Thursday, November 26, 2015

PATA forum overshoots target participants
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 26 (PNA) -- The number of participants in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) forum being currently held at The Oriental Hotel here is impressive and above expectation as it overshot the target registrants.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda attributed this positive development to the unity, kindness, expressed hospitality, professionalism and expertise of frontliners and back office staff of the Provincial Government of Albay and its people.

Salceda gave this positive and inspiring assessment on Thursday morning as the prestigious event continues.

"Albay never stops to amaze," he said.

Based on the registry record, a total of 561 guests and participants from 20 countries are here in Albay to experience the culture, nature and adventure of a lesser-known but most attractive destination in the Philippines.

As of press time, a Technical Tour and Tourism Marketing Treasure Hunt is being done by 150 guests who registered online on a "first come, first served" basis.

For this one day field session, delegates are challenged to explore and discover the hidden gems of a location, while immersing with the unique culture, geography and people of the province.

They will taste their food, admire landscapes and savor their history while leveraging digital tools to identify, collect and promote new-found treasures, Albay Provincial Tourism and Cultural Affairs Officer Dorothy F. Colle said.

Delegates will be taken along an action-packed journey, Colle added.

In Lignon Hill -- a place for hiking, climbing, zipline, rappelling, hanging bridge walking, Japanese tunneling and lava watching -- the delegates will be treated to a 360-degree panoramic view of the Mayon Volcano and excellent view of the city, especially at night.

Visitors are encouraged to walk from the foot to the top of the hill but are advised to wear comfortable shoes.

Legazpi Boulevard is a long stretch of road that interlinks five barangays of Albay, Colle said.

It offers very good views of the Mayon Volcano and the Kapuntukan Hill.

The Mayon ATV Adventure and Mayon Lava Watching are a one-of-kind adventure that includes a 9-km, 45-minute ride going to the lava field below Mayon Volcano from the foot of the Lignon Hill.

Cagsawa Ruins is where remnants of an 18th century Franciscan church, whose tower remains a memorial structure for the 2,000 buried former inhabitants and reminder of the resilience of the Albayanos to the challenges that nature brings.

After the Cagsawa Church was destroyed by Mayon's eruption in 1814, the Daraga Church became the main parish church of Cagsawa.

The original façade and bell tower still remains today.

The design of the Daraga Church is described as a blend of Renaissance Gothic and Mexican Baroque architectural styles.

It was declared a National Culture Treasure in 2007.

A Barrio Fiesta-themed dinner hosted by Provincial Government of Albay will be held at the Albay Astrodome for the delegates.

On Nov. 27, the conference proper will be divided into different sessions that will focus on Eco-tourism and Climate Change.

The forum will be formally welcomed by Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez.

The keynote speaker is Loraine Gatlabayan who will focus on Climate Change Mitigation and its Role on Tourism.

Tourism can be both a victim and contributor to climate change and the keynote speaker will explore the complexities of this issue and suggest actions that can be taken to mitigate the potential negative impact of tourism activities.

Session 1 is about Marine Tourism and Implications for Water-Resilient Operations and Session 2, Global Adventure Trends. ASEAN for adventure, where horizons are endless and breakout sessions typically comprise of presentation in questions and answer style, featuring speakers from prominent organizations who are leaders in their respective fields.

PATA is one of the biggest and premier organizations of travel and tourism players in the Asia-Pacific Region and has been a leading authority on the industry for 60 years.

The association is also a partner of the United Nations World Toursim Organization (UNWTO). (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/EDS

PATA official sees Albay in global tourism map soon
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 26 (PNA) -- The Province of Albay is a promising future destination of tourists as it would be in the international tourism map soon said a media briefing Wednesday night at The Oriental Hotel.

This is how Mario Hardy, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) chief executive officer, foresaw the province as he admitted being impressed by the beautiful and rich greenery around as well as the interesting culture and fantastic native foods.

Hardy said the experience he and his wife have had in the province is a real achievement in their life.

"It is a true-to-life story for me and my wife," he said, as he claimed that when his wife saw the greenery that carpeted the surrounding when they arrived, she felt as if she had not left her home place.

The PATA official said that before he came here during the UNWTO meeting last year, he did not know Legazpi City but, he said, when he searched in the Internet, he was captivated by the place, especially when he set foot on the place.

Hardy said the holding of PATA forum in Albay will open a very rare and fantastic opportunity and great potential not only to the PATA members but also to Albay.

"This is because everything you offer is of great interest," he said.

The PATA chief executive officer said tourists look for things different that are not found in their own countries, like what are in Albay.

He urged the Philippine Government and the Provincial Government of Albay to build more infrastructure facilities like airports.

In Albay, people are very much waiting for the completion of the Bicol International Airport in Barangay Alobo in nearby Daraga town.

Hardy also called for the strengthening of destinations connectivity and products diversification.

He cautioned, however, that with more tourists coming to Albay, its beauty and verdant surrounding must not be sacrificed.

The tourism industry leader stressed the need to preserve water and energy resources and the practice of proper waste management. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

DAR-Bicol produces 1st batch of organic farming school graduates in Catanduanes
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- A group of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Catanduanes is now a proud batch of graduates of the first organic Farmers’ Field School (FFS) organized in the province by the regional office for Bicol here of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

The batch has 32 members who successfully completed the season-long course recently and now distributed among various agrarian reform communities (ARCs) in the island-province to showcase to their peers the “miracles” of organic farming based on what they learned from the FFS, DAR Bicol Regional Director Luis Bueno Jr. on Wednesday said.

The FFS, which focuses on technology transfer through a combination of lectures and actual field demonstrations on what have been previously discussed in the classroom, is where farmers are given a chance to have new field experiences.

It is a group-based learning process where the participants are given on-hand learning activities that grant them awareness on a variety of environmental-friendly farming innovations.

The training program also equips farmers with the technology as a measure to further increase local production as it includes pests and diseases prevention, appropriate fertilizer application and water management that contribute immensely to a more efficient and improved plant growth to attain high yield.

It is a three-month training program composed of 16 sessions starting from planting until the time that the crop would be ready to be harvested.

After completing the program that provides them knowledge on proven agricultural practices based on organic system, Bueno said, it is expected that these ARBs would be able to increase their production out of their learning on crop protection and organic fertilizer and pesticide applications provided by experts from the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).

DAR-Bicol has earlier forged a partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office based in Pili, Camarines Sur and ATI towards providing Bicolano ARBs with knowledge in organic crop production.

After graduation from the FFS, these graduates were given by DAR vegetable, rice and corn seeds to start with their farm and backyard crop production.

Expenses of the training program are being shouldered by the DAR under the its Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS), according to Bueno.

ARCCESS is a program under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III that aims to transform ARBs into viable entrepreneurs by providing them with support services to enhance their farming capabilities and increase their income.

Its beneficiaries are landless farmers -- including agricultural lessees, tenants, as well as regular, seasonal and other farm workers.

In certain landholding, the qualified beneficiaries who are tenants and regular farm workers identified and screened by DAR receive three hectares each before distributing the remaining land to the other qualified beneficiaries like seasonal farm works and other farm workers.

There were already 184,565 ARBs in Bicol as of October 30, 2014 and DAR’s land acquisition and distribution (LAD) under CARPER was placed at 3,307 hectares or 18 percent of the targeted 18,883 hectares, records show.

“We do not want these lands to become idle after distributing it to ARBs, that is why DAR is training and encouraging them to go into organic farming as we assure them that the agency is helping them improve their quality of life,” Bueno said.

Based on studies, the organic way of farming does not only produce chemically-free vegetables and crops but also protects the environment as farmers have been taught on how to produce their own fertilizers and pesticides using natural materials like dried leaves and animal manure, Bueno added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Former Albay solon welcomes graft, malversation case

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- Former Albay 3rd District representative Rino Lim on Wednesday said he welcomes the filing of graft and corruption charges against him by the Ombudsman in connection with his Php27-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007.

Lim said although he has not yet received any summons from the Ombudsman regarding the graft case slapped against him, he said he will answer the charges filed against him.in a phone interview, he said, "If indeed there are graft and corruption charges lodged against me, I welcome it."

"I welcome the investigation that has been made by the Ombudsman and I commend Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for conducting a thorough investigation on the matter, the filing of charges would correct the procedures in government project implementation in the future," Lim said.

He said they have documents that will prove that the transactions were based on standards, saying that they will prove that the charges have no basis.

Asked if politics has something to do with the case, Lim quickly answered "Ï am sure that this has nothing to do with politics."

Lim's political career as a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) began when he was elected Albay's 3rd District representative from 2007 to 2010.

When he sought a second term, he lost his reelection bid against former Albay Governor Fernando Gonzalez.

Lim's brother, Raul, is running for the vice gubernatorial seat in the 2016 election. He said he is busy managing his telecommunications business in Manila.

In a press statement, the Office of the Ombudsman said it had ordered the filing of charges against Lim for the anomalous utilization of his 2007 PDAF amounting to Php27 million.

Lim, together with five Technology Resource Center (TRC) officials, Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Inc. (KMFI) representatives and Carmelita Barredo of C. C. Barredo Publishing House are facing charges of four counts of graft and corruption and four counts of malversation.

Included in the charge sheet are TRC executives Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover and Consuelo Lilian Espiritu as well as KMFI representatives Carlos and France Mercado.

Records show that in August and November 2007, Lim requested the release of his PDAF amounting to Php30 million and identified the TRC as the implementing agency with KMFI as non-government organization-partner.

The Php30 million was intended for the procurement of 8,000 sets of livelihood instructional materials and technology kits.

In 2008, a memorandum of agreement was signed by Lim, TRC and KMFI representatives.

Lim personally handpicked KMFI twice as project implementor without the benefit of public bidding.

The Commission on Audit (COA) uncovered blatant anomalies in the fund use -- citing the lack of public bidding; lack of track record of KMFI as it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission only in 2006; the NGO has no legitimate business address as its address is the same as C. C. Barredo; no accreditation process has been undertaken to determine the capacity of KMFI; payment of Php27 million was made prior to signing the MOA; and the project was considered "fictitious or ghost project" as no deliveries of livelihood kits were made.

Ombudsman investigators ascertained in their filed validation that "not one among the constituents of said legislative district received the livelihood technology kit."

As defense, Lim refuted the genuineness of his signatures on the documents and claimed that as "a neophyte congressman, he merely followed the PDAF pre-implementation procedure."

In finding probable cause, the resolution narrated that "Lim had treated the same (funds) as it were his own funds, dictating how it should be utilized and released, he not only determined the project, the implementing agency and the NGO, but also determined how much of his."

According to Morales, the respondents' combined acts indubitably point to a concerted action to divert public funds drawn from Lim's PDAF.

She added that "the nefarious scheme basically involved projects supposed to be funded by PDAF, which projects turned out to be fictitious or non-existent. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD

PATA forum to tackle climate change impact on ecotourism
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- All roads are leading to Albay as delegates to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) across the world will be convening in this premier city for an international tourism conference to discuss climate change's impact on ecotourism starting Wednesday here.

This is the first time that the Philippine government, through the Provincial Government of Albay, in partnership with the Department of Tourism, will be hosting the PATA New Tourism Frontiers Forum to be held at The Oriental Hotel from Nov. 25 to Nov. 27.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the province is ready to assist some 500 foreign guests from Asia Pacific regions.

Albay has partnered with the DOT to host the elite tourism confab to promote the country’s ecotourism destinations, specifically in the countryside, to present ecotourism at the core of a sustainable development strategy, Salceda said.

“Albay was chosen as venue for the prestigious event because of our remarkable achievements in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction management as well as among the country’s most vibrant and the fastest-growing destinations after rising above natural disasters,” the governor said.

PATA's forum has for its theme “Ecotourism: Transcending Climate Change.” The three-day event brings together professionals to share their insights and experiences in marketing and managing tourism growth to lesser-known destinations for sustainable growth and development of travel and tourism.

“Mitigating the impact of climate change through massive upland and coastal reforestation and people strong cooperation is part of our overall development strategy in Albay,” Salceda said.

He said climate change adaptation becomes an investment with huge economic returns in the long-run.

"That is why we are at the frontline of confronting the escalating impacts of climate change,” the governor added.

The annual meeting aims at making professionals gain first-hand experience in discovering and promoting attractions and tourism products and services that are relatively unknown to the global market.

The PATA is one of the biggest known organizations of travel and tourism players in the Asia-Pacific Region.

It has been the leading group in the industry for past 60 years under the umbrella of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Last year, the country, through Albay province, also hosted the UNWTO which was tagged by UNWTO Secretary General Taleb D. Rifai as one of the best events in the world.

Earlier, the Provincial Government of Albay (PGA) WON THE 2015 PATA CEO CHALLENGE’S TOP DESTINATION AWARD IN THE REGIONAL-PROVINCIAL CATEGORY AND SHARES HALF OF THE US MILLION PRIZE WITH THEKKADY, KERALA, INDIA, WHICH WON IN THE SECOND OR THIRD-TIER TOWNS AND CITIES CATEGORY.

SALCEDA PROJECTS THAT TOURIST ARRIVALS IN ALBAY WILL FURTHER SURGE AFTER PATA’S PARTNER TRIPADVISOR WILL HAVE WORKED OUT THE PROVINCE’S TOURISM MARKETING STRATEGY, WHERE ALBAY’S SHARE IN THE PATA CEO CHALLENGE US MILLION PRIZE WILL BE INVESTED.

PATA, THE PREMIER TRAVEL ORGANIZATION IN THE ASIA PACIFIC, HAS CLOSE TO 1,000 ASSOCIATE GROUPS, EDUCATION AND HOSPITALITY AGENCIES, TOURISM DESTINATIONS, AS WELL AS CORPORATE, GOVERNMENT AND INDUSTRIAL LINKS; AND ABOUT 70 AVIATION CARRIERS AS PARTNERS, A TOURISM OFFICIAL HERE SAID.

MARIA NINI ONG-RAVANILLA, DOT BICOL REGIONAL DIRECTOR, SAID THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT, THROUGH ALBAY PROVINCE, BID AND WON THE HOSTING OF THE ANNUAL PATA CONFAB IN BHUTAN LAST YEAR.

SHE SAID SOME 500 PARTICIPANTS HAVE ALREADY REGISTERED FROM ASIA AND THE PACIFIC COUNTRIES, MOSTLY TOUR OPERATORS FROM THE PRIVATE SECTOR, FOREIGN MEDIA, TOURISM AND DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OFFICIALS. (PNA)
FPV/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

PATA officials, resource speakers now in Albay
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) -- Top officials of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and resource speakers for the New Tourism Frontier Forum, which will be held at The Oriental Hotel here for three days starting Wednesday up to Friday, are now in town.

Bobby Gigantone, Department of Tourism Bicol administrative officer, said the entourage is headed by Mario Hardy, PATA chief executive officer; PATA secretariat and the 21 resource speakers for the forum.

The international conference has for its theme, "Eco-Tourism -- Transcending Climate Change".

The delegates will have the centralized registration on Wednesday while there will be a media briefing at 5 p.m. at The Oriental Hotel.

Gigantone said 75 local and foreign media practitioners will cover the meeting.

There will be dinner in the evening to be hosted by the Tourism Promotion Board with Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal giving the welcome remarks.

On Thursday, the delegates will be treated to a technical tour and Tourism Treasure Hunt .

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez will be the guest of honor and speaker in the conference proper on Friday.

The Provincial Government of Albay (PGA) will tender a Barrio Fiesta at the Albay Astrodome in the evening.

Gigantone said that during a conference briefing, Hardy praised Albay as beautiful, inside out.

He quoted the PATA official as saying that this was the reason why the province was awarded as 2015 PATA One Million Dollar CEO Challenge Top Destination.

Aside from this, Gigantone added, Hardy said Albay has an international standard as a venue for international conferences.

In fact, five international conferences have been held in Albay, one of them being that of the UNWTO.

Gigantone said this will be the first for the Philippines to host a PATA conference and Albay has been chosen as host.

He said this is an honor not only to the province but also to the entire country.

Gigantone said a total of 600 will join the world meeting, 180 of whom are foreigners, composed of travel operators and tourism stake holders.

During the technical and treasure hunt tour, the guests will visit the Legazpi Boulevard, Lignon Hill, Cagsawa Ruins and Daraga Church.

They are also expected to experience ATV riding and lava watching.

Gigantone lauded the preparations for the PATA meeting led by the Provincial Government of Albay headed by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, the different government agencies and the private sector.

Office of Civil Defense Bicol Regional Director Bicol Raffy Alejandro said it is all systems go, especially in the aspect of security and preparedness. (PNA) FPV/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

Bicol joins National Children’s Month celebration
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Bicol and the Provincial Government of Albay led the kick-off activities in celebration of the National Children's Month on Monday.

The activity included a foot parade and zumbata held at the Embarcadero de Legazpi here and participated in by 300 children from different barangays of Legazpi City.

The highlight of the month's celebration is the Regional Children's Congress which will be held at Camp Simeon Ola, to be participated by 120 children from different child-caring agency in the region.

The theme of the month-long celebration for 2015 is "Komunidad at Pamahalaan Magkaisa, Pang-aabuso sa Bata Wakasan Na", which will focus on the protection of children against all forms of abuse and discrimination and to encourage stakeholders to promote as well as advocate protection of children at the family, schools, community, institutions, organizations and other settings, DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia said.

The one day convention will discuss on children’s rights and welfare and the educational opportunities, Garcia added.

The declaration commemorates the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly on Nov. 20, 1989 and seeks to instill its significance in the Filipino consciousness.

Previously, the celebration was in October of every year through Presidential Proclamation 267 series of 1993. (PNA) CTB/FGS/CBD/EBP

Albay all set for PATA world confab
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 24 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the province is now ready to host the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) NEW TOURISM FRONTIER FORUM AT THE ORIENTAL HOTEL STARTING WEDNESDAY UP TO FRIDAY.

THE EVENT HAS FOR ITS THEME, "ECO-TORUSIM -- TRANSCENDING CLIMATE CHANGE".

THIS INTERNATIONAL MEET WILL BE ATTENDED BY 400 DELEGATES, 180 OF WHOM ARE FOREIGNERS. SALCEDA SAID THE DELEGATES WILL HAVE THOROUGH DISCUSSIONS OF THEIR VARIOUS TOPICS IN RELATION TO TOURISM, STRENGTHEN COOPERATION AMONG TOURISM INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS AND VISIT FAMOUS TOURIST SPOTS IN THE PROVINCE LIKE THE CAGSAWA RUINS, LIGNON HILL, DARAGA CHURCH, KAPUNTUKAN HILL AND OTHERS.

PANELISTS FOR THE FORUM ARE SALCEDA AND MARIO HARDY, PATA CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER.

THE TOURISM PROMOTIONS BOARD HAS PREPARED A DINNER FOR TOMORROW NIGHT WHEREIN LEGAZPI CITY MAYOR NOEL E. ROSAL WILL GIVE HIS WELCOME MESSAGE.

ON NOV. 26, THERE WILL BE A TECHNICAL TOUR AND TOURISM MARKETING TREASURE HUNT TO BE PARTICIPATED IN BY 150 FOREIGN DELEGATES.

DURING THE CONFERENCE PROPER ON NOV. 27, TOURISM SECRETARY RAMON JIMENEZ WILL BE PRESENT.

AT NIGHT, THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF ALBAY HAS PREPARED A BARRIO FIESTA FOR THE DELEGATES AT THE ALBAY ASTRODOME. CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/EBP

PIDS discovers flaws in enforcing DOH health facilities enhancement program
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 23 (PNA) -- The state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) is urging the Department of Health (DOH) to address serious flaws in the implementation of its Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP).

A research team discovered deficiencies in the program implementation in the Bicol province of Catanduanes and several other parts of the country.

In its findings released in a policy note titled, "More than infrastructure and equipment: Process Evaluation of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program", the PIDS research team composed of Oscar Picazo, Ida Marie Pantig and Nina Ashley dela Cruz revealed gaps in the implementation by DOH of medical infrastructure under the program.

The problematic areas in the implementation identified by the team included service delivery, commissioned contracting, funding for building facilities, coordination and facility licensing.

Addressing the problems in these areas, the team said, according to a statement from the PIDS reaching here Monday, will help improve the management of the HFEP which it acknowledged as a “good program but weak implementation”.

An initiative by the Aquino administration, the HFEP was designed to provide "the largest capital investment in recent memory" to address the stagnant capital stock of public health facilities, the PIDS said.

Earlier studies show that the deteriorating stock and quality of public health facilities in the country could be traced from the fact that the number of hospitals in the country remained the same since the mid-1990s and the ratio of hospital beds per 10,000 population has declined from 18 in the 1970s to 13 in the late 2000s, according to the PIDS.

The HFEP’s end goal, it said, was to build more health facilities or improve the capabilities and expand the capacities of existing ones, so that every Filipino in every corner of the Philippines is given immediate access to medical and health services.

The study, the PIDS said, surveyed 83 percent of 37 health facilities across the provinces of Catanduanes, Tarlac, Quezon, Capiz, Surigao del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte -- which amounted to 19 infirmaries and hospitals, and 18 rural health units and birthing centers.

According to the study, 45 percent of these implemented projects have proven functional, 24 percent were only partially functional and 14 percent were not functional at all.

The functionality problems varied per facility, and they arose either from difficulties with physical infrastructure or from shortcomings of the services infrastructure, it said.

Physical infrastructure problems include lack of access to electricity, construction defects, delays in construction, dysfunctional equipment, and improper maintenance or failure to deliver certain medical equipment.

Services infrastructure problems include unavailability of doctors, problems with accreditation, and lack of proficiency training for midwives.

The team identified the lack of national and regional health infrastructure plan as the critical source of these problems.

“There was lack of proper information and systematic prioritization when it came to upgrading and construction of medical infrastructure while planning and coordination among health facilities and service providers in a particular area were also missing,” it said.

Another major cause of the HFEP's shortcomings involved the process of acquiring contractors as health facilities under it were funded and contracted individually, revealed the study, which proved "unwieldy, time consuming, management intensive and uneconomical", the PIDS said.

Commissioned contracting -- whereby a group of projects is pooled together and contracted out as a 'lot' or 'tranche' to allow contractors to economize on planning and design, bulk procurement of inputs, construction, monitoring, and equipping -- is preferable, the team said.

In practice, it was found out that the design, construction, and equipping processes were individually commissioned, making coordination and sequencing of deliverables problematic.

Individual infrastructures were built one by one, with inputs purchased locally from retail suppliers instead of procured wholesale under bulk procurement arrangements, the team observed.

Constant back-and-forth coordination between the HFEP project staff and all involved parties and stakeholders over the strategic planning and design approval wasted precious time while the lack of strategic direction and the poor communication between health facilities and licensing units became a problem in ensuring the quality of facilities, it said.

The decision to employ "small, incremental multi-year funding" also contributed to further fragmentation and delay of construction.

The project also encountered problems with licensing standards, affecting space and equipment requirements, quality of work, and facility staffing, said the team, which summarized the flaws of the program into poor planning choices and coordination leading to a significant percentage of health facilities being underused, only partially functional, or not functional at all.

To improve its implementation, the team recommended to DOH that the key to a better HFEP is improving coordination at all levels and that it may also help to establish a manual of operation for the entire project.

The team also recommended establishing a civilian, health sector version of a SWAT (Special Weapon and Tactics) team to address extraordinary situations of specific technical nature.

Commissioned contracting, it suggested, would also eliminate the fragmentation as the protraction of deliverables would be reduced if the incremental, multi-year infrastructure funding is replaced by a "finish one-at-a-time" funding scheme.

In this system, the DOH, as financier, will only be dealing with fewer contractors, and the commissioned contractors will take on the responsibility of construction monitoring, the team added.

The PIDS, created on September 1977 through Presidential Decree No. 1201, was established as a government think-tank into the critical and growing need for research for planning and policy formulation and its primary clientele consists of the network of agencies which make up the National Economic and Development Authority. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/cbd/eds

Soldiers recover firearm, bombs after Masbate encounter
By John Mark Escandor

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur, Nov. 23 (PNA) -- Philippine Army soldiers recovered an M16 rifle, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and a generator after an encounter with about 15 New People's Army (NPA) rebels at the boundary of barangays McArthur and Malambong in Monreal town in Ticao Island, Masbate at about 1:40 p.m. Sunday.

A report reaching Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla, 9th Infantry Division commander, said the Army men from the 9th Infantry Battalion headed by 1Lt. Artphil Flores were on a security patrol operation when they encountered the rebels.

No casualty was reported on the government side but the military elements were still verifying whether there were casualties on the side of the rebels who immediately escaped after minutes of firefight.

Government troops from the 9IB are now pursuing the rebels.

Quidilla ordered the intensification of patrol operations in places being frequented by the NPA members, especially where residents are complaining about the harassment and extortion being done by the communist dissidents. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JME/cbd/eds

Victim's uncle, police foil human trafficking
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 23 (PNA) -- The uncle of one of the four would-be victims of human trafficking and members of the Daraga Municipal Police Station (DMPS) collared the suspect inside a passenger bus bound for Metro Manila at the Shell Gasoline Station in Barangay Kimantong, Daraga, Albay at about 2 p.m. Sunday.

Joe Carnold N. Cabana of Purok 6, Barangay Bogtong in this city, said he immediately coordinated with the members of the DMPS when informed by her sister that her nephew, Christian, 18, was among the victims of the human trafficking and were on their way to Metro Manila from Surigao City.

Cabana and the DMPS cornered suspect Rudyard B. Minoza, 44, married and a resident of Purok 1, Barangay Diaz, San Francisco, Surigao del Norte, inside the passenger bus from Surigao City where the four teen-aged victims, all residents of Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City, were also onboard.

The four minors are now in the custody of the Daraga Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office while Minoza is now in the DMPS jail.

The DMPS is now preparing a case of human trafficking against Minoza for violation of Republic Act 7610. otherwise known as "Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act".

Police Supt. Jose P. Adan, DMPS chief of police, said the case is now with the Women and Children Protection Desk of the DMPS, which is now preparing all the evidence for the filing of case against Minoza with the Prosecutor's Office in Legazpi City on Monday afternoon.

Adan said they are rushing the filing of the case so that their detention of Minoza will not be more than the 36-hour reglamentary period.

He said the DMPS' WCPD Daraga is now coordinating with International Anti-Human Trafficking Office in Albay to assist the victims in the case once it has already filed it. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/cbd/eds

Lady call center agent finds provincial life much better than big city's lure
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 23 (PNA) -- Receiving a higher salary than what she receives now in Bicol as a call center agent, Ann G. Marbellas, however, she used to be bored and felt that her life only revolved from the room that she rented as a temporary home to the office -- and back.

Marbella was then with the Advance Contact Solution, a business process outsourcing (BPO) call center firm in Makati City, receiving a salary plus overtime pay of about Php20,000 a month.

“Dito lang umiikot ang aking mundo (Here was where my world revolved,” she said, referring to her daily call center-to-home routine.

The young Legazpeña then had just undergone training at the Southern Luzon Technological Foundation Inc. (SLTFI), a computer and call center school in Legazpi City, where she was in the “Wave 10” batch that finished the course with merits.

Soon after the training, she transferred to Makati City in 2007.

To relieve the boredom of being alone, Marbella said, she resorted to visiting the church to pray and ask for guidance.

During that time, she said, “I did not feel the normal lifestyle I used to experience, like being with my family and friends."

Marbella narrated that, as a homesickness and stress reliever, she engaged herself in smoking and drinking beer or sipping brewed coffee at Starbucks, which was the trend among call center employees.

That engagement usually took place when they were working on a “graveyard” shift (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).

“This really drained my budget," she claimed as realized it later that she had no more savings.

Marbella confirmed that, indeed, it is a known fact that call center agents get hooked to alcohol, drugs and sexual escapades as reported in the news.

Considering this predicament, she decided to return to Legazpi in 2010.

Equipped with her three year BPO experience in Makati City, Marbella joined Nolino BPO here, receiving a Php7,000 monthly pay.

She said that while the salary was way below the Makati rate she used to receive, she admitted that she was glad that here she was able to start to save for her future.

“Masarap ang buhay sa probinsya, walang stress, marami ka pang kaibigan,” the lady call center agent said.

She said her employment this time provided her with the much-needed income that she and her husband were able to build their home adjacent to her parents' house in Barangay Bitano, this city.

Marbella, 35, recently married her long-time high school boyfriend.

She said her dream to have a family is now a reality and she is now ready to have a child.

She is now a senior call center agent of Infinit O and tied the knot last February with Mark Lester after realizing that they were now prepared to meet the challenges of a married life.

“We have waited for the right time to settle down, considering that both of us are emotionally, spiritually and financially stable,” Marbella said.

Mark Lester, 35, also works as a call center agent of One Half Staffing Solutions, a joint venture of a Filipino-Pakistani Business Purchase Outsourcing company in this city.

Marbella is a holder of a Bachelors’ Degree in Tourism from Aquinas University of Legazpi (AUL) and started her career in the call center business in 2004.

“As a graduate of a Tourism, I found it difficult to seek employment in this line of work so, I shifted my career to the call center profession,” she said.

According to her, she was lucky enough to be employed at the Bayantel, a telecommunications company owned by the Lopezes which is operating in this city, for two years.

Looking for a greener pasture, she was attracted so much to a career in the BPO industry as a call center agent.

She is now happy with her new life as a call center agent in her hometown -- with her husband, parental family, relatives and friends. (PNA) CTB/FGS/MSA/cbd/eds

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Bicol military chief vows to foil NPA's move to terrorize 2016 polls

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- The military general assigned as new commander of the Philippine Army (PA) contingent in Bicol has vowed to prevent the New People’s Army (NPA) in the region from terrorizing the 2016 general elections.

“I am going to relentlessly pursue what my immediate predecessor has started and been successfully doing in providing Bicol a wider space where the people can feel safe and grow as progressive communities,” Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla said in a statement reaching here Sunday.

Quidilla recently replaced Maj. Gen. Yerson Depayso as commanding general of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID), the PA contingent based in Pili, Camarines Sur and providing the region security from internal threats posed by the NPA.

Depayso’s two-year stint with the command saw the weakening of the rebel movement in the region which led to the recent declaration, one after the other of four provinces—Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay as “peaceful and ready for further development”.

The declarations were formalized through separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) entered into by the four provincial governments with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stating that their respective areas are already “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development (CMRD)".

Each MOU signaled the "shifting of effort" of the AFP-PA from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role and emphasizes the implementation of more projects that the civil government will implement with the support and protection of the military.

The declarations of peace in the four provinces were based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its potential support system in the barangays and its failed recovery efforts.

This achievement was said to be not possible without the cooperation of the leaders of the provinces along with the local government units (LGUs) who have partnered with the AFP in fighting insurgency.

“We will continue to abide by these MOUs for it is a proof that the efforts of the government and its armed forces to restore peace and tranquility in the provinces have not been put in vain. We in the military stand by our mandate as the protector of the people and keepers of the integrity of the state,” Quidilla stressed.

There are still two Bicol provinces that are yet to be placed under the CMRD declaration—Sorsogon and Masbate -- where the threat of NPA insurgency to internal security remains a major concern and, he said his command, will work on it starting from what Depayso has started so that the region’s insurgency problem comes to a manageable level.

In the case of Sorsogon, the Area Clearing Validation Board (ACVD) from the 9th ID and the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office had recently validated reports on the clearing of 13 rebel-affected barangays of the five municipalities of the province.

The ACVB chaired, by Brig. Gen. Ignacio Obligacion, 9ID assistant division commander, is looking toward to declaring Sorsogon, along with Masbate, under CMRD before the end of 2016.

These 13 Sorsogon barangays which have undergone AFP’s Bayanihan Team Activities have been recommended “cleared of NPA” by the Area Clearing Evaluation Team headed by Col. Alden Juan Masagca, deputy commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade based in the province.

During last Oct. 29’s turn-over of command from Depayso to Quidilla, PA commanding general Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año lauded the former for being the primemover in sustaining the peace and development in Bicol by intensifying coordination with the civilian sectors that limited the territorial area and weakened the influence of the NPAs in the rural areas.

Under Depayso, Año said, the “Kilusang Larangang Gerilya 77, 78”, a battalion-size and largest NPA unit operating in the region, has been reduced to “Kilusang Sangay sa Platon” or a mere platoon of armed guerrillas owing to the fall of its top leaders.

The 9ID, through Depayso’s leadership, was able to neutralize 84 NPAs including high value enemy personalities, recovered 45 high-powered firearms, 73 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), various war materiel and enemy documents of high intelligence value, PA records show..

Año said he was confident Quidilla will perform his duty at his best for the accomplishment of 9ID’s mission and of the AFP as a whole.

Before his present assignment, Quidilla was assistant commander of the 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division stationed at Camp General Mateo Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

The AFP has been maintaining the presence of the PA for about 16 years now in Bicol with its 9ID which is in command of three infantry brigades composed of nine infantry battalions and seven support units, including an engineering battalion distributed in all the six provinces of the region.

In over 45 years, Quidilla said Bicol’s opportunity to advance to progress -- with its vast mineral deposits, agricultural lands, rich fishing grounds, exotic ch natural resources and hard-working people -- has been stalled by unstable peace situation due to the presence of the NPA rebels and the culture of violence that sowed fear among local communities.

They prevent the implementation of government infrastructure projects, harass industrial companies, extort money in form of “revolutionary taxes” from businessmen, contractors and even from farmers, and execute those who refuse to remit including innocent civilians and civilian government officials, he said.

And behind the declaration as “peaceful and ready for further development” areas of most Bicol provinces, Quidilla said there are still small units of NPA operating and posing a threat to the peaceful conduct of next year’s elections.

These small rebel groups, according to him, are remnants of the already-dismantled larger NPA units and showing their presence in some areas to be able to impose “permit to campaign” and "permit to win” fees from local candidates in the forthcoming elections.

His command, Quidilla said, will keep them on the run so that no space is left for them to initiate their terroristic acts.

“We, however, will keep the doors open for their peaceful surrender and so that those who may choose to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law are given the chance to live a normal life under the mainstream of a peaceful society,” he said.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Albay busy with preparations for PATA meet on Nov. 25-27
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay and other national government agencies based in the Bicol Regional Center in Barangay Rawis here are now in the thick of preparations for the hosting of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) New Tourism Frontiers Forum to be held at The Oriental Hotel on Nov. 25-27.

The international meet will tackle "Eco Tourism, Transcending Climate Change".

The PATA is one of the biggest known organizations of travel and tourism players in the Asia-Pacific Region.

It has been the leading group in the industry for past 60 years and has a strong working relations with the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

In this connection, Office of Civil Defense Bicol Regional Director Raffy Alejandro said the Team Albay is ensuring security and emergency preparedness for the international event.

Included in the team are the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Fire Protection, Department of Health and Provincial Health Office-Albay Health and Emergency Management.

Alejandro said the Oriental Hotel, airport and tourist destinations in the province are well secured.

He said 500 participants have already registered from all over Asia and the Pacific, mostly tour operators from the private sector. (PNA) CTB/FGS/NIM/CBD/SSC

BU passes audit towards maintaining ISO certification for excellence

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- The Bicol University, the premiere government-run higher education institution with main campuses here, has successfully hurdled the recent surveillance audit on its way to maintaining its certificate of excellence at par with international standards from the Organization for Standardization (ISO).

“We passed the two-day audit made last Nov. 16-17 by one of the leading international certifying bodies and satisfactorily complied with the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 in our campaign to retain the certification we first obtained five years ago,” Dr. Arnulfo Macariñas, the university president, over the weekend said.

The audit was conducted through campus visitations by a team from TÜV SÜD PSB Philippines, an internationally recognized certification body with accreditation by Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) and Philippines Accreditation Office (PAO).

Visited for the audit were the BU main campuses here, in Tabaco City hosting the College of Fisheries (BUCF) and in the Albay municipalities of Guinobatan and Polangui, which are home to the BU College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF) and the annex campus, respectively.

The ISO 9001:2008 certificate, which was awarded to BU in 2011 to become its first recipient among state universities in the Philippines, is a global symbol affirming the university’s processes and standards are at par with international management systems.

Its first recertification was received in 2013 and the second coming soon as head TÜV SÜD PSB Philippines auditor Erveene Zoleta said they will recommend to TÜV SÜD International headquartered in Munich, Germany that the ISO certificate of BU be maintained.

The scope of the audit leading to the possible renewed certification includes the provision and development of tertiary and graduate education degrees and non-degree courses, as well as research and extension services, according to Macariñas.

The survey visit, he said, was meant to evaluate not only the conformity of the management system with the audit criteria, but also the effectiveness of the management system to ensure that the organization is capable of meeting applicable statutory, regulatory and contractual requirements.

It also determined the effectiveness of the management system in ensuring that the organization is able to meet its specified objectives.

ISO International Standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.

For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity.

Educational institutions are increasingly recognizing these benefits and international standardization features in many curricula being recognized as the vital contribution that educational institutions bring to raising awareness of standardization and its benefits.

The ISO Award for Higher Education was started in 2007 to promote and support higher education institutions running successful programs that raise awareness of the benefits of international standards.

Every two years, a selection panel including representatives from academia, economics and the media, choose a higher education institution that is leading the way in education about standards.

To be an ISO-certified educational institution, a school, particularly high education level, should have a repository of resources and teaching materials, a list of existing teaching materials on standardization, with details of the authors and publishers.

Teachers and standards professionals can use this tool to access information that can help them in designing and delivering courses on standards matters.

In addition, the repository will help optimize the use of resources, facilitate the re-use of existing materials and highlight new subject matters to be ISO also requires documents on standardization in education systems which is a collection of articles, policy documents, academic research articles and others that describe how standardization is integrated into education in various countries.

The ISO Award for Higher Education was started in 2007 to promote and support higher education institutions running successful program that raise awareness of the benefits of International Standards.

Mascarinas expressed satisfaction with the results of the recent audit as the university that did not incur any non-conformity findings as he announced that the ISO surveillance audit will be on a yearly basis in his term as it is vital in achieving the university’s vision.

“We want to continue this audit system because I believe that our vision of becoming a world-class university would need an affirmation that can only be done part and parcel through the conduct of activities such as this,” he stressed.

The ISO audit system, Macariñas said, is just one of the quality assurance mechanisms utilized by BU to ensure the efficient performance of the university in meeting its goals such as commitment to quality and client satisfaction.

BU’s commitment to implement quality assurance methods in both the academic and support services and its zeal to build procedures for its maintenance is anchored on the BU vision to be a world-class university, he said.

The university is the oldest state-owned higher education institution in Bicol which has been on the lead in producing globally competitive graduates imbued with the highly held values of scholarship, leadership, character and service toward generating and disseminating new knowledge and technologies beneficial to all stakeholders and to improve the well-being of the community.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Inmate found dead inside his cell

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- Authorities are now investigating the death of a 56-year-old prisoner inside his detention cell at the Sorsogon City Police Station in Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City, on Saturday morning.

A police report identified the victim as Oscar D. Diolata, jailed for estafa and a resident of Barangay Maricrum, Bacon District, Sorsogon City.

Police found Diolata already lifeless at about 10:30 a.m.

He had just been arrested by the police on the strength of a warrant of arrest issued by a judge in Sorsogon.

Police immediately brought Diolata to the City Health Office for autopsy

The have already informed his relatives on what had happened to Diolata.(PNA) CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

Rebel-returnee gets cash from CLIP, feels guilty of violence he did as a rebel
By Allan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- Ka Rolex was a former officer of the Larangan 78 of the New People's Army operating in Albay’s second district under the leadership of Ka Jerry Abache alyas Arwan/Bitoy and has returned to the fold of the law.

He is one of the nine rebel-returnees who received Php50,000 livelihood assistance and another Php15,000 for immediate cash assistance under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

He and eight other former NPA members who had surrendered to the authorities were immediately given financial assistance to start a new life during a simple program last week at the headquarters of the 901st Infantry Brigade in Barangay Villahermosa in Daraga, Albay.

The CLIP is part of the local mechanism of the AFP to achieve peace and sustainable development.

It started when the AFP, through the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, the Philippine National Police, and the Albay provincial government entered into an agreement formally declaring the province as “Manageable Conflict Area” on April 23 this year.

Under the agreement, the provincial government led by Governor Joey Salceda has to address the root causes of internal security threats through the CLIP to encourage NPA rebels to surrender voluntarily, provide livelihood assistance and coordinate with different agencies of the national government to address the specific grievances of the rebel-returnees.

Salceda said CLIP is a priority program in Albay.

Ka Rolex admitted that he took part in conducting liquidations, ambuscades, harassment of government troops, police, militia and suspected informers.

He thanked his wife and all the help he received, especially from Lt. Col. Perfecto Peñaredondo, 82nd Infantry Battalion commanding officer, for taking the risk for him to live a new life.

“ I can no longer bear the guilt I suffer on the violence I had inflicted on innocent people and I thank the Lord for this new lease on my life,” the former rebel said.

Ka Rolex asked his former comrades who are married and who are still single to take advantage of the rebel-returnee program while there is still time.

“I can stop this continuing unnecessary violence if I give myself up because I still believe that evil will not triumph against a God who is good and just,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Ignacio Obligacion, 9th Infantry Division deputy commanding general, said his most difficult problem as a military officer for the past 37 years was to find an effective way to convince NPA rebels to return to the fold of the law.

“It’s not to finish all of you but to help you come back as members of our society,” said Obligacion, adding “We know that you are also prisoners once you decide to join the NPA. Joining the armed revolution is like entering an attractive door but once you enter it you can’t go out anymore.”

He said it’s difficult to go out because either "you’ll be killed by your comrades or something you do not expect will happen to members of your family."

Col. Cyle Yucot, 901st Brigade commander, said there are still eight members of the Bicol Regional Party Committee and 29 NPA regulars who are operating in Albay despite the downgrading of the Larangan 77 and 78 which have been the strongest guerrilla fronts in the '90s to Kilusang Sangay sa Platon (KSPN) due to the casualties sustained in various encounters, surrender and capture of its top leaders.

“We are now focusing our effort to address the rebel’s barangay-based militia and although they do not carry arms they also provide intelligence on government troop movements as well as support and accommodation of the NPA combat regulars in their area,” said Yucot. (PNA) CTB//FGS/AT/CBD/SSC

DOST assures continued support to Bicol MSMEs

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 22 (PNA) -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has assured the Bicol Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector continued support towards a more sustainable business growth and improve economic condition in the region.

This commitment was drawn by the sector from DOST Secretary Mario Montejo during his recent coming to this premier Bicol city as keynote speaker for the 7th Annual Microfinance Summit organized by the Bicol Microfinance Council Inc. (BMCI).

Formed in March 2005, the BMCI is a network of rural banks, cooperatives and non-government organizations in the region that are engaged in microfinance.

Organized primarily to facilitate the exchange of ideas among local microfinance institutions and promote the creation of a local credit bureau, the council has, over the years, broadened its mission that is anchored on building the capacities of members to develop small enterprises and promote local economic development.

The network also assists its members to improve organizational performance and ensure that they adhere to established ethical standards and best practices.

In his message, Montejo said the MSME sector plays a fundamental role in the economy and considered as key agents of employment, innovation and growth.

The DOST, he said, will continue to collaborate with its partners in government service and academe, including BMCI, “to deliver the needed quality services to our MSMEs for after all, they provide value adding to agricultural, fishery and forestry products.”

The DOST head stressed on the importance of partnership between micro institutions, academe, government and private institutions, with BMCI as its convener.

“Close partnership between and among local partners and players is one of the identified strategies to mobilize resources and capabilities for accelerating regional development,” Montejo said.

Although the MSMEs are vital to the local economy, he lamented that their performance has remained constrained by various factors that prevent them from realizing their potentials and growing in a highly competitive environment.

He cited studies that show the four basic challenges of micro and small enterprises, namely: access to finance, access to market, low productivity and efficiency, and business environment.

The DOST, however, has responded to these challenges, and in 2003 launched the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP).

It offers a package of support such as acquisition of identified technologies/machineries, packaging and labeling support, technical and consultancy services that increased productivity and enhanced competitiveness of MSMEs.

Marrying technology and business is the essence of SETUP and with the ASEAN integration, more firms are expected to offer innovative products and services to satisfy and exceed the ever-changing expectations and demands of customers, he said.

This program, according to Montejo, has gained significant headway in catalyzing the expansion and success of MSMEs around the country through the DOST’s comprehensive package of assistance for technology adaption.

Ultimately, SETUP, a development program to empower the MSMEs, creates a favorable business environment for the improvement of their productivity and increasing efficiency through the infusion of appropriate technologies he added.

In Bicol, DOST Regional Director Tomas Briñas over the weekend said the program has assisted about 30 MSMEs distributed among the region’s six provinces and which were provided a total funding support amounting over Php20 million in their individual business projects.

These projects, passed through the evaluative and learning lenses of an external Review and Technical Evaluation Committee (RTEC), composed mostly of local experts from state universities and colleges and financial and private institutions in the region.

Through the DOST-SETUP, this value-adding initiatives did not only benefit the MSMEs, particularly on their product upgrading and income, but has provided livelihood opportunities to people in the community such as backward/forward labor complementation, derived demand and others, according to Briñas.

These projects are mainly in support to commercialization of Bicol’s banner ethnic food products such as pili and pinangat that are already making waves in the export market, he said.

On the average nationwide, the DOST-SETUP program assists some 3,000 MSMEs all over the country every year.

For the first semester of this year alone, a total of 1,236 firms have been given assistance and the ripple effect of the program resonates to the creation of nearly 21,000 new jobs, said Briñas, who added that from 2010, when the Aquino Administartion began, up to end of the second quarter of this year, a total of 115,445 new jobs were already created.

The program uses a holistic approach to enterprise development by covering all aspects of operating and managing a business in order to improve their products, services and/or operations.

The DOST intervention, through SETUP, Briñas, said includes human resource training; technical assistance and consultancy services; design of functional packages and labels; and assistance in the establishment of product standards, including testing, database management system and technology acquisition.

Firms assisted with technologies are strengthened and become more productive, competitive locally and globally and bankable, thus, empowering more MSMEs as they participate into the mainstream of business activity, he added.(PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Friday, November 20, 2015

Albay to host PATA forum 2015
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay will host the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) New Tourism Frontier Forum on Nov. 25-27 at the Oriental Hotel.

The event will showcase a day-long conference, networking events and field trips to various tourism sites in this city as discussed during the media briefing Thursday morning.

The Tourism Forum will revolve on the theme Eco-Torusim -- Transcending Climate Change.

The forum will start on Nov. 25 with expected 400 delegates, 180 of which are foreign.

Arrival and registration of the delegates for the event will be at The Oriental Legazpi.

During the opening day, a media briefing will be held with Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda and Mario Hardy, PATA chief executive officer, as panelists.

A dinner for the guests and participants will be hosted by Tourism Promotions Board with a welcome message by Mayor Noel E. Rosal of Legazpi City.

On Nov. 26, a Technical Tour and Tourism Marketing Treasure Hunt will be participated by 150 guests.

For this one day field session, delegates will be challenged to explore and discover the hidden gems of a location, while immersing with the unique culture,geography and people.

They will taste their food, admire landscapes, savour their history -- while leveraging digital tools to identify, collect and promote new found treasures, Albay Provincial Tourism Culture Affairs Officer Dorothy F. Colle said.

Delegates will be taken along an action-packed journey, Colle added.

In Lignon Hill -- a place for hiking, climbing, zipline, rappelling, hanging bridge walking, Japanese tunneling and lava watching -- the delegates will b e treated to a 360-degree view of the Mayon Volcano and excellent views of the city, especially at night.

Vistors are encouraged to walk from the foot to the top of the hill but are advised to wear comfortable shoes.

Legazpi Boulevard is a long stretch of road that interlinks five barangays of Albay, Colle said.

It offers very good views of the Mayon Volcano and the Kapuntukan Hill.

Mayon ATV Adventure and Mayon Lava Watching are a one-of-kind adventure that includes a 9-km, 45 minutes ride going to the lava field below Mayon Volcano from the foot of the Lignon Hill.

Cagsawa Ruins is where remnants of an 18th century Franciscan church, whose tower remains -- a memorial ground for the 2,000 former inhabitants and reminder of the resilience of the Albayanos to the challenges that nature brings.

After the Cagsawa church was destroyed by Mayon s eruption in 1814, the Daraga church became the main parish church of Cagsawa.

The original façade and bell tower still remains today.

The design of the Daraga church is described as a blend of Renaissance Gothic and Mexican Baroque architectural styles. The Daraga church was declared a National Culture Treasure in 2007.

A Barrio Fiesta theme dinner hosted by Provincial Government of Albay will be held in Albay Astrodome for the 400 delegates.

On Nov. 27 the proper conference will be divided into different sessions that will focus on Eco-tourism and Climate Change.

The forum will be formally welcomed by Secretary of Tourism Ramon R. Jimenez.

The keynote speaker is Loraine Gatlabayan who will focus on Climate Change Mitigation and the Role on Tourism.

Tourism can be both a victim and contributor to climate change and the keynote speaker will explore the complexities of this issue and suggest actions that can be taken to mitigate the potential negative impact of tourism activities.

Session 1 is about Marine Tourism and Implications for Water-Resilient Operations; Session 2, Global Adventure Trends; ASEAN for adventure, where horizons are endless and Breakout sessions typically comprise of presentation questions and answer style, featuring speakers from prominent organizations who are leaders in their respective fields.

PATA is one of the biggest and premier organizations of travel and tourism players in Asia-Pacific region and a leading authority on the industry for 60 years.

The association is also a partner of the United Nations World Toursim Organization (UNWTO). (PNA) RMA/FGS/CBD/RSM

DepEd-Bicol reminds on agency’s role in child protection
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- Behind the recent observance of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Consciousness Week (JJWCW), the Department of Education (DepEd) Bicol regional office here still has a lot to say about the agency’s role in child protection.

“The DepEd is always a part of child protection. We in this agency act as the bridge towards the reintegration of children at risk (CAR) and children in conflict with the law (CICL),” DepEd Regional Director Ramon Fiel Abcede on Thursday said.

He said his office has been advising education program supervisors and guidance counselors in all Bicol public schools on this role because DepEd, as a member of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare council (JJWC) should ensure that children are protected, whatever their backgrounds are.

“We have no room for discrimination in DepEd. We have reintegration programs for children in conflict with the law,” said Abcede, stressing that the DepEd guidelines are anchored on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and promotes non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, the child’s survival and development, and child participation.

The guidelines provide detailed procedures on case management of children at risk and children in conflict with the law, he said.

Children at risk behave in a way that can be harmful to themselves or to others and they also run the risk of being exploited to come into conflict with the law, Abcede said, explaining that children in conflict with the law are those under the age of 18 who are alleged as, accused of, or adjudged as, having committed an offense under Philippine laws.

“We have to understand that adolescents are naturally curious. Everything adults do, they would want to try without thinking of the consequences; that is how they are and that is completely normal. This kind of curiosity—reckless as it may be—is part of their development and while we cannot hinder them from their self-discovery, it is our duty to minimize the risks and to protect them from harm,” he said.

Rights, the DepEd regional chief said, are things every child should have or be able to do and all children have the same rights as listed in the UNCRC which almost every country has agreed to.

According to the UNCRC, everyone under 18 -- no matter who he is, where he is, what his parents do, what language he speaks, what his religion is, whether he is a boy or a girl, what his culture is, whether he has a disability, whether he is rich or poor -- has these rights and no child should be treated unfairly on any basis.

The same rule also says that all adults should do what is best for children while the government has a responsibility to make sure these rights are protected and help families create an environment where children can grow and reach their potentials.

These are only among the salient provisions of the UNCRC enumerated in 54 articles made as basis by President Benigno Aquino III in declaring via Proclamation No. 489 issued on Oct. 11, 2012 the yearly observance of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Consciousness Week every fourth week of October.

One of the main tenets of the proclamation is the “need to mainstream awareness and consciousness of the Filipino people, the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act in order to emphasize the rights of a Filipino child, including one who is in conflict with law, responsibility of all stakeholders and all duty bearers in ensuring the protection and the Filipino youth and children.”

Abcede said that although the proclamation covers all relevant government agencies and instrumentalities, DepEd does not talk about juvenile justice and welfare during the JJWCW observance alone but year-round given Department Order No. 18 issued by Education Sec. Armin Luistro last May that provides guidelines and procedures on the management of CAR and CICL.

Under this Order, he said, DepEd Schools Division Offices (SDOs) are directed to coordinate with local government units (LGUs) and other public and private entities in order to effectively facilitate the management of CAR and CICL.

The SDOs are also tasked to organize and conduct capacity-building activities for members of the Local Child Protection Committee (LCPC) and guidance counselors or guidance teachers in schools as well as identify students who may be at-risk of behaving in a way that can harm themselves or others, or are vulnerable and at risk of being pushed and exploited to come into conflict with the law.

They are also mandated to assist the LGU, through the LCPC, in the development and implementation of the Comprehensive Local Juvenile Intervention Program (CLJIP) and “ensure the enforcement by public and private schools of the guidelines and procedures along with the Child Protection Policy, the Anti-Bullying Law and other related policies,” Abcede said.

School heads, on the other hand, are tasked to work together with families, community organizations and agencies to intensify campaign on crime prevention in the community through awareness-raising, prevention or campaign programs and implementation of intervention plans, thus, prevent juvenile delinquency.

Schools are meanwhile assigned to train members of the LCPC and guidance counselors or guidance teachers and other personnel with regard to restorative justice; and coordinate with the teachers of CAR and CICL to monitor child’s progress and development in line with the intervention or diversion plan prepared, Abcede said.

Restorative justice is a process through which remorseful offenders accept responsibility for their misconduct, particularly to their victims and to the community.

It creates obligation to make things right through proactive involvement of victims, ownership of the offender of the crime and the community in search for solutions which promote repair, reconciliation and reassurance.

Thus, the restorative justice process is actively participated in by the victim, the offender, and/or any individual or community member affected by the crime to resolve conflicts resulting from the criminal offense, often with the help of a fair and impartial third party.

“We constantly conduct comprehensive discussions and exchange of ideas on these salient features of DO No. 18 and on alternative delivery modes, psycho-social interventions, restorative justice strategies and practices and incident reporting and monitoring guidelines so that education personnel are always refreshed on and guided in their child protection role,” he added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

DOST finds good rice fertilizer in seaweeds
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -– Apart from the uniqueness of edible seaweeds as a highly nutritious food commodity, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has found out that it can also provide a natural fertilizer capable of increasing rice yield by over 65 percent.

DOST Bicol Regional Director Tomas Briñas here on Thursday said a field trial conducted in Bulacan by the team led by Dr. Gil Magsino from the National Crop Protection Center of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB-NCPC) recently came out with this breakthrough.

In the study, carrageenan, an indigestible polysaccharide (carbohydrate) extracted from edible seaweeds, when degraded into a nanoparticle size through irradiation, turns out to be an effective growth promoter and inducer of resistance against rice’s major pests, Briñas said.

Seaweeds are marine resources of various economic uses.

In 1964, two red seaweed varieties were found to be abundantly and naturally grown in the Philippines – Eucheuma cottonii and E. spinosum.

Eucheuma is the source of carrageenan, a natural gum used as additive, binder and emulsifier on food, pharmaceutical, beverage and cosmetic industries.

The major products derived from the utilization of seaweeds are agar, algin or sodium alginate and carrageenan.

The UPLB-NCPC study found out that at a very small dose, carrageenan -- which is mainly used as thickener or stabilizer in the food industry or as a binding agent for domestic products such as toothpaste and shampoo, and in many biotechnology and pharmaceutical products -- is an effective organic fertilizer, he said.

For human consumption, seaweeds are low-calorie food, with a high concentration of minerals, vitamins, proteins and digestible carbohydrates, and some lipids.

It also contains fats and rich in iodine, iron, magnesium and sodium and has high amounts of calcium and phosphorous while experts say this could be an answer to heart disease and hypertension.

For agriculture, Briñas cited UPLB-NCPC as recently reporting that the application of 20 milliliter per liter carrageenan in combination with three to six bags per hectare of fertilizer significantly increased the grain weight by 63.6 to 65.4 percent; the productive tillers by 83-102 percent; and panicle length by 3.5-12.5 percent over that of the farmers’ conventional system which uses nine bags per hectare of fertilizer.

Productive tillers are the rice stems that bear the panicles or rice inflorescence with fertilized grains, while longer rice panicle is associated with producing more rice grains.

As a growth promoter, carrageenan, according to the study, offers an array of benefits and makes the rice stem stronger, thus, improves rice resistance to lodging.

It is compatible with farmers’ practice on fertilizer application, thus, giving higher grain yield potential; and promotes resistance to rice tungro virus and bacterial leaf blight.

The seaweed extract, being environment-friendly, it said, also enhances the presence of natural enemies that fight major pests in rice field and promotes more efficient absorption of plant nutrients.

Briñas said this development emanating from the “Multi-location Field Trials of Radiation-modified Carrageenan as Growth Promoter and Inducer of Resistance against Major Pests of Rice” project being funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the DOST is a good news for Bicol.

The region’s coastal waters, he said, is being tapped by the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the National Seaweed Technology and Development Center (NSTCD) of its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as sites for commercial production of seaweeds.

Initially, on-farm research and a seaweed nursery were established in 2003 through a Community-based Participatory Action Research-funded project on seaweeds production that became a model farm for the coastal municipalities of Sorsogon and eventually, in the whole region.

With enough harvests of seaweeds, the fisherfolk, through the continuous assistance of the different bureaus of DA, have found ways to market their produce and came upon the idea of processing them into various food products.

The project, "Product Development/Improvement and Commercialization of Seaweeds in Bicol " paved the way for developing seaweeds into various innovative food products.

Specifically, the project was aimed at systematizing and creating a comprehensive development and commercialization of seaweeds and processed seaweed products in the region and to establish village-level seaweed production and processing enterprises.

As a strategy, the project tapped the existing people's organization (PO) and assisted them in the production, development and formulation of processed food products derived from seaweeds.

Training and seminars were also conducted to educate farmers and the PO members on the principles of good manufacturing practices and sanitation standard operating procedures which are prerequisites of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points program and a guarantee of the quality of seaweed food products produced.

The project is funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under its National Technology Commercialization Program, one of its banner programs designed to promote viable technologies on agriculture and fisheries by providing financial assistance, and to encourage small farmers and fisherfolk to engage in agribusiness.

With the discovery of carrageenan as fertilizer, the uses of seaweeds harvested in Bicol and elsewhere around the country now become not only limited to food and industrial products manufacturing but also as vital to improved rice production, Briñas stressed. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

Rebel returnee program benefits 9 rebels in Albay
By Allan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- Nine members of the New People's Army (NPA) who have surrendered to the authorities were immediately given financial assistance to start a new life during a simple program Tuesday morning at the headquarters of the 901st Infantry Brigade at Barangay Villahermosa in Daraga, Albay.

The monetary aid was provided under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The CLIP is part of the local mechanism of the AFP to achieve peace and sustainable development.

It started when the AFP, through the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, the Philippine National Police, and the Albay provincial government entered into an agreement formally declaring the province as Manageable Conflict Area on April 23 this year.

Under the agreement, the provincial government led by Governor Joey Salceda has to address the root causes of internal security threats through the CLIP to encourage NPA rebels to surrender voluntarily, provide livelihood assistance and coordinate with different agencies of the national government to address the specific grievances of the rebel-returnees.

Salceda said CLIP is a priority program in Albay.

Under the CLIP, each rebel-returnee receives Php50,000 livelihood assistance and another Php15,000 for immediate cash assistance.

One of the rebel returnees, a certain Ka Rolex, was a former officer of Larangan 78 operating in Albay's second district under the leadership of Ka Jerry Abache a.k.a. Arwan/Bitoy.

He admitted that he took part in conducting liquidations, ambuscades, harassment of government troops, police, militia and suspected informers.

He thanked his wife and the government for all the help he received, especially from Lt. Col. Perfecto Peñaredondo, 82nd Infantry Battalion commanding officer, for taking therisk to live a new life.

"I can no longer bear the guilt I suffer on the violence I had inflicted on innocent people and I thank the Lord for this new lease on my life," the former rebel said.

Ka Rolex asked his former comrades to take advantage of the rebel-returnee program while there is still time.

"I can stop this continuing unnecessary violence if I give myself up because I still believe that evil will not triumph against a God who is good and just," he said.

Brig. Gen. Ignacio Obligacion, 9th Infantry Division deputy commanding general, said his most difficult problem as a military officer for the past 37 years was to find an effective way to convince NPA rebels to return to the fold of the law.

"It's not to finish all of you but to help you come back as members of our society," said Obligacion.

Col. Cyle Yucot, 901st Brigade commander, said there are still eight members of the Bicol Regional Party Committee and 29 NPA regulars who are operating in Albay despite the downgrading of the Larangan 77 and 78 which have been the strongest guerrilla fronts in the 90s to Kilusang Sangay sa Platon (KSPN) due to the casualties sustained in various encounters, surrender and capture of its top leaders.

"We are now focusing our effort to address the rebels' barangay-based militia and although they do not carry arms they also provide intelligence on government troop movements as well as support and accommodation of the NPA combat regulars in their area," said Yucot.

Yucot said specific grievances of NPA rebels can be addressed with the help of provincial and national government agencies.

He said the CLIP has replaced the National Reconciliation and Development Program (NRDP) in the 1980s, the National Program for Unification and Development (NPUD), and the recent Social Integration Program (SIP).(PNA) LAP/FGS/AT/CBD/RSM

Bicol cops bag 5 wanted persons on Wednesday morning

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- Various units of the Philippine National Police Bicol regional office arrested five individuals wanted by the courts in the region on Wednesday morning on separate occasions.

Apprehended were Rosel E. Borras, Marites Paelma-Ibarrientos, Jesus C. Casero, Casimiro Magdaong and Paolo B. Cantonjoso.

Another person wanted by the court is Kenneth L. Brito, who was caught on Tuesday.

Elements of the Irosin Municipal Police Station (IMPS) led by SPO2 Abelardo B. Balbedina nabbed Borras at 8:15 a.m. in Barangay San Julian, Irosin, Sorsogon by virtue of a warrant of arrest (WOA) for robbery issued by Judge Adolfo G. Fajardo of Regional Trial Court Branch 65, Sorsogon City, docketed under Criminal Case (CC) No. 2789 with a bail of Php24,000.

At 9:30 a.m., Iriga CPS members led by SPO2 Herbert Ibias nabbed Paelma-Ibarrientos at Zone 2, San Antonio, Iriga City for perjury on order of Dominador A. Agor, acting presiding judge of MTCC, Branch 1, Iriga City with a bail of Php6,000.

Later at 10 a.m., Malinao MPS personnel led by SPO2 Loreto Casitas collared Casero in Barangay San Antonio, Tabaco City for acts of lasciviousness as ordered by Samuel A Buendia, presiding judge of MCTC Malinao-Tiwi, Albay, with a bail of Php12,000.

Magdaong was cornered by operatives of Daraga MPS led by PO3 Bobby B. Lozada in Barangay Anislag, Daraga, Albay for violation of Sec. 28 of RA 10591 on order of Maria Theresa G San Juan-Loquillano, presiding judge of RTC Br. 10, Legazpi City, with bail fixed at Php200,000 and with a WOA for frustrated homicide issued by Ignacio N. Almodovar, presiding judge of RTC Br. 2, Legazpi City, with a bail of Php24,000.

Joint elements of San Fernando MPS led by SPO4 Julio L. Cantre and San Jacinto MPS handcuffed Catonjos in San Jacinto, Masbate at 11:30 a.m. by virtue of a WOA for rape issued on Nov. 3, 2015 by Arturo Clemente B. Revil, presiding judge of RTC Br. 40, San Jacinto, Masbate, docketed under CC No. 1710-2015 with no bail recommended.

A day earlier on Tuesday, Juban MPS men led by PO3 Pedro Pablo M. Rempillo took in Brito from the Lewis College, Barangay Almendras-Cogon, Sorsogon City for concubinage.

Amado Dimaano, presiding judge of 1st MCTC of Juban/Casiguran, Sorsogon issued the WOA for Brito under CC No. 5617 with a bail of Php10,000.

Flerida P. Zaballa-Banzuela, presiding judge of RTC Br. 51, issued another WOA for violation of Sec. 5 (para. 2) IN RELATION TO SEC. 3 OF RA 9262 DOCKETED UNDER CC NO. 2015-9276 WITH A BAIL OF PHP24,000. (PNA)
CTB/FGS/EMC/CBD/RSM

Guard nabs student using marijuana inside mall

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- A security guard found a 21-year-old student smoking marijuana at the second floor of the Metro Gaisano Mall on Thursday night.

Suspect Jeen Chard Balbin was caught at about 6:15 p.m. in the act of of using marijuana inside the comfort room of the establishment.

The mall security man brought Balbin to their office and called up the police.

The suspect is now inside the police station jail while police are preparing appropriate charges against him. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

BJMP guards find shabu embedded in siopao

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Nov. 19 (PNA) -- An alert female Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) member collared a tricycle driver who had brought siopao containing shabu to an inmate Wednesday afternoon at the BJMP detention center in Barangay Balogo, Sorsogon City.

A police report identified the suspect as Edgardo Garcia, 45, married and a resident of Block 2 Lot 3, BNCC Compound, Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City.

The report said JO1 Michelle Mae Azucena was inspecting the siopao that Garcia had brought to prisoner Rey Lagata at about 4:20 p.m. when she discovered that the food item contained four plastic sachets with shabu embedded in it.

Azucena immediately arrested Lagata while she cited for him the Miranda Doctrine.

Lagata is now inside the police detention center while a case of violation of RA 9165 is being readied against him.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD/PJN

Friday, November 13, 2015

Boy's life improves with help from Masbate Gold Project
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Nov. 13 (PNA) – After six months following a two-week free surgical operation conducted by the Masbate Gold Project (MGP) on patients suffering from orofacial deformation such as cleft lips, cleft palate including burns in February 2014, a life-changing experience on patients who became recipients of the program has begun.

As part of MGP’s Corporate Social Responsibility, MGP Special Project Manager Florencio Cayco said that since the operation “I-smile” started in 2014, the MGP is committed to a three-year round program to prioritized the treatment on old, young and infant Masbateño people suffering from such deformations.

During the mission, Christine Mead, a registered nurse and wife of Ray Mead, the manager of the Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corporation (PGPRC), and who offers voluntary service to assist in the operation, admired the determined character of one of the patients that despite of his condition, got the nerve to live like normal kids.

His name is Zevideo Fontillas Jr., a grade 6 pupil of Barangay Albasan Elementary School in Claveria town, Island of Burias in Masbate.

Cayco said Zevideo was chosen by Mead as the symbol for the “I-Smile project”.

Mead had teary eyes when the boy explained during the medical mission that he had been yearning for too long to have his lips surgically operated so that his schoolmates and peers would no longer tease him but the time had not been good for them as he was deprived of the opportunity because his father, who just tills others' farmland to earn a living could not afford the surgical operation expenses.

His father’s income is not even enough for their own food.

However, when MGP arrived, his prayers and wish were granted.

He could now have the chance to be a good-looking grownup.

Nanay Anita, the mother of Zevideo, recalled in an interview her past experience when Zevideo was still months old.

She said she had not had a good sleep and rest every night.

She bottled-fed the baby in an effort to save him despite the difficulty sucking the milk because of the condition where his lips were broken in each side.

Nanay Anita had to enlarge the hole in bottle milk for an easy milk flow during the feeding.

“I have given all of my sacrifices just to let him live because I don’t want to lose him,” said the grieving mother.

Mrricel, the elder sister of Zevideo, was so thankful that despite their remote location, a certain gold firm in Aroroy town could give them what they had desired for her brother.

Nanay Anita also added that this was their third attempt for Zevideo to undergo a surgical operation.

She recalled that when Zevideo was still a baby, she brought him to Manila because of the news that there would be a free surgical operation on patients with such defects but they were unlucky because they were obliged to shell out Php14,000 for the operation which they did not expect and so they went home disappointed.

Another attempt was when the family brought Zevideo to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) but they went home in despair because they could not wait for so long falling in line as their allowance was so limited, resulting in another frustration.

Then the school nurses announced in every school and district all around Masbate Province that there is a big opportunity that MGP has promised.

The Fontillas family was again hopeful and instantly grabbed the opportunity.

Zevideo Sr. thanked the entire persons behind the MGP, their promise made them realize that "there is a possible time for everyone if we only learn how to wait."

The younger Zevideo said in an interview that he is no longer alienated by his classmates and friends after the transformation that happened to him.

Unlike before, he had been accustomed to an everyday bullying that hurt him but he was determined and courageous that soon he would be like some other kids with good looks.

The smart boy in the mission who stole the attention of doctors and nurses is slowly regaining his confidence and is on the go to give hope and courage to some other persons who have been estranged by other people around them.

Zevideo, who also helps his father in the farm, wants to take her family out of their poor living condition, the reason why continue to attend classes even if he is being bullied.

Zevideo is one of 94 patients in 2015 who have been treated with oral cleft deformations.

The Fontillas family has no place to put their happiness now that one of their family members have to wake up with his new look that he could not imagine that will come true.

Zevideo, who often times sees himself as if he is dreaming, has an everyday gift to remember from the MGP.

Nanay Anita is very proud of her son, Zevideo, the eighth child among nine siblings, who is now very confident to play with his classmates without being discriminated upon. Zevideo gives a trademark in the village, for not being ashamed, that despite intimidation, he tries harder in class to reach his own goal and objectives.

“Thanks to MGP, I do hope that it can help a lot more people in the province of Masbate” said Nanay Anita.(PNA) FPV/FGS/NBT/CBD

Catanduanes guv describes Chinese people as ‘friendly brothers, sisters’

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) – Describing Chinese people as “friendly brothers and sisters”, Catanduanes Governor Araceli Wong has expressed gratitude for the recent visit of People’s Republic of China Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jian Hua and providing Php1.5 million in donations for some socio-economic projects in the province.

China’s envoy arrived in the island along with a clique of Chinese businessmen and fellow diplomats last Oct. 24 on invitation of the governor’s husband, Wong Cheung Sha, who is the current president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCI).

FFCCCI vice president Lu Gene Ang, Jose Go, the Chamber’s president emeritus and Bank of China chief executive officer Deng Jun and several officers and members of the Chinese Enterprise Association of the Philippines were among the members of the ambassador’s entourage, the governor said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.

She said Zhao donated to the provincial government an amount of Php1 million for projects intended to benefit impoverished communities while another donation worth Php500,000 was given by Deng for the same intention.

The Catanduanes visit, according to the governor, was part of Zhao’s goodwill tour nationwide signaling the eagerness of the Chinese government “to reach out to its neighbors and engage in high-level bilateral talks to amicably resolve territorial issues confronting them.”

Gov. Wong said the visit was timed with her rendering of her yearly “Ulat sa Lalawigan (Report to the Province)” where the Chinese ambassador was given an opportunity to have an audience with the province’s elderly whom he paid homage to while having their First Senior Citizens Convention.

During the occasion, she said, Zhao led the distribution of 20 units of wheelchairs to those who are already disabled elderly and hundreds of food packs.

Wong said that it is in October that the country celebrates the Elderly Filipino Week or Linggo ng Nakatatandang Filipino to emphasize the important role that older persons play in nation building, as well as raise and address issues concerning the sector.

Elderly Filipino Week was mandated through Proclamation No. 470 and is held on the first week of October but in Catanduanes.

She said the occasion is celebrated in any week of the month convenient for the elderly in the conduct of advocacy activities to promote their rights and welfare, especially those are disadvantaged.

In this year’s celebration, Wong said, the provincial government led an advocacy activity for the strict implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9994, or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, which provides more benefits and privileges to older persons.

They are entitled to a 20-percent discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, special five-percent discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and a five-percent utility discount on electric and water consumption.

By implementing the provisions of the law, the province is promoting and upholding their rights and it also encourages the public to report to authorities cases of elderly abuse to ensure their well-being and protection, Wong said.

According to the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for Bicol here, to ensure the well-being of older persons, the agency implements the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens which is the provision of Php500 monthly cash grants to indigent senior citizens, as stated in RA 9994.

The department considers indigent senior citizens who are frail, sickly or with disability; without pension from any government source or insurance companies; and no permanent source of income or regular support from his/her relatives as its priority for inclusion in the program.

From 2011-2014, the DSWD prioritized senior citizens aged 77 years old and above, however, for 2015, age coverage of the program covers senior citizens aged 65 years old and above.

In 2014, a total of 403,284 social pension beneficiaries nationwide were paid with a budget amounting to Php2.9 billion and in 2015, some 692,256 beneficiaries were paid with a budget amounting to Php3.4 billion.

During the celebration, Wong said, the provincial government allocated Php7 million for projects and activities of the senior citizens organization that would benefit their members.

In his visit, Zhao also expressed fascination of beautifully-woven abaca fiber fabrics seen during the “Ulat sa Lalawigan” gathering and citing its market potential, the ambassador hinted that China could make a huge market for the island’s products, particularly abaca fiber and its finished products, the governor said.

“I told the Chinese ambassador that the province already pursues a five-year program towards the setting up of a local abaca processing center through funds provided by the World Bank,” she said.

Catanduanes is the country’s leading producer of abaca with its 35,000-hectare plantations cultivated by 15,454 farmers who produce an average of 19,000 metric tons of fiber yearly, representing 33.2 percent of the total national production.

This makes abaca its backbone industry,which since time immemorial has made the island a prized contributor to country’s fiber export earnings.

In 2012 alone, the country posted an amount of US$ 120 million in abaca export earnings or an over Php5 billion at the back of increased demand for abaca pulp and cordage in the Philippines’ major markets, according to records of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA).

Wong said that after the “Ulat”, she ushered the Chinese delegation to the municipality of San Andres for the distribution of 500 packs of school supplies to pupils and students of three public elementary and high schools in the locality.

She also learned from the delegation that the ambassador’s series of social exposures in the country is aimed at a new round of bilateral high-level exchanges that could play a significant role in advancing the Chinese-Philippine strategic and cooperative relations, according to the governor.

“Chinese influence in the province is multifaceted and embedded in its culture and traditions through the centuries. For instance, a number of Catanduanons of Chinese descents, from traders to refugees are buried in the local Chinese cemetery,” she said.

The governor also affirmed that her husband is of the same descent as she acknowledged the Chinese people as “friendly brothers and sisters” of Catanduanes. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD

4Ps ‘pagbabago’ campaign launched in Naga City
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- Rona Trio, 43, of Barangay Cararayan here, narrated how the 4Ps had freed them from hunger which they experienced before their enlistment to the government’s Pantawid Pampamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Trio said that at present, they eat three times a day and when her children get sick she has no problem bringing their children in government hospital because they are subsidized.

Meant to promote the life-changing effects of the 4Ps, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launched in Bicol the “4Ps Ituloy Ang Pagbabago Campaign” here on Tuesday.

Graced by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, the campaign, attended by 350 mothers from the 27 barangays of Naga City, highlights the testimonies of change from beneficiaries in terms of access to health, education and livelihood.

The affair includes video presentation of testimonies of the life-changing effects of 4Ps and the conditional cash transfer given to beneficiaries, aside from the testimonies of selected beneficiaries from this city.

With a festive mood, the emcee from time-to-time agitated the mothers to break the ice with the slogan “Ituloy Ang Pagbabago.”

Marilyn Abesa, 13, top 7 in Camarines Sur National High School’s Grade 8, poetically described the 4Ps as “the paddle that aided their family to move forward.”

Abesa is the youngest in the brood of nine and her father works as a crab vendor at the Naga City market, while her mother is a plain housewife.

She was recognized as an exemplary child of 4Ps in Naga City. She said four of them in the family are still dependent on their parents.

Marilyn Balcueva, 45, said the 4Ps have enhanced her social skills, improved her confidence and made her active in the community.

Balcueva receives PHP2,800 every two months, covering her three kids and herself since 2010.

According to the DSWD, as of October 28, the 4Ps has covered 98.09 percent of the 4,436,732 of the total targets for 2015.

It provides every family beneficiary PHP500 per month for health grants, PHP300 for every elementary pupil and PHP500 per high school student for 10-month education grants.

The DSWD requires beneficiaries avail of pre- and post-natal care and attendance during health training provided by professional health workers, regular checkup for children and vaccines, de-worming and attendance of at least 85 percent per month in school.(PNA) FFC/FGS/JME/CBD

Legazpi to strictly require buildings to have septic tanks
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 12 (PNA) -- The City Government of Legazpi, through its Septage Management Program, will require owners of existing public and private buildings and structures such as malls, restaurants, hotels, apartelles to build their own septic tanks.

These also include residential buildings, subdivisions, hospitals and other industrial and commercial buildings.The move is in connection with the implementation of Section 5 Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that the “State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill consciousness among them.”

The move came after the Sangguniang Panlunsod of Legazpi recently enacted Ordinance No. 0025-2015, otherwise known as an ordinance providing Septage Management Program that aims to ensure and promote the general welfare and the right to a balanced ecology and safe health for the people in the community.

The ordinance is principally authored by Councilor Rolly Rosal and co-authored by councilors Jesus Baldo, Alex Sy and Lilibeth Muñoz Dimaculangan.

Based on the ordinance, the construction of septic tank shall be approved by the City Engineering Office.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shall see if the structure follow environmental standards in compliance with the mandate set forth in the National Building Code of the Philippines and in conformity with the National Plumbing Code of the Philippines.

The septic tank shall not be constructed within 25 meters from any existing source of water supply and shall be built with sealed bottom using solid durable and water proofing materials.

It shall also be divided into three compartments, with the volume of the first compartment being between one-half to two-thirds of the total tank volume.

The enacted ordinance is also in support of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines, Philippine Clean Water Act, Sanitation Code, National Building Code, Plumbing Code of the Philippines and the National Septage and Sewage Management Program Operations Manual.

According to the ordinance, the city administration shall engage any private sector member or make an arrangement with other establishments, partnerships or corporations for the construction and maintenance of Septage Treatment Facility in this city.

According to the newly enacted local law of this city, the owner of the septic tank has a responsibility to open the septic vault manhole for desludging and return the cover afterwards.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal said he was elected as a chairman of the newly created Legazpi City Septage Management Council (LCSMC) while the vice-chairman is the chairperson of the Committee on health and sanitation.

The members are the chairperson of the Committee on environmental protection and the offices of the City Engineer, Environment and Natural Resources, City Health, City Legal, Planning and Development Coordinator, City Treasurer as well as the president of the Liga ng mga Barangay, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau, the regional director of the Department of Health and the general manager of the Legazpi City Water District.

Rosal said the LCSMC will serve as a consultative body and has the right to review the code from time to time as well as to recommend appropriate technologies and proposal for the implementation of the City’s Septage Management Program.

The LCSMC has the power to choose the area for the establishment of the septage treatment facility (STF) and has also the right to endorse the application for Environmental Sanitation Clearance to the Department of Health Bicol regional office upon compliance with all the required documents.

Rosal revealed that his office has been also created a Technical Working Group of the LCSMC composed of the Office of City Environment and Natural Resources as the team leader and the City Health Office as co-team leader as well as the other members that includes offices of the City Engineering, City Planning and Development, Liga ng mga Barangay, EMB, DOH and the LCWD.

Based on the said ordinance, any individual with a residential building who violates this code shall be penalized, in first offense, a fine of PHP1,000 or imprisonment of five to 10 days or both at the discretion of the court; in the second offense, the violator shall be penalized a fine of PHP2,500 or imprisonment of 15-25 days or both at the discretion of the court.

For the third offense, the violator shall be penalized a fine of PHP3,000 or imprisonment of 25-30 days or both at the discretion of the court.

In case of a corporation, the owner, president, manager including the agent or employee of the establishment who violate this ordinance shall be penalized in the first offense a fine of PHP2,000 or imprisonment of 10-15 days at the discretion of the court.

In the second offense, the violator shall be penalized a fine of PHP3,000 or imprisonment of 15-20 days or both at the discretion of the court and in the third offense, the violator shall be penalized a fine of PHP5,000 or imprisonment of 25-30 at the discretion of the court.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD