Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red tide alert remains over Masbate waters; shellfish ban on—BFAR
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) – Harvesting, selling, buying and eating of shellfish species from the coastal waters of Milagros town in Masbate is still forbidden.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Wednesday said a ban on shellfishes like tahong (green mussel), clams, and oysters is in effect in the area after its municipal waters covered by Asid Gulf was seen positive to red-tide causing organisms.

Asid Gulf is the primary fishing ground off the western coastlines of Masbate province and considered the biggest source of marine products marketed in Masbate province and reaching as far as Metro Manila.

Three other Masbate towns—Cawayan, Mandaon and Balud -- rely on this fishing ground for their fish supply.

The latest red tide bulletin issued by the BFAR central office in Quezon City last Jan. 22 said “laboratory results on samples collected from coastal waters of Milagros, Masbate, found paralytic shellfish poison beyond the regulatory limit.”

The bulletin also declared under red tide infestations the municipal waters of Bolinao and Anda, Pangasinan; and Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal in Bataan province.

“We are therefore reiterating our advisory to the local governments of Milagros and other towns nearby on the enforcement of the ban to avoid the toxic and deadly effects of this contamination to consumers of marine food products particularly shellfish,” BFAR Regional Director Dennis Del Socorro said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.

Other sea products from the area like fishes, squids and crustaceans, however, are safe for human consumption provided they are cleaned thoroughly by removing internal organs and cooked well before serving, Del Socorro clarified.

Milagros town mayor Natividad Isabel Magbalon told the Philippine News Agency over the phone that all necessary measures in relation to the shellfish ban advised by BFAR are in place in the locality.

“My directive to the local police to conduct check points to prevent any banned marine product from being transported outside of the municipality stands. Our seaborne patrol (bantay-dagat) is strictly enforcing the ban on harvesting shellfish products from our municipal waters,” Magbalon said.

The mayor stressed that red tide is not a new occurrence involving her town’s coastal waters as this phenomenon has been experienced on and off in the locality since the late 1980s, the latest period of which in 2009-2011.

In September last year, the infestation re-appeared and lasted until Jan. 22 as BFAR’s Shellfish Bulletin No. 2 remained.

“It suddenly appears for still unexplained reasons and disappears after several weeks or months. The problem is that it severely affects the livelihood of our marginal fishermen, prompting the local government to institute contingency measures to avoid economic displacement of this sector,” Magbalon lamented.

Red tide is a marine phenomenon in which water is stained with a red, brown, or yellowish color because of the temporary abundance of "blooms" which is also called phytoplankton, or planktonic algae, which are single-celled organisms that move using a tail-like structure called a flagellum.

Studies show that these organisms also photosynthesize and it is their photosynthetic pigments that can tint the water during blooms, wherein under appropriate environmental conditions, various species can grow very rapidly, causing red tides -- particularly in marine regions with a temperate or warmer climate.

The environmental conditions that cause red tides to develop are not yet understood although, the same studies say they are likely related to some combination of nutrient availability, nutrient ratios, and water temperature.

It is also suspected that human activities that affect nutrient concentrations in seawater may be having an important influence on the increasingly more frequent occurrences of red tides in some areas where levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients in coastal waters are increasing due to runoff from fertilizers and animal waste.

Fortunately, Magbalon said, the municipality of Milagros and its neighboring localities have no history of red tide poisoning among local residents all those years, unlike in Sorsogon province when hit by the same contamination from 2007 to 2011 that reportedly killed 13 persons and hospitalized over 100 others after eating the banned marine products.

Apart from those casualties, the phenomenon also rendered temporary death to the 100-million-a-year tahong industry of the province, affecting five municipalities and one city around Sorsogon Bay and economically displacing about 8,000 families relying on it. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Albay villagers find dead 15-foot Megamouth Shark

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Villagers woke up this fine Wednesday morning only to find a dead 15-foot Megamouth Shark along the shore of Barangay Marigondon, Pioduran, at the western seaboard of Albay, some two hours' ride from this city through a winding road.

Nonie Enolva, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Marine Fisheries and Management Section chief, said the dead endangered specie was discovered at around 6:00 a.m. with a wounded tail believed to have been trapped in a fishing net or had eaten poisonous organism.

Enolva said they will conduct a study to determine the cause of death of the rare shark species with a wide open mouth used for eating plankton.

The shark, with scientific name “Megachasmapelagios,” is edible but the BFAR has discouraged people from eating this sea creature because of its being endangered.

Based on record, only 60 Megamouth Sharks have been seen or documented in the Philippines.

The BFAR is also planning to preserve and display the shark at the Albay Park and Wildlife through taxidermy, the process of stuffing the specimen by removing all organs while the skin will be soaked in formalin for museum display.

"This will be the third time we will have this process throughout the country," Enolva said.(PNA) CTB/FGS/AMM/CBD

PNPA mistahs of fallen PNP-SAF men deeply saddened by Maguindanao incident

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Police Senior Insp. Jan King Calipay, chief of police of Polangui town, looked serious and snappy in his uniform but he could not hide his loneliness as he pondered over the tragedy that befell his three mistahs in Kaisang-Bisig Class 2009 of the Philippine National Police Academy.

When they learned that their classmates were among those 49 killed in the alleged misencounter, others call it massacre, in an open field in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano town in Maguindanao on Sunday, Calipay and his other classmates could not immediately accept what happened to their three fallen classmates in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Their classmates -- Police Senior Inspector (PSI) Garamnbas Tria, PSI Gednat Tabdi and PSI Garry Erana, PNPA Class 2009 Baron -- were part of the PNP-Special Action Force commandos who were sent on a special mission to serve a warrant of arrest to two terrorists reportedly hiding in the camps of the MILF and the BIFF.

“We’re very sad and disgusted about the incident. Three of our mistahs perished in the incident. Our snappiest salute to our fallen brothers and heroes of Maguindanao carnage,” Calipay said.

Tria was a native of Virac, Catanduanes, whose father, Police Inspector Guillermo Tria, is assigned in the Catanduanes Provincial Police Inspectorate Affairs Office.

At least 49 elite PNP-SAF commandos were killed by warriors of the MILF and BIFF.

Chief Supt. Victor Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, also expressed sorrow over the killing of the PNP-SAF men.

“My heart bleeds for the SAF troopers. I had been in the operation unit for so long. I personally saw the same incident with my own eyes and I know how it grieves their loved ones,” Deona said.

“This might be very painful to us but we need to accept the fact. Emotions should not rule. Emotions must be contained and we must be guided by reasons,” he added.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda directed all offices of provincial, national and local governments in the province to raise their flags at half-mast for the rest of the weekdays and observe a moment of silent prayer in honor of the fallen uniformed men.

“It’s now called Maguindanao Massacre II. I have been consistently pro-peace with the Muslims whether it was MOA-AD or now BBL. But the event in Mamasapano is accurate, a Hitlerian mass execution, and worse, to protect Malaysian terrorists,” Salceda said.

The provincial government will also be putting up black drapes at the Capitol to articulate solidarity with the fallen police officers “with their moral courage and dedication to serve our fellowmen.”

The SAF elite force men were after two highly-prioritized value targets in Mamasapano -- identified as Afghanistan-trained bomb-makers Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkipli bin Hir, alias Marwan; and his cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.-- when met by a volley of gunfire at dawn Sunday in Barangay Tukanalipao, an MILF–influenced area in the province.

But DILG Sec. Mar Roxas claimed the incident as a "misencounter" between the police’s SAF and members of the MILF’s 105th Base Command in the area.

Sunday’s clash was described as the worse "misencounter" between state and MILF forces since the GPH-MILF peace process took off in 2011.

Von Al Haq, MILF spokesman, said the lack of coordination by the SAF raiding team with the MILF leadership led to the unfortunate incident.

Members of the outlawed BIFF camping nearby later joined the tussle to wipe out the SAF commandos.

As this developed, the PNPA Alumni Association Inc. (PNPAAAI) also condemned in the strongest possible term the murder and frustrated murder of its members by organized criminal elements providing aid and protection to international terrorists in Mindanao.

Retired Police Chief Supt. Tomas G. Rentoy III, PNPAAAI chairman of the board, said they are mourning for the death of their comrades.

“We’re mourning for their death and salute their bravery. We condole and pray with their bereaved families. We call on the PNP leadership to conduct an in-depth probe into this unfortunate incident to prevent its recurrence in the future,” Rentoy said in a press statement.

The association, according to Rentoy, will provide death and other benefits to the respective families of the victims in the amount of Php 100,000 each and hospitalization and financial support to the survivors.

“We also call on the administration to allocate adequate resources to the PNP-SAF in order to enhance its air and maritime support capability to enable it to suppress organized criminal elements anywhere and anytime within the jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines,” the PNPAAAI said.(PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD

4 BU presidential aspirants lay down vision, mission

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) – Four candidates vying to be the next president of the Bicol University (BU) have begun their campaign in a series of public foras.

The four aspirants are Dr. Domingo Angeles, dean of the College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines-Los Baños; Dr. Amelia Dorosan, BU vice president for administration; Dr. Helen Llenaresas, BU vice president for academic affairs; and Dr. Arnulfo Mascariñas, BU Research and Development Center director.

In the public presentation and open forum conducted at the Bicol University Amphitheater, College of Arts and Letters on Monday, the four aspirants presented their plans (vision, mission, goals), given the chance to be the successor of Dr. Fay Lea Patria M. Lauraya, whose term will end on Mar. 9.

Angeles placed emphasis on bringing BU into a new hub for academic excellence through instruction, research, extension and governance.

He said if necessary, he will review the Bicol curricular program and revise them in order to conform to the national standard of education wherein graduates must be competitive in the job market.

“I envision BU as a great university whose faculty and students are among the best and the brightest and whose academic program will create an impact. BU must catalyze and facilitate the improvement of the well-being of the people not only of Bicol but also of the nation,’ he said.

He said he will be giving priority to the needs, especially on enhancing the technological and economic development, modernization of teaching and laboratory, increasing the financial and scholarship allocation for the students, increase research productivity for the faculty, and strengthen participation of alumni that must be recognized as an important contributor to the university’s program and other support services that can be directed towards the welfare not only of the region but also of the whole nation.

Mascariñas cited his master plan through his vision to make BU as a world-class university by producing leaders and change agents for social transformation and development.

He said that in order to reach these goals; BU must innovate and sustain leadership to be able to address emerging challenges and opportunities.

Among his action plans are having responsive and efficient academic governance, partnering with the private sector in helping various programs, making a market-driven and relevant programs, creating more research centers, enhancing support to students through scholarships and housing plan for BU personnel and building or modernizing physical facilities.

“We must join the world university ranking to see for ourselves where we stand among the elite universities around the world. Starting 2015, the best is yet to come,” he said.

Llenaresas spoke about improving BU as a leading teaching and research university that nurtures 21st century professionals and leaders.

“Every BU graduate should have institutional learning outcomes through delivering quality education,” she said.

Among her plans are partnering with different agencies to build a network of collaboration; committing to academic excellence by giving the students’ needs, research and innovation; upgrading facilities; opening the university to national and international engagements; prioritizing programs to special population (e.g. person with disabilities), and other activities that would serve as community investments.

“As we embrace the challenges of internationalization, no one else can do best than hands-on and hardcore academician’s love, dedication and commitment to service that are beyond question,” she added.

Dorosan also aims to make the school as university of the future.

She believes that BU is ready to build itself to serve more to the community by being flexible and innovative.

Among her plans are laying down the building blocks that would help on efforts in reaching the school’s vision by having a responsive and relevant scholastic engagement of students; adopting talent management system; improving university services that would identify gaps defeating a global university; innovating and institutionalizing the university system and policy standards to promote academic excellence; having a cohesive social agenda in research development and extension to measure the impact of research development and extension engagement to community; producing sustainable information technology infrastructure and system; institutionalizing the standards of service excellence and institutionalizing the standard of excellence.

“In working on these areas, we will be continually guided by our philosophy, 'education for service, nurturing and educating future leaders in students in service to the world',” she said.

The public presentation was followed by a closed door interview of the search committee headed by Dr. Emerlinda Roman, former president of the University of the Philippines.

The Board of Regents (BOR) will cast the votes, wherein the person who obtains at least two-thirds of the votes will be named as the new president.

The BOR includes Dr. Patricia Licuanan, the chairperson and the Commission on Higher Education commissioner; Dr. Fay Lea Patria Lauraya, BU president; and Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture; Roman Romulo, committee on technical and higher education chair of the House of Representatives; Engineer Luis Banua, officer-in-charge of the National Economic and Development Authority-Bicol; Engineer Joseph Esplana, president of BU General Alumni Association; Engineer Abelardo Bragas, regional director of Department of Agriculture-Bicol; Director Tomas Briṅas, regional director of the Department of Science and Technology-Bicol; Prof. Noel Rafer, president of BU Union of Faculty Association Inc.; and Adelaine Bautista, president of University Student Council as members. The schedule of casting of votes is yet to be announced. (PNA) CTB/FGS/AMM/CBD/

Legazpi City turns over 56 weighing scales to DepEd
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- The City Government of Legazpi has turned over 56 brand new weighing scales to the Legazpi City Schools Division of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Mayor Noel E. Rosal made the turnover to Division Superintendent Cesar Medina and DepEd Bicol Regional Director Ramon Abcede on Monday at the Ibalong Conference Room of the City Hall.

The health equipment will be distributed to the 56 public school principals of the city to be used for monitoring the proper weight of the pre-school children in their own respective areas.

Rosal said the city's donation to the DepEd is in support of the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program (AHMP) being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the DepEd.

Earlier, City Health Officer Fulbert Alec Gillego requested the city chief executive to purchase weighing scales to be used for the implementation of the city’s nutrition program.

During the turnover ceremony, Rosal urged the teachers and the CHO personnel to work hand in hand for the proper nutrition of pre-schoolers in the city to address the poverty situation and reduce the malnutrition problem in the community.

“In order to sharpen the minds of our pupils and give them an active body and strong resistance, we are aggressively supporting the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program being implemented by the DSWD and the DepEd,” he said.

For the past several years, Rosal said, the city administration has been very dedicated to the implementation of the city’s nutrition program to ensure the good health of the pupils.

“We have aggressively worked for an increase in real property tax (RPT) collection because one percent of the total assess value of RPT will be our Special Educational Fund (SEF) and this will be used for the maintenance of school buildings, sports development of our pupils, purchase of health equipment and other needs of the children,” the city mayor said.

He said there is an urgent need for more educational innovations so that the city’s students could level up with those of other Asian countries not only in education but also in terms of health.

Through the aggressive implementation of the city’s Sagip-Kalusugan Program, medical check-up, free laboratory examinations, regular feeding activities, chest x-ray, de-worming and vitamins supplementation, the Legazpi City Nutrition Office was awarded second runner-up by the Department of Health (DOH) Regional Nutrition Committee for Best Nutritional Performing City in 2014.

The City Nutrition Office previously registered 1,754 identified malnourished pre-school children and this figure went down to 1,677 in 2014.

For his part, Abcede said there is a need to continue strengthening the partnership between the City Government of Legazpi and the DepEd to improve the quality of education and this requires proper nutrition program for the children.

Abcede pointed out that in the School Year 2012 to SY 2013, only 0.3 percent dropout rate was recorded in Legazpi City and 0.80 percent in SY 2013 and SY 2014.

He said the weighing scales will be used for monitoring the accurate measure of the weights and heights of the schoolchildren to determine the right intervention for them.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD

FeatureDSWD-Bicol hiring hundreds of young professionals for Listahanan II this year
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) – On hearing of the news that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is hiring workers for this year’s implementation of the second round of Listahanan, 24-year-old Annabelle Asejo decided to take a shot of the challenging field work.

Like a growing number of unemployed young professionals in Bicol, Asejo would join a long queue of applicants for a slot in the hiring that offers not only good remunerations but also the challenges of finding out who are the poor and locating where they are.

"I know this is a very exciting job as it will allow me to walk down the path less traveled and see around people I never met before,” Asejo, a holder of a social work degree, said.

The DSWD regional office in Bicol based here is in need of around 2,000 field workers for the Listahanan, also called the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) second regional assessment whose implementation has been set to start anytime early this year.

These workers -- composed of area coordinators, area supervisors, enumerators, encoders and verifiers -- will be tasked to collect information from over 775,000 households in 107 municipalities and seven cities within the six provinces of the region.

Nationwide, the DSWD will be hiring 47,644 college graduates for this project to reach and assess 15.3 million households in 1,490 municipalities and 144 cities.

These workers are composed of 1,277 area coordinators, 6,383 area supervisors, 31,908 enumerators, 4,038 encoders and 4,038 verifiers who will be hired under contract-of- service (COS) basis for salary grades ranging between 13 and 17 or remunerations between Php21,000 and Php29,000 per month.

The area coordinators will supervise and train area supervisors who are tasked to lead a team of enumerators in conducting family interviews using the Family Assessment Form (FAF).

The FAF is a four-page questionnaire with 52 variables that are pertinent in determining a household’s welfare level.

Encoders will input the data collected by the enumerators to the Listahanan database, while verifiers will check if the data entered are consistent and accurate.

The Listahanan is an information management system that makes available to national government agencies, local government units, and other social protection stakeholders a comprehensive list of poor families in need of assistance.

Applicants will undergo a series of examinations and interviews to ensure that the most qualified individuals are hired and given intensive training on their specific roles in the assessment before they are deployed in areas where they are strangers to ensure objectivity in conducting the assessment.

They would sail on rough seas, travel through barrios up to the extent of riding colorum public utility vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers, crossed flood-prone rivers, walked on muddy paths over rugged terrains and rolling hills and get scared by some close encounters with armed anti-government forces in guerrilla zones, DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia on Tuesday said.

“This would be a difficult and tedious work, but certainly very exciting, given those challenges, apart from the pleasure of interviewing people we don’t know and determining whether they are poor or not,” Asejo said.

The qualifications for these jobs are tight because the DSWD wants to work with competent, dedicated and honest individuals who can assure the agency that the data they collect are of the highest quality, complete and accurate, Garcia said.

Through this assessment, he said, a new batch of poor and near-poor families will be identified and prioritized for appropriate programs and services while enabling the social welfare department to track changes or developments in the lives of poor households who were identified in the previous assessment.

In 2009, the DSWD conducted the first nationwide assessment that resulted in the identification of 5.2 million poor households out of the 10.9 million assessed.

That assessment counted 775, 014 households in Bicol and 59.5 percent or 461,242 of them were identified as poor through Proxy Means Test (PMT), a statistical model that estimates the income of families using the proxy variables that include family composition, education of family members, family conditions, and access to basic services that verified the list in 2011.

The PMT assessed in Masbate 160,257 households and 103,478 or 64.6 percent were identified as poor while of Albay’s 141,617 households, 88,242 or 62.3 percent were poor and Camarines Sur, with 226,714 households, had 136,208, equivalent to 60 percent listed as poor.

The same statistics show Camarines Norte having 40,802 poor or 56.5 percent of its 72,227 households; Sorsogon 75,769 poor or 53.6 percent of 141,388 households; and Catanduanes, 16,743 or 51 percent poor out of its 32,811 households.

This second round of assessment, Garcia said, will apply new features in the conduct of identifying the poor to minimize if not totally prevent errors in the inclusion and exclusion process.

The new features will include the application in the PMT of two sub-models -- one for the National Capital Region and one for all other regions that will make community variables as determinants of poverty status.

A second stage screener to plug possible inclusion errors or non-poor being included in the list of poor will also be applied and with these enhancements, he said, the combined inclusion and exclusion error rates would decline from 22-35 percent in the old model to 6-19 percent in the new model.

This targeting system has since then contributed to a good program design that ensures efficient and effective implementation, Garcia said, citing the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which, he said, would not be a success if it failed to target the real poor. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Female drug pusher nabbed in Albay town
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- A 32-year-old woman dubbed as the drug queen in Polangui town was arrested by Polangui Municipal Police Office in an operation in Barangay Napo, Polangui, Albay, on Monday night.

Senior Insp. Jan King Calipay, Polangui chief of police, identified the suspect as Analyn Pineda, 32, married and well-known drug pusher in the town who lives in Barangay Magurang.

Calipay said the suspect was arrested at about 11 p.m. Monday and police seized from her several sachets of shabu.

He said Pineda was already arrested on November 14, 2014 for violation of Section 11, Art. II of RA 9165 based on the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Ignacio C. Barcillano Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 with a recommended bail of Php200,000.

The suspect, Calipay added, was again arrested on Jan. 14 in Ligao City for violation again of RA 9165 and was charged under Case Nos. 7349 and 7350 at the sala of Judge Amy Ana De Villa Rosero of RTC Brangch 11, Ligao City, and is temporarily on liberty after posting a bail of Php200,000 and Php40,000, respectively, for the two cases.

The police are now readying charges against the suspect for violation of RA 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002). (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD

'My heart bleeds for the SAF troopers' -- Bicol police chief
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol Regional Director Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona said his heart is bleeding for the members of the PNP Special Action Force who met a tragic death in Mindanao.

Deona said that before he became the PNP Bicol chief, he had served for a long time as head of the operation’s unit of the police force.

"I personally witnessed with my own eyes and felt with my heart how my companions died in the line of their sworn duty to the country," he said with emotion, adding that "that's why, I feel what the people around them feel, especially their bereaved families."

The top Bicol police official said he and his men are extending their deep condolences to the grieving families of their fallen colleagues.

"It's sad but we have to accept it," Deona said.

He said his men in the PNP Bicol are still full of moral and the incident should not affect their work.

"For a police officer, emotions should not rule. Emotions must be contained and we must be guided by reasons,” the police official said.

In this kind of mission, he said, any officer should not forget the lessons of past incidents like that experienced by the slain SAF troopers.

Deona advised that in this kind of mission, one must follow the standard operating procedure to avoid similar incidents.

He said there are junior officers in PNP Bicol who were classmates of the victims and they expressed deep sorrow as they recalled the good old memories of their being together for four years at the Philippine National Police Academy.

Sr. Supt. Marlo Meneses, officer-in-charge of the Albay PPO, shared Deona's sentiments.

Deona has ordered the Philippine flag in half mast in all police stations in the Bicol Region.(PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Catanduanes gets Php2B from 2015 national budget

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -– Like the third congressional district of Albay, the lone district of Catanduanes has also been allotted over Php2 billion for development programs and projects under this year’s national budget.

In a statement reaching here Monday, Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento said the national budget provided by the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) approved by Congress and signed by Pres. Benigno Aquino III last year is Php2.6 trillion and Php1.2 billion of this will go to public works or infrastructure projects.

Of this national allocation for infrastructures assigned to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Sarmiento said around Php1.3 billion will go to the province for the concreting of still-unpaved sections of the Catanduanes Circumferential Road (CCR) worth Php415.4 million.

The other part of the allocation worth Php408 million is for the improvement of the CCR sections within the municipalities of Virac, San Andres, Baras, Gigmoto, Viga, San Miguel, Bato and Panganiban, he said.

The entire CCR Improvement Project is worth P2.6 billion and is being pursued by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and managed by the DPWH in a joint venture with Nippon Engineering Consultants Co. Ltd., Egis International and Renardet S.A. Consulting Engineers, with Katahira and Engineers International as the lead firm.

It is funded under the Road Upgrading and Preservation Project being undertaken by the Philippine government with financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency.

It covers a 290-kilometer primary and secondary road network that traverses the entire island of Catanduanes.

The project was started in the early parts of year 2000 but works on its first phase, which covered almost half of the whole stretch, was stalled when left unfinished by its Chinese contractor.

The project was revived by the Aquino administration under the mandate given by the President to the DPWH to make concrete all the primary roads in the country’s growth areas by 2015 and all secondary roads by 2016.

The island province of Catanduanes, which sits on the Pacific Ocean separated by Maqueda Bay from the Bicol mainland, is considered as an ecotourism industry growth area owing to its vibrant ecological resources and exotic coastal waters and beaches being frequented by water sports enthusiasts.

The island is also the country’s leading producer of abaca fiber that is highly in demand both in the domestic and international markets.

Sarmiento said the DPWH, under the 2015 GAA, was also given some Php180 million for the construction and/or rehabilitation of seven bridges in Caramoran and Viga towns.

Other parts of the Php2-billion Catanduanes congressional district fund have been earmarked for the concreting of roads covering the tourism corridor in Virac town, the provincial capital and for the asphalt overlay of the Virac Domestic Airport worth Php132 million, whose implementation is assigned to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

An amount of Php60 million was also provided for the development of the Codon Port in San Andres town amounting to Php40 million and the establishment of fish ports in Bato and Gigmoto towns for the amount of Php10 million each -- whose implementations are also tasked to the DOTC, according to Sarmiento.

The same total allocation also provides an amount of Php177.5 million to local infrastructure program—Php76.5 million of which will be used in the construction of public buildings including barangay halls; Php66 million for farm-to-market roads; Php22 million for classrooms and school buildings; and Php13 million for potable water systems, he said.

Moreover, under the same budget, a total amount of Php 137.5 million has been provided for the Government Participatory Budgeting Program of the Department of Interior and Local Government which will be distributed among the 11 municipalities of the province with each allotted Php12.5 million, according to Sarmiento. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Albay to host 7th Xterra Philippines Triathlon on Feb. 8
By Nancy I. Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -- The Province of Albay will host the seventh Xterra Philippines Triathlon on Feb. 8 as part of the 3rd Cagsawa Festival in nearby Daraga town.

Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said the big sports event has been organized by the provincial government and the Sunrise Event of Wilfred Uytengsu Jr.

Salceda said the Xterra Philippines Triathlon is an annual festival that will help a lot in boosting tourism not only in Daraga town but also in the entire province.

He stressed that the Feb. 8 activity will serve as a qualifying event for the Xterra World Championships to be held in Maui, Hawaii, in November this year.

The sports competition will highlight the 200-year cultural heritage of the historical world-renowned Cagsawa Ruins.

The Xterra Triathlon will bring its participants to the beautiful and interesting tourist spots in Albay province like the Swim Course in Mayon Riviera in Barangay Lidong, Sto. Domingo town.

There will be a trail bike at run in Lidong village which will end at Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga.

Salceda said about 246 athletes have already registered for the competition, 80 of whom are foreign, which will also be participated in by well-known movie and political personalities of the country.

Current champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland will lead the competitors like veterans Ben Allen, BradleyWeiss, Joseph Miller, Jacqui Slack, Charlie Epperson, Fabrizio Bartoli, Mauricio Mendez, Daz Parker, Carina Wagle, Mieko Carey, Dimity Lee Duke and Flora Duffy.

The provincial chief executive has also assured the participation of Senator Pia Cayetano, a known Triathlete Pro, as well as local celebrities Ryan Agoncillo, Matteo Guideceli, Christine Torres and others.

The Provincial Government of Albay and the Sunrise Event have a scheduled a press conference at the Albay Astrodome on Feb. 7.(PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/

Most Bicol provinces fail in DOF’s financial sustainability rating
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) – Five of the six provinces in Bicol flunked the scorecard of the Department of Finance (DOF) in the financial sustainability rating for not even making it to the “good” listing.

The province of Camarines Norte was given a “Poor” rating while Camarines Norte and Masbate “Needed Improvement” and Albay and Sorsogon landed in the “Average” level even as the island province of Catanduanes, the smallest in the region, placed sixth among the 13 nationwide that got “Very Good” ratings.

The ratings appeared in the DOF’s Local Government Unit (LGU) Scorecard: Preliminary Assessment that evaluated the overall revenue generation and handling taxpayers’ money performance of local governments from Fiscal Years 2010 to 2012.

It is DOF’s pilot online assessment of LGUs’ fiscal sustainability rolled out recently through the department's Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) aimed at promoting transparency and good governance at all levels.

Called the “Iskor ng Iyong Bayan,” the preliminary performance review covered the 82 provinces, 135 cities and 1,493 municipalities nationwide which were rated either as excellent, very good, good, average, needs improvement and poor.

Each rating was based on the result of an evaluation conducted by the DOF Fiscal Intelligence Unit and BLGF according to the type of LGU and income classification and in terms of their revenue-generation capacity, growth of local revenue, management of expenditures and reportorial compliance.

The assessment specifically focused on locally-sourced income as a share of the total regular income, dependence on Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), use of IRA for local development projects, limitation on Personal Services expenditure, and debt-service ratio.

According to the BLGF, the LGU Fiscal Sustainability Scorecard aims to institutionalize the regular publication of fiscal indicators and performance review of LGUs in the spirit of accountability and good local financial housekeeping.

The scorecard is likewise in line with its mandate to supervise and monitor the revenue operation of LGUs and its thrust to promote good governance at all levels.

“Local treasurers and assessors are responsible for the accuracy and integrity of the reports submitted to the DOF and the BLGF, on which the overall performance assessment of their LGUs are primarily based,” it said.

The results of the assessment, therefore, reflect an LGU’s quality of fiscal and financial management and the level of efficiency and innovativeness in resource mobilization and expenditure management, according to the DOF.

Camarines Sur was rated “poor” as its overall revenue-generation performance from 2010 to 2012 indicated a regular income level needing improvement, poor local revenue level, poor dependence on locally sourced income, and very high (97 percent) dependence on IRA, in relation to other first income class provinces.

Masbate and Camarines Norte’s “needs improvement” ratings were based on findings that their overall revenue-generation capacities indicated poor levels and very high dependence on IRA at 94 percent and 86 percent, respectively.

Local revenue collections and income from economic enterprises, however, were steadily increasing in these two provinces, according to the scorecard.

Both Albay and Sorsogon’s overall revenue-generation capacity also indicated that its regular income and dependence on locally sourced income need improvement, having poor local revenue level and very high dependence on IRA at 89 and 90 percent, respectively.

In 2011, Albay’s local revenues sharply declined by 50 percent due to negative growth in tax and non-tax revenue collections.

In 2012, all tax revenue sources of the province significantly declined -- real property tax, 29 percent; tax on business, six percent; other taxes, 70 percent; and user/service charges, seven percent.

On expenditure management, the province’s total expenditure per capita declined from Php913 in 2011 to Php725 in 2012, which is considered low among first income class provinces while in compliance with statutory limitations on expenditures and budget management, the province consistently utilized less than 20 percent of the IRA for local development projects.

In the case of Catanduanes which was given a “very good” score, the province’s overall revenue generation capacity from 2010 to 2012 indicated a regular income level needing improvement, good local revenue level, good dependence on locally sourced income, and fair dependence on IRA at 83 percent in relation to other third income class provinces.

The DOF said Catanduanes, in 2012, posted notable local revenue performance, with tax and non-tax revenues increasing by 202 percent and 71 percent, respectively, from its 2010 and 2011 performance while no single revenue source posted negative growth in 2012, thus, improving significantly the province’s local revenue performance.

On expenditure management, the province’s total expenditure per capita had improved from Php2,304 in 2011 to Php2,414 in 2012, which is considered very high among provinces.

It also reported more than 20-percent utilization of IRA for local development projects, which is a good indication of compliance to the requirements of the law, the DOF scorecard said.

Among Bicol cities, Ligao placed 18th out of 20 cities assessed as “Good” while Legazpi and Masbate were rated “average”; Sorsogon and Tabaco, “needed improvement”; and Iriga, “poor”. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/

PNP-Bicol prepares for possible NPA attacks

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -- With the expiration of the Suspension of Police Operation against the New People's Army rebels from Dec. 18, 2014 to Jan. 19, 2015, the Philippine National Police Bicol regional office has placed its men on high state of alertness for possible attacks of the communist rebels in connection with the NPA anniversary in March.

With this possibility, the PNP-Bicol has intensified its counter-insurgency strategies and augmented its field personnel for any atrocities that would be done by the rebels.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol regional police chief, said his men will closely guard vital installations, economic assets, local and foreign businesses, tourist destinations and places where people converge so that they would not be made targets of rebel activities.

Deona said he has also intensified intelligence operations to preempt any plan of the rebels and terrorists.

He said they will mobilize force multiplers like the Barangay Intelligence Network and other groups fighting against lawlessness in their areas.

The top PNP regional official said he has also intensified close cooperation with Armed Forces of the Philippines, their partner in operations against the rebels.

Some 1,500 of Bicol police officers have just arrived trom Tacloban City where they helped maintain peace and order and provided security during Pope Francis' visit.

Deona said the regional office will give honors to these 1,500 police for successfully performing their mission with professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm. (PNA) FPV/FGS/EMC/CBD/

DPWH-Bicol bares construction of national roads totaling 2,344 km in length as of 2014
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -- The Department of Public Works and Highways Bicol regional office has reported having constructed a total national road length of 2,344.40 kilometers as of the end of 2014.

A report released by Lucy Castaneda, DPWH Bicol public information officer, on Monday said that of this total 2,344.40 kilometers of national roads, 1,132.44 km are arterial while 1,211.97 km are secondary.

Castaneda said the road length increased in 2013 due to the newly converted roads in Camarines Norte and Masbate's 2nd Legislative District.

The report showed that as of 2014, the region’s national roads are 90.6-percent paved, corresponding to a total length of 2,124.14 km and the remaining unpaved is 9.4 percent, equivalent to 76.8 km.

For 2014 alone, the region paved 76.8 kilometers and from year 2010 up to 2014, the DPWH Bicol had accrued 256.4 paved roads.

For the national artillery road, 1,067.86 km or 94.3 percent had already been paved as of 2014, with a remaining unpaved length of 64.6 km.

These remaining unpaved section are funded under the CY 2014 General Appropriations Act (locally funded and foreign assisted) and the FY 2015 DPWH Budget.

For the national secondary road, 1,056.28 km or 87.2 percent are paved while the remaining 155.68 km or 12.8 percent are still unpaved, the report added.

Of this unpaved roads, about 42 km are funded in CY 2014 GAA while under the FY 2015 PDWH budget, the programmed length is 39 km.

The remaining length of about 75 km will be proposed for completion by 2016 and beyond, including the newly converted roads in CY 2011.

DPWH Bicol Regional Director Melvin B. Navarro said he has instructed his office’s 16 implementing offices, the construction division and 15 district engineering offices to hasten implementation of the remaining unpaved national roads as they will be constructing more horizontal infrastructure to help hasten the economic development of the Bicol Region, especially the sector of tourism. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD/

Monday, January 26, 2015

200 attend Bicol youth confab on poverty alleviation By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- At least 200 members of various youth organizations coming from different schools and universities in the Bicol Region attended the two-day Bicol Youth Conference on Poverty Alleviation on Jan. 24-25 at the Ibalong Conference Room at the City Hall compound here.

The gathering was spearheaded by the National Youth Commission (NYC) and had for its theme: “Effective Partnership in Eradicating Poverty.”

Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal said the gathering would serve as an additional knowledge for the youth on how the government addresses the issues for the good future of all youth organizations not only in Bicol but also in the entire country.

The city chief executive urged the participants to share all the knowledge that they could learn in the conference to other members of their respective organizations so that they may also know their role in the government and how to implement their programs and projects in the community for the benefit of every individual.

Rosal said all the youths have an opportunity to become good leaders of the country as he urged them to always support the important programs of the government for sustainable development of the society and the betterment of the people in the community.

He also asked the support of the youth organizations on the war against illegal drugs in order to prevent the other teenagers from getting involved in dangerous drugs and other illegal substances that destroy the dignity and the future of the youth in the community. <>NYC Commissioner Percival V. Cendana, for his part, said every member of a youth organization has an important role in poverty alleviation because the poverty problem in the society affects the development of every individual.

Cendana said that because of the genuine knowledge and accurate information the young people get in the Internet, they can surely participate in issues that affect people’s lives and they have the right to make proposals and suggestions for the solution to the problem of poverty.

“We have an urgent need to invest for quality education, good peace and order situation and the good health of our young individuals in order for them to become good members of a productive society that will give our young generation social mobility that will lead them on how to uplift their standard of living,” he stressed.

The NYC commissioner said that if there will be a Sangguniang Kabataan election, there are many expected recommendations for the community level that the new SK officers should implement and if there is no SK polls, the output from the summit and other conferences will help the Barangay Youth Development Task Force (BYDTF) headed by a village official.

It is better, however, to make a blueprint for the suggestions of the Bicol youth organizations regarding the anti-poverty alleviation program of the government, Cendana added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EPS/CBD/SSC

AFP declares CamNorte as second Bicol province freed from NPA

LEGAZPICITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) has claimed another momentous victory in its decades of fight against communist insurgency in Bicol by neutralizing the New People’s Army (NPA) and restoring peace in the province of Camarines Norte.

The province is now “peaceful and ready for further development,” a recent statement of the AFP said as it forged a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the provincial government formalizing its declaration as a “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development (CMRD)” area.

The document was signed by Major Gen. Yerson Depayso, commanding general of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division of the Philippine Army (PA), in behalf of the AFP and Gov. Edgardo Tallado, in behalf of the provincial government.

The signing of the MOU, according to Depayso, signalled the "shifting of effort" from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role.

The signing ceremony emphasized the implementation of more socio-economic and development projects that the civil government will implement with the support and protection of the military, the PA commander said in a statement reaching here over the weekend.

Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command chief, said during the occasion held in Daet, the provincial capital, that the declaration of peace in the province was based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its potential support system in the barangays and its failed recovery efforts.

This achievement, according to Visaya, would not be possible without the cooperation of the leaders of the province, along with the local government units, who have partnered with the AFP in fighting insurgency.

The 45-year- old insurgency being waged by the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), he said, has been preventing the progress and economic development of the province and all other affected localities in Bicol and in the country.

“This MOU brings great pleasure for it is a proof that the efforts of the government and its armed forces to restore peace and tranquility in the province have not been put in vain. We in the military stand by our mandate as the protector of the people and keepers of the integrity of the state,” Visaya stressed.

At least, the AFP has once again provided a space in Bicol where the people can feel safe and grow as progressive communities, in the case this time of Camarines Norte, he said.

The AFP has been maintaining the presence of the Philippine Army (PA) for about 16 years now in Bicol with its 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, manning the internal security of the region from the activities of the NPA.

This PA ID is in command of three infantry brigades composed of eight infantry battalions and seven support units, including an engineering battalion, distributed in all the six provinces of the region.

In over 40 years, Visaya said, Camarines Norte’s opportunity to advance to progress -- with its vast mineral deposits, agricultural lands, rich fishing grounds, exotic tourist destinations, rich natural resources and hard-working people -- has been stalled by unstable peace situation due to the presence of the NPAs and the culture of violence it has developed among local communities.

They prevent the implementation of government infrastructure projects, harass mining companies, extort money in the form of “revolutionary taxes” from businessmen, contractors and even from farmers, and execute those who refuse to remit including innocent civilians and civilian government officials. Visaya recalled that former Camarines Norte governor Roy Padilla Sr. was assassinated by the NPAs for his disapproval of their anti-people activities. The late governor was appointed officer-in-charge of the province by Pres. Corazon Aquino in 1987,during the revolutionary government, following the historic EDSA Revolution.

He ran for governor and won posthumously as he was killed on the eve of the January 18, 1988 elections.

Now, the strength of the rebels in the province has been reduced from about 200 guerrilla fighters to only about 30, with limited firearms, according to Visaya.

In a separate statement, Tallado said that with the declaration of peace in his province, his administration can now intensify the implementation of its programs and projects geared toward bringing the government closer to the people.

He also attributed the success of the government in restoring peace in the province to the implementation of various countryside development projects of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a priority program under the peace agenda of the Aquino administration geared at ending internal armed conflicts.

Tallado said a total of about Php350 million has been poured into the province under this program from 2011 to 2013 which were all satisfactorily implemented and now serving communities very well towards PAMANA’s aim of attaining economic progress for the areas covered.

The projects communicate effectively among communities the initiatives of government in building the culture of peace and development in the countryside to make them resilient against the anti-government whims of the insurgency being carried out by the NPA, he added.

Camarines Norte is the second Bicol province declared by the AFP as a CMRD area, given that the local insurgency problem had already been contained.

The first was the island of Catanduanes which was placed under the same declaration last December owing to the dwindling local insurgency level observed during the recent years from the constant decrease of NPA manpower, firearms, affected barangays and activities.

The local CPP-NPA-NDF politico-military organizations have been reduced to a minimal level that they can no longer pose a serious threat to peace and order in the province, the military said.

The restored peace in these two provinces reduced to four the remaining Bicol areas being troubled by insurgency problems—Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate and Sorsogon.

While current troop levels are maintained in Catanduanes and Camarines Norte to go on performing the lead role in protecting the government’s anti-insurgency gains in these areas, Depayso said “we can give more focus now on these remaining four provinces in our internal security operations to finally end communist insurgency in the Bicol region soon.”(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Albay 3rd district gets Php2B in projects from 2015 national budget

LIGAO CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- The 3rd congressional district of Albay has been allotted this year some Php 2 billion for programs and projects intended to improve the living condition of its people, according to Rep. Fernando Gonzalez.

We were fortunate that during the budget deliberation last year, this representation’s proposal for various programs and projects in the district worth over Php2 billion has been included for funding under the Php2.6 trillion national budget approved by Congress and signed by President Benigno Aquino III before Christmas,” Gonzalez said over the weekend here.

Most of the allocation approved for the district, which covers this city and six municipalities whose economy are all agriculture-based, are principally intended to improve the farm and fishery productivity of its people, he said.

Majority of these projects are infrastructure designed to address, among others, the nagging problem brought about by constant flooding that most of the time submerge some towns, disrupting the flow of trade and commerce and the farms and destroying large volumes of crops.

“We are now in the process of making the entire district flood-free which was started in this city way back during my term as its mayor. With this fresh fund, we could start addressing the flooding in the municipalities of Libon, Oas, Polangui and Guinobatan by way of establishing permanent structures like concrete dikes and river control facilities,” the congressman said.

Some of these municipalities are within the Bicol River Basin that serves as the receiving end of flashfloods from the slopes of Mt. Mayon and swelling of the Bato Lake in the neighboring town of Bato, Camarines Sur, during heavy downpours.

Among these anti-flood infrastructures are the constructions of two boxed culvert bridge worth Php1 million in Barangay Iraya, Oas, to replace the two old small bridges that cause the clogging.

Another undertaking called the Upper Bicol River Basin-Repair/Maintenance of Iraya Norte, Oas Flood Control Project will soon be implemented by the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH) in the same municipality starting this month for an amount of about Php2 million, also taken from this year’s national budget for the district, Gonzalez said.

“I am assuring the residents, particularly those from the Poblacion areas of Oas, that I am working hard to finally resolve flooding not just in their area but the rest of the 3rd District of Albay,” he said.

Apart from flood control projects, part of the Php2 billion district fund from the 2015 General Appropriation Act (GAA), is the Php1.4 million intended for the construction of a multi-purpose building cum covered court in Barangay Cotnogan, Polangui town, as requested by its barangay council headed by Punong Barangay Isidro Oliva to be used as a post-harvest facility and activity center for the barangay.

It will be implemented by the DPWH soon, Gonzalez said.

The district also has allocations under the current national budget for small irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads cum palay and corn drying facilities and other farm productivity projects, without neglecting basic programs and services such as scholarship for the poor but deserving students, public health services, water system, disaster control, fishery development and tourism promotion, he said.

"We are not left behind in terms of national government attention because we see to it in Congress that all necessary projects and programs in the district that need government funding are included in the preparations of the national budget,” Gonzalez said.

For transparency, he said, the list of these projects is uploaded on the DBM website in real time so that the public could review and scrutinize them, and for the bidding stage, all bid notices and awards have been required to be posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement Systems (PhilGEPS).

What makes the national budgeting system now more exciting is that congressmen need to do more legwork if they want to deliver the goods to their respective constituencies.

“Since we perform dual functions—national legislators at the same time representatives of our people to the national government, our work at home is to find out what are needed by our constituents, especially in the barangays. We submit the list of these needs to concerned agencies which, in turn, will validate the same for inclusion with their proposal for funding under the next year budget,” Gonzalez said.

It is as simple as that and congressmen can no longer involve themselves in the implementation of whatever project they recommended, except in the monitoring.

Officials of barangays that are project beneficiaries are now the ones linked with the implementing agency, hence, barrio folk and national government workers are drawn face to face with each other making the relationship more cordial and mutual, the congressman added.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

3 Bicol provinces get Php600M from DA for rural infra development

NAGA CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Three Bicol provinces are among the recipients of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Php11.382-billion infrastructure projects nationwide, a DA Bicol regional official said.

Elena De Los Santos, DA Bicol regional technical director for operations, named the three provinces in the region that are beneficiaries of the infrastructure projects worth more than Php600 million as Albay and the two Camarines provinces.

The DA and the funding agency, World Bank, conducted on Tuesday a review meeting at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall in Quezon City, she added.

De Los Santos said the infrastructure projects are mostly farm-to-market roads, of which more than Php197 million went to Albay; and more than Php200 million each for the two Camarines provinces.

She said all the projects have already been bidded out and these have already been given a “no objection letter (NOL),” which means that they are just awaiting for the release of funds which are under the so-called Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP).

Arnel De Mesa, PRDP national deputy program director, said in a statement received by the PNA Sunday that the PHP11.382-billion projects include production, marketing and logistics support for farmers and fishers in the countryside.

“The amount covers rural infrastructure projects and marketing and technical assistance for rural agri-producers, processors and traders proposed by local government units (LGUs),” De Mesa stated.

He said that for the project’s first year, July 2014 to June 2015, there were 66 provinces out of 80 provinces in the country included as of December 2014.

Of his provinces, 29 submitted Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP) approved by their respective Provincial Development Councils.

The PCIP refers to provincial plans that provide for “primary outputs geared toward enhanced agri-fishery modernization plans” or based on the Agriculture and Fishery Modernization Plan of the national government.

De Mesa said the national government and the World Bank signed PRDP’s Php27.6-billion loan-and-grant agreement on Sept. 9, 2014 and was declared effective and ready for loan drawdowns in early December 2014.

He said that through the agreement, the national government had received project proposals from LGUs totaling Php9.7 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of 1,121 km farm-to-market roads in different parts of the country.

De Mesa said the provision of funds also included 31 projects worth Php361.84 million for market assistance, capability-building, technology development, and production and post-harvest support, among others.

He said the review mission with the World Bank this year aims to look into the progress pace of the rural development project, as well as problems and issues that affect its implementation.

De Los Santos said the World Bank will undertake review and evaluation of PRDP in Bicol on Feb. 2-4.

According to the PRDP brochure, it is targeted that upon project completion the household beneficiaries would at least achieve five-percent increase in annual real farm incomes, seven-percent increase in value of annual marketed output, and 20-percent increase in number of farmers and fishers with improved access to DA services.(PNA) CTB/FGS/JME/CBD/PJN

FeatureSocial pension eases life agonies of elderly in distress
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- A shabby house, which is almost empty of furnishings except for a folding plastic bed where 85-year-old Quintin Alegre is confined with his 81 year-old wife Edith sitting by his side, presents a gloomy scene of old-age poverty.

He has been bedridden for almost a year after sustaining a crippling sprain from a stair fall with no one left to pay close attention but her.

The old couple has seven children also languishing in poverty with their own families.

Only their youngest son, a tricycle driver, would occasionally come to deliver a handful of basic goodies and small amount of money, hardly enough for their food.

“Living has been very difficult for the two of us at our age and situation as we wait for the final day that our lives will be taken back by God. Our hope to die at least a happy death has been fading away until one day, in the middle of last year, when some government people came doing a survey,” Editha said in local dialect when reached by the Philippine News Agency on Saturday.

The couple lives in a far away communist insurgency-infested rural barangay here and their house can only be reached by foot after one hour over a muddy path passing through a rolling terrain.

The “government people” she was referring to were enumerators fielded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to reach out to the poor in the 3,471 barangays within 107 municipalities and seven cities of Bicol’s six provinces.

Their tasks were to find the 10,643 senior citizens listed as beneficiaries of the government’s Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens program and validate their life status and social condition.

The program falls under the poverty alleviation thrust of the administration of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III being carried out by the DSWD.

“We located these beneficiaries to determine through first-hand information their status. Our field workers specially hired for this job were sent out to interview them right where they reside, wherever it is, and notwithstanding the distance and terrain,” Legazpi City-based DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia said.

This special validation process involved 300 enumerators hired by the DSWD and fielded in all barangays—up to the farthest-- of the region where the beneficiaries reside.

Some areas took one whole day for validation teams to reach and another day to conduct the interview on target beneficiaries who were scattered in barangays and have to be reached by way of trekking rolling hills and muddy paths, Garcia said.

The purpose of this special validation was to verify the poverty status of the pensioners who were not registered in the DSWD’s Listahanan database of poor households and when verified according to the requirements of the social pension program, they continue receiving their monthly pensions.

The Alegre couple has been a beneficiary of the program since 2011 but their pension was put on hold as of January 2014, after it was found out they were among the 10,643 social pensioners in Bicol who were discovered to be not included in the database.

The 2011 Listahanan listed 775,014 households in Bicol and 59.5 percent or 461,242 of them were identified as poor.

Listahanan or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) is an information management system that identifies who and where the poor are and made available to national government agencies and other social protection stakeholders a database of poor families as basis in identifying potential beneficiaries of social protection programs and services.

In this listing, the island province of Masbate accounted for 160,257 households, of which 103,478 or 64.6 percent were identified as poor to top the regional list in percentage of families living in poverty.

Albay, with its 88,242 households or 62.3 percent of 141,617 identified as poor ranked second in poverty rate; Camarines Sur comes third with 136,208 equivalent to 60 percent listed as poor of its 226,714 households; Camarines Norte, fourth for having 40,802 poor or 56.5 percent of its 72,227 households; Sorsogon, 75,769 poor or 53.6 percent of 141,388 households placed fifth; and Catanduanes, with 16,743 or 51 percent poor out of its 32,811 households appeared in the bottom of the list.

The social pension program is under Republic Act 9994 otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 that provides additional government assistance in the amount of Php500 monthly stipend to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs of an indigent senior citizen.

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

After the validation which was completed during the last quarter of 2014, Garcia said, the 10,643 social pensioners validated were subjected to Proxy Means Test (PMT) which finally confirmed their social classifications under the NHTS-PR.

PMT is a statistical model which determines whether the individuals and households validated through interviews are poor or not.

By early this month, the social pension of Alegre couple and all those validated has been restored.

“Dakulaon na tabang samo ang pension na nakukua mi sa DSWD, dahil digdi nakakabakal kami ning bulong asin iba ming mga kaipuhan na mag agom (The pension that we receive from DSWD is a big help to us. Because of it, we are able to buy medicines and our other needs)" Editha happily shared.

Hence, the social pension has relived hope that the couple will spend the remaining days of their lives without much daily living trouble. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC

Irosin town vice mayor's worker shot dead in coconut plantation

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- A worker of the vice mayor of Irosin, Sorsogon, was shot dead by an unidentified suspect while harvesting coconut at the plantation of the town official at Barangay Casini, Irosin, Sorsogon, on Saturday morning.

Police said Roberto Mondejar, 39, married, did not reach the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital alive.

Mondejar was busy with his work at the coconut plantation of Vice Mayor Alfredo P. Cielo at about 11:05 a.m. when the suspect, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, suddenly arrived and shot him in the head and body. The assailant fled.

Police are still investigating the case and determining the motive for the killing. (PNA) SCS/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Legazpi commemorates on Jan. 23 valiant defense vs American invasion in 1900
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- Mayor Noel Rosal has invited tourists, local officials and the Legazpeños from all walks of life to join the city government in the commemoration on Friday of the Battle of Legazpi.

The event will feature an early morning parade around the downtown area, ending at the foot of the huge pylon standing at the middle of the intersection between Quezon Avenue and Rizal Street, at the heart of the city’s commercial district.

In his letter to all barangay, city, provincial and locally-based national officials, Rosal said the city government will commemorate the 115th Anniversary of the Battle of Legazpi on Jan. 23.

“This historic event is an important chapter of our history as we honor our gallant heroes who fought the occupying American forces.

Their bravery and tenacity still rings to our generation,” Rosal said in the letter.

The city is the capital and the business center of Albay and of the southeastern section provinces of Bicol extending to its neighboring Sorsogon and the islands of Catanduanes and Masbate.

Built on mangrove swamps, which once bordered its magnificent deep water port, the city, then a sleepy fishing settlement originally called Sawangan that occupied what is now the Legazpi Port District, was also made the center of the “Partido de Ibalon”, the single political unit which is composed of Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Camarines Sur when the Spaniards arrived in 1567 to set out their Christian mission.

The settlement survived the raids by Dutch and Muslim pirates before the arrival of the Spaniards and became scene of a horrifying sight of a much-bloody battle during the Filipino-American war.

The over-40-meter high pylon stands as a monument built almost 30 years ago and considered as one of the country’s historical sites acclaimed by the National Historical Commission in 2001 to commemorate the gallant resistance offered by around 800 farmers and fishermen led by Commander Antonio Reyes against the well-armed American invaders.

These farmers and fishermen-turned soldiers defended the Legazpi coast along with 200 other defensive forces which forcefully stopped the bombing made by the American soldiers of the defensive trench-- the former San Rafael Bridge where the pylon now stands.

These defenders courageously fought manually and all of them heroically died in that conflict from the hands of the American soldiers. The Battle of Legazpi pylon is one of the monuments that continue to give the locals a sense of pride – and the whole Filipino nation to cherish and remember.

“In view of this, may we respectfully invite you to attend the said event and to join the short parade at 7:30 a.m., January 23, 2015 from the Ibalong Monument in Barangay Lapu-Lapu to the Battle of Legazpi Monument,” Rosal said in the letter.

He also requested participants to bring simple flower arrangements for the floral offering.

In an interview Tuesday, Rosal told the Philippine News Agency that the commemorative event will also be a thanksgiving for all the gains of the city in its pursuit of economic prosperity, urban development and disaster resilience.

The city is endowed with a beautiful skyline with the waters of the Albay Gulf on one side and the majestic Mayon Volcano, a near-perfect symmetrical conical volcano, towering over the buildings creating a majestic scene on the other side. Historically, the city was named Legazpi, to perpetuate the memory of the Adelantado, Don Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the Spanish conquistador in the Philippines in 1565 as part of the agreement made between the original inhabitants of the place and the Spaniards during the former’s quest for autonomy.

It took them 21 years, in which they sought the help and support of the Spaniards, then living in the town, and as a sign of gratitude, the people readily accepted the name, which was also then proposed by the Spaniards upon fulfillment of their efforts.

The city was recognized last year as one of the three most livable cities of the country, named national champion in the Galing Pook Awards and Gawad Kalasag and a proud recipient of the most coveted Silver Governance Trailblazer award for excellence in local governance.

Now nicknamed the “City of Fun and Adventure”, Legazpi is also considered as among the most visited tourist destinations in the Philippines not only for being home to Mt. Mayon but also because it is already a world-class city catering to the influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers.

And since tourism growth enlivens trade and commerce, the local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities have been going broader and more fortified.

“Tourism is indeed taking a crucial role in the city in its pursuit for inclusive and horizontal growth that will benefit not only big investors such as hotel operators but also the people in the countryside, where most of its tourist destinations are located, by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures,” Rosal said. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

(Feature)DOT offers Sorsogon's eco-tourism marvels other than Donsol's whale sharks
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -– Sorsogon maybe an obscure province but its utterly charming beaches kissed by exotic marine life-rich waters should not be overlooked and skipped by idyllic tropical holiday seekers who want heartening places away from the arduous urban crowd.

Blissfully leaned on the southeastern tip of Luzon, Sorsogon is an unassertive province of one city — Sorsogon City, the provincial capital -- and 14 towns.

Notwithstanding, however, the coastal location of all these localities, except the landlocked town of Irosin-- that is wrapped along superb beaches-- oftentimes, the province is ignored.

The province also boasts of high mountains to climb beneath verdant forests of exotic wildlife, an active volcano from where hot and cold natural springs emanate and plenty of historical sites featuring antique structures like century-old churches, watchtowers and monuments.

The regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) based in this Bicol’s tourism center wants travel enthusiasts to grasp these as an offer of the bests of the province’s come-ons, other than the famous whale sharks of the town of Donsol.

One place to go not far from the Donsol is the Panumbagan Sand Bar, a five-kilometer-long tamarind fruit-shaped islet richly endowed with fine, pearly white sand belonging to the nearby town of Pilar.

The local government provided the islet with a well-engineered series of facilities like floating cottages connected with each other by floating bridges made of industrial bamboo and built in style in three octagonal rings.

More developments are in the offing for this site through a Php 3.5-million fund allocation provided by the DOT via the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) of the agency under the 2015 General Appropriation Act, Maria Ong-Ravanilla, the DOT regional director for Bicol, on Tuesday said.

“At this point and time, escapade in Donsol would no longer be complete without experiencing what Panumbagan Sand Bar offers -- like the taste of sea grapes (locally called “lato”) that are abundant at the surrounding Panlatuan Bay and could be harvested from under the water by visitors themselves and eaten fresh,” Ravanilla said.

Panlatuan Bay, a cove covering three barangays of Pilar, is the ancient site of Astillero de Panlatuan, the once-famous shipbuilding yard established after the end of Galleon Trade in 1650.

Sea grapes (Caulerpa lentillifera), an edible seaweed variety reported to have antibacterial and antifungal properties and believed to have a cure to hypertension and rheumatism, abundantly and naturally grow under the pure seawater of the bay for its high salinity. This pretty green seaweed -- which studies show to contain high amount of minerals, balanced amino acid profile and iodine -- is made up of tiny oblong, greenish crystalline balls.

Edible sea urchins, locally named “suwaki” (Sea Urchin Roe) that are known as aphrodisiac in Japan for thousands of years, can also be found around the area.

Panumbagan could be reached via a 50-minute motorboat ride from the Pilar port, passing along the Bantigue Point and Marine Sanctuary Reserve -- a cool place for diving and snorkeling, viewing and interacting with various colors, shapes and types of corals, fishes and other underwater characters.

Both places are perfect for nature lovers who want to be embraced by peaceful ambiance, hear the music created by the sea breeze, and enjoy sun bathing, bare foot sand walking, swimming, and savoring tranquility.

Ravanilla describes these places as among Sorsogon’s perfect getaways from a busy life that are now among the most visited places in the province because of its proximity to the whale shark sanctuary of Donsol.

Tourists, mostly Malaysians and Russians coming for the whale sharks, have been making side trips to these areas to discover for themselves these wonderful add-on experiences, she said.

Other than whale shark interaction in Donsol, Ravanilla said, the DOT has also provided GPBP fund for the putting up of a Visitor Center and Landing Area for tourists who are fascinated by firefly watching along the coastline of the town’s giant marine mammal sanctuary.

Firefly watching has been the nighttime attraction that entices visitors to stay in Donsol during the night after their daytime whale shark encounters, and these facilities are designed to make their night outing convenient and comfortable, she said.

Other developments in the Sorsogon tourist sites are the canopy walk and floating wellness center provided by the DOT for Bulusan Lake out of its 2014 GPBP fund worth Php2.8 million.

The lake sits at the bosom of Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, a 3,672-hectare protected area serving as home to various species of endangered animals and considered the most exciting ecotourism site in the province next to Donsol.

The park also boasts of several springs and waterfalls that originate from the mountains.

One of the springs is the bathing-favorite Masacrot, a man-made earthen pool with cool mineral waters coming from underground springs. Bulusan Lake itself, which is situated at the very foot of Mt. Bulusan -- one of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Rim of Fire, is a spectacular ecotourism destination for its scenic and exquisite beauty.

Rising 340 meters above sea level, the lake that occupies an area of more than 16 hectares is dubbed as the “Swtizerland of the Orient” for its pristine perfection and the coolness of its mountain breeze.

Another tourist attraction at the Bulusan town is the Punta Diamante, the muralla (stone fort) that encloses the church complex of St. James the Greater Parish which remains grand in its antiquity together with the belfry, the largest of the four watchtowers dotting the historical complex.

A tourist access road between Bulusan town and Matnog passing through the town of Sta. Magdalena is also in the offing with the recent approval of the project for Php300 million and appropriation this year of Php50 million for the start of the works, Ravanilla added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC

PNP-Bicol to award members of Task Force Santo Papa with medals of honor
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Philippine National Police-Bicol regional director, said his office will give medals of honor to the members of the Task Force Santo Papa who had helped provide order and security during Pope Francis' visit in Tacloban City and Palo town, both in Leyte, on Jan. 17.

The Task Force members stayed in the area for eight days in a very tiresome and sleepless but spiritually rewarding mission, Deona stressed, as he profusely heaped praises for his men.

He said each police officer who was part of the 1,500-strong Task Force to reinforce the PNP personnel in Region 8 was full of professionalism, dedication and discipline.

Rich in a once-in-a-lifetime experience of providing security to the Holy Father of the Catholic Church, these Bicolano men in uniform are now back to mainland Bicol with a fully and professionally accomplished mission, the PNP Bicol chief said.

"Certainly, the inspiration and example shown by the Pope will leave forever not only in their hearts but also in the hearts of all Filipinos," Deona added.

He said his office will schedule the awarding of medals of honor as soon as possible to the Task Force members in their respective provincial police offices (PPOs).

The 1,500-man contingent went to Tacloban City the other Sunday on board 32 buses, three police vehicles and an ambulance of the Bicol regional office.

In coming back, Deona said, the contingent was divided into three groups in boarding the vessel at the Allen port in Samar as the members could not be accommodated at a time in the roll-on-roll-off sea transport.

The first group was composed of PPOs of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Naga City.

Next were those from Albay, Catanduanes and Masbate; then from PPO Sorsogon. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/SSC

Legazpi speeds up business licensing
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- The Business Permits and Licensing System Office of this city has implemented a program to speed the issuance of business permits.

Legazpi City was recently chosen by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the International Finance Corp.-World Bank as one of the pilot local government units (LGUs) to implement this program called the Regulatory Simplification of Local Government Units (RSLGU), City BPLS Office chief Asuncion Calleja said in an interview Tuesday.

The RSLGU is the process of reducing the steps in and removing specific elements to speed up the system of issuing business permits by the BPLS Office, especially during renewal period of business establishments operating in the locality.

"This system would help attract more investors and generate more income towards the continuous economic growth of Legazpi City," Calleja said.

Though this RSLGU program, she added, her office has already given to the barangays the application forms and the list of business establishments operating at their own respective areas.

The village officials have released it already to the business owners during the issuance of barangay clearance.

Calleja said that through the reduction of steps in this new system, her office has been decongested in this year’s issuance of business permits because the other related work for processing clearances and permits are already being done in the barangays.

Through the one-stop shop scheme that this city is implementing, the processing of business permits of the owners of establishments is now very simple and efficient.

"They, however, can no longer go to the other buildings to get the other requirements because all the requirements to be complied with before they can operate their business can already be had from representatives of concerned offices," Calleja said.

These include the clearances at the offices of the Legazpi City Engineering, Health, Bureau of Fire Protection and other concerned units. The one-stop shop scheme is the process of reducing the time consumed in claiming business permits.

Through this system, Calleja said, the BPLS Office has courtesy lanes for pregnant women, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

Legazpi City was recognized by the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo as one of the most Business Friendly Local Government Units in the entire country in 2011 through the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Response to Eliminate Red Tape and the effectiveness of the delivery of basic services of issuing business permits in the locality. (PNA) RMA/FGS/EPS/CBD/SSC

3 people die, Php 318.7M in damages left by Storm 'Amang' in Bicol
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- At least three persons died and hundreds of millions in agriculture crops were lost as Tropical Storm "Amang" left the Bicol Region, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said Tuesday.

Killed were Domingo Tablate, 69, of Barangay Antipolo Del Norte, in Virac, Catanduanes, who drowned when flood waters swept him on Sunday; Arlene Aguilar, 48, who was buried alive when landslide hit their residence in Barangay Tawig, Paracale, Camarines Norte; and Emmanuel Espinosa Andaya, 56, of Purok 1, Poblacion 3, Vinzons town, Camarines Norte, according to Bernardo Alejandro, RDRRMC chair and Office of Civil Defense regional director.

The OCD estimated that damages to agriculture crops were partially placed at Php 249.5 million with the province of Camarines Sur having the vast agriculture losses at Php 187.3 million, followed by Sorsogon with Php 23.2 million in damages, Albay-Php 12.3 million, Camarines Norte – Php 6.9 million, and Masbate, with only Php 857,900.

High-value crops damages also reached Php 19.5 million, the report said.

Damages to public infrastructure (road and bridges) were placed at Php 49.7 million.

Government engineers were able to clear all road networks affected by flooding and landslides, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.

Power, water and communication facilities in Bicol provinces have resumed normal operation, except in some areas in Camarines Norte.

Storm Amang totally destroyed 50 houses while 221 house were partially damaged.

Commercial plane carriers resumed regular flights in Bicol on Monday. (PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Monday, January 19, 2015

Contingents from typhoon-hit areas win in 2015 Sinulog Grand Parade

CEBU CITY, Jan. 19 (PNA) -- Contingents from storm-hit areas dominated the ritual showdown of the 35th Sinulog Grand Parade Sunday at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC).

The winners were announced at past 9 p.m. Sunday at the CCSC.

Tribu Buyoganon of Abuyog, Leyte stripped local favorite Lumad Basakanon of Barangay Basak San Nicolas, Cebu City, of its title as champion in this year’s Free-Interpretation category.

Buyoganon bested 22 other contingents including two other out-of-town groups as it showcased the town’s Buyogan Festival.

The group’s ritual presentation followed the storyline of a bee getting wounded by a giant praying-mantis which was saved by the Holy Child.

Clad in stripes of orange and black, the contingent wowed the judges with its “innovation.”

Tribu Buyoganon bagged the first prize in the free interpretation category of the Sinulog Grand Parade in 2011 and second place in 2009.

The damage brought by super typhoon Yolanda prevented them from joining last year’s competition.

On top of the major prize, Buyoganon was named best in musicality and fourth runner-up in street dancing to win an additional Php100,000 and Php300,000, respectively.

On the other hand, the Kulturang Placereno from Placer, Masbate got the top prize in the Sinulog-based category where it bested 20 other contingents.

The contingent impressed the judges with their effective use of energy efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) lights.

Tribu Buyoganon and Kultrang Placereno came from the typhoon-stricken areas of provinces of Leyte and Masbate.

Other winners for the Free-interpretation include Tribu Lingganay of Alang-Alang, Leyte (second), Tribu Himag-ulaw of Placer, Masbate (third), Tribu Katbalaugan of Catbalogan City, Samar (fourth), and Lumad Basakanon (fifth).

Other Sinulog-based category winners are Sinanduloy Cultural Troupe of Tangub City (second), Carcar City Division (third), Tuburan National High School, Cebu Province (fourth), and Talisay City (fifth).

Tribu Lingganay also earned the distinction for Best in Costume while Tribu Buyoganon got the Best in Musicality for Free-interpretation category.

Sinaduloy and Carcar City took home the Best in Costume and Best in Musicality, respectively for the Sinulog-based category.

For street dancing category, Lumad Basakanon won the top spot followed by Sinanduloy (second), Kulturang Placereno (third) and Tribu Lingganay (fifth).

The first place winners in the Sinulog-based, Free Interpretation, and street dancing categories will receive Php1 million each; the second place winners will receive Php700,000; the third place winners will receive Php500,000; the fourth place winners will receive Php300,000; and the fifth place winners will receive Php200,000.

There were 44 contingents in all, 23 for Free-Interpretation and 21 for Sinulog-based categories.

Judge Chris Millado, artistic director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, said it was a close competition this year, although, the judges unanimously agreed on the top five placements.

“The quality of the artistry was quite high. We can see the innovation stage craft like proper use of different sets. And they showed stories in the dance,” he said.

The presentation of the 450th year of ‘Kaplag’ or the discovery of the historical miraculous image of the Santo Niño and the presence of the Augustinian order in the country, and the 50th year of the elevation of the Santo Niño church as a Basilica Minore top-billed the Sinulog Grand Parade.

Hundreds of performers reenacted the discovery of the Holy Child during the Spanish expedition in 1565 led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who was tasked by the Order of St. Augustine missionaries and who accompanied the voyage to celebrate the unearthing of the image.

They also reenacted the establishment of the Augustinian Recollects when they started building churches and spreading Christianity in the archipelago also in 1565, and the commencement of the Sinulog celebration in Cebu in 1980.

The Sinulog was capped by a glittering finale highlighted by seven Cebuana beauties, namely, Aliwan Festival Queens Steffi Aberasturi (2014), Angeli Dione Gomez (2012), Rogelie Catacutan (2011), Rizzini Alexis Gomez (2010), Sian Elizabeth Maynard (2009), and Jamie Herrell (2013); and Miss Intercontinental 2nd runner up Kris Tiffany M. Janson, who performed a Sinulog dance along with hundreds of artists from different colleges and universities in the city.

The affair ended with a fireworks display. (PNA) FFC/EB

DOH lauds Catanduanes move to care for mental patients
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 18 (PNA) – After counting some 300 island residents suffering from mental health disorders, the provincial government of Catanduanes is firming up the establishment of psychiatric care units—a move that earned the applause of the regional health office based here.

“Great move,” Department of Health (DOH) Regional Director Gloria Balboa over the weekend said, referring to a report from Catanduanes Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief Dr. Hazel Palmes.

In her report to Balboa, Palmes said the provincial government under Gov. Araceli Wong has decided to set up acute psychiatric units in four towns that are strategically distributed within the province.

These facilities will cater to the need for proper care of the about 300 residents of the province who are suffering from different forms of mental disorder.

The Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP) of the World Health Organization listed bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia, depression, dementia, developmental disorders -- including autism and intellectual disabilities -- as among the most common mental health problems

They are generally characterized by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behavior and relationships with others.

The provincial government-run public hospitals -- Caramoran Municipal Hospital; Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital in Bato town; Gigmoto District Hospital in the municipality of Gigmoto; and Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Caramoan -- will house these proposed new facilities, according to Palmes' report.

Given the number, Balboa said, the need to address the problem of mental healthcare in the province is indeed a necessity and the Bicol regional Center for Health and Development (CHD) is supportive of this move.

The idea was hatched during the recent training on the Early Recognition and Management of Common Mental Health Disorders conducted by a team from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) to orient local health practitioners on the proper way of diagnosing and attending to mental health cases, the PHO chief said.

After the training, which lasted for five days, the team headed by NCMH executive director Dr. Bernardo Vicente inspected the hospitals recommended to house the psychiatric units to assess its facilities and suggested means as to how they could comply with the requirements.

The training was part of a continuing program under the WHO-MHGAP aimed at scaling up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders involving indigent patients in developing countries.

Apart from conducting trainings, the program through the NCMH also deploys psychiatrists or mental health workers in areas needing their services.

Under the proposed psychiatric unit project, Palmes explained that the Catanduanes provincial government, through the PHO, will organize community-based mental health teams which shall hold lectures to provide information to the public on how to manage mental health problems at home.

Each team, composed of locally-trained doctors and other medical personnel, will continuously conduct regular visits to monitor patients and provide them maintenance medicines.

This will enable the teams to solve the problem of accommodating patients in the hospital without compromising their mental health needs.

Acute cases will be confined at the designated hospital, Palmes said.

Cases beyond the capability of the locally-trained mental healthcare workers, she said, will be referred to specialists outside the province or to the Don Susano Rodriguez Memorial Mental Hospital in Pili, Camarines Sur -- the lone Mental Health Care Facility in the region being run by the government-owned Bicol Medical Center based in Naga City.

This mental hospital has a 200-bed capacity including five male wards, a strap room and an isolation room.

Patient management can also be done through consultations via Internet-connected computers called telepsychiatry and in cases involving more difficult patients, NCMH specialists may provide occasional visits to the province, Palmes said.

Balboa said providing attention to psychotic cases is one big problem confronting the DOH, considering the scarcity of psychiatrists practicing in the country and concentrated in Metro Manila with only a few based in Bicol, particularly in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Masbate.

The country has only around 500 psychiatrists and among the reasons for this small number is that this line of medical specialization is not a mainstream practice unlike general medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology and cardiology, among others, she said.

Another problem, Balboa said, is that families have the tendency to hide their mental patients, denying them professional treatments—reason why they get worse, not knowing that appropriate treatment could cure the illness and bring back patients to their normal personality.

To address this problem Balboa said, separate examination rooms for mental patients should be prepared to ensure privacy and confidentiality as without these isolated facilities, families are discouraged from submitting their patients to hospitals.

Palmes told Balboa in the report that the Catanduanes provincial government has scheduled the opening of these local mental healthcare facilities by next year.

The DOH regional office is elated over this project that will certainly help provide effective treatments and social services for mental disorders and alleviate the patients’ sufferings, Balboa added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Army to evacuate residents in landslide-prone Albay village
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- The Philippine Army will dispatch four military trucks to Barangay Inang Maharang in Manito, Albay to evacuate about 50 families or 300 persons as a result of a landslide that trapped them on Sunday.

Col. Perfecto Penaredondo, PA 2nd Infantry Battalion commander based in the area, said his command immediately learned about the incident from the Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary members living in Barangay Inang Maharang.

Penaredondo said he quickly sent a responding unit headed by Corporal Bermido to check on the situation.

The trapped villagers were temporarily sheltered in three houses due to the threat of typhoon"Amang" when the landslide occurred.

Penaredondo said the soil in the area softened due to continuous rains before Amang came.

He asked the residents to thank God for their being saved during the landslide that could have swallowed the three houses and could have caused their lives.

"God is good," Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, Provincial Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council chair, exclaimed upon knowing about the incident.

Salceda immediately instructed Dr. Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office chief, to coordinate with concerned agencies like the Office of Civil Defense Bicol, PAF Tactical Ooperations Group 5, 901st Infantry Brigade and 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Bureau of Fire Protection 5, Special Response Unit of the PNP-Bicol and other response units for immediate actions.

He also asked Daep to assist the local government officials of Manito town.

The Provincial Government of Albay will bring food and other provisions to the affected families early Monday morning.(PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/

5291 passengers stranded in Bicol ports
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- A total of 5,291 passengers, 587 vehicles and two sea vessels were stranded in the various ports of the Bicol Region as of 11:00 a.m. Sunday.

The breakdown of those stranded in the ports are: Tabaco City -- 550 passengers and 32 vehicles; Rapu-Rapu, Albay -- two vessels; Pioduran, Albay -- 225 passengers; 36 vehicles; Sorsogon City -- 1,729 passengers and 349 vehicles; Matnog, Sorsogon -- 2,538 passengers and 143 vehicles; Pilar, Sorsogon -- 118 passengers, two vessels and 11 vehicles; Bulan, Sorsogon -- 56 passengers; Masbate City -- 10 passengers, five vessels and three vehicles; Aroroy, Masbate -- one vehicle; Cataingan, Masbate -- 65 passengers, one vessel and 12 vehicles.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said there would be an improving weather for Albay and the rest of Bicol though it will remain cloudy with possible scattered light rain showers on Sunday afternoon.

An earlier report that 10 persons were believed killed by a landslide in Manito, Albay, the Manito Municipal Police Ooffice and Army men conducted an initial verification and found out that those reported trapped in two houses are now in safe grounds. (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD

Mother, son serious after using IED in catching fish explodes By Eduardo M. Casulla

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- A 17-year-old mother, her two-year-old son and her live-in partner are now in serious condition in a hospital after an improvised explosive device being used in dynamite fishing exploded on Saturday morning on Zapanta St., Barangay San Andres, Pandan, Catanduanes.

A police report identified the victims who were rushed to the Pandan District Hospital as Geneva Barro, 17; her son Genson "Jing" Barro, 2, and her live-in partner Jason Icaranom, 40, jobless and a person with disability -- all residents of the place.

The report said the incident was witnessed by Geneva's grandmother, Marcela Castro, who was then hanging newly washed clothes at about 11:40 a.m.

It added that Icaranom was smoking at the sala of their house and was holding a jacket when the IED suddenly exploded, injuring the three victims.

The three were rushed to the hospital by responding neighbors for immediate treatment. (PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/