submit reports to the DENR Secretary through the MGB director, containing its findings or observations and recommendations.

“We have also created a technical working group that will monitor the company’s compliance to the plan,” Pestaño said.

The rehabilitation plan is designed to prevent or eliminate long-term environmental impacts by returning mining-disturbed land to a physically and chemically stable, visually acceptable, productive or self-sustaining condition.

It is taking into consideration the beneficial uses of the land and the surrounding areas after the mine life as agreed with the stakeholders, Pestaño explained.

The FMR/DP, he added, includes a “social plan” transition programs for displaced mine workers such as job retraining and education assistance and job search or placement, among others as well as possible transfer of the management of some facilities to host communities to generate income. (PNA)

647 families get food rations from Legazpi City government
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) -- At least 647 calamity-affected families from 40 villages of this city have received five kilos of rice and other food items each.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal distributed the relief items on Tuesday at the City Social Welfare and Development Office.

The recipients of the food rations were all victims of typhoon "Glenda" which hit Albay on July 15 and totally damaged their homes and properties.

The food items were donated by the City Government of Legazpi, Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Provincial Government of Albay and San Miguel Corp.

Another 1,000 families of 18 villages at the northern part of the city, whose residences were also destroyed by Glenda, received Php 500 each from City Social Welfare and Development Officer Marlene Manaya on Wednesday at the Ibalong Conference Room as part of the financial assistance to them.

Another 26 families also received three pieces of galvanized iron sheets each from the CSWD officer.

The assistance came from Senator JV Ejercito who donated Php 500,000 and 100 pieces of GI sheets to Rosal a few weeks after Glenda hit the city.

Rosal said the food rations and cash assistance are part of the support to the victims of calamities but not a permanent dole-out to them.

He said that although his administration is very aggressive in helping the people, they should also help themselves by way of engaging in any form of livelihood activity in their own barangay to uplift their living condition.

Mayon's present behavior shows 1984 eruption pattern
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) -- The lull being exhibited by the Mayon Volcano is dangerous and the way it behaves right now is similar to what happened during the l984 eruption, Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist, said during the Mayon Volcano Media Briefing at the APSEMO Office on Wednesday morning.

“It was a vulcanian type of eruption, meaning, the eruption was associated with pyroclastic flow," Laguerta said.

He recalled that before the big eruption in 1984, Mayon rested for two weeks and on Sept. 23, three consecutive big eruptions occurred that reverberated in all corners of the province of Albay.

The explosions caused the emission of a 14-kilometer ash column and the collapse of a portion of the summit which fell at the southeast portion of Mayon.

Laguerta said that after the collapse of this part of the volcano’s summit in 1984, it healed after nine years and its perfect cone shape returned in l993.

He said the present lava dome at the Mayon summit has a height of 41-story building whose volcanic material contents are equivalent to about 560,00 cubic meters or about 140,000 truckloads.

The veteran volcanologist said that while Mayon appears calm at a distance, the parameters recorder by the Phivolcs instruments show a high level of abnormalities towards a 1984-like eruption.

He said they are monitoring the activities of Mayon based on three aspects -- geophysical, geodetic and geochemical

The geophysical aspect deals on the physical condition of the volcano while the geodetic aspect refers to the ground inflation based on the ground deformation survey.

The geochemical behavior is dependent on the sulphur dioxide emission of Mayon.

Albay veterinary office nets only 72 of 19,831 animals to be evacuated

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 24 (PNA) – Field personnel of the Provincial Veterinary Services Office of Albay are supposed to evacuate 19,931 livestock and pets in areas within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone of the Mayon Volcano.

Since Friday, however, they have evacuated only 56 heads of cattle and six carabaos from the villages of Miisi and Salvacion of Daraga town and the villages of Anoling and Cabangan in Camalig.

Dr. Antonio Basanta, officer-in-charge provincial veterinarian, on Wednesday said most farmer-owners are resistant to their planned evacuation of their animals so they have stopped temporarily their operation since Tuesday.

"We always encounter farmers who refuse to evacuate their animals. We are now coordinating with local government units to convince farmers on the importance of animal evacuation," Basanta said.

The livestock population affected includes carabao, 2,588; cattle, 2,301; swine, 7,971; goat/sheep, 438; and dogs, 6,633.

These are in the municipalities of Daraga, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Guinobatan and Camalig and the cities of Ligao, Tabaco and Legazpi.

Most of the livestock are in the municipality of Guinobatan, which are projected to reach a total of 1,574 animals based on the data.

Basanta identified the animal shelters in affected municipalities and cities as located in: San Andres in Sto. Domingo; Philippine Coconut Authority area and Development Bank of the Philippines property at Barangay Banao in Guinobatan; Department of Agriculture-Albay Breeding Center in Cabangan, Camalig; Amtic area in Ligao; Barangays Malabog and Lacag in Daraga; Taysan in Legazpi City; San Vicente in Tabaco City; Paraputo in Malinao town; and San Isidro Ilawod in Malilipot town.

He said they have prioritized the working animals because most of these are situated within 4-kilometer radius of the volcano where grasses are believed to be more productive which serves as healthy food for the animals.

The provincial veterinarian admitted that they had been using only one animal transport vehicle since Friday, reason why they could not fast track the operation.

"We are given 4-6 days, but It's impossible to finish our target because of the long distance to reach these areas. We have to walk through mountains and these animals would also walk more than one kilometer to reach the location of our vehicle," he said.

Last week, Governor Joey Salceda also ordered the evacuation for livestock and pets after ensuring the safety of 11,255 families or 51,965 people living within the 6-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone who were evacuated in different schools in Albay. AMM

If ever Mayon erupts, it would vomit 140,000 truckloads of volcanic materials – Phivolcs official

LEGAZPI CITY. Sept. 24 (PNA) -- With the lava dome of Mayon Volcano continuously becoming larger, disaster officials expressed fear of a possible big eruption despite the temporary lull in volcanic activities.

Dr. Eduardo Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) resident volcanologist, said Wednesday that the crater dome is now estimated at 125 meters high or equivalent to a 41- story building.

Should it be vomited by Mayon in the form of volcanic materials, these would have an estimated volume equivalent to about 560,000 cubic meters or about 140,000 truckloads.

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the increase in the size of lava dome is related to how fast the magma is moving up to the crater or depends on the lava extrusion rate.

If the dome is growing fast enough, eventually the crater will be filled up by lava and some parts of the dome will break and develop as rockfalls, he said.

"If there is a minimal number of rockfall events, its means the extrusion of magma is slower," he explained.

Solidum said they are not considering the volcano in a quiet condition just because the rockfall events and the volcanic quakes have lessened, instead they focus on what is happening inside.

Dr. Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office head, said based on the recent Mayon crater aerial survey, the lava dome was located at the center but when it collapses, the eruption would be hazardous at the southeast quadrant of Mayon because of the partly open side at the crater facing southeast of the volcano.

"On the other side, there is a wall that can protect but there is a big opening in the southeast quadrant of Mayon," Daep said.

Though, he said, the partly open side is being healed by the actual movement of magma developing into dome.

Based on APSEMO data, at least 17,526 families or 81,700 persons will be evacuated if Phivolcs raises Mayon alert status to level 4, especially residents in villages prone to risk of pyroclastic flows.

These include 8,507 families or 38,548 persons from the villages of Buyuan, Mabinit, Matanag, Bonga, Bagong Abre, Padang, Pawa, Dita, Bigaa, Arimbay, San Joaquin and Bogtong in the northern part of Legazpi City; 5,954 families or 30,369 persons from the villages of Sta. Misericordia, San Fernando, Fidel Surtida, Lidong, San Roque, New San Roque, Poblacion Proper, San Andres and San Isidro of the municipality of Sto. Domingo; and 3,065 families or 12,783 persons from the villages of Bañadero, Budiao, Matnog, Salvacion, Alcala and Busay in the municipality of Daraga.

These are areas within the extended 8-10-kilometer southeast quadrant of the Mayon Volcano. (PNA)

Mayon lava dome as high as 41-story building – Phivolcs official
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) – The lava dome formed at the Mayon crater has a height of 125 meters or as high as a 41-story building and once the volcano erupts, the areas at its southeast quadrant will be the worst affected, Dr. Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist, said in a Mayon Media Briefing at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) operation center here Tuesday morning.

Laguerta said the threat is due to the increasing lava dome of the volcano as the magma continues to rise towards the summit.

In terms of area, the dome is a large as a 100-hectare land as seen during the recent aerial survey done by the Phivolcs, Office of Civil Defense-Bicol, Tactical Operations Group 5 of the Philippine Air Force and some media practitioners.

Aside from this, the ream or summit of the volcano is already about 250 meters thick.

Dr. Cedric Daep, APSEMO head, said to be affected by this situation are Legazpi City and the towns of Daraga, Sto. Domingo and Camalig.

In Legazpi City, the affected barangays are Bonga, Buyuan, Mabinit and Matanag.

Daep said that if the alarm status on the volcano is raised to number 4, mass evacuation will be immediately enforced in these four villages of Legazpi City.

More than 25,000 individuals need to be evacuated from these villages.

In Sto. Domingo, Camalig and Daraga, the affected families have already been evacuated.

The villages in Sto. Domingo at the southeast portion are Lidong, Fidel Surtida, Sta. Miserecordia and San Fernando.

In Daraga, the affected barangays are Budiao, Alcala, Miisi, Salvacion, Matnog and Bañadero.

Barangays Anoling, Cabangan, Quirangay, Salugan, Sua and Tumpa in Camalig are also threatened. (PNA)

Mt. Mayon cooling down stirs guessing game (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) – Erupting or not erupting—place your bets.

In the past six days following a week-long show of heightened restlessness, Mt. Mayon seemed to have calmed down, stirring a guessing game among locals and outside observers whether it is really headed for a major eruption or not.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) last Sept. 15 raised alert warning level 3 over the volcano after its seismic network recorded a total of 142 volcanic earthquakes and 251 rockfall events during a 24-hour observation period.

This alert level means explosive eruptions may take place in weeks, moving local government authorities in at least two cities and four municipalities around the foot of the volcano to evacuate a total of over 30,000 residents from 22 barangays considered to be within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) and 6 to 8-km-radius extended danger zone (EDZ).

The evacuees, representing more than 10,000 families, are now being kept and fed in government evacuation camps -- mostly public school buildings.

From its week-long dramatic show of agitation associated with the intense glowing of its summit and mild overflowing of burning lava that oozed gently from the crater into a giant crevice to form a stream of fire visible at night from this city and the nearby Daraga town, Mayon, starting on Thursday last, changed its temperament to a meeker one.

In its Mayon Volcano Bulletin covering the 24-hour observation period ending 8:00 a.m. Tuesday, Phivolcs said its seismic network recorded only three volcanic earthquakes and 18 rockfall events.

Crater glow was not observed Monday night while sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at a lower average of 1,048 tons per day.

The most-photographed stream of incandescent materials on a crevice at the volcano’s upper slope has also disappeared.

Ground deformation data, on the other hand, showed inflationary changes in the edifice, based on precise leveling surveys and continuous tilt measurement.

The announcement of changes like these leading to a seemingly meeker Mayon stirred the guessing game whether it is indeed ripe for an eruption or not, even as Phivolcs said all these data still indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.

It maintained on Tuesday Alert Level 3 on the ground that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks.

According to Jose Briones, the former Albay tourism provincial officer, the cooling down of Mayon came amid heavy rains spawned by typhoon "Mario" and if the weather will remain not as hot as we experience it these past few days, the volcano will never be triggered to erupt.

“In addition, it appears there are no reports of ‘voluntary evacuation’ among animals and reptiles using Mayon’s slopes as their habitats to convince the ‘olds’ among nearby residents that this amazing volcano undoubtedly wants to show off or display her dangerous and destructive fireworks," Briones said.

However, he suggested that something unfavorable could be expected to happen when the weather changes its temper from medium cool to hottest.

“Mayon Volcano will most definitely define her fury for she would definitely become uneasy like any other woman who hates to feel discomfort whenever irritated by her surroundings. A woman of tastes rarely stays quiet,” according to Briones.

That is, of course, if her stomach is still full of hot lava and most certainly she will vomit as the Phivolcs has reported, he said adding that “as a man, I fear so much to see her raging like hell. Meanwhile, feeding and housing the evacuees are the best that we can do in the meantime if the desired goal is zero casualty.”

Alan Garcia of Quezon City said in his post on Facebook “anything that is too hot and too much to handle will have to explode. That is the principle of the law on averages...what comes up, will have to go down...maybe not now, but sooner or later. Mayon's temperament depends on how much lava she has on her belly.”

For Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, the provincial government cannot be complacent in the ongoing preparations for a full-blown eruption despite the decrease in signs of Mayon hostility.

The governor intends to keep the evacuees in refugee camps around the province for at least three months under the prevailing condition even as resources to feed them have been going scarce and he had to beg for donations from the outside sources.

The guessing game that features a battle of notions between the possibility, as against the remoteness, of an eruption has also been stirring these evacuees into returning to their homes, given the relatively miserable living condition that most of the evacuation facilities offer and developing belief that no calamity is indeed going to take place. (PNA)

Masbate cops nab 3 Chinese nationals for drugs
By Norman B. Tamar

CAMP BONNY SERRANO, Masbate City, Sept. 23 (PNA) – Police anti-drug operatives arrested three Chinese nationals suspected to be members of a big-time drug syndicate in the province, a belated report of the Masbate Provincial Police Office (MPPO) said Tuesday.

PO3 Zandro R. Cabintoy, MPPO public information officer, said the authorities recovered during the operation two large transparent plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” and a large quantity of suspected chemical substances used for making shabu.

Supt. Carl Michael Car Reyes, MPPO OIC-prrovincial director, identified in an interview the arrested suspects as Shi Zhi Fang, Xi Xing Ping and Analyn T. Ong.

The three were arrested during a search-and-seizure operation done by the raiding team by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Manuel L. Sese of Regional Trial Court Branch 45 in Masbate.

Reyes said the suspects were arrested along the National Highway of Sitio Pulang Bato, Kinamaligan, Masbate City, at about 7:37 p.m. Sept. 19.

The arrest, according to Reyes, followed a call from a certain tipster that a Toyota Hilux colored black and bearing plate number TDO-230 and a Fuso 6D15 truck with plate number EBA147 from Barangay Puro, Aroroy, Masbate, would be transporting to Masbate City a volume of controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECS) utilized for manufacturing the prohibited drug.

The suspects are currently under the custody of the Masbate City Police Office following the filing of charges against them before the City Prosecutor’s Office, Masbate City.

Calm before the storm, Phivolcs official says on Mayon status
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) -- Sometimes there is calm before the storm and there is no time to relax even if Mayon Volcano's restive condition appeared to have slowed down as this is just a prelude to a big explosion, Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist said.

From the distance, Mount Mayon appears so tranquil but at closer encounter with the volcano through an aerial survey by Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force helicopters, this stringer was able to capture the protruding lava dome leveling at the crater’s rim.

This, Laguerta said, is a precursor that Mayon might eject deadly pyroclastic materials.

“Even the rockfall events stop, this is just a process of Mayon relaxation before a full-blown eruption -- a pattern similar to the 2000 to 2001 explosions with pyroclastic flow—a turbulent mass of ejected fragmented volcanic materials, ash and rocks mixed with hot gas that flow downslope at a velocity of 60 kph,” he added.

Sometimes, Laguerta said, there is calm before the storm just like in 1968, 1978, 1984 and 2000 eruptions wherein after an early increase in seismicity, there was a decrease (quiescence) in seismicity in the days-weeks before the eruption began.

The volcanologist said that during the May 2013 phreatic explosion of Mount Mayon that killed European hikers and a Filipino tourist guide, the volcano’s unrest started where the lava dome developed and continuously grew.

As the lava dome equalizes with the crater’s ring of the volcano, the Phivolcs official warned that the imminent explosion of Mayon will not only threaten the southeast quadrant but also parts of Tabaco City.

As the impending explosion of Mayon volcano is threatening the Albayanos, Albay Governor Joey Salceda strongly enforced the "no human activity" within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone to prevent casualty.

“If you don’t evacuate, you’re dead. So, strictly, we’re enforcing the no-return order withing the six-km-radius PDZ and 7-km-radius extended DZ. We’re giving all you need for you to stay away from the no man’s land zone. Violation of this directive will be dealt with necessary action,” the governor said.

Salceda said they are anticipating the worse-case scenario because "Mayon volcano eruption is to whom it may concern."

"That’s why we’re two steps ahead. This is the most rational because at level 5 we will not evacuate as even the lives of the rescuers will be at stake,” he said.

At least 11,255 families or 51,963 people have been evacuated in Albay since last week after Phivolcs hoisted alert level 3.

Salceda admitted that the provincial government of Albay has limited resources after the occurrence of typhoon "Glenda."

At most, the evacuees will be staying in various temporary shelters within 90 days which will be supported by the government’s coffers to ensure the zero-casualty goal of the provincial government.

The Mayon Volcano’s seismic network recorded at least three volcanic earthquakes and 13 rockfall events during the past 24-hour observation period with a weak-to-moderate emission of white steam plumes drifting northeast and north-northeast.

Crater glow was not observed last night while sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux was measured at an average of 1,290 tons per day although the SO2 emission rate peaked at 2,360 tons per day on Sept. 6.

Ground deformation data showed inflationary changes in the edifice from February, based on precise leveling surveys on the third week of August, and edifice inflation from January 2012 baselines based on continuous tilt measurement.

“All the above data indicate that the volcano is exhibiting relatively high unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma. This means that magma is at the crater and that hazardous eruption is possible within weeks,” Laguerta said. RBB

Number of evacuees in Albay swell to 51,963
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 23 (PNA) – The number of evacuees in Albay as a result of the abnormal condition of Mayon Volcano has swelled to 51,963 persons or 11,255 families.

Governor Joey Sarte Salceda brought out the list of the evacuees after the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised the alert level on the status of Mayon at 3 in a media briefing Tuesday morning at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office.

The evacuees are in the the cities of Ligao and Tabaco and the towns of Guinobatan, Malilipot, Camalig, Daraga and Sto Domingo.

Among these local government units, Daraga has he most number of evacuees with 14,890 individuals or 2,864 families from barangays Budiao, Alcala, Miisi, Salvacion, Matnog and Bañadero.

Camalig town is second with 12,120 individuals or 2,393 families from six villages -- Anoling, Cabangan, Quirangay, Salugan, Sua and Tumpa.

Registering third in number is the Municipality of Guinobatan, with 10,782 persons or 2,553 families from barangays Maninila, Muladbucad Grande, Muladbucad Pequeño, Tandarora, Masarawag, Doña Tomasa and Maipon.

Fourth is Tabaco City, with 4,383 persons or 1,038 families from eight villages -- Magapo, Comon, Buang, Mariroc, Oson, San Isidro, Buhian and Bonot.

Ligao City has 3,730 individuals or 818 families coming from barangays Naisisi, Tambo, Nabonton, Baligang and Amtic; while Malilipot town has 3,121 persons or 746 families from the villages of Calbayog, San Roque and Canaway.

There are 2,937 evacuees or 843 families in Sto. Domingo from four villages -- Lidong, Fidel Sutida, Sta. Misericordia and San Fernando. (PNA)

Archbishop ends decades of ‘elite passengers’ in Ina’s pagoda
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA0 -- No one can pinpoint the year the tradition of selecting 200 "elite male passengers," including priests, to ride the pagoda of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia or Ina, the Catholic’s patroness of Bicol, whose devotees continue to spread around the world.

But with the installation of the new archbishop of the Archdiocese of Caceres in 2012, the tradition of selecting "elite passengers" to ride the pagoda of Ina has been ended to allow ordinary folk to experience what it is like to be among the limited few given the privilege to be with Ina during the fluvial procession.

Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, installed in 2012 to lead the 1.18 million baptized Catholics in Camarines Sur, said dispensing with the "elite passengers" to accompany the images of Ina and Divino Rostro on Saturday is a way of making the Church more inclusive to ordinary folk.

Tirona said that in line with the principle of inclusiveness, they had opted to invite ordinary folk to ride in Ina’s pagoda during the colorful fluvial procession here via the Naga River on the culmination of the nine-day feast of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

This year, he said, farmers and fisher folk have been selected from the seven dioceses in Bicol and from the 35 parishes of the Archdiocese of Caceres to compose the passengers of Ina, a privilege once allotted to politicians, businessmen, technocrats, celebrities and civic leaders.

In 2010, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. made quite a stir riding the pagoda of Ina, waving to the crowd of devotees watching along the banks of the Naga River as fluvial procession winded down the three-kilometer stretch from the danlugan (wharf) at the western side of Naga City to the eastern-side wharf fronting the permanent home, the Basilica Minore.

Seen as affront to the celebration of the feast of Ina, local tradition dictates that only Ina must be the center of attention during the fluvial procession, with no one stealing the limelight from her.

Also a folk belief points out that the selection of only male devotees riding the pagoda, without female riders, ensures that Ina is the only female among the passengers to avoid competition in attention.

Tirona said he actually started last year selecting representatives from ordinary folk to ride in Ina’s pagoda, which was based on the feedbacks from the priests.

“It’s coming from feedbacks that I’ve been hearing a lot like 'sila na naman', he said, alluding to the same elite personalities who had been riding the pagoda every year.

The issue of who will ride the pagoda always crops up every year since his assumption as the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Caceres, Tirona said.

“I came from a small diocese. I am new here. Let’s make a fresh start and let’s change things,” he said.

Citing Pope Francis, Tirona said the Catholic Church now is focused to be inclusive to the poor, the sick, the lowly and ordinary folk who are marginalized.

“Last year, the practice of selecting the same elite passengers to ride Ina’s pagoda was shelved. We asked social development, and volunteer workers to ride the pagoda because we have the theme social development,” he said.

Tirona said he informed all the dioceses and development organizations in Camarines Sur and five other provinces in Bicol about the change in the pagoda passengers and invited them to send their representatives.

“Of course there was a backlash. There were reactions like that 'it’s our panata (devotion), but let’s give others a chance to ride with Ina,” he said. “We’ll, if they have their panata, they can still participate in the fluvial procession by riding in different boats to accompany Ina,” he said.

Tirona said the priests decided in a meeting to highlight the farmers and fisher folk in the celebration of the Peñafrancia fiesta this year, in the spirit of inclusiveness.

Introduced in 1710 by Padre Miguel Robles de Covarrubias to the natives here that the Spaniards called cimarrones for their defiance against their rule, Ina was carved from a santol wood and was darkened with the blood of the dog.

According to a legend, the dog whose blood was painted on the image of Ina died, but the bitch resurrected when it was thrown into the Naga River -- which was the first miracle attributed to the patroness of the cimarrones.(PNA)

Bicol has 5th highest proportion of studying youth – study says
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA) – The Bicol Region, composed of six provinces, has the fifth highest proportion of studying youth at 39.4 percent of 19,178 interviewed respondents, according to the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) study conducted by Dr. Nimfa B. Ogena and Dr. Arnisson Andre Ortega.

The interviewed 19,178 young people represented all sectors -- including males and females, single and married, and the Muslim youth.

The findings showed that most of the youth have at least some high school education, 17 percent of them have no schooling or, at most, an elementary education while only 17 percent have college or higher education.

Twenty-three percent of the 19,178 youth respondents in the region work while 6.5 percent are unemployed and 4.7 percent are studying and working at the same time while 2.4 percent of young Bicolanos are idle -- the second lowest in the country.

The study also reveals that there are more youth who are in a live-in arrangement (13.6 percent) than in a formal union (6.9 percent) -- a pattern consistent with the national figure.

Region V youth are digitally wired -- that is, 72.5 percent own a cellular phone and 40.1 percent of them use the internet, 35.6 percent own an email account and 36.3 percent have a social networking account.

On health and lifestyle, the study shows that in the Bicol Region more than 2 in 5 (44.5 percent) youth exercise at least two to three times a week which is below the national level.

Young Bicolanos are consumers of unhealthy foods and drinks.

There were 33.5 percent of respondents who eat hamburger at least once a week, the lowest in the country, 40.9 percent eat fried chicken at least once a week; 43.9 percent consume fried street food at least once a week, 45.6 percent eat grilled street food at least once a week and 45.5 percent consume instant noodles at least once a week -- the lowest in the country. However, 47.1 percent drink carbonated drinks at least once a week, the lowest in the country; and 65.8 percent drink coffee/tea at least once a week.

It was noted that 47.1 percent of the respondents drink carbonated drinks at least once a week, the lowest in the country, and 65.8 percent drink coffee/tea at least once a week.

Non-sexual risk behavior, findings showed Bicol region has the fifth highest proportion of youth who are currently smoking (19.3 percent).

The percentage of youth who are currently drinking alcoholic beverages (33 percent) is below the national average, the study said.

Nearly 3 in 100 youth have used drugs, which exhibit a sharp decline compared to 2002 level and it is below the national average.

Between 2002 and 2013, the region’s proportion of youth who ever thought of committing suicide decreased following the national pattern.

Still, nearly eight in 100 youth in the region have ever contemplated suicide. However, the percentage who attempted suicide has risen from 2.3 percent in 2002 to 3.7 percent in 2013, contradicting the national trajectory. The study added that considerable proportions of Region V youth have experienced physical violence, both as aggressors (16.5 percent) and as victims (20 percent) and 5.6 percent of the region’s youth have experienced harassment using technology.

On sexual risk behavior of Bicolano youth, the study revealed that more than one in three youth have sexual experience, the third lowest in the Philippines. Bicolano youth engage in sex at young ages and the mean age at first sex is 17.5 years for males and 18.3 years for females.

About 1.9 percent of young males and 1.2 percent of young females had sex before age 15 and 21.1 percent of young males and 18.4 percent of young females had sex before age 18.

Salceda says quick response fund for 47,040 evacuees to last only for 4 days more

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda admitted Monday that the province will run out of provisions for its 47,040 evacuees after Thursday, or after four days from now.

"The scenario is, there is no viand; we have supply only until Thursday but we have enough rice to be given even as an incentive. In 30 days, we are safe in rice supply for evacuees because of the Php 39 million-worth of assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development regional office, including the rice supply," Salceda said.

He said he will discourage conversion of rice by selling it in exchange for money to buy for non-rice food.

One of the option, the governor said, will be to slaughter other livestock for the evacuees to have food to eat.

Based on the actual expenses, the local government of Tabaco City is spending at least Php 150,000 per day; Ligao City, Php 170,000 per day; Malilipot, Php 112,000 per day; Sto. Domingo, Php 80,000; Daraga, Php 600,000 per day; Camalig, Php 350,000 per day; Guinobatan, Php 350,000.

These amounts are only for the food needed by 10,601 families or 47,040 individuals evacuated.

Other municipalities have been preparing dried fish, corned beef and fried eggs for evacuees but some offered canned goods.

With these expenses, Office of Civil Defense Bicol Regional Director Bernardo Alejandro said the remaining Php 19-million quick response fund of the provincial government of Albay cannot sustain the primary requirements for evacuees.

"This fund is needed until the month of December in Albay. Imagine, we have different disasters being experienced so we cannot just spend it only for Mayon Volcano," Alejandro said.

As projected by the OCD, the provincial government would spend Php 311 million for evacuees if they would stay for at least three months in evacuation centers.

Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and OCD admiistrator, said they are not sure as to how much their office can give to the province, but he claimed that President Benigno Aquino had confirmed through text message that they are ready for any assistance needed by the evacuees.

"We are still yet to confirm how much we can give because it has to go through process but at least, at this early, we have identified the needs. I don't want to commit today, we will plan for it after we have seen the inputs," Pama explained.

Salceda said that after he declared Albay as an "open city" for faster entry of aids for residents affected by the restiveness of Mayon Volcano, he does not want any donor to look for him before giving the relief for evacuees.

"You bring what you want to bring and give it immediately to the beneficiaries. Don't look for me to take pictures because I don't want you to feel like I am dictating what you need to give," he explained.

Since Sept. 15, Salceda ordered forced evacuation of residents within the 6-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone and 6-8 kilometer extended danger zone after the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology raised Mayon Volcano to alert level 3. (PNA)

Legazpi health office launches massive campaign to thwart dengue resurgence
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA) – The prevailing wet season is moving health authorities in this Bicol’s prime tourism city into addressing dengue resurgence even before the mosquito-borne disease could do harm to the locality.

“We have been into preemptive measures promptly after typhoon 'Glenda' that hit the city with strong winds and heavy rains last July 15,” City Health Office (CHO) chief Dr. Fulbert Alec Gillego on Monday told the Philippine News Agency here.

Among these measures, Gillego said, is the clean-up activities that include to clearing of clogged canals, esteros and other places where water is stored and serve as breeding grounds for dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes.

This clean-up drive is being initiated by community volunteers in all the 70 barangays of the city and during weekends, by city hall employees who have organized themselves in to a clean-up brigade going around rural barangays, doing the cleaning themselves and advising communities to dispose their household waste properly to prevent drainage clogging, he said.

“We have also strengthened our information and education campaign on dengue, particularly on prevention in communities and schools with the help of barangay health workers (BHWs) who conduct house-to-house and classroom-to-classroom visitations,” Gillego said.

Mosquito source-reduction activities -- such as the application of larvicide in potential breeding sites and eradication of adult mosquitoes through contact spraying using Aqua resigen -- have also been set in place in barangays where dengue mosquitoes are detected through surveillance activities being initiated by CHO field personnel, he said.

Dengue infection is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which usually surface after rainfalls or practically during the wet season that offers breeding grounds out of stagnant water accumulated in clogged canals and other shallow waterways.

Thrown away containers such as coconut shells, empty bottles and tin cans as well flower vases and salvaged used tires are other dengue mosquito breeding places when left unattended, Gillego explained.

“The best options to prevent dengue are search-and-destroy operations against the mosquito breeding grounds and protection of family members, especially children, from mosquito bites,” he stressed.

Although the CHO chief admitted that there have been reported cases of suspected dengue in some barangays of the city that are yet to be confirmed through laboratory examinations of blood specimens at the Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the situation remains manageable against any outbreak.

Isolation of suspected cases through the use of mosquito nets; re-orientation of midwives and nurses on identification of cases; home care card for dengue and when to refer cases for hospital management have also been advised, according to Gillego.

Further, he said, early and accurate notification of dengue cases for prompt public health intervention; strengthened surveillance in the communities through the activation of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) for daily reporting of persons with fever; and equipping of barangay health stations with oral rehydration solution and paracetamol have also been set in place.

There are three types of dengue fever infection.

Known as “break bone” fever due to the severity of muscular pains, dengue infection begins with a sudden onset of fever and rashes, with those affected recovering within a few days.

Dengue hemorrhagic fever is more common in persons aged 15 years and older and is characterized by an acute onset of fever with more severe symptoms, such as bleeding under the skin, abdominal pain, body weakness and red spots on the face, extremities and trunk which needs to be treated in hospital, Gillego said.

“There is no vaccine yet for dengue, thus, the best way to fight it is to prevent mosquito-bites and keep mosquitoes from breeding, he added.

City Mayor Noel Rosal lauded the CHO for its preemptive action, saying that efforts to thwart any possible outbreak of disease in the locality is “a must” under the “very determined” public health campaign of the local government not only to maintain livable communities and healthy population but also to keep tourists safe from contacting any contagious disease during their stay.

“We will lose all those that have been gained over years by our tourism industry once we leave public health unattended,” Rosal stressed.

The city government, after surpassing the half-million mark in the number of tourist arrivals last year for a whopping 32.27 percent growth rate over the previous year, is expecting a total of around 700,000 arrivals this year. (PNA)

With Mayon’s lull, the threat of a big eruption is still there -- Phivolcs
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA) -- Even though the numbers of earthquakes and rockfall events are decreasing, it does not mean that the Mayon Volcano would not erupt anymore, Ed Laguerta, resident volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said on Monday.

“There is still the threat of a big eruption,” Laguerta clarified.

In fact, he said, it could just be that its crater is clogged with the lava dome that is constinuosly increasing.

The Phivolcs seismic instrument registered two volcanic earthquakes and 14 rockfall events that is related to the magma rising toward the crater.

Laguerta reiterated the strict order of Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda on the implementation of a “no man's land” policy within the 6-km-radius permanent danger zone and 7 to 8-kilometer-radius extended danger zone at the southeast portion of the volcano.

He said the first team of geodetic engineers from the Phivolcs head office has already arrived in Albay to study the recent changes in the behavior of Mayon.

A second team will arrive today to augment the personnel of the Phivolcs-Legazpi.(PNA)

Crippled at 4, 10-year-old lass strives to be a teacher

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22 (PNA) -- Born a normal and healthy baby, 10-year-old Anna Mae Laguerta used to be a very jolly and active child until high fever hit her when she was four years old.

She stayed at the hospital for two weeks until the doctor diagnosed her as afflicted with anterior horn disorder or the weakness of either upper or lower motor neuron.

Her lower motor was affected, which caused her to be crippled.

Like any other countryside lasses who look up to their teachers as role models, Anna Mae wants also to be a molder of the next generation.

“I want to be a teacher when I grow up. But how can I? I am crippled,” Anna Mae blurted out with sadness in the local dialect.

She is the second child among the three children of Arlene, a housekeeper, and Dionisio, a driver.

The Laguertas live in Barangay Masinas, Sorsogon City.

With a sole bread earner in the family, life was tough that providing the needs of the family was not easy.

With her condition, Ana Mae became a loner and did not even want to go out and play with her peers.

Her parents and grandmother, however, have not stopped encouraging her to go out.

The Laguerta couple has not lost hope that their daughter will be able to recover from her sickness…that she will be able to walk.

Despite the family’s financial difficulty, Anna Mae’s parents submitted her for physical therapy, which lasted for a year -- but to no avail.

At the age of six, Anna Mae started to go to school.

The changes in the new environment needed a big adjustment on the child.

The family was able to provide her with a wheelchair which had made the family find ease in the child’s mobility.

“Just for Anna to be in school, we had to carry her,” recalled Dionisia.

With her wheelchair, the family members had to take turn in assisting the child in going to school.

In 2013, the Columbian Government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development Protective Services Bureau, donated a Personal Energy Transport (PET), an assistive device which has provided Anna Mae mobility.

Now in Grade II, she can go to school alone using her bare hands as if she is riding on her own bicycle with her PET.

Anna Mae has suddenly changed her mood as she is now active and with happy disposition.

Her classmates also share Anna Mae’s happiness.

She now regularly goes to school driving her PET device from her residence to the Abuyog Elementary School, which is 200 meters away from their home.

According to her teachers, Anna Mae has a good scholastic record and is always on top of her class.

“I will do good in my studies so that I will be able to reach my dream… to be a teacher,” the determined young girl said with a smile. (PNA)