Thursday, July 30, 2015

DPWH readies construction of 250 classrooms worth Php353M in Catanduanes
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office for Bicol here is readying the plans and actual cost estimates for the implementation of the Php353-million public school building projects in the island-province of Catanduanes.

DPWH Regional Director Melvin Navarro on Wednesday said here that the biggest part of the total amount, reaching some Php215 million and intended for 27 buildings of 148 classrooms, comes from the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Senior High School (SHS) program.

Under this program, two-storey, six-classroom buildings are assigned for construction at the Buyo Integrated School, Calatagan High School, Palta National High School and Catanduanes National High School in Virac, Catanduanes, the provincial capital, Navarro said.

The same structures have also been scheduled under the same fund for the Cabcab National High School, Mananbrag National High School and San Andres Vocational School -- all in San Andres town; Baras Rural Development High School in Baras town; Bagamanoc Rural Development High School of the municipality of Bagamanoc; San Jose and Tambognon National High Schools in Viga town; Bato Rural Development High School and Cabugao Integrated School in Bato; Panganiban National High School of Panganiban town; and San Miguel Rural Development High School in the municipality of San Miguel.

Under the same funding, the Antipolo National High School in Virac, Bote National High School in Bato, Sicmil Integrated School in Gigmoto and Bugao National High School in Bagamanoc were also allotted two-storey, four- classroom building each, Navarro said.

From this Php215-million funding, the Lictin Integrated School in San Andres will be provided a one-storey, four-classroom building; Dororian Elementary School of the same town, two units of three- and two-classroom buildings; and Juan M. Alberto Memorial Elementary School and Mayngaway National High School, both in Virac, will get two-storey, six-classroom building each.

Another part of the total funding is the Php37-million allocation from the 2014 DepEd’s Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF) which provides for the construction of one-storey, one-classroom buildings for the Obi and Inalmasinan elementary Schools in Caramoran town; Agban National High School in Baras; San Isidro Elementary School in San Andres, Catamban Elementary School in Pandan and Calabnigan Elementary School in Virac.

Also under this funding are the construction of a one-storey, two-classroom building each for the San Rafael Primary School and Cobo Integrated School in Pandan and another one for the Panganiban National High School, Navarro said.

The rest of the total fund amounting Php101 million and intended for six projects in the province, on the other hand, comes from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) as part of its school building program in the countryside.

Navarro said PAGCOR has earmarked about Php17 million each for six two-storey, 10-classroom buildings in San Miguel Rural Development High School, Mayngaway National High School, Lictin Integrated School, Viga Rural Development High School, Catanduanes National High School and the former Catanduanes Institute of Techonology Foundation Inc. in Virac that has been donated to the DepEd for the SHS program.

According to the DepEd regional office, also here, the impending construction of these school buildings in Catanduanes is mostly part of the preparations for the full implementation of the K-12 program which will cover the SHS curriculum next school year.

The other projects are for the continuing enhancement of the basic education program.

It said DepEd’s 2014 and 2015 budgets had allocations for 30,000 classrooms for SHS while the initial target for the proposed 2016 budget, which is subject for approval, is over 20,000 classrooms while the government shall further allocate investments for the same program.

DepEd Regional Director Ramon Fiel Abcede said that the SHS (grades 11 and 12) was divided into four tracks -- TVA, GAS, Sports and Arts and Design, which would help prepare graduates for higher education, entrepreneurship, further middle skills development or work.

Bicol, he said, was now ready for the SHS as the DepEd regional office had already oriented school officials, organized the implementation teams, launched advocacy programs, conductive consultative conferences, coordinated with other government agencies, benchmarked pilot implementers, formulated action plans and strengthened the Career Guidance Program.

These were all the most salient points needed prior to the start of the implementation of the new program in School Year 2016-2017, Abcede said as he stressed that his office was seriously concerned about laying the grounds for the smooth transition that ushered in significant changes in the educational system not only in the region, but also the whole country, in general.

The five critical challenges anticipated in the beginning of the new program-- material resources, human resources, stakeholders’ support, curriculum development and funding -- were also being addressed.

"Curriculum development and funding schemes are concerns mainly to be handled by the DepEd Central Office, while material and human resources as well as stakeholders’ support are challenges given to the regional office,” Abcede said.

Material resources include classrooms, chairs and laboratory equipment while the preparedness of teachers to teach in the different tracks and assistance to the students for decision-making on the choice of tracks are under Human Resource (HR) concerns, he said.

Stakeholders’ support consisted of local government units, industry partners, government agencies and, of course, parents’ support," the regional director added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/

DSWD vows completion of Php2.3-B Kalahi projects in Bicol before 2015 ends
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) – A total of Php1.048 billion, or about half of the Php 2.3-billion fund for 2014-2015 projects under the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) in Bicol, had been downloaded to communities in 88 municipalities in the region, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Arnel Garcia said here.

Kalahi-CIDSS is a community-driven development (CDD) project of the national government which strongly advocates the involvement of local communities in the design and implementation of development projects to address the issue of poverty in the country.

Placed under the supervision of the DSWD, the project aims to improve local governance by employing the participation of the people in the communities in the development process.

Under its CDD approach, community members consensually decide on what type of poverty-reduction sub-projects they need for funding.

Common projects include public goods or access projects such as pathways, farm-to-market roads, health centers, water systems, day care centers and school buildings; community enterprise projects such as solar dryers, fishery, rice mills and community markets.

Residents who take the lead role in the implementation of the 1,284 people-identified sub-projects in selected Bicol areas under Kalahi have already started works on them this month.

“We target that these are completed before the year ends so that the poor villages can immediately use these facilities and services,” Garcia said.

The selection of project areas was based on the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) or Listahanan, which in 2009 assessed 59.5 percent or 461,242 of the total of 775, 014 households in the region as poor.

Listahanan is an information management system that identifies who and where the poor are by making the database of poor families available and becomes the basis in identifying potential beneficiaries of social protection programs and services.

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

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

“We derived the list of prioritized poor communities granted the projects from the results of municipal forums held early this year in 88 of the 105 municipalities of the region,” Garcia said.

One of the Kalahi-CIDSS’ thrusts this year is to support the post-disaster response and development in typhoon "Yolanda"-affected municipalities covered by the program and selected based on poverty incidence.

The municipal forums convened all the communities represented by the barangay captains, residents elected as community volunteers, civil society organizations, people’s organizations and representatives of national government agencies together with local government officials to identify proposed priority projects.

“The participation of ordinary residents in the program is very crucial in the development priorities of the government since they know what they need to solve poverty,” Garcia said.

Each barangay assembly was used as a major avenue for direct participation of the people in local governance agenda for the project where issues were discussed and decisions documented and supported.

Kalahi-CIDSS has an “open menu” wherein communities can propose any project, provided the amount involved is within the municipal allocation and does not belong to its negative list, the DSWD regional chief explained.

These proposed projects were confirmed through a resolution of local legislative councils of Sangguniang Bayan that recommended the grant of allocation in response to the needs of the barangays, especially those who were affected by and are vulnerable to disasters.

The criteria on how poor communities were prioritized for funding were based on the community’s population, number of Listahanan-identified poor households and the number of typhoon-affected households.

The prioritized communities are now busy working on their projects, utilizing approved fund allocated to them and, Garcia said, the progress of each project monitored by his office is impressive that the deadline for their completions before the year ends could be met.

In accessing to the funds, each beneficiary barangay was made to open a separate bank account where the money is downloaded by the DSWD.

“The project-hired area coordinators of DSWD, barangay treasurers and the barangay sub-project management committee chairpersons are the bank signatories authorized to disburse the funds for the labor and materials and other administrative expenses incurred for the sub-projects,” Garcia said.

Downloading of the funds are divided in three tranches—the first after completion of required pre-implementation documents and the rest, upon reaching the required target for the sub'project's physical completion and fund utilization with corresponding liquidations, he added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/

Robredo calls on fellow legislators to pass FOI bill
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) – Rep. Leni Gerona-Robredo of the second congressional district of Camarines Sur has called on her fellow legislators to support the passing into law of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill which President Benigno Aquino III has declared as “urgent”.

“I thank the President for including FOI as one of this administration’s urgently needed bills. I am hopeful that this measure will be passed before the end of this 16th Congress. I also call on my fellow legislators to continue supporting and pushing for the FOI bill,” Robredo said in a statement reaching the Philippines News Agency here Wednesday.

The bill has been pending in both the House of Representatives and the Senate since the 8th Congress, she said.

The passage of this law is in line with the President’s call during his State of the Nation Address – “Simula pa lang ito,” said Robredo who reintroduced in the 16th Congress the Lower House’s version of the measure under House Bill No. 3237 co-authored by Rep. Henedina Abad of the lone district of Batanes.

Its Senate version filed under Senate Bill No. 1733 was, on the other hand, jointly introduced by Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Antonio Trillanes IV, Sergio Osmeña III, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Allan Peter Cayetano, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Loren Legarda, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares.

In introducing the measure, Robredo explained that “one of the keys to a government’s success in governance rests upon its efforts in being transparent and involved with its citizenry.

Some of these efforts include promptly releasing its transactions and policies for the public to peruse and utilizing technology to further its endeavors for the people.”

What the proposed law seeks to achieve, she said, was for Filipinos to trust their government and one of the ways was for government to be transparent in its dealings, either in fiscal transactions or in policies, to provide the public with information that would allow them to participate and contribute in governance.

“This measure will augment our people’s efforts in creating a more transparent and accountable government. It will empower its citizenry and it is in their empowerment that governance towards a progressive society can be achieved,” she said.

The Camarines Sur representative, the widow of the late former Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo who died in a plane accident while serving as Secretary the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) nearly three years ago, said “an FOI law will ensure that the Philippines will have an accountable and transparent government years after our terms have expired.”

She said that in his annual budget message to the House of Representatives for the submission of the proposed Php3.0002-trillion 2016 national budget, President Aquino on Tuesday emphasized the need for greater and continued transparency and accountability in government by the enactment of the FOI.

The budget message outlines the priority projects and programs of the administration for the upcoming budget season, according to Robredo.

The proposed budget, which is 15.2 percent or Php396-billion higher than last year’s, also seeks to continue to expand the national economy and sustain governance and budget reforms that the Aquino administration has instituted in the last five years.

On the FOI Bill, Robredo quoted the President as saying in the message that “to ensure the permanency of transparency policies, we urge Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Act.”

This FOI bill is an integral element of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-2016 that lays out reforms and initiatives that pursue greater transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in governance.

This draft bill is a result of a consultative process conducted by an administration study group after careful study of similar legislation in order to balance the government’s legitimate needs for secrecy with the public’s right to know. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/

CSC orients Legazpi City regular employees on PRIME-HRM
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- Regular employees of this city participated in an orientation seminar on the Prime to Institutionalize Mentocracy and Excellence in Human Resource Management (PRIME- HRM) the whole day Tuesday at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation here.

The PRIME- HRM is a program of the Civil Service Commission which aims to enhance the HRM competence of government agencies.

This program has three A components -- Assess, Assist and Award.

The whole-day activity was spearheaded by the City Government of Legazpi in cooperation with CSC Bicol Regional Office.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal, in his statement, said the activity was part of enhancing the knowledge of the city’s regular employees in order for them to know their duties and responsibilities as part of the workforce of the city administration.

Rosal urged the employees to always do their jobs in a judicious way of working to maintain transparency in their work in the city administration as, he said, “all of us here -- including the department heads, elective officials and the casual employees -- are all accountable to our own respective jobs.

Arpon Ultra Lucero, director II of the CSC Bicol regional office, said the purpose of this activity as part of the program of the CSC was to elevate the maturity level of the Human Resource Management Office of the city administration to the next higher level.

Lucero said that based on the assessment by the CSC of the regular employees of the City Government of Legazpi, they learned that their performance was classified in the transactional level, which is the basic step under the criterion of the commission.

Through this orientation, the gap between the transactional level and the process define will be addressed, he added.

Process define is the system of any agency or LGU with complete documentation to be used for their daily transactions.

This system will also inform the employees who want to apply for higher position.

They will undergo the recruitment, selection and placement procedure, which is documented, he pointed out. (PNA) RMA/FGS/EPS/CBD/EDS

Suspected child trafficker nabbed in entrapment operation

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, July 29 (PNA) -- Joint operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Sorsogon City Police Station arrested a suspected child trafficker in an entrapment operation on Monday afternoon at Barangay Pangpang, Sorsogon City.

Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Bicol regional police director, on Wednesday identified the suspect as Jeenivie Daria, 28, a resident of Barangay Cambulaga, Sorsogon City but a native Davao Del Sur.

Deona said the victims are Donna (not her real name), 15, and Ruby (also not her real name), 16 -- both residents of Sorsogon City.

He said Chief Insp. Errol Garchitorena, CIDG Sorsogon chief, reported that the police operatives arrested Daria at about 2 p.m. after she received money from a police asset posing as customer for the two teen-aged girls.

The police officers brought the suspect and the two girls to the CIDG office for custody and proper disposition.

Daria faces a case for violation of RA 9208 or Human Trafficking Act whose maximum penalty is lifetime imprisonment and a fine of PHP500,000 to PHP1 million. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

PNoy anoints Roxas -- Salceda
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas had called him earlier Wednesday during the meeting of the core group of his campaign at Balay in Cubao, Quezon City and told him that President Aquino had anointed the DILG chief and "given the go signal".

Salceda said in a phone interview that the formal announcement will be made at 9 a.m. Friday at the historic Club Filipino.

He said LP members, mostly governors, congressmen, city and town mayors are being invited together with civil society organizations.

"I am still hoping that Grace Poe will agree to be the running mate for vice president," the Albay chief executive said.

Based on the meeting, he said, he guessed he would be making robust inputs to the national campaign, aside from being regional LP chairman, based on his discussions with Mar.

Salceda, who is still in Manila, said he expected Roxas to leave the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to concentrate on his campaign and party building.

After the endorsement, some 1,000 LP members will congregate on Tuesday at the Gloria Maris.

This will be followed by a meeting with the governors, and on Tuesday, Roxas will meet CSO leaders.

Salceda believes that the anointment of Roxas by the President would improve his rating from 13 percent to 16 percent.

He also believes that a Mar-Grace tandem would be a perfect match, saying both have the same aim and focus, which is "good governance." (PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Young trader sees entry of Ayala Group in Legazpi mall business as both boon, bane

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- A young businessman here welcomes the construction of a Php1.6-billion commercial complex at the heart of the city with mixed feelings of optimism and pessimism.

A joint investment venture between the Ayala Group of Companies and the locally-based Liberty Commercial Center (LCC) Corp., the construction of the business complex is now in full swing and is expected to be opened by December this year.

The complex, named Liberty City Center Mall (LCCM), is a four-story commercial complex to be built by the LCC Corp. while its partner, the Ayala Corp, will have the control over its operation, said Antonio Tan, LCC president.

Yves Yu, 36-year-old manager of the family-owned Jacky Merchandising, said in an interview that the birth of another commercial mall would bring negative and positive impacts to the retail sector of this city.

Yu said the effects would depend on the market share and it would be felt on short- and long-term bases.

He said that to be affected most initially will be the retailers in the Legazpi City market, which is situated beside the LCCM, saying “buyers at the wet market would prefer to shop in a cool, clean, and comfortable shopping center."

Also to be affected would be garments, foot wears, dry goods, souvenir stores and small groceries.

According to Yu, the short-term effect would be on their sales output as their market will be reduced.

He stressed that to counter this impact, retail store owners should adapt and make innovations to level off with the market competition.

“We have to be creative, innovative in meeting this challenges,” the former president of the JCI-Legazpi said.

He expressed optimism, saying “we have to be ready as at the end of the day, it will bring more benefits.”

“To those who can’t adopt innovations, it would be better for them to close,” Yu said.

As for the long-term impact, the establishment of the LCCM would eventually further improve the economy of the city, in particular, and Albay province, in general.

It will also create new jobs, thus, bringing down the unemployment rate of the province.

Another positive effect, Yu said, is that there would the entry of national brands in the local market.

“You don’t have to go to Manila to buy signature items that are not yet available here,” he added.

As for the competition among super malls here, the businessman said, it will all depend on whether or not they will study how the market flows, it will all depend on the buying population and what product or goods they have to offer.

The LLCM complex lies in 1.4-hectare lot owned by the city government and is leased by the LCC.

The LCC entered to a memorandum of agreement with the city government in the late 1990s to lease the property for 50 years at Php5.5-million-a-year lease.

Some Php16.5 million in advance rental has been paid to the City Treasurer’s Office.

Dindo Fernando, Ayala’s assistant vice president for external affairs, said in a press conference Tuesday,that the mall will showcase local and high-end merchandisers of shoes, bags and clothing apparels, appliances, hardwares, bookstores, restaurants and coffee shops that will occupy the almost 300 stalls of the mall.

“Of these, 30 stalls will be available to local business enterprises interested to display and sell their merchandise at the mall,” he said.

Tan said that under the agreement, the department store and supermarket will be operated by the LCC.

Fernando said the Ayala-LCC mall will be their first venture in Bicol.

Hans Katipunan of Ayala said the operation of the mall would create some 3,000 jobs, aside from the 1,000 employees hired to construct the mall complex.

Katipunan said that aside from the stores, four cinema houses and entertainment centers will occupy the fourth floor of the mall.

To solve the parking problem, the mall will have an underground parking area to accommodate 250 vehicles.

Katipunan said they expect 25,000 to 35,000 prospective customers a day to visit and shop at the mall once it is operational by December.

The mall will cater to all types of people -- from the poor to the middle-level and rich sector.

He said the LCC Mall will make 31 the total of Ayala’s commercial complexes set up across the country.

The recently inaugurated complex was that in Iloilo City.

LCC, owned by the Tan family, a Filipino-Chinese business clan here, operates three regional malls in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco, and Naga, aside from the eight community malls and 40 express marts across the region.

City Mayor Noel Rosal welcomed the joint venture as an economic “milestone” for the city being tagged as among the Liveable Cities in the country.

The establishment of the mall will also bring value-added revenues in the form of business taxes, and income tax return to the city where the Ayala Group pledged to pay their taxes.

Rosal said Ayala officials, in their talks, also expressed their interest in developing subdivisions, resorts, hotels, condominiums, aside from operating the 18-hole golf course in Barangay Bigaa here,

Aside from the LCC Mall, the city has at least three major malls -- the Metro Pacific Gaisano Mall, LCC, and Embarcadero, with two more under construction -- the Yashano and Gregorian malls. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ayala Mall opens in Legazpi in December

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- A thousand construction workers plus a fleet of heavy engineering equipment are in operation 24/7 at the heart of the commercial district here doing works on state-of-the-art environment-friendly mammoth building that will house the first-ever Ayala Mall in the Bicol Region set to open in December this year.

Its start of operation will mark the hiring of around 3,000 more workers whose recruitment will give priority to the local manpower as provided under a policy which the city government is arranging with incoming business establishments.

“We are doing the works round-the-clock to meet our self-set deadline -- December -- for its soft opening,” Antonio Tan, president of the Liberty Commercial Center Inc. (LCCI), said in a press conference at the office of City Mayor Noel E. Rosal on Monday.

LCCI is the partner of Ayala Corp. (AC) in the establishment on a 1.4-hectare property owned by the city government of the shopping complex to be named Central City Mall, the latest entry into the growing number of big investments locating in the city.

The property has been leased to LCCI of the Tans, a homegrown Filipino-Chinese family which pioneered the putting up of malls here and most parts of Bicol, starting way back in the late 1970s.

The LCCI runs the Liberty Commercial Center (LCC), which has a chain of malls and grocery stores in the city and several urban centers of the region.

AC’s top sales executives present in the press conference said the corporation has put up some PHP1.5 billion in this venture, which will be its first in Bicol, and has chosen as its site this fast-growing urban locality officially wearing the title “Most Livable City” in the country and known in the travel industry world as the “City of Fun and Adventure”.

The corporation, they said, is impressed by the city’s rise as the new shopping and investment haven in Bicol, given its strategic location -- being the regional government center and center of transportation, health services and education.

The city boasts of an expansive market that extends from the entire province of Albay to the adjoining provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon, up to Samar areas.

Rosal said the entry of AC, one of the country’s business giants, now makes it a part of the city’s bandwagon of big investments joined ahead by SM Prime Holdings of Henry Sy and Robinsons Group of the Gokongwei family. (PNA) JBP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

Legazpi City convention center construction to start soon

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- The construction of the Legazpi City Convention Center will start soon with a PHP50-million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) Legazpi City Branch, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said Wednesday.

Rosal, city treasurer Carlita de Guzman and LBP Legazpi City Branch manager Marissa Rito recently signed the loan agreement at the office of the city chief executive.

According to engineer Noel B. Encinares, chief of the city’s construction division, the civil works of the project will be supervised by the City Engineering Office and will start any time next month.

Encinares said that based on the study of his office, the building has a total floor area of 2,165.55 square meters, with a total parking slots of 104 for vehicles.

It can also accommodate 1,000 sets of restaurant settings or 3,000 sets of theater settings.

The total cost of civil works of the project is PHP47.01 million and for the installation of sound system, tables and air-conditioning unit, the cost will be about PHP2.9 million.

The original design of the building was a multi-purpose hall that was built last year and funded by the city administration in the amounts of PHP7 million (Phase 1), which includes the sub-structure, and PHP18.8 million (Phase II) that involves the roofing works, beams, stage, electrical works, comfort rooms and dressing room.

Rosal said the new loan from the LBP will be used for improvements of the project while the original multi-purpose hall will be converted into a convention center.

He said this project is part of the preparation for a venue for a continuously increasing number of conventions, seminars and other similar big gatherings to be held in this city.

The city mayor said these events will be a big factor to achieve the target of the city administration to become one of the top five convention centers by year 2020.

Based on the data taken from the City Tourism Office, around 33 conventions and seminars were held in the city in 2014 and this year, the city has listed a total of 63 gatherings supposed to be held here from January to July and 52 events have already been conducted, mostly by big organizations from different parts of the country.

These events contributed to the improvement of indirect taxes of the city and increased the income of the transport sector, Rosal said.

The improvement of business activities in this city will continue to increase its share from the internal revenue allotment from the national government, he added. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD/EBP

8 quakes jolt Mt. Bulusan as signs of continuing restiveness

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- At least eight volcanic earthquakes rocked Mount Bulusan in Sorosgon, signifying that the volcano continues to show signs of restiveness, the Philippine Institute of Volcanolgy and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Wednesday.

Ed Laguerta Phivolcs, Bicol resident volcanologist, said the quakes and the swelling of the volcano’s edifice are signs that pressure is building up in the volcano’s vent.

Aside from eight volcanic quakes, Phivolcs instruments recorded for the past 24-hour observation period slight inflationary trend at the volcano’s edifice during the precise leveling surveys.

Alert Level 1 (abnormal) remains hoisted over the volcano.

Laguerta warned the public to keep off the four-km permanent danger zone due to the possibility of sudden and hazardous steam-driven or phreatic eruptions.

The Phivolcs also advised pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any sudden phreatic eruption can be dangerous to aircraft.

It also warned residents living within valleys and along river channels around the volcano of possible flooding and lahar flows in the event of heavy and prolonged rains. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD/EBP

NIA completes establishment of Php18-M irrigation system in Masbate
By Danny O. Calleja

NAGA CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- At total of 200 hectares of rice farms in the island-province of Masbate would benefit from the Php18-million irrigation facility that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has constructed and will be inaugurating Wednesday, July 29.

Called the Matagbac Communal Irrigation Project (CIP), the facility is located in Barangay Matagbac in the province’s coastal-lowland town of Milagros, according to NIA Bicol Regional Director Vicente Vicmudo based here. It is expected to boost the rice-production capability of some 200 farmers in the municipality, he added.

He said the newly completed NIA irrigation project involves new structures and facilities such as a checkgate dam, an elevated flume or canal, three units of barrel siphon, two units of headgate, two units of road crossing and 3.10 kilometers of concrete line canal.

Expected to grace the inauguration ceremonies today are Masbate acting Gov. Vicente Homer Revil, Rep. Elisa Kho of the province’s second congressional district, Milagros Mayor Natividad Isabel Magbalon, NIA regional officials and officers and members of the Matagbac-Milagros Irrigators Association.

Vicmudo also said that for 2015, the NIA is undertaking the construction and rehabilitation of 21 irrigation projects in the province of Masbate with a total allocation of Php40.6 million that would irrigate at least 56 hectares of previously unirrigated ricelands and restore and rehabilitate irrigation facilities for 276 hectares.

Masbate’s level of irrigation development as of Dec. 31, 2014 is merely 27.72 percent, the lowest among the six provinces of the Bicol Region.

These projects in Masbate, according to NIA regional spokesman Eduardo Yu, are part of the irrigation undertakings for the entire Bicol Region provided by the administration of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III with an allocation this year of over Php535 million.

A total of 212 irrigation projects across the region’s six provinces are financed by this current budget allocation.

These projects are for the construction of new irrigation systems, rehabilitation of existing but run-down facilities and restoration of non-operating ones.

The total amount is divided among the region’s six provinces, with Camarines Sur getting the biggest share of Php166 million, followed by Albay, Php135 million; Sorsogon, Php110.7 million; Camarines Norte, Php57 million; Masbate, Php40.6 million; and Catanduanes, Php26 million.

This fund, Yu said, covers the establishment of new irrigation structures for 378 hectares and restoration, repair and rehabilitation of paddy water services for 2,700 hectares.

The region, he said, has a total of 239,660 hectares of irrigable land while the total area of already irrigated rice farms is at 130,313 hectares.

Anyway, agriculture officials say that with this, the region is already expected to sustain its rice self-sufficient (RSS) status first achieved in 2013, which saw a production growth rate of 5.96 percent over 2012 for a 102.19-percent RSS level that means Bicolano farmers produced around 2.2 percent more than the amount local consumers could eat.

That RSS level was based on the regional production of over one million metric tons (MT) as against the regional consumption of around 822,000 MT.

In 2014, almost the same level of RSS was achieved, according to an earlier report of the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, which placed the total production at about 1.3 million MT for an over 100-percent RSS.

Yu said the implementation of this year’s projects in Bicol are more focused on restoration and improvement of existing irrigation systems as they can be immediately done since they no longer need feasibility studies as required by the construction of new ones.

Although smaller than the previous years’ budget, he said, this year’s allocation can already maximize the region’s contribution to the vigorous pursuit of the administration of President S. Benigno Aquino III of its Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) for the country.

The program carries with it the frontloading of investments, particularly on irrigation, focused on cheaper and shorter gestating small-scale systems as an important feature.

The FSSP includes as one of its components the Agrikulturang Pilipino (Agri-Pinoy) Rice Program whose beginning of implementation in 2011 marked the start of Bicol’s picking up of bountiful harvests from its vast rice lands.

The province of Camarines Sur has the biggest rice area, with 158,348 hectares supplying 45 percent of the regional rice regional requirement, followed by Albay with 48,638 hectares.

Masbate ranks third in terms of area devoted to rice with 39,148 hectares; Sorsogon, 33,804 hectares, Camarines Norte, 20,671 and Catanduanes, 12,993 hectares.

In fact, on the second year of Agri-Pinoy alone, the program had already proven in the region its worth as a key player in the FSSP, the central focus of the country's food security policy from 2011 to 2016 and beyond.

With the vision of a food-secure society where farmers enjoy decent and rising standards of living, the FSSP 2011-2016 aims to achieve self-sufficiency in food staples.

Self-sufficiency means satisfying domestic requirements for food, seeds, processing, and feeds through domestic production.

The key strategies applied by the program are concentrated in raising farmers' productivity and competitiveness; enhancing economic incentives and enabling mechanisms; and managing food staples consumption. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP

8 quakes jolt Mt. Bulusan as signs of continuing restiveness

LEGAZPI CITY, July 29 (PNA) -- At least eight volcanic earthquakes rocked Mount Bulusan in Sorosgon, signifying that the volcano continues to show signs of restiveness, the Philippine Institute of Volcanolgy and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Wednesday.

Ed Laguerta Phivolcs, Bicol resident volcanologist, said the quakes and the swelling of the volcano’s edifice are signs that pressure is building up in the volcano’s vent.

Aside from eight volcanic quakes, Phivolcs instruments recorded for the past 24-hour observation period slight inflationary trend at the volcano’s edifice during the precise leveling surveys.

Alert Level 1 (abnormal) remains hoisted over the volcano.

Laguerta warned the public to keep off the four-km permanent danger zone due to the possibility of sudden and hazardous steam-driven or phreatic eruptions.

The Phivolcs also advised pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any sudden phreatic eruption can be dangerous to aircraft.

It also warned residents living within valleys and along river channels around the volcano of possible flooding and lahar flows in the event of heavy and prolonged rains. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD/EBP

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

(Feature)From Donsol to Matnog, Sorsogon province is eco-cultural tourism destination
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, July 28 (PNA) -- From tip to tip, the unassertive province of Sorsogon is indisputably a striking eco-cultural tourism destination that many can bet others do not know about.

At the western border of the province is the municipality of Donsol that undeniably is the most known ecotourism destination of Bicol for the world’s largest school of whale sharks that seasonally swarms its coastal water each year.

But apart from this sensation that regularly draws tens of thousands of tourist, Sorsogon -- as many leisure travelers coming to the region, particularly this city -- Bicol’s center of tourism, might not know -- has a lot more to offer for those who are seeking for closer encounters with nature, adventure, culinary and history.

For nature lovers, the province also has its share of long white sand beaches kissed by sparkling turquoise waters offering superb surfing sites, peacefully nature-laced lake and lagoons, hectares of mangrove forest being swarmed by herds of homegrown and migratory birds, hot springs whose waters tender therapeutic effects, an active volcano and, more other, amazing ecological treasures.

For those who are amazed by the past, the historical heritage of the province, which sits at the southeastern end of the Luzon mainland, can be traced from antiquated churches its old localities own, vintage lighthouses towering over its major shores and other landmarks that remind everyone of the province’s stimulating past.

Not a too long ride from this city, the provincial capital, is the Paguriran Lagoon that has lately emerged as a destination that tourists would certainly regret when missed out, having lost a chance to discover its exceptional beauty -- featuring a lagoon bordered around by jagged rocks in bizarre formation guarding the amazing serenity of its emerald water that is so relaxing to swim.

The next destination along the way could be the offbeat town of Prieto Diaz, which is blessed with off-the-beaten-path ecotourism sites like unexplored caves and a 500-hectare mangrove forest that is listed as a tourism park and bird-watching site.

From Prieto Diaz, a less than an hour drive, can take one to the town of Gubat that is famous for its Rizal Beach, which, unknown to many, also boasts of a fantastic surfing spot.

The next towns of Barcelona and Bulusan also boast of similar beaches, apart from the historical structures that its people preserve.

Barcelona is a humble destination that presents a simple and laid-back aura in-between Gubat in the north and Bulusan in the south.

It has a carefully landscaped beachfront park where the Presidencia Building and the century-old school for the Spaniards remain standing to bare the interesting history of the place.

Across the street opposite the park is the Saint Joseph Parish church built by the Franciscan friars in 1874 out of coral stones, beaten egg and a local wine, which is very evident in the façade, belfry and on its thick wall.

The church is known as one of the oldest and well-preserved churches in the Bicol Region whose unfading beauty is astounding.

A few kilometers away is the town of Bulusan that plays host to Bulusan Lake at the bosom of Bulusan Volcano Natural Park, a 3,672-hectare protected area serving as home to various species of endangered animals and considered the most visited ecotourism site in the province next to Donsol.

The park also boasts of several springs and waterfalls that originate from the mountains, one of them the bathing-favorite Masacrot, a man-made earthen pool with cool mineral waters coming from underground springs.

Bulusan Lake itself, which is situated at the very foot of Mt. Bulusan, one of the most active volcanoes in the Pacific Rim of Fire, is a spectacular ecotourism destination for its scenic and exquisite beauty.

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

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

Before reaching the downtown, the Tan-awan, a cliff road that overlooks the town center and the expansive Pacific Ocean is a heartwarming experience as, from its vantage point, the view of Samar Island across the San Bernardino Strait is indeed stirring.

The next town of Irosin, the province’s only landlocked locality, features a 140-year-old Catholic church that sits on a hill top, affording churchgoers and visitors a panoramic view of the entire town and the surrounding countryside of lush rice fields and forest.

The church can be reached from the foot of the hill via a steep 74-step concrete stairway and from its vantage point, the peak of Mt. Bulusan appears almost near enough to be kissed.

Farther 17 kilometers south of Irosin is the town of Matnog that plays host to the huge ferry terminal serving as Bicol’s main link to the Visayas regions and site of Subic Beach, which is also called La Playa Rosa because of its long pinkish sand shoreline kissed by turquoise waters that makes it a perfectly unique destination.

Near Subic Beach is Tikling Island, which is known for its spectacular rock formations hidden behind its lush forest and colorful corals and sea plants that add a tinge of color to the breathtaking view of the island’s towering cliffs.

Back north after Irosin sits the pleasant town of Juban, known for its ancestral houses, serving as the locality’s most important landmark that tells the history of the place during the early years of the Spanish settlement in the country.

Around 20 kilometers southwest of Juban is the town of Magallanes that is secluded by thickly vegetated high mountains whose lower slopes are crisscrossed by a winding and rolling paved highway linking it to the rest of the province.

Deep inside this coastal locality facing the Ticao Pass are white sand beaches, abundant marine life, picturesque islets and some historical structures like the aged lighthouse that stands high on top of Bagatao Island, serving as the one of the town’s famous tourist attractions.

There are so many more out of the ordinary tourist destinations in the province but, according to local observers, all those places have been made underrated by the lack, if not absence, of tourism promotion on the part of local government units, including the provincial government. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Illegal fishing in Masbate source of political funds, says Bicol top cop
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, July 28 (PNA) -- Illegal fishing in the country’s richest fishing grounds, the Burias Pass-Acid Gulf water area near Masbate province, is a source of funds not only of big-time commercial fishers but also politicians, Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Philippine National Police Bicol regional director, said Monday.

Deona, who is set to be promoted and transferred to Camp Crame in Quezon City in the coming days for a higher post, said happy days were expected to come again for big-time commercial fishers, who are in cohort with persons in the corridors of power, as they would operate again in full swing to rape the seas in the region, specifically in Masbate province.

“I’m about to leave this command anytime even before the payola accusation cropped up and I’m sure those who have been hit by our stringent measures against illegal fishing operations will be very happy and will be back again if similar crusade will not continue,” he said.

The Bicol top cop admitted that he had been receiving calls from local politicians demanding a stop to the apprehension of commercial fishing vessels in the waters of Masbate and some even try, but failed, to bribe him.

“I voluntarily submitted myself to Napolcom investigation in front of Bishop Bong Baylon and Rep. Leni Robredo as chairperson of the Regional Advisory Council to ferret out the truth regarding the reported bribery,” he said.

Deona has been accused in the social media of being at the top in the list of officials receiving payola money from illegal fishing operators.

“We want an honest-to-goodness leadership here. Let us be transparent. So, I asked Napolcom Director Rodolfo Santos Jr. for them to include media practitioners as part of the investigating body so that there will be no cover-up,” the top Bicol police official added.

Santos, National Police Commission Bicol regional director, immediately formed a special investigating body to go through the reported illegal fishing payola payoffs given to Deona and Supt. Oscar Regala, PNP Bicol intelligence officer (R2).

Both Deona and Regala have been tagged as “berdugo” (executioners) by commercial fisher operators in the waters of Bicol, specifically in Masbate province, for showing iron hands against illegal fishing operations within the municipal waters that destroy marine habitats, thus, badly affecting marginalized fishermen across the region.

Deona, who is known as a man of few words but with iron hands, was formerly the provincial director in Masbate and headed the Special Task Force Masbate (STFM) in previous elections.

Masbate then was tagged as the wild, wild west in the country due to high prevalence of election-related crimes and he was considered by powerful personalities here as “skewer” of illegal but lucrative businesses there.

During his term as STFM head in 2010, he was able to compel warring political clan and powerful local politicians such as then congressman Antonio Kho, former representative Narciso “Bong” Bravo, and suspended Gov. Diana Llanete to surrender their loose firearms.

A cache of loose high-powered firearms were surrendered by powerful politicians of Masbate.

Santos lauded Deona's remarkable accomplishment in Bicol for his fearless campaign against illegal fishing, illegal drug, illegal logging, illegal numbers game, loose firearms and many others, despite lack of sophisticated equipment.

Earlier, Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (Albay, 3rd District) commended Deona for his honesty and strong will in fighting against powerful illegal fishing operators in Bicol, specifically in the Burias Pass and Albay West Coast area, covering Albay and Masbate, now being sought to be declared as seascape to protect the biodiversity there.

Aside from Gonzales, Robredo of (Camarines Sur, 3rd District) and Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi also lauded Deona's fearless drive against illegal fishing activities in the Bicol Region. (PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

Albayanos hail SONA, defend President Aquino from critics
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -- The sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III elicited positive reactions from a cross-section of the Albay community.

Netizen Kevin Lopez de Vera posted in his Facebook account: “I am happy with PNoy's SONA.”

There is no perfect president, Bicol University professor Dennis Remolacio Mirabueno, said on the SONA.

"And even when he has done right, it is usually what is negative that gets the focus. Yes, PNoy has many flaws and shortcomings but I still believe he has done something good for the country," Mirabueno said.

The SONA is over and surely, many will give criticisms but he hopes that the critics should also give credit to the right things President Aquino has done, he added.

"To those angry with PNoy, will their anger die down in the next administration or the same situation will exist?" the professor asked.

Sharahden Destura of Smoke Free Albay Network, one of those unemployed before and now employed in the Provincial Government of Albay, said she is now enjoying the benefits of the various programs and projects of the Aquino administration implemented through Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda.

Lawyer Melissa Abadeza, Legazpi City councilor, however, lamented that the President's critics protested the SONA right after the speech in Congress.

“Everyone has his own point of view of things but saying 'booo' after the speech of the President with those placards doesn't make them better than the President. Let us respect him, after all, no matter how small or big he may have done to perform his duty, I strongly believe he has done his best. Wala na talagang nagustuhan ang ibang tao. Hindi rin siguro madaling maging Presidente ng Pilipinas na puro problema. And worst, mga tao na sobra magpaproblema,” Abadeza said.

Also, the mention of the Bicol University (BU) by President Aquino made Albayanos proud.

BU students shouted as President Aquino said third year accounting students of the university are already recruited by accounting and auditing firms.

Meanwhile, Christene Dayap Villanueva, married to a Bicolano, said: "For 13 years, we had been deprived of electricity in our native land, with the Aquino administration, pag-uwi ko sa San Isidro, Kidapawan City, meron na. Masaya kami. Maraming pagbabagong nangyari hindi na tulad nang dati (For 13 years, we had been deprived of electricity in San Isidro, Kidapawan City; but with the Aquino administration, we already had when I went home. We are happy. Many has been done already unlike before). (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD/EDS

Monday, July 27, 2015

PNP-Bicol in full alert status in entire region for PNoy's SONA
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, July 27 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Philippine National Police-Bicol regional director, has placed his men in the entire region in full alert status to ensure peace and security during the State of the Nation Address (SONA)of President Benigno S. Aquino III Monday.

Deona issued a directive to all provincial directors and city and chiefs of police to intensify their men's patrol and security operations in their respective areas of responsibility.

He also ordered his police officers to exercise maximum tolerance in rallies to be conducted during the SONA.

Deona said the rally participants can freely express their sentiments on the SONA of the Presidents as this is their constitutional right of freedom of expression.

He, however, asked the rallying militants to also respect the rights of others, like the motorists and their other fellowmen.

The top Bicol police official appealed to them not block the streets so that the motorists can pass through.

"Respect for each other is the rule," he said.

In this connection, Sr. Supt. Marlo Meneses, Albay provincial police director, said security measures are already in place in the province for the President's SONA and his men are in full alert status as ordered by Deona.

Based on his chief's order, Meneses said his men are exercising full maximum tolerance as about 1,000 people have started gathering at the Peñaranda Park at about 10:30 a.m. Monday.

He thanked the Albayanos for being peace-loving people and historically, there has been no record of trouble during the SONA of a President. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

Sunday, July 26, 2015

DOLE posts 86.1% minimum wage compliance by Bicol firms

LEGAZPI CITY, July 25 (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment Bicol regional office has recorded an 86.1-percent compliance in minimum wage in the Bicol Region this July.

This can be gleaned from the new on-line Labor Laws Compliance System (LLCS) – an Internet-based system which automatically tracks down, rates and reports the accomplishment of the Labor Laws Compliance Officers (LLCOs) not only in the Bicol Region but also in the entire country.

“This new LLCS system is on-line, meaning, every time our LLCOs logged on to it, their report is automatically captured and generated. We can see here what our personnel are doing at the field,” DOLE Bicol Regional Director Nathaniel V. Lacambra on Friday said.

The LLCOs, formerly called inspectors, are the ones responsible in checking the compliance of establishments in general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards.

The difference between the LLCOs now and the inspectors before is the use of a developmental rather than a police approach in pushing for compliance, Lacambra said.

Here in Bicol, the system recorded a target of 2,210 establishments for assessment this year.

The total target is divided at 1,105 establishments per semester.

Consequently, during assessment, the LLCS system recognized that 86.1 percent of the total assessed establishments for the January-July period in Bicol are actually complying with the Regional Minimum Wage Rate.

The current minimum wage rate in Bicol, as specified in Wage Order No. RBV-16, is Php260.00 per day for establishments with more than 10 workers while Php236.00 per day for establishments with less than 10 workers.

This July, DOLE Bicol has already assessed a total of 971 establishments, of which, 967 were covered by Joint Assessment (JA) and four were covered by Compliance Visits (CV).

The JA is a regular assessment conducted by DOLE among establishments while the CV is the assessment initiated by DOLE if a complaint from a worker is received or a Single Entry Approach (SENA) Program Referral is endorsed by a Single Entry Approach Desk Officers (SEADO).

Out of the 971 establishments assessed, the DOLE Bicol recorded 334 violations on General Labor Standards (GLS) and 437 violations on Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS).

Of the 334 GLS violations reported, 135 were underpayment of wages, 14 violations on rest periods, 65 violations on OT pay, 162 violations on holiday and special day pay, 41 violations on service incentive leave (SIL), 72 violations on 13th month pay while 58 violations on records keeping.

Meanwhile, in OSHS, the violations noted were on Safety and Health Organization wherein 135 establishments were not conforming, 112 establishments with no health personnel, 5 with no medical facilities, 10 with no emergency medicines and 9 establishments with other safety and health issues.

“This GLS violations are actually the most common violations. The good part here is that when you compare these violations, especially in minimum wage, the compliance is still high at 86.1 percent,” Lacambra stressed.

Another good news, he said, is that the system reflected a 99.1-percent accomplishment for DOLE Bicol when it comes to establishments with deficiencies provided appropriate assistance leading to compliance.

“In this percentage, we can see the effect of the developmental approach. The establishments, through the help of our LLCOs are voluntarily complying and correcting their violations,” Lacambra said.

Other good indicators that the LLCS system checked for DOLE Bicol is the SSS, with 89.8-percent compliance, Pag-IBIG compliance at 86.1 percent and Philhealth compliance at 88.3 percent.

In totality, lawyer Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla, DOLE Bicol assistant regional director, said DOLE Bicol’s labor and management front is still “compliant”, “healthy” and not much an “issue of concern”.

“Of course, we will always see labor violations. I think it is impossible for us to have full compliance. The good thing here is we can already see the voluntary compliance from Bicol, based establishments and that is a very good indication,” Trayvilla said.

As of press time, the LLCOs of DOLE-Bicol are still conducting assessment in the region.(PNA) RMA/RCK/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

NPA rebels gun down ex-Army man, military 'informer' in Bicol

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, July 25 (PNA) -- New People's Army (NPA) members shot dead a former member of the Philippine Army who was walking alone on Saturday morning at Purok 4, Barangay Ramay, Oas, Albay.

Victim Pfc. Ramil Oray, 29, was a former member of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Tula-Tula Grande, Ligao City and a resident of the village.

An initial police report said the incident happened at about 7 a.m. while Oray was on his way home when the armed rebels blocked his way and gunned him down.

The suspects fled towards the mountainous portion of the village.

The former co-soldiers of Oray immediately responded to the crime scene where authorities recovered empty shells of an M-16 Armalite rifle reportedly used by the rebels.

Police said the rebels suspected the former soldier to be giving information to the the military regarding their activity.

Meanwhile, another group of rebels shot dead a helper in a piggery farm who they suspected to be a military informant on Friday night in Barangay Genorangan, Lagonoy, Camarines Sur.

Police identified the victim as Mario Verdadero, 45, married, and resident of the village.

A police report said that at about 6:30 p.m., Verdadero was busy with his work in the farm when the suspects arrived, poked guns at him, tied his hands and shot him.

The dissidents casually walked away after the execution.

The police said the NPA suspected Verdadero of being a military asset, giving information to the government forces about their activities in the area, which his relatives have vehemently denied.(PNA) JBP/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

PNP-Masbate personnel undergo graded physical fitness test

CAMP BONNY SERRANO, Masbate City, July 24 (PNA) -- Administrative sanction awaits personnel who failed to submit themselves for graded physical fitness test (PFT) and those who failed to get the minimum score average in the exercises, Police Supt. Eliseo T. Tanding, Masbate Police Provincial Office (MPPO) deputy provincial director for administration, said Saturday.

As part of the Philippine National Police (PNP) physical fitness program, some 210 police personnel from the MPPO, Provincial Public Safety Company and 21 police stations underwent the third quarter graded PFT test activity held over the week at this camp.

“Good physical condition is of paramount importance, especially with the nature of our job,” Tanding said.

According to Sr. Insp. Ignacio Dizon Suarilla III, head of the Human Resource Doctrine and Development Section of MPPO, police personnel with age bracket 39 years old below and as birthday celebrants for the month of June, July and August are required to take the physical fitness tests composed of pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, 100-meter sprint as well as jog/walk as ordered by the higher headquarters.

The 3rd quarter PFT was administered by a team from the Police Regional Office-5 spearheaded by Senior Supt. Romulo A. Esteban, deputy regional director for operations, and Sr. Insp. Rolly Marqueses, supervisor.(PNA) RMA/RCK/FGS/NBT/CBD/PJN

Villages start construction of 1,284 sub-projects under Kalahi-CIDSS

LEGAZPI CITY, July 25 (PNA) -- Marjorie Oshiro of Barangay San Roque, Sto. Domingo, Albay was delighted that the construction of the drainage canal that will benefit 224 households, including theirs, has started last July 16.

“Our house gets inundated during continuous downpour and we look forward to see that the canal will protect us from flooding once completed,” Oshiro said.

She is one of the villagers who take the lead role in the implementation of the 1,284 people-identified sub-projects in Bicol under the Kapit- Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) and who have already started the construction of these community projects this month.

“We aim to have these sub-projects completed before the year ends so that the poor villages can immediately use these facilities and services,” Arnel Garcia, Department of Social Welfare and Development Bicol regional director, said Friday.

Sub-projects refer to the community projects generated through the Kalahi-CIDSS planning process.

It is a set of development activities or interventions designed, implemented, maintained by a partner community in a barangay in order to respond to or address the needs or problems identified during the Participatory Situation Analysis held recently.

Garcia said the DSWD has already downloaded Php1.048 billion out of the Php2.3-billion grant for the 2014-2015 implementation of the Kalahi-CIDSS to the communities in 88 municipalities.

San Roque has already received the first tranche download of Php453,144.20 out of the total project cost of Php566,430.25.

The involved barangays have already opened separate bank accounts to get the Kalahi-CIDSS grants.

“The project-hired area coordinators of DSWD, barangay treasurers and the Barangay Sub-Project Management Committee chairpersons are the bank signatories authorized to disburse the funds for the labor and materials and other administrative expenses incurred for the sub-projects,” Garcia said.

The DSWD requires the communities to submit documents to avail themselves of the funds, which are released in three tranches.

The DSWD will only download the first tranche of the funds when the communities completely submit documents such as project proposals, technical/engineering, financial, legal and procurement documents.

The rest of the funds are only transferred to their accounts when the communities reach the required target for the sub-project physical completion and fund utilization with corresponding liquidation of documents to DSWD for the succeeding two tranches.

“The residents who are elected as volunteers are trained on project management with the technical assistance from our DSWD-hired employees to ensure that there is people participation and transparency in all transactions done,” Garcia said.

Communities were selected based on the community’s population, number of poor households and damage-affected households by Typhoon “Glenda” and Super Typhoon “Yolanda”. (PNA) RMA/RCK/FGS/MAM/CBD/PJN

ERC taps local IPP to address Catanduanes power crisis
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 26 (PNA) -– The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has switched on the green light for a local independent power producer (IPP) to help in addressing the energy crisis confronting the island- province of Catanduanes.

In its recent order addressed to the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (Ficelco), the ERC said the nagging power supply problem in the province calls for an emergency solution that could provide relief to the over-45,000 local consumers.

The order, which the ERC said is in line with mandate to protect the interest of power consumers as provided under Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), granted Ficelco the authority to derive power from the five-megawatt diesel-fed generator sets of the Sunwest Water & Electric Company (Suweco).

An affiliate of the Sunwest Group of Companies based here, Suweco, which is engaged in the creation of facilities for water and electricity generation and distribution, was incorporated in 2005 to be in the forefront of renewable energy development in the country.

It started in Catanduanes with a Php860-million twin mini-hydro power plants in San Miguel and Caramoan towns with a combined rated capacity of 3.8 megawatts (MWs).

The hydro plants started operations sometime in 2009, augmenting the supply being distributed by the Ficelco to its consumers whose current demand is reaching as much as 9 MWs, but the supply is very much lower, especially during summer when water level is low to run at full capacity the hydro plants.

Apart from the Suweco mini-hydro power plants, the cooperative draws its other supply from the 1.8-MW Balongbong hydro-power plant being operated by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) in Bato town and private suppliers using 3.6-MW generator sets under rental contracts.

These sources, however, could not effectively deliver the demand, causing frequent brownouts -- a gloomy situation causing disastrous effects on business operations in the province and posing deleterious effect to the local economy caused by the actual losses and foregone revenues.

Under this situation that renders the local unit of Napocor helpless against forced technical outages, resulting in a supply deficiency of about 7MW — a huge shortage from the 9-MW requirement of the province.

Power is indeed a problem in Catanduanes, being an off-grid area and served mainly by the facilities covered by the Napocor’s Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG).

It can be recalled that last year, the provincial government placed the province under a “state of calamity” amid 12- to 48- hour regular brownouts blamed on the failure of the local power supply provider contracted by Napocor to deliver at least 3.75 MWs of electricity to the Catanduanes power grid using two 1.5-MW and a 750-kilowatt gensets.

That prompted Gov. Araceli Wong to plead with Pres. Benigno Aquino III into directing Department of Energy (DOE) and Napocor to promptly remedy the situation.

Malacañang acted with dispatch by referring the matter to Napocor which, as a remedy, contracted for Php47 million Monark Equipment, a private firm, for the delivery to the province of new three-megawatt generator sets.

The delivery was said to be completed sometime early this year but its commissioning has been dragging on for some time, with Napocor announcing later that the new Monark gensets will be commissioned starting on the last quarter of this year.

In May 2012, the President, during his Catanduanes visit, approved the release of Php200 million for the power distribution upgrading project as part of the Php711-million Napocor projects in the island that include the installation of the 51.17-kilometer Virac-San Miguel 69-kV transmission line and the 39-kilometer Codon-Virac 69-kV transmission line.

The whole amount also covered the acquisition of three new sets of diesel generators with a capability of 1,500 kilowatts each, which have been included in the budget for the revised capacity addition for 2013-2018 of Napocor’s SPUG spelled out in its Missionary Electrification Plan for the same period.

Sources from Catanduanes, however, said the Monark gensets would not significantly solve the problem as they are only replacement to the old units at the Napocor’s 3.6-MW Marinawa Diesel Power Plant.

Suweco president Elizalde Co over the weekend, on the other hand, announced here that the company’s five units of diesel-fed gensets, each capable of 1 MW are already in its plant in Bato, Catanduanes and will be ready to supply the island’s power grid at least in a week's time as soon as the technicians complete the installation and line testing.

Although the focus of the company concerning electricity generation is renewable energy, he added that it decided to provide diesel generator sets “as a last recourse” to address the erratic Catanduanes power supply situation.

The use of these generators, Co said, will be temporarily covered by the existing Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) that Suweco has with Ficelco covering the company’s three hydro plants.

As provided under the ESA, Suweco sells hydro-plant-produced electricity to Ficelco at Php5.741 per kilowatt hour (KWH), a rate that is lower than the power generated by Napocor’s diesel gensets that costs about Php6.60 per KWH.

An amendment to the ESA, wherein Suweco is seeking rate adjustment to Php6.32/KWH to cover the generation cost, is pending with the ERC.

In its order allowing the use of the Suweco gensets, however, the ERC clarified that the True Cost of Generation Rate (TCGR) is allowed in the meantime for the supply under the arrangement that shall be bench-marked to its previous approvals of power supply agreements involving power plants with similar capacity and technology.

The reason for this, the ERC added, is to ensure the reasonableness of the rates imposed on electricity consumers and pursuant to its obligation to review supply agreements between generation companies and distribution utilities. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

DOST showcases development of technology for early detection of swine diarrhea
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 26 (PNA) – Majority of Bicol’s rural households maintain pig pens at their backyard as their piggy banks.

In these pens, they raise pigs in the conventional manner which, in most cases, renders them helpless when deadly common infections such as diarrhea hit their pets.

In this case, pre-weaner pigs suddenly excrete yellowish watery diarrhea, an alarming picture that could also be seen in neighboring pens, wherein most, if not all, piglets in a litter die.

What infection is causing this unsightly scene to the pens and even large piggery farms can not be readily identified and farmers and pet keepers have to go back to past events, recalling what transpired during the recent days before the disease struck.

Though a farmer would keep himself unruffled, the ghastly disease progression displayed in front of him may just send him off the roof and trying to muster composure, he would mentally recount his earnings from the prior sale of the healthy finishers and the impending losses that is unfolding right before his very eyes.

This horrendous sight is common among piggery farm owners as their animals experience bouts of gastrointestinal infections.

Such hostile incident as experienced by local swine producers is replete with losses and economic impacts brought about by animal diseases but had the pathogen been detected before the animals exhibit the clinical symptoms, the battle can be considered as already half won.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has a good news, however.

According to DOST Bicol Regional Director Tomas Briñas based here, animal health researchers from the College of Veterinary Science and Medicine of the Central Luzon State University have developed a diagnostic test kit that will be able to detect and diagnose one of the most virulent viral gastrointestinal infections in pigs, the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED).

The development came as a technology utilizing nucleic acid amplification of target pathogenic organisms of swine respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections to detect the presence of the infective agent in just half an hour has been formulated.

Other procedures take several hours to detect the diseased animal, Briñas said.

Owing to its high specificity in detecting the diseased animals harboring the target pathogen and high sensitivity in ruling out healthy or non-diseased animals, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) is currently being employed in the development of the PED Test Kits.

The LAMP technology, Briñas explained, produces tremendous copies of the target gene sequence in as short as 30 minutes and the nucleic acid amplification can be carried out using simple and less expensive equipment like a simple thermostat or water bath.

The technology, he said, is very comparable to the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay kit and polymerase chain reaction kit but is less affected by presence of non-targeted DNA or inhibitory molecules because of its high specificity and sensitivity.

Commercialization of the test kits will greatly improve the welfare of the swine population and the local swine industry as a whole.

This new technology, the DOST regional chief noted, is only one of the many research and development initiatives on livestock concerns supported by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the DOST.

The PCAARRD, he said, is showcasing its leading research and development initiatives in the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources sectors in the ongoing National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) that will end on July 28 at SMX Mall of Asia, Pasay City.

The 2015 NSTW adopts the theme Philippines: A Science Nation Innovating for Global competitiveness while PCAARRD, on the other hand, adopts Strategic Industry Science and Technology Program for Agri-Aqua Growth (SIPAG) ni Juan as its theme to bolster its commitment to Outcome One – one of eight outcomes which DOST has committed to achieve for the country.

Outcome One seeks to provide science-based know-how and tools that will enable the agricultural sector to raise productivity to world-class standards.

“Outcome One serves as DOST’s blueprint towards alleviating poverty in the agriculture and aquatic sectors as part of the government’s social contract with our people,” Briñas quoted DOST Secretary Mario Montejo as saying in a message during one of PCAARRD’s events. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Massive agri-ecotourism park eyed in Catanduanes university site
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, July 26 (PNA) -– A huge portion of the sprawling Catanduanes State University (CSU) complex in Virac, the island-province’s capital, is being eyed for development as an agri-tourism site under the government’s Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone (FTEZ) program.

When realized, the over 50-hectare section of the 120-hectare CSU campus will be known as the Catanduanes Agri-Ecotourism and Conservative Park -- inspired by the tourism estate models and positive socio-economic impacts in Nusa Dua, Bali and Jeju Island, South Korea.

In a statement reaching here over the weekend, Catanduanes Governor Araceli Wong said her office has endorsed the project based on the development proposal prepared by CSU under the leadership of its president, Dr. Minerva Morales.

The site, when developed, the governor said, will become a viable green tourism attraction, added to those that already exist in the province gifted with rich natural resources — from its lush forests cherished by nature lovers down to beautiful beaches and coastal waters that offer great sites for sea surfing and other water sport engagements.

The Bicol regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) based here looks at the province as a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues.

According to DOT Regional Director Maria Ravanilla, her agency realizes the potentials of the island as a world-class ecotourism destination, the reason why it has been included in the formation last year of the “Triple C” cluster, a local tourism industry development alliance called “Gems of the Pacific” for its geographical location which is along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

The cluster also includes the provinces of Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte comprising a tourism development area (TDA) as identified in the 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) of the DOT.

Ravanilla said two sub-TDAs form this cluster--the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) covering the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

Wong said the CSU agri-ecotourism park development proposal was recently submitted to Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Authority (TIEZA) which promptly acted on it by sending in to the province an evaluation team to find out if the site qualifies as a Tourism Enterprise Zone (TEZ) under the Philippines FTEZ program.

Formerly known as the Tourism Development Authority, TIEZA was created through Republic Act No. 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009 as an agency attached to the DOT mandated to support the development of Philippine tourism product primarily through the grant of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to TEZs.

TEZ is described by the program as an area that is capable of being defined into one contiguous territory, has a historical and cultural significance coupled with environmental beauty and an existing or potential integrated leisure facilities at reasonable distance from it.

It must also have strategic access through transportation infrastructure and reasonable connection with utilities infrastructure systems.

Ravanilla said that to qualify as a FTEZ, the proposed CSU site must have, among other requirements, at least be 50 hectares, with the owner having a clean title or right to develop the property, and must be accessible through or near a tourism gateway like airport, seaport or inter-provincial or national road.

Other requirements are: basic utilities such as water, power, and information and communication technology; strong institutional support by way of comprehensive land use plan to local tourism development plan; the property in itself must offer existing or potential tourism products and resources; and the property owner must be willing to enter into a partnership with TIEZA and commit to the implementation of the master plan.

Once approved for development into a FTEZ, the site will enjoy assistance from TIEZA in the preparation of viable development packages; provision of infrastructure support and incentives from the DOT through promotion and marketing of the area in tourism and investment missions; and support from other government agencies thru the convergence projects.

When established as the Catanduanes Agri-Ecotourism and Conservative Park, its management will be subject to agreement between TIEZA’s Tourism Enterprise Zone Management Sector and the CSU or both parties may opt for the creation of a joint venture corporation to run its operations.

Formerly the Catanduanes State College, CSU was elevated by Pres. Benigno Aquino III into a university in October 2012 to become the island- province’s premier state-run higher education institution tasked to get involved in local development through, among other interventions, the formulation of new and modern agricultural and fishery programs to help address poverty in the area.

Within the area covered by the proposed TEZ, CSU currently operates in partnership with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources a fish hatchery facility designed to help the province improve the performance of its fishery industry.

The hatchery is now functioning as a modern facility for aquaculture, stock enhancement and genetic conservation through trapping of adult and spawning fishes, crabs, shrimps and mollusks.

When approved into the FTEZ program, Wong said, the university can come up with more facilities in the hatchery to make it a more attractive agri-ecotourism site.

The CSU is also an active partner of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the implementation in the province of a mushroom production program showcasing big livelihood opportunities that are environment-friendly as farm garbage like rice straw and abaca wastes are utilized as media and converted into organic materials.

The university has also committed to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) that promotes and facilitates technical and scientific cooperation among various stakeholders on biodiversity, particularly in the rural areas.

This intervention is focused on biodiversity and productivity in abaca (Musa textilis) farms, which are of large areas in the province, as well as mountain streams, rivers, estuaries and wetlands of the coastal areas.

The CBD attends to the global significance of biodiversity of small and sustainable islands vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons, tidal surges, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that will have impact on the human population and the unique flora and fauna in coastal and upland communities. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Albay solon readies measure seeking declaration of Ticao-Burias Pass as protected seascape
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, July 26 (PNA) -- Albay 3rd district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez said here on Sunday he is readying a legislative measure seeking the declaration of the Ticao-Burias Pass as a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Gonzalez explained that protected seascapes are among sites of national significance characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and ocean while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through the recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activities offered by these areas.

The congressman, whose representation in Congress covers Albay west coast which is along Burias Pass, said that once officially declared as MPA under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), the Ticao-Burias Pass will be placed under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), a multi-sectoral body which will be created to be responsible for its administration and management.

The PAMB as provided under the NIPAS Act of 1992 shall be composed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director and representatives of local governments and barangays with jurisdictions over areas covered by the MPA, non-government organizations and from other government agencies involved in the protected area management.

The same law provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines defined as the identified portions of land and/or water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.

“There is indeed an urgent need for the Burias-Ticao Pass to be declared an MPA or a protected seascape to save and preserve its great marine diversity threatened by unabated illegal fishing activities and other abuses,” Gonzalez said.

These waters are home to whale sharks, manta rays, dugong and various species of sea turtles, exotic coral reefs and lately discovered to be a habitat of the globally rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios), he said.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Ocean Campaigner Vince Cinches, who expressed support to the proposed Gonzalez’s measure, said both water bodies are being overfished and devoid of more sustainable coastal resource management initiatives.

Greenpeace an independent global campaigning organization that, among other environmental activism, challenges wasteful and destructive fishing activities and creating a global network of marine reserves.

The idea carrying the Burias-Ticao Pass Protected Seascape (BTPPS) fathered by Gonzalez was first brought out during last month’s observance here of the World Oceans Day held along the Burias Pass shoreline in Barangay Cabarian that put together various marine ecology protection and conservation stakeholders in Bicol.

The event also marked the formation of a broad coalition among local stakeholders towards the conservation of the exotic ecological system of the two inland waters that separate Masbate province from the mainland of Bicol.

The coalition led by the city government here is composed, among others, of the regional offices for Bicol of the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Others in its fold are the local command of the Philippine Army (PA); the municipal government of Pioduran, Albay; Greenpeace Philippines; Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD); barangay officials; and fisher folk.

The two other towns covering barangays along the Albay west coast--Libon and Oas -- have also signified intentions to be part of the coalition committed not only to put an end to illegal fishing and another abusive use of our marine resources but also to further revitalize the local coastal environment.

The primary concern of the coalition is the huge fishing ground covering Albay west coast’s municipal waters and their rich coastal resources threatened by human pressures, including over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification.

Good for this city because its water within Burias Pass -- which is approximately 126 square-kilometers in expanse and coastline of about 8.4 kilometers in expanse covering barangays Cabarian, Catburawan and Maonon -- is site of a marine ecology enhancement program reinforced with a “we-mean-business” anti-illegal fishing campaign being maintained by the local government.

But other Ticao-Burias areas, including those covered by municipalities of Masbate and Sorsogon, particularly need the protection that members of the coalition such as the DENR, BFAR, PNP, PA, LCCAD and Greenpeace want to extend.

Gonzalez said he is optimistic that the proposed legislative measure for the BTPPS will be given a warm welcome and wide support by Congress, given that Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate’s committee on environment and natural resources, and DENR Sec. Ramon Paje have already expressed their approval of it.

This initial approval was conveyed by Legarda and Paje following its presentation to the conference of the PAMB in Pasig City early this month.

LCCAD executive director Manuel Rangasa said the BTPPS will be a milestone policy for the first MPA in Bicol and fourth in the country which Gonzalez vows to pursue in the Lower House with the help of Legarda in Senate. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM

Salceda suspends classes in all Albay schools at all levels, provincial government work after noontime

LEGAZI CITY, July 26 (PNA) -- Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda has suspended classes in both public and private schools after 12:00 p.m. on Monday for all levels and all areas in Albay, "as both private-public school students must have equal opportunity to learn a lesson."

"Indeed, the State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno S. Aquino III offers our youth a good lesson which they can ideally learn by listening together with their family at home," Salceda explained.

In exchange for their afternoon classes, he said, college students may be required to submit an one-paragraph reaction to the SONA to their professors.

Salceda also instructed heads of provincial departments and all LGUs under his supervision to discharge their respective staffs early after lunch.

Provincial department heads, the governor said, are to submit to the Provincial Planning Development Office a one-pager policy, program and project recommendations arising from the SONA.

"Inasmuch as the SONA is a report of the government, we also enjoin national government agencies operating in Albay -- except those engaged in delivering health, responding to emergency and in keeping the peace and order and those currently exempted like Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas -- to give their respective staffs the same opportunity.

Obviously, he said, this sector includes Department of Education teachers and state universities, colleges and schools professors.

"For public interest and public welfare, I invoke my powers under the law, so I ordered these," Salceda explained.

"At this stage of our nation-building, it will help us grow together as a people to listen ourselves with utmost openness to the last SONA of our beloved President Benigno S. Aquino III and to learn and discern its meaning for ourselves and for our children, and for our community," the Albay chief executive added.

Corollarily and just as importantly, he said, tomorrow throughout the day, particularly in the afternoon, "we are also given a chance to watch our political leaders, business leaders and social leaders and the 'common tao' articulate what they expect and how they respond to the President's accounting of the performance of his government for the past five years and his exhortations for our nation's future." (PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/RSM

PNP-Bicol chief denies receiving payola money from illegal fishing

LEGAZPI CITY, July 25 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol regional director, emphatically denied having received even a single centavo, and never will receive one as payola money, from the illegal fishing operations in Masbate and the entire Bicol Region.

Deona's statement came after his name was dragged as among top government and police officials in the list of illegal fishing operators in Masbate seas who receive monthly payola money.

He said he would never allow anybody to destroy his name which he has been protecting from being stained.

"I can look straight to anybody's eyes on this controversy that has come up," the PNP Bicol top official said.

Deona claimed that he was really hurt by the allegation because, he said, he has never been involved in any controversy and moreover, his children and entire family were also very much affected.

"I am about to leave Bicol as regional director of the PNP and may be transferred to another assignment. Once I retire from the service, I will come back to my home place, particularly here in Albay, and I will face my provincemates with clean name and untainted honor," he said.

In this connection, he voluntarily placed himself and the members of the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) under the investigation of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) Bicol regional office and other investigating body so that truth will come out.

"Truth will set me free," he said.

Deona asked his accusers to come out in the open and face him.

He said if these persons would not come out, then they had different agenda.

The Bicol police top official said he had been doing all he could to ferret out the truth.

First, he said, he submitted to the Regional Advisory Council of the PNP Bicol, headed by Congresswoman Leni Robredo as chair, and Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi as vice chair, the alleged structural organization chart of the payola of illegal fishing operation in Masbate.

The council recommended a thorough study and investigation of the issue not only in Masbate but also in the entire Bicol Region.

Robredo gave assignments to all members of the Regional Advisory Council, including the Napolcom.

Deona said he had also disbanded the RSOG, which he formed to go after illegal fishing operations in Masbate after its head, Supt. Oscar Regala, was also included in the accusation.

He said he had ordered the RSOG members to return to the Regional Headquarters to face the investigation.

Deona said the investigation on the issue is very important to clarify everything and clear his name and those of other innocent persons maliciously implicated in the controversy.

He said he would also attend the meeting of the Masbate Peace and Order Council.

The Bicol police chief called on local government officials not only in Masbate but also in the entire region to cooperate in the campaign of the police against any form of illegal activity like illegal fishing in their respective areas of responsibility.

He said the LGUs play an important role as matters regarding fishing had already been devolved to them.

Deona also called on all sectors of the society to cooperate for the success of the campaign against illegal activities.(PNA) RMA/RCK/FGS/NIM/CBD/PJN

Robredo open to running for senatorial post in 2016 polls
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, July 24 (PNA) -- The widow of former Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, neophyte lawmaker Leni Gerona-Robredo of Camarines Sur (3rd District), is open to the possibility of running for senatorial post under the Liberal Party in the May 2016 elections.

Robredo's decision to run for a higher post, however, depends on her possible successor as representative of her congressional district in Camarines Sur.

That is, she said, the position should be handled diligently so that the constituents and the position she would be vacating will be in good hands and the basic services and development she has started will be pursued.

“I’m open for senatorial post but I want to make sure that the district office I am vacating in case I would decide to run for a higher position will be in good hands so the people’s needs will not be neglected,” Robredo said.

She said the possible candidate for congressional race in the 3rd district of Camarines Sur in case she decided to run for the senatorial post is former vice mayor and now councilor Gabriel “Gabby” Bordado of Naga City who has shown interest to run in the post she would be giving up.

Robredo decided to run for Congress due to the sudden public clamor that transpired after her husband died in a plane crash in 2012 in the island-province of Masbate.

It is said that Robredo owes her victory to her husband’s popularity and the then factionalism in the ruling political dynasty.

When asked who would be her presidential bet in 2016 in the wake of the President's interest in considering Senator Grace Poe as administration's possible presidential contender owing to her growing popularity, Robredo said choosing the presidential contender should not be based on popularity.

“The presidency should not be based on popularity. The suited president should be 'matino at mahusay' (prudent and clever),” she said.

Poe, currently the front runner in the surveys, ran and won as senator in 2013 under the ticket of President Benigno Aquino’s political party but has remained independent.

She is now being considered as one of the presidential contenders after overtaking Vice President Jejomar Binay and Mar Roxas in the presidential surveys.

Robredo, chairman of the Regional Advisory Council of the Philippine National Police, came to Camp Gen. Simeon Ola here on Thursday where she presided over the monthly meeting.

The lady lawmaker from Camarines Sur, who has served her constituents diligently, won by a landslide against Nelly Villafuerte, wife of former Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, in the 3rd District of Camarines Sur.

The Villafuertes, with Luis Sr. at the helm, have ruled the province for about 35 years now.

Robredo won by a big margin, the biggest in the province’s history.

She got 123,843 votes, or 76.93 percent of the total votes cast while Villafuerte received only 35,160 votes.

She managed that feat without dispensing favors, a practice that the Villafuertes are known for during elections.

After her husband’s death in a plane accident, Robredo took over as chair of the Liberal Party in Camarines Sur.

Her stated purpose is to call for a convention to select a candidate for congressman.

She was compelled to run when the party in the province threatened to disintegrate because no candidate was acceptable to the members.

Besides, the members believed that only she had the chance of toppling a member of the influential Villafuerte dynasty.

It was a double whammy for the Villafuerte husband and wife.

The patriarch, known in the province as LRV, ran for governor but he lost to his own grandson, Miguel.

He had occupied the post for 18 years before he ran and won as congressman. (PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/rsm

Bicol top cop submits self to Napolcom probe
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, July 24 (PNA) -- With the controversial issue on illegal fishing payola implicating Chief Supt. Victor Deona, Bicol police regional director, and Supt. Oscar Regala, Police Regional Intelligence Officer, the Bicol top cop personally submitted himself for thorough investigation of the National Police Commission here.

Deona made the move on Thursday during the Regional Advisory Council Meeting presided by Rep. Leni Robredo, which was attended by Napolcom Regional Director Eduardo Santos Jr., Bishop Joel “Bong” Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi, Deona, other ranking police officials and other members of the council here.

He personally requested the Napolcom official to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the illegal fishing payola to ferret out the truth regarding the controversial issue to clear his name regarding the matter.

Earlier, the Bicol police chief admitted that the Philippine National Police-Bicol had been receiving payola from illegal fishing activities but when he assumed his post as regional director two years ago he stopped the reported practice in the past at the police regional office.

Deona has been a well-known straight, strict and highly respected police official among his peers down to the non-commissioned police officers owing to his remarkable supervision and accomplishments that has made the PNP Bicol office as number one regional police office in the country.

No wonder his peers, the public and friends was filled with disbelief when he was accused of receiving “grease money” from illegal fishing operators after PNP Bicol's series of apprehensions of big-time commercial fishing vessels owned by local mayors in Quezon province.

The illegal fishing cases are now under court litigation in Masbate and in Sorsogon provinces.

Baylon, who was formerly assigned in the island-province of Masbate and who fought the illegal fishing activities a few years ago, admitted before the Regional Advisory Council that these activities are difficult to curtail as commercial fishing operators go on their business under the very noses of local officials in the province.

“Illegal fishing activities in Masbate are very difficult to curtail. Most of the big-time commercial fishing vessels operators are armed and even went beyond the marginalized fishermen,” the prelate said.

Robredo also admitted that massive illegal fishing is also taking place in Camarines Sur not only in the province of Masbate.

She asked Baylon to form a special task force from the church group across the region to investigate the extent of illegal fishing operation in Bicol.

Robredo said Deona’s accomplishments on illegal fishing could not be questioned as the Bicol top cop has done a remarkable task to get rid of big-time commercial fishers despite lack of equipment.

He told the Philippines News Agency that during peak seasons, 65 percent of the country’s fish catch came from Masbate, one of the richest fishing grounds in the Philippines.

Deona said big-time illegal fishers operating in the waters of Bicol come from Zamboanga, Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Quezon provinces.

These groups are operating within the waters of Burias Pass and Asid Gulf.

Another group, the Lucena-Quezon group, operates in Burias Pass and Ragay Gulf, according to Deona.

Also operating in these areas are the Bicol group and the Navotas-Malabon-Cebu fishers, which also operate in Sibuyan Sea and are equipped with state-of-the-art fish finders and armed men, the Bicol top police official said.

“At nighttime, the Burias Pass is like a 'city of light' or a metropolis due to the presence of mushrooming 'pangulong' commercial fishing vessels with super lights and equipped with fish finders and sonar detectors. These haul fish, big or small, sadly destroying the coral reefs, especially in Masbate and Albay's west coast, as illegal fishers, mostly commercial fishers, rape our seas,” Deona said.

He said the pangulong operation is the most damaging in Bicol waters.

“There’s heavy pressure on the PNP but we are serious in our campaign to save our marine resources. While there is time, we need to act together to curtail illegal fishing to save our seas and biodiversity," Deona said.

The pangulong fishing boat drags a gaping net along the ocean floor and the trawl nets capture anything in their path and seriously damage the seafloor.

The otter trawl is the most widely used bottom-fishing gear as it is dragged forward, a pair of flat plates called otter boards—one on each side of the trawl net and weighing several tons—spreads horizontally to keep the mouth of the trawl open at the same time, a long rope with steel weights keeps the mouth open along its bottom edge.

This method is prohibited under the Fisheries Code of the Philippine enacted in 1998.

Unfortunately, Republic Act No. 8550, according to local authorities and fishermen here, is totally futile as the law failed to protect the livelihood and marine environment all over the country.

The more than a decade fisheries law was enacted during the incumbency of former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos and aims to uplift the lives of small fishermen, promote food security for 100 million Filipinos and protect the biodiversity, ecosystem and environment from internal and external factors. (PNA) RMA/FGS/RBB/CBD/rsm