Friday, January 31, 2014

Albayanos hail visit of Chinese visitors from Xiamen as boon to tourism
By Nancy I. Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 31 (PNA) – “Kung Hei Fat Choi!”

For the first time, some 160 Chinese from Xiamen will greet Albayanos, especially Filipino-Chinese in the province, with these words as they celebrate the Chinese New Year Friday in Albay, specifically in Misibis Bay Rain Tree Resort in Cagraray, Albay, a leisure-entertainment destination.

The arrival Thursday morning of the Chinese guests has been considered by Albayanos as a unique event and a boon to the tourism industry of Albay.

The visitors arrived here on board a direct chartered flight from Xiamen, China.

Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the new route has opened the door of Albay to other countries.

“First Xiamen, next will be other cities in China, Korea and Taiwan,” Salceda said.

The economist governor said some P6.5 billion will be contributed to the coffers of Albay once the Legazpi airport receives more foreign tourists as an international gateway.

“This amount is almost five times the annual budget of the province,” he said, explaining that a Chinese tourist would spend an average of USD 1,000 for a one-day stay in the province.

Salceda said the tourism industry will open employment opportunities to Albayanos.

For every tourist, there will be at least one local resident that will be given employment or livelihood income, he added.

Gerard Panga, Philippine tourism attache to China, said Albay will be the new tourist destination in the Philippines after Boracay, Cebu and Clark.

Panga said the province has many things to show, not only its natural resources but also its culture and arts, among others.

Tourism Undersecretary Ma. Victoria Jasmin said there is indeed a need for international access outside Metro Manila like Albay.

Jasmin added that there is a need to facilitate the completion of the Southern Luzon International Airport as a result of the influx of foreign tourists.

Aside from this, she said, there will be international conferences to be held in the province like the 150th ASEAN tourism officials meeting and the World Trade Organization meeting in May. In this connection, Albay is very much ready to support the the tourism program of the national government through its tourism-related initiatives like the formation of t he Almasor (Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon) tourism alliance, Salceda said.

In fact, the Department of Tourism has approved at least 321 tourism infrastructure projects for the Almasor.

The Albay chief executive also expressed confidence that the SLIA, located in the neigboring municipality of Daraga, will open before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016.

The DOT allocated P2.2-billion funding for the airport runway this year.

In 2015, he said, there is a need for another allocation of P2.2 billion for the airport terminal and other requirements for its full operation. (PNA) FPV/FGS/NIM/CBD/

DOLE readies implementation of welfare program for Bicol farmers (with photo)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 31 (PNA) – Coconut farmers in Bicol are target of preparations being conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for the implementation of its Social Amelioration and Welfare Program (SAWP) for workers in the biofuel industry.

The preparations include the conduct here of the recently concluded seminar-workshop on the new guidelines of the program participated in by 20 provincial directors of government agencies directly linked with the industry and farmers in the region.

These agencies are the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

It was the first in a series of orientations on these new guidelines which, when completed will be followed by the conduct of advocacy activities involving coconut farmers in the region, DOLE Bicol regional director Nathaniel Lacambra based here said on Thursday.

Not all of the 293,000 Bicolano farmers tending a total of 447,743 hectares of coconut farms in Bicol are eligible to SAWP coverage, However, it is very clear in the guidelines that only those that are involved in the production of biofuel are covered, Lacambra explained.

The new SAWP guidelines state that biofuel producers should allot a certain portion of the sales to serve as lien to be placed in a social amelioration fund which can be accessed by the farmers for various benefits like social protection, livelihood, educational, health and safety and emergency assistance, among others.

This lien worth P0.05 per liter of coco biodiesel produced and sold being collected by the DOLE regional office since 2012, shall be used to primarily augment the income and finance the social and economic programs to improve the livelihood and well-being of the workers directly involved in feedstock and processing of products into biodiesel, he said.

The SAWP lien, Lacambra said, shall be borne by all biodiesel producers for the benefit of the workers, specifically of distillery plants --except managerial employees, coconut oil mills that provide feedstock and coconut farmers and farm workers who are engaged in feedstock for biofuel production.

The same guidelines also push for a profit-sharing scheme among farmers and biodiesel producers.

These guidelines, according to Lacambra, are based on provisions of Republic Act 9367, otherwise known as the Biodiesels Act of 2006, which provides, among others, that DOLE “shall promote gainful livelihood opportunities and facilitate productive employment services and regulations to ensure the access of workers to productive resources and social protection coverage.”

The same law also states that “per authority granted under Joint Administrative Order No. 2008 series of 2008, the DOLE shall be the implementing agency for the development and management of the SAWP for biodiesel workers.”

“This is a very noble program that gives DOLE a great task of communicating its new guidelines to our farmers who are the beneficiaries.” Lacambra said.

Apart from this task, the DOLE regional office is also mandated to conduct advocacy and information dissemination on relevant policies and projects on the SAWP; enforce compliance of all local biodiesel producers on the collection and remittance of the lien; provide technical assistance to program stakeholders; and monitor and evaluate the status of projects implemented, he said.

To ensure that the new guidelines are understood by farmers, DOLE-Bicol has scheduled a series of orientations, first for Albay coconut farmers engaged in biodiesel feedstock production.

“We have identified 400 farmers in the province who qualified for the SAWP coverage and we are reaching out to them so that they become fully oriented on the benefits that the program has in store for them,” Lacambra said.

These benefits, he said, include packages of direct services to establish or improve and expand workers’ existing livelihood assets and transform these into sustainable community enterprises that can provide employment and stable income for their families.

Other benefits are training and vocational education assistance for the workers to enhance their employability in farm and non-farm enterprises; organizational and community development, financial literacy, network building and other capacity building assistance to promote entrepreneurship and improve self-employment.

Biofuel workers are also entitled under SAWP to social protection and welfare benefits that include package of services that will promote work improvement, productivity, health and safety and a one-time cash assistance equivalent to one-month contribution to Social Security system and PhilHealth, respectively.

Emergency assistance against unexpected or catastrophic events such as earthquake, typhoon, landslides, flooding, prolonged drought and other emergencies shall also be provided to the workers under SAWP.

This covers provision of food relief and cash assistance, emergency employment program and other services to eligible workers.

Likewise, emergency assistance may also be provided in the event of economic displacement due to mergers, closures or retrenchments for the purpose of providing start-up capital for self-employment and enterprise development. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Legazpi adds geotourism into local travel industry
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) -– This booming Bicol metropolis by the foot of Mt. Mayon, known as the “City of Fun and Adventure” in the tourism world, is taking geotourism as another travel industry product to promote.

City Mayor Noel Rosal on Thursday said this new concept of geotourism has been attracting increasing interest around the world and “we are taking it as a multiplier of our recent tourism industry gains.”

Although the term has been in use informally since 1997, the 2002 Geotourism Study sponsored by National Geographic Traveler magazine and conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America constituted its public debut in the same year, according to the Parañaque City-based Mique International Conference and Event Planners (MICEP).

According to American tourism consultant Jonathan Tourtellot, who is Center for Sustainable Destinations Geotourism editor and National Geographic founding director, geotourism sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, heritage, aesthetics, culture and the well-being of its residents.

Tourtellot introduced the geotourism concept to the local press in a conference at Rosal’s office Wednesday as a prelude to his lectures on the same topic in an international seminar to be hosted here by the city government on February 9.

The seminar, organized by MICEP, will be attended by hundreds of hospitality and tourism students, professionals, stakeholders and government service workers from all over Bicol.

“Geotourism is sustainable tourism energized. It sustains, but it can also enhance—by means of restorative and constructive forms of tourism that fit the nature of the destination,” Tourtellot said.

In short, he said, geotourism is environmentally and culturally responsible besides being committed to conserving resources, maintaining biodiversity, respecting local sensitiveness and building on local heritage.

Revenue for it, he said, can help to restore historic sites, for instance and support local craftspeople or help retain traditional cultural celebrations and performing arts that would otherwise disappear.

Goetourism, Tourtellot stressed, helps beautify ugly places and enrich poor places. “It does those things best when focused on the distinctiveness of a place, avoiding the destructive pitfalls of undifferentiated global mass tourism,”

“While this type of tourism is incompatible with loss of natural or cultural diversity, it does not seek to stop the clock and preserve a destination in amber. What it does seek to preserve is geographical diversity, the distinctiveness of a locale,” he explained.

Destinations that offer nothing but look-alike international franchises lose their distinctiveness and appeal and end up vulnerable to a package-resort mass tourism market that seeks on the cheapest price, Tourtellot added.

Geotourism also helps in the preservation and development of local cuisines based on distinctively local ingredients supplied by farmers in the locality, he added.

On the part of the city government, Rosal said he is adopting geotourism, most especially that it has been proven in several parts of the world to favor the well-being of local residents given that it generates revenues to provide real, bottom-line incentive for residents to protect what tourists are coming to experience.

“In turn, informed, involved, prospering residents create a more welcoming environment for tourists,” the city mayor explained.

The city, he said, is starting with it by hosting the international seminar themed “Geotourism: Making the Philippines an Authentic, Sustainable and Creative Destination” and is slated on February 9.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) has named this city as among the top 14 tourist destinations across the country following up trend of tourist arrivals from a total of 438,000 in 2012 to nearly 500,000 in 2013.

The city has also been considered since some five years ago as one of the country’s most favorite local and international conventions hosts.

This place started to be known as “City of Fun and Adventure” two years ago with its introduction of amusing escapades to tourists coming in for daring tours over lava hills, exotic rock formations and breathtaking experiences around scenic spots down the slopes of iconic Mt. Mayon. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Thursday, January 30, 2014

US, Australian teams to hold medical missions in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda on Wednesday said medical teams from the United States and Australia will conduct separate medical missions in Albay in February.

Salceda said the foreign humanitarian teams are scheduled to perform surgical operations on patients with cleft lips and cleft palates on independent missions dubbed as “Faces of Tomorrow” and “Helping Children Smile, Inc.,” respectively.

The US team is composed of 33 doctors, surgeons and specialists and is scheduled to have its mission on Feb. 3-7 at the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) in this city.

Initial screening of patients will be held on Jan. 30 at the BRTTH Out-patient Department-Pedia/Wellness Center while the final screening by the US surgeons is scheduled on Feb. 2.

The Australian team of 13 medical personnel, on the other hand, will conduct its mission on Feb. 24 until March 5 tentatively at the Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital (JBDMDH) in Ligao City.

Initial screening for this mission will be conducted at the BRTTH on Feb. 17-19 while the final screening is on Feb. 23 at the JBDMDH. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

DTI-Bicol pushes registration of geographical indication for ‘Bicol pili’
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) – The Department of Trade and Industry Regional Office 5, in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office Philippines, is pushing for the registration of an geographicl indication (GI) for “Bicol pili” as part of its developmental approach in the use of industrial property for the total development of the pili nut industry in the region.

Jocelyn LB. Blanco, DTI Bicol regional director, explained a GI or geographical indication is a specific intellectual property right that designates a product from a specific region and whose characteristics result in both the natural conditions of its origin and the expertise of local producers.

More commonly, Blanco said, a geographical indication consists of the name of origin of the goods or products.

She gave as example 'Champagne' which is used exclusively for French wines in the Champagne province of France.

“A GI is a powerful intellectual and economic asset not only of the region but also of the nation, as it leverages products to compete globally,” Blanco said.

It is a valuable marketing tool in today’s global economy, she added.

The DTI’s move towards a GI for Bicol pili aims to promote and better protect the pili nut in the local and international markets.

This dynamic instrument leads to wider market reach, including trade negotiations between and among economies, Blanco also said.

After almost a couple of years of negotiations, and having been able to build an institution from a cross section of stakeholders of the pili industry, a whole-day consultative meeting is scheduled on Feb. 18 at the DTI Regional Office 5 Conference Room, 3rd Floor Albay Capitol Annex Bldg. in this city.

The meeting will equip the pili stakeholders with enough information on the requirements needed for the registration of Bicol pili as a GI.

More importantly, the meeting aims to organize the technical working group that will draft the Code of Practice. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EPS/CBD/

Motorboat sinks off Masbate town; Coast Guard rescue 12 passengers

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 29 (PNA) -– The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) rescued all the 12 passengers, including the pilot, of a motorized boat that sank in the waters off Barangay Don Pablo Dela Rosa, Aroroy, Masbate, on Tuesday afternoon.

Raffy Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense Bicol regional director, identified the rescued persons as boat pilot Rodolfo Natal and passengers Rosa Mae Ramirez, 16; Rowena Ramirez, 45; Apolinario Ramirez, 19; Aiza Ramirez, 21; Grace Ramirez, 17; Remelio Paraiso, 17; Aris Pajo, 18; Alexander Bolisig, 2; Vicente Bolisig, Jr. , 10 months old; Joelan Ramirez, 23; and Marion Espenilla, 18.

All victims are residents of Barangay Osmeña, Clevaria, Masbate, who were on their way to Barangay Poblacion, Aroroy town, to attend the wedding of a relative.

Alejandro said the M/B Janet being piloted by Natal was hit by big waves at about 1 p.m., causing water to pour into the vessel that eventually sank.

Natal called the attention of the Coast Guard whose men immediately came to the rescue of the victims.

The authorities brought the survivors to a hospital for treatment of injuries and pulled the boat to the shore.

They learned that the boat is being used for fishing by Natal and that it was overloaded when the accident happened. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Bicol cop chief orders intensified measures to halt crime rate hike

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Police Regional Office 5 director, has ordered the 117 chiefs of police across Bicol to step up their campaign against the rising number of crimes in the region.

Deona, who assumed the command of PRO5 only in October last year, told the PNA on Wednesday that he expressed his dissatisfaction over the poor performance of the police chiefs and warned that he would relieve any of them who fails and violates the Philippine National Police’s “three-strike policy” in the performance of their work.

He said he made the warning during a whole-day command conference on Monday where he discussed his anti-criminality program.

Under the program, the PNP Bicol chief said, the chiefs of police are given monthly targets to be accomplished.

These include the arrest of three wanted persons; three recovered lost firearms; arrest of persons involved in illegal drug trade, logging, gambling, mining and other violators of special laws.

Deona also warned his six provincial police directors that the strike policy will also be enforced at their level.

During the command conference, he also expressed alarm over the 40,331 cases of crime reported in 2013 in Bicol.

The number is four times or 400-percent higher compared to the 10,091 cases reported in 2012.

The report also showed that out of the total crime volume, 17,658 were index crimes or those committed either against persons or properties while 22,673 cases were non-index crimes (violation of local ordinances or special laws).

Index crimes recorded included physical injuries, the highest with 5,203; followed by theft, 3,929 cases; robbery, 1,099; murder, 349; rape, 387; homicide, 184; carnapping, 200l and cattle rustling, 102 cases.

The PNP regional crime situation report indicated that of the total crimes recorded, only 5,814 cases were solved while 12,846 were cleared.

By province, topping the list in crime volume is Camarines Sur with 11,392 cases; followed by Albay, 10,220 cases; Naga City, 7,175; Masbate, 5,035; Camarines Norte, 2,971; Catanduanes, 2,137, and Sorsogon, 1,401.

Incidence of murder was high in the province of Masbate with 100 cases; followed by Camarines Sur, 94; Albay, 65; Sorsogon, 37; Camarines Norte, 26; Caranduanes, 10, and Naga City, 17.

Provinces with high incidence of rape cases were Albay with 113 cases; Camarines Sur, 85; Sorsogon, 49; Catanduanes, 44; Camarines Norte, 37; Masbate, 30, and Naga City, 29. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rosal reminds Legazpi village officials of being part of development process
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal has reminded elected city village officials that they and the people of the barangays are part of the development and progress of the community and urged them to always participate in health, environmental, agricultural activities.

To strengthen this role of these officials, he said, the city government of Legazpi, through its Budget Office, recently conducted a four-day Barangay Budget Preparation Seminar Workshop participated in by the newly elected officials and newly installed treasurers and secretaries of the 70 villages of this city.

Rosal told the PNA in an interview Tuesday that the seminar gave the participants additional knowledge on how to govern squarely and judiciously for the benefit of the constituents at their respective localities.

He said he also urged the local officials to strengthen the livelihood activities at their own localities to give the people in the barangays more opportunities to increase their daily income and uplift their lives.

The city chief executive stressed the need to work hand in hand to achieve good peace in order situation in order to maintain the image of Legazpi City as a peaceful community and a better place to live in.

In a separate interview, Budget Supervising Administrative Officer Jeffrey P. Navarro said he explained to the participants the share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of the barangay as, he said, the money of the barangay will depend on the national internal revenue collection.

Navarro said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) will deposit the share of every village to a government servicing bank on a quarterly or monthly basis.

The fund, he added, will be used for the development projects, operating expenses and other operating services of the barangay officials.

As a general rule, he said that if the locality has 100 or more inhabitants, the barangay will get a guaranteed P80,000 from the IRA as its share in the 20 percent from the 40 percent allocated to the barangay while the 80-percent balance will be allocated depending on the population and equal sharing.

In the local shares, Navarro said, every barangay will have a share of 50 percent from the 30-percent share of real property tax collected by the city government of Legazpi while the remaining 50 percent will be divided equally to all the component villages.

In business establishments, he pointed out that if not more than P50,000, one percent of the gross sales of receipts in the preceding calendar year will be the share of the barangay.

However, if the share is more than P50,000, the tax shall accrue entirely to the city government.

In quarrying, 40 percent of the 10 percent of fair market value in the locality per cubic meter of ordinary stones, sand, gravel and other quarrying resources will be the share of the barangay where the quarry is extracted, Navarro pointed out. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/CBD/

Albay to hold trail run around Cagsawa Ruins for Daragang Magayon Festival
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) – Rugged trail runners from all over the world will be treated to an exciting experience in conquering the 21-kilometer distance over exotic lava hills, volcanic rock formations and small streams emanating from Mt. Mayon when Albay holds an international trail run during the celebration of Daragang Magayon Fetival in April this year.

Daragang Magayon refers to Albay’s mythical legend featuring the iconic Mayon Volcano whose name is derived from Daragang Magayon (beautiful lady in the Bicol dialect).

The festival is a month-long festivities as part of the aim of repositioning the province with AlMaSor (Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon), a tourism alliance which clusters the three Bicol southernmost provinces as the “Soul of the South” of the country’s tourism industry.

With AlMaSor, the festival is no longer limited to just promoting Albay’s tourism pride and products but also helping boost the tourism industry of neighbors Masbate and Sorsogon.”

Its forerunner, Magayon Festival, exclusively marketed Albay in the past.

As chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC), Albay Gov. Joey Salceda organized AlMaSor early last year.

It clusters the rich tourism potentials of the three provinces into a one-stop shop for visitors.

Among others, Albay has Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins; Sorsogon offers its butanding (whale shark) interactions; while Masbate has its unspoiled world-class beaches.

Starting last year, tour packages to these inviting destinations were offered to tourists during the festival, with Albay taking the lead “in view of its ethno-cultural logic.”

Called Cagsawa Trail Run 3, the race is a 21-kilometer and five-kilometer out-and-back race, starting from the exit gate of Cagsawa Church belfry in Barangay Busay, Daraga, Albay, Salceda said on Tuesday.

The trail consists of uphills and downhills, with small streams to pass by in the beginning, changing into rocky areas then to long sandy part then going back to the famous Cagsawa Ruins, the church that was destroyed by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano.

“For almost two centuries the Cagsawa Ruins has stood as a symbol of Bicol region’s impressive landscape, rich history and the people’s strength and resiliency to face and to rise from the ravages of Mother Nature,” Salceda said.

This trail is also used for ATV (all-terrain vehicle) adventures going to the foot of Mt. Mayon, a route that showcases magnificent and picturesque view of Mt. Mayon, Cagsawa Ruins belfry, black lava and more striking landscapes.

For the 21K run, Salceda said, the first turnaround point will be in the foot of Mt. Mayon with an elevation of 1,621 feet and the 2.5-kilometer ascent to the foot of Mt. Mayon, covering a distance of seven kilometers from the start/finish line.

The second turn around point will be at kilometer 12, reaching black lava with an elevation of 1,109 feet, he said.

Trophies and valuable outdoors prizes will be awarded to the top three overall winners in both male and female categories.

Finishers' token will be given to all 21k and 5k runners.

“This is both ecotourism and an event for a cause. We endeavor to promote the local's tourist destination,” Salceda stressed.

The date of this race that will be featured as another sporting event for the Daragang Magayon Festival is yet to be finalized.

The other race scheduled on April 4 is the Mayon 360˚, an 80-kilometer (50-mile) run around the circumference of the world’s most perfect-cone shaped Mt. Mayon.

Its route, covering 80 kilometers of paved roads (60 percent asphalt and 40 percent concrete), crosses six municipalities (Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Malilipot, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga), three cities (Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao) and 77 barangays around Mt. Mayon -- all within Albay province.

In 2011, the race was recognized by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as the Best Tourism Event in the country under the Sports/Wellness Category-Provincial Level.

For this year, the race, which expects the participation of about 500 runners from different parts of the country and abroad, is divided into three stages—solo, two-man relay and four-man relay.

Four first finishers (males and females in international and local level runners) will be named champions to receive cash prizes amounting P20,000 each.

The race was first staged in 2011 with only 69 runners; in 2012, the number of participants rose to 169, then 210 in 2013.

As of Tuesday, over 400 have already registered for this year’s event, according to provincial Board Member Joseph Philip Lee, the head of the province chapter Liga ng mga Barangay, one of its sponsors. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Albay health official warns vs respiratory infections due to cold weather

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -– A health official in Albay province has warned the public to take the precaution against colds, cough, flu and other respiratory infections amid the prevailing cold weather here and other areas in the country.

Albay Provincial Health Officer Nathaniel Rempillo said Tuesday that colds, cough, flu and other respiratory infections are very common during this kind of weather as low temperature weakens body's resistance.

Rempillo said these infections may lead to serious complications like pneumonia if not properly managed.

He said while some people enjoy the cold temperature, others are in dire situations and need proper care to prevent respiratory infections and other discomforts.

The health official advised the public to avoid exposing themselves to cold environment by keeping warm, wearing proper clothing, staying indoors, having enough rest and practicing healthy lifestyle.

The health officer said the most vulnerable persons are the very young and the very old, especially those with asthma, arthritis, rheumatism and pulmonary diseases.

Dr. Rempillo issued the advised as Albay recorded one of the coldest nights in 2014 on January 26 at 16.9 degrees Celsius.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has forecast that the cold weather will prevail until the end of February or until first week of March. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RMN/CBD

Salceda challenges Albay delegation to get Palarong Bicol 2014 championship
By Nancy I. Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- “Get the championship!”

This was the challenge hurled by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda to the 723-man Albay delegation to the Palarong Bicol 2014 to be held in Catanduanes on Feb. 2-7.

“I have short goals – to get better every day, to help Albay every day -- but my only ultimate goal this February 2-7, 2014 is to win the championship in Palarong Bicol 2014,” Salceda stressed during the send-off ceremonies Tuesday morning at the Provincial Sports Center in Barangay Travesia, Guinobatan, Albay.

He stressed that it is all that matters.

“I dream about it. I dream about it all the time -- how it would look, how it would feel. It would be so amazing,” the governor added.

Salceda said the sports team, which he called the 'Albay Vulcans," aims to maintain dominance in Palarong Bicol by bringing back the championships it held in 2011 and 2012.

The governor is expected to join the Vulcans during the opening ceremonies on Feb. 2.

The team, fresh from a 45-day rigorous training at the Provincial Sports Center in Travesia, Guinobatan town, are set to avenge their loss to Camarines Sur for the top honors in last year’s edition of the competitions.

Serious enough, Salceda approved the provincial government’s financial assistance of P1,000 for each athlete and official to boost the province’s campaign in the 17 sports disciplines where Albay has notable entries.

The Vulcans are favored to dominate the athletics and swimming events as well as in basketball and volleyball games in this tough week-long sports event.

Provincial Sports Coordinator Roderick Mendoza is confident Albay’s athletes and officials are well prepared to bring home the championships.

With the full support of the provincial government and the Department of Education Albay Division, Mendoza said, all team members are full of energy.

Dan Morillo, DepEd Albay sports coordinator, said the 723-member Albay delegation is complete and composed of 480 athletes, coaches and sports officials.

Of these participants, 11 athletes are with disabilities who will compete during Phil-Spada Regional Elimination as part of the Palarong Bicol 2014.

Morillo said the Albay sports delegation will compete in 17 events in elementary and secondary.

He said that of the 17 sports event, Albay is strong in athletics, arnis, baseball, volleyball, basketball, boxing, takraw , badminton, chess and lawn tennis where the province was the champion last year.

Albay used to be the leader in these sports for more than 20 years.

Morillo said the delegates underwent a strict screening and rigid training with the full support of the provincial government. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Spanish gov’t agency officials now in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -– Officials of the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID) or Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation arrived in Albay Tuesday morning to meet with Governor Joey Sarte Salceda in a move to strengthen cooperative relations between the provincial government and the Spanish government on disaster risk reduction program.

The AECID group is composed of Antonio Gonzalez, head of the AECID Department of Cooperation for Asia and Arab Countries, and Vicente Sellés, AECID coordinator general.

The meeting was arranged by Norberto Gómez de Liaño, AECID deputy coordinator general.

After the meeting, the AECID officials visited the various projects of the agency in the province.

The AECID recently turned over to Albay a new water filtration machine with a capacity of 33,000 liters per hour.

The new filtration machine was used in Tolosa, Leyte, which was hard hit by super typhoon “Yolanda.”

It can be recalled that the AECID donated a water purifying machine to Albay after the province was devastated in 2006 by typhoon “Reming.”

Salceda said the new water filtration equipment will increase the capacity of Albay in producing potable water not only for the province but also for other areas that would be needing the humanitarian assistance of Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense 5 which it has been extending for the past seven years.

The latest typhoon-ravaged areas the team had helped were the provinces of Samar at Leyte.

In this connection, Dr Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office and the Climate Change Academy, said the Water Sanitation Unit of the Team Albay-OCD5 is always ready to get the filtration machine from Leyte.

Daep said they are just waiting for a better schedule for the purpose, based on the instructions of Salceda. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Spanish gov’t agency officials now in Albay
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) – Officials of the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID) or Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation arrived in Albay Tuesday morning to meet with Governor Joey Sarte Salceda in a move to strengthen cooperative relations between the provincial government and the Spanish government on disaster risk reduction program.

The AECID group is composed of Antonio Gonzalez, head of the AECID Department of Cooperation for Asia and Arab Countries, and Vicente Sellés, AECID coordinator general.

The meeting was arranged by Norberto Gómez de Liaño, AECID deputy coordinator general.

After the meeting, the AECID officials visited the various projects of the agency in the province.

The AECID recently turned over to Albay a new water filtration machine with a capacity of 33,000 liters per hour.

The new filtration machine was used in Tolosa, Leyte, which was hard hit by super typhoon “Yolanda.”

It can be recalled that the AECID donated a water purifying machine to Albay after the province was devastated in 2006 by typhoon “Reming.”

Salceda said the new water filtration equipment will increase the capacity of Albay in producing potable water not only for the province but also for other areas that would be needing the humanitarian assistance of Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense 5 which it has been extending for the past seven years.

The latest typhoon-ravaged areas the team had helped were the provinces of Samar at Leyte. In this connection, Dr Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office and the Climate Change Academy, said the Water Sanitation Unit of the Team Albay-OCD5 is always ready to get the filtration machine from Leyte.

Daep said they are just waiting for a better schedule for the purpose, based on the instructions of Salceda. (PNA)

Mayor Rosal instructs Legazpi health office to prioritize babies, toddlers in measles vaccination
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -– Mayor Noel Rosal instructed the City Health Office (CHO) on Monday to prioritize infants and toddlers three years old and below in the measles vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH) Bicol regional office.

The DOH had earlier called for the conduct of Outbreak Response Immunization (ORI) following recent reports on cases of measles in the region.

According to the DOH, at least 29 suspected cases of measles have been reported in the region during the first half of this month -- 14 of which were in Camarines Sur, 12 in Albay, two in Sorsogon and one in Masbate.

Although not any case has been reported in the city so far even as Albay province where it belongs had already a dozen of measles suspects, Rosal said “we should not be complacent,” that is why he directed the CHO to heed the DOH call.

This number of cases that Albay had early this month, one of which was from an island barangay of Tabaco City that recently died, should set an alarm given that only six confirmed cases were registered in the province during the whole of last year, Rosal said.

Of these cases, three were recorded in this city, two in the nearly Daraga town and one in the next municipality of Camalig, according to DOH records.

Across Bicol, 10 more confirmed cases were reported last year — four in Castilla, Sorsogon, and one each from Sorsogon City; Palanas, Masbate; and Canaman, Pili and Magarao towns of Camarines Sur, records show.

And since most confirmed measles cases in 2013 were those aged three years old and below as reported by the National Epidemiology Center based on surveillance data, Rosal said the immunization efforts in the city must give priority to this age bracket.

Rosal had earlier instructed the CHO to initiate precautionary measures such as the conduct of door-to-door immunization and having all eligible members of each household in the 70 barangays of the city immunized.

Dr. Fulbert Alec Gillego, the CHO chief, said his office is also conducting a massive information campaign through community assemblies, radio broadcasts and reading materials to heighten the awareness of local communities on the prevention and treatment of measles.

He explained that measles, also called rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that causes fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body.

It is a treatable disease but may also be deadly due to complications such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, blindness, otitis media and encephalitis, if not treated promptly.

It could also be prevented through immunization with measles vaccine, Gillego said.

According to DOH Regional Director Gloria Balboa, ORI is a measure to control spread of measles virus and thwarting a possible outbreak in any part of the region.

For now, with those 29 suspected cases in Bicol monitored within the first half of this month, the DOH would not yet call it an outbreak on basis of its being scattered in different areas.

Balboa has also reiterated appeal to parents to bring their children to health centers until February 3 in line with measles catch-up vaccination campaign.

She had earlier urged LGUs across Bicol to intensify and fast track active immunization drive to prevent infection and spread of diseases, particularly measles that strikes mostly infants and children.

Balboa, meanwhile, informed the same officials pertaining to mass national immunization campaign to be conducted by DOH tentatively set in September.

DOH also has full support to endeavors of everyone in helping control measles virus transmission as, Balboa said, the agency appreciates very much the anti-measles campaign of the city government here as well as that of the Department of Education’s regional office among public school children as it will help prevent the possible spread of the virus.

DepEd earlier issued a memorandum directing school heads to send home students who exhibit “flu-like symptoms and also asked them to disseminate information about measles, immunization and coordinate with local government health units for the complete vaccination of children.”

DOH further reminded the public that as the virus is spread through droplets by coughing, sneezing or close personal and direct contact with infected persons, reason why in schools, sending home students who exhibit the early signs and symptoms of measles would surely help prevent its transmission. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

NGCP suspends planned power supply disconnection in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has heeded the request of Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi to defer the disconnection of power supply to the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO), a member of the Aleco Interim Board said Monday.

Augusto Villalon, board spokesperson, said Baylon, who chairs the Aleco board, wrote a letter to NGCP asking for the deferment of the power supply cutoff in Albay supposedly set today (Monday) following an on-going negotiation with the San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC), the newly-approved concessionaire of the cooperative.

In his letter-request, Baylon said the board is working out with SMEC to assume Aleco's unpaid bills to NGCP last year amounting to P66 million, under its concession contract agreement with the Aleco board, while the latter is also working out for the settlement of P33 million representing the current bill.

Villalon said in an interview that the Aleco management has paid NGCP P6.5 million as initial payment for its current account.

He said the P66 million power bills it owes NGCP are for the months of October to December wherein these accounts should be settled by SMEC following the signing of the concession contract agreement on Oct. 29 last year.

Under the concession contract agreement, SMEC reportedly will assume all outstanding bills incurred by Aleco.

SMEC was the lone bidder for a concession contract agreement which, after the referendum, allows it to take over the operation of the cooperative for the next 25 years.

The takeover of SMEC has been strongly opposed by the Aleco Employees Union and the Aleco Multi-sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO), prompting them stage a four-month strike.

The labor strike had totally paralyzed Aleco operations for four months, seriously affecting its billing and collection activities that hampered the payments of bills to its power suppliers.

Villalon said the Aleco management could have settled the account had it not been for the labor strike mounted by the cooperative employees' union. SMEC deferred its scheduled assumption of Aleco management on Jan, 7 due to the labor strike.

In a letter, Ellen Go, SMC Global Power general manager, said ”it will defer its assumption until such time that we receive sufficient guarantees which will ensure our peaceful, continuous and uninterrupted possession of the distribution system, which is one of the obligations of Aleco under the concession agreement.”

Aside from the power bills it owes from NGCP, Aleco also has an outstanding bill of P300 million with the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), which has also threatened the cooperative with a disconnection notice.

Aleco has owed its power suppliers a total of P4 billion for the past decades.

The accumulated debts were allegedly due to mismanagement, high systems loss due to pilferage, and poor billing and collection systems.(PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/CBD/UTB

6,000 MT of imported Vietnam rice being unloaded at Legazpi Port

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- Some 120,000 bags or 6,000 metric tons of imported rice from Vietnam arrived at the Port of Legazpi on Saturday and are now being unloaded by port workers, the National Food Authority (NFA) regional office here said Monday.

Nelsie Alcantara, NFA spokesperson, said the rice shipment consigned to the NFA in Bicol was brought in by the MV Vinh An, a Vietnamese cargo vessel that docked at the Legazpi Port on Saturday.

Alcantara said the unloading of the 120,000 bags of 50-kilogram white Vietnam rice each started only Monday because the cargo officer of the vessel refused to unload the shipment due to the bad weather prevailing during the past two days.

She said she has no idea on how much the price of imported rice is.

The NFA official, however, said NFA Bicol sells the commodity to accredited retailers at P1,250 per bag for regular milled rice while the well milled rice is sold at P1,800 per bag.

Alcantara said the shipment will go straight to the NFA warehouse here upon unloading, after which the 120,000 bags will be allocated to the provinces.

She said the provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate will get 24,000 bags each; Albay, 22,000 bags; Camarines Sur, 20,000; Sorsogon and Camarines Norte, 15,000 bags each.

She said the 120,000 bags of imported rice is part of the government's rice imports from Vietnam in 2013.

Bicol had been allocated 600,000 bags last year.

Salvador Ruivivar, Bureau of Customs operation chief, said in an interview that after a thorough examination of the import documents presented by the shipper, customs examiners found the documents “perfectly in order.”

For this reason, the BOC has issued the corresponding permit to discharge and special permit to transport.

Ruivivar said unloading of the shipment would take five to six days depending on the weather, as rice cargo will not be unloaded when it is raining.

In the 2013 rice importation, the NFA limited the bid participants to only two countries, Vietnam and Thailand, both of which had earlier entered into rice supply agreements with the Philippines.

On September 23, 2012, the BOC in Legazpi seized 94,000 bags of imported rice from Vietnam worth P154.5 million on board cargo ship Ming Tuan 68, which is now docked at the Legazpi Port.

The shipment was consigned to the NFA in the absence of import documents.

For this, the BOC was forced to impound the rice merchandise and ground the Ming Tuan, which is still impounded until now because of environmental violations.

The cargo was consigned to the NFA for the account of at least five private importation consignees and several multi-purpose cooperatives.

In August last year, BOC auctioned the 94,000 bags of imported rice wherein a rice trader from Cebu City won the bidding, paying the government P154.5 million for the merchandise.

The Dragon Grains Trading (DGT) owned by Jaime Ang from Cebu City won the bidding by offering the highest bid of P154,566,800.00 over three other qualified bidders that participatedin the auction. (PNA) FGS/MSA/CBD/UTB

Monday, January 27, 2014

Salceda urges Albay students to prepare for National Achievement Test
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -– With only 39 days to go, Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda on Sunday urged Albay students to prepare for the National Achievement Test (NAT) which starts on March 5 for fourth year secondary students.

The examination date for elementary, Grade III, is March 11, while for elementary, Grade VI, the schedule is March 13.

“We have 39 days from now to prepare for the NAT where our ranking has been designated as a socially desirable goal of the entire province,” Salceda said.

He noted that in 2007, Albay Division ranked 177th out of 183 divisions, “so we decided to implement robust measures to correct it and more than that, to work for a goal.”

The first step the provincial government did was to establish the Provincial Education Department, which is solely dedicated to education and the first and only one of its kind in the entire country.

“Education is now the biggest item in the entire provincial budget – accounting for 24 percent,” the provincial chief executive said.

With the capacity of PED, he said, the provincial government launched and sustained various programs, including giving recognition and financial rewards to schools and their General Parents-Teachers Associations.

These awards are being given during the “Titser’s Nyt” of the Daragang Magayon Festival.

“We have launched Kadunong for local government units, BAKAS for barangays and other programs as well as lobbied quite successfully with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for higher 4P coverage from 11,000 in 2010 to 76,000 in 2013 to combat the impact of malnutrition on student performance and participation,” Salceda said.

Thus, he proudly noted, from 2007’s 177th place in NAT, Albay ranked 19th in 2011 but slipped to 29 in 2012.

“But we remain confident that we will achieve our goal of being in Top 20 by 2014 and Top 10 by 2016. We cannot do it alone, we need the support and prayers of everyone in this regard,” the Albay governor, a product of educators – both his parents being public school teachers, said.

Looking forward, he said, “I know that the future success of our people is significantly determined by our performance in school and the behavior of our educational system.”

When asked what he would consider to be his greatest achievement or highest legacy of his administration, he said his answer is simple: improving Albay’s NAT standing from 177th to Top 10, because that makes Albay the bastion of education in Luzon. (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/RSM

DPWH to adopt Albay DRR model in post-'Yolanda' reconstruction

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Impressed by how Albay built its evacuation centers as a disaster risk reduction (DRR) mitigating measure, the Department of Public Works Highways (DPWH) said it will adopt the Albay model in building evacuation centers in the "Yolanda"-stricken Eastern Visayas regions.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson announced this plan in a joint conference sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the DPWH at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati on Friday.

Quoting Singson, Salceda said the DPWH will be using the construction design and specifications used by Albay in its evacuation centers in the Yolanda reconstruction.

He said Singson told him that a team from his agency will meet with Albay’s DRR experts to learn the Albay DRR evacuation model.

Salceda said Singson expressed admiration for the Albay DRR model, especially in building evacuation centers to be used as classrooms rather that classrooms to be used as evacuation centers.

The Albay governor and Singson were guests and resource persons during the conference-seminar called “Build Back Better: The Path towards Reconstruction through Japanese and Good Practices.”

Three LGU executives -- two from the Philippines including the Province of Albay and one from Japan, the mayor of Higashi Matsushima City, Miyagi, Japan -- were invited.

Salceda discussed the “Zero Casualty Strategy” in the Province of Albay.

Prof. Danilo Antonio, adviser of Secretary Panfilo Lacson, the government's reconstruction czar also expressed intention to visit Albay and learn how the resettlement strategy was executed.

JICA has poured in some P440-million funding to finance the construction of multi-hazard permanent evacuation centers cum classrooms in the town of Polangui, Libon, Oas, Sto.Domingo and Manito and this city.

“The JICA project is a single biggest assistance given by the Japanese government in addressing the province's zero-casualty goal in times of disasters.” Salceda said.

The JICA evacuation centers can accommodate 10 classrooms in normal condition.

The Albay reconstruction strategy was considered by a United Kingdom study as a success model as it utilized "building back better elsewhere" as its underlying principle and was cited by the World Bank in its recent climate study of the Philippines.

Singson, Salceda said, reiterated the use of the Albay model for Yolanda reconstruction in his speech before the League of Provinces of the Philippines held at the Heritage Hotel.(PNA) FPV/FGS/MSA/CBD/pjn

Albay gets another water filtration machine from Spanish gov’t.

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Officials of the Spanish government’s Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID) in the Philippines have notified Albay officials that they are turning over for the stewardship of the province another unit of filtration machine with a capacity of 33,000 liters/hour.

This unit was newly delivered and was used in Tolosa, Leyte, according to Dr. Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office and the Climate Change Academy here.

The Albay Water Sanitation group of Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense V is being organized and will be dispatched to get the unit which would expand the capacity of Albay to produce and supply potable water for both local and national emergencies.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda will meet AECID officials on Jan, 28 to discuss cooperation and development initiatives/programs/projects in the province.

The meeting will be attended by Antonio Gonzalez, head of AECID Department of Cooperation for Asia and the Arab World, and Vicente Sellés, the coordinator general of the Spanish Cooperation in the Philippines.

The meeting was arranged by Norberto Gómezde Liaño, deputy coordinator general of AECID or Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation Techincal Cooperation Office, Embassy of Spain in the Philippines.(PNA) FPV/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Salceda confident airport project will be completed before end of Aquino administration
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) –- What only matters now is the fund for the airport terminal.

“Everything is already fully funded by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) from PPP (Public-Private Partnership) funds except the terminal. If we could fund the terminal and proceed simultaneously, rather than sequentially, then the July 1, 2016 target date of completion can be met,” Albay Gov. Joey Salceda on Saturday confidently said.

The governor was referring to the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) now ongoing within a 140-hectare prime land straddling Albay’s prime towns of Daraga and Camalig and considered as the biggest countryside development project in Bicol funded by the national government under President Benigno Aquino III.

It is touted as one of the most ambitious government projects in the region to date, with prospects of even greater returns on investment that is certain to spur the local economy and thrust its tourism industry to the international stage.

Salceda, who chairs the Regional Development Council (RDC) for Bicol, is SLIA's major proponent and has always been confident that the new airport “will catapult the tourism potentials of Albay, serve as anchor for modern business platforms and as a fulcrum for spatial integration of the province and neighboring Sorsogon into one common economic market.”

He conceived the project in 2006 and with his proposal coursed through the RDC, the DOTC provided P85 million in 2007 for the advance engineering works such as the feasibility study and site development plan which were completed before the end of that year.

Later, the same agency came up with an amount of P250 million for the acquisition with the parcellary survey of the land for the airport in Barangays Alobo, Daraga, and Inarado, Camalig, a site deemed safe from the risks and threats entailed when the majestic Mayon Volcano erupts.

These villages are some 15 kilometers southwest of the volcano.

The present Legazpi City Domestic Airport is about 10 kilometers from the foot of Mayon whose perfect-cone shape and spectacular eruptions are both tourist attractions.

The volcano regularly erupted once every three to five years during the past two decades.

Those amounts were followed by additional P23 million provided by the DOTC to complete the right-of-way acquisition, on top of the P82 million to compensate the land owners and families who were displaced from the site.

In 2011, construction activities involving works on the two-kilometer runway were started through an initial amount of P900 million earmarked by the DOTC under its 2010 budget.

The two-kilometer access road from the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Tabon-tabon, Daraga, with a separate appropriation of P100 million from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), on the other hand, had been completed in early 2012.

Completion of works was then targeted in 2015 to mark the opening of the first international airport in Southern Luzon, which should cater to more business activities in the area and conveniently link Bicol to the rest of the country and the world.

Delays in the release of funds, however, slowed down the works and the completion target has to be moved to the next year.

According to Salceda, this airport, when completed, will become the most modern in the country outside Metro Manila and serve as a testament to economic growth in the region that, despite its vast natural resources including mineral deposits, geothermal power and tourism potentials, has remained among the poorest regions of the country today.

Anticipating its opening, the city government here has been, since 2009, opening and constructing a new road network from the heart of the city’s commercial hub to the new airport passing through rolling mountainous terrains that offer awesome views of the volcano, the Albay Gulf and the entire landscape of the metropolis.

This new Legazpi road network, according to City Mayor Noel Rosal, will boost the commercial and tourism development role that SLIA is going to play.

Salceda said that what the project presently has now is the P2.2-billion PPP fund allocated for the completion of the runway and construction of apron and taxiway which are ongoing implementation.

“The scope of works, however, is confined only in the airside of the proposed airport and since our main thrust is to complete this flagship project during the term of Pres. Aquino, the immediate implementation of the passenger terminal, cargo and other buildings -- including the necessary equipment to that these structures within the landside area -- should already be done,” he said.

For this, the governor has requested DOTC Sec. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya a favor leading to the provision of the funding “to achieve our June 30, 2016 target.”

When completed, the new airport will not only totally address the technical limitations that the existing Legazpi Airport has to bear for the longest time resulting in frequent flight cancellations but also provide a safer air transportation to the growing number of passengers owing to the booming tourism industry in the area, Salceda added.

It is projected to serve the needs of 7.8 million people – 5.7 million in Bicol and 2.1 million in the three provinces of nearby Samar islands.

Bicol is under the Central Philippines cluster along with the three Visayan regions, which focuses on tourism development. (PNA) FPV//FGS/DOC/CBD/rsm

Albay LGUs, DSWD ink Php 209-M pact for infra projects
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay, six of its municipalities and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have entered into a memorandum of agreement for the funding of the local government units' various infrastructure projects totaling P209 million.

Board Member Herbert Borja, representing Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia and the municipal mayors of the identified six LGUs formalized the agreement with the signing of the MOA on Friday at the Hotel St. Ellis in Legazpi City.

The six municipal chief executives present were Jorem Arcangel of Jovellar; Cherilie Sampal, Polangui; Gregorio Ricarte, Oas; Henry Callope, Pio Duran; Anne Gemma Ongjoco, Guinobatan; and Cesar Daep, Manito.

The P209-million projects, funded under the DSWD’S Community-Driven Development (CDD) program, are set to be implemented in the six municipalities starting January this year and expected to be completed in July.

CDD aims to bring about more equitable access to quality basic services, reduce poverty, achieve inclusive growth and improve human conditions in the poorest areas of the country.

Albay is one of the three pilot provinces chosen for CDD projects along with Leyte and Compostela Valley.

Earlier, Salceda released the province’s cash counterpart of P75 million in addition to the P100-million funding provided by the Asian Development Bank through the DSWD.

The balance of P36 million is the counterpart of the six LGUs.

The six municipalities have already submitted their respective projects for funding allocations, which are mostly construction and rehabilitation or improvement of farm-to-market roads.

They were chosen on the basis of their location, poverty incidence, good housekeeping, active linkages and logistical readiness.(PNA) FPV/FGS/CBD/pjn

DSWD-funded dev't projects in Ablay, Compostela Valley to start early this year
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) – Development projects in the provinces of Albay and Compostela Valley will start implementation early this year with a funding support from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and counterpart contributions from the two provincial local government units (PLGUs).

This was learned from Arnel B. Garcia, DSWD Bicol regional director, who said local officials of the two PLGUs are now attending a five-day learning exchange on community-driven development (CDD) and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) at Hotel St. Ellis, which started last Jan. 20 and ends Friday, Jan. 24.

“The learning exchange is a support mechanism for both provinces to share best practices on CDD and DRRM which is strengthened by DSWD and the Asian Development Bank,” Garcia said.

Both Albay and Compostela Valley are pilot areas of DSWD’s engagement of PLGUs in enhancing their role in CDD projects, he said.

"The formal engagement of PLGUs seeks to test ways on how to strategically link CDD implementation to the PLGUs that carry the mandate of integrating municipal level poverty-reduction priorities with broad sub-national level development directions," Garcia said.

PLGUs can provide the missing vertical link between the barangay, the municipal, and the broader provincial development plan, he added.

On the other hand, the DSWD official said, the learning exchange included Albay as the model in DRRM wherein it showcased its proven strategies and best practices to achieve its zero-casualty goal.

The discussions highlighted the smooth implementation of DRRM in the province by establishing a clear delineation of roles and functions within the PLGU and partner agencies.

Compostela Valley was ravaged by Typhoon “Pablo” in 2012 and with that, its provincial local officials and selected municipal DRRM officers conferred with the disaster management experts of Albay to adopt successful practices and shared their learning to the grassroots.

The had lectures from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Office of Civil Defense, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office to highlight their main roles in DRRM.

The Philippine Red Cross and the Children International presented the experiences of non-government organizations in responding to disasters.

As part of their field visit, the delegates went to the Climate Change Academy, JICA Emergency Shelters in Legazpi City, Camalig’s Evacuation Shelter and relocation site last January 23.

They also had a talk with Mayor Alice Morales of Malinao on the integration of DRRM to Comprehensive Land Use Plan and their best practices about CDD. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EPS/cbd/

First in RP: Salceda gives full support to GAD programs

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda has thrown his full support to the implementation of the Magna Carta for Women under its Gender and Development (GAD) programs with the establishment of a separate fully-furnished office space at the Capitol.

“Albay is the only province having its own GAD office in the entire country and we say many thanks to Gov. Joey Salceda,” said Cynthia Samalea, GAD Focal Point System - Technical Working Group (FPS-TWG) chairperson.

Samalea said the womenfolk of the province have acknowledged the support of the provincial government for giving GAD a separate office that will give easy access to its clients.

She is also preparing gender sensitivity activities for implementation as Albay is one of the pilot provinces chosen for GAD programs by the Philippine Commission for Women funded by the Agencia Española Cooperacion International Para El Desarrollo (AECID).

Samalea said the office will also give emphasis on promoting women’s and children’s rights and women economic empowerment.

The office is located at the ground floor, left corner at the back of the Capitol facing Divine Word College. (PNA) FPV/FGS/EMC/CBD

DENR Bicol starts migratory bird census

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) --The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Bicol, through its Protected Areas Wildlife Division (PAWD), has started the 2014 Asian Waterbirds Census (AWC) at the Cabusao Critical Habitat in Camarines Sur.

The AWC was initiated in 1987 in India subcontinent and has grown since to cover Asia-Pacific region.

DENR Bicol Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales said the annual census of migratory birds helps in the local monitoring and conservation efforts in relation to global monitoring by ascertaining the trends of migratory cycle.

“These migratory birds are from various parts of the world and cover tens of thousands kilometers just to visit our place as part of their migratory cycle. For this reason, it is our responsibility to monitor them and provide data for national coordinators who in turn will submit these to the AWC,” Gonzales explained.

He disclosed that last year more than 8,500 waterbirds were monitored in the Cabusao Critical Habitat.

“The most observed species are the Northern Shoveller, Philippine Duck, Northern Pintail, Pacific Golden Plover and other shorebirds,” he added.

A report from PAWD revealed that taxonomically, the family Anatidae, which include the marsh ducks, is the most numerous followed by the egret species.(PNA) PDS/FGS/CBD

Registration opens for 50-mile run around Mt. Mayon
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -– More running enthusiasts are expected to join this year’s Mayon 360˚, an 80-kilometer (50-mile) run around the circumference of the world’s most perfect cone-shaped, Mt. Mayon in Albay as its organizers recently opened registrations for the yearly event to be staged on April 4.

The run is among the sport highlights of the celebration of Daragang Magayon Festival that comes yearly during the whole month of April as one of Albay’s major tourism promotion strategies.

It is organized by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) – Legazpi Chapter, in cooperation with Liga ng mga Barangay – Albay Chapter.

The event is sanctioned by the Philippine Association of Ultrarunners and sponsored by the Provincial Government of Albay, Gov. Joey Salceda and the Daragang Magayon Festival 2014 Committee.

Daragang Magayon refers to Albay’s mythical legend featuring the iconic Mayon Volcano whose name is derived from "Daragang Magayon" (beautiful lady in the Bicol dialect).

The festival is aimed at repositioning Albay with AlMaSor (Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon), a tourism alliance which clusters the three Bicol southernmost provinces as the “Soul of the South” of the country’s tourism industry.

Its forerunner, Magayon Festival, exclusively marketed Albay in the past.

As chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC), Salceda organized AlMaSor early last year.

It clusters the rich tourism potentials of the three provinces into a one-stop shop for visitors.

Among others, Albay has Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins; Sorsogon offers its "butanding" (whale shark) interactions; while Masbate has its unspoiled world-class beaches.

Starting last year, tour packages to these inviting destinations are offered to tourists during the month-long festival, with Albay taking the lead on the matter “in view of its ethno-cultural logic.”

Last year’s staging of Mayon 360º was participated in by over 200 runners from all over the country and abroad.

Local runner Mario Maglinao won the race by clocking six hours, 10 minutes and 59 seconds.

“We expect more runners to register this year,” Liga ng mga Barangay provincial president Joseph Philip Lee on Friday told the PNA.

He cited the history of the race which was started in 2011 by only 69 runners.

In 2012, the number of participants rose to 169, then 210 in 2013.

Online registration, he said, is accepted by logging in to the race’s official website http://www.mayon360.com/.

“What is exciting about this ultra marathon race is the ‘drama’ within each runner; the ‘drama’ among runners and competitors; and the ‘drama’ of the runner with the challenges of the environment, the route and the warm hospitality and appreciation they receive from the local people witnessing the event,” Lee said.

The race route, covering 80 kilometers of paved roads (60 percent asphalt and 40 percent concrete), crosses six municipalities (Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Malilipot, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga) three cities (Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao) and 77 barangays around Mt. Mayon -- all within Albay province.

In 2011, the race was recognized by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as the Best Tourism Event in the country under the Sports/Wellness Category-Provincial Level.

For this year, Lee said, the race is divided in three stages—solo, two-man relay and four-man relay.

Four first finishers (males and females in international and local level runners) will be named champions to receive cash prizes amounting P20,000 each.

Runners-up placing second to 20th place will receive cash prizes amounting P15,000 down to P2,000 while an additional amount of P5,000 will be given to top overall male and female finishers.

For senior citizens, the first placer will receive P4,000; 2nd, P3,000; and 3rd, P2,000. (PNA) LAM/FGS/DOC/cbd/

Thursday, January 23, 2014

2 Bicolano firms bag DTI Gold Bagwis Seal
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Thursday announced that it had chosen two business establishments for the DTI Gold Seal of Excellence for their efforts in promoting a balance between pursuing its business objectives and safeguarding the welfare of consumers.

DTI Bicol regional director Joy LB. Blanco said Caleb Motor Corp. and SM City Naga have passed the requirements for Gold Bagwis level in 2013 after a thorough deliberation and evaluation by the department's National Certification Committee.

The DTI also found these companies to be compliant with all fair trade laws and have effective and efficient customer relations, store management operations and social commitment and responsibility.

The DTI Bagwis Program, in particular, includes the setting up of consumer welfare desks in business places aimed at providing accessible and speedy resolution of consumer complaints.

For 2013, 18 Bicolano companies qualified for the DTI Bagwis Seal of Excellence after having met the criteria under the said program; two qualified for gold, six for silver and 10 for bronze.

The establishments that received the DTI Silver Seal of Excellence are the following: Davao Citi Hardware/Deco Arts Marketing, Camarines Sur; Nagaland E-Mall, Camarines Sur; Lisam Enterprises, Camarines Sur; J. C. Cua Construction and Supply, Catanduanes; Virac Junction Hardware, Catanduanes; and Virac Sunrise Saver’s Supermarket, Catanduanes.

Ten establishments received the DTI Bronze Seal of Excellence, which are as follows: Savemore-Sorsogon, Sorsogon; Sorsogon D’Best Store, Sorsogon; Savemore Metro Hub, Albay; Savemore Silverscreen, Albay; Glasshauz Hardware, Camarines Norte; Gemma Glenn Supermart, Camarines Norte; Virac Eastern Hardware Corporation, Catanduanes; Virac Pioneer Grocery and General Merchandise, Catanduanes; Lopez Center and Educational Supply, Masbate; and Transmaster Enterprises and Service Shop, Masbate.

“We are very much pleased that more establishments have recognized the necessity to obtain the DTI Bagwis Seal not only to help the consumers and enterprises, but more importantly, to help themselves grow as model businesses," Blanco said.(PNA) FGS/CBD/

European businesses eyeing expansion in Albay
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- Albay will soon host a low-cost, labor-intensive manufacturing industrial area with a potential capacity to be developed into a special economic zone where labor costs are substantially lower compared to those in Central Luzon and Metro Cebu, according to the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP).

“We feel that Albay could be such a location and we would like to discuss our concept in more detail with you during your next visit to Manila,” Henry J. Schumacher, ECCP vice president for external affairs, told Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda in a recent letter.

He said Philippine business groups and joint foreign chambers have been active in recent months in developing a paper on manufacturing in relation to the inclusive growth goal of the government.

Schumacher added that the business group is moving manufacturing businesses, specifically labor-intensive ones, to new locations where infrastructure is available and where industrial zones can be created and labor costs are substantially lower compared to Central Luzon and Metro Cebu.

The ECCP official noted that Albay has high potential, considering its favorable climate -- investors-friendly as it is able to provide low-cost leases, has more attractive labor policies, and is considerate to public-private partnership contracts to attract real estate firms to develop businesses on reduced costs.

Albay has also a large pool of new workers which can be trained through a proposed TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Administration) Industrial Scholarship Program wherein high school graduates aged 18 years old and above are hired for apprenticeships for 18-24 months.

With this ECCP proposal, Salceda said he is confident of an “Albay boom” resulting from the province’s conversion into a new ecozone in Southern Luzon.

The economist-governor, also chairperson of the Regional Development Council for Bicol, is bent on making it a reality with the initial creation in Albay of a Domestic/Export Enterprise Zone (D/EEZ), an initial requirement for developing ecozones.

In a recent meeting called by the Provincial Planning and Development Office with representatives from government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, TESDA and local businesses, some possible sites for D/EEZ have been identified.

Among the proposed locations are Homapon, Banquerohan, Embarcadero de Legazpi, Legazpi Domestic Airport (initially declared as D/EEZ) and Polangui area along the national highway.

The focus is on such industries as food, garments, footwear, and furniture industries where Albay has potentially recorded an impressive growth.

Albay province, specifically Legazpi City, has been recognized by the Asian Institute of Management owing to its good business climate and excellent disaster mitigation and adaptation measures.

The EECP's plan to expand businesses in Albay coincides with the opening of the Legazpi City domestic airport as a new gateway for international chartered flights in Southern Luzon.(PNA) LAM/FGS/CBD/

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Farmers in Albay town gets P1.5-M livelihood assistance from DOLE
By Danny O. Calleja

GUINOBATAN, Albay, Jan. 20 (PNA) -– Town Mayor Ann Gemma Ongjoco here has expressed optimism that local farmers who have embraced coco net weaving as an alternative industry will be able to improve their purchasing power out of the about P1.5-million in livelihood assistance recently granted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

This is a good start this year for the Guinobatan Coco Twine Workers Organization (GCTWO), an organization of coconut farm workers which the DOLE Bicol regional office on Sunday granted P1.49-million in forms of equipment, supplies and materials for their coconut twine manufacturing, Ongjoco on Monday said.

Beneficiaries of the grant are 150 farmers who have bonded themselves into the organization that is pursuing the coconut twine making, a fast-raising industry that converts coconut husk coir into high-end industrial products, she said.

Members of the GCTWO are distributed among the villages of Bubulusan, Lomacao, Malabnig, Upper Binogsacan, Muladbucad Grande, Muladbucad Pequeño, Inascan, Mapaco, Lower Binogsacan, San Jose, and Mauraro -- all upland areas here dominated by coconut plantations.

While coco twine making serves only as their alternative source of livelihood since they primarily rely on copra and other major coconut-based products, this new industry will certainly provide them additional income to augment their household economy, Ongjoco said.

Prior to the DOLE grant, the group was provided with training by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under its Rural Micro Enterprise Promotion Program (RUMEPP) focused on technologies in coco fiber twining and weaving leading to the manufacture of coconut husk-derived baled decorticated fibers, twines and geonets.

The training course that took four days to complete was technically supervised by engineer Justino Arboleda, the founder and owner of Juboken Enterprises and Coco Technologies Corp. (COCOTECH), now the country’s leading bioengineering company and coir manufacturer based in the nearby Camalig town.

Arboleda, who once served as an engineering professor of Bicol University, is a very enterprising Bicolano who has proven for himself and to the entire coconut world that husks are not waste but wealth to provide livelihood opportunities to marginalized rural communities and a long-term solution to environmental degradation.

The country’s coconut farms produce about eight billion husks yearly, which are burned or left to rot in farms with three billion of these used as fuel in copra cooking—a very deplorable low utilization rate of only 20 percent despite its wide potential for various uses when manufactured.

These manufactured products are now in demand as soil erosion control material, horticultural aid, industrial fiber pads and charcoal briquettes, among other important uses in both local and overseas applications.

Geonets are modern civil engineering construction materials that generally replace scarce raw material resources like steel and cement and are good alternatives to conventional designs in terms of eco-friendliness, cost-effectiveness in carrying out basic functions such as filtration, drainage, separation, reinforcement and protection.

The coco fiber roll or fascine, made from 100-percent decorticated coconut fiber compressed in tubular nylon netting, and the coco fiber mat made of coir fiber stitched into mats of different specifications are used as wall proof and roof insulation, furniture liners, mulching materials, grass mats and erosion control blankets.

These products are being exported to Germany, Japan, United States, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka and Dubai. DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said the future for this industry is very promising and “we at DOLE foresee that in two to three years' time, this project will significantly improve the lives of the beneficiaries.”

He said the grant was taken from DOLE’s Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB), a budgeting system adopted by the government in which the involved budget holders are given the opportunity to participate in the process of settling their own budgets, according to DOLE Bicol Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra.

One of the advantages of BUB is its perceived accuracy since the elements are more detailed.

There is also the benefits pitched in with participative management, and the difference in opinions can be resolved since the people outside the officials are involved, Lacambra said.

In this particular project, he said, it was the GCTWO which decided on the livelihood venture they are going into and determined by themselves the amount of equipment and other supplies needed.

It was this year’s second release of over a million-peso worth of livelihood assistance made by DOLE-Bicol under the BUB.

Last Jan.10, according to Lacambra, his office released the first one amounting to P1.7 million to the municipality of Juban, Sorsogon, for the benefit of 170 recipients who are members of an organization granted livelihood assistance by the DOLE. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

Albay guv urges DOTC to fast track construction of SLIA
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda on Monday urged the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to facilitate construction of the passenger, cargo buildings and other structures while civil works at the runway are going on at the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Barangay (village) Alobo, Daraga, Albay.

In his letter to DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya, Salceda said the construction of the building structures and equipment will still follow it’s given time frame of June 30, 2016 target.

He claimed that the completion of the airport runway, passenger and cargo buildings -- including its equipment -- is in line with the President’s main thrust of completing the flagship project during his term.

Salceda thanked Pres. Aquino and Abaya for sourcing out from the previous Public Private Partnership funds and allocating the amount of P2.2 billion for the construction of runway, apron and taxiway which are now being implemented.

He, however, said the scope of work is only confined to the airside while the structures at the landside area of the proposed airport is still being workout. Salceda further expressed gratitude to the DOTC for its continued support and assistance for the development of the SLIA.

Once finished, he said, the project will not only totally address the technical limitations of the existing Legazpi Airport due to the frequent flight cancellations but it will also provide a safer air transportation to the growing number of passengers because of a booming tourism industry in the area.

Abaya announced that construction work on the P979-million SLIA runway would start early this year, after giving assurance to Salceda that the much-delayed airport project will start soon in 2014 after project glitches will have already been ironed out.

Abaya said in an interview that the agency has already issued a notice to proceed to the winning contractor, which he did not name.

He said that with the issuance of a notice to proceed, the civil works will begin next year for the airport's 2.1-kilometer runway in Barangay Alobo, some 12 kilometers from this city.

Businessmen are becoming impatient over the delay in the construction of the SLIA.

The businessmen claimed the delay has pushed back their investment plans, particularly on the much-anticipated increase in foreign tourist arrivals that the new airport would help provide.

The government has already poured in some P1.6 billion since 2009 for the construction of the SLIA.

The funds were released in three tranches: P300 million in 2009, another P300 million in 2010 for concrete road construction and site development and P970 million, released in 2012, intended for the construction of a 2.1-kilometer runway based on international standards.

The SLIA lies in a 148-hectare area with 2,100-meter runway strip, to be equipped with night landing capability and take-off facilities, control tower, passenger and cargo terminal, car park, fire station and other modern facilities.

“We are missing out on opportunities, especially tourist arrivals, as the Southern Luzon International Airport will reduce transportation costs and travel time,” Salceda said of the delay.

The governor sees the generation of 1.5 million tourists for Bicol by 2017 once the international airport has been completed.

While there are several airports north of Manila like the Clark International Airport and the Laoag International Airport, Salceda said, there is none in the southern part of Manila.

The SLIA would be a viable market and serve as alternate gateway to Manila, the Visayas, and Mindanao, especially in times of extreme weather disturbances in these areas. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/CBD

European Chamber of Commerce chooses Albay as new manufacturing hub in Luzon

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) is eyeing Albay province as the next hub for manufacturing in the country.

Albay province, specifically Legazpi City, has been recognized by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) owing to its good business climate and excellent disaster mitigation and adaptation measures.

The plan of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) to expand its businesses in Albay coincides with the opening of the Legazpi City domestic airport as a new gateway for international chartered flights in Southern Luzon.

A letter by Henry J. Schumachar, vice president for external affairs of the ECCP, to Governor Joey Salceda on Sunday said Philippine business groups and joint foreign chambers have been active in recent months in developing a paper on manufacturing in relation to the inclusive growth goal of the government.

Schumachar added that the business group is moving manufacturing businesses, specifically labor-intensive ones, to new locations where infrastructure is available and where industrial zones can be created and labor costs are substantially lower compared to Central Luzon and Metro Cebu.

“We feel that Albay could be such a location and we would like to discuss our concept in details with you,” Schumachar said in his letter.

The economic boom in Bicol, specifically in Albay province, is expected following the upgrading of Legazpi airport as the new international gateway for international flights starting Jan. 30.

About 200 Chinese tourists will visit Albay during the maiden direct flight from Xiamen, China, to Legazpi City on Jan. 30, as the province opens its international gateway for more foreign tourists and visitors.

The commencement of international flights here will be made following the overdue construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Alobo, Daraga, Albay.

However, even before the construction of the SLIA, Legazpi City has been identified by the AIM as the next business hub after Davao and Cebu.

Legazpi City is the center of trade and commerce and is the seat of government in the Bicol region where the university belt is located.

An AIM study said Legazpi is a fast rising city in the country in terms of infrastructure development, business growth and notable peace in order condition and the next business hub after Davao and Cebu.

Information Technology-Business Process Outsourcing companies are mushrooming and expanding their operations in this city. (PNA) LGI/FGS/RBB/CBD/UTB

CamNorte town announces search for outstanding homegrown women
By Danny O. Calleja

DAET, Camarines Norte, Jan. 20 (PNA) – The municipal government here is now accepting nominations to its search for 10 homegrown women who last year excelled in their respective fields of endeavor.

They should be nominated according to their professional fields like journalism and public information, education, sports, arts and culture, law and judiciary, protective services and security, religion, medical, science and mathematics, entrepreneurship, volunteerism and social services, philanthropic engagement and government service, among others.

Any Daeteña of legal age, living and practicing her profession-related works in the locality may be nominated, municipal Mayor Tito Sarion on Monday here told the PNA. Nomination forms are available at the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) and the deadline for the submission is set on Jan. 31

Nominees are preferably those who are involved in local organizations with advocacies related to their respective lines of work or professions or women who have significant accomplishments in their fields of endeavor that contributed to the welfare and uplift of status of women, in particular, and in the promotion of gender fair society, in general, Sarion said.

Those who will be chosen based on the judging criteria set by the search committee headed by the MSWDO will be proclaimed as the 2013 Ten Most Outstanding Women of Daet.

The criteria for judging are leadership or the ability to lead, inspire and enable others to fulfill their goals, 20 percent; commitment or the length of stay in an organization, dedication and sustainability of the advocacy, 20 percent; women empowerment or the remarkable accomplishment that has major impacts towards a gender fair society, 30 percent; and community and civic Involvement shown by remarkable accomplishments with major impacts on Daeteños, 30 percent.

Winners will be honored and given awards in line with the town’s celebration of the 2014 National Women’s Month in March themed “Kababaihan: Gabay sa Pagtahak sa Tuwid na Daan,” Sarion added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD

NSCB-Bicol anticipates activation of PSA this year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) – The National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB) regional office for Bicol here on Monday said it is anticipating this year the activation of the newly established Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a single body which consolidates the technical staff of all government agencies involved in statistical works.

The actual consolidation of these statistical agencies such as the NSCB, National Statistics Office (NSO), Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) and Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) will come as a result of the Philippine Statistics Act of 2013, signed into law by Pres. Benigno Aquino III on September 12, 2013.

“We hope that initiatives on frequent and timely statistics, particularly on poverty, shall be sustained when the PSA becomes fully operational sometime this year,” NSCB regional head Gil Arce said.

These initiatives allow policymakers and poverty stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to work together in accelerating the reduction of poverty based on more relevant and more up to date snapshots of welfare and living conditions in the country, he said.

According to Republic Act No. 10625 or the Act Reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System, the PSA is attached to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for purposes of policy coordination.

It shall be composed of the PSA board and offices on sectoral statistics, censuses and technical coordination, civil registration and central support and field statistical services.

The PSA board shall be the highest policy-making body on statistical matters and the data produced by the PSA shall be the official and controlling statistics of the government.

The PSA shall be primarily responsible for all national censuses and surveys, sectoral statistics, consolidation of selected administrative recording systems and compilation of the national accounts.

Its functions, among others, are to serve as the central statistical authority of the Philippine government on primary data collection; and prepare and conduct periodic censuses on population, housing, agriculture, fisheries, business, industry and other sectors of the economy.It shall also collect, compile, analyze, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the country’s economic, social, demographic, political affairs and general activities and condition of the people.

PSA is also tasked to prepare and conduct statistical sample surveys on all aspects of socioeconomic life -- including agriculture, industry, trade, finance, prices and marketing information, income and expenditure, education, health, culture and social situations -- as well as the government and the political sector for the use of the government and the public.

It will also conduct continuing methodological, analytical and development activities, in coordination with the Philippine Statistical Research and Training Institute (PSRTI) to improve the conduct of censuses, surveys and other data collection activities; and recommend executive and legislative measures to enhance the development of the statistical activities and programs of the government.

With the activation of PSA, Arce said, it is hoped that the government can also provide more investments in agricultural statistics that should serve as guideposts in actions needed to further improve food production and agricultural productivity.

These improvements will require investments and the government must invest not only in direct agricultural interventions, but also in statistics so that the performance of the agriculture sector is improved, Arce said.

Earlier, the NSCB, through its secretary-general Jose Ramon Albert, has called on the government for more investment in statistics on agriculture which, he said, is a crucial sector for reducing poverty and attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which includes halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 from its level in 1990.

“While the economy is growing, there may be a need to examine the agriculture sector more carefully, since official poverty statistics (dating as far back as 1985 up to the most recently released figures in 2009) show that the concentration of the poor has been in the entire agriculture sector,” Albert said.

Many resources have been devoted by past administrations to agricultural modernization, the provision of agricultural inputs and agrarian reform, but the Philippines continues to face a lot of challenges, particularly to liberate the farmers from poverty.

Several decades ago, the country’s economy and employment have been dependent on agriculture. In recent years, however, the population has become less dependent on farming as in terms of share to the total economy, the agriculture sector’s importance has continuously dropped over the past decades.

In 1946, about a third of the economy (29.7 percent) was agricultural, but the share of agriculture to the economy has declined over the years.

In 2012, it contributed merely 11.1 percent to the economy, Albert stressed.

Statistics always become interesting when they are compared across time and across space, he said, citing as example economic statistics across regions of the country in 2011 that says Central Luzon and CALABARZON were the top two contributors to the agricultural sector at 13.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

“Comparing the share of agriculture in the total economies across all the regions, it can be observed that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the largest share with 63.0 percent yet the region has consistently been on record as having one of the highest poverty incidences among all the regions at 45.9 percent in 2009,” Albert said.

As much as possible, Arce said, the NSCB wants to come up with more recent and updated statistics on agriculture but unfortunately, many statistics it could collect and compile only describe the past, and very often, even when policy interventions are made, the effects take time.

According to Albert, “whether the current efforts of government will be successful, only time will truly tell.

Many efforts have not yielded fruit, but perhaps, it is time also for everyone to recognize that we can’t leave everything to government.”

“If we wish the agriculture sector to grow in importance, then we all have to do our share in helping farmers in reducing transportation costs and reducing the profits of middle-men. This isn’t the sole responsibility of government,” he said.

Statistics in agriculture will also need to constantly improve to help serve as guideposts for government to recalibrate its actions as need be, Albert added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD

AFP, PNP, OCD in Bicol join national day of prayers

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in Bicol responded to President Benigno Aquino III’s call and joined the nationwide prayer and solidarity at the Peñaranda Park here.

AFP, PNP and Office of the Civil Defense officials in Bicol convened at the Peñaranda Park as in consonance with the President’s call to pay tribute to the victims of natural calamities across the country.

“The Philippines has been challenged by several calamities, both natural and man-made catastrophes, where thousands of our fellowmen have sacrificed their lives, livelihood and dignity to live. However, despite all the disasters and difficulties there are a lot of things we still need to be grateful for as we aspire for a better 2014,” Lt. Cmdr. John Ermon Duruin, spokesman of Naval Forces for Southern Luzon, said.

President Aquino called for a nationwide activity dubbed as “One Nation in Prayer – Isang Bansa, Isang Panalangin,” encouraging partners, stakeholders, youth and other sectors of the society to come together and pray as one nation.

The event was replicated by all AFP units across the country, according to Duruin.

Similarly, the provincial government of Albay, in partnership with the OCD, conducted a similar event as they joined President Aquino who has declared January 20 as a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/UTB

WB to release P12-M grant to Legazpi for old dump closure; LBP to finance city's methane gas project

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- The World Bank (WB) will soon release P12 million in grant to the City Government of Legazpi for the closure and rehabilitation of its old dump and the operation of the adjacent sanitary landfill in the upland village of Banquerohan here in this city, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said Monday.

All collected city garbage will now be deposited at the sanitary landfill.

A WB supervision team and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) Environmental Program and Management Department team recently paid a courtesy call on Rosal regarding this matter, the city chief executive added.

He disclosed that the grant materialized when Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje was impressed by the new sanitary landfill when he visited this city during the term of former mayor Carmen Geraldine B. Rosal and vowed to give P12 million for the closure of the open dump.

Paje commended City Environment and Natural Resources Officer Salve Corral and other members of the local finance committee for their efforts on this project.

Out of the six local government unit beneficiaries of the Integrated Persistent Organic Pollutant (IPOPs) projects, Rosal said, the WB has chosen Legazpi City as a model LGU in implementing the Solid Waste Management Program of the government.

The recognition was based on the proper segregation of solid waste materials and its effective campaign in preventing the open burning garbage in the community and a clear presentation of Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants (UPPOP) action plan made by Corral.

The WB representatives said that in this coming second week of February, his office will discuss with the city’s IPOP team the procurement process and funding of the project.

After the evaluation, the WB will release on quarterly or monthly installment basis the P12 million grant through LBP.

As another big opportunity for Legazpi, Rosal said, the LBP is very interested to examine and evaluate the more than 20 years deposited garbage in the old dump to capture the methane gas it has produced and convert it into power as part of the Carbon Finance Support Facility (CFSF), a flagship program of the LBP for the promotion of climate change mitigation projects through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

Josefina Ramos, Environmental Management Head of the LBP Environmental Program and Management Department, revealed that the City Government of Legazpi has already submitted to her office the necessary requirements and other documentations in connection with the CDM project.

The CDM is designed to implement the Kyoto Protocol in reducing or removing the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by carbon sequestration in the developing countries, Ramos explained.

She pointed out that in the time of implementation of the CFSF-CDM project, the City Government of Legazpi will receive through LBP a technical and capacity-building assistance from the United States Environmental Protection Agency through its Global Methane Initiatives.

The LBP will comply with all the environmental rules and regulations for the implementation of the project.

The bank will also pay all the Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) to the city administration as the owner of the landfill.

Ramos said the CDM-Program of Activities (PoA), a coordinated action by the LBP for landfill projects, was already submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2012.

The PoA will introduce the construction of landfill gas recovery system and how to reduce the GHG emissions. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/UTB

Monday, January 20, 2014

NPA rebels harass Army detachment, wounds militiaman

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 19 (PNA) -- A member of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) force was wounded when New People's Army (NPA) members fired at their detachment in Barangay M. R. Espinosa, Milagros, Masbate, at about 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.

A police report received by Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Police Regional Office 5 regional director, said CAA Francisco Zaragosa, assigned at the military post in the area, was rushed to the Masbate Provincial Hospital in Masbate City.

The report said Zaqragosa was among those manning the detachment when an undetermined number of rebels fired at the unit, immediately wounding him, prompting them to return shots.

A 10-minute firefight ensued, after which the communist dissidents withdrew and fled towards an unknown direction.

Army soldiers immediately came for reinforcement and launched a hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/RSM