Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aleco seeks court action to win back power coop from SMC
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- Member-consumers of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) have asked the court to stop the San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) from exercising control and jurisdiction over the cooperative.

In a 68-page civil complaint recently filed, the cooperative wants the Regional Trial Court (RTC) here to issue an injunction with prayers for temporary restraining order and temporary mandatory order against Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC), SMC Global’s subsidiary company now running the power distribution business of Aleco.

Filed by the complaining members, Aleco is asking the court to order APEC to, among others, turn over to the cooperative through its board of directors and president, Jaime Chua, the documents needed for the initiation of court-assisted rehabilitation; and to surrender to all cash items and/or assets taken over by APEC from the cooperative.

Other demands listed in the complaint are for the court to order a complete inventory of assets taken over by APEC and for the corporation to yield to Aleco the management and control of the business, franchise and other assets of the cooperative, on phase-in/phase-out basis, with minimum service disruption, under court supervision.

The complainants are also asking the court to restrain APEC from further operating Aleco’s electricity-distribution franchise in Albay; from encumbering or disposing of any of the cooperative’s assets or properties, including after-acquired assets reckoned as of February 26, 2014; and from entering into contract with government or private entities involving Aleco or its interests.

The complaining members also want the court to prevent the corporation from applying or pursuing applications for rate adjustment with Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC); from applying or pursuing applications with the ERC to collect “under-recoveries” from members-consumers; and from further implementing power-shedding program that causes needless service interruption or regular brownouts in the province.

They further want APEC disallowed from billing or collecting from member-consumers contributions for capital expenditure or reinvestment fund (RFSC) during the pendency of the case; from using, disbursing or spending any fund or money already collected by APEC from the members; conducting meter-reading; from issuing monthly bills and collecting any amount from the members; and from doing service connection to, or doing service disconnection against its members were also requested.

Aleco legal counsel Oliver Olaybal on Monday said that considering the absence of consent on the part of the member-consumers for the lease of the franchise and the assets of Aleco, the cooperative, under its new Board of Directors, filed the complaint assailing the right of SMC Global/APEC to exercise Aleco’s corporate powers, operate its franchise and utilize its assets.

After the legal issues are resolved affecting Aleco’s entitlement to exercise its corporate functions to the exclusion of SMC Global-APEC, “we shall address the coop’s financial problems,” Chua said.

Aleco’s business operations and management were taken over by SMC Global early this year following its privatization worked out by the National Electrification Administration (NEA), Department of Energy (DOE) and Albay Bishop Joel Baylon, the NEA appointed chairman of the cooperative’s interim board of director and supported by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

The privatization was said to be intended to bail out the cooperative from its financial troubles amounting to around Php4 billion incurred over years of mismanagement, corruption and deep political meddling.

On long-term problem and long-term solution involving Aleco’s Php4-billion aggregate operating deficits, Chua said, the new board will address by way of filing a petition for corporate rehabilitation after the court is able to take away SMC Global-APEC from the scene.

“The court-appointed rehabilitation receiver shall prepare a rehabilitation plan, anchored on capital buildup through stock issuance, under Republic Act No. 1053 whose proceeds shall be deposited in the name of Aleco, but to be disbursed under court supervision. This means that payments to creditors on matured accounts shall be covered by court orders authorizing disbursements,” Chua said.

The court shall also issue a stay order preventing creditors from taking action against Aleco, including disconnection, he added.

APEC general manager Emmanuel Imperial on Monday declined to comment on the case as, he said, the company’s lawyers will handle it in the court. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

NBI-Legazpi gets 2 awards
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- The City Government of Legazpi awarded a plaque of appreciation to National Bureau of Investigation Special Investigator Manuel Marlo B. Lanuza on Monday at the Office of Mayor Noel Rosal.

The award was given by Rosal, Vice Mayor Vitorrio “Bitoy” Roces and City Administrator Pecos Intia.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima had earlier named Lanuza as one of the best NBI special investigators.

The NBI Legazpi City District Office was also recognized as one of the best offices in the entire country during the 78th NBI Anniversary on November 13 at the NBI Central Office in Taff Avenue, Manila.

Rosal said this recognition is a clear manifestation that the city’s NBI District Office is a very effective partner of his administration in maintaining the tranquility of every individual in the community “that resulted in our city being recognized as one of the peaceful places to live in.”

He said the NBI has conducted several investigations and researches not only in this city but also in the entire province that resulted in the arrest and filing of charges against suspects in theft of motorcycle, akyat-bahay operations and other similar cases done by some organized syndicate groups.

The city also gave another certificate of recognition to the family of the late Julio Villanueva of Barangay Victory Village for his trying to save the life of 65-year-old Salvador Ormenita when they were both swimming along the city boulevard’s breakwater on November 1.

rmenita asked for help because the strong current pulled him far away from the shore and Villanueva responded to save him but unfortunately, the latter’s good intention to save the life of Ormenita caused his death.

The awards were proposed by City Councilor Rolly Rosal who passed two resolutions during the 37th Regular Session of the 13th Sangguniang Panlunsod on November 11, which were subsequently approved by Rosal on November 18.

Resolution No. 0294-2014 commended Lanuza for being chosen as the best Special Investigator of the Year in the entire country while Resolution No. 0293-2014 commended the NBI District Office of Legazpi for being chosen as the Best Office in the entire country. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/EDS

Singson sacks 2 Bicol district engineers
By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) – Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson sacked two of his district engineers and two assistant district engineers in Bicol.

Ordered relieved are Masbate 2nd district engineer Edgar M. Curativo, Albay 1st district engineer Teodoro Castillo, assistant district engineers Gil Balmadrid of the Catanduanes District Engineering Office (DEO) and assistant district engineer Romeo Cielo of the Sorsogon 2nd DEO.

Ironically, Castillo who is barely a year in his Albay assignment, will be replaced by controversial former Camarines Norte district engineer Simeon Arias who was sacked by Singson last March on alleged bidding irregularities and other corruption charges.

Castillo is a full-fledged district engineer higher than a division chief in the regional office and who has the rank of Engineer V.

Arias, according to his records, is only Engineer !V and fit for assistant district engineer post and officer-in-charge only.

He has not passed the Civil Service Commission–DPWH promotional exam which Singson has boasted as the only basis for appointment.

Arias had been on a floating assignment at the regional office here and under investigation following the collapse on Sept. 18 of the concrete Kabuluan detour bridge in Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte, built last year.

Gov. Edgardo Tallado has said that the bridge, built at a cost of Php27 million by Benmar Construction, collapsed following heavy rains because, he said, it was substandard.

Sta. Elena Councilor Artemio Sendon Jr. claimed he had also written Singson that the DPWH Camarines Norte under Arias had allegedly paid 60 percent for the Phase 1 construction of the Php27-million Kabuluan permanent bridge without any accomplishment as confirmed by DPWH records.

The CSC-DPWH promotional test was a brainchild of then Sec. Gregorio Vigilar and revived by Singson after it was irregularly imposed by Vigilar’s successors on account of politics and discouraging passing rate ratio.

Qualified to take the promotional test are engineers III and above.

It was learned that under Singson, only three from Bicol hurdled the promotional test in 2011 out of the more than 400 examinees nationwide -- 70 of them were from the Bicol Region.

Early in September, Singson sacked Bicol Regional Director Danilo Dequito for miserably failing to hurdle the mission test given to him during his four-year stint to professionalize the DPWH Bicol office, dubbed as a man-made calamity-stricken region.

Dequito was replaced by Regional Director Melvin Navarro who was pulled out by Singson from Region 2.

It was not clear where Curativo and Castillo will be assigned.

Curativo’s relief reportedly concerns the many projects under contract with the Ormoc City-based Yakal Construction that have been allegedly suffering with too much negative slippages.

The contractor is touted to have a strong connection with one of Singson’s undersecretaries that a Php436-million asphalt overlaying project of the regional office that started in January this year and is supposed to end by December barely has a 30-percent accomplishment only, according to documents. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/

Unhealthy lifestyle of Filipinos causes high premature deaths
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- The unhealthy lifestyle of the Filipinos -- such as smoking, alcohol drinking and eating of highly fatty, salty and sugar-rich foods -- is advancing the premature deaths of multi-million Filipinos, an official of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology said.

Dr. Zenaida V. Narciso, FNRI chief science research specialist, told members of the Department of Science and Technology-Nutrition Communication Network (DOST V-Nutricomnet) here over the weekend that smoking and alcohol drinking are the most dangerous and unhealthy forms of lifestyle of the Filipinos that trigger premature deaths, especially at prime age.

The DOST V-Nutricomnet is a group of national government agencies and private media practitioners with specialization on science and environment.

Narciso said 25 percent of 100 million Filipinos are smokers while one of two Filipino adults is alcohol drinker.

She cited a study that showed that 7 in 10 male adults are drinkers and 3 in 10 female adults drink.

For the smoking habit, one in four Filipino adults is smoker and topping the list are males.

“If you love yourself, don’t start smoking. If you love your family, stop smoking because your family is at great risk as second-hand smokers where the effect is graver due to second-hand exposure. Twenty-five percent of Filipino adults are smokers,” Narciso said.

She added that more than nine million of all deaths considered premature occur at prime age or before 60 years old.

“Ninety percent takes place in low and middle-income countries. The global trend for non-communicable disease (NCD)-caused annual deaths showed that cardiovascular diseases ranked first with 17.3 million annually; followed by cancer, with 7.6 million; respiratory diseases, 4.2 million, and diabetes, 1.3 million,” Narciso said.

The risk factor of NCDs, according to her, is personal behavior or lifestyle, environmental exposure or inherited characteristic associated with increase occurrence of condition.

Narciso said the risk factors to NCDs in Philippines based on national nutrition survey from 2008 to 2013 showed that 67 percent of total deaths in 2012 were due to cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory illnesses and diabetes. She said that five in 10 Filipino adults have borderline-to-high-cholesterol levels wherein more males went to ashes early due to unhealthy lifestyle compared to females.

It said two in 10 Filipino adults have high blood pressure even at early age or 20 years old.

Among the reasons why NCDs are increasing in the country are high consumption of unhealthy foods, smoking, alcohol drinking, obesity, high consumption of foods rich in sugar, fat and salt but with insufficient physical activities and low fruit and vegetable intake.

Globally, more than 36 million people are killed each year due to NCDs and this occurred in low and middle-income countries with 29 million deaths.

She explained that the risk factor that cannot be reduced or controlled by intervention are age, sex, race and family history.

“But the NCDs' chronic conditions can be modified if only the people will be physically active, avoid tobacco use or smoking, lessen alcohol intake and avoid unhealthy diets,” the DOST official advised.

In 2020, about 44 million people globally, she said, will be gone into ashes due to increasing number of NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory diseases and diabetes specifically in developing countries, including the middle income countries, if unhealthy lifestyle will not be checked. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD

Friday, November 21, 2014

PNP vows to eradicate crime gangs in Masbate
By Norman B. Tamar

AROROY, Masbate, Nov. 20 (PNA) -– The Philippine National Police (PNP) Masbate provincial office on Thursday vowed to eradicate crime gangs in the province.

This, after joint operatives of the Aroroy Municipal Police Office, Masbate Provincial Public Safety Company and Masbate Provincial Intelligence Section raided the hideout of a notorious gang in this town at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Supt. Carl Michael Car Reyes, PNP-Masbate provincial director, said the police operatives were armed with Search Warrant No. 2014-81 and coordinated with the local barangay officials.

He said the gang members engaged the raiding team in a fire exchange.

Reyes said that when the raiding operatives were about to enter the premises, they heard gunshots coming from inside the house, which were allegedly fired by more or less five gang members.

He said the group escaped in confusion and spread to the hinterlands in the boundary of Barangay Malubi and Barangay Pangle of this town after its members noticed that they were outnumbered by police forces.

No casualty was reported on the side of the raiding team while an undetermined number of casualties was noted on the gang's side.

The authorities recovered fired cartridges and slugs and one steel magazine of .45-caliber pistol loaded with seven live ammunition.

The suspected gang leader was identified in the search warrant as Richard Amican alias Toto.

Police record showed Amican was the alleged leader of the Arcavado-Amican group involved in a robbery-holdup and killing incidents in Aroroy town and neighboring municipalities, Reyes said.

He warned people involved in criminal activities that they are in close watch of them and that would they soon fall in the hands of authorities.

“Our message to people involved in criminal gangs is that we will use everything we can to stop their activity,” Reyes said.

The police official added that the intensified focused police operations against groups engaged in criminal activities in the province form part of their relentless campaign to control and eradicate crime. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NBT/CBD/EDS

DENR-Bicol orders crackdown on fishponds encroaching on protected sites
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 20 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered a region-wide crackdown on fishponds that illegally encroach on protected foreshore sites.

“We are now in the process of establishing that several fishponds across the region have been constructed within swamplands and mangrove forests which have not been released by the DENR for such purpose, hence, considered illegal,” DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales on Thursday said.

The process is being done through field inspections, inventory and verification of Special Land Use Permits (SLUPs) covering such commercial structures which when found illegal, will be immediately dismantled, Gonzales said.

SLUP is a privilege granted by the government to a person to occupy, possess and manage in consideration of specified return, any public forest lands for a specific use or purpose.

Certainly, there are some and DENR is applying due process so that the crackdown on this illegal use of protected areas is implemented with diligence, the DENR official stressed.

Initially, the process is now in progress in the island province of Catanduanes where at least eight fishponds in Panganiban and Viga towns have been reportedly developed and operating illegally for either encroaching on swamplands, mangrove forests and timberlands or entirely within the same prohibited sites.

Mangrove forests and swamplands are government protected areas because they serve as spawning ground of marine life and developing the same for fishpond use destroys such habitat and compromises the existing ecosystem.

These eight fishponds in two Catanduanes towns have already been evaluated by a special task force and were said to be developed decades back have pending applications for SLUPs with the DENR, Gonzales said.

There have been at least 18 SLUP applications for aqua-silvi projects filed with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR in Catanduanes as early as the middle of 1970s, some of them covering these illegal fishponds but only one has so far been approved but has already expired about six years ago.

The task force, however, has recommended that such applications be denied and its operators have already been advised to desist from introducing more improvements or from expanding their fishpond to give way to the restoration of the mangrove forests and rehabilitation of the swamplands that were illegally converted to fishponds, he said.

The rehabilitation and restoration process will first involve the dismantling of the illegally constructed structures, then the on-site forest management to protect, develop and conserve the mangrove forests and swamplands through arrangements with concerned local government units (LGUs) and other agencies.

Filing of appropriate criminal complaints against the fishpond operators and other persons directly involved in the construction that resulted in destruction of mangrove forests and swamplands in violation of forestry laws has also been recommended and being considered by his office, Gonzales said.

“After Catanduanes, we are going around all the other five Bicol provinces—Masbate, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Albay -- for the purpose of clearing out our protected coastal areas of illegal fishponds and other installations,” he said.

As soon as these illegal structures are demolished, the DENR and all other public and private agencies concerned with environmental protection and conservation, including LGUs, will follow up with restoration and rehabilitation aimed at reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities from the impact of climate change, among other purposes, the DENR regional chief said.

The climate change era makes it high time for everyone in Bicol to insist on the development of various ecosystems within the region so that its resistance to natural calamities -- like typhoon, flood, landslide, tsunami, earthquake and volcanic eruptions -- is enhanced, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

NPA rebels execute 2 farmers on suspicion of being military assets

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 20 (PNA) -- New People's Army (NPA) rebels executed two farmers in separate incidents on Thursday morning in Barangay Tobgon, Oas, Albay, and Barangay Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon, on suspicion that they were military and police assets.

A police report identified the first victim as Domingo Ranola, 44 and resident of Sitio Guinimbalan, Barangay Tobgon, Oas.

The report said Ranola’s body was found peppered with bullets from an M-16 armalite rifle at about 5 a.m.

Police found a piece of paper on his body with the following inscription "Domingo Ranola kaso informer ng militar, huwag tularan (Domingo Ranola -- case: military informer; don’t emulate).”

The rebels abducted him from his residence at 4 p.m. last Nov. 15 and since then was not heard of.

The other farmer was identified as Emilio Oplida, 41 and resident of Barangay Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon.

Sorsogon, who was shot dead by rebels at about 9 a.m.

The police report said Oplida was going to his friend’s house when the armed rebels suddenly appeared and shot him on the head and body.

The report quoted Oplida’s brother, Joel, as saying that last month, a certain Ka Jack, a known NPA member in the area, came and accused the victim as a police and military asset.

It added that on June 4, eight rebels died in a military and police operation in the house of the victim. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD/EDS

Modest Catanduanes town is Bicol’s bet in DSWD’s Gawad Listahanan national contest
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) – Pandan, a small and remote town in the island-province of Catanduanes, will represent Bicol as the region’s bet in the first Data Utilization National Awards of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The Awards, also called the Gawad Listahanan, will be given to local government units (LGUs) that have registered the most number of beneficiaries for their locally-funded programs based on the database of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR).

NHTS-PR, also called the Listahanan, is the country’s database of poor households being made available to stakeholders as reference in identifying potential beneficiaries of social protection programs.

The Listahanan database was put in place following a nationwide assessment conducted by the DSWD in 2009, which resulted in the identification of 5.2 million poor households out of the 10.9 million households covered.

That database then was made available only to national government agencies (NGAs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in social protection activities—but in 2011, DSWD started sharing it to LGUs.

To date, it has registered 1,047 users, 935 of which are LGUs.

And with a new database to be generated through the second round of nationwide assessment starting before the end of this year and after almost four years of sharing the first one for use by LGUs, DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman declared that “it is timely for the project to give awards and recognition to those that have maximized its use” -- thus, the Gawad Listahanan.

Arnel Garcia, DSWD’s regional director for Bicol, on Thursday said that although the department plans to expand award eligibility to NGOs and its other stakeholders in the future to promote the convergence of all in effectively addressing the different aspects of poverty, the first Gawad Listahanan will focus solely on LGUs – provincial, city and municipal.

“We want first to acknowledge the efforts of our LGU- data users for providing services and assistance to the Listahanan-identified poor families,” Garcia said.

The search for the awards started in the regional level in the middle of this year and ended last Oct. 15 with three qualifiers—the municipalities of Presentation, Camarines Sur; Sto. Domingo, Albay; and Pandan,Catanduanes.

Following a series of evaluations based on submitted requirements identifying active social protection projects and programs benefiting the Listahanan-identified poor, Garcia said Pandan bested the two other towns to be chosen as Bicol’s entry to the national-level competition.

Garcia said Pandan implemented various programs such as Aid to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) which provides burial, medical, transportation, food and educational assistance wherein the municipal government allocated Php1 million for this purpose, giving priority to the Listahanan-identified poor.

The LGU also introduced Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) to address the livelihood needs of the poor through the provision of skills training on soft broom making, dressmaking, hairdressing and cosmetology for out-of-school and in-school youth.

Aside from SLP, a 120-day supplemental feeding for 676 children of pre-school ages was also implemented through a DSWD-funded program wherein the Pandan-LGU provided a counterpart-manpower of 27 day care workers.

This supplemental feeding program has raised the awareness, attention and involvement of parents who also availed the Parents Effectiveness Program (PEP)--a project that advocates effective and responsible parenthood.

The Pandan Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) has also been noted to give importance on serving the elderly and persons with disabilities in which 99 indigent senior citizens, 77 years old and above, benefited from the government’s Social Pension Program.

Likewise, the Pandan LGU initiated disaster preparedness training for natural calamity-prone areas where most of its affected households are included in Listahanan, according to Garcia.

The municipality that is bounded on the north by the Pacific Ocean and by Maqueda Channel on the west lies on the northern tip of Catanduanes province, 96 kilometers from the capital town of Virac.

It is a small, sleepy town of about 18,000 friendly, hospitable, peace-loving and happy people occupying 26 barangays.

During special family occasions and celebrations done through food serving, tuba (coconut wine) drinking and pantomina dancing (a long-cherished native Bicolano dance), immediate neighbors are invited, bringing along all the members of the family.

For the people of Pandan, everyone in the community is a brother, a sister and a friend.

Each one cares for each other -- an attribute that makes the LGU more concerned over the plight of its poor, according to its mayor, Joseph Al Randie Wong.

“We use Listahanan as the database for the implementation of various programs, projects and activities to provide social protection accurately and correctly for a comprehensive, complete, substantial, and honest public service. Listahanan is indeed very useful to local government units,” he said.

Garcia said his office had already submitted Pandan as Bicol’s official entry to the national Gawad Listahan Awards for the final screening and review of all entries from all the 17 regions of the country in accordance with the award guidelines.

The national awarding will be done during the DSWD anniversary in January next year and winners for each category (municipal, city, provincial) will receive a plaque and a cash incentive of at least Php50,000, which will be provided based on a project proposal promoting Listahanan, the DSWD regional chief added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

400 women attend 4th Buntis Congress
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 18 (PNA) -- More than 400 pregnant women in this city participated in the 4th Buntis Congress on Tuesday at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation.

The whole-day activity, which has for its theme “Mga Buntis Alagaan, Kalusugan ni Baby Agapan,” was spearheaded by the City Health Office in partnership with the Luzon Health, a non-government organization.

The Buntis Congress is a yearly activity of the CHO to inform and educate pregnant women on how to properly manage their safe pregnancies in order to prevent pre-mature delivery of babies and maternal death cases and to guide them into the right way of caring their babies.

City health officer Fulbert Alec Gillego said his office will continue to conduct an educational campaign, nutrition counseling, maternal and health care and other health-related services to make sure that both the health of mothers and babies are always in good condition.

Gillego said he will continue to conduct nutrition education to all the mothers to promote the proper way of breastfeeding process and to teach them responsible parenthood in order to reduce malnutrition cases in the community.

He told participants in the congress that all PhilHealth cardholders, members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and pregnant women sponsored by the Local Government Unit of Legazpi and the Province of Albay are free to avail of the maternal health care services in the three lying-in clinics of Legazpi located at Barangay Buyoan at the northern part, Barangay Banquerohan in the southern area and in the main building of the CHO.

The CHO head pointed out that these three birthing homes of Legazpi are operating 24/7 and being managed by professional doctors, midwives, nurses and other medical personnel.

From the start of the operation in 2009 until the present, these three clinics have zero-casualty record in maternal delivery.

In 2009, the CHO posted 81 maternal deliveries; 211 recorded in 2010; followed by 574 in 2011.

It rose to 848 in 2012 while in 2013, the record was 818.

In the first half of 2014, these clinics posted 305 maternal deliveries.

Gillego disclosed that the city also has an ongoing construction of another lying-in clinic in Barangay Taysan and expects to finish it before year end.

Another lying-in clinic will be put up in Barangay Dapdap next year.

These two additional clinics will serve as additional venues for health care and other medical services to all pregnant mothers in this city, he added.

Gillego said all the pregnant mothers are required to have at least four check-ups before the date of their maternal delivery and urged them to always visit the clinics for their regular checkup for for possible illnesses and advice for safe delivery of babies. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/

Mayon deflates but intensity I crater glow seen anew -- Phivolcs

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 18 (PNA) -- Mayon Volcano has deflated but the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) can not downgrade the alert level of the volcano from 3 to level 2 despite deflation recorded, a scientist said.

Alex Baloloy, Phivolcs volcanologist based at the Lignon Hill observatory station here, said the data from the latest ground deformation survey on Nov. 9-13 indicated a deflation of 6.52 millimeters at Buang Junction leading to the Mayon Rest House in Tabaco City that would be reduced from 15.71-mm (cumulative) inflation last Oct. 15 while 0.69-mm inflation has been recorded at Lidong, Sto Domingo Observatory that will be added to the 4-mm (cumulative) inflation.

On Monday night, an intensity I crater glow was again seen in the volcano.

Paul Karson Alanis, Phivolcs science research specialist, said this dim crater glow can only be seen through telescope, which means the magma is extruding from the crater of the volcano.

He said that since Aug. 15, after the volcano was raised to alert level 2, there was magma already near the crater; now this crater glow means magma has extruded at the surface.

On Nov. 5, intensity I crater glow was also seen.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist at the Ligñon Hill Observatory, said that since Oct. 19, after the 300-meter to 400-meter viscous lava flow, the volcano has become quiet.

In its bulletin released Tuesday, the Phivolcs detected only two volcanic earthquakes during the past 24 hours.

On Nov. 4, Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered the decampment of 10,797 families or 43,274 individuals while 2,874 families or 13,365 people who are living within the six-km-radius permanent danger zone remained in evacuation centers.

The volcano remains at Alert Level 3 or in state of unrest due to the movement of potentially eruptible magma.(PNA) FFC/FGS/AMM/CBD

Albay officials decamp 3,000 Mayon livestock-evacuees

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 18 (PNA) -- Personnel of the Albay Provincial Veterinary Services (APVS) on Monday decamped at least 3,515 livestock that they earlier evacuated due to the restiveness of the Mayon Volcano, giving an opportunity to farmers near the foot of Mayon to go back to farming.

Florencio Adonay, APVAS officer-in-charge, said 476 animals owned by residents living inside the six-kilometer-radius permanent danger zone (PDZ) -- particularly from Anoling, Cabangan, Salugan and Quirangay of the municipality of Camalig -- remained at the Albay Breeding Station in the same town.

Adonay said evacuated livestock include goat, sheep, cattle and carabao while 2,252 swine heads were sold and slaughtered.

Some residents fetched their owned livestock while some animals were brought to their owners through APVS' livestock jeep.

Since Sept. 28, at least 6,243 animals from the 6-km-radius PDZ and 7-8-km extended danger zone were evacuated.

On Nov. 4, Albay Governor Joey Salceda ordered the decampment of 10,797 families or 43,274 individuals while 2,874 families or 13,365 people who are living within six-km-radius PDZ have remained in evacuation centers.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the Mayon Volcano is now quiet-looking yet eruption is still possible after a month of being in a lull.

Eduardo Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist, said that based on the modeling, about 25 to 30 million cubic meters of magma are still on the baseline that could possibly rise in an explosive eruption.

He said the volcano is quiet looking physically but deep inside, there is unrest because of the inflation shown in the geodetic data.

“The fact that there’s inflation, magma, which is still at the baseline, could possibly result in an eruption,” he said.

Data from the latest ground deformation survey on Nov. 9-13 indicated a deflation of 6.52 millimeter at Buang Junction at Mayon Rest House in Tabaco City that would be reduced from 15.71-mm (cumulative) inflation last Oct. 15 while 0.69-mm inflation has been recorded at Lidong, Sto. Domingo Observatory that would be added to 4-mm (cumulative) inflation.

Since Sept. 15, after Phivolcs raised the volcano to alert level 3, the local government of Albay had ordered forced evacuation of residents and animals living inside the 6-km-radius PDZ, aside from families living within the seven to eight-km extended danger zone.

Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), said that if the volcano puffs out ash and the crater glow becomes intense prior to alert level 4, they will order re-evacuation of families up to nine-km radius.

Last week, all the 40 village chiefs were re-oriented for the possible re-evacuation of families through workshop conducted by APSEMO. (PNA) FFC/FGS/AMM/CBD

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gov’t opens opportunity for Bicol farmers to become millionaires (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) – The recent launch here of a new government program for the agricultural sector marked the opening of an opportunity for rice-based farmers in Bicol to become millionaires.

Called the Rural Transformation Movement (RTM), the program -- anchored on the “Gusto Naming Milyonaryo Kayo (We Want You to be Millionaires)” campaign of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), involves a holistic, inclusive and sustainable growth in rice-based communities.

The campaign is in support of Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s social contract made to the Filipinos that highlights poverty alleviation, food security, higher family income, climate resilience and employment generation.

Reynaldo Castro, manager of the newly established PhilRice regional branch for Bicol based in Barangay Batang here, over the weekend told the Philippine News Agency that the RTM primarily promotes the Php1-million farmers’ profit per hectare per year.

PhilRice is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture (DA) that is tasked to help farmers produce more rice by way of developing high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies through research and development works.

“RTM is a campaign that aims for transformation rather than transmission,” Dr. Ronan Zagado, the program lead campaigner, stressed during the launch activities participated in by hundreds of farmers at the Batang PhilRice station.

Instead of the usual one-way dissemination of information, it is a process of changing the perceptions, practices, attitudes and life chances of farmers through rice-based agriculture to achieve sustainable growth in the rice farming areas, he explained.

RTM also involves behavioral intervention wherein farmers are guided in maintaining a positive attitude towards learning new techniques and strategies and contribute to their own success while PhilRice provides technical assistance and develops rice farming technologies, Zagado added.

In the “Gusto Naming Milyonaryo Kayo” campaign in Bicol, farmers are inspired to maximize use of every farm space and time through crop diversification in which agri-business enterprises is integrated to rice farming through the guidance that the PhilRice Batang station will be providing.

In this campaign, PhilRice is determined in making Bicolano farmers earn Php1 million worth of harvest per hectare per year through one of its recently developed projects—the Integrated Rice-Based Agri-Bio Systems (IRBAS) -- that aims to increase production of rice and other crops with high market value.

The project implements the diversification of crop production, explores the potential of rice-based products, ventures on mushroom and peanut production and vermi-composting as a way to achieve the target.

Under this system, farmers, instead of producing only rice each year in most of local farming communities with irrigated fields, are made to diversify into planting peanuts in-between the two rice cropping seasons so that the scheme is referred to as rice-peanut-rice production.

Agricultural Engineer and IRBAS focal person Melanie Aileen de Peralta said PhilRice uses peanut in the diversification system for its high market-value, easy production and more by-products.

Popular as the most affordable finger food snacks in the Philippines, peanut, -- which is usually sold by street vendors as fried, steamed, and sugar-coated -- is very appealing to the taste of many people and also widely-used for cooking pastries, viands, desserts and, most often, for sandwiches, De Peralta said.

Another component of the IRBAS is mushroom production that is now ongoing at the Batang Station using rice straws as substrate for growing oyster mushroom or “kurakding,” an edible local variety that is suitable to grow in the area due to favorable environmental condition.

Kurakding is a high-value farm product that is a delicacy accepted as vegetable usually cooked with coconut milk and other vegetables and is considered one of the favorite local dishes.

Apart from kurakding’s popularity as a food commodity in Bicol, edible mushrooms that will be produced by the project will also address the high demand but meager supply in Metro Manila and other major markets in the country and abroad, De Peralta said.

She explained that mushroom production involves fungiculture, a process that requires different conditions for optimal growth.

Instead of seeds, mushrooms reproduce asexually through spores.

Mushrooms are a good cash crop as; they are rather easy to grow and are brimming with protein, B vitamins and minerals and even have medicinal properties, she said.

Its culture has been gaining popularity in the country but present cultivation is limited, perhaps due to limited local knowledge about fungiculture.

Growing mushrooms requires little space and time and farmers can make use of their rice straws following harvesting.

It can be grown the whole year round provided a good storage of rice straw -- that is among the most common types of fungiculture breeding materials -- is prepared, De Peralta added.

Vermi-composting, on the other hand, involves the production of organic fertilizer from biodegradable materials like plant residues and animal manure through the action of earthworms.

Similar to the mushroom production, rice straw and food wastes such as vegetable peels will be used as substrate for the vermi-composting.

The vermi-compost or the fertilizer produced from it can be used to fertilize agricultural lands or can be sold in the market as added income.

According to Castro, Palayamanan Plus, a rice farming system to increase the production of rice and other crops with high market value and the Nucleus Estate Strategy (NUESTRA), are among the strategies employed by the RTM.

Palayamanan, which is coined after two words: palayan (rice farm) and yamanan (treasure) or literally making the rice farm a source of treasure, is a model being promoted by the DA that revolves around intensive and integrated farming where every inch of space in the farm is utilized for production of various crops and livestock.

“The nine stations of PhilRice around the country that provide farmers with technical assistance, inputs, and machinery requirements serve as nuclei wherein research and development begins. Communities surrounding the stations will adopt the technologies and this process will continue until more communities are reached,” he said.

This strategy creates the "ripple effect" wherein immediate communities influence surrounding communities, Castro said, adding that partnership is also imperative as aside from PhilRice, state universities and colleges along with Regional Integrated Agricultural Research Centers also serve as nuclei. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/rsm

Bridge construction delay jacks up transport costs
By John Mark Escandor

DAET, Camarines Norte, Nov. 16 (PNA) -- The delay in the construction of the Php35.5-million permanent bridge and the new detour bridge in Barangay Kabuluan in Sta. Elena in this province has increased overhead costs in terms of additional fuel expenses amounting to thousands of pesos per truck, according to entrepreneurs in the trucking business here.

Roland Nuñez, who dispatches three to four 10-wheeler trucks to Metro Manila from Daet town every working day, lamented that he has to spend an additional Php2,000-Php3,000 per truck for fuel alone because of the longer route to take.

Rodolfo Camara Jr., another entrepreneur in the trucking business who hails from Jose Panganiban town, said he spends Php4,000-Php5,000 more for fuel per truck dispatched to Metro Manila while the bridge is still to be constructed.

Nuñez said the trucks have to take a long looping route going to the Quirino Highway from Daet to Sipocot town in Camarines Sur province which, he said, takes an additional 200 kilometers of travel to Metro Manila.

Before the destruction of the detour bridge in Kabuluan three months ago, his trucks from Metro Manila would arrive at 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day but at present, Nuñez’s trucks arrive at his establishment along the diversion road here at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Nuñez and Camara said that aside from the additional expenses in fuel, they also incur additional expenses for the workers who have to be provided additional travel allowance.

They lamented that the snail-pace implementation of Kabuluan Bridge project will make them suffer more losses in their business.

Sta. Elena Councilor Artemio B. Sendon Jr. said they believe the Bemkar Construction, which is undertaking the project, has accomplished less than 60 percent of what it claimed.

Sendon said the issue regarding the construction of the Kabuluan Bridge surfaced after the detour bridge was washed out on Sept. 18, which caught the attention of the town council to investigate why the construction took too long.

He said an inspection of the project had been conducted with the participation of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Camarines Norte First District Engineering Office, Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), Sta. Elena municipal engineer, the town council and local transport groups.

Sendon said the report that the contractor had already collected 60 percent of the project cost worries the council members who fear that the project may not be realized in the soonest possible time.

Johnny Genova, PICE representative, told the inspection group that the detour bridge was constructed below standard and the design was not apt, that’s why it was easily washed out.

Genova said they have also noted that there were only about four laborers there seemingly working for the bridge construction when they conducted the unannounced inspection as he wondered how the construction of the permanent bridge could move on.

Sendon noted that in Kabuluan proper, the price of copra was lower at Php6/kilo on the other side of the river, but upon crossing the river going to the town center, the copra is bought at Php9/kilo.

He said commuters have to shell out more money for fare just to reach their homes at nighttime because they cannot complain of the higher fare the tricycle drivers demand from their passengers since the vehicles have to cross the river to reach the other side. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/rsm

Group stresses need to upgrade PNR south line
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) -- A group of concerned alumni of two schools here have stressed the urgent need to upgrade the Philippine National Railways-Southern Line, saying it is only the Philippine–Japan Friendship Highway that serves as a road artery linking the Bicol Region to Southern Tagalog and National Capital regions.

The NPS–ADN 6771, a group of Naga Parochial School (Class of 1967) and Ateneo de Naga (Class of 1971) alumni, said the PNR must be improved and not just rehabilitated to ensure that it will truly serve the needs of the people and that the billions of pesos earmarked for it will not go down the drain.

Emmanuel “Butch” Prieto and Melvin del Puerto, who did extensive research on the issue, noted that the northern part of the Philippines has several well-maintained expressways serving the general populace.

“The rehabilitation of the outmoded narrow gauge tracks (measuring three feet and six inches) is a wrong proposition which will waste the people’s money. The PNR should instead upgrade the tracks to the standard gauge, measuring 4 feet and 8 ½ inches to insure viability and sustainability,” Del Puerto said.

For his part, former Naga City Vice Mayor and now First City Councilor Gabriel H. Bordado Jr. immediately brought the matter to the attention of Rep. Leni Gerona-Robredo, one of the principal authors of the law extending the franchise of the PNR for another 50 years.

Robredo requested Bordado to provide her with all the necessary documents about the NPS-ADN 6771’s official stand on the PNR upgrading.

Bordado said the NPS-ADN 6771 will link up with other groups also advocating for the upgrading of the PNR.

A forum on the issue has been tentatively set at the Ateneo de Naga University. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/rsm

Rosal confident Legazpi ready for ASEAN integration in 2015
By John Mark Escandor

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) -- Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal is confident this city can ride on the integration of the economies of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015 but worries about the unstable supply of electricity in the coming years.

Rosal said if the problem of unstable supply of electric power is not resolved in 2015, this would pose a big problem because it would turn off investors to come to Albay.

“The preparation for the integration of the economy has already cascaded in the government departments like the adoption of K-12 program in education,” he said.

The economic integration of the ASEAN countries is the enforcement of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement signed in 1993 which would remove all tariffs imposed on products and services crossing the borders of member-countries of the ASEAN next year.

The AFTA binds Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to lift tariff restrictions on goods and services across borders.

Rosal said the 2015 AFTA implementation would actually open more economic opportunities for Legazpi City and Albay province because of the thrust in tourism.

He said the service sector, for example, is already upgrading their products and issuance of permits to open up business at the local government unit (LGU) level.

Rosal said Legazpi and Albay, which promote tourism products, will become competitive because ten years after the threat of major eruption of the Mayon Volcano, the LGUs here would have already completed all the rehabilitation that must be done -- from infrastructure to flood control system to solid waste management.

“We are selling tourism. For example Legazpi City has been hosting an average of 20 national conventions for the last three years. The city has leveled up on how to handle tourists although there are still problems with the transport sector,” hesaid.

Rosal said the completion of the Southern Luzon International Airport in Daraga, Albay, would surely boost tourism in the province and the city.

He said the challenges in tourism will test Legazpi City and Albay province with the holding of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in December here. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/rsm

Salceda says Bicol preparing for ASEAN integration with Php37-B development projects
By John Mark Escandor

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, concurrently Regional Development Council-Bicol chair, disclosed Sunday that some Php 37 billion worth of various development projects are ongoing in Bicol under the fund called the Strategic Initiative for Countryside Competitiveness (SICC).

The SICC fund, Salceda said, is part of the Php 85-billion allotment at the disposal of the present administration in wake of the integration of the economies of the member-countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year.

He identified the projects in Bicol under the SICC as the Naga-Polangui Freeway, bridges to Batan and Rapu-Rapu in Albay and Castilla-Magallanes road in Sorsogon -- with a cost of Php10 billion; and the Almasor Tourism Alliance roads, Triple C Tourism Link roads, Arimbay-Misericordia Elevated Road in Albay, and Bicol River Basin Master Plan -- all worth a total of Php27 billion.

The RDC chair and the National Economic Development Administration last week initiated a forum that tackled the challenges and opportunities in the implementation of the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) in 2015.

The AFTA binds Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to lift tariff restrictions on goods and services across borders.

Salceda identified education and agriculture sectors as the most vulnerable in the regional integration of the ASEAN economy.

He noted that among the member-countries of the ASEAN, the Philippines lagged in K-12 education, aside from differences in number of years required in professional courses.

The Albay chief executive stressed the need to study deeply the implication of the free flow of professionals in the ASEAN region, citing problem, for example, for the engineers in the Philippines on the basis that in other ASEAN countries, engineering is a six-year course compared with the four-year engineering course here.

“Definitely, our engineers cannot work in other ASEAN countries because of the lack in the years of education, while their engineers can work here,” he said.

Salceda lamented that 70 percent of the agriculture sector is focused on rice program, though the prevailing high cost of rice production makes rice produced in the Philippines non-competitive.

He said in Vietnam and Thailand, farmers spend Php5 to produce a kilo of rice while in the Philippines the farmer has to shell out Php24 to produce a kilo of rice.

The world-renowned economist said more than any other Asian economies, it is China that made the biggest impact on the Philippine economy.

“Actually, if you look at the records of China, we are importing almost US$ 25-billion worth of goods and multiply that by Php45, that is Php1. trillion of final consumer goods imported from China,” he said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/rsm

Civil engineers find Legazpi an exotic place (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 16 (PNA) -– Members of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) who made it to their 40th National Convention (NatCon) here went home after the four-day affair with a lot of stirring impressions about the city.

The grand occasion, attended by about 4,000 delegates from all over the country and abroad, was held at the city government-owned Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR) from Nov. 12 to Nov. 15.

PICE, an organization accredited by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) of the Philippines, is composed of more than 74,000 registered civil engineer-members in 96 chapters and some 47,000 civil engineering student members in 179 student chapters throughout the country.

“Indeed, the development now we see in Legazpi is engineered by the local government to make the city a truly livable urban community. It is very impressing for its sparkling cityscape loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play, convene and enjoy a healthful living,”engineer Eugenio Pipo Jr., PICE’s national vice- president and chair of its conventions committee, on Sunday said.

He said PICE was not mistaken in choosing the city as venue for its 40th NatCon as people now come as tourists or visitors not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for these amenities.

Big gatherings, like conventions that have made the city one of the favorite destinations in the country, are a good contribution to local tourism, an industry that PICE supports, Pipo added.

Records of the Department of Tourism (DOT) regional office for Bicol here have it that the city last year received over half a million tourists, showing an impressive increase of 32.27 percent from the previous year’s list of arrivals.

The total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579, 470, which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.

“Our 2013 tourist arrival figure is good enough for the main time—surpassing even the 523,832 arrivals that the entire province of Albay posted in 2012. We hit the half million mark last year and by 2016, our goal is to hit the one-million mark,” according to City Mayor Noel Rosal.

This goal maybe ambitious but workable as the local government administration relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products, ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities, he said.

Adding spice to the local tourism industry is the city’s being adjudged as among the three of the country’s most livable cities in this year’s Livable City Challenge organized by the National Competitive Commission (NCC), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 National Organizing Council (NOC), Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction (ASSURE) and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure,” Legazpi placed second to Iloilo in the most livable city ranking, followed by Cebu which placed third.

Recognitions of these three winners were done during grand ceremonies at the Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay City, last month.

Rosal said that with the help of the city chapter of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) headed by its president Maridel Baldano, the city government, in winning the Livable City Challenge, came up with a strategic plan for a highly resilient and livable city featuring a safe and green environment aimed at sustaining good public health.

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.

Engineer Ranulfo Feliciano, the PICE national public information officer (PIO), said it is not surprising why Legazpi was also chosen as among the host cities of the APEC meetings because “it is really a very exciting place living by its title The City of Fun and Adventure.”

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.

PICE past president and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Jaime Pacanan, who was named by Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) as this year’s Most Outstanding Civil Engineer, said “Legazpi is a very inspiring place which is fast rising as a highly urbanized city owing to its aggressive urban development."

The PICE NatCon and APEC Summit are only two of the 30 grand occasions that the city have hosted and will be hosting this year as it looks forward to being named as one of the country’s top five convention capitals. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/rsm

Christmas is in the air in Albay

The Christmas House in Malinao, Albay, features Christmas Around the World and is now open for public viewing and picture taking every night for free. Among attractions that catch tourists' attention are the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Pyramids of Egypt. Last year, the theme of the Christmas House was "Fantasy Land." It has been a yearly attraction and will last until the Three Kings, which will be on the first Sunday of 2015. The house is owned by Dr. Floro Lianko and family. (PNA photo by Connie Destura/Legazpi Bureau)
News and Information Bureau (NIB) Director Danilo S. Jamora delivers his message during the "2nd Bandana Galing sa Puso Festival 2014, a breast cancer awareness and wellness campaign sponsored by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in cooperation with NIB and the Philippine Cancer Society on Thursday (October 30, 2014) at Mabini Hall, Malacanang. (PNA photos by Marvie A. Lloren)LAM/jme

The Provincial Government of Albay welcomes Valerie Weigmann, who represented the province and won as Miss World-Philippines 2014 Thursday (October 16). Weigmann -- of German, Filipino and Danish descent -- will visit the Mayon evacuees temporarily sheltered in safe centers and lifts the spirits of those uprooted from their homes due to the abnormal activities of the volcano. The 24-year-old Albayana beauty titlist, who has gained popularity as a co-host of the famous noontime variety show Eat Bulaga, traces her lineage to the Clacio family of Daraga, Albay, particularly the Centro Ilawod area.(PNA photo by Connie B. Destura/Legazpi Bureau)

Flying in groups to escape the cold and freezing months in temperate regions, migratory birds are starting to descend at the 232-hectare Cabusao Wetland for a feed-stop before continuing their journey to the south.(PNA photo by John Mark EScandor/Legaspi Bureau)

The magnificent Mayon Volcano during its lull from restiveness viewed from the Kapuntukan Hill or Sleeping Lion in Legazpi City, Albay. Despite Alert Level 3, tourists still flock to Albay to witness the possible eruption of the world's perfect cone and the country's most active volcano. (PNA Legazpi photo by Rhaydz B. Barcia)LAM/mal

Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Provincial Public Safety Company and soldiers of the Philippine Army's 901st Infantry Brigade conduct house-to-house forced evacuation of villagers after Alert Level 3 status was raised on Mayon Volcano last Monday. Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said 6,809 (93%) families have been evacuated as of 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, out of the 7,250 families from the 45 barangays in the 6-8 kilometer Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ). (PNA photo of Connie Destura/Legazpi Bureau)LAM/rhb

Gov't to allot 75% of protected area collections to restore biodiversity
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 17 (PNA) -- The government has intensified its campaign to reverse the diversity loss situation of the country through the allocation of a big portion of the income from the protected areas to finance projects toward this purpose.

As an initial move, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have signed a joint memorandum circular or the implementing guidelines of RA 10629 that allots 75 percent of the Integrated Protected Area Fund (IPAF) of the Protected Area Management Boards for the rehabilitation of the biodiversity.

DENR Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales said the JMC was signed by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to reinvest about 75 percent of all revenues from the protected areas for the programs and activities to develop and improve them.

Based on the JMC, the protected areas will have incentives to increase their users' fees and improve and strengthen an innovative financing mechanism since the PAMBs will be able to use their resources, if needed, but in a transparent way and in conformity with accepted accounting and auditing principles.

There are 240 protected areas in the entire country -- composed of natural parks, landscapes, wildlife and marine sanctuaries that are identified through the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) covering 5.45 million hectares or more than 18 percent of the total land area of the Philippines.

In Bicol, there are 17 protected areas that have a total area of 60,876.79 hectares, 10 are on the strength of a presidential proclamation under NIPAS while seven are initial components.(PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD

PNP's No. 5 most wanted person arrested in Naga City

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 17 (PNA) -- Combined elements of the different units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol arrested the No. 5 most wanted person in Metro Manila in a joint operation in Zone 1, Barangay Del Rosario, Naga City on Sunday.

Joint operatives of the Naga City Police Office, Regional Intelligence Unit 5, Highway Patrol Group5, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group5, Regional Special Operations Group, Anti-Kidnapping Group and Task Force Tugis apprehended Rodante S. Cabalyo at Zone 1, Barangay Del Rosario, Naga City.

According to Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, Cabalyo was collared at about 4 p.m. Sunday while he was at his temporary safehouse in the said barangay.

The arresting team was armed with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Bernelito R. Fernandez of the Regional Trial Court of the National Capital Region, Branch 97, Quezon City, for kidnapping with ransom, which was docketed under C.C No. R-QCN-13-0485-CR and with no bail recommended for Cabalyo's temporary liberty.

Deona said Cabalyo had been under surveillance for one week after authorities received information that the suspect had been hiding in the area.

Upon confirmation, the authorities set up the operation. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Legazpi hospital to rise soon in city's heart

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 17 (PNA) -- Another landmark of the City Government of Legazpi will soon rise on a 3,000-square-meter lot along Benny Imperial Road n Barangay Bitano, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said in an interview on Monday.

Rosal said there will be a groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 26 for the construction of the Legazpi City Hospital.

He said the construction of the hospital is a counterparting agreement between the Department of Health (DOH) and the city.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona has committed Php50 million for the project while the City Government of Legazpi will shell out Php30 million.

Upon completion of the project, Rosal said, there will be a soft opening for the operation of the hospital early next year.

There will be 25-50 beds but the group of Legazpenos based in America is willing to donate additional beds and other medical facilities to be used by the patients.

The city chief executive said his administration will need at least Php50 million for the hospital's yearly operations to be used for the salaries of doctors, nurses, midwives, medical personnel and other expenses.

He disclosed that this hospital will become the most modern public health facility in Bicol and will serve the poor constituents by giving them medical health care services at less expense.

The city administration has already established some barangay health stations (BHS) in different villages of this city managed by professional nurses and other medical personnel as part of bringing the health care services to the people in community.

Botika ng Barangay outlets have also been established, benefiting the poor residents of the 70 villages of the city through very affordable prices of medicines. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD

Bantay Dagat group rescues dolphin watchers in Albay Gulf
By Rhaydz B. Garcia

STO. DOMINGO, Albay, Nov. 17 (PNA) -- Members of the Bantay Dagat here saved 15 dolphin watchers in Albay Gulf after the engine of the yacht they were riding malfunctioned in the coast of this town Sunday morning.

The guardians of the seas led by Erwin Gregorio were able to rescue the dolphin watchers from Legazpi City and four crewmen of MV Oragon Floating Bar & Grill.

The MV Oragon Floating Bar & Grill, which had four crew members and 15 local tourists from Legazpi City, left Puro village along Legazpi City Boulevard at about 8:00 a.m. Sunday for dolphin watching.

It, however, experienced engine malfunction after the pump belt was suddenly cut while cruising the seas, said Manuel Gallarde, 55, boat captain.

Subsequently the water pump of the two-deck yacht also malfunctioned, causing it to be washed away to the high seas by big waves.

“The yacht engine was okay, only that the pump belt was cut off and so the water pump malfunctioned. If we were not rescued by the responding Bantay Dagat team of Sto. Domingo, we might have been in danger because the yacht was being washed away to the open seas,” Gallarde said.

Gregorio said Melanie Lanuza-Concepcion called him up, asking for help and saying the yacht they were riding for dolphin watching in Albay Gulf experienced an engine trouble.

Immediately, the Sto. Domingo Bantay Dagat team, using the local government unit's service boat, proceeded to the area where the MV Oragon Floating Bar & Grill floated for almost an hour.

The Bantay Dagat team used one speed boat and a motorized boat as they towed the yacht from Albay Gulf to a safer area within the shore of this town.

The presence of a school of dolphins frolicking all day long in Albay Gulf off Santo Domingo town has been luring domestic tourists here.

Gregorio said the schools of playful dolphins emerged in the waters of Sto Domingo in June but these friendly mammals have been increasing in number since October.

The playful dolphins, at least 100 to 200 of them, are now the latest attraction in Albay Gulf with the background of the world’s perfect cone-shaped Mayon volcano currently in restive condition.

The biggest number of these sea mammals has been noted these past few months wherein almost a thousand were seen playing with fishermen and now luring local and foreign tourists here.

Gregorio’s group also created the Albay Gulf Coastal Resources Management and Ecotourism Council (Albay Crème) Inc. to vigilantly monitor and go after the illegal fishers, thus, protect the coastal area here.

The best time to watch dolphins, he said, is between 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Sto. Domingo Mayor Herbie Aguas said he has set up necessary protocols regarding dolphin interaction to be observed by tourists.

Aside from dolphins, the endangered leatherback giant sea turtle, sperm whale and gentle giant fish "butanding" have also been seen frolicking in Albay Gulf owing to its clean waters. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Thursday, November 13, 2014

DOLE awards 200 businesses for compliance on employees’ welfare

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday awarded at least 200 business establishments here for compliance of the laws and regulations on employees’ welfare during the mass awarding ceremony of certificate of compliance held at the La Piazza Convention Hall.

The businesses are engaged in construction, distribution, education, electric cooperative, financial, malling, manpower services, security, and retail merchandising, among others.

DOLE Undersecretary Rebecca C. Chato told the business owners to follow the labor standards and other laws regarding workers and always protect their employees by way of paying them the minimum wage and respecting their rights to ensure a good playing field for making business in the community.

Chato told the business owners to prevent any involvement in child labor and labor rights violation and exploitation because their products would not be acceptable to the world market.

This, she said, is the present protective scheme measures being done by other countries to examine all the products before entering the world market.

About 200 parents of child laborers in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte, received Php1.2 million worth of livelihood assistance through Mayor Ricarte Padilla.

he DOLE also gave Php30,000 worth of livelihood assistance to parents of rescued minors in Paracale, Camarines Norte.

Chato lauded Legazpi City’s very good partnership with the DOLE that resulted in the continuous improvement of livelihood activities by the constituents in different villages of this city.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal said the awarding ceremony will encourage all the owners of business establishments operating in Legazpi to work more for the welfare of their laborers and employees, give reasonable wages, provide them health care and assure a conducive and safe working environment for them.

Rosal said business establishments and other investors in the city have generated employment to the many city residents and have contributed much to the continuous growth rate of the city economy.

He urged all the business owners to maintain harmonious relationship with their employees to sustain the smooth operation of their establishments.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD

NPA rebels raid village chief’s house, cart away Php1.5M in cash, 4 guns

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- New People’s Army (NPA) rebels took Php1.5 million in cash and four firearms in a raid on the residence of the lady village chief of Barangay Mabiton, Claveria, Masbate, on Tuesday afternoon.

A police report identified the victim as barangay captain Karren Bellesteros, 27, single, businesswoman and daughter of an incumbent municipal councilor of the town.

The report said that at about 1 p.m., Bellesteros and her household members were busy watching a television show when about 30 armed rebels arrived and surrounded their residence.

Some rebels barged in, ransacked the house and found the cash inside the village chief’s room.

The communist dissidents took the money and four firearms, two shotguns and two .45-caliber pistols -- all registered in the name the local government unit of Claveria, and casually left.

Bellesteros co-villagers were surprised with what they witnessed and just closed their windows out of fear.

The rebels did not harm the lady village head and her companions. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Thieves get valuable items, cash from Sorsogon City vice mayor’s house

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- Robbers broke into the house of incumbent vice mayor of Sorsogon City early Wednesday morning, making off about Php 60,000 and other valuables.at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at the City Employees Village, Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City.

Vice Mayor Charo D. Logronio, married and a businessman, said the theft happened while of the family members were in deep sleep at their house at City Employees Vilage, Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City.

A police report said the thieves gained entry at the second floor of the house at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday and fled with Samsung S4, Apple I-phone, Nokia Lumia, Nokia Asha and about Php60,000 cash.

Police are now investigating the incident and the possible identities of the suspects.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD

School of dolphins delights spectators in Albay Gulf anew
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

STO. DOMINGO, Albay, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- A school of dolphins delights spectators as its frolics in Albay Gulf again after the closure of the controversial Lafayette Philipppines Inc. (LPI) in the island-town of Rapu-Rapu Albay, which polluted the sea waters a couple of years ago due to toxic spillage, Dindo Bandoquillo, 47, a Bantay-Dagat volunteer and village councilor of this town, said.

The playful dolphins, at least 100 of them, are now the latest attraction in Albay Gulf with the background of the world’s perfect cone-shaped Mayon volcano currently in restive condition.

Bandoquillo said that since the closure of LPI, and eventually the decommissioning of the operations of the Rapu-Rapu Mines Inc. that took over it, countless dolphins have been showing up again in Albay Gulf since June last year.

The biggest number of these sea mammals has been noted these past few months wherein almost a thousand were seen playing with fishermen and now luring local and foreign tourists here.

“The dolphins appeared in Albay Gulf sometime in June 2013 after the closure of Lafayette. Even before, there were whales, sea turtles, whale sharks and dolphins in Albay Gulf but these migrated when the Lafayette mining operated and polluted our seas because it was releasing toxic chemicals to the seas that killed fishes and other sea mammals,” Bandoquillo said.

The presence of the dolphins, however, is being threatened again by dynamite fishing activities, lamented Erwin Gregorio, consultant of Mayor Herbie Aguas.

Gregorio said that if they will be given a green light by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, they want to man the Albay Gulf with the help of law enforcers to protect the sea mammals by going after illegal fishers.

On Tuesday, fishermen from Manito town were seen conducting dynamite fishing activity in the waters of Sto. Domingo, driving out the dolphins.

Gregorio’s group also created the Albay Gulf Coastal Resources Management and Ecotourism Council (Albay Crème) Inc. to vigilantly monitor and go after the illegal fishers, thus, protect the coastal area here.

The best time to watch dolphins, he said, is between 6 to 9 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Aguas said he has set up necessary protocols regarding dolphin interaction to be observed by tourists.

Aside from dolphins, the endangered leatherback giant sea turtle, sperm whales and gentle giant fish "butanding" have also been seen frolicking in Albay Gulf owing to its clean waters. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

68 PNP-Masbate members deputized by LTO
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Nov. 10 (PNA) -- Sixty-eight members of the Philippine National Police from the different municipalities of Masbate and Masbate City have been deputized by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) regional and provincial regulation offices.

This, after they attended the two-day deputation seminar conducted by the LTO on November 5-6 at the Camp Bonny Serrano here.

The PNP personnel were deputized by the LTO to enforce the provisions of Republic Act 4136 or the LTO law after completing the needed requirements for deputation.

They learned basic information on motor vehicle (MV) registration, licensing, RA 4136 and other related laws and rules, basic road rules and MV roadside inspection, manner of apprehending traffic violators and the new memorandum circulars on violations committed by vehicle owners.

The participants on the seminar underwent practicum, validation and examination.

The LTO assured its deputized agents that they will receive the deputation orders from the LTO regional office the soonest possible time so that they can start enforcing traffic rules in the province. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NBT/cbd/

Mayors warn against harming dolphins in Albay waters
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 10 (PNA) -– The mayors of this city and its neighboring town of Sto. Domingo on Monday issued separate warnings against seaborne activities that may harm the dolphins that now frolic at the local waters.

“I don’t’ want a repeat of what happened to the butanding (whale sharks). I warn everyone from engaging in any activity that could be harmful to the dolphins,” City Mayor Noel Rosal said.

He issued the warning on reports that a pod of dolphins has been appearing and frolicking before the public off the coastlines of the city and of the adjoining town of Sto. Domingo since last week.

In referring to butanding, he recalled that last January, a pod of these “gentle marine giants” also flocked the waters of the city to the amazement of thousands of onlookers, including foreign and domestic tourists who were seeking interactions with it.

These migratory animals were expected to stay for three to four months to feast on plankton that are seasonally abundant in the clean sea waters of the city.

Amid that phenomenon, Rosal issued whale shark interaction guidelines that carry with it a “Code of Conduct” in dealing with the enormous sea mammals whose coming to the city waters has become an added attraction, drawing hundreds of tourists who come rushing to go seaborne for underwater interactions.

Rosal stressed in the guidelines that “to ensure safety and enjoyable experience and to prevent the animals from being disturbed, the Code of Conduct must be observed.”

“First, do not touch or ride the whale shark nor restrict its movement or impede its natural path. The recommended distance from the animals that divers should maintain is three meters from its tail,” the city mayor said.

While whale sharks are passive creatures, they can be agitated by any form of aggression such as being touched or chased; that is why in the Code, these behaviors are strictly forbidden, he explained.

Other acts that are forbidden during interactions, Rosal said, are the use of flash in taking underwater photographs and the use of scuba, scooters, jet ski or any motorized underwater propulsion so as not to cause even minimal disturbance to the sharks when approaching it by boat or when diving.

But at the height of the sightings of the sea mammals, practice simulation exercises (SIMEX), spearheaded by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) for Bicol under its regional director Bernardo Rafaelito Bernardo, were conducted right at the shores of Legazpi Boulevard where the butandings had been showing up.

In these activities, gunshots were fired and loud explosions were heard as part of the exercises while helicopters were flown almost the sea level and large Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Navy boats also crowded the venue.

Observers said the activities, which were deemed to have violated Administrative Order 282 issued by the President of the Philippines in 2010 that provides for the intensification of the protection of the whale shark (Rhicodon typus) in the Philippine waters to conserve the species and sustain the ecotourism development in certain coastal communities, agitated the whale sharks into leaving the city waters prematurely to the dismay of watchers, including Rosal and the tourists.

“Now come the dolphins and I would to insist that these animals should be left alone freely frolicking at our waters without being harmed by any untoward activity,” Rosal stressed.

Sto. Domingo Mayor Herbie Aguas has also issued a similarly stern warning as he set up over the weekend a dolphin interaction center that now sees to it that good conduct is observed by anybody, including tourists, as they go seaborne watching.

Early last week, a dolphin believed to be part of the pod was found dead with spear wounds along the shoreline of the municipality.

The local police and personnel of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have been conducting an investigation on the matter and Aguas said “anybody who would be found responsible would be prosecuted under the law on the protection of endangered wildlife species.”

Aguas said various fishing methods like purse seine, drift and gill nets that could unintentionally kill dolphins are also prohibited from the local coastal waters where they are have been seen frolicking. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd

Bicol tourism council moves to address obstacles challenging Triple C cluster
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 10 (PNA) -– The competitiveness of the newly formed three-province cluster of tourism development area (TDA) in Bicol is being challenged by obstacles ranging from limited market access to lack of industry manpower capabilities, according to local tourism authorities.

These obstacles were identified during recent assessment and validation activities conducted by the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC) toward the preparation of a development strategy that would be included in the Tourism Development Plan (TDP) for 2015–2020, Department of Tourism Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla based here on Monday said.

The cluster, known as the “Triple C,” was formally formed by the BRTC last September through the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the governors of the three provinces involved -- Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes.

The MOA ensures the commitment of each province to the tourism alliance that would seek to address the obstacles challenging the TDP which, apart from working with local government units in developing their areas and setting up tourist facilities, also works with the private sector towards the pouring in of more investments, Ravanilla, who chairs the BRTC, said.

Its formation as another TDA in Bicol is part of the 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) that recognizes every part of the region a tourist attraction, thus, the clustering that provides strategic directions and programs that would make local tourism products more competitive are formulated.

The improvement of market access, connectivity, destination infrastructure and enhancement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities, Ravanilla said, are the primary strategies that the BRTC are instituting toward this end.

A technical working group (TWG) composed of the regional offices for Bicol of the DOT as lead agency and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), as among the members, works on these strategies.

Other members are the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

These agencies form the panel of permanent members of the TWG while governors Luis Miguel Villafuerte, Edgardo Tallado and Araceli Wong of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes, respectively, as well the mayors of Naga and Iriga cities and all the 56 municipalities covered by the three provinces are current members, according to Ravanilla.

In the recently concluded initial leg of the assessment that ran for three days, the TWG made rounds at the cluster’s key tourism areas to check on the hospitality facilities, transportation and communication, cuisines, security and safety, existing homegrown products and specialties, rest room areas and other basic concerns that would affect the impression of domestic and local tourists, she said.

“We named the Triple C cluster ‘Gems of the Pacific’ for its geographical location which is along the rim of the Pacific Ocean,” she said, adding that there are two sub-TDAs under this cluster -- the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) to cover the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

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

Caramoan town is home to Gota Village Resort, a leading destination for tourists coming from France and other European countries after it was included among the 14 best tourism destinations in the world by Top Resa 2008 in Paris and adjudged ecotourism destination of the year in the 2009 edition of Nature, one of France’s biggest travel fairs.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a pearly island in the Pacific that is virtually untouched, unspoiled and unexplored.

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

The island offers a totally laid-back rural charm, a beautiful natural environment and plenty of easy action at a pace that’s always relaxed.

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

Calaguas Islands was named number one Philippine Gem last year and one of the top emerging destinations in the country.

Other tourist attractions in Camarines Norte are the Mananap Falls, Mercedes Group of Islands, Calalanay Beach, Mt. Bagacay, San Pascual Water Falls, San Jose Beach, Mampurog River, Black Nazarene of Capalonga and Pulang Daga Beach. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/cbd

Mayon evacuees thank soldiers who evacuated, brought them back home
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

GUINOBATAN, Albay, Nov. 10 (PNA) -- In classified red zone areas of Bicol, soldiers’ presence often sends fear to the villagers with the thought of a looming exchange of gunfire with the rebels; but for every natural disaster occurrence, this fear is overshadowed by solidarity and bayanihan spirit that spontaneously come out from every individual in this drama of disaster.

Bayanihan means working voluntarily together to complete a task.

Through the "bayanihan" system, which has been practised in Albay province in times of disaster, soldiers play the major role of assisting and ensuring the people’s safety, like after Mount Mayon unrest heightened on Sept. 15 that prompted government volcanologists to raise the volcano's alert level to 3.

With this condition of Mayon, Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda ordered the forced evacuation of people within the six to seven-kilometer-radius danger zone.

The soldiers of the Philippine Army safely carried out the movement of the villagers from their homes to the different evacuation centers.

When the Mayon evacuees outside the circle of six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone were sent back home a few days ago, the soldiers were again mobilized in the decampment of 10,797 families or 43,274 people.

Couple Carlito and Marites Palermo, 54, along with their five children, were among those decamped and sent back home to Muladbucad Grande in Guinobatan town, along with other evacuees, on board military trucks.

They were assisted by Army Master Sergeant Manuel Aquino and Pfc. Leo Dimaano of the 5th Forward Service Support Unit of the Army Support Command.

“Thank you for your help during our evacuation and for bringing us back home safely,” Marites Palermo said, as she bid goodbye to the soldiers who lent a hand.

The Palermo family lives within the seven-kilometer-radius danger zone, and was among those given the green light by the provincial government to go back home but must be prepared always for re-evacuation once Mayon volcano exhibits an ash puffing.

Airman Noel Elevado and Sgt. Casiano Abad of the Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force also transported evacuees from Bubulusan Elementary School going back to Muladbucad Pequeno.

Army Col. Raul Farnacio, commanding officer of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade and Task Force Mayon Team Army chief, said they are always ready to lend a hand to the people in need at all times.

“We’re always here to assist the public at all times. We’re also grateful because the true spirit of Bayanihan lives here. Everyone does his or her share to help the people in need in times of disaster,” Farnacio said.

Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), said they will enforce re-evacuation again once Mayon volcano produces an ash puffing.

“We will re-evacuate more than 50,000 people again once the restive Mayon volcano will have an ash puffing because we will not evacuate during eruption. The ashfall may hamper rescue teams from getting to the affected areas that could isolate the third district of Albay due to 'amihan',” Daep said.

He said that should the volcano erupt explosively, the ash fall could isolate parts of Guinobatan, Camalig and Daraga in Albay due to amihan or northeasterly wind. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/cbd/

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gov. Salceda allows decampment of 34,151 Mayon evacuees
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 5 (PNA) -- Governor Joey Sarte Salceda finally gave the green light for 9,841 families or 34,151 people within seven to eight-kilometer-radius danger zone to go home but said they must be ready for a multi-zone re-evacuation to safe camps anytime.

Salceda’s directive was issued on Tuesday afternoon during the cluster meeting of disaster officials presided by Director Raffy Alejandro, Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO held at AECID hall.

“Upon consultation with the Phivolcs and Mayon mayors, as based on the hazard review and vulnerability update (population at risk) using the new markers identifying the 6-km-radius permanent danger zone of Mayon volcano, residents from 33 barangays are allowed to return to their residences,” the governor said.

The evacuees to be decamped came from the villages of Oson, San Isidro, Buhian in Tabaco City; San Roque and Canaway in Malilipot; Lidong, Fidel Surtida, Sta. Misericordia, San Fernando and San Isidro in Sto. Domingo; Budiao, Alcala, Miisi, Salvacion, Matnog and Banadero in Daraga; Cabangan, Quirangay, Salugan, Sua and Tumpa in Camalig; Maninila, Muladbucad Grande, Muladbucad Pequeno, Tandarora, Masarawag, Dona Tomasa and Maipon in Guinobatan town; and Tambo, Nabonton and Amtic in Ligao.

The evacuees to remain in evacuation camps were 4,191 or 17,549 people from the villages of Magapo, Comon, Buang, Mariro and Nagsipit in Tabaco City; Calbayog in Malilipot; non-relocated residents of Miisi in Daraga, Anoling (non-relocated population only), Cabangan'a Purok 6, Quirangay'a Purok 4-7, Sua'a Purok 67 in Camalig; upper Muladbucad Grande in Guinobatan; ang Baligang in Ligao City.

However, should there be any escalating abnormal conditions of Mayon volcano manifested in the observation parameters as observed by Phivolcs, the same shall be ready for a multi-zone re-evacuation to safe evacuation camps,” Salceda said.

At least 12,757 families or 57,000 people were housed in at least 39 temporary evacuation camps from the municipalities of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga, Sto. Domingo, Malilipot and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco since Sept. 15.

Three weeks ago, Daep requested Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum to conduct a survey to delineate and check the number of families living in six to expanded 7-kilometer-radius danger zone to permanently remove the people living in danger zone here.

The Phivolcs finding served as APSEMO’s guide to determine necessary action on emergency response as well as permanent solution after the delineation of the villages from six to 7-km danger zone, which means that rigid action will be implemented to totally remove the people from the declared no man’s land.

Salceda earlier said the government needed Php3.6 billion to totally relocate the people in the no man’s land area so that the provincial government will no longer resort to palliative solution or evacuating the residents in danger zone to safer grounds once the volcano becomes restive. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

Butandings, tourists are back in Donsol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 4 (PNA) -– From hibernating somewhere else for quite some time, the gentle marine giants are back in Donsol, and so are the tourists.

“We have at least five of them now staying and frequently appearing before public eyes since about two weeks ago,” Alan Amanse, the Donsol Butanding Interaction Office (BIO) head, said in a statement reaching here Tuesday.

He was referring to the whale sharks known as the gentle giants of the ocean, which for nearly two decades, have made the coastal water of Donsol, Sorsogon, their seasonal home and attracted tourists from all over the world who sought a once-in-a-lifetime close encounter with these enormous creatures.

With their (whale sharks) reappearance after almost a year of absence, tourists have once again started coming, Amanse said.

This means that this year’s season for whale shark tourism in the municipality has started nearly four months ahead of the regular period that in the past years would come in the months of November through June.

During this period, schools of these marine mammals, locally called butandings, usually arrive from nowhere of the ocean and stay near the mouth of the Donsol River to take advantage of the continuous abundance of plankton that fill their diet, to mate and even breed.

From a sleepy fourth-class municipality, Donsol has been accelerated to first class two years ago owing to the tremendous gains of its tourism sector in just 12 years after the presence of butandings in its waters was officially discovered in 1998.

Barely 16 years ago, Donsol, which sits 47 kilometers southwest of this city or 540 kilometers southeast of Manila, was described as a sleepy rural community where weathered vehicles spurred swirling clouds on dusty, unpaved roads.

Over years following its discovery as seasonal sanctuary of whale sharks, it captured international attention with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)- Philippines spearheading a holistic conservation program, which ranges from satellite butanding tagging and photo-identification, to the effective management of tourism impacts.

Since then, the national government has been pouring in funds to improve the 29-kilometer main road linking the area to the Maharlika Highway and road networks within the municipality to make it more accessible to land trips.

The biggest among these road improvement projects being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are the ongoing Php769.2-million Donsol-Pioduran and the Php700-million Donsol-Guinobatan roads that will open new convenient and shorter routes between the municipality and the southeastern sections of Albay.

The road connection between Donsol with Pioduran will also allow tourists to move around ecotourism sites along the coastline of Ticao Pass and jump through the Pioduran port to Burias, Masbate, a quaint island that offers unexplored ancient landmarks and pristine beaches away from the hassles of urban life.

The Donsol-Jovellar-Guinobatan road, on the other hand, will make travel shorter between Donsol and areas covered by the third district of Albay where Mt. Mayon’s southwestern quadrant could be closely viewed as well as Ligao City, the site of the alluring Kawa-Kawa Hill and Nature Park.

Whale sharks are species of giant sea mammals, scientifically called Rhincodon typus, and are a slow-moving filter-feeding sharks and the largest extant fish species reaching as big as 13 meters in body length and weight of more than 21 metric tons.

They are migratory in nature but some of them have adopted the Donsol waters as residence.

Friendly to human beings, these creatures swim from surface to mid-water and with their size, they are hard to miss.

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

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

Study shows that the largest annual congregation of the whale sharks is in Donsol, where they migrate in vast number, to take advantage of the dense food concentration of plankton and krill, which is brought about by the current patterns, water temperature and the general health of the sea.

For the whole of last year until the early months of this year, however, no whale shark arrived, idling the tourism industry of the municipality that in the past years would be visited by an average of 25,000 tourists yearly.

During the period, the butandings have to stay away from the high temperature of the Donsol waters and lack of food due to intense heat of summer, Amanse said.

The ideal temperature ranges between 26 and 27 degrees centigrade but it significantly rose to 29-30 degrees centigrade while the supply of plankton also declined due to the same factor.

That hurt badly the local tourism industry — affecting severely not only the town’s revenue earnings but the livelihood of hundreds of industry workers.

Whale sharks come to Philippine seas essentially to feed on plankton; however, by themselves, our seas are not rich in plankton, being located in an area where upwelling, a process that brings nutrients from the bottom of the sea to the surface and fertilizes the water column which consequently results in rich plankton production, does not occur.

Instead, our marine waters are fertilized by outwelling, which is caused by the monsoon flood and typhoon winds and waves which either transport the nutrients from the coastline to the sea or stir the coastal bottom sediments and fertilize the water column, followed by plankton production.

“In other words, the lack of typhoons in the recent years in the region have rendered our seas quite infertile, decreased the plankton production, and made our seas a poor source of food for the whale sharks,” Amanse said.

The prevailing rainy season and the coming of typhoon "Glenda" last July must have helped in making Donsol waters attractive once more to the butandings and the return of tourists would certainly relive the local tourism industry to its peak during the whole season, Amanse said. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS