Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DepEd-Bicol mobile teacher is IP's local hero
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

TIWI, Albay, March 27 (PNA) -- Amar P. Canicula, 37, father of five children whose ages range from six months to eight years old, has been a mobile teacher of the Department of Education-Alternative Learning School for seven years now.

A resident of Malinao town, Canicula works with under-served communities in the upland villages of this town, specifically with the indigenous people (IP) —the Agta-Tabangnon tribe.

As a mobile teacher, he travels on a motorcycle or on foot, crosses rivers, hikes from cliff to cliff of mountains and negotiates the sea to reach his learners or students.

But before going to his learners, mostly indigenous people, he distributes the food he brings with him to at least 15 to 20 people as well as biscuits and bread to toddlers who are being carried by mothers with them in the school to attend class sessions.

Canicula holds classes either in the tribal hall, under the trees, barangay hall and houses which can accommodate the learners. Sometimes, he also serves as a nanny of the toddlers in school to enable their mothers or fathers to attend to their lessons.

The mobile teacher educates his learners through the aid of technology.

Using the power of technology (laptop, projector and power bank) makes Math, Science and English easy and more exciting for teachers as it bolsters teaching methods, being a highly effective visual aid for teachers and learners here.

It creates an interactive focused learning environment in the classroom which makes the learners eager to go to school, as even their children are attentive to the lessons.

Canicula said utilizing technology gives the underprivileged learners a chance to gain access to the information technology revolution, a modern kind of education being enjoyed by children in urban areas and around the world.

He said technology widens educational materials in the classroom to ensure high-quality and standard teaching among the IPs learners. His learners are 50 years old, out-of-school youths, adults, indigenous people and school dropouts.

To see the way of life of a mobile teacher, this reporter once went with Canicula in the hinterland of Sitio Mayharige, Misibis village, some 18 to 20 kilometers away from the town proper.

He, the district coordinator and this writer trekked for about five to six kilometers uphill as the motorcycle they were riding could no longer pass through to the treacherous trail.

Upon reaching the tribal community, Canicula was like a hero to the indigenous people.

The teacher said he is putting the IPs' needs first before introducing the DepEd ALS program.

He said that before empowering the communities, he conducted mapping, and organized the community after a house-to-house visit to identify the dropouts.

He worked with barangay and municipal officials to help him introduce the government’s free education program for the poorest of the poor.

Despite limited resources and passing through the hurdles, Canicula slowly encouraged the under-served communities to go back to school at their most convenient time.

“As a mobile teacher, I have encountered a lot of struggles and difficulties, dealing with barangay officials, on how the indigenous people can pursue education for free. Nevertheless, my passion to work with the community is even stronger despite complexities. Working with the less fortunate and uneducated indigenous people is challenging as I have to widen my horizon, patience and tolerance,” Canicula said.

But once he has convinced the learners to embrace education with their limited time, it’s like a “bingo” -- winning the “lottery,” he said.

"This means, we can lessen uneducated Filipinos and contribute to government’s mission of attaining the Millennium Development Goals,” he said.

Feliz Condeno, 55 and Federation Tribal chieftain of Agta-Tabangnon, said that of the 3,000 IPs, half of them are currently beneficiaries of the ALS program after Canicula organized them.

“We’re happy that Sir Amar Canicula was assigned here because through him the tribal communities are now having free education and are now empowered, specifically that his family assisted one of our tribal members, Marilyn Competente, who is now set to graduate from college. She is the first tribal member who will finish college education, become a teacher and share her leaning to our group due to Sir Amar’s help,” Condeno said.

Canicula is highly respected in the tribal community and regarded as a hero whenever he visits his learners on a house-to-house basis to personally know their concerns.

Rosie P. Lladoc, DepEd Alternative Learning Center Education Program Division supervisor, said the ALS program started in 2004 during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a non-formal education where the learners are required to attend 800 hours for them to have an accreditation and equivalency program from elementary to be admitted to secondary or tertiary level.

“Learners are not required to attend classes everyday in a room like in the normal school as it fits within their most convenient time. Our mobile teachers spend their own money, aside from the risks from both sides (communist insurgents and military). But, I told them that if the area is dangerous, they should not compromise their safety,” Lladoc said.

However, she said that mobile teachers must be friendly to both sides as they are sent to under-served community to deliver education for all targets as ALS is the lifeblood of government’s education for all.

The ALS' priority target is 16 to 77 years old across the country with 10.5 million population based on 2004 data while the second priority are 1,842,058 aged 6-11 years old and 12-15 years old (16,282,343 or 20 percent of the 82 million population, based on 2004 NSO survey given to DepEd). According to Valles, the ALS program is appropriate but not sufficient as the DepEd curriculum does not reflect the IP's rights while IP curriculum programs offered by other lead agencies are not recognized by the education department.

She said the development of indigenous peoples’ core curriculum is needed to provide an IP alternative learning system acceptable to the IPs in general and to specific communities.

Currently, the DepEd-Albay division has fielded 24 mobile teachers, 24 mobile district coordinators and 13 literacy volunteers.

The ALS mobile teacher delivers the mode of ALS programs and lives among the people in remote barangays of the country to conduct intensive community-based training for illiterate out-of-school youth and adults who are willing to learn basic literacy skills.

The ALS mobile teacher program of the DepEd makes education accessible to out-of-school youths and adults who live in far-flung barangays across the country.

It has raised the level of literacy in the target areas as well as improve the quality of life of individuals and families in remote and under-served communities.

This is in line with the concept of bringing education where the learners are.

The ALS Mobile Teacher Program is an immediate response to the demand of millions of target learners for relevant and accessible alternative learning system.

Across the country, there are 600 mobile teachers deployed to areas where the unreached and under-served population of the country are.

The ALS mobile teachers are bachelor's degree holders and are duly licensed professional teachers who perform various duties and responsibilities that range from the conduct of learning sessions with the learners, development of literacy and other related skills based on the ALS competencies, establishment of functional networking and reporting system, conduct of action-research activity and other related functions.

The target sites and communities for this program are those with high illiteracy rate, big number of out-of-school youths and adults and identified strong republic schools (SRS) barangays.

The ALS mobile teachers help improve the quality of their lives and help them become useful members of their communities by helping them read, write and compute through a free education program intended for those who cannot afford formal schooling in Philippines. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Another top NPA Bicol commander falls
By Danny O. Calleja

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, March 30 (PNA) -- The headquarters of the Philippine Army’s (PA) 903rd Infantry Brigade based here on Monday announced the capture of another top commander of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bicol.

Col. Cesar Idio, the brigade commander, identified the recently captured rebel leader as Jesus Guelas alias Ka Insoy who served as head of the provincial unit of the NPA in Sorsogon and a prominent member of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

He was arrested by joint elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and PA during a raid on his safe house in Barangay Guinablan Occidental, Matnog, Sorsogon last March 27, Idio said.

The lawmen were armed with various warrants of arrest for murder and rebellion charges in arresting Guelas, the Army official said.

A .45-caliber pistol and an improvised explosive devise weighing around five kilograms were recovered from the suspect during the raid, the military commander added.

Guelas was the second high-ranking Bicol NPA leader arrested by government operatives in three months.

His arrest, according to Idio, was preceded by the discovery of an abandoned NPA training camp in inside a cave in Ticao Island of Masbate province.

PA troopers who discovered the rebel camp in Barangay Danao, San Jacinto, Masbate, last March 20 found a motorcycle and several other rebel paraphernalia inside it, he said.

First to fall before Guelas was Reynaldo Hugo, said to be the commanding officer of the regional operational command of the NPA in the region, who was nabbed by a joint-police and military operatives last Jan. 27.

The arrest of Hugo, who is also listed by the military as an executive member of the BRPC, came when operatives of the 9th Infantry Division (ID) of the PA based in Pili, Camarines Sur and the Bicol regional police intelligence division, armed with warrants of arrest, swooped into his hiding place in Barangay Gulod, Cabuyao, Laguna.

Hugo -- who used several aliases such as Cielo, Yulo, Bermas, Pitoy and Alex -- did not resist arrest when served the warrants for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, according to 9th ID commander Maj. Gen. Yerson Desapayo in an earlier statement.

The alleged NPA regional commander was identified as among the perpetrators in the 2011 killing of PA’s Private First Class (Pfc.) Larry Magalong in Labo, Camarines Norte.

Hugo’s group is also suspect in the 2012 ambush of a PA Bayanihan Team in Barangay Maot of the same municipality which resulted in the death of military personnel identified as Cpl. Amado Perillo Jr, Pfc. Paulo Orticio and Pfc. Teodoro Ojeda Jr.

That incident also resulted in the death of Francisco Ruales and the wounding of Marlon Matibag, both civilians and residents of the same barangay, who were hit by stray bullets, Desapayo said.

In the statement, the military commander said he has lauded the PA and PNP personnel involved in the arrest of these two NPA top leaders as the undertaking could give justice to the victims of atrocities perpetrated by the NPA under them.

Both Guelas and Hugo are now in jail here and in Camarines Norte, respectively, and awaiting trial by the court for the criminal offenses they are accused of, according to the military. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

Legazpi City takes path to Hall of Fame in this year’s search for Gawad Kalasag awards (with photo)
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA Features) – Fresh from winning the national championship crown of the Gawad Kalasag Awards—its second in two consecutive years, the local government here is taking this year the final segment of its path leading to the Hall of Fame of the same contest.

Attesting to facts that this key Bicol metropolis--officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the country today, is indeed a place where everyone is safe from both natural and man-made calamities, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) last Thursday awarded to the city government the same crown it first won in 2013.

The national championship crown represents the city government’s continuing excellence in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) performed by its City DRRM Council (CDRRMC) that once again proved its supremacy in this area of local governance over other component and independent cities in the country.

The award was conferred at Camp Aguinaldo to City Mayor Noel Rosal and CDRRMC action officer Wilfredo “Pecos” Intia by NRRRMC Chair and National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and NDRRMC Executive Director and Civil Defense Administrator Alexander Pama during awarding ceremonies in conclusion of the 2014 search for the 16th Gawad Kalasag.

Other than this city, 27 other winners -- including Barangay Oro Site here which also retained the national championship crown it won in the 2013 search for the Best DRRMC in the Urban Barangay Category--were also awarded during the occasion.

Gawad Kalasag is a nationwide award being given yearly in recognition of the outstanding performances of local government units (LGUs) including barangays as well as civil society organizations, private and public service institutions and volunteer groups in DRRM and in humanitarian assistance.

Launched in 1998, the awards project is among the national government’s mechanism in obtaining sustained commitment and support from DRRM practitioners in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks by recognizing their exceptional contributions.

Kalasag stands for Kalamidad at Sakuna, Labanan, Sariling Galing ang Kaligtasan and since the 2014 championship crowns were second in two consecutive years for both the city and Barangay Oro Site, they would be gunning for the Hall of Fame in this year’s search.

“While we have already proven the excellence of our DRRM, our obsession now is focused on improvements toward perfection not only to land in the Hall of Fame of Gawad Kalasag but primarily on sustaining our attainment of ‘zero casualty’ and resilience in the face of disasters,” Rosal told the Philippines News Agency on Monday.

That awarded excellence does not erase the fact that calamities remain a threat given the city’s geographical setting that is exposed to typhoons, volcanic eruptions and other forms of natural hazards so, “we have to work for more”, Rosal, who also heads the CDRRMC as its chair, said.

“This inspires us towards ensuring further that the city is indeed a very livable place not only for Legazpeños but also for the thousands of people coming on a year-round basis to our place as tourists, visitors, students, shoppers, businessmen and delegates of dozens of national and international conventions, seminars, conferences, sports competitions and other grand occasions that choose the city as venue,” he said.

The city was cited last year as among the three winners in the first Livable City Challenge organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

Iloilo City won the first place followed by this city which got the second spot and by Cebu that placed third in that competition which measured their respective strategic visions and plans for a resilient and livable city.

For Barangay Oro Site chieftain Joseph Philip Lee, this latest award serves as an affirmation of their BDRRMC’s being the country’s model in its category in DRRM programs and a challenge for them to sustain its gains in the coming years.

Lee said, he dedicates this new national championship award to all the people of Oro Site who have been very supportive of the BDRRMC in making the barangay calamity-resilient and every household disaster-ready and vigilant all the time.

“We intend to improve further from what we have achieved which gave us the award for the second time. This will be done by way of learning more on disaster preparedness, mitigation and resiliency from national agencies promoting the same, among them the NDRRMC and the Department of Science and Technology,” he said.

According to Intia, the city and Barangay Oro Site won the Gawad Kalasag National Awards for the second time this year because both the CDRRMC and BDRRMC achieved the national framework for disaster management required by the NDRRMC – which includes the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and rescue and rehabilitation and recovery.

“We got our toughness against calamities from the painful lessons we’ve had from various disasters several years back—one of them was the February 1993 Mt. Mayon eruption that killed 75 villagers of the city who were caught by the sudden avalanche of super-hot volcanic materials while farming at the lower slope of the volcano,” Intia said.

After that incident, the city government worked on the permanent relocation to a safer place of all residents in barangays within the danger zone of the volcano, he said.

The other one was from the catastrophic impact of two super typhoons — "Milenyo" and "Reming" that battered in late 2006 the city as severely as if it was the doomsday, killing over 1,200 people who were swept by the massive flashflood that hit some of its low-lying barangays.

“Amid those devastating scenarios, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work towards speedy recovery,” he recalled.

Now, life does not only continue to bloom in this city after those disasters but it has also been getting livelier and highly livable as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high not only in DRRM but also in tourism and private business investments leading towards inclusive growth and development, he added. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Priest urges Filipinos to love earth everyday
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) -- “For the love of our children and upcoming generations, let’s protect the earth everyday. Earth Hour celebration should not be one day but must be every single day of our lives,” Fr. Herbert Canar said in a Holy Mass during the Earth Hour celebration here held at Albay’s Penaranda Park on Saturday night.

The Earth Hour observation here was participated in by the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources led by Director Roberto D. Sheen, Supt. Marlo S. Meneses and Senior Board Member Glenda Ong-Bongao.

Cops and soldiers wearing black t-shirts formed the "I Love Albay" slogan with flashlights put on their heads and vowed to help protect the earth for the upcoming generation.

For his part, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said in a statement, “We need to work together to help and lessen the world’s carbon emission. Adaptation actions alone, no matter how purposive and massive, will not stall the intensifying climate related hazards. GHG mitigation by a few countries will also not make a dent in the problem. That is why the Philippines will do its share in mitigation”.

The Philippines, according to Salceda, contributes 0.31 percent of the aggregate carbon emissions or 159 metric tons (MT) of CO2 in 2010. It is ranked 159th on GHG per capita basis versus 127th in income per capita.

He said that Philippines has ranked among the Top 3 most at risk countries in the world to natural hazards since 2011.

In 2014, it ranked second because of urban exposure.

The World Humanitarian Trend of 2014 reported that “the overall number of large-scale natural disasters has slowly decreased, but disasters associated with the effects of climate increased.”

“The bottom-line thinking is by switching off light and energy-consuming devices, we reduce carbon emission, then we will contribute to the reduction of global warming, thereby reducing the negative impact of climate change,” Salceda said.

In 2012, carbon emission in the Bicol Region was at 80,456.95 or 23 sanitary landfill-size full of carbon (since a sanitary landfill can hold 3,800 tons per year), the governor said.

“Stationary sources such as gas stations power plants and the likes account for 523 tons per year; mobile sources, 79.9 tons a year; and area sources to include households account for 46,673 tons per year. Hundreds of tons of carbon emission will again be saved from going into the atmosphere as we celebrate Earth Hour for one hour,” he said.

“It is hoped that this show of force will also redound to greater participation of switching off unused lights, beyond this 'hour'. The chain begins at reducing carbon emission or by using less energy in our homes, offices, workplace, in the cities. Only then can we speak of being able to punch a hole in this cycle for us to concretely say yes, we are leading such initiatives,” Salceda said.

Earth Hour is an hour-long event which started in Australia in 2007. It was conceptualized to take a stand against climate change which has been considered the “greatest threat” the planet has ever faced, and uses the simple action of turning off lights for an hour to deliver a powerful message on the need for climate change solutions.

Meanwhile, as the Albayanos observed the Earth Hour on Saturday night, a red Toyota car with plate number ZMV-650 park in front of Albay Capitol annex was set on fire.

The incident took place while Fr. Herbert Canar was concelebrating the Holy Mass at Penaranda Park at 7:00 p.m.

The Bureau of Fire Protection immediately responded to put out the fire. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

DPWH-Bicol reactivates road assistance teams to work 24/7 for Lenten motorists
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) –The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has reactivated its assistance teams to render services to motorists along major thoroughfares in the region 24/7 during the customary influx of travelers these Lenten holidays.

Starting at dawn of Holy Monday until noontime of Easter Sunday, the teams will be seen along Andaya Highway from Camarines Norte to Camarines Sur, Maharlika Highway from Camarines Sur down to Sorsogon and National Highway in Partrido Area of Camarines Sur, DPWH Regional Director Melvin Navarro said.

At least 12 Motorists’ Assistance Centers to be manned by the teams will be established in conspicuous places along these major arterial roads.

They will be located at the Camarines Norte’s Tabugon Section junction of Andaya Highway and; Gaongan, Sipocot, GAD Building, Pamplona, Concepcion Grande, Naga City, Sta. Teresita, Baao, Lourdes Young, Nabua and Caraycayon, Tigaon -- all in Camarines Sur

In Albay, the teams will be stationed in front of the DPWH’s 3rd District Engineering Office (DEO)in Barangay Paulog, Ligao City; in Busay, Daraga to be manned by teams from second DEO; and Basud, Sto. Domingo, by the first DEO.

In Sorsogon, teams under the first DEO will be fielded at the Dona Pepita Park of Barangay Bucalbucalan, Sorsogon City, and the second DEO will man the assistance center in Barangay San Pedro, Irosin, Navarro said.

Assistance centers will not only be installed in the mainland provinces but also in Bicol’s islands of Catanduanes and Masbate, he said.

There will be four stations in Catanduanes and 12 to cover the Masbate mainland and its two sub-islands of Ticao and Burias, Navarro said.

This motorist assistance program dubbed as “Lakbay Alalay” is in coordination with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local government units (LGUs), the DPWH regional chief said.

All these assistance centers will be manned by engineers, car mechanics, equipment operators and other service crewmen who will give free roadside emergency repair and other assistance to motorists during the long holidays, he said.

At the DPWH regional office in Barangay Rawis here, Navarro said, a skeletal workforce from the Maintenance Division will man the office to receive reports from field offices and to render other emergency services required during the holidays.

For the safety and convenience of the motoring public, all district engineers in the region are under instruction to expedite necessary road maintenance activities, including the installation of legible informational and directional signs along Bicol’s national road network, he said.

“We expect a heavy volume of motorists during the holidays because of the coming of tourists and vacationers. The Lenten is also the season for the traditional homecoming of Bicolanos who are now living outside the region and abroad,” Navarro said.

Almost all parts of Bicol from Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate have been favorite destinations of eco-tourists and summer vacationers owing to the massive tourism industry development that both the national and local governments have been instituting in the region, he added.

Camarines Norte is famous for its Bagasbas Beach in Daet and “virgin island” destinations such as the Calaguas, a group of landmass in the Pacific Ocean whose administrative jurisdiction belongs to Vinzons town.

The area offers an unforgettable beach time with its pristine, powdery white sand, picturesque scenery and a truly blue sea that is a swimming, snorkeling and sea creatures and corals watching delight.

Calaguas is a tourism wonder appreciated by tourists for its natural configuration minus the development of resorts and other permanent structures, making it one of the spectacular secrets of exquisite and unspoiled postcard-perfect beaches and rich coral gardens, promising dive sites and world-class surfing sites that open into the pacific.

Camarines Sur is home to the Patroness of Bicol--Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City that is the most visited religious spot in the region.

The Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC) and Gota Village Resort in Caramoan Island are the other leading tourist attractions of the province.

In Albay, apart from the view of majestic Mayon Volcano, the Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga town and the beaches in the municipality of Sto. Domingo are main tourism features.

This provincial capital known worldwide as the “City of Fun and Adventure” is where the Bicol tourism road usually ends owing to the exciting experiences its urban life and eco-tourism facilities offer.

The city’s most visited places are the Legazpi Boulevard, a four-kilometer modern roadway featuring a wide shoulder for joggers, walkers and bikers along the Albay Gulf and the Ligñon Hill Natural Park that sits atop a peak that offers an exciting 360-degree view of the cityscape, the picturesque Albay Gulf and the entire edifice of Mt. Mayon.

Sorsogon, on the other hand, is famous for the whale sharks of Donsol and the island beaches of Matnog; Catanduanes for the majestic Puraran surfing destination and other eco-tourism wonders while Masbate boasts of its Manta Ray Bowl off Ticao Island and other exciting natural wonders. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Albay bishop urges flock to abstain from using communication gadgets during Holy Week

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) -- Albay Bishop Joel Baylon on Sunday urged his parishioners to abstain from turning on their communication gadgets, watching television and listening to radio program during the Holy Week.

Baylon aired the appeal during his sermon in the Palm Sunday Mass at the Saint Gregory Cathedral here.

Baylon said it would be a meaningful observance during the days of Lent if people would rather turn off their tablets, cell phones, televisions and radios and instead pray and make recollection of the passion of Jesus Christ.

He said by abstaining from using these gadgets the faithful would have an opportunity to read the Bible, reflect, talk and hear the word of the Almighty God.

Baylon made the appeal after observing the current habit of parishioners, especially the youth and middle-aged persons, to engage in texting and spending hours on Facebook.

Others spend their time on the beach or, when at home, watch television and listen to their favorite music.

The Bishop’s appeal was immediately posted at Facebook walls and gathered positive comments. Albay Governor Joey Salceda also commented, saying that he supports the appeal although “exempted are hazard warning communications.”

Thousand of parishioners carrying palm branches trooped the Penaranda Park to celebrate Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday which marked the beginning of the Holy Week.

Bishop Baylon, assisted by priests and 12 people clad in apostles' wear, officiated the blessing of the palm branches being waived by the parishioners during the ceremony, after which he led the hundreds of parishioners in entering the jam-packed Saint Gregory the Great Cathedral for the Holy Mass.

Bishop Baylon, the leader of the Albay Diocese, was greeted by people waiving their palm branches as he entered the church. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/

Friday, March 27, 2015

(Feature) Albay Agta lass to graduate from college as first DepEd ALS learner
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

TIWI, Albay, March 25 (PNA) -- For the first time, an Agta lass here is set to graduate in college on March 27 under the special education system of the Department of Education -- the Alternative Learning System.

Marilyn “Lyn” Competente, 20, of the Agta-Tabangnon tribe, will be receiving her diploma after successfully completing all the requirements needed for the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education.

Lyn is the fourth children of couple Luis and Anesia Competente, whose residence is located at the foothill of Barangay Joroan in this town.

She is the first member of the family among nine siblings who will receive a diploma from the Tiwi Community College through the ALS program of the DepEd.

Lyn was able to go to college through the assistance of Amar Canicula, a DepEd mobile teacher assigned in this town.

She was a freshman high school dropout at the Naga High School and was encouraged by Canicula to pursue her education through the ALS program.

Before entering college, the young Agta woman worked in Manila as a house helper but went home in Joroan upon the instruction of her parents to attend the tribal gathering held in the Joroan tribal hall.

The tribal gathering then was organized by Canicula to inform and introduce to the indigenous communities the government’s vital program on free education under the Alternative Learning System being offered by the DepEd for the poorest of the poor and indigenous people.

At first, Lyn was reluctant to pursue her schooling due to poverty but Canicula, whose wife is also a public school teacher in the secondary level (formal school), offered to Competente’s family his help for Lyn to pursue her education.

Lyn was a consistent honor pupil in elementary but opted to stop schooling to help her parents find finances to feed the family though she wished much to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.

Her dream came true after the Canicula family adopted her.

Lyn stayed at the Caniculas' home where she could study freely and go to school without budgetary constraints.

She took and passed the Accreditation and Equivalency (A and E) test, a ticket for her to be admitted in college.

Lyn said she was totally grateful to the Caniculas for making her dream possible.

“Thanks to my boss (Amar Canicula) and his family as they changed my life from nobody to somebody. Because of ALS, I was able to go to college for free. I am now an empowered Agta and as a person, my shyness is gone. Today, I can face anybody,” Lyn gladly said.

She said she could not thank the Canicula family enough "but my heart is chanting for joy, for profound gratitude. Soon I’ll be a teacher where I could walk the talk on the ALS program of DepEd like Sir Amar, the mobile teacher, the hero teacher of the poorest of the poor -- particularly our tribe Agta-Tabangnon,” Lyn said.

Rosie P. Lladoc, DepEd Alternative Learning Center Education Program supervisor, said the ALS program started in 2004 under the helm of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Lladoc explained that the ALS is a ladderized, modular non-formal education program in the country for dropouts in elementary and secondary schools, out-of-school youths, non-readers, working Filipinos and even senior citizens.

“Marilyn is the first IP that will graduate under ALS program. We’re very happy because through ALS, despite limited budget, we’re able to fly and provide light and hope to poorest of the poor family in the countryside like Marilyn through the help of our mobile teacher, Amar Canicula,” she said.

Lladoc explained that the ALS is a channel for the informal and poorest of the poor communities to achieve elementary and high school education without the need of attending classroom instructions on a daily basis, just like the formal education system.

The age level, economic and personal circumstances are among the determinants in availing oneself of the program.

The ALS program follows a uniform lesson module for all academic subjects covering science, mathematics, English, Filipino, social studies and current events, among others.

If a student has never reached the first grade, the student will be admitted in the Grade 1 level with the corresponding module of instruction given.

The student has to finish all the modules for the first grade level and pass assessment test before proceeding to the next level.

After successfully finishing all the modules, the student is given the comprehensive examinations prior to admission in the secondary level.

The procedure for the secondary level is the same as the elementary level.

Once the student graduates in the secondary level, he or she may enroll in the tertiary level without the need for attending the formal classroom system.

The ALS aims to provide the underprivileged an opportunity to finish their formal schooling under a regular curriculum.

Beneficiaries are given A and E modules, which will be used during the length of the program.

The program has two different schematics for conducting instruction; school-based and community-based.

In the school-based program, instructions are conducted in school campuses while in the community-based program, formal instructions are held in community halls, under the trees or on private places provided by the community.

“ALS is like a plane or like a candle, giving light in the dark," Lladoc said. (PNA) SCS/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

200 CARP beneficiaries in Albay attend DTI livelihood training

LEGAZPI CITY, March 26 (PNA) -- About 200 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beneficiaries from different Agrarian Reform Communities in Albay are participating in the livelihood training conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)–Albay Provincial Office on Wednesday.

Entitled “SMERA (Small Medium Enterprise Roving Academy) Para sa mga Negosyanteng Paraoma,” the training is being held at the Concourse Convention Hall here.

SMERA, which is a continuous learning program for the development of micro, small and medium enterprises, is designed to promote entrepreneurship and develop key competencies in opportunities searching, product development, marketing and other skills training.

The activity is part of the DTI’s continuing program to assist the CARP beneficiaries to further help them in enhancing their skills and knowledge in developing sustainable livelihood, and eventually prepare their products for the global market.

The training is being conducted through lectures, discussions, demonstrations and workshop.

It is divided into two courses: Productivity Seminar Course and Skills Training Course.

The first course involves topics on Marketing: Awareness and Strategy, Promotion of Green Economic Development: Green Farm Practices, and Updates on CARP Programs.

The second course includes topics on Agricultural Waste Conversion, Capacity Development on Raw Vegetable Processing, Fashion Accessories, and Technology Training on Corn and Root Crops By-product Conversion.

The DTI activity is in partnership with the DTI-CARP National Program Office and the Department of Agrarian Reform-Albay.

It is in line with the government’s thrust to address economic development in the countryside through the provision of alternative livelihood opportunities to the community residents and to agrarian reform beneficiaries.(PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD

Rodeo Masbateno gets full support from Masbate Gold Project

MASBATE CITY, March 26 (PNA) -- Preparations for the Rodeo Masbateno 2015 are now in full swing with full support from the Masbate Gold Project (MGP), a gold mining company in Aroroy, Masbate.

The Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), organizer of the festival, launched the celebration in February with an immediate assurance of support from the MGP.

The Rodeo Masbateno is the province's biggest tourism attraction held every second week of April.

Gene Gregorio, MGP communications director, said the company's active participation in the annual Rodeo festival is in line with its corporate social responsibility to promote tourism in the province for the common good of the Masbatenos.

The festival will start on April 5 and will end on April 18, however, the Rodeo finals will be on April 14-18.

The celebration will highlight competitions in cattle wrestling on foot, cattle wrestling on horseback, bull whipping, load carrying relay, cattle lassoing on horseback, carambola, casting down, bull riding and herding competitions.

It will also showcase, trade fair and livestock show which organizers claim to be the largest sports festival in the country.

MGP will also sponsor one of the nightly activities at the Rodeo Grand Stand (the Filminera Night) -- a beer plaza amusement with live performing bands to entertain the public.

The festival will start with a short horse parade with real-life cowboys demonstrating their whip-cracking skills down the street,

The RMI officers are led by Judge Manuel Sese as president.

Other events in the two-week festivities are parade of western-inspired floats and establishments, beef cooking contest, calesa ride and ranch tour, and the search for Mr. and Ms. Rodeo Philippines. (PNA) FPV/FGS/NBT/CBD/EDS

Albay Agta tribe adapts to extreme weather via indigenous ways
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

TIWI, Albay, March 26 (PNA) -- Lydia Ariate, 53, mother of four children and a resident of Sitio May Harige, an upland tribal sub-village of Barangay Misibis in this town, dwells in a house locally called by indigenous people as "kurob."

Made from indigenous materials, kurob is a tribal home built before the onset of weather disturbance to ensure the safety of the family even during disastrous typhoons like the deadly super typhoon "Reming" in 2006 that killed 1,500 people.

For the Agta-Tabangnon tribe in Albay, to which Ariate belongs, the effective and best ways to acclimatize themselves to the extreme weather events brought about by climate change are to plant camote (sweet potato) and to dwell in kurob for survival in times of bad weather.

Kurob is a unique type of house built by the Agtas using coconut or nipa leaves for walls and scissor-type wooden reinforcement to the roof structure.

It is a small, enclosed structure, a one-room enclosement that serves as living and sleeping room, kitchen and dining room with a wood flooring slightly elevated above the ground and several posts put in the ground with a scissor-type frame.

This tribal house can withstand the howling winds during typhoons that ravage the country every year, according to Erlinda Cereno, 47, tribal chieftain of Tabgon.

A unique feature of this house is the absence of iron nails for the entire framework as the indigenous people use rattan and "bakbak" (dried bark of the abaca) to tie the posts, walls, roofing and the frame of the house itself.

The Agtas use their special skill in tying the rattan and bakbak to ensure the resiliency of the kurob house.

To keep the structure safe and steady even with the howling winds, sturdy hard wood formed like scissors is placed on top.

“Nipa huts were our original houses but in times of bad weather, we build individual or community kurob in the mountain for our survival. Kurob house is a proven structure since time immemorial, according to our ancestors, which was confirmed effective during 'Reming' wherein only kurob withstood the deadly typhoon while almost all houses in the lowland were flattened to the ground,” Cereno said.

Felix Condeno, 55, Agta-Tabangnon Federation Tribal chieftain in Tiwi town, said even long before scientists, local officials and disaster responders adapted to the adverse impact of climate change, the tribal communities here had already instituted their adaptive capability as taught by their ancestors.

“We read science through natural signs and prepare for our survival long before the bad weather disturbance, like typhoon, wallops the country. All my life, kurob is our shelter and camote is our staple food as this is the ‘all-weather crop’,” Condeno claimed.

He said they plant camote a few months before the onset of bad weather events as this is the only root crop that could survive all types of weather.

During typhoons and dry seasons, the chieftain added, sweet potato could survive among all crops, aside from the fact that it continuously generates income for several months during a hostile weather.

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), locally known as "kamote,” is considered as one of the important food crops in the country, specifically in the Bicol Region, wherein from being a lowly and poor man’s crop, it is now emerging as a competitive staple food -- next to rice.

Camote is Albay’s second staple food as well as a good source of income for local farmers here.

Sweet potato is considered as a vegetable and a staple food -- especially during lean months and typhoon seasons -- with twice fiber content and higher source of potassium.

The short-growing period of the crop, its high nutritive value, its adaptability in marginal and harsh environments, its low input requirements, and its suitability in many cropping systems give sweet potato a well-defined advantage over many crops in this province that is considered as a one-stop-shop or laboratory of natural calamities.

The Agta Tabangnon tribe of Bicol is normally nomadic.

In Albay province, specifically in Tiwi town, there are four tribal communities living in the upland villages of Mayong, Misibis, Tabgon and Joroan.

The Agtas are found in the Bicol Peninsula, living in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

They live in far-flung barangays, slopes of Mt. Asog and Mt. Isarog as well as hinterlands throughout the provinces of the Bicol Region.

Their adaptive capacity for the changing climate is based on home-grown and proven effective employment of indigenous practices.

But with the harsh and bleak climate condition due to global warming, Condeno admitted that the weather pattern is completely dismal and threatening to their children’s survival.(PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PNP-Bicol ready for Oplan Summer Vacation, Holy Week
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 25 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police-Bicol regional office is all prepared to keep the public safe and secured during the summer vacation, especially Holy Week, with at least 1,000 police officers and 3,000 force multipliers ready to ensure peace and order.

Chief Supt. Victor Deona, PNP-Bicol regional director, had given full instructions to his men to be on a 24-hour duty to implement Oplan Summer Vacation and Holy Week, said Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokersperson.

Calubaquib said the PNP-Bicol leadership has implemented the operational security plan early for the safety of the vacationers and the residents alike.

The operational plan is effective on March 20 to May 31, she said.

The plan involves setting up of motorist assistance centers along the Maharlika Highway from Barangay Tabogon, Daet, Camarines Norte, to Matnog, Sorsogon, and in the island-provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

Police officers have also been posted in populous areas like transport terminals, airports, sea ports, markets, malls, churches and tourist destinations.

Deona has also assigned uniformed men in entry and exit points in the region and asked his men to intensify patrol and police visibility, especially in areas of convergence.

The police officers will be assisted by about 3,000 force multipliers from different sectors of the society like village law enforcers, security guards, radio communication groups like the Kabalikat Civicom and Barangay Peacekeeping and Action Teams.

Each police station has also put up a hotline where people needing assistance can call for assistance.

"We want to ensure peace, order and the security of the public in the entire region during the whole summer vacation," Calubaquib said.

She said the order of Deona covers all police offices and stations in the six provinces, towns and cities in the Bicol Region, whose chiefs will be required to submit accomplishment reports that would be reflected in their report cards to the Office of the Regional Director. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/EBP

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Preparations for Daragang Mayon Festival 2015 on
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 24 (PNA) -- Preparations for the month-long Daragang Magayon Festival (DMF) 2015 are now in full swing, according to Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda.

The festival will have its soft opening on April 5 while the formal opening will be on April 6, Salceda said.

Dorothy Colle, Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office chief, said the beer plaza, food stalls and culinaria ground will open starting April 5 while the grand opening will be held at the Albay Astrodome on April 6 when Salceda will officially declare the start of DMF 2015.

Expected to grace the opening are Department of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and DOT Regional Director Maria "Nini" Ravanilla.

On the first day, the Provincial Government of Albay will hold a concert of James Reid at the Albay Astrodome, which will be free to the public.

Colle said the DMF 2015 will have 200 activities, with 29 highlight events like the Legend Show Down, street presentation,

Sayaw Kan Tulong Bulod, street dancing, Search for Mutya ng Daragang Magayon and Ginoong Magayon, city and municipal nights, beginning and ending concerts, culture and the arts, nightly shows, trade industry special and sports.

The festival, she said, will again feature the Mayon 360 which is expected to be joined in by 400 participants from the Philippines and other countries.

The tourism officer claimed that the DMF draws in throngs of foreign and local tourists owing to the famous natural tourist destinations in Albay like the Mayon Volcano, Cagsawa Ruins, Lignon Hill and many others.

In fact, she said, Albay is on target with its contribution to the ten-million-tourist target of the Philippines in 2016.

Colle said the province has already had 350,000 foreign tourist-visitors vis-a-vis its target of 800,000 for the year while the domestic tourists have already reached 800,000 actual arrivals compared to the one-million target. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/EBP

DA bares 3rd year accomplishments of US-funded Bicol agri water project
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 24 (PNA) -- The USD 1.5 million US-funded agricultural enhancement program being undertaken as a climate change adaptation measure in some Bicol farms was recently assessed to be of big help in improving the local farmers’ capabilities in countering the impacts of drought and flooding, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Among its key accomplishments following the initial three years of its implementation are the training of 893 farmers at the Climate Farmers Field School (CFFS) and the demonstration of agricultural technologies such as 12 climate-resilient lines of rice and four integrated farming systems.

Others are the establishment of two small farm reservoirs in Polangui, Albay, and three shallow tube wells in Nabua and Buhi towns of Camarines Sur that are now providing irrigation to farms in the three localities.

Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director for Bicol based here, on Tuesday said all these projects under Bicol Agri Water Project (BAWP) have contributed to the improvement of capacities of local farmers to adapt to impacts of dry spell and flooding as a result of climate change.

Increases in yields have also been observed as a result of improved farming practices, he said.

Now in its third year of its five-year implementation starting in September 2012, BAWP, which is being implemented by the University of the Philippines-Los Banos Foundation, Inc.(UPLBFI) in partnership with the DA Regional Field Office-Bicol, is funded with an amount of USD1.5 or Php61.5 million by the United States Agency for International Development.

Seeking to improve water security, thus, enhancing agricultural development under climate variability and change, the undertaking showcases climate adaptation strategies within farming communities and promotes improved watershed management strategies within the Buhi-Barit Watershed Reservation of Buhi, Camarines Sur and Quinale A Watershed of Polangui, Albay.

These practices also help minimize the effects of climate hazards on lowland rice farming communities of Nabua, Camarines Sur, as the project uses a watershed approach considering that water supply in the lowlands is highly influenced by the state of upland resources.

These three municipalities were chosen as sites of the program’s implementation being flood and drought-prone.

Results were impressive as, according to Bragas, farm productivity in these areas have improved significantly within those first three years of BAWP owing to its enabling mechanism that capacitated their local farmers by providing them with technology inputs, training support and other interventions that boosted their production and widened agricultural opportunities.

He cited as examples the cases of Buhi and Polangui which were among the winners in the 2013 Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards of the DA for the remarkable increases in their incremental rice harvest and average yield per hectare.

BAWP’s project director Dr. Agnes Rola of UPLBFI explained that since the selection of adaptation strategies may be constrained by competing priorities, knowledge gaps and lack of information for adaptation decisions, they worked closely with farmers, local government units (LGUs) and water and watershed managers.

This way, she said, the project was able to develop needs-based decision-support tools to inform scenarios that address barriers and gaps and translate adaptation plans into actions that are also sensitive to gender differentiation.

“At the farm level, we conducted activities that increased the knowledge and skills of farmers on climate change adaptation strategies, primarily through CFFS, demonstrated climate risk resilient agricultural technologies and established small-scale irrigation systems,” Rola said.

The CFFS is a season-long training course that gives more focus on relating farmers to the seasonal weather forecast of the weather bureau and on empowering them against pests and plant diseases and fertilizer and water management that contribute immensely to a more efficient and improved growth to attain high yield, she said.

To support the development of decision support tools and their integration in agricultural development planning and decision-making, the BAWP established rainfall data collection instruments in the study sites, trained farmers on rainfall data collection and developed decision support tools for water resource allocation at the sub-watershed scale.

It also established a knowledge-sharing portal, prepared seasonal climate outlook and advisories and conducted other relevant training programs which strengthened climate risk-resilient water governance capacities by analyzing the policy and institutional landscape of the study watersheds and conducting training activities on policy analysis and policy advocacy.

All these activities were done also in partnership, among others, with International Research Institute for Climate and Society-Columbia University, USA, Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and the LGUs of beneficiary localities.(PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

PA, DA give transition aid for retiring personnel
By John Mark Escandor

PILI, Camarines Sur, March 24 (PNA) -- The Philippine Army is preparing its retiring or separating personnel for a smooth transition to civilian life via its “Transition Assistance Program.”

Under the program, retiring personnel are made to attend a business/livelihood seminar and training where livelihood or business opportunities are presented and from which they could select which one to venture into after retiring from active service.

This, according to Lt. Col. Bernardo R. Fortez Jr., aims to provide them additional source of income other than merely relying on their monthly pensions.

"Also, being engaged in a productive endeavor will boost their morale and give them a sense of pride as they mainstream into civilian life," Fortez said.

For three years now, he said, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Tinangis here has partnered with the Department of Agriculture in the conduct of livelihood seminars for its retiring personnel.

While the mandatory age for retirement for most government personnel is 65, for military personnel, it is 56.

Fortez said this year, 29 of their retiring personnel attended the lectures on various agriculture-based livelihood undertakings.

The three-day training held on March 17-19 inside the Camp Elias Angeles here was capped with actual visit to the facilities and projects inside the DA compound where the participants had hands-on learning of some of the topics discussed to them.

Experts from the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) of the DA served as resource persons.

Among the topics discussed and the corresponding resource persons were: rice production -- Anacleto Esplana; organic composting -- Angelina Peñaserada; goat production -- Marianito Tesorero; native chicken production -- Fortunato Balbis; grafting of fruit trees -- Dominica Camposano; cleft plant propagation -- Augusto Saldo, and mushroom production -- Pedro Oliver.

The training culminated with the holding of the graduation ceremonies which was graced by Col. Milfredo M. Melegrito, Chief of Staff of the 9th Infantry Division.

In his message to the participants, Melegrito said Filipinos generally consider a person successful if he is employed.

"But in other countries a person is considered successful if he runs his own business or enterprise no matter how small it is," he said, underscoring that the success of the transition program for retiring personnel will ultimately be measured in the number of participants or attendees who have dared to venture into an entrepreneurial undertaking and became true entrepreneur.

Also present during the closing ceremony was Corazon A. Orbon, BIARC assistance manager, who represented Luz R. Marcelino, the BIARC manager; Emily Bordado, DA regional information officer; Pedro Oliver and Arlene San Buenaventura also of BIARC. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JME/CBD/EDS

Police start serving arrest warrant vs mayor, other officials of Camarines Sur town

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -– Members of the Philippine National Police-Bicol have started serving the arrest warrant issued by a regional trial court judge against 35 persons that include the mayor, vice mayor, councilors and village chiefs of Goa town in Camarines Sur.

Chief Supt.Victor P. Deona, PNP-Bicol regional police director, said Monday that Judge Noel D. Paulite, presiding judge of RTC Branch 30, San Jose, Camarines Sur, issued the arrest warrant on March 18 and that his men have started serving it.

The warrants, entitled People of the Philippines vs Alfredo "Pidong" Gonzada et al, was based on Criminal Case No. T-4032 for serious Illegal detention against the accuses and has no recommended bail for their temporary liberty.

The warrant named the subjects as Mayor Antero S. Lim, Vice Mayor Alfredo Gonzaga, municipal Councilor Alex Camacho of Goa, Camarines Sur, and village officials Amy de Vera, Redito Clarino, Siegfredo Tolentino, Ferdinand Melgarejo, Rogelio Primavera Jr., Jacinto Burce Jr., Antonio Senar, Virgilio Panuelos, Vicente Elorde Espinosa, Tomas Rances, Leo Cea, Busto Brutas, Herman Quingguing, Sabas Palmaria Jr., Venus Durante, Jesilda Regazpi, Francisco Tria, Arnulfo Clapis, Noel Del Rosario, Achilles Royol, Ronnie Callo, Arnelo Enrerino, Ezekiel Celian, Rodel Piloneo, Alfredo Patriarca Jr., Aguinaldo Punto, Victor Sumagpang, Malvin Calvo, Joel Baturiano, Oscar Cielo, Simeon Buenaagua and Rico Seguenza -- all residents of the town.

Deona said the warrant of arrest was sent by the court to the police for serving to the concerned persons for proper court proceedings.

The court has also informed the Department of Interior and Local Government which immediately formed a tracker team to arrest the suspects, some of whom could have already been temporarily hiding as a result of the issuance of a warrant of arrest without bail against them. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Sorsogon alumni oppose renaming of school after late congressman Salvador H. Escudero
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, March 23 (PNA) –- Some politicians in Sorsogon province are moving for the renaming of the historic Sorsogon National High School (SNHS) after the late congressman Salvador H. Escudero III, a move being strongly opposed by the school’s alumni association.

“We, the alumni of SNHS, hereby petition for reconsideration of the intentions of some elected provincial officials to rename our alma mater in honor of the deceased congressman,” the Sorsogon National High School Alumni Association said in a petition paper recently issued.

Should the plan materialize, SNHS will be renamed as proposed, “Dr. Salvador H. Escudero III Memorial High School.”

Sorsogon provincial prosecutor Regina Coeli Gabito, the Sorsogon High Alumni Association (SHAA) president, on Monday said the association is in the process of collecting the signatures of its over-100,000 members -- all graduates of SNHS -- in the petition paper to express their strong stand against the proposed renaming.

“We don’t question the achievements of Escudero III but we find the intentions of these local politicians wrong as we believe that even in his lifetime, the late congressman never harbored that in his demise his alma mater be renamed after him,” the SHAA said in the petition.

Not one of the politicians moving for it was named in the petition, but some prominent members of the association based in the province, in Metro Manila and elsewhere around the globe said in separate statements gathered by the Philippines News Agency that it is their firm belief that the move is obviously motivated by “bad politics.”

Definitely, the SHAA Metro Manila Chapter composed of around 5,000 members is firmly against it, its president, lawyer Marietta Sobredilla said in a text message.

Sobredilla said most of the Manila-based members are going home here to join the yearly general homecoming on Black Saturday not only to join the reunion but also to support the entire association in voicing out its opposition.

“We are all signing the petition paper,” she added.

US-based members led by Nilo Diño tweeted that most of them may not be able to make it to the general homecoming to reinforce the petition, but “we are in full support of it—meaning, not one among us here agrees with the renaming.”

Julieta Laban, the head of the Middle East SHAA Chapter, said “No, that should not be allowed! Send to us here the petition paper and we will readily sign it.”

“There are times that we have to honor our province mates, however, there are also times wherein we should give credence to others as in the case of Senator Teodoro De Vera of Bulusan, he being the first Sorsoganon elected in the upper house. We have also the late Congressman Vicente Peralta who stood in his oratorical best during his representation of Sorsogon in Congress. They also never dreamed to memorialize their names,” the SHAA stressed in the petition paper.

SHAA believes that instead of renaming SNHS, “the issue should be the institutionalization of its present name which all of us are attached to being the primary molder of what we are now, hence this petition. We are all proud to say that I am an alumnus of Sorsogon National High School,” it said.

“Our collective intelligence said the name Sorsogon National High School is more than enough to etch the memories and achievement of the late Dr. Salvador H. Escudero III. That we rather honor Dr. Escudero III in a different vein but honoring him let us not forget the rather unknown alumnus who made also a big difference to the Province of Sorsogon and to our alma mater,” the SHAA said.

The Escuderos are practically in control of Sorsogon’s partisan politics.

The late congressman, father of now senator Francis Escudero and husband of the currently reigning representative of the province’s first congressional district to the Lower House, Evelina Escudero, first served as the district’s representative to the Batasang Pambansa from 1984 to 1986.

In 1987, he was elected as congressman for an 11-year term until 1998 and in 2007 until his death at the age of 70 from a lingering illness on August 13, 2012.

Francis was congressman of the same district from 1999 to 2006 before becoming a senator and the widow won the seat vacated by her husband in the 2013 mid-term elections.

The late congressman’s brother, Antonio “Kruni” Escudero, is incumbent vice-governor of the province whose son is the senior member of the provincial legislative board.

“We now call upon you to help institutionalize the name of SNHS that our generations are so familiar with and proud of,” the SHAA said in the petition.

SNHS is the largest and oldest public secondary school institution in the province. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

DPWH-Bicol sets completion of Php335-M anti-flood system in Legazpi
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Monday said it is working double time to complete the initial phase of the city’s Php2.1-billion mega flood control project by September or before the onset of the rainy season this year.

Funded with a total amount of Php335 million, this first phase of the entire Legazpi City Urban Drainage Improvement Project (LCUDIP) called the Tibu River Pumping Station was started in 2013 with an allocation from the 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA) worth Php150 million, followed by Php135 million in 2013 and Php50 million in 2014.

Works include the provision of powerhouse structure, pumping station structure, flood gate structure, discharge channel, land development, apron extension, river control retaining wall, perimeter fence, bridge approaches, main gate, electro-mechanical works, electrical works, and stone masonry.

When completed, the Tibu Pumping Station will be operational with three pumps: Pump No. 1 will operate at 1.8-meter water level; Pump No. 2 will be activated if water level will not subside below 1.55 meters after 20 to 30 minutes operation; and Pump No. 3 will serve as back-up and will operate only when necessary, according to DPWH Regional Director Melvin Navarro.

“We are going to take advantage of the summer season to complete the construction of this pumping station and we are hopeful that the weather will cooperate with us,” Navarro said.

He said the project is already overdue as he recalled that the delay was occasioned by the unworkable weather condition on the last quarter of 2014 until the early part of 2015 as well as by the late delivery of imported equipment due to port congestion in the National Capital Region (NCR).

After this Tibu River project, two more similar facilities will be constructed—the pumping stations in Barangays Baybay and Victory Village--to complete the whole setup of the (LCUDIP) whose total funding worth some Php2.1 billion had already been approved by President Benigno Aquino as early as 2010.

“It was through the approval made by President Aquino of the project plan earlier presented by the city government that this gargantuan project is materializing right before our eyes right now,” Mayor Noel Rosal said.

Apart from the three powerful pumping stations, the project also involves the repair and construction of a dike along the Macabalo River and wide canals to serve as waterways as well as a huge jetty along the Yawa River to ensure steady flow of flood water and secure dikes from over-flooding, the mayor said.

“Through local and national funds, we have also rehabilitated our century-old drainage systems around the city and established additional ones in areas where this kind of structures are needed most. These lead to the lessening of the city’s flood problems,” he said.

Like most areas of Albay, this city is prone to flash floods due to its proximity to lahar gullies and waterways on the slopes of Mayon Volcano from where rampaging lahar and flood water emanate during heavy downpour, Rosal explained.

“The city government, under its public safety program has been enhancing its calamity resilience and with these anti-flood projects, our place will soon be an all-weather city so that it becomes a very livable place more than ever,” he said.

In preparation for the implementation of the next two phases of the pumping station installation project, the mayor said, all residents along the Macabalo River that will affected by the construction of this drainage system were already relocated by the city government to the resettlement site in Barangay Taysan.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that the entire project will be provided with all the funds needed if not completed before the end of the term of President Aquino in June 2016,” Rosal said.

This hope is not far from being realized as, according to DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson during his recent visit and inspection of the ongoing works, this project is among the priority concerns of the President, given its importance to countryside growth and advancement of the local tourism industry.

Legazpi, now known in the world travel industry as the “City of Fun and Adventure,” is the center of Bicol tourism not only for the enchanting beauty of Mt. Mayon but also for the various man-made and natural ecotourism attractions developed by the local government over years of pushing its aspiration of becoming one of the country’s leading tourist destinations.

The city has also been emerging as one of the favorite venues in the country of grand national and international gatherings among them the two meetings of the Philippine-hosted Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to be held at the Oriental Hotel here on July 23-24 and Sept. 14-15.

These meetings are the Workshop on Rebuilding Resilient Infrastructure and the Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum that are expected to be attended by a total of around 1,000 high-level dignitaries and economic ministers of APEC member states.

On April 16-23, the 99th Annual Communication (ANCOM) of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the Philippines to be attended by around 6,000 delegates from all over the country and abroad will also be held here, apart from the around 30 other big events that have been listed in the city this year.

During the same Singson visit, the DPWH secretary suggested to Rosal that the city enact an ordinance that will require subdivision developers to construct their own retarding basins so as not to directly discharge their storm drains to existing road canals and drainage.

The move with which Rosal, also a civil engineer by profession, agrees will also reduce downstream flooding during rainy season by detaining the water then pumping it out later at regulated rate of flow to nearby rivers and tributaries.

This way, according to Singson, the road drainage will not be overloaded during peak run-off period, hence, avoid flooding on the road. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Gov't. allots Php131-M for 2015 BUB agri projects in Bicol
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- The national government has allocated Php131 million for various agricultural projects in the Bicol Region under the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) approach.

In a joint memorandum circular issued by the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development and National Anti-Poverty Commission, all heads of the departments involved in the implementation shall release the fund for BuB fiscal year 2015 projects to implementing agencies as part of the General Appropriations Act.

Ed Bailon, Philippine Coconut Authority regional information officer, said that in Bicol Region, Camarines Sur has the biggest allocation amounting to Php35.3 million intended for purchase of planting seeds and organic fertilizers, procurement of equipment, infrastructures and livelihood for the farmers.

Sorsogon province got an amount of Php24.1 million, followed by Albay with a total allocation of Php21.5 million; Camarines Norte, Php20.8 million; Catanduanes, Php.6.7 million; and Php.6.6 million for Masbate.

Bailon said that in the Bicol Region, 109 local government units have substantial implementation of the Financial Management Improvement Plan for calendar years 2014 and 2015.

“This means that they are qualified for the 2015 Bottom-up Budgeting fund," he said.

In Albay, according to Bailon, most of the projects to be implemented within the year are infrastructure facilities, provision of agricultural machines, sustainable agri-based livelihood and other agri-business investments and distribution of assorted vegetables.

The BUB process is focused on engaging 300-400 of the poorest municipalities identified by the Cabinet’s Human Development and Poverty Reduction cluster.

Local-level engagement will be facilitated via relevant government agencies, local community leaders, LGUs, and partner-civic organizations. (PNA) FPV/FGS/MDR/CBD/

Police advise caution in beach swimming this vacation season

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- The Bicol police regional office has advised beach goers who will take advantage of the summer vacation to take extra caution while swimming as their fun might lead to tragedy.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol police director, made the warning Monday morning after receiving a report involving a female student who drowned while her group was having a picnic-swimming in a beach at Zone 1, Barangay San Rafael, Pamplona, Camarines Sur, on Saturday afternoon.

The report identified the victim as Ella May Moldez, 15, student and resident of Barangay Poblacion in the same town.

It said that at about 5:30 p.m., Moldez's companions noted that she was missing.

They reported the incident to village officials who immediately conducted a search-and-rescue operation.

It took the rescuers seven hours to find the victim's lifeless body which they brought to the Pamplona Rural Health Unit for autopsy.

The report said the group decided to go to the beach for swimming as it was already the end of classes and they would not see each other for a long time until the new school year opening. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/

Police arrest 2 for drugs in Albay town bus terminal
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- Joint elements of the Polangui Municipal Police Station, Albay Provincial Intelligence Branch and Police Regional Special Operations Group arrested two persons in a buy-bust operation at about 5 a.m. Monday in the Bus Stop Terminal at Diversion Road, Barangay Ubaliw, Polangui, Albay.

A police report reaching Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol regional police director, identified the suspects as Elsie R. Ballester, a resident of Barangay Balogo, Oas, Albay, and Rey B. Bornasal, a resident of Santiago, Libon, Albay.

The police operatives seized from the suspects two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance of suspected shabu; four medium-sized heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu; one piece of heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet; two pieces of heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu and nine pieces of heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu; one pouch bag colored yellow; PHP1,000 bill as buy-bust money; and PHP10,036 cash money in different denominations; and one black and red colored sling bag.

The raiding police officers made markings and inventory of the seized items in the presence of village officials of Barangay Ubaliw, Polangui, Albay, headed by village councilmen Marlon S. Mirabueno and Rommel A. Santayana, media representative Isaias S. Quinaday and the two suspects.

The case is now under documentation for filing with the prosecutor's office. (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD

Monday, March 23, 2015

Legazpi attributes twin Gawad Kalasag national championship wins to firm anti-disaster commitment
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 22 (PNA) -- The city government here and one of its urban villages will receive honors on March 26 for winning anew the Gawad Kalasag Awards national championship—a twin victory that its leaders attribute to their resolve in ensuring that each local community is a truly livable place for everybody.

“Basically, it is our unrelenting commitment to this area of governance supported by our people in the barangays that won for us for the second time the national championship awards,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday told the Philippines News Agency.

An announcement made by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) late last week named the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDDRM) as the best nationwide in the Component/Independent City Category of the 2014 Gawad Kalasag search.

Barangay Oro Site, a densely populated village at the heart of the city’s commercial district, on the other hand, won the number one spot for having the Best Barangay DRRMCs for the Urban Barangay Class. Launched in 1998, the awards is among the national government’s mechanism in obtaining sustained commitment and support from DRRM practitioners in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks by recognizing their exceptional contributions.

Kalasag stands for Kalamidad at Sakuna, Labanan, Sariling Galing ang Kaligtasan.

Rosal, who is CDRRMC chairman along with City Administrator and CDRRMC action man Pecos Intia, and Joseph Philip Lee, the Oro Site village chieftain and Barangay DRRMC head, will receive the awards during formal ceremonies at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The accolades will be conferred on them by Department of National Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chair Voltaire Gazmin who will also honor all the 28 other national winners for their outstanding contributions in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks.

Intia said the recognitions, which both the city and Barangay Oro site won for the second time in two consecutive years (2013 and 2014), are affirmations of their being the country’s model in their respective categories in DRRM programs and a challenge for them to sustain those gains in the coming years.

“This inspires us towards working for more in ensuring that the city is indeed a very livable place not only for Legazpeños but also for the thousands of people coming on a year-round basis to our place as tourists, visitors, students, shoppers, businessmen and delegates of dozens of national and international conventions, seminars, conferences, sports competitions and other grand occasions that choose the city as venue,” he said.

The city was cited last year as among the three winners in the first Livable City Challenge organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

Iloilo City won the first place, followed by this city which got the second spot and by Cebu that placed third in that competition which measured their respective strategic visions and plans for a resilient and livable city.

Intia said the city got the Gawad Kalasag National Award for the second time this year because the CDRRMC achieved the national framework for disaster management required by the NDRRMC – which includes the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and rescue and rehabilitation and recovery.

Rosal said “we got our toughness against calamities from the painful lessons we’ve had from various disasters several years back—one of them was the February 1993 Mt. Mayon eruption that killed 75 villagers of the city who were caught by the sudden avalanche of super-hot volcanic materials while farming at the lower slope of the volcano.”

After that incident, the city government worked on the permanent relocation to a safer place of all residents in barangays within the danger zone of the volcano.

The other one was from the catastrophic impact of two super typhoons — "Milenyo" and "Reming" that battered in late 2006 the city as severely as if it was the doomsday, killing over 1,200 people who were swept by the massive flashflood that hit some of its low-lying barangays.

“Amidst those devastating scenarios, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work towards speedy recovery,” he recalled.

Now, life does not only continue to bloom in this city after those disasters. It has also been getting livelier and highly livable as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high, he added.

Lee said he dedicates this new national championship award to all the people of Oro Site who have been very supportive of the BDRRMC in making the barangay calamity-resilient and every household disaster-ready and vigilant all the time.

Apart from the honors, both winners will receive from the NDRRMC cash prizes amounting Php100,000 each that should be spent for DRRM-related activities. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Saturday, March 21, 2015

DTI-Bicol brings region's SMEs to Singapore
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)–Bicol said Thursday that it is participating in the 12th Singapore Food and Beverage Fair 2015.

Participation in this international fair is a component of DTI-Bicol’s continuing Food Business Development (BizDev) program, which started in 2007, DTI Bicol Regional Director Jocelyn L. B. Blanco said.

BizDev primarily aims to boost sales of Bicol’s flagship commodity – the pili nut.

Now, the program has included for promotion other processed food products and beverages, Blanco said.

Seven Bicol companies will exhibit their best products during the fair and these are Leslie Pili Products, Noveno’s Pilinut Candies, The R.A.I.N.S. Delicacies, Tia Berning Pili Candies, Antes Enterprises, Espeña Eco Farm Enterprises, and YML Health Food Products.

They are the leading manufacturers of pili nut products and other processed food and beverages in the region.

The delegation is headed by Blanco, who said, “participation in this trade event will bring the taste of Bicol to Singapore and Malaysia .

"We enjoin friends and relatives of Bicolanos in Singapore to visit the fair as they can indulge and try newly developed food delights of our exhibitors there," she added.

This four-day event is a “food paradise” that must be enjoyed and experienced; a taste of Bicol right in the heartland of Singapore.

The fair, which will run from March 19-22 at Singapore Expo, Hall 6, will be open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD/EDS

Bicolanos worried over NPC-proposed power rate hike
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- The petition for power rates hike filed by the National Power Corp. (NPC) and now being processed by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is causing anxiety among Bicolanos, especially those in off-grid areas.

The petition, which was filed on Sept. 14, 2014, is for an increase of roughly 20 percent over the existing Php5.64 per kilowatt hour (kwh) in the Subsidized Approved Generation Rate (SAGR) and the Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification (UCME) for the years 2015-1016.

The ERC has already been holding public hearings in affected areas all over the country, whose results will be part of the basis for its approval or denial.

To be fully affected in Bicol are the entire areas of the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate and some parts of Albay and Camarines.

In a statement reaching here over the week, ERC chair Zenaida Cruz-Ducut said that “pursuant to the ERC decision on the petition, all persons who have interest in the proceeding may become a party by filing, at least five days prior to the initial hearing (in their areas) a verified petition with the Commission”.

All other persons who may want their views known to the ERC with respect to the proposed SAGR and UCME rate increases may file their opposition to the petition or comment thereto at any stage of the proceeding before the petitioner concludes the presentation of its evidence, she added.

In the petition, the NPC said the existing SAGR is based on CY 2003 cost level which was approved by the commission on December 16, 2005 and “it is not gainsaid that the fuel cost has already increased or soared to about 200 percent from the year 2003”.

This rise of the fuel cost is tantamount to an increase in the operating cost in the SPUG areas effectively contributing to the increase of the UCME, which the main grid customers also pay along with the off-grid customers.

“Thus, there have been clamors, time and again, from the main grid customers to address this issue,” it said

Hence, after considering the impact to the customers and the nearby main grid rates, the NPC adopted the existing effective rate or the existing SAGR plus 3rd Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) to be proposed as the new SAGR in the SPUG areas.

However, since the approved 3rd GRAM will still have to be collected until 2018, and in order to have a simultaneous implementation of the revised SAGR, the uncollected 3rd GRAM is proposed for inclusion in the UCME for the years 2015 and 2016.

The proposed increase in SAGR, averaging at Php1.1311 per kwh, shall result in a projected additional revenue amounting to Php517 million for NPC and Php594 million for New Power Providers (NPPs), or total of Php1.112 billion.

This is about 20 percent of the existing SAGR level, the NPC added.

Concerning the UCME, which could be implemented to SPUG simultaneously with SAGR, its requirement for the missionary electrification considering the revised SAGR as proposed will amount to Php12.093 billion for 2015 and Php11.371 billion for 2016 inclusive of the Cash Incentive for Renewable Energy (CIRE).

Hence, the proposed new rate in the basic UCME will increase from Php.0454 per kwh to Php.1419 per kwh and Php.1430 per kwh, or Php.1476 per kwh and Php.1467 per kwh inclusive of CIRE for 2015 and 2016, respectively.

For Catanduanes, the proposed new rate is Php6.5896 per kwh, or an increase of Php0.9492 per kwh which when approved by the ERC will result in an increase of nearly Php100 in the monthly bill of households consuming at least 100 kwh which the 45,000 member-consumers of the local power cooperative will shoulder as additional burden.

The amount per kwh may be small to look at but the true amount when reflected in the power bills becomes more than Php15 per kwh when added to the bundle of charges like the cost of generation, distribution, metering, systems loss, value added tax, forex and so forth, according to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative.

In the island town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay, an off-grid area, Antonio Nebreja, a local bakery operator said “mali yata. Sa halip na makatulong sa aming mahihirap dito sa malayo at islang bayan, lalo pang pahirap ang nakambang taas presyo ng kuryente na ito (Something is wrong. Instead of helping us poor in this far away island, this impending power cost hike would be an added suffering for us).”

Power supply in the Rapu-Rapu main island is being provided by diesel-fed generators of the Albay Electric Cooperative, now being run by the Albay Power and Electricity Corp. of the San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. through a concession agreement.

Nebreja said power consumers in the island are being charged under the existing rate of around Php16 per kwh which certainly will go up when the new rates being asked by the NPC is approved. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

24 passengers hurt as multicab falls into ravine in Masbate
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- A passenger multicab bound for Barangay Marcella in Uson town fell into a ravine along the national road in Barangay Poblacion District No.1, Mobo, Masbate, at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Police investigation showed that the vehicle was overloaded with passengers when it negotiated the steepest portion of the road approaching Mobo town.

At least 24 passengers were reported to have been seriously injured.

The vehicle, en route to Uson town, was carrying about 30 passengers from Masbate City when it experienced engine failure and eventually stopped, causing the vehicle to slide uncontrollably backward.

The driver said he then applied the brake but found it not working, leading the multicab to plunge down the ravine.

The passengers injured were Lovejean A. Espinella, 7 years old; Alma C. Galvan, 23; Jocelyn L. Galvan, 38; Melanie A. Espenilla, 24; Noel C. Francisco, 38, a Philippine Army soldier; Abraham Buenavista, 20; Cecelia C. Senadjan; Edwin A. Mondelo, 27; Annabel C. Asucro, 48; Zelda Bolante, 50; Chezzy Rose Bolante, 11 months; Nora Ynales, 50; Joan De Mesa, 27; Gilbert Bandije, 20; Analyn Asucro, 48; Enriquita Samson, 55; Novelyn Badillo, 17; Antonio Allegre, 50; Cejay Marfil, 21; Armenia A. Mayor, 51; Annjean Carmen, 38; Rodrigo Jet Aban, 18; Emmie Navarro, 22; Cejie Manal, 18; and one unidentified unconscious male person, wearing a blue shirt with a logo of Osmena Colleges.

The victims were taken to the Masbate Provincial Hospital and the Mobo Municipal Health Office for immediate treatment.

Driver Rosendo S. Balatucan, 55, is now under investigation on whether the accident was due to mechanical failure or human error. (PNA) RMA/FGS/NBT/CBD/EDS

Bicol power cooperatives oppose proposed grant of franchise to new energy supplier
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- Electricity retailers in Bicol are opposed to the proposed grant of a congressional franchise to a new independent power producer (IPP) that intends to serve as an alternative energy supplier for the region.

Allowing this still unknown IPP to operate could result in higher power rates since it is a profit-oriented private company which is expected to add on profit to its power rates on top of its recovery of the cost of development and maintenance of its energy generation and distribution infrastructure, the Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) said in a statement.

The statement was issued by the association over the week in opposition to House Bill No. 4935 which seeks to grant a franchise to Bicol Light and Power Corp.(BLPC) to operate and manage an energy distribution system in the entire region.

The bill -- jointly sponsored by representatives Jose Solis of the second district of Sorsogon, Elemer Panotes of Camarines Norte’s second district and Salvio Fortuno of Camarines Sur’s fifth district -- when enacted into a law would allow the BPLC to “establish, operate, manage, own, lease and maintain for public interest and commercial purposes.”

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

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

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

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

He cited the case of the Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (Soreco II) which is suffering from a financial crisis and the cash-strapped Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) whose business has been awarded by the government to a giant private firm due to huge indebtedness.

Brownouts and unrest among member-consumers of Aleco have never ceased even as the operation and management of cooperative is now under Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC) of the San Miguel Corp.'s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) to whom the National Electrification Administration has awarded its concession a year ago.

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

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

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

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

When approved by Congress, BLPC, Ramos said, will be granted a 15-year franchise.

Higher power rates that could result from the operations of this new IPP, the BECA said, may no longer be affordable to economically-depressed rural consumers in Bicol, resulting further in the deprivation of their right and privilege to the necessity of electricity in their homes.

“The passage of the bill will be an act of ‘electrocuting’ the Bicol electric cooperatives and paving the way for the corporatization of all power utilities in the country, monopolized and controlled by the opulent and powerful,” it claimed.

The association perceives a serious and present danger in HB 4935 that could lead to the abolition of electric cooperatives leading to a massive displacement or unemployment of their workforce, wastage of assets funded by the government, economic depression in the rural areas.

It could also render the National Electrification Administration irrelevant and redundant, and also pave the way for its abolition, the BECA added.

These statements are carried in a resolution passed by the association during its regular meeting recently held in Daet, Camarines Norte.

BECA is composed of the Aleco, Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative I (Casureco I), Casureco II, Casureco III, Casureco IV, Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (Canoreco), Soreco I, Soreco II, First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Masbate Electric Cooperative and Ticao Island (Masbate) Electric Cooperative.

The first eight power cooperatives draw their power supply from various private energy giants like the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp., the Aboitiz Power Corp. and SMC-Global-- through the transmission lines of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Snake bite kills teenager in Camarines Norte

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- A 15-year-old boy was found lying at the roadside with a wound in his left leg at Sitio (sub-village) Mantabog, Barangay Sto.Domingo, Vinzons, Camarines Norte at 3 p.m. Thursday.

A police report named the victim who did not reach the Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital alive as Emmanuel Avila, a Grade 7 student of the Vinzons Pilot High School and resident of Sitio Bagong Tuklas, Calangcawan Sur, Vinzons, Camarines Norte.

Police believed Avila was bitten by a poisonous snake.

The report said the victim was last alive when he left their residence after lunch to go to their rice farm in the village to help his father. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD/EDS

TESDA-Bicol allots Php177M for scholarship in 2015
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- At least Php177 million has been allotted by the Technical and Educational Skills Development Authority-Bicol for its scholarship program in the region this year.

TESDA-Bicol Regional Director Conrado Bares disclosed this in a press conference held Thursday at the TESDA conference room here.

The amount is for some 20,000 scholars in the six provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

The biggest allocation is for Training Work Skills Program, Php104.16 million; Bottom-Up Budgeting, Php25.20 million; Skills Training for Employment Program, Php25.50 million; and Private Education Students Financial Assistance, Php22.18 million.

Bares asked the public to contact their provincial offices for the details and procedure on how to apply for these various scholarships.

He clarified that the courses that can be pursued under the four scholarship programs are agriculture, fishery, agribusiness and agro-industrial, tourism, information technology, business process management, semi-conductor and electronics, automotive, general infrastructure, manufacturing, logistics, and trainers' methodology.

The TESDA head said there are 225 TESDA-accredited schools in the region.

Camarines Sur has 82; Albay, 58; Camarines Norte, 27; Masbate, 24; Sorsogon, 21; and Catanduanes, 13.

Bares said their office, through the Economic Sector of the Regional Development Council-Bicol headed by Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, plans to put up additional training centers in remote areas of the region like in Pandan, Catanduanes; third district of Masbate; Pioduran, Albay; Capalongga, Camarines Norte; and other areas.

He said that aside from the TESDA, he urged local government units to also establish technical-vocational schools in their respective areas. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/RSM

4 Albay LGUs, 1 in Camarines Norte win 2014 National Gawad Kalasag awards
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- After Albay province won as the National Best PDRRMC Gawad Kalasag Hall of Famer in 2011, it has been reaping more awards.

In fact, every year, the National Gawad Kalasag Awards being given by National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) does not fail to bestow awards or recognition to deserving LGUs or non-government organizations in the province.

The province is again an awardee for its 2014 DRR programs which it will receive at Camp Aguinaldo on March 26.

The town of Sto. Domingo headed by Mayor Herbie Aguas will be awarded as the National Best MDRRMC Hall of Famer for 4th-6th Class Municipality.

For the second time, the following LGUs will also receive awards: Legazpi City headed by Mayor Noel Rosal as Best CDRRMC Component City; Barangay Oro Site, Legazpi City, led Barangay Captain Joseph Philip Lee as Best Barangay DRRMC-Urban Category.

The Simon of Cyrene of Denden Villanueva-Cheang will get an award as Best Civil Society Organization-NGO.

The national awardee outside Albay is the DQ Liwag National High School in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, as Best School-Rural Category.

The three awardees in Albay are expected to be Hall of Famers, too, for this year although the honors will be done next year.

Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said these awardees have contributed a lot to the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office under Dr. Cedric Daep, particularly in the field of intellectual and moral support to the institution.

In this connection, Daep said, his office has been continuously making innovations not only because of its being the Best PDRRMC National Hall of Famer but also of its quality service to the public.

He said the APSEMO will continue with its Capacity Building Program for the LGUs -- municipal, city and barangay levels -- as well as for the private sector.

Daep said it is the commitment of the province to share its best practices in DRRM and CCA under the leadership of Salceda and the help of the Office of Civil Defense 5 headed by Regional Director Raffy Alejandro. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/RSM

DPWH’s Sorsogon district office now housed in new flashy building
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- An ostentatious building built for nearly Php30 million is now the new home here of the District Engineering Office (DEO) I of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which covers the first congressional district of the province of Sorsogon.

Inaugurated on “Friday the 13th” last week with Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and his mother, Rep. Evelina Escudero as guests of honor, the building that sits on the sprawling DPWH compound along the national highway in Barangay Guinlajon here was opened to the public doing transactions with the office on Friday.

It is a two-storey of entirely new structure constructed by a private contractor for an amount of Php28.972 million on the same site where the old and dilapidated half-wooden and half-concrete building it replaced stood and occupied by the DEO for about 55 years.

DEO chief Ignacio Odiaman said the fund for its construction, which was completed last December, was provided by the national government to the DPWH under the General Appropriation Act of 2014.

It elegantly stands as a well-appointed building-- which Odiaman said was constructed based on the standard plan as per Department Order (DO) No. 81, series of 2001--with a spacious parking area surrounded by an intricately landscaped ground not seen in any of the 15 other DEOs in Bicol.

He describes the building as the first of its kind among DEOs nationwide in terms of convenience as a place of work, as a calamity-free structure, as a highly presentable government office, a distinct product of cost-effective engineering and architectural works and as a symbol of government’s commitment to offer the public a conducive place in transacting official businesses.

Its construction was also in line with the department’s policy to continuously improve the delivery of its services, per DO No. 91-- Implementation of Quality Workplace Standards, the DEO chief said.

“This is to provide a better, quality and secured workplace that can withstand calamities to avoid loss of life, government resources and properties of the DEO and with this new office building, our apprehension is eased over our old office which may be totally destroyed once a major typhoon, a fire or an earthquake hit our place," Odiaman said.

“Maginhawa ang aking pakiramdam sa loob. Walang siksikan, maayos at malinis ang bawat sulok ng mga opisina at ng buong gusali (My feeling is pleasant inside. It is not cramped and all corners of the offices and the entire building are orderly and clean),” Ferdinand Ballatan, a barangay chair in Castilla town following up a project, said as he emerged from inside the said builing.

While working in this new office building, Odiaman stressed that the entire DEO organization will be continuously guided by the overall policy directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s “Tuwid Na Landas,” and the DPWH Reforms initiated by Secretary Rogelio Singson under the “DPWH Transformation Framework.”

We have committed ourselves to continuously transform the agency and its officials and employees into a simplified and innovative organization and public servants to reduce corruption, improve efficiency and optimize available resources,” he stressed.

At present, DEO’s workforce has close to a hundred personnel composed of rank- and-file employees with permanent itemized positions, workers on co-terminus status, job order and casual employees, detailed staff from the Area Equipment Services and employees on floating status whose salaries are charged to maintenance fund, he added.

The Sorsogon DEO I covers this city and the five municipalities—Casiguran, Castilla, Pilar, Donsol and Magallanes—within the first congressional district of the province that the Escuderos have been ruling politically for more than three decades.

The late Salvador Escudero III, the senator’s father and husband of the district’s reigning representative to the Lower House, served as its representative to the Batasang Pambansa from 1984 to 1986.

In 1987, he was elected as congressman for an 11-year term until 1998 and in 2007 until his death at the age of 70 from a lingering illness on August 13, 2012.

His son, Francis, was congressman of the same district from 1999 to 2006 before becoming a senator and his widow replaced him following his death by winning in the 2013 mid-term elections.

Odiaman has acknowledged that the mother-and-son team in the Lower House and Senate, respectively, helped in facilitating the allocation of the fund for the construction of the new building, the way that the late congressman Escudero during his time did in helping the DEO secure funds from national appropriations for its projects in the district. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM