Monday, October 27, 2014

Mayon behavior very tricky -- lady volcanologist

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The current restiveness of Mount Mayon is considered by a lady scientist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) as the trickiest within a period of 50 years.

“It’s very tricky for us and anytime soon, the Mayon volcano could change because magma is there and pre-positioned already,” Ma. Antonia V. Bornas, chief of volcano monitoring and eruption prediction division, said on Sunday.

Bornas said their study showed that the magma beneath the volcano is not only ascending towards the conduit but also expanding in the volcano’s base called magma dike, causing the surface inflation to accommodate bigger volume of magma buildup.

So, the volcanologist said, they cannot bring down the alert level status of Mayon from level 3 to level 2 because the magma is there already and anytime soon, it will explode.

“So we need to make our best judgment as scientists just like what sir Ed Laguerta said,” Bornas explained.

In 2001, the lava dome showed up for five months before an explosion took place. But before the explosion took place, Bornas said, an oozing lava trickled down the slopes of the volcano; subsequently a big bang followed where a deadly pyroclastic flow as hot as 1,200 degrees Celsius rolled down.

“While in the sky, a 10 to 12-kilometer high cauliflower-type ash clouds rocketed and blanketed the province in broad daylight, causing apprehension among the residents living near the foot of Mayon,” she added.

Laguerta, Phivolcs senior resident volcanologist in Bicol, earlier on Saturday said it was very dangerous to interpret on a day-to-day basis the behavior of Mayon as the pressure within the volcano may go sky-high, with the magma being on the verge of the crater rim.

“Once the magma’s static pressure becomes stronger than the tihostastic pressure—meaning, magmatic pressure should overcome the lithostatic pressure or the confining pressure -- this will lead to explosion,” Laguerta said.

Unlike the typhoon or pregnant woman whose due date or landfall is easily predicted, the volcano eruption is like an earthquake that could not be determined as it may happen even without precursor, claimed the veteran volcanologist who has spent most of his time and career monitoring Mayon’s daily activities.

With this, Laguerta reiterated to the public to stay away from the six to 8-km extended danger zone to prevent untoward incident should Mayon explode.

He also asked the public to listen only to the authorities as to the advisory regarding the restive situation of Mayon as even without alert level the volcano could erupt without warning.

Laguerta’s timely warnings on the activities of Mayon have saved the lives of thousands of Albayanos in the past eruptions of Mayon.

A few impatient individuals, however, have questioned the scientifically-based warnings of the Phivolcs official who has explained that whatever bulletin comes out daily from the agency its the cumulative report of the heads and representatives of the various departments and units composed of experienced and expert scientists.(PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/PJN

DOLE gives out Php 9.3-M livelihood assistance to poor beneficiaries in Catanduanes towns

LEGAZPI CITYY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has granted funds worth Php 9.3 million in livelihood project assistance to poor beneficiaries in seven municipalities of the island-province of Catanduanes.

DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra on Saturday said the grants were turned over to the municipal governments of Virac, the provincial capital, which received a total of Php 3.6 million; San Andres, Php 1.5 million; Viga, Php 1.48 million; Bato, Php 1.43 million; Panganiban, Php 653,491; Gigmoto, Php 480,000; and Pandan, Php 166,250.

The Virac local government unit (LGU) will use the amount to finance fishermen’s fish cage projects as well as in peanut production and processing projects by farmers.

Both projects will benefit a total of 545 poor families, according to Lacambra.

The San Andres LGU, on the other hand, is using the grant to fund its Integrated Project for People Empowerment through Enriched Resources (IPPETER) involving 250 beneficiaries while Viga will acquire 80 units of pedicab to be distributed to an equal number of pre-identified recipients under its Padyak Pangkabuhayan project.

The Bato LGU has allotted the fund to the provision of farm inputs to be distributed to 160 farmers in support of their farm productivity projects; Panganiban LGU for its crab modular cage production involving 108 beneficiaries; Gigmoto, for the acquisition of 20 brand-new diesel-fed fishing boat engines for 80 fishermen; and Pandan, for a fish processing and recyclable scrap materials trading involving 40 beneficiaries.

Lacambara said the total amount of Php 9.324 million granted to Catanduanes LGUs came from DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (DILEEP) and Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP).

The DILEEP is the DOLE's contribution to the governments' agenda of inclusive growth through massive job generation and substantial poverty reduction and reduce the vulnerability to risks of the poor, vulnerable and marginalized workers.

It particularly seeks to contribute to the Aquino administration’s intention of reducing poverty among the vulnerable and marginalized workers through transitional emergency employment and promotion of entrepreneurship and community enterprises.

Formerly known as the Bottom Up Budgeting (BuB), GPBP being applied by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is a somewhat modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

It seeks to make the national budget more responsive to local needs, provide incentives for local good governance, strengthen the devolution of basic services delivery, create a conducive environment for people’s participation and generate demand for good governance at the local level.

This scheme also provides the opportunity for grantees to be involved in setting their own goals and expectations for a given financial period and gives them ownership of the decisions, motivating them to meet budgetary constraints that otherwise might seem unattainable or unrealistic if they were delivered by someone without as much understanding of their day-to-day operations.

All the 11 municipalities of Catanduanes are qualified to received such grant. However, Lacambra said the three other towns -- Bagamanoc, Baras and Caramoran -- were unable to submit their project proposals and other requirements on time, thus, their delayed inclusion in the fund releases.

The DOLE regional chief though has assured that these remaining three LGUs will get their shares once the requirements are satisfied.

He said the distribution of the checks representing the grants was done in time with the jobs fair organized by the DOLE Catanduanes field office in collaboration with the provincial government as part of the events during the province’s holding of Catandungan Festival last week.

The jobs fair was participated in by 15 big private firms which offered more than 2,000 vacancies, where 245 of the 512 local applicants were qualified for hiring with 44 hired on the spot, Lacambra said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of Catanduanes’ lone congressional district disclosed that the national government’s 2015 Php 2.606-trillion budget includes huge allocation for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that would provide job opportunities for Catandunganons and enhance the local economy.

Among these projects, he said in a statement reaching here Saturday, are the Php 170-million improvement of the Virac airport -- consisting of the Php 130-million asphalt overlay project for the runway and Php 40 million for the refurbishing of the airport terminal.

These projects, according to Sarmiento, are in line with the government’s initiatives for inclusive growth through the promotion of the tourism industry of the province that is confronted by four key issues -- power reliability, health services, education and employment -- insofar as its economic development is concerned.

Viable solutions are now being explored to address these issues, anyway, he added, citing that on the supply of electricity, the National Power Corp. (NPC) has already sent in to the province three generator sets each with a capacity of 1,000 kilowatts.

These new generator units, Sarmiento said, are part of NPC’s efforts to improve its Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) program that provides electricity to island-communities that are isolated from the country’s main power grids.

It is part of the agency’s mission to not only energize the remotest islands in the country but also to improve its facilities to better serve the customers by way of minimizing power outages in off-grid areas, he added.(PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DSWD says Bicol has Php 4.5-B anti-poverty fund until 2018 from Aquino administration
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- Bicol, one of the country’s poorest regions, has been allotted by the national government fresh funds amounting to Php 4.5 billion to finance a poverty-alleviation program that will run even beyond the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

This fund allocation is in continuation of efforts being exerted by the Aquino administration to free the region from the bondage of extreme poverty, Arnel Garcia, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional director here, said on Saturday.

These efforts, he said, have been proving effective as from 36.5 percent in 2009, the region was able to trim down its rate of poverty incidence among families to 34.1 percent in 2012 and climbed to the seventh from fourth poorest among the country’s 17 regions as recently reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

The region was ranked fourth poorest in the first semesters of 2006 and 2009. In 2012, it has overtaken, in terms of ranking the Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Central Mindanao and Caraga regions.

This Bicol gain in poverty alleviation was distributed among four of the region’s six provinces, with Camarines Norte registering the highest reduction in poverty incidence among families from 32.4 percent in 2009 to 24.7 percent in 2012; followed by the island-province of Masbate, 49.8 to 44.2 percent; Camarines Sur, 37.2 to 33.5 percent; and Sorsogon, 34.3 to 32.1 percent.

Albay and Catanduanes, on the other hand, posted increases at 36.1 percent in 2012 from 33.9 percent in 2009 and 27.1 percent from 20.3 percent during the same period respectively, NSCB records show.

Each of Bicol’s provinces is given equitable shares in this new fund allotment for anti-poverty projects this year up to 2018 under the National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP) being implemented by his office through the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive-Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI CIDSS), Garcia said.

Camarines Sur, according to him, gets the biggest share in the amount of Php 1.888 billion, followed by Masbate, Php 941.078 million; Sorsogon, Php 657.173 million; Camarines Norte, Php 459.157 million; Albay, Php 304.884 million; and Catanduanes, Php 247.146 million -- for a total of around Php 4.5 billion.

The amount that Albay is getting, he said, is over and above the Php 211 million received by the provincial government early this year for its being chosen as one of the three pilot provinces nationwide in the provincial local government unit (PLGU)-led implementation of the KALAHI-CIDSS, which is a scaled-up mode from its municipality-based approach.

Albay was chosen as pilot province in the KALAHI-CIDSS-PLGU Engagement program, along with Leyte and Compostela Valley, for its being consistent with its support to the CIDDS implementation.

This support, Garcia said, was by way of providing Php 36.1-million in local equity to the Php 191.6-million investment provided to it by the national government from the very start of the program way back in 2003, Garcia said.

For the KALAHI-CIDSS-PLGU Engagement program, the province provided an amount of Php 75 million in counterpart to add up to the Php 100 million funding granted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through the DSWD.

An additional amount of Php 36 million was also provided as counterpart of the six municipalities — Oas, Polangui, Guinobatan, Jovellar, Tiwi and Manito -- with each providing Php 6 million, being recipients of the projects funded by the program.

These municipalities were chosen into the program based on their location, poverty incidence, good housekeeping, active linkages and logistical readiness, Garcia explained.

The NCDDP, he said, scales up the community-driven development (CDD) strategy, which was proven effective in the past 11 years of KALAHI-CIDSS implementation in the Philippines.

CDD is a strategy that puts the power back in the hands of the people by giving them the opportunity to make informed decisions on locally identified options for development and manage resources to implement sub-projects that address needs identified by communities themselves.

Under this approach, community members consensually decide on what type of poverty-reduction projects they need for funding.

Under the supervision of the DSWD, KALAHI-CIDSS has been implemented in all six provinces of the Bicol Region since 2003, addressing the most pressing need of a village with the collaborative efforts of local residents and their local government units (LGUs).

Common projects include: public goods or access projects such as pathways, farm-to-market roads, health centers, water systems, day care centers and school buildings; community enterprise projects such as solar dryers, fishery, rice mills and community markets.

From 48 municipalities, NCDDP is expanding the program coverage in Bicol to 101 out of the total of 107 municipalities in the region from 2014 to 2018.

This year, 92 municipalities are implementing projects under it and the remaining nine towns will do the same in the succeeding years, Garcia said.

Start of the implementation of the program was formalized during its recent launch here highlighted by the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the DSWD and mayors of the 101 municipalities.

After the signing ceremonies, they released balloons as a symbol of rise from poverty and stamped their hand prints on the commitment board with the project’s tagline, “Kaya natin ang pagbabago kapag magkakapit-bisig tayo (We can achieve reforms if we have our arms linked)!” (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

PCA validates Sorsogon nursery as source of seedlings for export quality cacao beans
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has validated the huge cacao nursery established by the COOP NATCCO Partylist here as source of quality seedlings that could produce superior cacao beans for export.

The validation is required by international buyers, Vladimir Frivaldo, the project coordinator, told the Philippine News Agency on Saturday.

The validation team, headed by PCA’s Belen Ruiz and accompanied by Kennemer Foods International (KFI) representative Mervin Estolinio, inspected over the weekend the nursery located in a two-hectare lot at Barangay Macabog that is now in the process of producing over one million high-quality cacao seedlings, Frivaldo said.

These seedlings will be distributed to farmers to jump-start the massive production of the high-value crop in the province under the contract-growing program introduced by Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo in partnership with KFI, a foreign-invested agri-business operating in the Philippines whose specialization is the trade and export of cocoa.

“We are using in our propagation root stock and graft scions supplied by KFI under a partnership deal with the COOP NATCCO Partylist and the South Luzon Federation of Cooperatives (SLFC),” Frivaldo said.

In the contract-growing operation, participating farmers and cooperatives will be provided with planting materials, technology, training and a guaranteed buy-back of harvest linked to world prices.

The program is also being implemented in partnership with the regional offices for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and PCA which will provide technologies in cacao intercropping with coconut and pili.

The DA’s Regional Integrated Agricultural Research System Training Center (RIARTC), on the other hand, will equip farmer-cooperators with new technologies on cacao growing and processing through training.

Such training falls under DA’s application of Republic Act No. 7900 or the High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995 that allots funds for providing assistance for production, marketing, and processing of cacao and other high-value crops to steer farmers towards generating more income.

In DA's High-Value Commercial Crops Program (HVCDP) formulated and now ongoing implementation in line with this Act, various forms of assistance to producers concerning crop insurance, credit, postharvest facilities, good seeds and planting materials and fiscal incentives are also provided.

Under the contract-growing scheme, farmers are guaranteed additional income estimated at Php 60,000 per hectare by producing quality-grade fermented dry cacao beans from about 500 trees per hectare.

Frivaldo said the program is seen to revitalize the cacao industry of the country with Sorsogon and Bicol region playing a vital role, given the region’s climatic appropriateness for the same crop.

The DA said Bicol’s climatic conditions and soil characteristics support cocoa growing and the agency is taking advantage of these in increasing interest in production among local farmers by way of training them on latest technology and informing them on the local and international demand for cocoa products, whose world prices have been constantly favorable.

The tropical weather and volcanic soil in the region is suitable for cacao farming but, unfortunately, this important high-value commercial crop has not been given due importance by Bicolano farmers in the past, thus, the COOP NATCCO initiative, Frivaldo said.

Through this initiative, he said, cacao would come as another sunshine industry of the region -- next to abaca, coconut and pili.

The promise of good income from this crop now occupies the interest of Bicolano farmers and farm owners owing to an intensive campaign of COOP NATCCO and DA to promote its benefits both in terms of economic and health gains.

So far, he said, agencies involved in this undertaking have already been able to develop warm acceptance of the smallholder cacao production approach among farmers who have renewed their interest and willingness to collaborate for the promotion of sustainable cacao production.

Apart from these, he said, the DA is identifying more suitable areas in Bicol for cacao production, and maximizing the presence of markets that could be organized into workable production-market system.

Bicol is highly suitable for growing and producing quality cacao beans which is seen to be a lucrative agri-business enterprise, considering the strong domestic market and established access to export markets, according to Frivaldo.

Widely called as the “foods for the gods,” cacao bean is a major agricultural commodity traded worldwide with the reported health benefits of dark chocolate as the main driver in current market growth.

Studies say chocolate and cocoa derive their health benefits from flavonoids, which are plant pigments capable of acting as antioxidants to counteract some of the cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow in humans.

In a national scene, Frivaldo said, cacao production in the Philippines yielded an estimated 5,000 metric tons (MT) of beans in 2007 and could possibly reach 100,000 MT in 2020, provided that good and quality beans are produced. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Legazpi works for more after series of national recognitions for excellence (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

EGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -– On the surface, this city’s familiar landscape shadowed by the beautiful looks of Mt. Mayon does not make it a distinct Philippine metropolis.

Two other Albay cities—Ligao and Tabaco -- share the same profile blended with imposing new and old-fashioned buildings that rise against a scenery of stunning agricultural and forested fields.

Judging from these looks, however, could be deceiving as the extraordinary trademark of governance distinguishes this city from its typical counterparts.

The city is one of the few places in the country where its mayor, without bodyguards in tow, moves around to attend to the needs of his constituents even in the wee hours of the night when his chief of police is already in deep slumber.

It is one of the few local government units (LGUs) run by a mayor who personally supervises public works, directs traffic, helps in clean-up drives, run for physical fitness with people from all walks of life and visits barangays to consult with villagers and community leaders on their pressing needs.

This is also home of a sweeping law that forbids tobacco use in places other than private abodes; an ordinance that religiously enforces solid waste management; guaranteed clean air quality; sea waters classified as among the cleanest in the country; and best-maintained tourism attractions, making it known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure.”

The city sits at northeastern tip of the Bicol, a region at the southern end of Luzon whose precious geothermal resources, fertile soils, abundant minerals and huge fishing grounds have been failing to supplement majority of its people towards a living above the poverty line.

Plagued by a high unemployment rate placed by statistics authorities at 7.5 percent, based on latest surveys and a 34.1-percent poverty incidence among families, Bicol is seventh in the ranking of most impoverished among the country’s 17 regions.

Legazpi, is a second class city based on the 2008 income classification of the Department of Finance (DOF). With a population of 182,201 as per survey conducted in 2010, it is Bicol’s largest and most populous urban locality.

Serving as the regional administrative center, the city is also considered as Bicol’s center of tourism, education, health services, commerce and transportation.

According to the DOF rating, the city’s leap from being a third-class to second-class status in terms of income and services was engineered by Mayor Noel Rosal, who has institutionalized public accountability, transparency, service and sound fiscal management in his governance.

He also worked on massive urban development, vigorous tourism promotion, hands-on peace and public safety measures and community resilience against disasters through effective risk reduction management.

This management style that realized incomparable impacts in favor of the local economy described by the influx of investments, tourist arrivals, infrastructure developments and agricultural productivity, among others, did not only make the city one of the most livable in the country today but also among the most awarded for its excellence in local governance.

Those gains have transformed the place from just a sleepy fishing settlement originally called Sawangan that occupied what is now the Legazpi Port District, whose inhabitants were mostly fishermen and farmers, to a sparkling metropolis which now occupies a very prominent place in the tourism world.

And since the tourism growth the city has achieved over several years of back-breaking works enlivens trade and commerce, the local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities have gone broader and more fortified.

In 2006, Legazpi City was recognized as one of the “most competitive cities in the Philippines” by the Asian Institute of Management and cited in 2011 as the “most business-friendly city” for South Luzon by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In the same year, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), then under the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, also named the city as Bicol’s “most business-friendly local government unit,” citing its effectiveness and efficiency in paving the way for the place to become haven of investments.

Early this year, the city government won another Seal of Good Housekeeping—the second awarded by the DILG since this kind of recognition for excellence in the field of good governance measured by administrative, social, economic, environmental and other forms achievements that benefited both the community and its constituents -- was introduced in 2011.

It was followed by an award given by the National Disaster risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC) and the Department of National Defense (DND) last March, which honored the city government as last year’s national champion in the Gawad Kalasag Awards.

Just this month, the city government was awarded three more national championship accolades that came in a row within a week's time—the Most Livable City Award, Galing Pook Award and Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) Award for excellence in the implementation of Public Governance System (PGS).

The Livable City Award was the result of this year’s Livable Cities Design Challenge organized by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 National Organizing Council NOC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction (ASSURE) and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The Galing Pook Award was given by the Galing Pook Foundation in recognition of the city government’s excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The SGT Awards was from the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA), a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform their policymaking process and bureaucratic structure.

“While we take pride in winning all these awards, citations and recognitions, we always maintain humility and prudence in carrying out the daily operations of the city government. We use these accolades as our inspiration to work more and achieve more for a more vibrant city,” Rosal told the Philippine News Agency on Sunday.

Asked if he is already contented with what his administration has achieved, the city mayor said: “We have not even reached the halfway of our journey. We want to win top spots in the country’s tourist destinations and convention capitals rankings and pursue more developments to further make the city the best in this part of the world.”

Nonetheless, he added, the city is booming with all the big investments, tourism growth, urban development, disaster risk reduction efforts, peace and security guarantee, impressive delivery of local government services and sound environmental management, among others, that are summed up as a reward that Legazpeños deserve for being a people of distinction. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC

A debate is on: Cagsawa buried under lava or abandoned for ruin (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, Oct. 26 (PNA) –- Vintage photographs that tend to disprove teachings about Cagsawa Ruins have surfaced, stirring a debate whether Cagsawa Church was indeed buried under lava or abandoned for ruin.

History books have taught many Filipinos that the church built after 1724 by Franciscan friars in the former small town of Cagsawa was engulfed by volcanic debris spewed by Mayon Volcano when it recorded it strongest eruption on Feb. 1, 1814, killing around 1,200 people who sought refuge in it.

The same historical accounts say that only the bell tower of the church was left standing on the surface protruding from the ground following that massive eruption described by volcanologists as of Plenian type characterized as ejection of massive amount of pumice and extremely powerful gas blast eruptions.

Until today the belfry stands to become the most photographed tourist attraction in Albay with the imposing perfect cone shape of Mayon’s edifice at the backdrop, owing to its harrowing history as described by old teachings.

Old photographs of Cagsawa church recently made public over the social media by multi-awarded Filipino novelist, historian and poet laureate Abdon Balde Jr., however. stirred a hornet’s nest into sparking an emotional debate.

Balde is currently a member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and director of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (Writers' Union of the Philippines).

In his Facebook posts, Balde, 68, who presently works as consultant to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, said that “as seen from the 30s, this was what was left after the 1814 Mayon eruption that devastated the town of Cagsawa,” referring to one of the photographs.

“As existing photographs would put it, the already unstable facade of the structure probably collapsed in the 1950s, leaving the bell tower as the most prominent structure in the complex ruins. The remnants of the toppled facade may still be found scattered in the area,” he said.

Contrary to claims implanted on many people’s belief by historical write-ups citing Cagsawa church was buried under volcanic debris during the 1814 eruptions, Balde said there was no significant flow of lava or lahar.

“The church’s combustible materials were burned. The bell tower stood because it has a massive base and no combustible material. The rubble of the fallen façade are right there beside the bell tower. Nothing to excavate but the church floor,” he said.

Balde explained that the façade and portions of the walls of the church fell on the ground over time because the complex where it stands was abandoned for over 120 years.

“Today, the remaining walls continue to crumble gradually because of inaction,” he added.

In an article dated Oct. 13, 2014 and published in the online news of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), its author Raymond A. Sebastián, said “most Filipinos had been taught it was buried in lahar following Mayon’s 1814 eruption, leaving only the belfry, but a few vintage photographs of the Cagsawa Church give clues that may prove otherwise.”

While the building is obviously in ruins now, Sebastian wrote that a concerned Bicolano (referring to Balde) is bent on setting historical records straight, pointing out that its destruction was gradual, and not so much as caused by the volcano itself as by the people’s reluctance to save it.

Despite strong documentary evidence, he said in the write-up, not everyone was convinced.

Sebastian quoted Jose Briones as commenting, “As a tourism officer and now retired, I never disputed this historical fact as it was written—that it was buried in 1814. Who is more correct, the historians of today or the historians of yesteryears? How can this historical ‘fact’ be disproven?”.

“This to me is what happened: that Cagsawa was buried in 1814. And no one can change this, not by anyone who wants to disclaim and push a controversy around it,” Briones, who once worked with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and later as Albay’s provincial tourism officer, said as quoted by Sebastian.

Balde, according to the CBCP writer, answered: “The first workable camera was invented in 1816. The first patented camera was by Wolcott in 1840. Eastman patented his camera in 1879—which means these photographs of the ruins were all taken after the 1814 destruction of Cagsawa.”

“This is a picture of the church in 1928 before it was cleaned in 1936. The church was still standing. The caption says the church was buried, but the picture shows the façade still standing beside the bell tower. Also seen on the left are the façades of the Casa Real,” Balde stressed in the article, adding that the pictures will not tell lies.

The same story saying that “contrary to what we learned as school kids, Albay's famous Cagsawa Church wasn't buried when Mayon Volcano erupted in 1814” as Balde asserts with photographs to prove it” was run on television by GMA news last Oct. 15, drawing more people into the debate.

“It is lamentable that these information are coming out these days because it appears that our tour guides have been taught to tell lies; our school kids learned the wrong history; as well as the historical marker that the government displays at the Cagsawa Ruins Park heralding the false claim,” according to Rosalina Ortiz, a 90-year-old retired public school teacher from Daraga, Albay.

Looking closely at Balde’s old photographs, Ortiz said, she is familiar with the image because she remembered seeing the actual structure during her childhood days.

“I grew up in Barangay Culiat which is just about a kilometer from the old Cagsawa Church complex and I know the photographs are authentic. We use to go there to gather wild vegetables like gabi (tarot) and pako (fiddlehead ferns),” she recalled.

Anyway, Ortiz said, history is history and most of those accounts that have been written about it carry lies, inconsistencies, flaws and some sort of fabrications, depending on who or whose party would benefit from it.

Arguing on history is senseless like what different religious groups are doing in endlessly debating on those written in the Holy Bible, with each insisting on its own interpretations, she said.

“Concerning Cagsawa Ruins, let us just leave it the way it is now—a marvelous landmark that tourists love to visit for its impressing landscape, shadowed by the beautiful Mayon Volcano.

Measuring its contribution to history to disprove its teachings might compromise Albay’s tourism industry,” Ortiz added. (PNA)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Official clarifies that Mayon daily bulletin is combined report of expert scientists
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 23 (PNA) -- The daily bulletin being issued by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on the condition of the Mayon Volcano or any volcano in the country is the result of a thorough study and findings of all the divisions and departments under the agency which are manned by experts in their own fields, Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta stressed in an interview Thursday.

Laguerta, who has spent most of his time and career watching Mayon's activities for the safety of the Bicolanos, is apparently reacting to critics who have broached the idea of having a second opinion from private experts on the condition of the volcano.

The veteran volcanologist once abandoned a study grant in the United States, although he had just started, to immediately return to the Philippines because Mayon was erupting.

He clarified that the results announced in the bulletin are a product of a long process and careful deliberations of the expert representatives from all concerned departments of the Phivolcs like those of Volcanology, Seismology, Geology, Volcano Monitoring and the Office of the Director.

The process being done by these experts, he said, involves long and deep discussions and each department representative is asked to defend their unit's findings and studies.

"During the discussions, there are debates among the experts before the body can make a comprehensive result or decision for the sake of the public, especially towards the zero-casualty goal of the province of Albay," Laguerta added.

He gave as an example the present condition of Mayon that before they raised the alert level to 2 and 3, the whole Phivolcs council members are being called, wherein the entire body deliberates before raising the alarm on the volcano.

He stressed that each decision and move of the Phivolcs that is reflected at the bulletin is very vital as it has significant implication on the local government unit concerned like the province of Albay, including its towns and cities around Mayon.

"We deliberate much on the effect on the public, especially on human lives," Laguerta stressed.

He added that calling for a council meeting on the raising of the alarm status on a volcano is a difficult move on their part.

"All revolves around the science of the Mayon Volcano," the veteran volcanologist said.

In this connection, APSEMO chief Cedric Daep said their decisions are science based and that they depend on the expertise of Phivolcs scientists.

Daep said public safety is their primary concern. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Climate walkers arrive in Albay after four-week foot travel
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -- After enduring for four weeks the 500-kilometer journey on foot from Manila to Bicol via the Maharlika Highway where buses and truckers reign supreme, climate advocates set foot in Albay on Tuesday afternoon.

The climate activists, led by Climate Change Commissioner Yed Saño, were warmly welcomed in Polangui town by municipal and provincial officials of Albay led by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, military and police officials and personnel and climate advocates.

Saño has been pushing for great reduction in carbon emission as well as allocation of funds for countries vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change.

His group had just come from Naga City, where some 1,000 people from all walks of life joined the climate walk before gathering at the Jesse Robredo M. Robredo Coliseum then proceeding to Albay, passing by Baao town in Camarines Sur.

Like the number of Christ’s apostles, there are no less than 12 walkers comprising the core group that started in Manila to complete the advocacy journey to Tacloban City.

Salceda had earlier ordered government employees and municipal officials to join hands with the climate walkers.

The Climate Walk started at “Kilometer Zero” in Rizal Park, Manila, from where Saño’s group would walk 1,000 kilometers for 40 days up to Tacloban City, an area transformed into ground zero by super typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) on Nov. 8 last year.

The group is timing their arrival on that same date, exactly a year since the super typhoon first made a landfall.

The Climate Walk, dubbed as “A People’s Walk for Climate Justice,” has urged world leaders to “walk their climate talk.”

The climate advocates or warriors are asking government officials to do their fair share in keeping global warming below the tipping point to save the Filipino people from the worst impacts of climate change.

The walk was launched a week after two landmark events in New York: The People’s Climate March wherein 400,000 people marched to call for an urgent climate action, and the United Nations Climate Summit, wherein over 160 world leaders announced their commitment to solve the climate crisis.

“If world leaders do not respond, the people will take action. That is where we put our trust in our advocacy. I have no illusion that world leaders will change their minds but if the people express and strengthen their voices, I think we have a fighting chance," Saño said in his social networking account.

Based on the 2013 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, the Philippines is ranked 9th in the most vulnerable or at risk country in the world against the adverse impact of climate change due to global warming or increasing temperature; while the country’s capital, Manila, is regarded as the third most “extreme risk” city in the world from the impacts of climate change within the next 12 years.

The Climate Walk: A People’s Walk for Climate Justice is part of the global mobilization being done to raise awareness on climate change, mobilize people in demanding world leaders to take climate action and hold those responsible-- big industry polluters to be accountable.

It seeks to highlight the people who are behind the growing movement for climate justice.

The walk is all about how leaders – locally and internationally –should take urgent action to avert the climate crisis.

As stated in its official website, one of Climate Walk’s aims is to encourage world leaders to take action to deal with the issue of change by highlighting how vulnerable countries are affected by it.

It is dedicated to all people in the Philippines and around the world who confront the reality of climate change.

It further aims to empower communities and help them become resilient to the impacts of disasters and climate change, Saño said.

He also asked President Benigno S. Aquino III to ban coal projects in the country as it is affecting the communities.

Environmentalists also demand the Aquino administration to ban new coal projects and phase out the old ones, and abandon emergency powers as it will help the sprouting of more coal projects in the country, resulting in higher electricity rates. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Legazpi wins 2 national championship awards for good governance
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -– Its exceptional performances in local governance once again put the city government here in the limelight for winning two national championship awards in a row this week.

In early afternoon last Tuesday, City Mayor Noel Rosal, along with Vice Mayor, Vitorrio Roces and all members of the city legislative council, received the Galing Pook national championship award for this year given by the Galing Pook Foundation.

The awarding ceremony, graced by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa -- representing President Benigno Aquino III -- was held at the Edsa Shangrila Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

This Awards Program is a joint initiative of the Local Government Academy–DILG, the Ford Foundation and other individual advocates of good governance from the academe, civil society and the government.

In late afternoon of the same day, the group was at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City for the selection of winners in this year’s Public Governance System (PGS) awards of the Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA) where this city won the most-coveted Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) award for excellence in local governance.

The city government garnered a score higher than 8.5 in the public revalida or performance report in accomplishing the Compliance Stage in ISA’s program for institutionalizing its PGS-- thus, the SGT award that made it the only winner among the country’s local government units (LGUs) this year.

Such accomplishments, which over years generally lifted up the city’s inclusive growth and development through effective local governance, overwhelmed the ISA panel during its presentation made by Rosal in the revalida.

His presentation was focused on the city’s achievements in local tourism developments that last year gained a 32.6-percent growth in tourist arrivals compared to the previous year as well as on its campaign to capture a slot in the country’s five top convention centers.

Other winners out of the 10 agencies and LGUs which pre-qualified to the awards were the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

ISA is a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs and national agencies, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform its policy-making process and bureaucratic structure.

“When we introduced the system in the city government under the principle that good governance is a shared responsibility, we worked with a broad-based community group to design specific public policy goals, an action plan to accomplish them and performance metrics by which to measure progress,” Rosal told the Philippine News Agency here on Wednesday.

By institutionalizing the input of community groups and business associations in the policy-making of the city governments, he said, the PGS process encouraged democratic participation which, in turn, strengthened the incentives of public officials to improve transparency, foster economic growth, and improve the quality and reliability of public services.

The city’s PGS program consists of four stages -- initiation, compliance, proficiency and institutionalization -- which translated its vision into specific and quantifiable strategies and time-bound commitments with the objective of realizing breakthrough results, he said.

In the search for the 2014 Galing Pook awards, the city government was among the 10 winners recognized for excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The PPP program won for the city the Galing Pook Award under the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs as it was able to show positive results and impact, promotion of people's participation and empowerment, innovation, transferability and sustainability, and efficiency of service delivery.

The Rosal administration’s flagship project implemented through PPP the Legazpi is the Central Grand Terminal, a P300-million deal which was completed without the local government spending even a single centavo being done under the build-operate and transfer (BOT) scheme.

Located in a 3.9-hectare prime site owned by the city government, the facility developed by LKY Development Corp. and whose construction was completed in 2009 now serves as an integrated bus and other public utility vehicles terminal serving as the major transit point of the city.

The terminal has grown into one of the country’s best terminal, being a big boost to the local tourism industry and, together with the newly renovated Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR), the site has also been developed into a central core for leisure and recreation.

The PPP program won for the city the Galing Pook Award under the Ten Outstanding Local Governance Programs as it was able to show positive results and impact, promotion of people's participation and empowerment, innovation, transferability and sustainability, and efficiency of service delivery.

“This Galing Pook Award would further give rise to a relatively young and dynamically growing demographic of the city and demonstrates the determined and persevering character of Legazpeños as they live under the shadow of Mayon Volcano,” Rosal said in acknowledging the award. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/ << Back

PNP Bicol chief says they knew all the while that CamNorte gov's wife was not abducted

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Police Regional Office (PRO) 5 director, said that even at the very start they already knew that Josefina Tallado was not abducted but her being missing was due to a family problem.

Tallado, wife of Camarines Norte Governor Edgar Tallado, has surfaced and claimed that she was not kidnapped but left their home to avoid a marital problem allegedly due to the womanizing of her husband who, she claimed, had threatened to kill her.

"I was not missing and I was not kidnapped. I voluntarily left because I knew I was no longer safe in our house,” Tallado was quoted as saying.

Deona said that after they formed Task Force “Josie,” they found a witness who said the wife of the governor was not missing but voluntarily left home.

Due to the request of Gov. Tallado, who called for a press conference on Monday and said he wanted to find his wife, Deona said he immediately formed the special investigation task group that would concentrate on finding Mrs. Tallado.

“If they had problem, they should have not involved the media and the PNP.

They should have settled their marital problem privately and not in public,” the police official said.

If Mrs. Tallado, however, asks for protection, the PNP Bicol is willing to give it due to the threat in her life, Deona said.

Gov. Tallado has not issued any statement yet after his wife surfaced. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DA sets off coco water processing project in CamSur

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- Coconut water, traditionally a farm waste, is heading its way into becoming a lucrative venture for farmers in Camarines Sur.

“Gagawin nating pera ang coco water sa inyong lalawigan (We will convert coco water in your province into money),” was the inspiring message delivered by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala before hundreds of farmers in the province who witnessed the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) which formalized the takeoff of the project.

A statement reaching here Monday from the Regional Field Unit (RFU) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur, said Alcala, who signed the MOA in behalf of the agency, acknowledged the province as one of the country’s top coconut producers where some 2.4 billion liters of coco water could be obtained from matured nuts over time.

Among the other signatories to the MOA are Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) director for Luzon B Shandy Hubilla and Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) executive director Rex Bingabing, Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director, said in the statement.

Under the formal agreement, PRDP provides an amount of Php7.3 million to the project called Village Level Coconut Water Processing System under its Investments for Rural Enterprises and Agricultural and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component.

The MOA covers all expenses to be incurred in implementing the pilot-testing project from October 2014 to September 2015, including the construction, study of the prototype coconut water processing machinery and operation.

PRDP is a foreign-funded undertaking being implemented nationwide by DA as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture.

PhilTech, which is an attached agency of the DA that spearheads efforts toward a globally competitive and sustainable agriculture sector through farm mechanization, on the other hand, agrees to make its newly-developed coco water pasteurizer-chiller available to farmers enrolled as beneficiaries of the PRDP to make them more productive.

Bingabing has described the equipment as another innovative machinery his agency has designed for farm-level use adaptable to the needs of copra producers in response to a call for help from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) towards enabling coconut farmers collect coco water at the farm level, bring it to the processing centers and turn it into a profitable product.

Another signatory to the MOA is Dr. Georgina Bordado of the Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) with campuses in Pili, Camarines Sur, which is doing a comprehensive research on the coco water-processing technology such as shelf-life testing and nutrient analysis.

“Nutritious, natural and safe are the qualities of coconut water that will be produced out of this profitable undertaking that would establish village-level processing units capable of producing quality bottled drink which will later on be integrated into a bigger volume of production for export,” Bragas said.

The DA Agribusiness and Marketing Division (AMAD), he said, has been tasked to conduct market studies in anticipation of the project’s full commercialization.

According to Bragas, this technology will convert to cash for coconut farmers—around 300,000 of them in Bicol—the coco water that they just throw away in the traditional process of copra making.

“This is in response to President Aquino’s directive that “inclusive growth should be felt even by the poorest of the poor in the rural areas,” he said, adding that the new project will serve as show window to coconut producers to encourage them to venture into coco water processing whose finish products are of great commercial prospects and health benefits.

Citing a PCA report, he said about 3.7 million liters of coconut water were exported by the Philippines in the first quarter of the same year, showing a significant increase from the 796,000 liters exported during the same period in 2011.

Latest reports say that coco juice demands from The Netherlands and Australia alone have reached 189,800 liters and 65,219 liters, respectively.

The same reports explained that these enormous demands are owing to coco water’s being rich in vitamin B such as thiamine which strengthens the muscles, delay fatigue and maintain normal heart function.

It is regarded as a good source of electrolytes and glucose and has been found suitable for intravenous rehydration.

Bragas said coconut water, as established by laboratory studies, is probably the healthiest liquid that one can ever take in his entire life as it has much more than the health benefits that a commercially-produced thirst quencher can give.

Weight-conscious people can drink coco juice as much as they can without worrying about ingesting a lot of fattening agents because it is very low in fat.

It can also help them feel full, thus, decreasing their cravings for excessive foods.

Coconut water is rich in a lot of nutrients that are required by diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels in control and it has more hydrating properties than the average tap water so drinking it can certainly help digestion well, thus, enabling absorption of food nutrients better. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

MGB hails Camarines Norte police for crackdown on illegal mining

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) regional office for Bicol here has commended the Camarines Norte police office for its intensified crackdown on illegal mining in the gold-rich province.

MGB Regional Technical Director Theodore Rommel Pestaño on Monday said that reports furnished his office by the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional headquarters at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here, at least 78 suspected illegal miners have been so far arrested in the province this year.

Cases have also been filed against these suspects—all small scale miners, Pestaño said, citing police reports.

Senior Supt. Moises Pagaduan, the Camarines Norte provincial police director, in his recent report to PNP regional director Chief Supt. Victor Deona said those arrested had been caught doing small-scale mining in the municipalities of Paracale which is known for its rich gold deposits.

Police operations that led to the arrests, Pestaño said, were accompanied by MGB anti-illegal mining operatives based in Daet, Camarines Norte’s provincial capital.

Since time immemorial, Pestaño said, small miners have been working on these mineral deposits for a hand-to-mount subsistence but since the province has not established a Minahang Bayan, all these workers, under existing laws, operate illegally while braving the penalty of imprisonment from six months to six years as provided under the law.

Defined as the people’s small-scale mining areas, Minahang Bayan is a suitable on-shore site identified by a particular local government unit (city or provincial) for small-scale miners organized into a cooperative that could operate under the monitoring of the MGB.

It is established as a government-designated and regulated area to bring small-scale miners away from danger zones, concessions already delineated for large-scale operation, and prohibited sites such as government reservations and protected areas and those that are assigned to tourism activities and agrarian reform programs, among others.

This means that small-scale miners cannot operate just anywhere, Pestaño explained.

It is also a government measure to regulate small-scale mining activities that were blamed for dumping mercury and cyanide to the waterways and the underground.

Small-scale mining, as defined under Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment and requires only a small capital investment.

Small-scale miners, on the other hand, according to RA 7076, are Filipino citizens who voluntarily form a cooperative duly licensed by the DENR to engage, under the terms and conditions of a contract or license in the extraction or removal of minerals or ore bearing materials from the ground.

While it is very clear that only Filipino small-scale miners, organized as a cooperative, can operate in a Minahang Bayan, a limitation however, was set forth by the same law that they can only mine gold, silver, chromites, kaolin, silica, marble, gravel and sand and clay in an identified mineralized area, Pestano said.

To establish a Minahang Bayan as an effort to give importance to small-scale mining that is responsible for about 70 percent of the gold mined in the country, Pestaño said, Camarines Norte as well as the other five provinces of Bicol should create and reconstitute their own Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).

Under RA 7076, he said, the PMRB is tasked to implement the policy of the state to promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth and natural resources.

This law aims to achieve an orderly, systematic and rational development of the small scale mining, Pestaño said.

He said his office has since been coordinating with chief executives of the six Bicol provinces for the creation and reorganization of PMRB, including the establishment of Minahang Bayan in each province to end illegal small-scale mining operations.

So far, only the provinces of Masbate and Sorsogon have created their respective PMRBs while Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur are expected to follow suit, Pestaño said.

Having this mining regulatory body activated, the first two provinces, he said, are one step ahead of the other four towards establishing their Minahang Bayan but still, no area has been established nor identified so far for review of the DENR.

Pestaño explained that under the new rules, only the PMRB can identify and determine an area within its jurisdiction that is suitable for small-scale mining operations subject to the review of the DENR secretary through the regional executive director which will put it under national government monitoring. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

New lava flow ceases from Mayon - Phivolcs

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) -— The new lava spotted flowing from Mayon Volcano's crater has stopped, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Monday.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivocs resident volcanologist, said like what happened on October 12, the 350-long lava flow was viscous, that's why it cannot flow continuously.

After the aerial survey conducted at 7:25 a.m. Monday, Laguerta said the 400-meter-long lava flowed from the west side of the lava dome.

“The lava flowed at the west side of the Bogña channel,” he said.

The Phivolcs official described Bogña channel as part of the southeast quadrant of the volcano, which is facing the Legazpi City and municipalities of Daraga and Sto. Domingo.

Due to the lava flow, new ash deposits have been noted at the slopes of the volcano.

Laguerta believed that the magma that has come out is still part of the old deposit of the previous eruption.

“If it is a new magma, it must not be viscous -- a new magma is not sticky,” he said.

He said the lava flow can be an indication of an imminent eruption, just like in 1984 -- after the lava flow had been spotted, in two weeks, the volcano erupted.

Meanwhile, in the Oct. 20 bulletin, the Phivolcs said, a faint crater glow was observed Sunday night while the agency's instruments recorded two volcanic quakes with a sulfur flux of 272 tons per day on October 19.

Mayon Volcano's status was raised to alert level 3 on September 15, which means eruption is imminent within weeks. (PNA) LAP/FGS/AMM/CBD/utb

3 poor Albay towns get new projects from GPBP

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 20 (PNA) –- Three of Albay’s impoverished towns have been given by the national government fresh funds worth a total of Php10.4 million to finance farm productivity support projects.

The funding comes from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) through its Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), DAR Regional Director Luis Bueno Jr. on Monday said.

Bueno identified the projects that would benefit 10,500 farmers, some of them beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as the construction of a 1.5-kilometer farm-to-market road in Jovellar town; 35-linear-meter concrete footbridge in Rapu-rapu; and 100-linear-meter spillway in Libon.

The Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) regional office in Bicol based here said these three Albay towns are part of the 79 local government units (LGUs) in the region that were assured of Php45 million in extra funding for three years from the national government’s GPBP.

The fund that would come in the amount of Php15-million yearly wi be used in GPBP-driven initiatives such as projects which include agri-livelihood projects, farm-to-market roads, irrigation and other agri-infra facilities, among others.

Formerly known as the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB), the GPBP, being applied by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, is a somewhat modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high-level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

It seeks to make the national budget more responsive to local needs, provide incentives for local good governance, strengthen the devolution of basic services delivery, create a conducive environment for people’s participation and generate demand for good governance at the local level.

This scheme also provides the opportunity for grantees to be involved in setting their own goals and expectations for a given financial period and gives them ownership of the decisions, motivating them to meet budgetary constraints that otherwise might seem unattainable or unrealistic if they were delivered by someone without as much understanding of their day-to-day operations.

The 79 Bicol LGUs that are considered early qualifiers to the fund are composed of five of the region’s six provinces—Albay, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon; six of the seven cities--Naga, Iriga, Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao and Masbate; and 73 of the 105 municipalities.

Of these municipalities, Albay, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes have 11 each; Camarines Sur, 16; Masbate, 10; and Sorsogon, nine.

These LGUs automatically qualify to the GPBP for having met the requirements, such as being the recipient of DILG’s Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) and implementation of Public Financial Management Improvement Plan (PFMIP) as determined by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), DILG Regional Director Eluisa Pastor said.

Introduced in 2012 by the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo before his death in a plane accident in August of the same year, SGH is an award system to LGUs that successfully met the requirements of full disclosure policy, have exemplary standards of front-line services and procurement and proven to have no adverse or disclaimer audit findings by the Commission on Audit (COA).

Starting this year, the DILG is scaling up the SGH into the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to cover a much wider LGU performance such as good financial housekeeping, disaster preparedness, social protection for the basic sector, business friendliness and competitiveness, environmental compliance and law and order and public safety.

The Bicol list of early GPBP qualifiers is not final though, as further evaluations are undergoing for others that have not been included in the roster based on the SGH and PFMIP criteria may still be added when results become favorable to them.

The evaluations include the budgeting process and the selection of Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams (LPRATs), consisting of both LGUs and civil society organizations and the updating and validation to form the basis for the Local Poverty Reduction Action Plans (LPRAPs).

After the consolidated list of projects are validated and reviewed by the Regional Poverty Reduction Action Team (RPRAT) through the DILG regional office, it will be submitted to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and the Regional Development Council (RDC) for endorsement to the GPBP oversight agencies.

The list of approved projects will be downloaded to the respective Sangguniang Bayans for approval, as the LGU are required to provide counterpart funds, Pastor said.

Earlier, DILG Sec. Mar Roxas announced that the national government has allocated this year Php20 billion to fund various poverty-alleviation projects that were identified by LGUs in coordination with civil society organizations in their communities under the GPBP.

The amount has been allocated for 19,533 projects identified through the GPBP in 1,226 LGUs nationwide, according to Roxas. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/utb

SMC-controlled Albay power distributor faces rough sailing
By Marilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -- Almost a year after taking over management and control of ailing Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), San Miguel Energy Corp. has remained in rough sailing as it continues to face strong resistance from the Aleco Employees Organization (ALEO), which has called for a boycott of electric bills payment from the more than 230,000 power consumers.

But newly designated general manager Manuel Imperial of SMEC-created Albay Power Energy Corp. (APEC) said the SMEC is not withdrawing its contract with Aleco as floated by its detractors, saying its corporate social responsibility is aimed at giving life to the Albay power firm described by the National Electric Administration and Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda as a problem cooperative.

The APEC has strongly refused to honor the return-to-work order (RTWO) issued by the Department of Labor (DOLE) last February to 80 regular Aleco employees who were involved in a series of protest rallies that began in early 2013 after SMC won the Aleco concession contract in a public bidding, besting four other giant power firms.

Following typhoon “Glenda” on July 15, APEC announced it would complete power restoration in the province by September but failed, as 30 percent of the province' barangays still remain unlighted, according to the ALEO.

Imperial succeeded Alex Marchan, a manager who never faced the media during his stint as APEC general manager amid the issue of severe frequent brownouts, non-delivery of electric bills, sudden high power rate, questionable billings wherein many small-time consumers claimed to have received electric bills that are 20 times higher than their average monthly consumption.

Salceda himself, who fought for Aleco privatization and rallied behind SMC after winning the concession contract for Aleco in a bidding, also questioned the strange high rate being charged by APEC, saying his average monthly consumption of Php10,000 in his residence in Daraga town suddenly rose to Php30,000.

He supported the ALEO boycott move -- limited, however, to the months of April and May only.

In August, APEC admitted having spent already Php800 million for the energy supply from SMEC during its eight-month operation against a collection efficiency of only 50 percent, which was drastically reduced to 40 percent as of September, according to the ALEO.

Imperial said in a radio interview that APEC has terminated the services of the USI Manpower Agency for failing to provide the right service in its automated meter-reading scheme covering the first eight months of its operation.

The USI has been replaced by the UN Manpower, which would initially resort to manual meter reading, he added.

The new APEC general manager said consumers with unpaid and questionable electric billings shall pay only the average monthly consumption until August, saying APEC is expecting to deliver correct monthly billings to consumers starting the month of September.

Consumers who were on vacation for a month or more under the first eight-month operation should clarify matters with APEC collection offices.

ALEO spokesman Ephraim De Vera said the unreliable and inaccurate billings were never experienced under the Aleco management for more than 30 years of operation using the manual meter reading system.

He said the APEC-hired USI Manpower had resorted to both automated and table meter reading after many consumers complained of the abnormal billing bills they received that two small-time consumers were surprisingly billed Php1 million each.

The Aleco privatization was pursued by the NEA in support of local officials and the Albay five lawmakers in a bid to give life to the dying power cooperative.

According to Imperial, SMC won the Aleco bidding after declaring it would assume Aleco’s Php4 billion and continue the Aleco rehabilitation.

The NEA-created Aleco interim board headed by Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi formulated the privatization during its one-year deliberation in 2012 in what they called the Private Sector Participation (PSP).

With the dilemma facing consumers, ALEO members continue holding “silent protest rallies” every Sunday in front of the Albay Cathedral here, calling the attention of the failed Aleco interim board members headed by Baylon and the Department of Labor (DOLE) for failing to enforce the RTWO it issued nine months ago, saying the 80 involved employees who have not been paid of their salaries have families to feed and now suffering from hunger with their children’s school obligations terribly affected.

This Sunday, Oct. 19, is the 12th silent protest rally held by the ALEO.

Protest rallies against the pursued privatization began as early as 2013, resulting in frequent disruptions in the province’s power supply and prompting the Aleco, under NEA supervision, to decide to withhold the salaries of striking ALEO employees since September 2013.

The worst protest rallies came in December last year as APEC was readying its final takeover in January that after more than 100 days of continued daily strikes, the DOLE in February declared assumption of jurisdiction after it issued the RTWO.

De Vera said more than 80 permanent employees were covered by the RTWO, which APEC has refused to recognize, saying APEC prefers the separation of the involved employees while the employees prefer to return to work.(PNA) CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/pjn

New, wider lava flow seen coming down from Mayon crater
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -- A wider lava flow was seen early Sunday morning coming out of the Mayon Volcano, Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist, said during the media briefing on Mayon status at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office operation center on Sunday morning.

Laguerta said the lava flow was seen along the Bonga Gulley at the southeastern quadrant of the volcano.

The flow was about 100 meters wide and about 300 meters long from the crater of Mayon.

On previous Sunday, another lava flowed down the volcano up to 350 meters down along the side of the same gulley.

“The flow this time has more volcanic materials compared to that of last Sunday’s,” Laguerta said.

He disclosed that the subsequent Sunday flows of lava confirms the magma is continuously rising towards the summit of Mayon, although its ascent is very slow.

The Phivolcs official said the materials ejected by the volcano is part of the old volcanic deposits as there was no gas emission, that was why the flow was not continuous.

Aside from the deposit that is being vomited is viscous, which means that the volcano is still discharging the old magma, there was no gas.

“While there was a crater glow, it was faint and could not be seen by our naked eyes because of thick clouds,” Laguerta added.

He said, however, that the glow at the summit would become intense once the magma is near the summit.

Although the volcano’s ground inflation decreased, he said, this does not mean that the activity of Mayon weakened and instead, he warned the public as the magma is nearing the crater compared to the condition in the previous days of monitoring of their agency.

“In this connection, the condition of Mayon will become critical if their seismograph registers continuous harmonic tremors or vibrations of the ground, accompanied by an intense glow and lava fountaining, which means the magma is near Mayon’s crater,” Laguerta said.

This, he stressed, means the volcano is about to erupt.

The veteran volcanologist claimed that if this condition occurs, all activities of will be fast.

"Expect rapid changes and within days, explosive eruption may occur," Laguerta said.

During the past 24-hour observation period, the Mayon’s seismic network recorded two volcanic earthquakes while there was a moderate emission of white steam plumes drifting west and northwest.

Sulfur dioxide flux was measured at an average of 269 tons per day on Oct. 17 while ground deformation data on Oct. 14-16 showed deflation at the base of the edifice relative to Oct. 4-10 precise leveling survey 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. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/ssc

Albayanos seek second opinion on Mt. Mayon condition (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -– Will it explode or not? If exploding, when and how big?

For the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the lone government agency tasked to monitor volcanic activities and issue warnings when the need arises from possible dangerous eruptions, these questions are already answered insofar as the present condition of Mt. Mayon is concerned.

Last Sept. 16, Phivolcs declared alert warning level number 3 over the volcano, known worldwide for its beautifully perfect cylindrical cone shape but considered one of the most active and deadly in the Pacific Rim of Fire.

Such alert level that characterizes a relatively high unrest emanates from seismic monitors that show more frequent volcanic quakes and tremors, occurrences of rockfalls in the volcano’s summit area, persistent swelling of its edifice, increased sulfur dioxide (SO2) flux, vigorous streaming and sustained crater glow.

With these, Phivolcs said Mayon may unleash eruptions within weeks -- prompting Albay Governor Joey Salceda to order a mandatory evacuation of some 13,000 families or around 55,000 individuals living within the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger (PDZ) and seven to eight-kilometer extended danger zone (EDZ) of the volcano.

A state of calamity was promptly declared by the provincial government in areas affected by the evacuation such as the cities of Ligao and Tabaco as well as the municipalities of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo.

At the same time, Salceda called for financial assistance and relief donations to answer the needs of the evacuees confined in cramped refugee camps established by local governments affected.

The national government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), responded at once with some Php137-million in relief goods delivered in staggered basis during the next four weeks of relief operations.

Humanitarian missions have also arrived to at least ease the agonies being suffered by the evacuees under the roof of evacuation centers that are lacking in toilets, lighting, ventilation, water and practically everything needed for a comfortable and dignified living.

Observers, particularly Albayanos, who are touched by the poor living condition of the evacuees now want to put an end to it, as the situation drags on.

But how, when the Phivolcs has been maintaining that a the worst-case scenario is yet to come even as Mt. Mayon, since the third day of alert level three, has cooled down with most of its signs of impending eruptions gone.

Last Saturday, the Phivolcs, based on its seismic network reading, did not detect any volcanic quake, observed only a moderate steam emission, no crater glow and significantly low SO2 flux measured at 269 tons per day during the past 24-hour observation.

On Sunday’s bulletin, Phivolcs said, two volcanic quakes were recorded during the past 24-hour observation period while the SO2 flux measurement was maintained at the same level.

However, “ground deformation data on October 14-16, 2014 showed deflation at the base of the edifice relative to October 4-10, 2014 precise leveling survey although the edifice remains inflated compared to baseline measurements. Tilt data also indicate continuous inflation at the base of the edifice since August 2014. All the above data indicate that the volcano is still in a state of unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma,” it said.

“Let’s call on former USGS expert Chris Newhall,” King M. Reginaldo suggested in his post on Facebook as a call for a second opinion from independent experts snowballs among confused observers in the province.

Newhall is an American volcanologist formerly with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) who co-created the “Volcanic explosivity index” specializes in volcanic prediction.

Married to a Filipina, Newhall, after resigning from the USGS, moved to Albay in 2005 where he worked around Mayon off and on for more than 40 years.

When it comes to mitigating hazards, Newhall has been described as “the single most influential volcanologist in the world" with his uncanny ability to memorize the unique histories and behaviors of individual volcanoes and being a pioneer in synthesizing what has been known about eruption warning signs. He also played a critical role in the emergency response to the 1991 massive eruption of Mt. Pinatubo by way of providing clear and simple answers to the questions—will it explode? how big and when? -- which eventually persuaded officials to evacuate 80,000 people, saving countless lives.

Wherever Newhall is right now, he should come back to his beloved Mt. Mayon right away and once more show his care about the people around it, Reginaldo appealed. “Interesting,” Rose Olarte a Legazpi-based broadcast journalist said on the call for a second opinion.

Mar Serrano Arguelles, another journalist now on vacation in Canada, asked a question on his Facebook post: “Is there some kind of scientific manipulation of Mayon seismic parameters that needs to be establish by other scientist?”

Freddie Rosaros, a retired provincial government employee, replied: “It’s already sickening.”

Cocorb Borejon, a former provincial board member, asked on his post: "Is somebody seriously ill that you would want to have a second opinion? The condition of Mayon may not need a second opinion.... the people exaggerating about Mayon will need it.... maybe not a second opinion, probably, a chemotherapy.”

“Nothing to lose. We asked for relief goods why can't we seek other assistance say from foreign expert volcanologists. Di naman siguro masama na ang isang Albayano na maysakit ay kumonsulta sa isang doktor sa Amerika,” Facebook user Bicol Pulse said.

Jose Briones, the Albay’s former provincial tourism officer, said suspicions of conspiracy seem correct.

“But while some are yelling about conspiracy behind the imminent eruption of Mayon Volcano, its month-long silence being stalked through the eyes of instruments and aerial shots, processing them through has kept it calm and perfectly beautiful as ever, undisturbed by her humble fidelity to bring gladness and cheers to her admirers,” Briones added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ssc

DOT-Bicol ready with special services for APEC delegates
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) –- The Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office for Bicol here has prepared special treats for delegates in the forthcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be hosted by this city.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, the DOT regional director, over the weekend said the delegates who would need the services of wellness professionals could avail of them from experts who have been recently trained in terms of standards, ethics, protocol and client care.

“We gathered together 30 of these professionals into a seminar-workshop which enhanced their good work attitudes and improved their knowledge and skills towards excellence in providing their prospective clients with the unique Filipino brand of professional wellness services,” Ravanilla said.

These service specialists will be deployed in hotels where delegates to the APEC summit are to be billeted such as the Oriental Hotel and Resort here, which is also the venue of the two-day meeting, and Misibis Bay Resort in the nearby town of Bacacay, Albay.

The Oriental is a world-class hotel located at hillside here overlooking the entire cityscape and fronting from a distance the majestic Mayon Volcano while Misibis is a posh resort hotel considered as a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of beach serving as a luxury island playground along Cagraray Island.

The APEC summit opening slated here on Dec. 8-9 will be attended mainly by 21 economic ministers from member-economies that include the Philippines, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

Ravanilla said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which is the lead agency in the preparations for Philippines’ hosting of the summit, has also assigned 10 of the 53 ministerial meetings to take place between March and December next year to this city, with the rest to be shared by other cities.

APEC was formed in 1989 by these 21 Pacific Rim countries or member-economies to promote free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Discussions in the sectoral meetings of the forthcoming events are expected to be focused on energy, transport, human capacity, education, and women while issues on industry, investments, trade and intellectual property rights are seen to be given ample attentions.

In these meetings, APEC aims to promote sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region in response to the growing interdependence of the region’s economies and the advent of regional trade blocs.

This aim is compatible with Pres. Aquino’s vision of inclusive growth as enunciated in the Philippine Development Plan 2010-2016, Ravanilla said.

The privilege of hosting the annual meetings rotates among the member-economies, and this time, it will be the Philippines, with this city known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure” and now emerging as among the country’s top convention sites shadowed by the majestically perfect coned Mayon Volcano, playing a vital role.

The Philippines first hosted an APEC leaders’ summit in 1996, with almost all events concentrated in Manila and Subic. Its preparatory conference was held in Davao City.

So far, the city and Misibis are now ready with 2,900 hotel rooms and the DTI is working on 600 more in nearby areas to comply with the 3,500 rooms required for the ministerial meetings.

The local government here, on the other hand, is rushing works to make the city more presentable and all traffic routes to be taken by the delegates in their movements cleared of congestion.

“We are dressing up the city for these big APEC events and making it sure that these economic ministers and international dignitaries enjoy their stay,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday said.

Ravanilla said that apart from the professional wellness service providers, the Bicol University-College of Arts and Letters (BU-CAL) with campuses here, in partnership with the provincial government of Albay, had earlier produced graduates who would work as tourist guides during the APEC summit.

These graduates were especially trained in handling delegates from countries in the Pacific Rim together with their support staff.

The training included foreign languages.

DOT has also been able and continuously honing the talents and skills of workers in the local tourism industry by way of providing them training on specialized tour guiding so that the services they are providing become special and different from the traditional manners, Ravanilla said.

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

This city, she said, has pulled a surprise as outdoor adventure tourism expands at a fast rate and promises to remain one of the most dynamic and innovative industry in the travel sectors for years to come. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ssc

Livable city award affirms Legazpi’s excellence as APEC summit host
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 19 (PNA) -– This city’s being adjudged as among the three of the country’s most livable cities has affirmed its excellence as host to the forthcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office for Bicol here over the weekend said.

Although no doubt has been earlier raised over the competence of the city in playing host to this grand gathering of world leaders, the recent award further boosted such attribute, according to DOT Bicol Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla.

This key Bicol urban locality, known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure” shadowed by the beauty of the majestic perfect cone of Mt. Mayon, was named one of the three winners in the Livable Cities Design Challenge in grand ceremonies held at the Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City, last Wednesday, October 15.

Legazpi placed second to Iloilo City in the ranking; followed by Cebu City, which placed third.

Apart from these three winners, 17 other cities -- Angeles, Bacolod, Baguio, Baybay (Leyte), Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, San Fernando (La Union), Marikina, Olongapo, Ormoc (Leyte), Pasay, Pasig, Surigao, Tacloban, Valenzuela and Zamboanga -- accepted the challenge and joined the competition.

These cities include those hosting APEC Meetings in 2015 and others that are vulnerable to or have been affected by disasters in the past.

The APEC opening summit will be held here on Dec. 8-9 as well as 10 of the 53 ministerial meetings to take place between March and December next year.

The other meetings will be shared by other cities of the country.

This city’s shares in the events will be held at the Oriental Hotel and Resort, a plush resort-hotel located on a hillside fronting at a distance of over 15 kilometers Mt. Mayon and overlooking the scenic cityscape and the picturesque Albay Gulf.

It will be attended mainly by 21 economic ministers from member-economies that include the Philippines, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

The Livable City Challenge, sponsored by the United States Assistance for International Development, was organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

Launched last March during the 2nd Annual Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative Forum held in Manila, the search was aimed at getting city planners across the Philippines to be more aware and better prepared for disaster-risk reduction.

In the search, each competing city was required to come up with strategic vision and plan for a resilient and livable city and in developing an APEC meeting venue.

City Mayor Noel Rosal said that with the help of the city chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines headed by its president Maridel Baldano, the city government came up with a strategic plan for a highly resilient and livable city featuring a safe and green environment aimed sustaining good public health which impressed the search judges.

According to Baldano, the plan, themed “Healthy City, Happy City,” presents far-reaching innovations that inspire a more dynamic development of the city into a very safe and healthy locality for its people and visitors as well.

“We are reversing in this plan the past reputation of the city as an area messed up by natural calamities that severely debilitated its rising economy,” she said.

The plan they prepared, Baldano said, is based on the peculiarity of the city in refusing to go down on its knees amid those disasters and raising fast and sparkle once again as Bicol region’s most exciting place to visit and stay.

She recalled that the city suffered the catastrophic impact of two super typhoons — "Milenyo" and "Reming" that battered in late 2006 the place as severely as if it was the doomsday.

But amid those devastating scenarios, Baldano said, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work.

“Life does not only continue to bloom in this city after those disasters. It has been getting livelier as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high,” she added.

According to Ravanilla, the Department of Trade and Industry, which is the lead agency in the preparations for Philippines’ hosting of the summit, is not mistaken in choosing Legazpi as one of the host cities as affirmed by the livable city award. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ssc

This is my personal fight -- Purisima

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 18 (PNA) -- "This is my personal fight," Police Director General Alan L. Purisima told officials and members of the Philippine National Police in Bicol on his visit here for the blessing of the newly constructed firing range inside Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola in this city.

Purisima also turned over relief goods to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the temporarily evacuated families affected by the abnormal activities of Mayon Volcano as well as logistics and equipment to the Bicol police.

He handed over 1,022 pieces of Gen 4 Glock 17, ammunition, equipment for the Special Weapons and Tactics team like kevlar helmets, combat boots, shield, bullet-proof vests and 500 units of handheld Motorola radios for the use of the Bicol police in fighting criminality in the region.

The PNP chief stressed that 100 percent of the police force in the Bicol region already have service firearms and improved proficiency in shooting owing to the presence of a firing range through the effort of Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol regional police director.

He urged the regional police officers not to be affected by issues raised against him.

“I will be the one to answer these. Just continue doing your job because all of these are just part of a demolition job against me because of the reforms I am doing in the PNP,” Purisima said.

He also asked the chiefs of police to visit the barangays in their respective areas of responsibility to find out the real situation of the villagers and discuss with them their problems and concerns because this, he said, is part of the score card in the PNP’s Performance Governance System.

The top national police official thanked the Bicol police for the full support and trust they give him in his present predicament.

Purisima said there is no room in the police organization for dishonest and “termites” as they will not last long because it is their fellow officers who will catch them.(PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Alert level 3 still up in Mayon amid minimal activity

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 18 (PNA) -- The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) will not lift the alert level 3 status of the Mayon Volcano despite the absence of seismic activity in the past 24-hour observation.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said they did not detect any rockfall event and volcanic earthquake but the volcano is still inflated while its sulfur dioxide emission was measured at 92 tons per day, which is very much below the baseline of 500 tons per day.

"The sulfur dioxide emission must be at the baseline and until the volcano is inflated, the magmatic eruption is still imminent," he said.

On Oct. 4, the edifice of the volcano inflated up to 17 millimeters while at least four-millimeter inflation was recorded at the precise leveling line at Barangay Lidong, Sto. Domingo.

On the precise leveling on Wednesday, the volcano deflated 2.4 millimeters at the Buang Junction near Mayon Rest House in Tabaco City.

"As of now, the volcano has 14.6-millimeter inflation at Buang while a four-millimeter inflation remains at Lidong," he added.

Laguerta said the volcano showed unusual characteristic after the lava flow last Sunday stopped.

"The lava flow has stopped, unlike in the previous year's eruption; once the lava flows, it will continue. Possibly, the pressure inside the volcano has decreased," he explained.

Meanwhile, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office head Cedric Daep said they are yet to decide if they will let families outside the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone to go back to their houses.

Daep said they will request new markers from the Phivolcs to identify areas within the danger zone. JBP/FGS/AMM/CBD/pjn

No sem break for student-evacuees -- DepEd

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 18 (PNA) -- At least 54,877 students in evacuation centers will not enjoy the school semestral break after the Department of Education (DepEd) decided that the one-week vacation will be used for make-up classes.

Ramon Fiel Abcede, DepEd Bicol regional director, said 540 teachers in three division offices will conduct make-up classes on Oct. 20-24 for the concerned students to cope up with the lessons.

Abcede said most of 78 schools being used for evacuation suspended classes on Sept. 7 and resumed on Sept. 29.

Out of the 54,877 students, 39,317 are resident students (students in schools used for evacuation) while 15,560 are learners from danger zones.

"The semestral break will be used for make-up classes, depending on the days of suspension. If some schools suspended classes for two days, so the two days in one-week break will be used for make-up classes," he said.

Abcede said if one school has suspended classes for more than five days, it will still set another make-up classes.

Abcede said they have utilized 175 tents and 400 tarpaulins from the United Nations Children's Fund to resume the classes while there is an on-going construction of 300 units of temporary classrooms made of plywood and other wooden materials.

They have allocated Php18 million for building the temporary learning spaces while Php5 million was allocated for chairs.

"Now we have two shiftings -- one batch for morning class, and another batch for afternoon class. If the said temporary learning spaces we will finish, we will change the class shifting," he said.(PNA) JBP/FGS/AMM/CBD/pjn

Aquino administration’s help keeps CamNorte poverty level low (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

DAET, Camarines Norte, Oct. 18 (PNA) –- All forms of help that Camarines Norte has been getting from the national government under Pres. Aquino are intended to keep the province’s poverty incidence low, according to a top provincial official.

It works, as Gov. Edgardo Tallado over the week said latest statistics show that the second class province located at the northern tip of the Bicol Peninsula and populated by around 600,000 people has been able to trim down its number of families living below the poverty line by a notable percentage as of the latest survey.

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said poverty incidence in the province was at 24.7 percent as shown by the latest survey conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in the first semester of 2012.

The figure is lower by 7.7 percent compared to records obtained from the same survey in the same period of 2009 that showed a 32.4-percent poverty incidence among families.

The improvement reflected an increase in the province’s per capita poverty threshold to Php9,122 from Php8,221 during the same periods covered by the surveys.

These developments give Camarines Norte the credit of having the lowest poverty incidence in Bicol compared to all the region’s five other provinces -- with Masbate on top with 44.2 percent; followed by Albay, 36.1 percent; Camarines Sur, 33.5 percent; Sorsogon, 32.1 percent; and Catanduanes, 27.1 percent.

Last week, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala came to the province and distributed to farmers farm production inputs worth Php500,000 and turned over to the provincial government a check amounting Php22.5 million to finance the implementation of various new projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

PAMANA is a priority government program being undertaken towards the attainment of economic progress in conflict affected areas (CAAs) in line with the Aquino administration’s peace agenda geared at ending internal armed conflicts.

Camarines Norte is among Bicol areas given preferential attention by the program based on a criterion that highly influences “unpeace”-- having a considerable number of barangays infested by communist insurgency.

Tallado told the Philippine News Agency that these latest forms of assistance received by the province from the national government are part of the continuing support of the Aquino administration in order for the provincial government to sustain its anti-poverty gains.

The latest DA fund release to the province came after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) last month released a Php51-million fund under its Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Projects-Phase III (ARISP III) for projects such as farm-to-market roads (FMR), potable water supply and post-harvest facilities (PHFs).

ARISP III is a poverty alleviation project of the Aquino administration that involves the construction and rehabilitation of rural infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, FMRs, PHFs and rural water supply systems for agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARCs).

Both fund releases were preceded by the pouring in yearly since 2011 of about Php347 million in funds for anti-poverty projects in the province funded under the PAMANA program whose main implementing agency is the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The total amount includes the Php246-million Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund released to the province before the Supreme Court assailed parts of it as unconstitutional.

The DAP funds were spent for the construction of farm-to-market roads, solar dryers, potable water system, barangay health stations and day-care centers as well as the implementation of a rural electrification program, Tallado said.

In 2011, five PAMANA projects in Camarines Norte were provided with a total of Php140 million from the stimulus fund of Pres. Aquino and channeled through the OPAPP under the program.

In 2012, additional projects worth Php20 million funded by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) were also implemented in the towns of Labo, Jose Panganiban and Capalonga.

In 2013, an amount of Php106 million was also provided from the funds of DILG and DA for projects implemented in the same areas.

This year, the DILG provided additional allocations for PAMANA projects worth Php81 million, covering five municipalities of the province--Basud, Capalonga, Labo, Mercedes and Sta. Elena.

DILG Regional Director Elouisa Pastor has clarified that among the six Bicol provinces, only Camarines Norte has the allocation from her agency for the PAMANA projects.

Good governance from where the proper implementation of these projects comes as a good reason behind the success of the province in alleviating poverty and the preference that the Aquino administration is giving in terms of fund support, according to Pastor.

She said a recent inter-agency assessment on the implementation in Camarines Norte of rural development projects funded under the PAMANA program has found them satisfactory.

Almost all the projects were visited by the inter-agency team and the assessment found them satisfactorily implemented and serving the communities very well towards PAMANA’s aim of attaining economic progress for the areas covered, according to OPPAP Area Manager for Bicol Paul Escober. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/ssc