Friday, January 29, 2016

Junking of Bt talong by SC may hamper food security -- DOST
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- The Supreme Court's decision to totally halt the Bt talong (eggpant) field-testing propagation and commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMO) may affect the country’s food security, a Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) statement said Thursday.

The DOST-NAST statement said the permanent halt on GMO crop trials will cause serious negative effect on food security and on the research community following the SC decision.

The genetically engineered Bt talong would have provided an option for the farmers to control the FSB infestation of eggplant by incorporating the gene from naturally- occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), that produces the toxin specific for the group of insects to which the FSB belongs.

Bt has been used as a biopesticide for more than 50 years in many vegetable farms all over the world and has been proven to be harmless to human beings, plants and other animals.

At present, synthetic pesticides with known adverse health effects are sprayed 60-80 times to control the FSB and prevent a 70-80-percent yield loss in most of the 22,000 hectares of eggplant.

Unfortunately, the conduct of additional field tests to determine the viability of this Bt talong has now been permanently blocked.

The SC was grossly misinformed that “genetic engineering dangerously tampers with the most fundamental natural components of life;” and that transgenic organisms do not occur in nature, the statement said.

“In fact, there are naturally-occurring transgenic crops such as banana which has incorporated the genes from the banana streak virus and the cultivated sweet potato (camote), which contains genes from the bacterium (Agrobacterium),” the DOST-NAST statement pointed out.

The SC has concluded that there is a lack of consensus on the safety of GM crops: “In the scope of this document, we can only highlight a few examples to illustrate that the totality of scientific research outcomes in the field of GM crop safety is nuanced, complex, often contradictory or inconclusive, confounded by researchers' choices, assumptions, and funding sources, and in general, has raised more questions than it has currently answered.”

It decided to permanently stop field tests for Bt talong; declare null and void the “Rules and Regulations for the Importation and Release into the Environment of Plants and Plant Products Derived from the Use of Modern Biotechnology,” otherwise known as the Department of Agriculture Order No. 08, series of 2002; and temporarily stop any application for contained use, field testing, propagation and commercialization and importation of genetically modified organisms until a new administrative order is promulgated in accordance with the law.

The activity that was permanently stopped was the field testing of a genetically engineered eggplant.

The tests were being conducted in plots of 920 sq.m. big each, in five different places in the Philippines.

These field tests were part of a research project that was started in 2007 as an option for controlling the fruit and stem borer (FSB), the most destructive insect pest of the eggplant.

The NAST-PHL notes that such a conclusion was derived from a very limited literature survey, some from questionable sources.

“None of the references covered the statements of the Academies of Science of many developed and developing countries that there is no difference in the risks between GM crops (where only one or a few genes are introduced) and conventionally-bred crops (where thousands of genes recombine at random), a view that is shared by NAST-PHL,” the statement said.

“The information sources cited by the court, in fact, recommend that further research be conducted to assess the risks in the deployment of GM crops. Unfortunately, by permanently stopping the field tests of Bt talong, the research that would have provided the answers to the reservations on the safety of Bt talong can no longer be continued,” the DOST-NAST lamented.

Similarly, the NAST-PHL considers the nullification of the Department of Agriculture Order No.08, series of 2002 (DA0-08-2002) in its entirety as too harsh.

It said that the drafting of the said administrative order involved a process of extensive consultations with various stakeholders -- including farmer groups, scientists, academe, NGOs, the livestock industry, feed millers, food processors, commodity importers as well as representatives of foreign exporters and trading partners.

These year-long consultations were conducted in Metro Manila, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The DAO-08-2002 is a carefully-crafted document and has provided effective guidance “for the importation and release into the environment of plants and plant products derived from the use of modern biotechnology” for the last 12 years.

It must be pointed out that this move, if not clarified, will have serious repercussions on the research and development activities, especially in plant breeding as well as the flow of the supply of food and feed, specifically those that are based on crops largely harvested from transgenic lines, like soybean (2014 soybean meal imports: 2,500,000 MT) and corn (2014 imports: 500,000 MT).

“The possible disruption in the supply chain may cause food security issues in the near future,” the statement said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

Ecological peculiarity makes Jovellar town spectacular
By Danny O. Calleja

JOVELLAR, Albay, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Deep through the woods down the outskirts of this poor, sleepy Bicol town are peculiar natural settings that make the place incredibly spectacular.

Nestled along a mountain range greened by verdant woodlands classified by ecological authorities as rain forests, the municipality boasts of exotic underground rivers, breathtaking cave systems, amazing waterfalls and surprising peak.

Most famous among leisure travelers and picnickers who wish to commune with nature is a 120-meter-long cavern oddly serving as an underwater passage for the Quintinday River - a long, expansive watercourse spanning from the lower slope of Mt. Mayon crossing the town of Camalig to this town, down to the Jovellar River that flows through the nearby Donsol, Sorsogon.

Called the Quitinday Underground River situated in Barangay Quitinday, less than a kilometer from the downtown, this extraordinary water conduit offers a narrow arch at its upstream entrance to where the rapids turbulently flow into the four-meter-deep pool inside the cave.

The cave’s width varies from five to eight meters, depending on the irregular span between its walls that features a strange buildup of finely sculptured limestone rocks that eerily look like an army of animated small minions in fancy formations.

Water feed by founts at its ridge also drops intermittently from the cave’s roof, a continuing natural episode that forms overhead stalactites and stalagmites.

Hundreds of visitors coming daily, especially during weekends and summer, days won’t miss exploring with awe the underground river via bamboo rafts manned by young “boatmen” who skillfully propel their makeshift watercraft through its clear, cold and serene waters.

Quitinday River’s fantastic features also include a series of waterfalls, the most prominent of which is the called Sigpit (constricted) Falls because of its being ensconced between exciting rock walls wrapped in vine roots and foliage, giving it a high and narrow attributes.

Another facet that makes Quitinday River an astounding natural asset is the chain of 10 major cave systems that have complex patterns of superimposed passages representing a long history of cave development.

Experts who recently studied the antiquity of the place, according to municipal administrator Justin Luna, theorized that the flow velocity of the water that extracts classic sediments from the river gullies made of massive limestone rocks may have formed over centuries the cave systems.

All these wonders of Quitinday are arranged along the foot of Makatanaw-Dagat, a lushly vegetated peak towering about 500 meters over the municipality to offer unobstructed views of Mt. Mayon, Ticao and Burias Passes off Donsol and Pioduran towns and Albay Gulf by Legazpi City.

Another special attribute of this peak are its series of founts that marvelously jet in forms of tiny waterfalls into the river.

Luna said the local government has built a water reservoir at the mountain’s shoulder that feeds every household in the locality with fresh, crystal-clear water that is absolutely safe for drinking sans hygienic treatment.

This town, however, is not just about Quitinday when it comes to natural wonders as still, three kilometers from the poblacion is Magtaguinting Falls of Barangay Bagacay, a broad waterfall that grandiosely offers an alluring natural beauty.

Its water turbulently cascades from the height of 120 feet into the Naglaus River, which is part of a natural formation of largely unexplored underground river whose 500 meters long tunneled river that looks mysterious and weird could also be navigated using bamboo crafts for a unique experience.

This underground river is a grotto-like caver system set at the hillside of Barangay Del Rosario, about seven kilometers from the town proper traversable to the next barangay of Nabasan, Daraga, Albay and known as the local version of the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan.

The river cave's mouth has a clear and cold lagoon framed by a unique formation of limestone rocks. Another one of nature’s gifts to this small, sleepy municipality, listed as one of the poorest in Albay, is the Quibaraw Falls in Barangay San Vicente, three kilometers from the town center.

This waterfall, which cascades from 120 feet at the slope of a mountain can be reached via a one-kilometer ascending foot trail that traverses thick patches of old-growth trees.

Apart from all these marvelous natural formations, the municipality is also called the “river town”, being traversed by seven major rivers, among them the Jovellar-Donsol River that strategically runs through the center of the municipality from its source in Camalig town; and Cagnanaga River along its eastern boundary that empties into the Ilog River.

Others are the Kagbuwaya and Quipia Rivers, which flow down from the mountains of Camalig and Buyo River that originates from Pioduran town -- all join the Jovellar River that empties into the Donsol River, the vast waterway whose mouth is the feeding site of the famous whale sharks of Donsol.

And realizing lately that the bizarre features of its backyard are world-class eco-tourism attractions, the locality, situated in the out-of-the-way southwestern section of Albay, is now plucking itself from obscurity into the eyes of the travel industry world.

According to Lourdes Boreta, the municipal tourism officer, the local government has already put in place an intensified tourism industry promotion campaign even as so many tourists are already rediscovering the place for themselves.

Boreta said they are taking advantage of the current foreign market trend showing that international tourists no longer tend to repeat visiting a local destination as they follow a cycle leading them from one place to another.

This trend, she said, creates a demand for a new destination other than Palawan, Donsol and other old eco-tourism destinations “and we now offer our place as an alternative travel point where tourists would surely be delighted by our hospitality, sumptuous delicacies and marvelous natural sites.”

“Our town is no longer a hidden tourism treasure nowadays as people from different parts of the world have already been coming to discover our unveiled natural secrets, especially that we now have a good road that links us to the tourism town of Donsol,” Boreta told the Philippines News Agency during a weekend visit to the place.

The road she was referring to is the 25.6-kilometer Pioduran-Donsol Road whose concreting works by the Department of Public Works and Highways are nearing completion to link with the 24.9-kilometer Guinobatan-Jovellar Road leading to the national highway.

On the other hand, Albay third district congressional Rep. Fernando Gonzalez has filed a bill recently approved by the House committee on tourism seeking the declaration of the municipality as an ecotourism zone which, when enacted into law, will compel the Department of Tourism to give the place priority attention towards development.

Boreta said the congressional measure is urgently needed by the local government as it cannot afford the cost of development, given its very meager resources. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

Sorsogon tops in incidence of STH infections -- DOH Bicol
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Sorsogon has the highest incidence of Soil Transmitted Herminthalisis (STH) infections and six out of 10 elementary pupils suffer from the disease, Department of Health Bicol Regional Director Napoleon Arevalo said Thursday.

In this connection the National School Day of De-worming in Bicol was launched by Department of Health at the Bacolod Elementary School in Juban, Sorsogon on Wednesday in cooperation with the Department of Education regional office, parents organizations and the private sector.

Arevalo said anemia or malnutrition is the reason a student is poor in class.

He expressed belief that with the National School Day of Deworming, the cases pf STH will be minimized, if not totally eliminated.

The DOH official said that last year, the agency dewormed 76 percent of elementary students enrolled in public schools in Bicol.

Nationwide, he said, 70-80 percent or more than 11 million students of the 14 million target received treatment in line with the policy of the World Health Organization, Food and Drugs Program and DOH.

The program aims to lower the cases of STH in the regional and in the national level. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cops on trail of men who robbed Php3.3M for 4Ps recipients
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Joint operatives of the Albay Police Provincial Office and Rapu-Rapu Municipal Police Station are in hot pursuit against the suspects behind the robbery-hold involving PHP2.34 million cash intended for payment of beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.

The money was forcibly taken on early Wednesday morning from personnel of Smart-NATCO (National Confederation Cooperative), the conduit of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) in the island-municipality where there is no bank ATM, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Bicol Regional Director Arnel C. Garcia.

He identified the Smart-NATCO employees as Allan B. Competente and Richielda A. Batang.

Garcia said they are closely coordinating with authorities, LBP officials and other concerned individuals for the success of the investigation.

The incident happened in the residence of barangay kagawad Eddie Bibat at Purok, Barangay Villahermosa, Rapu-Rapu.

The DSWD official said what happened was indeed sad but at least no one died or was hurt.

Garcia assured the 4Ps beneficiaries that they will receive their cash assistance but it would take time.

He said the LBP will do something to replace the amount taken by the criminals.

The amount was for the first quarter of 2016 and intended for about 5,000 families in the area that are enrolled in the program.

Garcia said the conduit organization has an insurance coverage for such eventuality. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

1,700 farmers to join DA forum

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- About 1,700 farmers are expected to attend a stakeholders' meeting and farmers' forum on Friday at the Albay Astrodome here.

Conducted by the Department of Agriculture, the forum will also be participated by local chief executives, municipal and city agriculturists, and extension workers.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala will lead the distribution and turnover of agricultural machineries and other agricultural goods to local government units and farmer organizations.

The program will start with a message of Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, followed by testimonies from stakeholders.(PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD

8 devolved hospitals in Albay earn at least PHP81M
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- The eight devolved government hospitals in Albay posted more than PHP81 million in combined earnings last year, Dr. Nathaniel Rempillo, Provincial Health Officer (PHO), said Thursday.

Rempillo identified the hospitals as Ziga Memorial District Hospital, Cagraray Municipal Hospital, Villa Hermosa Hospital, Rapu-Rapu Hospital, Manito Hospital, J. B. Duran District Hospital, Pantao Hospital and Pioduran Hospital.

He said 70-80 percent of the combined earnings came from PhilHealth payments or Point of Case and the others came from payments for laboratory tests, X-ray examinations, room rental and other hospital services.

"This shows the growing trust and confidence of the public to the government hospitals devolved to the province," the PHO chief said.

He vowed to work hard to elevate the quality of service of these hospitals.

Aside from the rehabilitation of the hospital facilities, the Department of Health, Rempillo said, has allotted PHP100 million for the province under the Health Facility Enhancement Program this year.

This includes those in barangays, rural health units and three infirmaries in the towns of Daraga, Guinobatan and Bacacay.

According to him, the provincial government is now working on making operating rooms of district hospitals operational.

Among the eight hospitals, the PHO head said, JBMDH and the ZMDH are almost complete with facilities, adding that it is Salceda's objective to finish these.

Rempillo said the strategy that the province is using to use the PhilHealth benefits right is to enroll the members right at the hospital at the time confinement because they are already using these.

He said the province is paying high for this scheme, amounting to PHP2,400, but the patients are already benefiting, unlike when they are not at the hospital, it would be impossible for them to enroll.

The budget of the PHO this year is PHP150 million while the district hospitals have PHP10 million each. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Robbers takes away Php4 mM for 4Ps recipients in Albay island

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- Robbers barged into the house of a village councilor and took away about Php4 million in cash from representatives of the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at about 4 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Villahermosa in the island-municipality of Rapu- Rapu, Albay.

An initial report of Sr. Supt. Celso Arcueno, Albay provincial police director, said the Land Bank and DSWD representatives were temporarily resting at the residence of Barangay kagawad Ted Vibat when the suspects, armed with knives barged in, poked the bladed weapons on them, tied them and carried away with the cash intended for the 4Ps in the area.

There are about 4,000 families who enjoy the 4Ps program of the government of the area on the initiative of Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda as part of his service to the island-town.

One can reach the municipality through sea travel characterized by rough water, big waves and strong easterly winds as the place faces the Pacific Ocean.

There is no bank in the area so that the Land Bank and DSWD officials go there by water travel whenever it is time for the distribution of cash assistance to the beneficiaries.

DSWD Regional Director Arnel B. Garcia said it would take time to distribute the cash benefits to the recipients since although the amount is ensured, it would take time to process the documents.

Salceda, who was in Metro Manila, immediately ordered a manhunt operation against the culprits and a thorough investigation of the incident.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/EDS

PRDP spends Php1B for Bicol agri-development projects in 2 years; more to come—DA
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- A six-year inclusive growth initiative of the Aquino administration, the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), during its first two years alone has already provided Bicol with over Php1 billion worth of agricultural advancement support.

And the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) based in Pili, Camarines Sur on Wednesday said it is looking forward to more funding as proposals for sub-projects that would benefit a new set of farmers and fishermen are now being accepted.

“Our challenge for this year is for us to do more than what we accomplished in the past two years so that we are able to maximize the project towards lifting the economic conditions not only of our farmers and fisher folks but the entire region as well,” PDRP deputy project director Elena de los Santos told local project implementers during a recent gathering here.

The gathering convened Provincial Project Management and Implementing Units (PPMIU) from the six provinces of Bicol in a four-day a year-end assessment and 2016 planning workshop in preparation for the project implementation evaluation of enterprise development sub-projects on the ground to be conducted soon by the World Bank (WB).

De los Santos, who is also DA’s regional technical director for operations and extension, said the PDRP gave the region a total of over Php1.1 billion worth of agricultural infrastructure and Php91 million for agri-business enterprises sub-projects in 2014-2015.

Among these infra sub-projects are the Php196-million concreting of the Pistola-Tablon farm-to-market road (FMR) in Oas, Albay and the rehabilitation/upgrading of the San Isidro-Pag Oring Nuevo Libmanan and the Cuco-Bagong Silang, Pasacao FMRs, both in Camarines Sur, worth a total of Php94.8 million, De los Santos said.

These sub-projects are now starting to realize its target of raising the annual real farm incomes of PRDP household beneficiaries in the region by at least five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and boost the number of farmers and fishers with improved access to DA services by 20 percent, she said.

For this year, Bicol is expecting the release of funding for the Php1.5-billion sub-projects approved last year by the PDRP’s Regional Project Advisory Board (PRAB) for the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

Among these sub-projects are geonet for Albay and Camarines Norte, coco sap sugar for Camarines Sur and abaca for Catanduanes whose value chain analyses (VCA) were already issued with No Objection Letter by the PRAB.

VCA is a science-based tool adopted by PRDP to identify market opportunities that can promote growth, determine constraints to the industry’s progress, describe interfirm relations’ nature and justify basis for project interventions.

Serving as the basis in formulating Provincial Commodity Investment Plans, a three-year strategic plan crafted by the DA and provincial governments, VCA is also designed to develop collaboration and generate stakeholders’ commitment to the project implementation.

At least 13 subprojects under PDRP’s Intensified Building Up of Infrastructure and Logistics for Development (I-BUILD) component are covered by these approved funding.

Among these are the Php618.6 million construction of Tablon-Cagmanaba FMR with five units bridges in Oas, Albay and the concreting of FMRs in municipalities of Paracale, Basud and Sta. Elena -- all of Camarines Norte amounting to Php413.8 million.

Apart from these, the RPAB also endorsed for funding seven I-BUILD subprojects worth a total of Php452 million for the municipalities of Pamplona, Del Gallego, Pasacao, Libmanan, Sipocot and Ragay—all in Camarines Sur.

The PRAB is the body that provides guidance, reviews and approves undertakings for funding under PRDP, a six-year rural development project worth over Php27.5 billion funded through a loan from World Bank amounting to Php20.56 billion and Php7 billion counterparts from the Philippine government and local government units (LGUs).

In six years — 2013-2019 - PRDP aims to transform the rural areas in Bicol into dynamic and competent growth points for agricultural development as the national government pursues inclusive growth that should be felt down by the remotest and smallest rural barangays.

De los Santos said these approved subprojects are the first batch of proposals submitted by the Provincial Project Management and Implementation Units (PPMIUs) in Bicol for 2015-2016.

She lauded the PPMIUs of the provinces for their hard work and expressed her gratitude to the RPAB for approving all the proposed sub-projects which are products of the advisory board’s knowledge about the PRDP process and its advantages to the farmers and fisherfolk.

The board is composed, among others, of DA Bicol Regional Executive Bicol Abelardo Bragas as chairman and a representative of the League of Provinces in the region as vice-chair.

The approved sub-projects are now with the Project Support Office (PSO) South Luzon of PRDP for issuance of No Objection Letter 1 (NOL-1).

She said Bicol, which boasts of the largest agricultural area among the country’s 17 regions, was awarded last year the largest share of farm support infrastructure projects under the PRDP’s I-BUILD component worth over Php600 million.

The DA-PRDP I-BUILD sub-project portfolio has secured a Php11.382-billion in nationwide funding to finance production, marketing and logistics support for farmers and fishers in the countryside. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS

NPA rebel dies in Camarines Norte clash

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- A New People's Army (NPA) member died in an encounter with joint forces of the Camarines Norte Provincial Public Safety Company, Regional Intelligence Unit-5 and the 49th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at 7 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Magsaysay, Capalonga, Camarines Norte.

A police report identified the rebel casualty as Marlon Villan, 27, single and a resident of Purok 3 of the same village.

The report said the joint government operatives headed by Police Chief Insp. Rommel Labarro, PPSC company commander, were on security patrol in the area when they crossed path with the dissidents.

A 20-minute firefight ensued until the rebels fled, leaving behind their dead companion.

The government troops recovered the body of the slain rebel, a .45-caliber Colt 1911A1 pistol and ammunition for the said type of gun, backpack containing personal belongings, cellphone and documents of the rebels listing its future activities.

The police immediately brought the dead rebel's body to a funeral parlor, where it was claimed later by his relatives for proper wake and burial in his home place. (PNA) LAP/FGS/EMC/CBD/EDS

Bicol’s rich biodiversity, unique eco-tourism destinations impress American business tycoon
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- The unique eco-tourism destinations in the countryside, rich biodiversity and friendly people impressed visiting American business tycoon Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd.

“The Philippines is a nice and symbolic place to go with good environmental practices and warm, friendly and very hospitable people. It was a terrific experience here in Legazpi City and in Donsol, Sorsogon with warm and friendly people and remarkable good environmental efforts with WWF (World Wildlife Fund),” Fain told the Philippines News Agency in an exclusive interview at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport VIP Lounge on Monday afternoon.

The CEO of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. -- a global cruise company that operates 38 ships under the Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Pullmantur, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisières de France brands, arrived in Legazpi City through his private jet on Saturday and met with Mayor Noel Rosal and Albay Governor Joey Salceda before heading to Donsol town in Sorsogon for whale shark interaction and environmental advocacy in pursuit of combating carbon gas emission.

He said his firm embarks on projects that will address carbon emission reduction, marine conservation issues for sustainable development goals.

The Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second largest cruise company, established the Ocean Fund in 1996 to support marine conservation organizations in preserving the world's oceans.

The mission of the Ocean Fund is to support efforts to restore and maintain a healthy marine environment, minimize the impact of human activity on this environment, and promote awareness of ocean and coastal issues and respect for marine life.

In Legazpi, Fain visited several hotels and tourist destinations and lauded Rosal for his remarkable environmental projects that complemented the eco-tourism destinations and flourishing business establishments with Mayon volcano as Bicolandia’s icon.

In Donsol, Sorsogon, he went diving in San Miguel Island where he took a glimpse of the healthy corals, shoals of fish and even sea snakes.

He, however, was not able to glide with the gentle giant fish "butanding" or whale shark, unlike his colleagues.

Aside from praising the good environmental practices and friendly people in the countryside, Fain lauded the remarkable work ethics of the Filipinos.

He said his company prefers Filipino workers because of their outstanding work habit and capabilities.

The cruise ship magnate said the bulk of his employees are highly competent and hardworking Filipinos who are instrumental in the company’s continuous success.

“Our company has 11,000 Filipinos, the biggest crew among other nationalities. In the next five years we’re expecting to have 25,000 Filipinos as part of our crew. Our Filipino employees are terrific,” he said.

When asked if he is considering putting cruise ships in Legazpi, the country’s emerging tourist destination outside the National Capital Region, Fain said they are looking for a worldwide partnership and will be coming back to Legazpi.

“We’re announcing worldwide partnership. The Philippines is a good prospect for business. We have nine cruise ships in Asia,” he said.

Rosal, supported by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, is batting for international cruise ship operation in Legazpi to draw more tourists as an alternative mode of transportation aside from airplanes that use the international airport and by land route to Bicol Region, thus, create more jobs and investments in the countryside.(PNA) LAP/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS

Police nab cop killer in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- Police operatives have arrested the suspect that shot dead on Sunday a town police officer in Barangay Amomokpok, Ragay, a railroad town in Camarines Sur, a Philippine National Police (PNP) official said today.

Police Chief Insp. Ariel Blanco on Wednesday said police arrested Roman Tedenio, 25, a native of Barangay F. Simeon, Ragay town, who, according to a witness, was responsible for the killing of Senior Police Officer 2 Julieto Egay Mondigo Jr., a member of the Ragay Municipal Police Station.

In a phone interview, Blanco said the motorcycle used by Tedenio to locate the victim and which he consequently left when he fled the crime scene led police investigators to pinning him down.

He said Manuel Dumalais Jr., the owner of the Honda motorcycle (PN7782) used by the suspect, told the police that the motorcycle was borrowed by the suspect's sister from his wife.

Blanco said investigators were able to immediately determine the motive of the killing as a long personal grudge between the suspect and the victim.

Police operatives collared the suspect at around 8 a.m. Monday while he was seeking refuge in Barangay Damay, a remote village in Ragay town.

Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib said the victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds from various parts of his body and attending physician of the Ragay Rural Health Unit declared him dead on arrival.

Responding police recovered from the crime scene five empty shells from 9mm handgun, two slugs of 9mm, two empty shells from a .45- caliber pistol, two live bullets from .45-caliber handgun and a motorcycle.

Blanco said arresting policemen were able to seize from the possession of the suspect the cal. 9mm service handgun of the victim while the cal. 45 pistol allegedly used by the suspect was missing.(PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Legazpi to host 7th Edition of Le Tour De Filipinas world biking contest

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -- Close to half a million foreign and local visitors are expected to arrive in this premier city of Bicol to witness the Le Tour De Filipinas, an international biking competition now on its seventh year, City Mayor Noel Rosal said at a press conference Tuesday.

Rosal said preparations are now in place for the hosting of the 7th Le Tour De Filipinas, which will kick off on Feb. 18 - 21 from Antipolo City to Legazpi City in Albay.

He said the City Tourism Office has already coordinated with various hotels and restaurants for the big event where 450 foreign and local visitors are expected to arrive and stay here during the duration of the biking competition.

Donna May Lina of the Ube Media Inc., event organizer, said 75 cyclists from 15 teams (five riders per team) with 12 foreign and three local are vying in the ICU Category 2.2 race that will cover a total distance of 700 kilometers.

Lina, 23, daughter of Bureau of Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, said at the press conference that the international biking competition will cover three stages.

Stage One of the race will see the 75 cyclists negotiating a rolling 153-kilometer ride from Antipolo City to Lucena in Quezon on Feb. 18.

Stage Two will be 204 km of pedaling from Lucena City to Daet, Camarines Norte on Feb. 19.

Stage Three will be a 187-km ride from Daet to Legazpi City where Mayon Volcano will be waiting to awe the cyclists with its majestic near-perfect cone summit.

At the Stage Four on Feb. 21, cyclists will hit the road, circling Mount Mayon 360 degrees and covering the towns of Sto. Domingo, Bacacay, Malilipot, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and the cities of Tabaco, Ligao and Legazpi. The stage will cover 147 km.

Lina said the 15 foreign cycling squads came from Belarus, United Arab Eemirates, Japan, United States, Holland, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Laos.

Air21 is the franchise holder of the Tour De Filipinas after it bought the rights from Marlboro Cigarette Co., the tour owner of the Tour of Luzon and Marlboro Tour.

Among the noted cyclists that won the Tour of Luzon include: Jose Sumalde, a Bicolano and a native of Catanduanes tagged as the “Eagle of the Mountain”; Paquito Rivas, currently Tour Filipinas tour director; Manuel Reynante and Jacinto Sicam, to name a few.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Thomas Lebas, the 2016 Le Tour de Filipinas champion, will be defending his crown as the tour kicks off on Feb. 18 to 21.

Rudy Fulo, Air21 chairman and president, said the Tour de Filipinas is not only a sports event but it also serves a tourism driver boosting the province tourism industry.

Fulo, who also hails from Bulusan town in Sorsogon, said “Sports is a collateral advantage to tourism where foreign visitors are looking for places that are adventurous but peaceful, experience fine dining, enjoy its sceneries.”

Legazpi City has played host to national and international sports events that include Mayon Triathlon and Mayon Trail Run, to name a few, while Albay will host in February the XTerra sports competition and will host this year's Palarong Pambansa in April. (PNA) FPV/FGS/MSA/CBD

Climate change crusaders hail children's booklet on disaster preparedness
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -– A colorful booklet recently made available as a disaster risk reduction management tool for children has earned the admiration of local anti-climate change impact crusaders.

Published through a coalition of international groups working for the welfare of children, the booklet should be something that “no classroom should be without a copy of,” according to Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Manny de Guzman.

In a statement reaching here Tuesday, De Guzman, who also serves as senior advisor at World Meteorological Organization and president at Asia Pacific Institute for Green Development, hailed the coalition “for this great initiative to make the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction child-friendly.”

The coalition, called Children in a Changing Climate, is composed of ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children, World Vision International and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The ChildFund Alliance is a global network of child-centered development organizations working in the poorest countries around the world to create opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Alliance members believe in the open exchange of resources and information as a means of reaching more children in need more effectively and members cooperate to share best practices in child survival, protection and development.

Together, the alliance works to eradicate the root causes and the effects of poverty on children by implementing meaningful solutions, resulting in positive future.

The Plan International is a development group operating in 51 countries across Africa, the Americas, and Asia to promote and protect children's rights while Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children working in around 120 countries to save children's lives, fight for their rights, and help them fulfill their potentials.

The World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice and Unicef is a UN program that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

The coalition, according to ChildFund, is a partnership of leading child-centered and humanitarian organizations, each with a commitment to share knowledge, coordinate and work with children as agents of change in full recognition of their capacity to prepare for and respond to shocks and stressors.

De Guzman said the colorful booklet titled Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: For Children points out that, kids who understand dangers, who are empowered and listened to, can play an important role in their own protection.

Adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan on March 18, 2015, the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 is the outcome of stakeholder consultations initiated in March 2012 and inter-governmental negotiations from July 2014 to March 2015, supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction at the request of the UN General Assembly.

It is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015 conceived to give further impetus to the global work under the International Framework for Action for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction of 1989, the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World and its plan of action, adopted in 1994 and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction of 1999.

De Guzman stressed that when children speak out and their needs are prioritized, they contribute to long-term development after a disaster and build safer communities for everyone.

“This booklet is about disaster risk reduction – working together to reduce the chance that a hazard will turn into a disaster and preparing for disasters when they do happen. Disaster risk reduction should happen at the level of national government, local government and in communities and families. It means engaging and listening to everyone,” he said.

The Sendai Framework, De Guzman added, aims to make sure that everyone is ready when hazards strike, so that responses are more effective and better organized, the book says, stressing that everyone should be ready when hazards strike so that responses are more effective and better organized.

Written by Helen Kearney and edited by Felipe Cala of the ChildFund Alliance, the booklet of 70 pages acknowledges that “the children that care for our world are the real heroes.”

It reveals that 75 million of children around the world are affected by disasters and nine million of them were forced out of school by disaster in 2014 alone.

This child-friendly Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, its publisher says, was developed in consultation with children by the coalition, resulting in documents that support processes of child-friendly accountability by making the Sendai Framework accessible to children, especially those aged 10 to 14.

Manuel “Nong” Rangasa, the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) executive director who is based in Albay, said the booklet can be included as a tool in the K-12 mainstreaming of climate change adaptation and disaster risk vulnerability reduction (CCADRVR) project.(PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

Groups say S&T workers get no real pay hike, lose benefits under SSL 2015
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) – Workers in the government’s science and technology (S&T) sector have expressed their strong opposition to some provisions of the proposed new salary standardization law (SSL), which they claim would give them no real salary increase but pay cut and loss of certain benefits.

In a statement reaching here Tuesday, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said a survey it recently conducted reveals that 4,850 or 88.42 percent of the 5,485 S&T workforce will not feel the effects of the salary increase as it threatens to repeal the Republic Act 8439 or the Magna Carta (MC) for S&T that gives additional benefits to them.

Ironically, on the first year of the implementation of the salary increase, some 98.72 percent of S&T personnel will even get pay cuts because of some provisions on the SSL 2015 that threaten to repeal MC benefits in exchange for a four-year staggered salary hike, they claimed.

Both House and Senate bills, HB 6268 and SB 2671, respectively, contain these provisions which are disadvantageous, according to DOST employees.

Its Section 8, according to them, says explicitly that “Magna Carta are the benefits authorized for specific officials and employees that may be categorized in the Total Compensation Framework in accordance with the guidelines, rules and regulations to be issued by Department of Budget and Management (DBM).”

Senator Ralph Recto, chair of the Senate committee on science and technology, said this means that magna carta benefits may be folded into the new salary rate.

The SSL 2015 also gives power to DBM to determine which benefits under the MC could be scrapped and aside from this, the bill takes away the power of the consultative councils, departments and officials who are authorized to issue the implementing rules and regulations of such benefits.

Section 8 says, “The DBM, in coordination with agencies concerned, shall determine the qualifications, conditions and rates in the grant of certain benefits. Accordingly, the consultative councils, departments and officials previously authorized to issue implementing rules and regulations of Magna Carta benefits shall no longer exercise said function relative to the grant of such benefits.”

“The proposed increase in salary of the SSL 2015 will amount to nothing if they take away our MC benefits,” says Joy M. Lazcano, president of the Science and Technology Information Institute Employees Association.

According to him, a salary grade 13 will only get Php3,700 in salary increase but will lose more than Php5,000 from the magna carta benefits.

He also said that there is really an attempt to scrap the MC benefits through section 20, which states “All laws, decrees, orders, rules or regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly. All laws inconsistent with this Act such as but not limited to PD 1638, RA 4670, RA6686, RA 7160, RA 7305, RA 8439, RA 8441, RA 8551, RA 9173, and RA 9433 are hereby amended.”

The MC for S&T workers was signed into law in 1997 to give additional incentives to workers in the sector and counter the effects of brain drain in the country but implemented only recently as DOST agencies have to source from their savings to be able to provide said benefits, said Lazcano.

It provides the workers monthly subsistence and laundry allowance, as well as hazard and longevity pays.

Lazcano said the provision under SSL4 threatening to repeal R.A 8439 is a proof that not the entire government recognizes and truly understood the value of S&T in contributing to the Philippine economy.

“Several programs that are geared towards uplifting the local industry competitiveness, increasing the number of S & T human capital, improving our agriculture sector, and our efforts in disaster mitigation are only a few of those contributions of S&T", he said.

"Let us remind them that no country has ever attained progress without science, technology, and its human capital and it is never late for the country to invest more in S&T, particularly in manpower, instead of cutting off the work benefits they presently enjoy," Lascano added.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration’s Philippine Weathermen Employee Association (PWEA) president Ramon Agustin said that the provision to repeal R.A. 8439 will threaten the S&T workers’ economic well-being.

“The law has been in existence since 1997 but was only funded through only recently. But now (we are) on the verge of returning back to the old days when we virtually begged for funding. We cannot afford to go back to these dark past. We will absolutely oppose this provision to protect our rights,” Agustin said.

The PWEA fully supports the immediate passage of SSL4 for the welfare of all government workers but, Agustin said, science groups hopefully pray for the exclusion of R.A. 8439 from the repeal.

The 4,000-strong United DOST Employees Association has also expressed its strong opposition to SSL 2015, particularly the provisions of its sections 8, 13 and 20.

In a separate statement, the Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Mamamayan (AGHAM) said the move is not logical and untimely.

"The science community and science advocates worked hard for years for the passage of R.A. 8439. Its implementation is one way of sustaining and maintaining necessary talent and manpower for S&T," AGHAM president Angelo Palmones Palmones said.

The wisdom and relevance of R.A. 8439 is strengthened by reports on economic data which showed that S&T contribution to economic growth of developed countries is 70 percent; in underdeveloped countries – 30 percent; and in the Philippines about 40 percent, he added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD

Mayor's security cop hunted for gun ban, firing shots

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 26 (PNA) -- A new police officer assigned as a bodyguard of Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal is in hot water after he hit a man with his service firearm and shot at but missed the victim's companion at about 10:20 p.m. Monday night along C. Imperial St,. Barangay 15, Ilawod here.

A police report identified the suspect as PO1 John Cyril Cortez, who was reportedly under the influence of liquor.

Cortez was identified as the one who pistol-whipped victim Jerome Buatis, 33, and shot at Lolito Senias, 33, but missed him.

Cortez is facing multiple cases for violation of the Commission on Elections gun ban.

Rosal said he will not tolerate such a police personnel assigned to him to be abusive and has to be disciplined.

A report reaching Police Senior Supt. Celso Arcueno, Albay provincial director, said Cortez was drunk when Buatis and Senias happened to pass by and with no reason at all, the new police officer drew his gun and hit Buatis who fell on the ground.

Out of fear, Senias ran away but Cortez fired at him and missed, hitting instead the gate of the house of Imelda Ranoco, who operates a boarding house.

The bullet went through the walls of the boarding but fortunately no occupant was hurt.

The witnesses recognized Cortez who has gone on hiding.

Police recovered empty shells of Cal. 9 mm believed to have come from the service firearm being used by the suspect.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cagsawa Ruins to have new look

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The more than two-century-old Cagsawa Ruins, recently declared as a historical treasure in the country by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), will soon undergo refurbishing as a means to protect, preserve and promote this national historical property.

Cristina Agapita Pacres, Daraga town tourism officer, said the national and local governments will spend this year some Php42 million to finance the restoration project of the 202-year-old cultural asset.

Pacres said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism (DOT) has approved the release of Php35 million to be used for the construction of structures that will improve the vast landscape of the historical treasure.

The TIEZA project has been bid out and implementation will start this year.

Pacres, however, said the original structural design by TIEZA will have to be changed to complement the view of the ruins.

“The design is too modern that it doesn’t match with the ruins’ landscape,” she stressed.

She said the design includes a tourist visitor center, function hall, water and electrical facilities and concrete fence.

The local government of Daraga set aside some Php2 million for the preservation works that include cordon structure around the ruins to prevent visitors to go near the ruins.

As for the contribution of the province, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said it will put in additional Php5 million for the restoration works of the other items, especially holograms or glass showcase of three elements: the iglesia, convent, ayuntamiento and the municipio.

The Albay History and Culture Unit will take charge of the “conservation” vision for the Cagsawa Ruins as they are working with the UNESCO National Office for its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salceda said.

“The Cagsawa Ruins is now tentatively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he said.

The Cagsawa Ruins lies on a 1.5-hectare land that showcases the Cagsawa Ruins Belfry.

It is 11 kilometers from the Majestic Mayon Volcano, two kilometers from the town proper and eight kilometers from Legazpi City.

Albay now has three national cultural treasures: the Cagsawa Ruins and the Church of Our Lady of the Gate -- both in Daraga, and the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tabaco City.

Father Jose Victor Lobrigo, the former parish priest of Our Lady of the Gate, said in an interview that there are other ruined churches in Albay that need declaration and preservation.

These are the Sinimbahanan in Barangay Budiao in Daraga, another one in Tiwi and the church ruins in Bacacay, among others. Lobrigo said in the declaration and preservation of historical treasures “we have two things in mind: preservation of national patrimony and support.” Ana Lorilla, an architect and co-chair of the Sub-Commission on Buildings, Lands, Sites and Cultural Heritage of the Diocese of Legazpi said that aside from the three cultural religious properties declared as historical treasures, there are several other religious sites that are being explored and studied. Data from the Diocese of Legazpi indicate that there are 45 churches under the three vicariates. Of these number, seven churches are considered with historical value as they were built in year 1700. These old churches are St. John the Baptist Parish in Tabaco City, Saints Joachim and Anne Parish in Malinao town, Saint Lawrence the Maryr Parish in Tiwi, St. Dominic of Guzman Parish in Sto Domingo, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Malilipot, Saint John the Baptist in Camalig town and Our Lady of Gates Parish in Daraga town. "A national cultural treasure is defined as a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and with scientific value, which is significant and important to the country,” the NMP said.

Pacres said that aside from the Cagsawa Ruins, one of Albay’s most popular tourist attractions, the local government of Daraga has embarked on a festival dubbed as The Cagsawa Festival, which has been observed every month of February since 2012.

She said that in February 2014, the province of Albay commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1814 eruption by holding the Cagsawa Festival’s “Cagsawa Dos Siglos.”

The celebration aimed to pay tribute to the strength and resiliency of the people of Albay, according to Salceda.

Pacres said Albayanos are aware that they live within the shadow of a beautiful yet dangerous volcano .

Thus, the anniversary of the 1814 eruption also served as a reminder of the town's commitment to disaster risk reduction as part of the Daragueños' way of life to be able to achieve their goals of development for the community.

The festival showcases various activities and entertainment such as outdoor and sport events, culinary activities and cultural presentations of dances and plays.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, DOT regional director, said in an interview that Cagsawa is considered as the historical landmark that molded the Albayanos in being resilient, determined, passionate and fun-loving people.

The Cagsawa Ruins is the most visited place by day visitors, both foreign and local, hitting the number of 350,000 tourist visitors every year, she said.

“Declaring it as a national treasure will help boost more our tourism industry, culturally and economically,” Ravanilla said.

Salceda said the declaration by National Museum Director Jeremy R. Barns issued on Dec. 23 and published in the NMP’s web site, affirms the Cagsawa Ruins’ landmark role and significance in the richness of the country’s cultural heritage.

In December last year, the NMP declared Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay as among the new batch of cultural properties to be included as “Important Cultural Properties” and “National Cultural Treasures” after going through thorough research, recommendations, and petitions in 2015.

To be declared as an Important Cultural Property, a land must possess “exceptional cultural, artistic and/or historical significance,” it said.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/pjn

Bicol cops nab 7 gun ban violators, net 15 firearms

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- At least seven people have been arrested by policemen for carrying handguns since the beginning of the election period while 15 firearms, mostly pistols, have been either confiscated by or voluntarily surrendered to various Philippine National Police (PNP) units in three Bicol provinces, a top PNP official in the region said Saturday.

Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, quoting field reports, said the firearms came from individuals that passed through the Commission on Elections-PNP checkpoints in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and Masbate.

Marquez said that aside from the seized firearms during the period from Jan. 10 to date, the PNP Bicol also recorded six shooting incidents that mostly took place in Masbate.

He said the Comelec-PNP Joint Security Control Center (JSCC) was yet to validate if the incidents were election related.

The PNP official said units across the Bicol were stepping up their campaign against the carrying of firearms, ammunition and bladed weapons in compliance with the Omnibus Election Code during the election period that would end on May 9.

During this period, at least 10 firearms were either surrendered or turned over for safekeeping, she added.

Marquez said that at the start of the election period on Jan. 10, the PNP was able to set up 202 Comelec checkpoints in the entire region, with 1,515 policemen manning them.

He said the gun ban included those firearms with issued permits to possess or to carry outside their residences, “unless they are authorized by the commission through the Committee on the Ban of Firearms and Security.”

Meanwhile, Police Director Gen. Victor P. Deona, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief, on his visit here on Friday, directed his unit in Bicol to intensify its campaign against Private Armed Groups (PAGS) reportedly operating in some provinces in Bicol, specifically Masbate and another province which he begged off to name as of press time.

In the previous national and local elections, there were at least six PAGs listed as operating in Masbate, of which only two are active -- the Arizobal and Villaruel groups with 38 members.

Deona said that when he was the task group commander of TF Masbate during the 2012 national and local elections, the Task Force was able to seize hundreds of loose firearms and encouraged political candidates to surrender at least 200 high-powered firearms.

As this developed, Marquez said the PNP-Bicol still awaited for the green light from its central command for the deployment of two elite police battalions in Masbate, one from the Regional Public Safety Command and another one from the Police Special Action Force.

The deployment of the two battalions, numbering 1,600 policemen, would ensure that politically-related violence would not thrive during the campaign period for the May polls.

The deployment of policemen is in response to the reactivation of Task Force Masbate headed by Sr. Supt. Lito Pitallano, the concurrent Deputy Director for Operations, with Sr. Insp. Art Gomez serving as Task Force spokesperson.

The TF Masbate was formed during the previous elections to oversee the security operations in the province tagged by military and police as a “hot spot” area due to intense political rivalries and the presence of PAGS and communist rebels.

Masbate has been consistently been tagged as an election hot spot in previous elections because of the intense political rivalries among clans, including election-related violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

In past election events, the Comelec-PNP had identified the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte as election areas of concern due to intense political rivalries as well as presence PAGS and New People Army (NPA) rebels.

Based on the list, Masbate has the most number of villages that were placed under Comelec control, with 40 villages in 18 towns.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/pjn

Masbate City employee shot dead; police see politics as motive

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- Two unidentified gunmen armed with M-16 armalite rifles gunned down a 44-year-old employee of the Masbate City government while on his way home at about 6:20 p.m. Friday at Crossing Nursery St., Purok 3, Barangay Nursery, Masbate City.

A police report said Elmer Sampaga, married, died on the spot.

Sampaga was aboard his motorcycle when the two armed men blocked his way and peppered his body with bullets in the full view of residents in the populous area.

Police recovered empty shells of bullets for M-16 rifle, .45-caliber pistol of Sampaga, which was still tucked in his waist, his motorcycle, cash and cellphone inside the pockets of his pants.

Investigators believe that the killing was politically motivated as the victim openly supported a local candidate.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Suspected rebels shoot dead ex-CAFGU man

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- A former member of the Citizens Armed Forces and Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was gunned down by two men riding in tandem on a motorcycle while he was waiting for a ride home in front of a videoke bar in Barangay Puro, Aroroy, Masbate at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

A police report said victim Jessie Mina, 24 and a resident of Barangay Cabangcalan, Aroroy, Masbate, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Aroroy Municipal Hospital.

The report said Mina was waiting for a ride outside the Acacia Videoke Bar when a motorcycle stopped in front of him and the back rider shot him with a .45-caliber pistol on his head and body.

The suspects immediately sped away from the crime scene while residents in the area rushed Mina to the hospital but to no avail.

Police suspect that although Mina was no longer a CAFGU member, New People’s Army rebels believed he was still a military-police asset supplying information about their activities.(PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/pjn

Lawmen bag 9 for drug in 4 Camarines Norte towns

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- Combined personnel of the government’s various law enforcement units arrested nine persons in an anti-drug operation conducted in the towns of Basud, Daet, Mercedes and Labo -- all of Camarines Norte, on Thursday morning.

A report emailed to the Philippines News Agency on Saturday, Supt. Wilmor G. Halamani, public information officer of the Camarines Norte Police Provincial Office (CNPPO), said the raiding team arrested Arnel P. Magadan, Susana G. Magadan, Rosauro O. Logronio, Samuel P. Buatis, Edilberto T. Acao, Isidro V. Abuyo, Reynaldo J. Pabino Jr., Eric S. Abogado and Sammy I. Zabala.

The anti-drug operation was done by joint operatives of the CNPPO, Camarines Norte Public Safety Company, Criminal Investigation and Detection Team-Camarines Norte, Regional Intelligence Unit 5, Regional Intelligence Division 5, 49th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency together with barangay officials and media representatives.

It was under the overall supervision of Sr. Supt. Rudolph B. Dimas, CNPPO provincial director, and dubbed as “One Time, Big Time Operation” in line with the ideals of PNP PATROL Plan 2030.

In the operation, the law enforcers implemented nine search warrants.

Three search warrants were served at Barangay 7, Mercedes that resulted in the arrest of spouses Magadan, Logronio, and Buatis.

The lawmen seized from spouses Magadan 13 heat-sealed plastic sachets containing white crystalline substance suspected as shabu, several drug paraphernalia and Php 22,690 cash in different denominations.

They got from Logronio eight heat-sealed plastic sachets containing suspected shabu, several drug paraphernalia, one Nokia cellphone, Php510 cash in different denominations, one improvised shot gun locally know as sumpak and one piece of shot gun ammunition.

From Buatis, the authorities found one small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing suspected shabu, six small transparent plastic sachets with suspected shabu residue, Php1,437 in different denominations and coin purses, several drug paraphernalia, fan knife, folding knife, ice pick and a cellphone.

The raiding team also implemented three search warrants in Barangay Lugui, Labo that resulted in the arrest of Acao, with three heat- sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu placed inside a Commando match, one heat-sealed small transparent plastic sachet containing suspected shabu, two unsealed small transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu residue, several drug paraphernalia, and one blue logbook with inserted different repacking paraphernalia (medium-size aluminum foil, scissors, clipper, bamboo clip, medium-size empty plastic, plastic stick, one bottle feed containing a glass pipe and a disposable lighter.

Also collared was Abuyo with three transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu, one caliber .38 revolver loaded with three live ammunition, 11 empty transparent plastic sachets, assorted pieces of drug paraphernalia and one unit Nokia cellphone.

In the residence of Noel V. Abuyo of the same place, following items were seized: four transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu, assorted drug paraphernalia, assorted empty transparent sachets in different sizes, two live ammunition for caliber .38 revolver, two pieces of magazine assembly for caliber .45 containing 15 live ammunition for the came caliber, Php2,380 cash in different denominations and three pouch bags.

Abuyo, however, is still at large.

In Barangay Gubat, Daet, the group served two search warrants that resulted in the arrest Pabino Jr. and the seizure from him of one small plastic containing two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets with suspected shabu, one pack of Marlboro containing two heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing shabu, 19 unsealed small transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu residue, several drug paraphernalia and one shoulder bag containing one small rolled aluminum foil.

Arrested in Purok 1, Barangay V, Daet was Abogado with one rectangle plastic container containing one medium and one small-size heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu, one small heat-sealed transparent plastic sachet containing suspected shabu residue and one lighter.

Zabala was cornered at Barangay Poblacion 1, Basud, and confiscated from him were 12 heat-sealed transparent plastic sachets containing suspected shabu; seven rolled aluminum foils containing suspected shabu residue, two disposable lighters and one Nokia cellphone.

“The operation was the fruit of continuous and extensive police-community relation activities, intelligence gathering and coordination of the law enforcers in Camarines Norte,” Dimas said.

The arrested suspects and recovered pieces of evidence are now under the custody of the different municipal police stations having jurisdiction on the operations conducted for proper disposition. (PNA) RMA/FGS/EMC/CBD/ssc

Bicol gets Php 1.3 B for widening of 33 bridges
By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- Motorists have a reason to be alarmed and wary as the Department of Public Works and Highways continues in its massive road widening and concreting since 2013 but its hundreds of two-lane bridges in Bicol have remained narrow, posing great danger to them.

This prompted motorists to ask for the presence of highway patrol troops in the region's national highways to prevent obstructions in roads such as the rampant presence of "padyaks" (foot-pedaled bicycle with a side car) in national roads and palay drying both by residents and traders, which occupies newly concreted roads and pedestrian lanes.

Worse, the palay being dried is barricaded with stones that, they said, could cause accidents.

With an estimated 20 percent already accomplished in road widening to four lanes, the DPWH Bicol budget for 2016 was pegged at a whooping Php19.65 billion, according to DPWH assistant regional director Armando Estrella.

The DPWH widening program, Estrella said, was aimed at a 20-meter concreted national road nationwide.

The DPWH official explained that of the Php19.65 billion budget, however, only Php1.9 billion would be for the road widening-concreting and a total of Php1.3 billion for widening to four-lane of 33 bridges out of the 606 bridges in the region, comprising of six provinces.

According to Estrella, the DPWH was still facing delay in the road widening project, saying many sections whose road sides were still occupied by squatters and other obstructions.

The 33 bridges ready for reconstruction this year are those located only along the Maharlika Highway.

The Bicol portion of the Maharlika highway passes through certain towns in Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon only.

He admitted though that many short two-lane bridges along already- concreted four-lane roads pose danger to motorists.

Col. Jimmy Silva, a retired official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said he was traveling from Legazpi City one evening when he nearly hit a barely recognizable three-meter-long two-lane bridge in a widened road in Barangay Bonga, Bacacay town on his way to Tabaco City in Albay's first district.

He said the not-too-visible and unmarked small bridge is sandwiched by the two-lane Bonga Bridge 2 and Bonga Bridge 3, which have an estimated distance of 120 meters only from each other.

The retired BJMP official said he overtook three vehicles in convoy via the vacant and open concreted second lane in the right side after passing Bonga Bridge 2 when he suddenly noticed the presence of a short bridge that his car missed in seconds.

Silva also lashed at both local and national authorities for allowing pedicabs in national highway even during night time, saying padyaks abound from the town of Malilipot to Tabaco City to Malinao and Tiwi towns.

He said that during sunny days, the first district national road also becomes a scene of palay drying that is barricaded with big stones.

He urged the presence of highway patrol troops to stop these abuses in highway roads being neglected by the DPWH.

In 2008, then Tabaco City mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro declared Tabaco City as the padyak capital of the Philippines, with its estimated number of 7,000 units and even sought recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for this.

With the proliferation of padyaks now operating along national roads, motorists find it rather uncomfortable driving along the highways.

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, who is the chairman of the Regional Development Council, has urged Secretary Rogelio Singson to facilitate funding for all two-lane bridges in the region as road widening continues, adding many two-lane bridges in a widened highway road, especially short bridges, indeed pose danger to motorists.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MU/cbd

Local officials ready for national de-worming day
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- City officials are now bracing themselves for the nationwide de-worming activity of the Department of Health (DOH) on January 27.

In fact, the Legazpi City Health Office, in partnership with the DOH Bicol regional office and the Department of Education (DepEd), conducted a re-orientation seminar for the Legazpi City public elementary school teachers on Thursday at the AVP function hall here.

The activity is part of the preparation for the National School De-worming Day (NSDD) on January 27.

The NSDD is targeting all 5-12-year-old kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils enrolled in public elementary schools for de-worming in order to reduce the burden of soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) infections or intestinal worm that can cause poor physical growth, poor intellectual development, impaired cognitive functions in children.

These infections can also result in anemia and malnutrition to the children.

Dr. Fulbert Gillego, city health officer, said his office has been conducting a de-worming activity every months of April and October for children below five years old as part of the nutrition program of the city.

Gillego said he will submit a proposal to Mayor Noel E. Rosal that every household should have its own toilet as one way of practicing proper sanitation in order to reduce malnutrition rate in the community.

Based on the data collated by the CHO, four out of 10 elementary pupils have worm infections that can result in anemia.

To prevent this kind of health problem, the CHO will encourage all barangay officials to inform the parents of all public and private elementary schools children and those who are not enrolled to participate in the mass de-worming activity.

Carolyn Dominguez, Nurse ll of DepEd Legazpi City Division, said the DepEd has already conducted an advocacy campaign as part of informing all the parents of the pupils aged 5 to 12 years old to involve their children in the mass de-worming activity as one way of making them healthy and productive.

Aside from de-worming activity, Dominguez said, the DepEd will also inform the parents of the importance of proper hygiene among their children by way of applying the 4Fs, which means they should become aware of the FOOD they eat, they should wear FEET slippers to prevent the germs from entering the body of the children, always wash their FINGERS and hands before and after eating and keep away all the FLIES from the surrounding.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EPS/cbd

Bicol cops net 9 wanted men in past 2 days

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -– Various units of the Philippine National Police Bicol regional office arrested nine wanted persons in the past two days, a report from the office said Friday.

Apprehended on Wednesday were King O. Adan, Andy P. Atanacio, Martin R. Avila, Sherwin C. Gaballones, Cris G. Cabungcal, Danilo C. Milante, Efren R. Romero and Nicolas B. Anave.

On Thursday morning, police collared Nestor M. Llacer, the report said.

Police handcuffed Adan at the Regional Trial Court Compound, Barangay Concepcion Pequeña, Naga City after serving him a warrant of arrest issued by Erwin Virgilio P. Ferrer, presiding judge of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 20 in Naga City for violation of Section 5 of RA 9262 docketed under Criminal Case (CC) No. RTC 2015-0729 with PHP24,000 bail recommended.

Atanacio was taken into custody by Naga City Police Office and Criminal Investigation and Detection Team personnel at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday after arresting him at Zone 3, Barangay Triangulo, Naga City on order of Ferrer for violation of Section 10, Article IV in relation to Section 3, Art I of R.A. 7610 docketed under CC No. RTC 2016-0008 with PHP80,000 bail.

Elements of the Pasacao Municipal Police Station (MPS) led by Police Chief Insp. Alejandro M. Monge collared Avila at Sitio Culoyan, Barangay Hubo, Pasacao, Camarines Sur to whom they served a WOA also issued by Ferrer for slight physical injuries with PHP5,000 bail recommended.

Paracale MPS members led by SPO4 Nomer Elaga nabbed Gaballones in his residence at Paracale, Camarines Norte by virtue of a WOA issued by Evan D. Dizon, presiding judge of RTC Branch 40 in Daet, Camarines Norte, for violation of RA 8353 in Relation to RA 7610 docketed under CC Nos. 17114 and 17115 with bail recommended at PHP200,000 for each case.

Also in Paracale town, the same police team arrested Cabungcal, a gold panner, on order of Winston S. Racoma, presiding judge of RTC Branch 39 in Daet, Camarines Norte under CC No. 16833 for failure to appear on the scheduled arraignment for the crime of frustrated homicide with no bail recommended.

Elaga’s unit also cornered Militante, also a gold panner, at Purok Masagana, Barangay Palanas, Paracale to whom they served a WOA issued by Dizon for violation of RA 9262 with PHP80,000 bail recommended.

Again, the team of Elaga arrested Romero, another gold panner, at Barangay Tugos, Paracale on order of Dizon under CC No. 17132 for violation of RA 9262 with PHP80,000 bail recommended.

Elements of Dimasalang MPS led by Police Insp. Alfredo D. Lastrella Jr. arrested Anave at Barangay Canomay, Dimasalang, Masbate by virtue of a WOA issued by Fred A. Bien, presiding judge of MCTC San Fernando-Batuan for violation of Section 89 of R.A. 8550.

Llacer, a fisherman, was caught in his residence at Barangay San Rafael, Pilar, Sorsogon by elements of Pilar MPS led by PO3 Erwin Lumaban on order of Judge Rofebar F. Gerona of RTC Branch 53, Sorsogon City, frustrated homicide with PHP24,000 bail recommended. (PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/cbd

DepEd Sorsogon bags 19 awards in 2016 Bicol regional schools press confab
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- The Department of Education Sorsogon Division Office won three first, three second, five third, six fourth and two fifth places in the recently concluded Bicol Regional Schools Press Conference 2016 held in Sorsogon City on Jan. 10-13, this was announced by an official of the office on Thursday.

Joseph John J. Perez, division information officer, named the winners for individual competition category as: First Place, Feature Writing-English, Secondary, Abigael Milagrosa Dampulay, Abucay National High School, coach-Hazel Naag; First Place, Newswriting-Filipino, Secondary, Remyrose Gallanosa, Gallanosa National High School, coach-Mely Guarino; First Place, Editorial Cartooning-Filipino, Elementary, Carlo Ariate, Caditaan Elementary School, coach-Ramil Lucenario;

Second Place, News Writing-English, Elementary, June Matthew Mañago, Magallanes North Central School, coach-Rizza M. Romano; Second Place, Sports Writing-English, Secondary, Ijanver Realo, Gallanosa National High School, coach-Jacqueline Campo; Second Place, Editorial Cartooning-English, Secondary, Emmanuel Delovas, Magallanes National Vocational High School, coach-Marie Joy Argana;

Third Place, Newswriting-Filipino, Secondary, Marielle Kate Salomon, Pilar National Comprehensive High School, coach-Haiza Base; Third Place Sports Writing-Filipino, Elementary, Kate Andrea Mendones, Pilar I Central School, coach-Vivian Malejana;

Third Place, Science and Health Writing-Filipino, Secondary, Lorielyn Losano, Casiguran Technical Vocational School, coach-Dorothy Haveria;

Fourth Place, Sports Writing-Filipino, Elementary, Mary Joy Furio, Talaonga Elementary School, coach-Estrella Furio; Fourth Place, Sports Writing-Filipino, Secondary, Renz Ariate, Caditaan National High School, coach-Nicky Villa; Fourth Place, Editorial Cartooning-Filipino, Elementary, Khaled Jain, Bulan South Central School, coach-Ginalen Gueta; Fourth Place, Editorial Cartooning-Filipino, Secondary, Dallin Orr, Bulan National High School, Coach Mylene Gosgolan; Fourth Place, Photo Journalism-English, Elementary, Trisha Faye Melitante, Jose Alindogan Elementary School, coach-Marlene Venus; Fourth Place, Science and Health Writing-Filipino Secondary, Joshua Agnote, Cumadcad National High School, coaches--Nemia Perez and Emma Gonzales;

Fifth Place, Editorial Writing-English, Secondary, Dan Lorenz C. Olbes, Barcelona National Comprehensive High School, coach-Eduardo Dineros; Fifth Place, Feature Writing-Filipino, Elementary, Akikuh Mira Ermino, Bulacao Elementary School, coach-Rowena Yu.

For the group contest category, Deped-Sorsogon bagged the following: Third Place, Radio Broadcasting and Scripting-Filipino, Secondary, Roxan Mae Guerero, Ivan Kyle Asiado, Kimberly Dedase, Andrew Justine Briones, Hannah Jesica Cereno, Denise Anne Girado, Paul Adrian Gernale -- Bulan National High School, coach-Mylene Gosgolan;

Third Place, Collaborative Desktop Publishing-English, Elementary, Kertziene Pangilinan, Clare Antoinette Callos, Kenneth Daryl Fidelson, Kristine Shayne Eneria, Ethan Josh Espeño, Mary Yu Diño, Dianne Rose Lagnerta -- Gubat North Central School, coaches-Tirso Rico Rodriguez, Anatolio Farenas and Albert Estrellado.(PNA) FPV/FDGS/CBD

Legazpi City vies for 3rd level in ISA's public governance system
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- Mayor Noel E. Rosal on Thursday said Legazpi City is vying for the third level of the Performance Governance System (PGS), which is the proficiency, required by Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) for Public Governance.

Rosal said the city has been enrolled in the ISA for the past several years already.

In fact, the city has been recognized by the ISA as a Trailblazer City, the second highest award from the ISA, after the requirements in the initiated and complaint levels had been complied with already by the city administration.

These requirements were presented by Rosal and approved by the panelists of the ISA in 2014.

He said the PGS has four levels -- the initiated, complaint, proficiency and institutionalized levels.

“Three auditors will come here to check the projects of the city government under PGS. If we pass in this level, we will go for the level of institutionalization -- the highest level in terms of good governance; and if we pass in this level, we can be called as an Island of Good Governance wherein if there are foreign visitors, the national government will introduce Legazpi City to the visitors from other countries as a certified champion in governance,” Rosal said.

The PGS was introduced by the ISA as a transformation tool to nation-building to enable government institutions, including national agencies and LGUS, to deliver quality public service while advocating transparency, accountability and excellence in good governance.

It is a performance management framework that builds on the potentials of government organizations, allowing them to implement strategic projects to achieve and sustain their goals.

"The entry of Legazpi City in the PGS is a very good move on the part of the city administration that will help continue its various programs and projects for the development and progress of this city," Rosal said.

The Office of the Strategy Management of the city headed by former city councilor Chito Ante has created 38 Vision-Aligned Circles (VACs), composed of all elective city officials, department heads and regular employees.

Ante said every VAC has its own initiatives and the VACs have already created the city’s tourist tanods and city concierge.

They have also organized Istoryang Bikolnon, Boulevard Music Festival and Cleanliness Patrol in six villages in the boulevard area, five barangays within the Central Business District and other five villages within the areas of Albay district.

Ante said they proposed also the establishment of Mayon Quality Service Rating System, amendment of existing ordinance on tourist friendly tricycles, establishment of a weekend market and food street at the boulevard and formulated the Model Barangay Project.

He said they have already created tourist help desks in different key tourist destinations in this city.

The VACS have also formulated guidelines for the model tricycle drivers and prepared a tourist-friendly enhancement training module for operators and drivers of vans operating in this city.

They likewise proposed amendments to the City’s Citizen Charter, Ante added.

He said the VACS have conducted five information and education campaigns on the city’s vision among various sectoral groups and held training for 41 on-site STI Educators, including 20 women, on ten distinct Bicolano delicacies.

These groups have also created a City Employees Competency Data Base.

They have prepared a drainage maintenance program and conducted professional skills training and workshop modules for the frontline service providers of the city administration.

They further formulated 5S implementation plan, Ante said.

He said the VACS have also formulated policies and guidelines for model/outstanding city government employees and the guidelines for a quick response team at Barangay Bogtong.

They have also made a design for functional emergency hotlines/stickers in 25 villages within the Central Business District and conceptualized an Agri-Farm Tourism Design Project at the Legazpi Eco Park in the southern village of Homapon, he added.

Ante disclosed the VACS have collated and compiled Legazpi legendary stories, historical landmarks, poems, tigsik and rawit-dawit pieces and drafted an investment incentive package.(PNA) FPV/FGS/EPS/cbd

PA relentless in anti-NPA moves despite CamSur’s CMRD status

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Despite Camarines Sur’s declared status as already a “peaceful and ready for further development” area, the Philippine Army (PA) is not relenting on its intense anti-insurgency campaign in the province, which recently resulted in the killing of two New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.

A belated report reaching here Sunday from the PA’s 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in Pili, Camarines Sur identified the slain rebels as Rodulfo Fuentabilla, alias Ronel, and Nike Rebuya, alias Mike.

One of their companions, which the report identified only as a certain Ghie, was captured during the encounter that took place shortly before noontime last Jan. 18 at Sitio Panag, Barangay Gibgos, Caramoan, Camarines Sur.

All three were elements of the 14-man NPA band operating in the province’s Partido Area led by unit commander Francisco Mendoza, alias Omeng, according to the report which explained that the encounter ensued while troopers of the PA’s 83rd Infantry Battalion and 91st Division Reconnaissance Company under Lt. Raydez Acosta were conducting field security patrol.

The rest of the rebels withdrew after engaging the military men in a 15-minute firefight, leaving behind their dead and cornered comrades.

Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla, the 9th ID commander, said in the report that the encounter was a result of the intensified anti-insurgency drive being initiated by the military in Bicol to toughen regional security even as most parts of the region are already under the so-called Conflict-Manageable and Ready for Further Development (CMRD) area status.

Camarines Sur was classified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under such “peaceful” status in April last year based on a resolution passed by the provincial legislative board declaring the entire province as a CMRD area.

The resolution cited the relentless campaign of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in pursuit of peace and security, which has finally gained ground in cutting down, if not totally eradicating, activities of the NPA in the province.

Such declaration paved the way for the forging of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the provincial government and the AFP which formalized the "shifting effort from clearing of barangays from insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role.”

The MOU, which came as a declaration of peace in the province, emphasizes the implementation of more socio-economic and development projects that the civil government will implement with the support and protection of the military.

It was based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its manpower strength and firearms and potential support system in the barangays as well as its failed recovery efforts.

The military said that from 2004 to 2014, the NPA strength in terms of firearms and manpower in Camarines Sur had significantly decreased to 74 from 91 percent while atrocities like extortion, harassment and liquidation and non-violent activities like movements and mass actions also followed a downward trend.

The AFP’s unrelenting commitment to peace through the conduct of various civic actions under its intensified stakeholder engagement with the local government units (LGUs) have contributed in the improvement of the province’s tourism industry, increase in agricultural productivity and inflow of private investments, it said.

The PA’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), with its Bayanihan Team Activities (BTA) showcasing a paradigm shift from enemy-centered to people-centered approach resulting in a more cooperative community, also enabled rebels to return to the folds of law and start a new life.

These achievements, according to Quidilla, would have not been possible without the cooperation of the leaders of the province along with the LGUs who have partnered with the AFP in fighting insurgency.

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

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

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

The same situation, according Quidilla, had been true in all the six provinces of Bicol until lately when three others of its six provinces provinces—Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Albay -- were declared one after the other as CMRD areas.

Catanduanes, an island-province, was placed under the same declaration in December 2014 owing to the dwindling local insurgency level observed during the recent years -- from the constant decrease of NPA manpower, firearms, affected barangays and activities.

The local CPP-NPA-NDF politico-military organizations in Catanduanes as well as in Camarines Norte, Albay and Camarines Sur have been reduced to a minimal level that they can no longer pose a serious threat to peace and order, providing once again a space where the people can feel safe and grow as progressive communities.

With these four Bicol provinces already considered areas of peace with insurgency regarded as already manageable, what are left with still troubled situations are Sorsogon and Masbate where the NPAs are reportedly being coddled by powerful local politicians for use as political goons during elections.

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

Bicol’s 3,471 villages to get BuB funds in 2017 —DBM
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- The government’s Bottom-Up Budgeting (BuB) is set for expansion next year to cover 42,036 barangays nationwide, including all of Bicol’s 3,471 in 107 towns and seven cities within its six provinces, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a statement received on Saturday by the Philippines News Agency.

The BuB will provide a subsidy of Php1 million to each barangay to be used for the implementation of one to two projects they have identified.

The program, also called the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), is expected to aid barangays in better formulating poverty reduction action plans and monitoring the delivery of basic services in the communities.

Earlier, during his recent visit here, DBM Secretary Florencio Abad said that while all barangays are beneficiaries of the program, implementation shall be in batches.

“The first 12,000 barangays will receive funding from the national government in 2017,” Abad said, without mentioning how many in Bicol will be included.

The DILG has started national consultations with barangay captains to engage them in the discussion of the rationale, objectives and mechanics of the Barangay BuB.

The consultations will be followed by capacity-building sessions and project preparation for the first batch of barangays that will pioneer the expanded program.

The expansion of the BuB is the result of the clamor of various associations of barangay councils, civil society organizations and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).

The ULAP National Executive Board — on behalf of its member-leagues, local government units, and elected officials — passed a resolution to institutionalize BuB at the barangay level and adopted the recommendation from the leagues for its implementing guidelines.

The Liga ng mga Barangay ng Pilipinas — through its national president, Edmund Abesamis -- has expressed support for the program, calling the Barangay BuB “the highlight of the national government’s recognition of the role of barangays in governance.”

“The Barangay Bottom-Up Budgeting effectively provides life and meaning to the recognition of barangays as frontliners in governance,” Abesamis said in a statement.

“We are bringing BuB down to the grassroots level to ensure that the need for services and facilities of barangays are met. Also, by enabling barangays to implement projects which they have identified and prioritized through a process of citizen participation in planning and budgeting, we hope to improve governance at the barangay level,” Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said.

To participate in the program, each barangay league’s city and municipal president must orient all barangay chairmen within their area of jurisdiction on the program not later than Jan. 31, 2016, according to the DBM.

Afterwards, every barangay chair must convene a Barangay Development Council for orientation, conduct a planning workshop and formulate a list of priority projects for submission to the Development Academy of the Philippines, which will develop the criteria for the ranking and selection of barangays.

The BuB being applied by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is a somewhat modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

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

The exercise was adopted by the Aquino administration through the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster and the Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Cluster as an strategy that hopes to empower civil society organizations and citizen’s groups to engage local government and national government agencies and make them more responsive to the people’s needs.

At least 1,590 local government units have participated in the BuB program since it was implemented in 2013, according to the DBM.

There was a total of 42,221 BuB projects reported in the Open BuB Portal and of this number, 13,712 projects have been completed as of Dec. 1, 2015.

For this year, 14,325 local poverty reduction projects have been allocated, through BuB, an amount of Php24.7 billion, an increase from Php8 billion in 2013 for projects identified in 595 cities and municipalities nationwide, the DBM said.

The scheme has given the Philippine government the recognition as one of five Best Practices in Fiscal Transparency from around the world during the Open Government Partnership summit in Mexico City last November.

The Philippines was also granted the Gold Open Government Award for BuB in the inaugural OGP Awards at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City in September 2014.

The country was recognized for its outstanding efforts to deepen citizen engagement in the budget process, one of the three gold awards given out to recognize innovative and citizen-driven initiatives in designing and implementing public policy.

The BuB is also being credited as one of the reforms that have helped to improve the country’s standing in global benchmarks of budget transparency.

For example, Abad said, the International Monetary Fund declared the Philippines exhibits good and advance practices in several areas of its new Fiscal Transparency Code.

Likewise, the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey for 2015 ranked the Philippines as number one in Budget Transparency in the ASEAN because of programs such as the BuB, he added. (PNA) SCS/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN

Friday, January 22, 2016

3 die when motorcycle falls into ravine in Masbate

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 21 (PNA) -– Three persons died when the motorcycles they were riding plunged into a ravine along the national highway in Barangay Binitinan, San Fernando, Masbate on Wednesday afternoon.

A police report identified the fatalities as Marvin Caparino, 16, habal-habal (illegally-for-hire motorcycle) driver; Jaime Oliva, 43, married; and Rene Tugbo, 54, married and a carpenter – all residents of Barangay Baybay-Dagat, San Fernando.

The report said Caparino was bringing Oliva and Tugbo home on board his motorcycle at about 3:24 p.m. when he lost control of his vehicle at the area of the accident.

The motorcycle fell into 50-foot deep side of the road where the casualties were seriously injured, causing their death.

Residents of the area immediately responded to retrieve the victims’ bodies.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

NPA rebels gun down suspected military asset

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City, Jan. 21 (PNA) -- New People's Army (NPA) rebels shot dead a 43-year-old farmer who they accused of being an informer of the military and the police inside his house in Barangay Jagna-an, San Jacinto, Masbate at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

A police report said victim Jason Escorel was resting inside his house when six young-looking rebels, all armed with M-16 armalite rifles, barged in and peppered his head and body with bullets, causing his instantaneous death. The dissidents casually left the place after the execution.

Relatives said Escorel had already been receiving threats on his life from the rebels who accused him of being a military-police asset in their village, giving information to the authorities about their activities.

The victim, however, had vehemently denied the accusation.(PNA) FFC/FGS/EMC/CBD

​DOLE Bicol steps up fight vs child labor in mining areas
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 21 (PNA) – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Bicol regional office here on Thursday said its fight against child labor in the gold mining sites of Masbate and Camarines Norte is unrelenting.

“Our war on child labor, particularly in gold panning sites of Masbate and Camarines Norte, is a continuing and unyielding campaign,” DOLE Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra said.

He made the statement following a recent report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) which revealed serious cases of child labor in these areas.

Lacambra said his office has never backed down with its commitment to end child labor in the region’s mining sites despite the difficult challenge.

In its 35-page report, a copy of which obtained by the Philippine News Agency here recently, the HRW said “thousands of children in the Philippines risk their lives every day mining gold.”

Children work in unstable 25-meter-deep pits that could collapse at any moment.

They mine gold underwater, along the shore, or in rivers, with oxygen tubes in their mouths and process gold with mercury, a toxic metal, risking irreversible health damage from mercury poisoning, the report said.

The HRW said that during an investigation in Camarines Norte and Masbate provinces, it interviewed 65 child miners about their work in artisanal and small-scale gold mines.

The children described how they were terrified when climbing down shafts or diving into pits and they complained about the health effects of the work, such as back pain, skin infections, and muscle spasms consistent with symptoms of mercury poisoning.

The HRW also interviewed witnesses to a fatal mining accident, in which a 17-year-old boy and his adult brother were asphyxiated in a deep pit mine in September 2014, the report said.

Further, the report said, the government of the Philippines has not done nearly enough to protect children from the hazards of child labor in small-scale gold mining as although it has ratified treaties and enacted laws to combat the worst forms of child labor, it has largely failed to implement them.

The government, the report noted, barely monitors child labor in mining and does not penalize employers or withdraw children from these dangerous work environments.

“While the government has taken some important steps to ensure education for all, the number of out-of-school children working in gold mines remains a concern. Mining and environmental regulations for small-scale mines—including a March 2015 ban on mercury use and underwater mining—have gone unenforced, despite the government’s promise to reduce mercury and to make mining beneficial for the population,” it said.

The government’s lack of concrete action reflects not only insufficient staff and technical capacity, but also a lack of political will by national and local officials to take measures that will not be well-received by the local population in impoverished areas, or by mine owners and traders that rely on child labor, according to the HRW report.

With regard to mining, it suggested the government should support the creation of a legal, regulated, child-labor-free, small-scale gold mining sector that helps rural families thrive as well as ratify and implement the Minamata Convention, notably by introducing mercury-free processing methods and taking special steps to protect children from mercury.

“Others, too, should act to end child labor in this sector. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas buys gold from local traders and exports it, but has no process in place to check the conditions in which the gold has been mined,” it added.

With such report, Lacambra said, DOLE-Bicol dispatched two composite teams immediately after hearing about it for verification purposes and in order to plan and facilitate its continuous intervention.

Moreover, he said, weeks after the HRW report, major interventions such as the orientation on Republic Act (RA) 9231 and programs and services particularly on livelihood grant were conducted by his office to the parents, child laborers and local officials in the municipalities of Labo and Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte.

RA 9231 is an act providing for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and affording stronger protection for the working child, amending for this purpose RA 7610 otherwise known as the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination.

Pledges of commitment on the parts of parents and local government officials to stop once and for all child labor in the area were also solicited and the feedbacks were positive, Lacambra said.

“So far, we saw that the parents understood the law and the dangers of child labor in mining. We are happy that the LGUs concerned gave their commitment and support to the program,” DOLE assistant regional director Maria Karina Trayvilla said.

She said members of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children in Camarines Norte’s Labo, Jose Panganiban and Paracale, all gold-rich towns notorious in gold panning operations, have been tapped by DOLE in the continuous monitoring of child labor incidents in the small-scale mining areas.

For Masbate where records show there were around 20,000 working children mostly engaged in small-scale mining, particularly in the gold-rich town of Aroroy, Lacambra said a DOLE program that provided focused, converged, and therefore, synchronized strategies to effectively address the problem had already been put in place.

Such program, he said added more help in education to child laborers by way of providing them school transportation allowance, school supplies and uniforms, meal provisions and livelihood opportunities for their parents. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD