Friday, February 27, 2015

PNP-Masbate chief ask men to inspect detainees' belongings before commitment to court
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police chief in Masbate has asked his men to inspect the personal belongings of the detainees in their custody before turning them over to their court of origin.

Police Supt. Carl Michael Car Reyes, made the reminder after one of his men discovered methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu in one of the detained prisoners in the Mandaon Municipal Police Office.

Police Senior Insp. Nicolas Lomotos Malipot Jr, the MMPO chief, reported that a certain detainee named Eugene S. Calizo, 21, single and a resident of Barangay Poblacion, Mandaon, was found to have in his possession a plastic sachet with shabu, two empty transparent plastic sachets of same size with one containing crystallized objects and two pieces rolled aluminum foil.

Malipot said that in the morning of Feb. 23, suspect Calizo, who was facing a criminal charge for rape at the Regional Trial Court Branch 48 and co-inmate Rodolfo F. Red, with another criminal charge at RTC Branch 47, were about to be committed to their court of origin.

Knowing that they will be turned over to a correctional jail, Calizo contacted his family to bring him his personal belongings.

At about 3:00 p.m. same day, prior to their transfer from the Mandaon police custody to the Masbate Provincial Jail, PO1 Caesar Neptali A. Oliva, MMPO duty jailer, was ordered to inspect the inmates' belongings as part of the Police Operational Procedure.

Oliva then discovered inside the wallet of Calizo a small sachet of crystallized object and the other materials.

Visitors are allowed to bring in food and belongings and chances are, they can sneak in shabu, the police theorized.

Oliva immediately turned over the paraphernalia he found to the duty Investigator, PO3 Benjie P. Veruela.

The evidence will be subjected to examination at the Provincial Crime Laboratory in Masbate.

Calizo and Francisco have been turned over to the provincial jail by Oliva and are now subject to another case for violation of Section 11 of RA 9165 if the pieces of evidence are found positive as illegal drug components.

Chinese tourists pick Bicol as tourism haven in Philippines
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- Despite the China-Philippines territorial sea dispute, Chinese visitors have considered Albay province as a tourism haven with its unique and wonderful eco-tourism spots, a Chinese tourism agency official said.

Terrence Fang of Yueqiho International Travel Agency said more than 200 Chinese tourists, mostly families, planed in directly from China via the Legazpi City National Airport and celebrated Chinese New Year here.

“This year, we’re looking for new and unique destinations in the Philippines. We preferred Bicol, specifically Legazpi City in Albay, as our tourism haven because of natural wonders that no other place can offer us with so many options and places to visit,” Fang said.

He said they have been to Cebu, Boracay, Davao and other parts of the Philippines but this time they have chosen Legazpi City as their new destination because of natural and beautiful eco-tourism sights like the incomparable Mayon Volcano, dolphins in Sto. Domingo, the Misibis Bay Resort and Casino in Cagraray Island, Bacacay, and whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon.

“When you set foot in Legazpi, this is the one-stop shop from where you can go anywhere you want, with its beautiful and friendly people,” Fang said.

When asked if they are not affected by the ongoing territorial dispute between the Philippine and Chinese governments, especially that the government of China has issued a travel advisory to the Philippines for their citizens, Fang said that they do not care about political disputes.

The big influx of Chinese tourists in Bicol, specifically in Albay province, began last year after the Department of Tourism (DOT) led by Bicol Regional Director Maria “Nini” Ong-Ravanilla, in partnership with Elizaldy “Zaldy” S. Co, chief executive officer of Sunwest Group of Companies which include Misibis Bay Resort and Casino and Embarcadero de Legazpi.

The ancestors of both officials came from Fujian Province in China.

The two, as well as the Provincial Government of Albay and Legazpi City, worked together for the setting up of direct flights from China to Legazpi City to enhance local economic and tourism growth.

The Chinese tourists stayed at the Misibis Bay for five days and four nights and left on Tuesday filled with fond memories of what they experienced in Albay.

Ravanilla said that after 14 years of working hard to sell the wonders of Bicol in partnership with the private sector, Albay province was chosen by foreign tourists as the new major destination in the country owing to natural and unique eco-tourism sites.

She said China is the largest market for tourists who would greatly help in the economic growth of Bicol, specifically Albay province.

“The Chinese New Year has brought a breakthrough and another milestone for economic and tourism development in the Bicol Region,” according her.

Last year, the Legazpi City National Airport was upgraded as Albay International Gateway for Chartered Flights wherein a direct flight from Xiamen, China, carrying 156 tourists landed on January 30 last year, on the eve of Chinese New Year.

The domestic airport here has been upgraded to serve as the new gateway for international chartered flights under Albay’s enhanced tourism program that also targets other major markets like Russia and Korea.

Co, a Bicolano business tycoon who has greatly helped transform the Bicol Region from second poorest region to 4th poorest region in the country, invested a lot here to develop the local economy and generate more jobs for the jobless after the occurrence of supertyphoon “Reming” on Nov. 30, 2006.

He said Chinese, Korean, European and American tourists are trooping to Albay as evidenced by hotel occupancy records.

Co owns several hotels in Legazpi City, the Midas Hotel in Manila and the Misibis Bay Resort and Casino in Cagraray Island in Bacacay town.

Ravanilla said they are targeting one million foreign tourists in Bicol as their contribution to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s 10 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2016.

She said that among the six provinces of Bicol, Albay ranked first in foreign tourist arrivals recorded for the last three years while Camarines Sur had the highest number of domestic tourists owing to the annual Penafrancia Festival.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the opening of the Albay International Gateway for Chartered Flights is a great moment in Albay tourism as it will help speed up economic growth here.

The influx of international flights here came after the overdue construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport in Alobo, Daraga, Albay.

Salceda said the China tourism promotion is a people-to-people exchange and interaction with robust trade between Albay and China even before the Spanish era.

“Such people-to-people exchange should expand the space for understanding that could result in mutual benefits,” he added.

After the three-month series of direct flights from Xiamen to Legazpi City and vice-versa, today Chinese tourists from Guangzhou, the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in South China, have selected Legazpi City in Albay province as their new haven for natural wonders.

Guangzhou is the third largest Chinese city and the largest city in South Central China.

he DOT-Bicol is also eyeing Shanghai and Incheon City in Korea for direct flights in the coming months.

Salceda said they are targeting at least 150,000 tourists or so this year which means some Php6.5 billion resource injection into the local economy. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Daet town to have Php2.8-M fish landing center soon
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) will establish a Php2.8-million Community Fish Landing Center (CFLC) in Daet, the capital of Camarines Norte and a strategic area in the northern part of the Bicol Region.

Daet Mayor Tito Sarion said the CFLC project is part of the nationwide program of the national government through BFAR to improve the socio-economic condition of fisherfolk communities with high poverty incidence.

The CFLC is a program under BFAR's Targeted Actions to Reduce Poverty and Generate Economic Transformation in the Fishery Sector Program (TARGET).

With it, the national government targets to increase growth and poverty alleviation in the fishery sector throughout the country.

Sarion disclosed that 252 CFLCs will be built in strategic locations all over the country to provide post-harvest support for municipal fisherfolk.

“Each costing Php2.85 million, the CFLC will house post-harvest equipment and tools that will enable fisherfolk to preserve the good quality of their fish and fishery products, which they could sell for higher prices. Local consumers will also benefit from the fish landing centers as they will have better access to safe and quality fishery commodities,” he added.

The facility will also be opened as a venue for skills training on disaster-resilient fisheries-based livelihood and resource management such as monitoring fish catch and stock assessment.

"With this program, we also encourage all players, especially the fisherfolk, to help reduce the post-harvest loses of marines products," Sarion claimed.

The facility will also serve as a training center related to economic enterprise for a sustainable, long-term and disaster-resilient fishery-based livelihood.

Sarion also said that another purpose of the program is to reduce post-harvest losses from 25 percent to 18 percent or even lower.

With the help of CFLCs, consumers will also have access to fresh, safe and high-quality fish and fishery products.

"Ultimately, CFLCs and other interventions under TARGET will promote inclusive growth among coastal communities and alleviate poverty among fisherfolk," the Daet chief executive stressed.

CFLCs will be operated by the local government units (LGUs) and later on by fisherfolk cooperatives.(PNA) FFC/FGS/MDR/CBD/EBP

Salceda against declaring Xian Lim as persona non grata

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 26 (PNA) -- Despite calls and suggestions to declare Xian Lim as persona non grata in Albay, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda did not yield, saying doing so contradicts their campaign to promote Albay.

"I don't think so. It will take away the wind beneath the wings of our moral outrage which is pushing the 'I am here to promote Albay' expression of the Albayano civic spirit," he said.

Since Friday, Salceda has been posting photos taken in several tourist destinations in Albay with the caption hashtag #iamheretopromoteAlbay.

Most of the pictures were from netizens who joined the new online campaign to support the promotion of the province.

The tagline emanated from Lim's reaction after refusing to receive the t-shirt and coffee table book handed by Carol Sabio, the chief of staff of Salceda, while in Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City on Thursday last week, being the featured guest for the celebration of the Chinese New Year of the Filipino-Chinese community in Albay dubbed as Fiesta Tsinoy.

Lim's "I am not here to promote Albay" line that received flak in Albay was changed to "I am here to promote Albay," and became viral in social media.

Salceda said this tagline will not be the new tourism slogan of Albay, instead, it is just their way of showing that Albayanos are still optimistic in negative situations.

"It is still ‘Warm Albay, Warm People’... we are just trying to make the best out of an unfortunate and undeserved situation," he added.

The provincial chief executive said that in year 2013, the province adopted its slogan "Warm Albay, Warm People," which means Albayanos are great and hospitable people -- the reason visitors keep on coming back, especially for the different tourist attractions.

“I have accepted the apology of Xian Lim, however, I gave a condition as part of his penance,” Salceda said.

He said Lim had degraded the tourism of the province, therefore, he has to help in its promotion.

Sabio said the province will shoulder the expenses of the actor while doing the “amazing race” they have lined up for him by visiting the province's tourist spots such as: 1. Lake Danao in Polangui where the smallest fish, the sinarapan, is found; 2. Oas Church; 3. General Simeon Ola Museum in Guinobatan; 4. Sunflower plantation and Kawakawa hills in Ligao City; 5. Cagsawa ruins; 6. all-terrain vehicle ride at Mayon Volcano lava walls; 7. Nuestro Porteria Church in Daraga 8. To eat "sili" ice cream; 9. Lignon Hills that affords a view of the whole Albay, Legazpi City; 10. Mayon Rest House in Tabaco City; 11. Vera Falls in Malinao; 12. DJC halo-halo restaurant; and 13. Nuestra Senora de Salvacion in Tiwi town where he must pray. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Catanduanes adopts ‘One Tourist, One Tree’ program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -– Today’s tourism in the Bicol island-province of Catanduanes is no longer all about the pleasure of leisure but also a privilege of caring for the environment.

Its provincial government has adopted a new local tourism industry promotion program that gives tourists the privilege of taking part in nurturing the rich ecology of the province by planting trees during their stay.

Dubbed as “One Tourist, One Tree,” the recently launched program is directed towards making the growing local tourism industry not only a socioeconomic factor but also an avenue for sharing a hand in keeping the greenery of the province more verdant and in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Under this program, tourists coming into the province, to be able to participate, should register at no cost with the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) located at the Capitol complex where the seedlings, plant markers, including the appropriate area to plant within their routes would be provided to them, a statement from the PTO reaching here Wednesday said.

In support to the project, Gov. Araceli Wong has ordered the conversion of an idle space within the complex into a plant nursery where tree seedlings are now being propagated to sustain this tourism development and environment advocacy, Carmel Garcia, the provincial tourism officer, said in the statement.

“We conceptualized and adopted this activity from ideas introduced by some foreign tourists who were fascinated by our lush forest that entices them to seek ways how to contribute in its preservation and expansion,” Garcia said.

So now, apart from enjoying the quaint lifestyle offered by the island, tourists coming in to feast with their eyes on the exciting beauty offered by the marvelous local scenery, play at its majestic surfing sites and appreciate the hospitality of its people, are also offered the treat of fixing a tree seedling on the ground.

The provided markers bear the names and nationality of the tourists, giving them the pride of sharing their love to Mother Nature and helping Catanduanons sustain a life blessed with ecological wonders and healthy and resilient environment, Garcia said.

The island boasts of a 60,000-hectare of forests considered as the largest green patch in Bicol that includes the government-protected 26,010-hectare Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve as well as its 1,500 hectares of old and second-growth forests and abaca plantations that are home to various wildlife species.

The province is listed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as one of the country’s most important areas of biodiversity.

It is also noted as a rapidly-developing island-province which President Benigno Aquino III has included in his administration’s countryside development as a tourism growth area and as the country’s top producer of abaca, a -million yearly export earner of the country.

Fondly called the “Land of Howling Wind” being located along the path of typhoons and the first landmass to be kissed by the breathtaking waves of the Pacific Ocean, Catanduanes is a promising travel destination for its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues along its long string of palm-fringed beaches backed by jungle-covered mountains and crowned with jewel-like islets.

The province -- a virtually untouched, unspoiled and unexplored pearly island in the Pacific -- offers a totally laid-back rural charm, a beautiful natural environment and plenty of easy action at a pace that’s always relaxed.

For these, the province has been included by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in its newly-formed “Triple C” cluster, a local tourism industry development alliance called “Gems of the Pacific,” for its geographical location which is along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

Apart from Catanduanes, the alliance involves the provinces of Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur which the DOT regional office based here has identified as another tourism development area (TDA) in the region included in its 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan.

There are two sub-TDAs under this cluster--the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) to cover the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

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

DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla describes Catanduanes as a tourism industry treasure of Bicol owing to its diverse attractions from forested peaks, rugged terrains, majestic waves down to a lush underwater world, sweetly agreed by an ever developing economy and shared by tropically warm people.

The island also offers thrill and adventure with its tourism icon -- the “majestic” waves at Puraran Beach, noted as among the Philippines’ best surfing spots sitting amid the backdrop of scintillating coves and rolling sand hills, that has been a venue of several international surfing and other water sports competitions.

So far, Garcia said, “we already have 88 Taiwanese nationals and seven Americans who have registered themselves as the early batches of tourists and visitors who excitedly joined the ‘One Tourist, One Tree’ program since its launch late last month.”

The Taiwanese, who are volunteers of an international environmental foundation, have their trees planted in two barangays of Caramoran town while the Americans, who are members of the International Service Corps Asia, planted trees in Barangay Bislig of San Andres town, she added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Legazpi City farmers to plant, promote lettuce
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- The City Agriculture Office (CAO), the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon (Navforsol) based here and the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol will establish a lettuce plantation in Barangay Taysan in the southern part of this city.

This project has being initiated by the Navforsol of the Philippine Navy as part of its contribution to improving livelihood activities in the community.

It materialized when the Navforsol coordinated with the Barangay Council of Taysan and selected qualified farmers as recipients of the project.

City Agriculturist Jesus Kallos said his office conducted technical training for the beneficiaries and also provided farm tools, fertilizer and other farming materials as part of the support for their schooling.

Kallos said the participants also received different educational supplies and other learning materials from the Agricultural Training Institute of the DA.

The East West Seed Co. distributed some seedlings to the beneficiaries as part of their planting materials.

Kallos said 28 qualified beneficiaries of the “Gawad sa Pag Oma para Oma Project” are now undergoing 14 weeks of schooling.

The 28 beneficiaries started schooling on Nov. 12 last year and will finish on March 12 at the Farmers Field School located in Taysan village.

After their graduation, the group will start planting lettuce at their own backyard by using the Ibalong organic fertilizer processed by the CAO.

This will be known as organically grown lettuce, Kallos said.

The CAO recently launched the organic manufacturing plant project which aims to increase farm productivity and consumption in achieving food self-sufficiency as part of the solution to the poverty problem in the city.

The application of this organic fertilizer and using the basic process of farming are the best way of reducing farming expenses, the CAO official said.

He said the city administration and the DA will jointly establish an Organic Trading Post to be manned by legitimate farmers of this city that would serve as the market place for lettuce produced by the 28 beneficiaries.

Planting more lettuce in the vacant farm land areas will be a big factor to improve livelihood in the community and would really help uplift the living condition of the villagers, Kallos pointed out.

Lettuce is used as sandwich topping and being mixed in fruit juices.

It has been tested as a good source of calcium, which is necessary for healthy teeth and strong bones.

It also has a high content of magnesium that promotes immunity as well as healthy muscle and proper functioning of nervous system due to the presence of minerals, phosphorus and sulfur.

This vegetable is also rich in vitamins A and B that help promote healthy skin and ensure the good functioning of various organs such as kidney, liver, heart and eyes. (PNA) LAM/FGS/EPS/CBD/EDS

Couple indicted for illegal possession, re-bagging of NFA rice
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- A panel of prosecutors has indicted a couple for unauthorized possession and re-bagging of government-subsidized rice of the National Food Authority (NFA).

Assistant Prosecutor Antonette Nacor, spokesperson of the Naga City Prosecutor’s Office, said the panel found probable cause that Joel and Sarah Jane Yao have violated the NFA rules and regulations and PD No. 4 as amended by PD No. 1485 when they were caught possessing hundreds of bags of NFA rice and re-bagging them for commercial trading in August last year.

Police Chief Inspector Errol Tecson Garchitorena Jr., former Criminal, Investigation and Detection Group chief in Camarines Sur, said the complainant was the head of the raiding team composed of police and NFA personnel.

Garchitorena was assigned to Sorsogon a week after the raid.

In a surprise inspection, the raiding team found the workers in a warehouse, registered under name of Sarah Jane Yao, re-bagging the NFA rice.

The warehouse is located inside a sprawling compound owned by the Yaos in Tabuco, Naga City.

The NFA confiscated 500 bags of NFA rice that were being transferred sack by sack to blue commercial sacks from sacks printed with NFA logo.

Nacor said the panel cited that NFA rules and regulations regarding grains business prohibit re-bagging, re-sacking of government stocks to commercial sacks and mislabeling NFA sacks.

The penalty of the offenses of the Yao couple is imprisonment of a minimum of one month but not more than six months and a fine of not less than Php1,000 or more than Php4,000, or both at the discretion of the judge, she disclosed.

In addition, Nacor said, the licenses of the couple to trade grains will be cancelled.

The members of the panel of prosecutors are Assistant Prosecutors Dina Aquino, Remedios Santonya and Arthur Carandang.

They submitted the resolution of the criminal cases against Yao couple on January 7.

Nacor said the cases against the Yaos are now under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Trial Circuit Court of Naga City.

The NFA also cancelled the wholesale rice and warehouse license of Sarah Jane Yao, who was also fined Php15,000 in an administrative case decided in January for the same incident.(PNA) LAP/FGS/JME/CBD/

CamNorte LGU asks LTO to solve emission testing problem

DAET, Camarines Norte, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- With an injunction order against operating an emission testing center, the provincial government of Camarines Norte has asked the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to help vehicle owners here to get emission testing as there are only two emission testing centers in the 12-town province.

On Monday, LTO Regional Director Noreen San Luis Lutey officially launched the E-Patrol, a mobile module unit manned by LTO personnel providing services for permit renewal of vehicles and driver’s licenses, including emission testing.

Lutey said she pushed through with the deployment of E-Patrol in Camarines Norte despite an injunction order from the court granted to an emission-test center owner who blocked the move of the provincial government to operate emission center.

Camarines Norte Governor Edgar Tallado said the provincial government is not daunted by the case filed against them at the Office of the Ombudsman because of the move to open and operate an emission center that will cater to vehicle owners.

He said they will push through with an additional emission center to avoid monopoly control of the emission testing in the province that has been detrimental to the interest of vehicle owners.

Tallado said five board members who are known allies of former representative Renato Jalgalado Unico Jr. and first cousin of now Rep. Cathy Jalgalado Barcelona-Reyes opposed the move of the provincial government to operate emission testing center.

Unico and the Barcelona families are political adversaries of Tallado in the last elections and the governor claimed that one of the two emission centers in Camarines Norte is owned by Wilma Jalgalado Barcelona, mother to Barcelona-Reyes.

Lutey said there are only two emission centers in Camarines Norte since 2004 when the number of vehicles in the province was only 4,000 vehicles and now the number has grown to 34,000.

She said the Camarines Norte provincial officials headed by Tallado have been very persistent in asking the LTO to resolve the problem of inadequate number of emission centers that resulted in the delay of vehicle testing emission and issuance of emission certificates.

“Even with the pending case, we have to do what is right,” Lutey said, referring to the operation of emission testing under the E-Patrol unit that will go around Camarines Norte province.

She said the deployment of E-Patrol that provides emission testing would now solve the problem in Camarines Norte of having the biggest number of vehicle owners who were fined for late registration last year. The emission testing certificate is a requirement for the renewal of vehicle registration at the LTO, she added.

Lutey said the emission testing of E-Patrol will be operated by a private entity and the rate will be lower than the Php450/vehicle, which is the present fee asked by two emission testing centers in the province.

She said the advantage of having more emission testing centers like Naga City, which has more than 20 at present is that the service becomes efficient where clients are even being offered coffee.

Lutey said the E-Patrol will remain deployed in Camarines Norte for as long as it is needed.

Edel Santiago, president of the Federation of Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association of Camarines Norte, said the arrival of the E-Patrol that provides emission testing service to the vehicles gave them relief.

Santiago said it takes them a month or more to get schedule for vehicle emission testing which causes them to be late in filing for the renewal of permit. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JME/CBD

Cops fatally shot murder suspect

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25, (PNA) -- Police fatally shot a murder suspect who resisted arrest on Tuesday night at Purok 2, Barangay Quitago, Guinobatan, Albay.

A police report identified the slain suspect as Celso Ariola Jr., a resident of the place. who did not reach the Gata Hospital in the same town alive

Elements of Guinobatan Municipal Police Office tried to arrest Ariola at about 9 p.m. for the crime of murder when he surfaced at their place after hiding for a while.

The police were armed with an arrest warrant issued by Judge Ignacio N. Almodovar of Regional Trial Court Branch 1 docketed as Criminal Case No. 12954 for murder and another one issued by Judge Elmer Lanuso of RTC Branch 6 under C. C. No. 12955 for murder without bail for his temporary liberty.

When the law enforcers were serving the arrest warrants, Ariola allegedly immediately drew his .38-caliber revolver and aimed it at one SPO3 Solana but PO2 Rommel Moral, GMPO warrant officer, was quick to fire his M-16 rifle, hitting the suspect in his body.

Ariola died while being taken to the Gata Hospital in Guinobatan.Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver from the suspect. (PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/EDS

Give peace a chance -- Salceda
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -- “Give peace a chance,” Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda strongly urged his listeners during the commemoration of the 29th Anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution here.

Salceda told the public to support the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) now pending in both Houses of Congress, saying that the BBL remains the most viable pathway to peace.

“With most solemn humility in awe of heroes – the peaceful revolutionaries of EDSA and the martyrs of Mamasapano -- I speak as your elected leader to give peace a chance,” Salceda said.

“The pursuit of peace is the best homage to the fallen SAF 44, while the peace process and to support the BBL are the most viable path to peace in our times,” he added.

He said the country is observing two significant events: first is the anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolt and “today is also the first month of remembering the fallen SAF 44 tragedy.”

Salceda said he has accepted the invitation of SAF to be its guest speaker on its flag-raising ceremony sometime in March.

He said he was preparing some pointers in his speech, stressing that he believes that in pursuit of peace, two processes should be realized -- first, pursuing justice for SAF 44 and second, advancing the peace process -- and these are not mutually exclusive and the nation-state has the space to do both in earnest.

“I honestly believe that the BBL remains our best shot and historic chance for peace in Mindanao, ” he stressed.

Salceda claimed that he had publicly supported the MOA-AD and studied the Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and these were superior documents, though there were some imperfect provisions.

“You can not correct all the wrongs in one agreement because it is a process, a work in progress,” he stressed.

According to Salceda, the BBL will be a good start.

“You cannot correct a wrong (Mamasapano incident) with another wrong (BBL failure). The tragedy has raised the national consciousness about Muslim Mindanao and we must redirect these energies to fortify the peace process,” he added.

The martyrdom of the 44 SAF warriors has proven that they know how to die for the nation as the Albay executive lamented that many are still angry and will disagree with him but the ultimate sacrifices are to serve a higher purpose. "peace in our land and the best way to honor them remains firmly in the path of peace and the best pathway is the BBL.

“The seed of peace is peace -- ang santol di magbubunga ng manga (a santol tree will not breed a mango fruit),” he said.

“Heroes will be happier if there will be less dead heroes after them,” he said. (PNA) LAM/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

lBicol seeks more PPP in government’s social protection program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) -- True to the agency’s official logo, the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) here said it is pursuing more public-private partnerships (PPP) in carrying out the government’s social protection program.

The logo symbolizes this partnership as shown by the pair of hands protectively holding a heart—representing the poor and disadvantaged population—stand for the joint responsibility of government, on one hand, and the private sector, on the other hand, in alleviating poverty and uplifting the life of the sector’s beneficiaries.

“The whole figure represents nurturing and caring -- the essence of social welfare, which the DSWD is all about,” Regional Director Arnel Garcia on Tuesday explained.

Hence, he said, his office has been working on the establishment of formal partnership agreements with more prospective private entities, non-government organizations (NGOs) or people’s organizations (POs) and other stakeholders towards its delivery of services under its mandate.

Such mandate specifies that the DSWD should provide assistance to other national government agencies (NGAs), local government units (LGUs), NGOs, POs and members of civil society organizations in the implementation of programs, projects, and services that will alleviate poverty and empower disadvantaged individuals, families and communities to improve their quality of life.

Besides, Garcia said, the involvement of the private sector in the implementation of social protection program is in line with the directive of President Benigno Aquino III that pushes PPP in fulfilling his platform of good governance and poverty reduction.

So far, he said, DSWD-Bicol is currently in partnership with at least 24 private organizations and 12 licensed and registered Social Welfare Development Agencies (SWADAs) in line with the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) across the region.

The 4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education, particularly of children aged 0-14.

Since 4Ps does not only provide financial assistance but interventions to improve the welfare of the poor such us empowerment, participation and economic opportunities towards social protection, these beneficiaries are being nurtured into the culture of self-help leading to a productive life on their own feet.

The civil organizations and agencies, on the other hand, have been participating in the 4Ps budget process as part of the government’s commitments to integrate citizen’s participation as a means of enhancing transparency and accountability in the allocation of public funds, according to Garcia.

The same groups are also provided with funds under the government’s Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) as allocations for social development projects they are initiating in favor of 4Ps beneficiaries such as livelihood interventions, health, education, community involvement and household empowerment, among others.

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

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

As part of this year’s activities involving the budgeting process, Garcia said, around 20 of these civil organizations coming from different parts of the Bicol Region participated in the consultation workshop held here last week.

In the same activity, the participants were reoriented on the preparation of project proposals and updated on the process of annual budget preparation and submission based on the principle of transparency and accountability in the allocation of public funds, he added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Coup d' etat has no place in Bicol
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police (PNP)leadership in Bicol has strongly said that there is no place for coup d' etat in the Bicol Region.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, PNP Bicol police director, made the remark amid rumors of a coup against the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III as a result of the tragic death of the Fallen 44 in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Deona claimed it will never happen under his leadership as the morale of his men in the region is very high.

Although they mourn, they still go on with their duties, he said.

"We will not participate in any extrajudicial moves. This is very clear among the rank-and-file officers and unit commanders. We have our job to do and let us not get distracted," the PNP regional head said.

Deona said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers and men in Bicol have a very strong coordination and cooperation.

Their interoperability operations are continuous and their respective unit commanders have access to their forces.

Meanwhile, Deona said, the regional police office is now readying for the Sangguniang Kabataan national election on April 21.

In fact, he said, the PNP Bicol and the AFP regional command will have a joint meeting with the regional director of the Commission on Elections in Bicol.

Deona said this is part of the initial preparation of the PNP and AFP for a clean, orderly and peaceful SK election.

He said they will tackle the places in the region that would possibly be under areas of concern or hot spots.

Deona said that it is also part of the strong and stable relationship between the PNP and the AFP.

The top regional police official said that in the previous elections, the PNP and the AFP in the region have always been a model in coordinative and collaborative efforts to give security to the state. These have resulted in successful inter-operability operations in the provinces of Camarines Sur and Masbate.

He said that this time, their preparation will be much earlier. (PNA) RMA/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Legazpi council wants accident insurance for barangay officials, volunteer workers
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) -- The local legislative council here is in the process of perfecting an approved resolution that intends to provide all elective officials, appointive employees and volunteer workers in the city’s 70 barangays with accident insurance coverage.

Proponents of the measure are councilor Raul Rosal and Liga ng mga Barangay city chapter vice-president Ismael Santillan who sits in the Sangguniang Panlunsod (SP) as ex-officio member in lieu of its president, Joseph Philip Lee, who was elevated to the Albay provincial legislative board as president of the Liga’s provincial chapter.

“We are now in the process of perfecting this approved resolution which would entitle each of the about 3,600 elective, appointive and volunteer workers in our barangays to a Php100,000 death benefit and Php10,000 medical reimbursement arising from an accident they may encounter whether or not they are in the performance of their official functions,” Rosal said.

The coverage will cost the city government Php90 some Php324,000 annually to be remitted to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) in exchange for its group accident insurance policy, he said.

SP Resolutions Nos. 0001 and 0002-2005 are separate measures that request City Mayor Noel Rosal “to adopt group personal accident insurance of the GSIS” for barangay officials and volunteer workers in the city, respectively.

These volunteer workers are composed of members of the barangay police brigade or barangay tanod, day care and barangay health workers, barangay nutrition scholars and members of emergency and calamity respond units, among others.

The first resolution says that “Section 393 (b) of Republic Act (RA) 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of the Philippines of 1991, provides that "the punong barangay, the Sangguniang Barangay members, the barangay treasurer and secretary shall be entitled during their incumbency to insurance coverage.”

This coverage, it added, shall include but not limited to temporary and permanent disability, double indemnity, accident insurance, death and burial benefits in accordance with Republic Act 6392 entitled “An Act Increasing the Insurance Benefit of Local Government Officials and Providing Funds Therefor.”

The second resolution, on the other hand, says that the barangay volunteers should also be placed under this personal accident insurance coverage even as they are already entitled to death and hospitalization benefits being provided by the city government amounting to Php5,000 during their respective terms of service.

Councilor Rosal said City Ordinance No. 0012-2010 known as the “Barangay Tanod Program” grants financial support to barangay tanods in terms of death benefit and hospitalization in the amount of Php5,000, respectively.

Ordinance No. 0002-2013 entitled the “Benefit Program of the Barangay Government Volunteer Workers of Legazpi City,” on the other hand, provides the same amount of financial assistance to volunteers not covered under the first ordinance, the councilor said.

“It is reasonable and very timely as the new Group Personal Accident Insurance of the GSIS with a principal sum of Php100,000 and annual premium of Php90 provides indemnity in cases of loss of the physical well-being of the insured whether or not work-related such as death, total and permanent disability, dismemberment and medical reimbursement,” he added.

The insurance policy promises to pay the principal sum in case of accidental loss of life or total and permanent disability of the insured; 50 percent in case of an unprovoked murder; and 10 percent of the principal sum but not exceeding Php50,000 in medical reimbursement. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Bicol legislators seek franchise for alternative energy supplier
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) -- Three congressmen from Bicol are jointly seeking a congressional franchise for a power firm that would allow it to serve as an alternative energy supplier for the whole region.

Rep. Diogracias Ramos Jr. of the second congressional district of Sorsogon, along with Camarines Norte’s Second District Rep. Elmer Panotes and Rep. Salvio Fortuno of Camarines Sur’s Fifth District jointly sponsored the measure through House Bill No. 4935, now pending with the Lower House.

In a statement reaching here Tuesday, Ramos said the bill is a proposal that seeks to grant a franchise that would allow the firm, he identified as Bicol Light and Power Corp. (BLPC), to “establish, operate, manage, own, lease and maintain for public interest and commercial purposes” a power distribution system for the entire Bicol Region.

Ramos said the corporation, whose owners or people behind he did not name, will invest in the setting up and operation of a dependable and efficient power distribution system that will provide the Bicol provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon with alternative source of energy.

This new firm, he said, will join the power distribution business in the region in the essence of free trade competition to challenge all the existing suppliers and distributors into making their services efficient for the benefit of consumers.

It will also generate more jobs and boost the economic growth of Bicol with the anticipated coming in of more investments when power supply and cost are stabilized, Ramos said.

“We in Bicol have been confronted with constant power service interruptions and perpetual threat of disconnections due to inefficiency, mismanagement, corruption and political meddling that are true among power cooperatives, resulting in bankruptcy,” Ramos said.

He cited the case of the Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (SORECO II), which is saddled with financial constraints, and the cash-strapped Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO) whose business has been awarded by the government to a giant private firm due to huge indebtedness.

Brownouts and unrest among member-consumers of ALECO had never ceased even as the operation and management of cooperative is now under Albay Power and Energy Corp. (APEC) of the San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) to which the National Electrification Administration (NEA) awarded its concession a year ago.

A case to win back ALECO from this giant private firm filed by its members and officials is now pending in a court in Legazpi City.

SORECO II, on the other hand, is under attack from its members for alleged shady deals and huge indebtedness, gradually consuming its coffer into bankruptcy, Ramos said.

Masbate and Catanduanes, meanwhile, are suffering from constant power shortage and higher cost of electricity being off-grid areas served only by petroleum-fed generator sets provided by the National Power Corp. and private suppliers, he said.

Same problems are also being encountered by electric cooperatives in the Camarines provinces, according to Ramos.

When approved by Congress, BLPC, Ramos said, will be granted a 15-year franchise — a development opposed by the management of SORECO II.

It is presumed that this BLPC, a still “mysterious” corporation, is absolutely a private-owned entity and when the franchise is granted by Congress, Bicol will be like areas being served by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) whose transactions are devoid of transparency and business not challenged by competitors, lawyer Percival Alvarez, the cooperative general manager, said.

Perhaps, he said, it would be favorably applicable only to the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate where the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) that is designed only for mainland areas covered by the main power grid, never works -- resulting in higher rates being suffered by local consumers. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Justice for Fallen 44; BBL still key to lasting peace in Mindanao – Salceda
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 25 (PNA) -– Justice for the Fallen 44 is the highest form of recognition to them as heroes while the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is still the most effective key towards lasting peace in Mindanao.

These are the important points that Governor Joey Sarte Salceda emphasized in his message to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the EDSA Day and one month after the bloody tragedy that was written in the history of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers.

“What happened to the Fallen 44 must never take place again,” Salceda said.

In accepting the invitation of the SAF to be the guest of honor and speaker in its flag-raising ceremony next month, he said, he realized the important role and heroism of the 44 SAF members and the peace talks.

The Albay governor stressed that the Fallen 44 should be given justice and that the peace talks should move on.

He said he firmly believes that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is still the most effective means to achieve peace in Mindanao.

"Pursuing justice for SAF 44 and advancing the peace process are not mutually exclusive and our nation-state has the space to do both in earnest. I honestly believe that the BBL remains our best shot and historic chance for peace in Mindanao," Salceda said.

He said he supports the memorandum of agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and is studying the Tripoli and the Moro National Liberation Front Agreement in 1996.

The Albay executive admitted that the process is not perfect and the errors of the past cannot be corrected by one agreement alone.

What happened in Mamasapano, however, cannot be corrected by another mistake, like the collapse of the BBL.

Salceda said the bloody Mamasapano incident woke up the consciousness of the Filipino people on the situation in Mindanao.

This has given the Filipino energy to move and advance the negotiations towards peace in the country.

“The heroism of the SAF warriors is a living proof that we are always ready to give our life for the country,” the top Albay official said.

He said many are still consumed by anger on what happened to the SAF commandos and perhaps, many are not in favor of his perception but what happened has an important purpose for the country – peace all over the land.

"The seed of peace is peace," Salceda said.

In this connection, he called not only on his fellow Albayanos but also on all Filipinos to be one in praying the Oratio Imperata for peace.

“This is based on 1 Cor 14:33: For God is a God of peace, not of disorder,” the former seminarian, who graduated as valedictorian in his class in the seminary, said.(PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Monday, February 23, 2015

(News Features)Albay barangay gets potable water supply from DAR project
By Danny O. Calleja

GUINOBATAN, Albay, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- The long wait for a potable water system of over 300 households in a remote farming village of this first class Albay town by the foot of Mt. Mayon has come to an end.

The low-cost technology that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is applying in Bicol’s agrarian reform communities (ARCs) is now working and keeping potable water flow into households in Barangay Sinungtan, a lowly upland village occupied by families of mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

At the same time, the project, called Community-managed Potable Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (CPWASH) recently implemented in the barangay, is providing villagers a wastewater treatment system that produces biogas usable as a substitute to liquefied petroleum gas for cooking with the use of animal wastes as a source of gas via decomposition process.

The DAR regional office based in Legazpi City formally turned over to the barangay the facility primarily intended to provide safe drinking water, and promote proper hygiene -- especially in areas with high incidence of water-borne diseases.

A collaborative effort of DAR, Philippine Center for Water and Sanitation (PCWS) and the municipal government of Guinobatan, the project now eases the difficulties of barangay residents in fetching water from deep wells and other sources that were found out to be contaminated with disease carrying organisms.

DAR Regional Director Luis Bueno Jr. said the project that can be managed by the host community uses low-cost, culturally acceptable and appropriate technology, featuring the provision of iron removal filter, bio-sand filter, rainwater collector and bio-gas digester.

It was put up out with Php155,000 provided by DAR from its regular fund with counterpart of Php50,000 from the local government of Guinobatan.

The implementation and completion of the project, according to Bueno, is very timely for the approaching summer season that artesian and open wells in the village run low, forcing villagers, especially the poor, to get their drinking water from more risky sources.

The new water system is placed under the management of the Barangay Water System Association (BAWASA) whose members are active farmers who are at the same time members of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organization (ARBO).

The BAWASA runs the project as a community-managed enterprise providing beneficiaries with clean water, better hygiene and improved sanitation brought about by the biogas reactor that helps not only solve the community problem over stinking animal messes but also provide fuel for cooking, he said.

CPWASH was conceptualized to address the problem on sources of potable water confronting rural villagers, particularly in agrarian reform communities (ARCs), Bueno said, citing data from 2008 which estimated that 17 percent of this population still had no access to improved sanitation, with 14 percent estimated to be practicing open defecation.

With much of the Philippine countryside devoted to agriculture, this is a serious concern, as pollution generated from poor sanitation can adversely affect the health of agrarian practitioners and pollute their fields.

However, since many of these farmers and their communities have very little cash at hand, any proposed sanitation solutions must be low-cost, low maintenance, and provide some quantitative benefits for their users in order for them to be accepted, he explained.

Recognizing this issue, the PCWS decided to implement CPWASH as a sanitation project aimed at rural farming communities under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which is managed by DAR.

Under this project, villagers are hired as construction workers, giving them hands-on training which they could use in putting up similar projects in their village and nearby communities, thus, providing them employment and business opportunity.

So far, the DAR-Bicol, since 2013, has already implemented around 30 CPWASH projects coupled with biogas digesters, benefiting thousands of ARC households across the region, records show.

One encouraging fact concerning CPWASH is that the beneficiary community can do it by themselves now as they were given training on the adoption of the low-cost technology that makes water from elevated streams and springs pass through pipes into a concrete water tank equipped with iron removal and bio sand filters to ensure constant flow of clean water.

ARBs are also taught how to fabricate by themselves the biogas reactor using a digester septic tank where wastes of animals like pigs, dogs, cows and carabaos are dumped into and generate cooking gas to substitute for LPG and other fossil fuels to save on money and the environment, Bueno said.

This project, he said, serves as a mechanism to raise the awareness and appreciation among ARBs and the entire community on the relationship of water, health and poverty that are closely linked to each other.

It also provides capacity development, enterprise management of the water system, monitoring/evaluation and technical assistance to end-users, he said.

Local government units (LGUs) in Bicol, particularly in the rural areas, are being encouraged by DAR to replicate the project in barangays, particularly in ARCs confronted by potable water supply and sanitation problems.

Overall, he said, the purpose of CPWASH is to bring about low-cost, culturally acceptable and appropriate water supply and sanitation technologies in each targeted ARC that can be managed and sustained as rural enterprise by the community.

This has the objective of reducing health issues in the communities from poor wastewater management that is resulting in polluted groundwater by both reducing the groundwater pollution via improved sanitation and by treating the groundwater prior to consumption via water filters, Bueno added.(PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DSWD-Bicol director stresses importance of consultations with CSOs

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) -- Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol Regional Director Arnel Garcia stressed on Sunday the importance of consultations with civil society organizations (CSOs) in the different parts of the region.

“It affirms the government’s commitment to integrate citizen’s participation in the budget process as a means of enhancing transparency and accountability in the allocation of public funds,” Garcia said.

It likewise aims to establish formal agreement with prospective CSOs and other stakeholders in the preparation and submission of the annual budget proposal, he added.

There are about 24 civil society organizations that are in close partnership/coordination in line with the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and 12 Social Welfare and Development Agencies licensed and registered.

Garcia said the CSOs involvement in the implementation of social protection program is in line with the directive of President Benigno Aquino III’s public–private partnership in fulfilling his platform of good governance and poverty reduction.

In Legazpi City, it has partnered with five CSOs led by the Entrepinay-Legazpi City Chapter in a project to provide livelihood training for needy members of the CSOs and 4Ps beneficiaries on powder soap and fabric conditioner making as well as preparation of dimsum products and polvoron, among others.

The training incorporates values formation, basic cash management and simple bookkeeping.

The participants will also be given starter kits. (PNA) SCS/FGS/CBD/PJN

New four-lane bridge eases traffic along main Legazpi road

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) –- Commuters are now heaving a sigh of relief with the recent opening of a Php24-million newly reconstructed four-lane bridge in Barangay 15 (Ilawod) here.

Called the Sagumayon Bridge, the former two-lane structure was earlier tagged by commuters and traffic authorities as a “traffic bottleneck” since it is situated near schools, bank, hospital and road junctions.

It serves as a major link from the city’s business district to neighboring Daraga town, with the two being connected by seven-kilometer J. P. Rizal street, a major thoroughfare that was converted into a four-lane road from the old two-lane street.

“It is only proper that when you build a four-lane street, the bridge that links this street would also have to be improved, and this is what we have done with the Sagumayon bridge,” Mayor Noel E. Rosal told the PNA Sunday.

The Sagumayon Bridge was constructed by United Sates Army soldiers during the post-war era in 1945.

Rosal said government engineers reconstructed the 70-year-old two-lane bridge into a four-lane modern bridge.

The reconstruction work transformed the seven-decade-old bridge into one that has 11.7 meters width by 24 meters length concrete bridge.

The bridge was also reinforced by 150 meters concrete approaches on both ends.

It took nine months to complete the project as civil works started on March 24 last year and was completed on Dec. 15, 2014.

Rosal said the Sagumayon Bridge has its own historical value as one of the oldest bridges in Albay.

It was a stone masonry-type bridge built under the United States Restoration Project after World War 2 ended.

Rosal said the project had original funding of Php19 million from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) but an additional Php5 million was sourced out from Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara and the AKB Party List.

Another bridge in the city with an on-going reconstruction and widening work is the Yawa Bridge in Barangay Bonot near the regional government center, with a Php140-million funding. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/CBD/SSC

Legazpi to offer incentives to new tourism investments in the city
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) -- An ordinance that would provide for incentives to new tourism industry investments in this city serving as Bicol’s tourism center is now being pushed for enactment by the local legislative council.

Among the salient provisions of the proposed ordinance is the grant of business tax payment exemption to newly registered tourism enterprises while its owners will also be free from paying basic realty taxes on property improvements, building and machineries -- both for the period of two years.

It shall also mandate the city’s Business Permits and Licensing Division (BPLD) to give assistance in identifying business locations and in securing local permits and licenses for investors who want to engage in business in this city.

“We are offering these to attract more investors that would help us further improve our existing tourist facilities and attractions,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday told the Philippine News Agency.

This strategy, he explained, is based on the city government’s vision that promotes inclusive economic growth and sustainable development through effective and efficient services strengthened by the active participation of all stakeholders within a safe business environment.

Having more investors coming in will in the long run help improve the city’s revenue collection, sustain its economic growth, increase the value of local products, promote a sustainable tourism industry and generate more jobs for the local workforce, Rosal said.

“We also welcome public-private partnership—a development scheme between the city government and these prospective investors that we are strengthening,” he said.

The proposed Tourism Investment Incentive Ordinance was drafted by members of the Vision Aligned Circle (VAC 7), a planning unit organized by Rosal under its Performance Governance System (PGS) that it has institutionalized as a participatory process in line with the principles and best practices of good governance and responsible citizenship.

“We have been working on PGS since January 2008 and the continuing activities that included the creation of the VAC and Office of Strategy Management (OSM) as well as the formation of the city’s Multi-Sectoral Governance Coalition (MSGC) that have been actively initiating collaborative moves, which brought us to the PGS Compliance Status last year,” he said.

Such status won for the city government the most coveted Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) award for excellence in local governance given by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) during fitting ceremonies in Manila last Oct. 21.

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

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

Such accomplishment, which over years generally raised the city’s inclusive growth and development through effective local governance, was focused, among others, on local tourism developments highlighted by the campaign to capture a slot in Luzon’s five top convention destinations by 2020.

In tourism, the city received a total of 579,470 domestic and foreign tourists, representing a whopping increase of 32.6 percent from the previous year’s 141,370 arrivals which placed this premier Bicol metropolis, now known in the international travel world as the “City of Fun and Adventure,” in the 14th slot among the country’s best tourist destinations.

Last year, as the city worked on improving its rank to the country’s 10 best tourist destinations, it achieved another milestone in tourism development by receiving over 700,000 tourists for a 24-percent growth rate over 2013 and bringing it closer to hitting the targeted one-million mark by 2016.

“After all these accomplishments, including the achievement of the PGS compliance stage, our goal this year is to advance to the Island of Good Governance (IGG), a status awarded to local government units (LGUs) as well as other government institutions that have shown exemplary performance in terms of governance practices and transformation.

Advancing to IGG may win for the city government the ISA-NCC Gold Standard Award representing a test or measure of comparison that is considered ultimate or ideal.

With sustained commitment, he said, the city is closing in on institutional transformation as it levels up to the next phase of PGS—proficiency.

“An LGU, which is considered as economic spark plug where inclusive growth strategy needs to be specific with good governance, providing the edge can only be eligible for IGG if it is at least PGS proficient,” Rosal stressed, adding that the city as of today is on the right track towards it.

To qualify, the LGU should show proof that it has put in place the essentials of a good governance program that has already yielded substantial results by way of transformative breakthroughs that include a strategy map, performance scorecard, a working multi-sectoral governance coalition, an office for strategy management and a series of actual breakthrough results.

The award of IGG compliance status this year in now being processed by the ISA which took off with its pre-audit last January, followed by the third party audit starting this month.

Arriving at this status, he added, “is easy for us now that we have in place our PGS measured by integrity—as our actions and decisions are guided by the highest ethical standards; common good -- as we selflessly uphold the general welfare of all; commitment-- because we fulfill our mandate with perseverance, compassion and flexibility; and competence-- since we continuously upgrade our knowledge and skills in order to provide excellence service.”(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

4Ps beneficiaries in remote Bicol village establish own pharmacy (Feature)
By Danny O. Calleja

CARAMOAN, Camarines Sur, Feb. 22 (PNA) -– Time was when residents of a remote island village here would sail on boats just to buy medicines for their sick from the opposite town in the island province of Catanduanes, about two hours away.

Today, this predicament is no longer a routine in Calongcogong, a poor village of this first-class tourism municipality located at the tip of the scenic Caramoan Peninsula, a rugged coastal territory extending into the waters of the Maqueda Channel on the north and east and Lagonoy Gulf on the south.

Residents of the village who are enlisted as beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a government’s poverty reduction and social development strategy that provides financial subsidy to extremely poor facilities through Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), have pooled their hard-earned resources to set up their own pharmacy.

Since 4Ps does not only provide financial assistance but also interventions to improve the welfare of the poor such us empowerment, participation and economic opportunities towards social protection, these beneficiaries have learned from it the culture of self-help leading, among others, to the establishment of the community drugstore.

It all started in a Family Development Session (FDS) – a monthly activity being conducted under the program that serves as a venue for educational, interpersonal, interactive and adult learning engagement that aims to empower and strengthen the relationship and ties among family members and the community.

The 4Ps reached the village sometime in late 2011 and since then, these sessions have been a regular activity involving family heads and mothers of the beneficiary families in the village numbering around 200.

“One of the topics discussed in our earlier sessions was the problem we had been encountering every time somebody in the family was sick. The nearest drugstore located in San Andres, Catanduanes, is separated from our barangay by Maqueda Bay that we have to cross on boat for about two hours to reach it,” project leader Rosie Ortiz told the Philippine News Agency in local dialect over the weekend.

The idea of putting up a drugstore was hatched during a series of discussions in the FDS facilitated by social workers of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the agency principally tasked to implement the 4Ps.

It was raised behind the fact that while the program requires mothers and their young children to regularly visit the nearest Rural Health Units (RHUs) for check-ups, the medicine needed when somebody in the beneficiary family is sick only comes free when it is available in the local government-run rural health service facility, which is rarely the case, Ortiz said.

So, owing to the mutual communication and understanding that the FDS was able to develop among them about two years, the group was able to arrange a strategy that was promptly applied, resulting in what they have now -- a community pharmacy which, Ortiz said, was assigned to her to look after and manage.

“In the sessions, we were able to develop a team-building and planning skill, leadership, self-confidence, communication, the spirit of cooperation as well as trust not only between and among us 4Ps members but also in local government workers and DSWD staff working with us,” she stressed.

The project was started in late 2013 by way of simultaneously putting up vegetable gardens on backyards which when harvested after three months, some of the crops were sold from where the group was able to raise a starting capital of Php500.

They used the money to buy some essential over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, antibiotic, salbutamol and carbocistein that are for common illnesses like flu, fever, colds, cough, headache, heat burn, infections and stomach ache, she said.

After almost a year of operation, the group agreed to expand their enterprise by way of continuously raising more funds from their backyard vegetable production.

Through this initiative, they have bought in wholesale school supplies that are now being retailed to members in support to the educational needs of their children, Ortiz said.

So far, as of the second week of this month, she said, the group already had a savings, out of profit and continuing vegetable production, amounting to more than Php5,000.

“We are adding more to this savings so that when it grows and become sufficient to finance our plan of constructing a low-cost water system, we can address the our years long existing problem on scarcity of potable water in our community, Ortiz said.

As an island barangay, this problem has been around since time immemorial and through culture of self-help, cooperation and understanding that the teachings of 4Ps have been able to develop upon them, the group believes it can do it now on its own.

DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia based in Legazpi City has earlier said that this group of 4Ps beneficiaries of Barangay Calongcagong has been earning the appreciation of his office for the commendable accomplishments of its members in helping themselves rise as a socially responsible members of the community.

“While being helped by the CCT augment their family needs, especially in health and education, they have learned to rely not much on this financial subsidy and find other ways to improve their once-saddening living conditions,” he said.

The Calongcagong experience of 4Ps is only one of the showcases in Bicol of how the program helps the government fulfill the country’s commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) such as to Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger, Achieve Universal Primary Education, Reduce Child Mortality and Improve Maternal Health, Garcia said.

As of last year, the program had already enlisted a total of 361,245 beneficiaries in the region whose poverty incidence, according to the latest statistics released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), is at 36 percent.

The DSWD, through the CCT or 4Ps, he added, is continuously providing an avenue for Bicol’s marginalized sector to break the string of dearth that for decades pinned most of their communities to the vicious cycle of life difficulties given that poverty alleviation is a priority of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC

Masbate town cops arrest wanted person

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- In line with the intensified campaign of the Philippine National Police Bicol regional office to haul in wanted persons in the region, members of the Baleno Municipal Police Office (BMPO) in Masbate have arrested a laborer in Barangay Lagta, Baleno, a report released by Masbate Provincial Police Office said Saturday.

The report named the suspect as Ronie B. Legaspino, 21 and a resident of Sitio Gawaygaway, Barangay Gangao, Baleno, who was arrested by BMPO police led by PO3 Noli Manlapas and under the supervision of PInsp. Engelbert L. Toraldo, BMPO chief, in coordination with Barangay Captain Rolly Rapsing.

The arresting officers were armed with a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Maximino R. Ables of the Regional Trial Court Branch 47, Masbate City, for the crime of qualified theft with a bail of Php 24,000 for his temporary liberty.

Suspect was informed of his constitutional rights during the arrest and is now under the custody of the BMPO.(PNA) RMA/FGS/NBT/CBD/pjn

700 pupils get books, toys from Army division in Bicol

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- As respite from their peace and security operations, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based here distributed free books and stuffed toys to at least 700 pupils of the Del Rosario Elementary School in Naga City on Friday.

The school received the donations from the 9th ID during a simple turnover ceremony initiated by its 9th Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion and Books for the Barrios Inc., according to Capt. Mardjorie Paimela P. Panesa, 9th ID spokesperson.

The military personnel handed 70 boxes of assorted books, reading and entertainment materials over to Margerie B. Bathan, school principal, who expressed deep appreciation to the gestures of the Philippine Army and the Books for the Barrios.

“These reading materials could be of great help for the knowledge and education of the youth,” Bathan said.

Lt. Col. Joselito P. Pastrana, 9th CMO battalion commanding officer, assured that the Philippine Army will continue to push this undertaking and partnership with civilians for a good cause.

He encouraged other groups and individuals to join them in this endeavor.(PNA) LAM/FGS/JME/CBD/pjn

Albay police opens search for model officers

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- The Albay Provincial Police Office (APPO) has opened the Search for Model Police Officers in the province after the project was approved by the APPO Provincial Advisory Council.

Sr. Supt. Marlo S. Meneses, APPO director, announced Saturday that the project aims to recognize and appreciate the efficient and effective members of the APPO to increase their drive to work better and aim for excellence in their task performance.

Initially for this year, the search has four categories: Best Senior Police Commissioned Officer (PCO), Best Junior PCO, Best Senior Non-Commissioned Officer and Best Junior PNCO.

The project was approved by the APPO Provincial Advisory Council headed by Albay Vice Gov. Harold Ong Imperial as chair during its regular meeting on Wednesday, Meneses said.

It was jointly proposed by Dr. Ma. Gianelli Q. Besana, National Police Commission administrative officer, and Meneses.

All police officers in the province are qualified to join the search.

The PAC has decided to make the project and annual activity of the council with more categories next year.

The submission/acceptance of nominations/applications and supporting document will be on Mar. 1-15, which will be pre-screened on Mar. 16-31.

The candidates will be evaluated and rated on the following criteria: length of employment, initiatives, relation with other staff, innovation, involvement, self-development, outstanding achievements, performance improvements, quality of work output, quality of output, effectiveness on the job, efficiency on the job, cooperation, reliability, dedication, customer service and exceptional service over/above the call of duty.

Final screening will be on April 1-15.(PNA) LAM/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Albay police advisory council seeks legal assistance trust fund for cops

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- The Albay Provincial Police Office (APPO) Provincial Advisory Council has approved for endorsement to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay a resolution for the Establishment and Perpetuation of a Philippine National Police Legal Assistance Services Trust Fund in the province, APPO chief, Senior Supt. Marlo S. Meneses, said Saturday.

The resolution aims to encourage all PNP personnel to really perform well and optimize their potentials in the discharge of their official functions by establishing a program that will provide a financial buffer to qualified PNP personnel who are facing work-related criminal, administrative and civil cases for the purpose of granting them legal assistance support.

“The nature and scope of work of all PNP personnel on active field duty is probablistically open to legal liabilities and are subject of a complaint or under disciplinary action relating to or in connection with the discharge of their official functions,” Dr. Gianelli Q. Besana, officer-in-charge of the Office of the Assistant Director of the National Police Commission-Bicol, said in proposing the resolution.

In fact, Besana said, the increasing criminal, administrative and civil cases faced by the PNP personnel in connection with the performance of their official duties have put to disadvantage innocent PNP personnel who cannot sustain the financial burden of maintaining a credible and professional experienced legal counsel.

She said she pities PNP personnel in this kind of dilemma who have to get from their take home income to pay for litigation expenses, leaving them in miserable financial condition.

The trust fund will be financed with an amount of Php500,00 annually to be sourced from the peace and order fund and the gender and development fund of the province, which is targeted to be augmented by similar funds of city and municipal government units and private charitable institutions.

Besana said the sourcing of target funding finds backbone in the provision of the Local Government Code of 1991, which states that local government units shall exercise powers expressly granted, as well as powers necessary, appropriate or incidental for is efficient governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.

Vice Governor Harold Ong Imperial said he will ensure the approval of the proposed resolution by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Albay.

“If approved, the province of Albay will be again pioneering in a noble project,” Imperial said.(PNA) LAM/FGS/CBD/pjn

Legazpi launches search for model barangays in anti-rabies accomplishment

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -– Recognition and cash awards are now at stake for barangays in this city that will be judged this year and onward as best performer in the city government’s anti-rabies drive.

City Mayor Noel Rosal on Saturday said the awards will be for winners in the search for model barangays rolled out along with the recent launch of the city’s High Density Rabies Vaccination (HDRV) project which was highlighted by an orientation-seminar attended by over 500 barangay officials and health workers.

Winners in the search will be judged according to the number of vaccinated dogs; rate of accomplishment in zero-stray dogs and human and animal casualty; and rate of participation by Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) in the implementation of the HDRV project, according to Rosal.

“We want a rabies-free, zero casualty city this year and onward through this HDRV. We are supporting this program with an ordinance on responsible pet ownership which the local legislative council is now formulating in coordination with the City Veterinary Office (CVO),” he said.

The proposed ordinance, the mayor said, would also provide a forum for an inter-agency coordination on rabies control and prevention program, mechanism for linkages with the barangays and formulate immediate and long-term policies, plans and programs for the control of rabies which the city government shall implement.

It is also expected to provide a medium for the involvement of all barangays in the control of rabies and a system to collate, consolidate and submit all necessary reports as required and perform such other functions as may be necessary in the prevention and control of rabies in the whole city.

HDRV is a project of the Department of Agriculture (DA) under its Stop Transboundary Animal Diseases and Zoonoses (STANDZ), a program whose goal is to eradicate rabies in Bicol and supported by the Australian Aid, through the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Australian Aid has given the program Php 40-million funding for its three-year implementation in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Masbate while the OIE gave the DA 300,000 vaccines for dogs in an effort to make the four provinces dog rabies-free by 2016.

Bicol was chosen for the project owing to its geographical location at the central part of the Philippines, apart from its being considered as a tourism growth area that is being complemented by the aggressive development that the city government here is undertaking as the regional tourism center.

These developments involve tourism promotion, infrastructure, investment, health, environmental protection and peace and order, among others.

Rosal stressed that if there are no cases of rabies in a certain place, more local and foreign tourists will be enticed to come.

During the HRDV orientation-seminar, DA’s Regional Animal Disease Coordinator Dr. Rona Bernales said the STANDZ program does not only concern dogs but cats, carabaos, cows, bats, rabbits, monkeys and even humans which are all vulnerable to rabies infections.

Under the HDRV, Bernales said, DA is encouraging local officials to designate an animal health worker in every barangay to assist in its implementation which the agency is starting here and in various parts of Bicol very soon.

She explained that using more vaccination teams, extended times, door-to-door vaccination and timing vaccination to coincide with school holidays would facilitate an estimated coverage of at least 75 percent.

There is also a need for a better understanding of dog ecology as well as ways of improving vaccination delivery and sustainability coverage that can be achieved with the help of barangay animal health workers, she said.

The HDRV program, according to Bernales, comes into being based on the fact that incidence of rabies in dogs remains a health concern in many parts of the region.

All over the country, rabies is not one of the top ten killer diseases but records show it kills 200 to 500 Filipinos a year.

Nancy Andes, the CVO chief, said this city recorded cases of animal and human rabies deaths during the past three years.

In 2012, there were five death cases of rabid dogs and cats in barangays Arimbay and Buyuan while three death cases of rabid dogs were reported in Barangays Pinaric, Puro and Old Albay District.

In 2014, one rabid dog case was reported in Barangay Rawis while for human deaths, three cases were recorded in years 2012-2013 in barangays Rawis, Puro and EM's Barrio East.(PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/pjn

7 NPA rebels kill notorious Masbate town thief

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- Seven New People's Army members fatally shot a suspected thief some 20 meters from his residence in Barangay Tagbon, Milagros, Masbate, Saturday morning.

A police report identified the victim as Ronnel Ogaya, 23, single and farmer.

The report said Ogaya was sleeping at about 5 a.m. Saturday when the NPA rebels arrived, barged into his house, tied him and brought him outside to about 20-meter distance from his residence.

The rebels immediately shot the victim on his head and body as his co-villagers watched.

After Ogaya's execution, the dissidents casually walked from the crime scene.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Filipino-Chinese, Albayano culture, traditions blend in Albay's Fiesta Tsinoy
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- For the first time, the Filipino-Chinese community and the Albayano culture and traditions blended during the Fiesta Tsinoy Chinese Lunar New Year celebration on Thursday here.

Maria Nini Ong-Ravanilla, Bicol regional director of the Department of Tourism whose ancestor came from Fujian province in China, infused the Pastores Bicol in this year's Fiesta Tsinoy New Year celebration held in this city.

The Pastores Bicol is the Bicolanos’ beautiful commemoration of Christmas. It is a musical re-enactment of the age-old nativity story introduced by the Spaniards here.

Pastores came from the Spanish word pastoras, which means shepherds, and applies to both male and female wearing colorful indigenous attire, singing and dancing the first Christmas carols honoring Baby Jesus as the opening salvo of the Fiesta Tsinoy celebration here this year.

After showing the Albayano culture and traditions, the Filipino-Chinese younger generation also showed its beautiful, colorful and unique way of life in entertaining the Filipino-Chinese community members and Albayano local officials here.

Ravanilla said the Fiesta Tsinoy is a celebration of life, a time of revisiting the past, a time of renewal and a show of Tsinoys and Albayanos love for their respective culture and traditions.

“For this simple gathering will not only strengthen the bond and camaraderie among the Chinese-Filipino community members in Albay but will also pave the way for the young Chinese people to continue appreciating who they are, what they are and where they truly belong,” Ravanilla said.

“I am proud of my heritage. And just like you, I was brought up by strict but caring parents in an environment of overzealous men yet so patient, great talents but are humble and strong-willed yet so gentle. These are the marks of the real Tsinoy we are proud of,” she added.

Antonio S. Tan, Fiesta Tsinoy celebration chair and president of the Liberty Commercial Center - the first and only Bicolano chain of malls operating in Bicol - said Fiesta Tsinoy is a celebration of the cultural traditions, values and ideals revered by each and every Chinese-Filipino.

“Love and respect for our parents, patience and hard work and also of our solidarity with our fellow Filipinos. That we are all brothers professing the same love for our country and of the same hope and aspiration that our world will be a better place to live someday,” Tan said.

“May our celebration serve not only as a vehicle to promote tourism and spur local development but also inculcate in our hearts and minds, especially to the young generation of Tsinoys, to be proud of our Chinese ancestry, our cultural heritage, our values and work ethics handed down to us by our forefathers and ancestors,” he said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/rsm

Filipino-Chinese community in Albay celebrates Fiesta Tsinoy
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Hundreds of members of the Filipino-Chinese community headed by Antonio Tan, Liberty Commercial Center (LCC) president and Fiesta Tsinoy chair, gathered at the Albay Astrodome here in celebration of the Chinese New Year on Thursday.

Chinese New Year is considered as one of the most important festivals by the local Chinese community here.

It does follow a fixed date in the Gregorian Calendar.

The celebration of the Chinese New Year here started in 2004 and it was officially included among the city’s yearly festivals.

It was jointly organized by the local Filipino-Chinese community, the City Government of Legazpi, Provincial Government of Albay and the Department of Tourism (DOT) Bicol Regional Office.

The event started with a dragon and lion dance shown in front of the Legazpi Long Se and Fraternal Association building and ended with colorful activities and fire display in front of the Albay Astrodome.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal said that for this year’s celebration, the city administration was assigned to prepare the wooden sheep that symbolizes unity or the time for all the people to be together.

Rosal revealed that this kind of celebration is part of promoting the culture and dignity of the Chinese community in this city.

As part of the tradition, most of the community members usually clean their homes, prepare lucky money in red envelop, serve sweet foods and display different kinds of fruits on a table which they believe would give more prosperity, close family ties and better fortune.

The Filipino-Chinese community is considered as one of the engines of economic growth and an important backbone of the city administration, considering the fact that most of the members of this group have their own big business establishments operating in the commercial areas that contribute so much to city’s local revenue collections, the city mayor pointed out.

He also described this group as the strong partner of the City Government of Legazpi in addressing the unemployment rate and poverty incidence because most of their employees and workers came from the locality.

Tan said Fiesta Tsinoy is an annual celebration of culture and tradition that would help in promoting the continuing unity of Filipino and Chinese towards the continuous path of progress and development of this city.

The business leader commended the Provincial Government of Albay as well as the City Government of Legazpi and the DOT for the strong support to this very important event of the Filipino-Chinese community.

He said the Filipino-Chinese will work hand in hand for putting more establishments in Legazpi to meet the shopping needs of the constituents and to give more employment opportunities to job seekers. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EPS/cbd

Actor continues to heap negative remarks from Albayanos
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -– After allegedly showing unpalatable signs of ingratitude to his hosts, celebrity Xian Lim, who was the guest during Fiesta Tsinoy held here on Thursday in celebration of the Chinese New Year, has been receiving heaps of negative remarks from Albayanos.

Some are even asking that he be declared persona non grata in Albay.

Lawyer Caroline Cruz, chief of staff of Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, recalled that when one of her staff told her that Lim had arrived at The Oriental Hotel at past 11:00 a.m. Thursday, she met him as part of the traditional gift giving of the Provincial Government of Albay and as representative of Salceda.

"Welcome back to Albay! Maybe this is your second or third time here. You know, I'm so impressed with you because the last time you came here, you really took the van to perform here," Cruz said while he noticed the actor pouting and remaining seated.

She narrated that when she handed a t-shirt to the actor, the latter parried her hand and said, “No, ma’m, I don’t like.”

The lady lawyer instead handed a coffee table book on Albay to Lim who allegedly said, "I did not come to promote Albay.”

She asked her staff to just keep the book and they would have picture taking instead.

Then Cruz left for her car but those who witnessed what happened followed her and told her that they saw all what happened.

Ma’m we saw what happened. We left the ill-mannered man alone. And to think that we paid high for his talent fee,” they claimed.

When she reached the provincial tourism office, Cruz said, Lance Tan, The Oriental Hotel vice president, complained to her about the attitude of Lim.

“Ma’m, our guest does not want to have picture taking with requesting fans and guests. He left us when we asked permission to have photos with him,” she quoted Tan as saying.

As to the alibi of Lim about the possibility that he might breach his contract with a company that manufactures t-shirts if he put on the Albay t-shirt, Cruz said that there was no competition in branding because it was Albay that brought him here as talent and the Provincial Government of Albay is not private but a local government unit.

The lawyer stressed that Lim was a talent of Albay and was paid Php375,000 for being so.

She disclosed that they were having headaches earlier as Lim would not like to ride in an economy flight in coming here to Albay.

Cruz said Rhondon Ricafort, from the governor’s staff, explained to Lim’s manager that there is no first class plane accommodation in the Manila-Legazpi route because it is only a 45-minute ride.

The governor’s chief staff felt bad because this was the third time for Lim to come to Albay and they started paying him Php75,000 then agreed to raise it to Php375,000 the third time.

She said that the first time Lim came here four years ago, “his head was not yet swollen.”

“Even the flight was cancelled, he pushed for his performance even he had to ride a van in coming here,” Cruz recalled.

What the governor did was to request the spectators to wait up to 10 p.m. instead of the performance starting at 7:00 p.m.

Cruz said this was part of the recognition of Salceda of the strong relations between the Filipino-Chinese Community and the provincial government and the former’s great contribution to the economy of the province.

She said the Filipino-Chinese Community has a list of celebrities to invite – like Jose Mari Chan, Enchong Dee, Kim Chiu, Lim and others -- but it was only Lim who was available for the occasion.

Probably, Salceda said, it was because of any of the following that Lim acted that way: 1) His parents did not raise him well; 2) He had bad education, 3) He is not managed well, 4) His character is inversely proportional to his looks and 5) He is on to something.

Writer Abdon Balde Jr. said when he arrived at the tourism office, all those who met him were very angry with Lim who, they claimed, was ill-mannered and a liar.

“It's Chinese New Year celebration and he was hired by Albay to perform. And then he said ‘I'm not here to endorse Albay’?" Balde also angrily said.

Ronaldo R. Pontuya, a real estate broker, called for declaring Lim persona non grata in Albay.

"This is insulting to hard working tourism officers of Albay. He made them liars… You are no longer welcome in Albay!” he said.

Netizen Ariel Abeleta said this would be Lim’s last performance in Albay, adding “He’s only good in camera.” “Persona non grata. Never allow him to set foot again in Albay. Zack Efron of the High School musical is better because he enjoyed and took pride in his vacation in Albay. He even paid for his stay in an expensive resort. Let’s not patronize the films of Lim,” Marilou Sario said in Filpino.

For lawyer Marilou Duka-Castillo: “Declare him persona non grata.”

“Devoid of sensibility I must say. He must learn the word and meaning of humility,” advised Tessa F. Frost. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/cbd/

Celebrity Xian Lim gets flak in Albay
By April M. Meir

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) — “I’m not here to promote Albay,” celebrity Xian Lim frankly said Thursday here.

And for that, he had been highly criticized by various sectors in the province of Albay.

He was in Legazpi City for the “Fiesta Tsinoy,” an event of Filipino-Chinese community in Albay in celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Lawyer Carol Sabio, Albay Governor Joey Salceda chief of staff, lamented after she heard Lim saying this line while he was giving the actor the Albay Coffee Table book and a T-shirt printed with “Warm Albay” at Oriental Hotel, Thursday morning.

“While I am handing the T-shirt to Lim, he said he didn’t like it; then I tried to give the Coffee Table book instead, and he responded with ‘I’m not here to promote Albay’; then after that I just asked him to have a photo together but he was so uncomfortable as he looked at the camera,” Sabio said in a phone interview.

“We usually give such tokens to our visitors, but he refused to accept them, that was why we were disappointed,” she added.

Lim arrived at about 10:40 a.m. at the Legazpi City airport while the event at Albay Astrodome here started at 5:00 p.m.

Sabio said Lim was suggested by the organizer of the event to be invited as guest.

Salceda also showed his disappointment over the actor's manners.

The governor said Lim was paid by the provincial government an amount of Php350,000 for guesting in the Fiesta Tsinoy celebration.

"It’s either: 1) His parents did not raise him well. 2) He had bad education. 3) He is not managed well. 4) His character is inversely proportional to his looks. 5) He is on to something,” he said in his official Facebook page.

The post got different reactions from thousands of Albayanos and followers of Salceda.(PNA) CTB/FGS/AMM/cbd/

Had she not met Napoles, she might have been free from plunder case, Bravo says of Lanete
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Former Congressman and now San Fernando Municipal Mayor Narciso "Bong" Bravo said that had Governor Rizalina "Dayan" Seachon-Lanete not met the person named Janet Lim- Napoles, then she might have been free from plunder charges.

And the question that entered the mayor's mind was: Why didn’t he not meet Napoles?"

Bravo has been a staunch ally of the Lanete family since the time when Portus “Kabos” Seachon, the elder brother of Lanete, was still alive.

Bravo and Dayan at that time were both in Congress, serving the first and third districts of Masbate, respectively, with Antonio Kho in the second district.

As congressman, Bravo said, he ended his three-term service without meeting any person named Napoles despite her name being heard in the four corners of the House.

He claimed that the "Scam Queen" had not come into his office and even if she had, he assured that he would not have entered into a transaction with her.

Upon knowing that the Priority Development Assistance Fund was about to be taken out of their control, the former representative said, he felt worried because once funds were removed from their discretion, he wondered what would happen with the scholars he had been helping with the PDAF.

“If I would take the financial assistance out of my pocket to continuously support these scholars, I would soon turn out to become poor,” he said.

Bravo said it was because of the Php10-billion scam of Napoles, "all of us, senators and congressmen, were affected."

"Dahil sa pagkakamali ni Juan, pati si Pedro nadamay (Because of Juan's mistake, even Pedro suffered),” he claimed.

Despite the legality of the fund as it undergoes a lot of processes and resolutions before it is approved, Bravo said, he and his colleagues were left with nothing to do but to face the consequences.

Bravo revealed that he does his own initiative to let his scholars continue with their studies.

He said he has directed government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Department of Education to respond to the people's needs like school assistance, medicines and many others.

For infrastructure projects, he held himself responsible for he is also an engineer and knew what was best for the PDAF funds.

Bravo recalled that while still in Congress, needy people used to wait for him outside the corridor.

They fell in line parallel to the path of his exit door as if in a long parade.

"These guys were asking for help and before I could reach the main exit, I had to entertain each one of them. Some would ask for medical assistance, school assistance, emergency needs, and even coffin," he said. (PNA) RMA/FGS/NBT/cbd/

Masbate guv’s surrender leaves deafening silence at provincial capitol
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- A quiet atmosphere is now being felt by employees of the provincial capitol after hearing reports that Masbate Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete voluntarily surrendered to the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame Thursday morning.

A week before, Lanete knew already that a warrant of arrest would soon be served to her, so she took advantage of her last opportunity to talk with the capitol employees and supporters.

As a Mass for the Our Mother of Perpetual Help was being held last Wednesday at the lobby of the capitol, Lanete took the opportunity to break the news, bringing a dramatic air on the occasion.

She delivered her message to all of those present and gave thanks to their support and prayers.

Supporters and employees of the capitol could not hold back their tears and incessantly cried.

Lanete asked Edwin Gadia, a local reporter of Masbate, "Where are they?"

The lady governor was referring to the media persons of Masbate who were always behind her but could no longer be seen that time.

The Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division, on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant against Lanete for graft and plunder charges in connection with the alleged Php10-billion pork barrel scam.

Lanete decided already then that she was ready to surrender voluntarily.

She went to the office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on the evening of Feb. 18 but confirmation of commitment was revealed only on Thursday.

She was accompanied by a lawyer and some of her relatives.

Lanete had been one of the subjects of a hold-departure order over the scam allegedly masterminded by trader Janet Lim-Napoles.

Also named in the arrest warrant were Napoles and John Raymond de Asis.

Napoles is currently detained in Bicutan, Taguig.

No bail was recommended for their temporary liberty.(PNA) CTB/FGS/NBT/cbd/

Strawberries bring thriving business venture to Bicol farmer
By John Mark Escandor

OCAMPO, Camarines Sur, Feb. 20 (PNA) -- Leo Libreja, 38, became known for making strawberries thrive and bear fruits in the lowlands under the tropical heat of the sun.

This activity has brought him thriving agribusiness venture in this third-class town, 27 kilometers southeast of Naga City.

Libreja uses organic technology in farming the lowland, tropical strawberry variety he developed from the cuttings he obtained in Hawaii and the Bagiuo variety to produce crossbreed with more runners (planting materials) that bear bigger fruits.

Developing the crossbreed took a long process of acclimatizing the strawberry to the tropical heat.

From there, he executed cross pollination of the Hawaiian and Bagiuo varieties to develop the strawberry variety he sells now.

Libreja, an agribusiness graduate of Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (now Central Bicol State University for Agriculture) and a scholar of the Department of Agriculture (DA) at the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resource of the University of Hawaii in Minoa from 2003-2005, harnesses his stock knowledge in scientific farming to build his thriving business of producing the lowland- tropical strawberry.

He claimed that the tropical heat allowed the strawberries to fully undergo photosynthesis, which makes the plants bear sweeter and more aromatic strawberries.

Libreja, who ambitioned to be a scientific farmer, experiments and develops farm models of sustainable farming like raising ornamental and food plants and aquaculture in a small area.

After his strawberry sales grew tremendously, he established his strawberry farm in a two-hectare property at the interior part of Pinit, Ocampo, Camarines Sur.

He expanded his production area to meet the demand of ready-to-bear-fruit strawberry plants that is steadily growing with a popular mall now interested in selling his product.

Libreja’s strawberries are ready to bear fruit within 45-60 days, and he is in the process of producing ready-to-bear-fruit plants all year round to make supply of strawberries available here any month of the year.

With two more hectares for expansion, Libreja is toying with the idea of turning his farm into agri-tourism site demonstrating the “Bahay Kubo” concept where strawberries grow suspended above the water nourished by wastes of fish being raised in the pond.

From the small earnings of selling strawberry plant before the publication of his story, Libreja said he now earns an average of Php100,000 a month while demand from big buyers starts coming.

But Libreja said he can only produce a minimum of 300 strawberry plants in a month to keep up with orders, and he has to turn down for the meantime orders in hundreds, which is still beyond his capacity to produce.

Curious strangers came to Libreja’s farm to see for themselves the unique strawberry variety that thrives in the lowlands and under the tropical heat of the sun that sears to more than 30˚C during summer.

Libreja, a farmer inside out, never tires himself experimenting on farming technology that he sees could improve and innovate the way plants are cultivated.

Back in the early 2000s, he demonstrated how a “Bahay Kubo” concept of sustainable agriculture can be practiced when he developed their small area in their farm complete with a pond and different kinds of vegetables cultivated around the hut.

The “Bahay Kubo” demonstration earned for him the most outstanding young farmer of Bicol by the DA in 2003 and an 18-month training grant in Hawaii where he learned different skills and knowledge in propagating plants.

His 18-month training in Hawaii made him learn hydrophonics farming, drip irrigation and other techniques in propagating plants scientifically and innovatively.

Libreja said he has innovated on the hydrophonics farming technique he calls “aquaphonics” that uses organic means to grow plants and integrates fish culture to provide nutrients to the plants, and food on the table at the same time.

He said hydrophonics farming uses non-organic based solution to grow plants by means of water.

In their small front yard here, he is developing the prototype of aquaphonics for strawberry and lettuce plants that are grown suspended above water and fed by nutrients of fish wastes.

Using fish tanks made of halved oil drums, he planted without soil strawberry and lettuce in the holes in the pipes placed above the fish tanks.

He uses water drawn from the bottom of the fish tanks where the fish wastes had settled which is conveyed through a hose that feeds the pipe with organic solution to the soilless plants planted just above the water of the fish tank.

Libreja said the success of his experiment will determine the design of his agri-tourism site where clients could pick strawberries suspended above water in the pond, while boating.

He also dreams of integrating processing of his strawberries like strawberry jam or candies for the tourists who will visit his farm.

He revealed that he is starting to discover how to make strawberries bear fruits irregular in shapes like heart-shaped, square, or multiple edges from the regular cone-shaped strawberry.

In the month of February, he was happily surprised at the result of his timed application of organic foliar during the period the strawberry plants were bearing fruits.

The strawberry plants bore bigger fruits with shapes approximating the shape of the heart.

Libreja does not keep his trade secret and instead teach the technology of growing organic, tropical, lowland strawberries to his clients. (PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/cbd/