Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Athletes start familiarization training for Palarong Pambansa in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- Hundreds of athletes have arrived in Albay to start the familiarization training for the prestigious Palarong Pambansa set April 10 to 16.

Department of Education (DepEd) Bicol spokesperson Roy Banas said first to arrive were 700 delegates from Region 9 last week followed by participants from Region 8 on Tuesday.

Banas said the bulk of the athletes, teachers and coaches will arrive on the first week of April.

The DedEd is expecting at least 18,000 delegates from the country's 18 regions will converge for the annual sports event designed to discover future sports heroes.

Banas assured that finishing touches being done in some of the facilities, particularly the billeting centers, would not hamper the training of the athletes.

He said playing venues are now 95 percent ready.

The best students athletes around the country will compete archery, arnis, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, chess, football, gymnastics, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and volleyball.

Demonstration sports are billiards, futsal, wrestling and wushu.

Host Bicol region is hoping to improve its 10th place finish in Davao to fifth place.

Last year, the Bicol athletes brought home nine gold, 14 silver and 19 bronze medals. (PNA) JFM/FGS/NIM/CBD

Man posing as cop nabbed for incomplete uniform
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- For not wearing the proper uniform, police arrested on Tuesday morning a man posing as a police officer and trying to enter Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here.

A police report identified the man as Randy Lerio, 34, married and a resident of Barangay Salvacion Guitago, Nabua, Camarines Sur.

The report said Lerio entered the camp's gate at about 7:10 a.m. wearing the Philippine National Police camouflage green field uniform.

The base police officer manning the gate, however, noticed that his uniform did not have the name plate on his uniform so the former held and investigated him.

Lerio turned out to be an impostor so the base officer arrested him.

When the officer checked Lerio's backpack, he found five live ammunition for a caliber .38 revolver.

The police brought Lerio to the Legazpi City Police Station to find out his purpose for pretending to be a police officer and entering the police camp which was under red alert status due to the threat of the New People's Army which is celebrating its founding anniversary.

Lerio is now facing charges for violation of the Revised Penal Code's Article 177 and 179 or Republic Act 10591.(PNA) RMA/FGS/JH/CBD/EDS

Albay vice governor, ex-beauty queen seek to upscale local HIV response
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -– Albay Vice Governor Harold O. Imperial and former Ms. International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago have urged public-private partnership to upscale local HIV response to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“As we pledge our commitment to the new Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, we know that collectively we can achieve significant results and we need to place supportive policies, with the much-needed budget allocation,” Imperial said.

The vice governor explained that the budget should not be limited to the implementation of health programs for those infected but also for information dissemination or educating the people on the causes and effects of HIV.

“As a community, we have to realize that HIV knows no social, economic or political boundaries. It taints the lives of people it infects, especially the innocent children who are suffering from congenital HIV,” he said.

Imperial said Albay’s development agenda is not enough if "we do not have the support of groups, organizations and individuals. We will only be paying lip-service to our pronouncements if we do not mobilize as a community and act individually and collectively.”

"Our collaborative efforts will surely make a difference to prevent new HIV infection and stop stigma and discrimination in the province of Albay," he added.

Santiago, a strong advocate of reproductive health, said one in three new cases of HIV reported is someone who belongs to the 15-24 age group.

“HIV in itself already sounds an alarm. I thank the United Nations Populations Fund for getting me into its work and for the opportunity to reach out to young people, especially young girls, and serve as their inspiration to aspire for more n life,” she said.

The former international beauty queen said private and public partnership is very important to address the global problem.

“But is is more concerning when we learn that among the most vulnerable members of the population are the youth. Being a young is supposed to be the most exciting part of person’s live,” she said.

It is when you enjoy life the most while, at the same time, preparing yourself for the more serious responsibilities of adulthood, the former beauty titleholder said.

Santiago also stressed the impact of knowing to have been infected with HIV at the age of 21, or even younger.

She added that sexual and reproductive choices of young people can have a cascading effect on their human rights.

“Adolescent pregnancy for example can lead girls to drop out of school, which deprives them of their rights to education. Lack of understanding about gender equality can lead to discrimination and other human rights concerns,” Santiago said.

This is reality, she said. But living life and enjoying life do not always have to lead to unplanned pregnancy or HIV.

“This is why I have always spoken strongly about the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, I would say that I am empowered to talk about sexuality education because I was privileged to have that in school in Canada where I spend my teen years," Santiago said.

She further said that comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to make informed decisions about their sexuality.

"When correctly implemented, it introduces appropriate information consistent with the evolving capacities of young people. And when properly taught it can empower both girls and boys to make the right decisions and choices on matters of their reproductive health, including protecting themselves against teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV," Santiago stressed.

“It is about time that we lay down our worries that sexuality education promotes promiscuity. Comprehensive sexuality education does not lead to earlier sexual activity or riskier sexual behavior. Global studies have proven that comprehensive sexuality education reduce risk behavior,” she said.(PNA) LAP/FGS/MDR/CBD/EDS

2016 Daragang Magayon Fest opens with big bang
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -- Governor Joey Sarte Salceda on Monday night officially opened the Daragang Magayon Festival (DMF) at the Albay Astrodome with pomposity and revelry, signaling the start of the annual celebration dubbed as the mother of all festivals in the province.

Guest of honor and speaker Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, an Albayano, said Albay has gone far under the administration of Salceda.

He commended the unity of Albayanos as the key to the success of the province.

The former senator acknowledged the success and recognition received by the province, the latest of which is the declaration of Albay by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, which, he said, is hard to get.

The province, Zubiri said, is also a tourism champion and a model for disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation.

Meanwhile, Vice Governor Harold Imperial said the Daragang Magayon Festival is a testimony that Albay is rich in culture.

In fact, he said, there are 20 festivals in the province and the DMF is the mother of all festivals in all 15 towns and three cities in the province.

Salceda noted the zero casualty goal of Albay during calamities in the past 19 years.

He said thousands of students in Albay have finished college through the scholarship program of the provincial government.

The governor also noted the modernization of the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital and other government facilities in the province.

Albay, he said, is the model in terms of Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Program not only in the entire country but also in the world as noted by the United Nations.

The province has received various forms of recognition from within and outside of the country like the PATA CEO Challenge Top Destination for 2015, Tourism Star Philippines Award from the DOT, Galing Pook and Hall of Fame, and Gawad Kalasag Award as the Best Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council.

The province has made a mark in the world map as a sports destination like the XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon, Private Schools Athletic Association, State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association to be held in May, Mayon 360 Ultramarathon and the biggest sports event in the country – the Palarong Pambansa in April.

Salceda said he has done his role as an “aggregator and weaver of dreams” and “resource mobilizer” of the province in his nine years of service as head of the province.

Also joining the opening were Department of Tourism director Maria “Nini” Ravanilla, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, mayors, department heads of the province, media practitioners and other guests. (PNA) PGL/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

Zubiri seeks EPIRA changes to bring power rates down

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) -- Senatorial aspirant Miguel “Migz” Zubiri has called for amendments to some provisions in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to bring down the cost of electricity in the country.

Zubiri, whose mother is an Albayana, said in an interview here Tuesday that there is a need to regulate private ownership in the field of power generation, transmission and distribution.

He said private power generators and distributors, including private electric companies, which are in connivance with each other are manipulating the prices of power at the expense of the public.

“I was against private ownership granted under the EPIRA that is why I voted against the law,” the former senator said.

He claimed that privatization is the main reason electricity rates are high even if one is a host region with abundant power-generating resources like Albay, he said.

Zubiri noted that the power industry in the country is currently being controlled by only 10 families whose objective is to maximize profit.

He, however, begged off from naming the 10 families.

Zubiri said that if elected, he would file a bill that will amend the EPIRA by limiting private ownership engaged in power generation, distribution and transmission.

He believes that the government should have vast control over these energy facilities so as to serve the people by giving efficient but low and affordable power rates.

Zubiri said he will also include in the amendment the granting of a preferential rate to power-generating host regions like Albay and Sorsogon, considered as geothermal-rich provinces in Bicol.

He said power generated from Tiwi geothermal and the Bacon-Manito geothermal power sources pass through the Luzon Grid, resulting in a double generation cost being charged to power consumers in Bicol.

Giving a priority power dispatch to host regions would in effect bring down the power rate by at least 30 to 40 percent per kilowatt-hour.

Albay consumers are paying Php11 per kilowatt-hour.

Zubiri encouraged public and private energy players to invest more in building renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and biomass technologies.

Building wind power facilities in provinces and towns at the eastern seaboard would be adequate to meet the electricity requirements of that place.

Zubiri said 10 wind turbines can produce 20 megawatts of electricity while the country’s energy potential for wind power at the eastern seaboard alone is 4,700 megawatts and this capacity could energize the whole country.

The independent senatorial candidate said that with the wind and solar power technologies, the country will no longer be dependent on coal and diesel-fired power generators.

He also urged the Department of Energy (DOE) and the local government units to draw up policies that would promote and build wind, solar, hydrothermal and biomass technologies that are abundant in Bicol and other regions.

Zubiri also claimed being a Bicolano as his mother hailed from Libon town in Albay and a nephew of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Ramon Fernandez.

He met with Albay Governor Joey Salceda and Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and members of the Albay Mayors' League. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Bicol cops nab 10 wanted men

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) -- Different units of the Philippine National Police Bicol regional office arrested 10 wanted persons within this week, the office’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

Senior Insp. Malu Calubaquib, Police Regional Office 5 spokesperson, identified those apprehended as Abelardo O. Magdamit, Teofisto Rosales, Jozel Y. Suriaga, Randy P. Pajares, Raul P. Zamudio, Cornelio P. Austral, Vincent B. Saar, Jayson V. Bercero, Robert N. Oberos and Rene C. Claridad.

Magdamit was caught in Barangay Sta. Cruz, Ligao City at about 9:10 a.m. Monday by elements of Ligao City Police Station (CPS) led by PO3 Errol Escopete by virtue of a warrant of arrest (WOA) issued by Blancaflor V. Joven-Salgado, presiding judge of MCTC, Ligao City for attempted homicide.

Also on Monday, San Pascual MPS (Masbate) personnel led by PO2 Gerald R. Rosales served a WOA against Rosales on order of Judge Teofilo B. Tambago of Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46, Masbate City, for violation of Sections 11 and 12 of Article 2 of RA 9165 with a bail of PHP200,000.

Operatives of the Baleno MPS led by PO3 Noli D. Manlapas cornered Suriaga in Baleno, Masbate with a WOA signed by Judge Igmedio Emilio F. Camposano of MCTC, Aroroy-Baleno for theft.

PO1 Joel Vergara of Paracale MPS arrested Pajares for robbery inside the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail in Daet, Camarines Norte on order of Judge Dara SJ Mallorca Torres of MTC Paracale, Camarines Norte.

Members of Mercedes MPS led by PO2 Mardi A Gonzales handcuffed Zamudio in Mercedes, Camarines Norte armed with a WOA from Judge Victoria C. Dino-Reyes MTC Mercedes, Camarines Norte for attempted homicide.

Austral did not resist arrest at his residence in Barangay Itangon, Bula, Camarines Sur when served a WOA for murder penned by Judge Marvel C. Clavicilla of RTC Branch 33, Pili, Camarines Sur.

Saar was caught in the act by PO3 Dennis A. Altez, duty officer of Naga City PS Intelligence Branch Office, while climbing the wall of the comfort room of the office at Barangay Sta. Cruz after forcibly destroying the ceiling made of plywood.

He was charged with attempted rape.

Uson MPS (Masbate) members led by Insp. Arnel N. Buncaras nabbed Bercero by virtue of a WOA for theft issued by Rolando G. Sandigan, presiding judge of MTCC, Masbate City.

Magarao MPS officers apprehended Oberos at his residence in Magarao, Camarines Sur on order of Judge Rosita L. Lalwani, presiding judge of RTC Branch 28, Naga City.

Claridad was captured by joint elements of Tigaon MPS (Camarines Sur) led by PO3 Wilmor B. Lontoc and Ocampo MPS led by PO3 Jay C. Papin on order of Judge Francisco P. Felizmenio, presiding judge, RTC Branch 19, Malolos City, Bulacan for robbery with PHP100,000 bail recommended.(PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD/EDS

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CHED-Bicol to give full scholarships, temporary jobs to college mentors affected by K-12
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 28 (PNA) -- The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Regional Office 5 will give full scholarships and temporary employment to college and university professors who are affected by the implementation of the K-12 program of the government.

Dr. George M. Colorado, CHED-5 regional director, on Monday said that in this connection, his office has called for a meeting with all executives and human resource officials of the colleges and universities in the entire region on March 21. Colorado said most of the concerned teachers will either lose teaching assignments or will have reduced loads because no student will enter first year college for two years because of the implementation of the K-12 program, so that the CHED needs to assist them.

He said the affected faculty members need not resign as they will return after two years of waiting so their respective schools would not have a problem as they will assume their previous work and so they do not need to look for new faculty members.

The CHED official said they will give scholarships to regular and permanent teachers who would have reduced loads if they want to study again for their masteral o doctoral degree for two years.

The commission will shoulder their educational expenses plus monthly stipend up to Php20,000 a month.

Colorado clarified that the commission can not give scholarships to teachers who will be disconnected with the schools they are presently working with.

He said the CHED has no record yet of K-12-affected teachers but the number is estimated to reach 25,000 in the entire country.

The CHED-5 head said the commission will still conduct screening if those who want to have further studies are qualified for the scholarships as it cannot give the benefit to all affected teachers.

The CHED will place as second priority those teachers who are contractual or part-timer as most of them have other sources of income.

Those faculty members who do not want to study and instead would just like to work will be employed in industries that have relation to the field that they are teaching like engineering, science and others so that they would be exposed to this field as a form of extension work.

The teachers will receive salaries equivalent to the load units in their respective schools.

The commission can also assign the teachers to do community services or teach in the barangays on proper hygiene, agriculture and fisheries and other relevant community services where they can help a lot in the improvement of the people, not only to themselves, as these would have great impact on industry and economy as well as serve as a marketing tool to convince student to enroll in their respective colleges and universities.

There are also research works and other technologies that could be given to the affected teachers, which could add to their knowledge while they earn.

Meanwhile, Colorado said, he asked all high school graduates who did not enter college last semester and school year to enroll now as they will be affected by the implementation of the K-12 next year.

Based on law, there will be a new curriculum in 2018 and all those who will enter college will no longer be accepted if they do not undergo senior high school. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JH/CBD/SSC

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Diocese of Legazpi re-assigns parochial vicars; 3 deacons ordained
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 24 (PNA) -- Bishop Joel Z. Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi on Maundy Thursday Mass announced the reshuffling of assignments of some parochial vicars and other special assignments and ordained three deacons in the presence of hundreds of priests and parishioners of Albay at the St. Gregory the Great Cathedral Parish.

For parochial vicars in St. Lawrence Deacon and Martyr Parish of Tiwi Albay, Baylon assigned Rev. Fr. Ramon I. Basilla and Rev. Fr. Gerard B. Arroyo; St. Joachim and Anne Parish of Malinao -- Rev. Fr. Jason A. Piando; St. John the Baptist Parish of Tabaco City -- Rev. Fr. Roberto C. Crisol, Rev. Fr. Alwin B. Relorcasa and Rev. Fr. Al Ray V. Compuesto; St. Rose of Lima Parish of Bacacay -- Rev. Fr. Raphael B. Sambajon and Rev. Fr. Arjey O. Remendado; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish of Malilipot -- Rev. Fr. Franco Rafael S. Segarra; Sto. Domingo de Guzman Parish of Sto. Domingo -- Rev. Fr. Errol Bataga; St. Raphael the Archangel Parish of Legazpi Port District, Legazpi City -- Rev. Fr. Jeronimo Ma. Rosario Sevilla and Rev. Fr. Teody John A. Camba; and St. Gregory the Great Cathedral Parish of Albay District -- Rev. Fr. Antonio O. Bellen Jr and Rev. Fr. Kevin James C. Fonacier.

For Our Lady of the Gate Parish of Daraga, Albay -- Rev. Fr. Benjamin R. Belgica, Rev. Fr. Mercurio C. Rivera III and Rev. Fr. Nison L. Marantal; St. John the Baptist Parish of Camalig, Albay -- Rev. Fr. Lyndon F. Balubar and Rev. Fr. Joseph B. Longasa; and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish of Guinobatan, Albay -- Rev. Fr. Joel A. Sarte, Rev. Fr. Rapahel Leonardo M. Siapno and Rev. Fr. Jucef Z. Garcia.

Our Lady of Salvation Parish of Pioduran, Albay will have Rev. Fr. Andro Q. De Vera; St. Stephen Protomartyr Parish of Ligao City -- Rev. Fr. Jose B. Baranda Jr., Rev. Fr. Lawrence C. Brigino and Rev. Fr. Mark Anthony V. Cayago; St. Michael the Archangel Parish of Oas, Albay -- Rev. Fr. Eulogio P. Lawenko Jr. and Rev. Fr. Romeo R. Realingo Jr.; Sts. Peter and Paul Parish of Polangui, Albay -- Rev. Fr. Gerardo Joselino N. Santillan and Rev. Fr. Ricky Bermas; and St. James the Great Parish of Libon, Albay, Rev. Fr. Fernando B. Rodriguez Jr.

For special assignments, in the St. Gregory the Great Seminary in Panal, Tabaco City, Rev. Fr. Edgar D. Moron as the Formator and for the Harong Kan Ama in Sipi, Daraga, Albay, Rev. Fr. Domingo O. Penilla as chaplain for the Woman Religious and in Residence.

For Deaconal Exposure, the three deacons -- Rev. Arthem B. Bolante, Rev. Anthony B. Pabon and Rev. Renato P. Robrigado V -- will be assigned in St. Raphael the Archangel Parish, St. Gregory the Great Cathedral parish and Harong Kan Ama, respectively.

The deacons will report to their respective assignments effective on Holy Thursday, while the change of assignments for priests will take effect on July 1.(PNA) BNB/FGS/CBD

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Albay health officer reminds public on Holy Week illnesses
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 23 (PNA) -- The provincial health officer of Albay has reminded the public to be more careful in celebrating the Holy Week as may cases relating to health might occur assuring its readiness to any untoward iincident.

"We are ready for any incident that may happened, our office and hospitals in Albay are open and already in preposition for any untoward accident," Dr. Nataniel Rempillo said, adding that they have prepared tetanus toxoid, medicine used for anti-tenanus, for some devotees who will use unsafe nails and self-inflicted "panata" wounds.

Rempillo said it is unsafe to do some self-inflicted wounds, "We can commemorate the Holy Week through visita iglesia, spending time with your family, doing good to others everyday and pray."

The PHO chief also reiterated that summer is already felt and different diseases may be experienced like heat stroke, diarrhea, food poisoning and skin diseases.

The summer heat may also aggravate health conditions, he said.

"It is better that families bring their own food while on travel to prevent food poisoning, as it is expected that foods may spoil easily because of the heat," Rempillo advised.

Buyers must be more vigilant in asking vendors for their health card, and the local government unit must also monitor these vendors.

Rempillo also gave the following tips to prevent diseases: 1. Do not use dark-colored dress for it absorbs heat; 2. keep hydrated so that your body will be fresh; 3. take maintenance medicine; 4. wear eye protector and always bring fan; 5. wash hands frequently; 6. have excellent food preparation; and 7. always smile. (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bicol cops form group in support of women
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 21 (PNA) -- Male members of the Philippine National Police in Bicol have formed a group called the Men Opposed to Violence against Women Everywhere (MOVE) whose officers were sworn into office by Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez, PNP Bicol regional director, after the flag-raising ceremony held Monday at the parade ground of Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here.

The inductees were led by Supt. Nonito Marquez of the Sorsogon Police Provincial Office (PPO) as president; Supt. Wilmor Halamani of the Police Community Relations Office of Camarines Norte PPO, vice president; SPO4 Marcos Bea of PRO5, secretary; SPO2 Tobias Bongon III of Naga City Police Station, assistant secretary; non-commissioned personnel Reggiemar Doctolero of Talisay MPS, treasurer; PO3 Josephus Ramos, assistant treasurer; and Insp. Jhon Verlano, auditor.

The public relations officers representing their respective PPOs are SPO4 Pepito De Los Reyes, Albay PPO: PO1 Brian Aceron, Camarines Norte PPO; SPO1 Ely Langitan, Camarines Sur PPO; SPO4 Juanito Tevar, Catanduanes PPO; PO1 Romeo Bislumbre, Masbate PPO; SPO2 Tomas Haloc, Sorsogon PPO; SPO2 Noel Dennis Ajero, Naga City PS; and Insp. Uldrick Tilos, 5th Regional Publice Safety Battalion.

The MOVE has members in all provincial police offices and city and municipal police stations all over Bicol, most of whom are new police officers or PO1 as they were automatically made members while they were still training inside the Regional Training School in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here.

The new PO1s vowed to be at the forefront of the campaign to eliminate violence against women (VAW), physical or pyschological; be at the forefront of gender advocacy and help in the establishment of MOVE from the regional level down to the provincial, city and municipal levels.

While the the group has been long organized in Bicol, it was made stronger upon the assumption of Marquez as Bicol police chief.

To institutionalize the group, it was made part of the program of the Police Community Relations Division of Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5), which conducted a seminar-workshop starting March 17 for police officers coming from PPOs, CPS and MPS that culminated in the election of MOVE officials.

Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said the program is the PRO5's contribution the Women's Month.

The MOVE members also aim to campaign for the rights of women not only in the community but also inside their homes to stop physical or psychological violence against women.

Calubaquib said the program would positively change police officers, especially the PO1s, who have been complained of by their spouses at the PNP Internal Affairs Service Office for womanizing and neglect or lack of support to the family.(PNA) LAP/FGS/JH/CBD/EDS

PNP-Bicol assures security for Holy Week, summer vacation

LEGAZPI CITY, March 22 (PNA) -- Security for the summer vacation, especially the Holy Week, is now well in place, the top Philippine National Police Bicol official said Tuesday.

Police Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, said his directive for this purpose stands effective up to May 31.

Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP-Bicol spokesperson, said the regional office prepared Summer Vacation and Holy Week Security Plan early as, she said, it would be better to prepare ahead for the influx of travelers and vacationists for the Holy Week and various occasions during summer.

The plan covers big events, especially in the Province of Albay, like Daragang Magayon Festival and Palarong Pambansa.

It also includes the national and local elections, Philippine Veterans Week, Araw ng Kagitingan, Labor Day, National Flag Day, Flores de Mayo and village feasts.

Included in the directive of Marquez, Calubaquib said, is the setting up of motorist assistance centers (MACs) along the stretch of the Maharlika Highway from Tabogon, Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte to Matnog, Sorsogon.

MACs have also been put up in Catanduanes and Masbate.

Also established were police assistance desks (PADs) in populous areas like terminals, airports, seaports, markets, malls and churches as well as tourist destinations that are often visited by local and foreign tourists during vacations and Holy Week.

The PNP-Bicol has also placed checkpoints in entry and exit points and intensified police patrols and visibility, especially in areas of convergence.

These precautionary measures are being observed 24/7, Calubaquib said.

About 5,000 Bicol police officers are in full duty during the summer vacation period.

Of this number, 1,198 are assigned in prime tourist destinations in the region, 266 in transportation hubs, 2,901 for route security and 635 in vital installations.

Providing assistance are the 3,794 force multipliers from different sectors of the society like the village volunteer security men, security guards, traffic enforcers, radio groups like the Kabalikat Civicom and barangay peacekeeping and action teams or BPATS, Calubaquib said.

She said around 8,794 will be the combined force of the police and force multipliers.

The PNP official said every police station in the region has a hotline through which the public can ask for help.

All these measures are in place to ensure safety and orderliness in the region, including the celebrations being done in the six provinces of the region.(PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

DPWH-Bicol launches 'Lakbay Alalay' for Holy Week

LEGAZPI CITY, March 22 (PNA) -- The Department of Public Works and Highways Bicol regional office (DPWH–Bicol) on Monday launched its “Oplan Lakbay Alalay" for the Holy Week.

Lucy Castañeda, DPWH-Bicol spokesperson, said the project is part of their service to those going home to the provinces for the Holy Week.

Castañeda said the DPWH-Bicol has fielded mechanics, engineers and other personnel to assist travelers and motorists who will be encountering problems in their long travel.

She said their agency has 31 motorist assistance centers (MACs) in the entire region: 12 in Masbate, 7 in Catanduanes, 6 Camarines Sur, 3 in Albay, 2 in Sorsogon and 1 in Camarines Norte.

The MACs will remain in place up to March 28, where the vacationists are expected to return to Metro Manila.(PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/EDS

Friday, March 18, 2016

DTI opens 2 Negosyo Centers in Camarines Norte
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -- The Department of Trade and Industry on Wednesday launched two Negosyo Centers in the municipalities of Mercedes and Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte province.

These Negosyo Centers are now ready to serve all micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and prospective entrepreneurs in the two municipalities.

MSMEs can now enjoy access to financing, business advisory services, capability building, access to market, and other support services right at their doorstep.

The “Go Negosyo Act” provides for the establishment of Negosyo Centers in provinces, cities, and municipalities in the country to bring government services closer to the MSMEs.

"It will boost the development of MSMEs by providing a unified and simplified business registration process, thus, facilitating doing business and fast-tracking government processes in putting up a business in the province," said DTI Bicol Assistant Regional Director Rodrigo Aguilar who graced the occasion.

The opening ceremonies were attended by the local chief executives and other officials of the local government units concerned, officers of financing institutions and the MSME owners who will benefit from the centers.

The LGU-Mercedes Negosyo Center was launched in the morning while that of LGU-Jose Panganiban was done in the afternoon.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the unveiling of the Negosyo Center signage, a memorandum of agreement was signed by and among the different stakeholders. (PNA) JMC/FGS/CBD/EBP

PNP-Bicol chief orders more security patrols after 9 explosions rocked Masbate
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., Philippine National Police Bicol regional director, on Thursday said he has ordered a more rigid security foot and mobile patrol and the setting up of checkpoints and chokepoints, especially in Masbate province.

This after nine successive explosions in different areas caused by improvised explosive devices rocked the province of Masbate on Tuesday morning, causing alarm among authorities and fear among residents.

Despite these blasting incidents, Marquez assured Masbateños of peaceful and clean elections on May 9.

He said that aside from the PNP Special Action Force troops sent earlier by Camp Carme, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army also sent additional men to Masbate.

In an earlier report to Marquez, Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, Special Operations Task Group-Masbate (SOTG-Masbate) information officer, said that before the series of explosions occurred, New People's Army (NPA) rebels fired at the detachment of the 22nd Infantry Battalion of the 9th Infantry Brigade and 3rd CAFGU Auxiliary at Sitio Anapog, Barangay Poblacion District 2 in Claveria, Masbate at about 12:35 a.m.

No one was hurt among the soldiers who fired back at the rebels who withdrew towards the mountainous part of the village.

At about 4 a.m., an explosion took place at Barangay Miaga in Uson just near the house of PO1 Benjie Muana, a member of the Uson Municipal Police Station.

Another explosion occurred in the same area at about 5 a.m.

At about the same time, a blast was heard along the road of Barangay Tunga in Esperanza town.

Ten minutes later, another explosion followed along the national highway in Barangay Tunga, about one and one-half kilometer from the Esperanza municipal hall.

Then at 6:55 a.m., a bomb went off in Barangay Crossing in Uson.

Another sound of an explosion was heard at 7:15 a.m. along the national highway at Purok 5, Barangay Tabuc, Mobo town.

While the group of Senior Insp. Aldrin Rosales, Batuan chief of police, was patrolling on board a Mahindra patrol jeep at Barangay Burgos, Batuan, at 8:50 a.m., another bomb burst near the vehicle, injuring Rosales and one of his men identified as SPO1 Amando Albiola.

The two officers were rushed to the hospital while the jeep had holes.

Another blast broke the silence at Barangay Ilaya, Balud at 10:40 a.m., followed by another at 10:50 a.m. in Sitio Landing, Barangay Washington, San Jacinto.

Gomez said the series of explosions done by the NPA was to make its presence in Masbate felt, especially now that the May 9 elections are fast approaching.

The events were also part of the founding anniversary celebration of the rebel group on March 29, he added. (PNA) JMC/FGS/JH/CBD/EBP

Thursday, March 17, 2016

10 PNP-Bicol female cops get medals of merit, commendation

LEGAZPI CITY, March 16 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police Bicol regional office has given recognition and honors to 10 policewomen in the Bicol Region in observance of March as Women's Month.

Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, identified the honorees as Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa C. Calubaquib, Insp. Jean B. Calleja, PO1 Stacykwen S. Vargas, PO1 Hazel Y. Sorral, PO1 Lucia Cristine V. Biron, PO1 Arletlyn P. Belza, PO3 Marylou E. Pagorogon, PO2 Lourdes A. Bernal, PO1 Glaiza C. Olivares and PO1 Angelica A. Salando.

Calubaquib received the Medalya ng Papuri (Medal of Commendation) for her sterling and exemplary performance as PRO5 spokesperson who has been behind the email blast NTG PRO5 social media account which has 3,000 interactive viewers.

She has been the bridge for the maintenance of rapport or harmonious relationship between the police and the PRO5 Press Corps and has been responsible for the smooth and continuous flow of information to the public.

Calleja was awarded with Medalya ng Papuri (PNP Commendation Medal) for academic excellence which put her in the Top 3 with a rating of 90.53 percent in their class of 58 students in the Officers Basic Course conducted by the Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division of Camp General Simeon A. Ola from Nov. 4, 2015 to Feb. 11, 2016.

Aside from the Medalya ng Papuri, she also received a Medalya ng Kagalingan (PNP Merit Medal) together with her team composed of Vargas, Sorral, Biron and Belza -- all of the Catanduanes Police Provincial Office -- for the arrest of Charlie Tagpo, No. 5 in the Municipal Illegal Drugs Watchlisted Personalities in Virac, Catanduanes.

During the anti-illegal drug operation, Calleja's team also confiscated 31 grams of metampethamine hydrocloride, popularly known as shabu, worth PHP155,435 and Tagpo's caliber .22 revolver with ammunition.

The four female police operatives were also responsible for the arrest of Manuel Huit Jr., No. 1 in the provincial drug list, Jun P. Bosar, Michelle G. Diaz, Juenalyn Vargas and Kimberly Z. Panti of Virac and the seizure of 31.513 grams of shabu with a street value of PHP157,565, drug parapharnalia and caliber .38 revolver and ammunition.

Pagorogon and Bernal of the Daraga Municipal Police Station in Albay received the Medalya ng Kagalingan as members of the operating team that collared suspected drug pushers Chona S. Cabria, Ryan C. Nacario, Patrick Jason M. Pasibe and two minors from whom they found 12.1067 grams of shabu with a street value of PHP60,535 and several drug paraphernalia.

Olivares and Salando, both officers of the Ligao City Police Station, received the Medalya ng Kagalingan for their arrest of Arlan A. Sadia, Rolly R. Cas, Jennie Ann P. Hallig and Ma. Claudine R. Grisola; seizure of 0.134 gram of shabu and confiscation of one caliber .38 revolver and ammunition.

Marquez lauded and thanked the awardees for their sterling performance and contribution to the PNP's campaign against illegal drug and loose firearms, which are worthy of admiration and emulation by their in the PNP organization. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD/EDS

10 Bicol MSMEs join national food fair

LEGAZPI CITY, March 16 (PNA) -- Ten Bicolano micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are joining the 2016 Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair which opens Wednesday until Sunday at the 5th Level Mega B of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.

A major fair of the Department of Trade and Industry-Bureau of Domestic Trade Promotion (DTI-BDTP), the event has for its theme “Piling-Piling Pagkaing Pilipino.”

The food fair is part of a series of national trade fairs held by DTI-BDTP to help promising MSMEs from the different regions to reach a wider domestic market, and eventually, prepare them for the global market.

It is also an opportunity for the MSMEs to expand their network linkages.

Out of the 10 Bicolano MSMEs, five are from Albay, four from Camarines Sur and one from Sorsogon.

Bicol delicacies like pili nut confectioneries, pinangat, Bicol express, herbal teas (ginger, turmeric, moringa and lemon grass), are being showcased in the food fair.

"Visitors to the fair, especially those who shop, will surely enjoy the many flavors, textures and ingredients of Bicolano foods, which they can give to their balikbayan, relatives and friends," the DTI said. (PNA) FFC/FGS/CBD/EDS

PNP-Bicol chief orders more security patrols after 9 explosions rocked Masbate
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -- Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., Philippine National Police Bicol regional director, on Thursday said he has ordered a more rigid security foot and mobile patrol and the setting up of checkpoints and chokepoints, especially in Masbate province.

This after nine successive explosions in different areas caused by improvised explosive devices rocked the province of Masbate on Tuesday morning, causing alarm among authorities and fear among residents.

Despite these blasting incidents, Marquez assured Masbateños of peaceful and clean elections on May 9.

He said that aside from the PNP Special Action Force troops sent earlier by Camp Carme, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army also sent additional men to Masbate.

In an earlier report to Marquez, Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, Special Operations Task Group-Masbate (SOTG-Masbate) information officer, said that before the series of explosions occurred, New People's Army (NPA) rebels fired at the detachment of the 22nd Infantry Battalion of the 9th Infantry Brigade and 3rd CAFGU Auxiliary at Sitio Anapog, Barangay Poblacion District 2 in Claveria, Masbate at about 12:35 a.m.

No one was hurt among the soldiers who fired back at the rebels who withdrew towards the mountainous part of the village.

At about 4 a.m., an explosion took place at Barangay Miaga in Uson just near the house of PO1 Benjie Muana, a member of the Uson Municipal Police Station.

Another explosion occurred in the same area at about 5 a.m.

At about the same time, a blast was heard along the road of Barangay Tunga in Esperanza town.

Ten minutes later, another explosion followed along the national highway in Barangay Tunga, about one and one-half kilometer from the Esperanza municipal hall.

Then at 6:55 a.m., a bomb went off in Barangay Crossing in Uson.

Another sound of an explosion was heard at 7:15 a.m. along the national highway at Purok 5, Barangay Tabuc, Mobo town.

While the group of Senior Insp. Aldrin Rosales, Batuan chief of police, was patrolling on board a Mahindra patrol jeep at Barangay Burgos, Batuan, at 8:50 a.m., another bomb burst near the vehicle, injuring Rosales and one of his men identified as SPO1 Amando Albiola.

The two officers were rushed to the hospital while the jeep had holes.

Another blast broke the silence at Barangay Ilaya, Balud at 10:40 a.m., followed by another at 10:50 a.m. in Sitio Landing, Barangay Washington, San Jacinto.

Gomez said the series of explosions done by the NPA was to make its presence in Masbate felt, especially now that the May 9 elections are fast approaching.

The events were also part of the founding anniversary celebration of the rebel group on March 29, he added. (PNA) JMC/FGS/JH/CBD/EBP

WB grants PHP12-M to Legazpi for closure, rehab of old open dump
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -- The World Bank (WB) has approved a PHP12.6-million grant for the closure and rehabilitation of the old open dump at the area adjacent to the Engineered Sanitary Landfill in Barangay Banquerohan at the southern portion of this city.

In an interview Wednesday, Mayor Noel Rosal said WB’s approval came after a series of consultations and evaluation sessions of the Legazpi City Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants (UPOP) action plan.

Rosal, Vice Mayor Vitoy Roces, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Bicol Director Robert Sheen led the groundbreaking ceremony of the project on March 11.

Engineer Noel Encinares, chief of the Maintenance Division of the City Engineering Office, said the PHP12.6 million grant has been downloaded by the WB to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Rosal said the civil works for the closure and rehabilitation of the two-hectare open dump have started already and are being undertaken by the CEO.

The works include site preparation, road construction, leachate collection system, slope protection, erosion control, flood control, drainage system, gas venting, final capping, aesthetic improvement and landscaping.

The project materialized after DENR Sec. Ramon Paje got impressed by the city's Engineered Sanitary Landfill and the implementation of the city’s Solid Waste Management Program during his visit in 2009.

On that same year, the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources submitted a safe closure and rehabilitation plan to the DENR-EMB, Rosal said.

He said he plans to make a study for the building of a housing project or even golf course and other tourism-related infrastructures in that area to make sure that city lands will be used as part of the development of the city that can also benefit the constituents, particularly those people residing in the upper portion of southern villages.

Rosal asked all barangay leaders to always inform their constituents about the city’s policy of no-burning of garbage in public places, backyards, residences, and other parts of the community to reduce air pollution that can cause serious health problems and damage to the environment.

He said his administration will continue to implement the proper way of disposing waste materials to maintain the image of Legazpi as one of the best implementer of solid waste management practices in the entire Bicolandia.(PNA) JMC/FGS/EPS/CBD/EDS

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NPA now asks for permit to carry gun from pols going inside rebels' zone
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PNA) -- The New People's Army (NPA) in Bicol is not only asking for permit to campaign and permit to win fees from candidates for the May 9 elections but also payment for a permit to carry a gun inside its alleged controlled territory.

This was disclosed by Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., Philippine National Police Bicol regional director, who warned politicians not to fall victims to this new ploy of the rebel group.

Marquez said his office has received intelligence reports of this new fund-raising tack of the rebels in the mountains.

He, however, admitted that despite receiving such reports, his office has not confirmed it, as no one has complained about the new fund-raising ploy of the NPA.

The PNP regional official wondered why, aside from the permit to carry, they have not received any information on the permit to campaign and permit to win but they are verifying the reports that arrangements or payments had already been done even before the start of the campaign period.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Allan Martin, assistant division chief of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Sagurong, Pili, Camarines Sur, said there has been not formal report yet from their intelligence community on the implementation of permit to carry firearm policy from the NPA.

Martin, however, said that this could be true as the NPA will do all it can to raise funds from the politicians during this election period.

Aside from this, he said, the rebels could serve as members of the private armed groups of politicians, especially in Masbate.

The Army official claimed that the NPA in Bicol is now a spent force as manifested by the series of harassment activities it has been staging against small military facilities and that it can no longer launch large-scale ambush operations and attacks against big camps.

Martin said they saw the sporadic presence of rebels in some areas of Albay and Sorsogon.(PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD

DOH-Bicol asks children to go back to street sports, avoid salty foods to ward off kidney disease
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PNA) -- With the cases of kidney disease increasing in the country, specially among children, health officials in Bicol have urged the parents to let their children go back to the streets to play native sports like sipa (kick) to fight lifestyle disease here.

The Department of Health Bicol regional office warned that kidney disease is like a walking time bomb as it affects people as young as three years old and is tremendously increasing across the country due to the unhealthily lifestyle and fatty and salty food intake of the present generation.

“In Albay province alone, there are six dialysis centers. This is just a tip of the iceberg. How much more if we get the regional situationer. The Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital alone posted a high percentage of patients undergoing dialysis,” Dr. Ma. Lorna Wong, president of Philippine Society of Nephrology in Bicol, said.

Records showed that people as young as 11 years old are undergoing dialysis treatment here; though the higher number of patients undergoing treatment are aged between 51 to 60 years old, followed by 61 and above, and 41 to 50 years.

Surprisingly, Wong said, those aged 21 to 30 years old ranked fourth in undergoing dialysis treatment while the age bracket from 31 to 40 ranked fifth and those aged 11 to 20 ranked six in the BRTTH records.

For minors afflicted with kidney problem, Wong said, the contributory factors are lifestyle like tech gadgets and computer games.

She urged the public, especially the parents, to let their children to go back to traditional and native sports like sepak takraw to fight kidney illnesses.

“Let’s go back to basic sports and to watch the food intake of our children not to eat junk food, hamburger, fatty and salty foods. The increasing number of kidney disease is alarming because it affects not only the elderly but also our children so we have to act now if we don’t want our relatives to develop kidney illnesses,” Wong said.

In the Philippines, kidney disease is the seventh cause of death and an estimated 23,000 Filipinos underwent dialysis due to kidney failure in 2013, according to the DOH Bicol report.

Napoleon L. Arevalo, DOH Bicol acting regional director, said some children develop it at an early age while others have it since birth.

“Renal disease is highly preventable when we start young and practice healthy living. It is essential that we educate children on the early detection of renal disease and the importance of healthy lifestyle. We must inculcate this to the young so that they will develop a healthy habit that they will continue until old age which will not only ease them from the burden of kidney related disease, but also other illnesses,” Arevalo said.

It has been noted lately that an increasing number of dialysis centers have been sprouting in the region.

According to the Philippine Society of Nephrology-Bicol Chapter, this is an indicator that there is a growing number of Bicolanos, including children, who are suffering from kidney failure.

This may be the result of unhealthy practices acquired in early childhood such as eating too salty, fatty and sweet foods, not drinking enough water, holding urination and lack of good personal hygiene.

“Let us support this advocacy by having a regular exercise and healthy lifestyle. Exercise does not only mean extensive workout, it can be in a form of simple household chores like ‘pagwawalis’ and ‘pagbubunot’. Likewise, this should go along with proper diet,” Arevalo explained.

The World Kidney Day is a global health awareness campaign celebrated every year on the second Thursday of March in more than 100 countries on 6 continents.

It focuses on the vital functions of the kidneys and reduction of the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems worldwide.

The DOH-Bicol commemorated World Kidney Day, spotlighting children’s renal health with the theme: "Kidney Disease and Children: Act Early to Prevent It" at the Bicol University Integrated Laboratory School grounds, Legazpi City.

This is a collaborative effort and initiative of the Philippine Society of Nephrology (Bicol chapter), Department of Education, Bicol University, and selected public and private elementary schools.

"This year’s theme resonates that we must learn the habit of taking care of our kidneys at an early age for it is found that adult renal disease can be traced from childhood," Arevalo said. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD

DepEd-Bicol pushes for simple graduation rites, no-contribution policy
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 15 (PNA) -- The Department of Education Bicol regional office has reminded all school officials and heads in the region to have simple but meaningful graduation ceremonies this March.

DepEd Ramon Fiel Abcede said the policy is contained in DepEd Order No. 7 series of 2016 signed by Secretary Armin Luistro.

The graduation theme should center on "Kabataang Mula sa K to 12 Taga-Pagdala ng Kaunlaran sa Bansang Pilipinas."

The graduation should not be beyond April 1 but it would be earlier for those schools that will be used as billeting centers for the Palarong Pambansa, probably on March 21.

Abcede said the directive also strictly bans collection of contributions from the graduating students as the DepEd has an allotted budget for this purpose from a school's miscellaneous operating expenses and expenditures for public address system, paper, ribbon, snacks and diploma.

He said the fund of the department for graduation has increased by 20 percent in the elementary and 25 percent in the secondary.

The DepEd regional head said every Grade 6 pupil has an allocation increase from PHP250 to PHP300 and PHP320 for every fourth year student-candidate for graduation.

Abcede stressed that expensive graduation outfits and celebration rites at posh places are prohibited by the DepEd, which instead calls for the holding of ceremonies inside the school or public place without rental fees.

He clarified that non-payment of authorized contributions should not be a ground for refusing the issuance of clearance or school records of the student involved like grades or Form 138 or 137.

Any school official who will not follow these guidelines could be slapped appropriate charges or administrative case.

Any General Parents-Teachers Association found breaking this rule could have its accreditation cancelled by the department.

On the choice of guest speaker for the occasion, it should be non-partisan, especially that this is the election period.

Abcede said getting a politician as guest speaker is not prohibited provided his speech will not tackle on political subject and with no political tone.

This, he said, is based on Paragraph 4 of Luistro's directive.

Instead, the speaker on the graduation rites should serve as an inspiration for those graduating students to follow his footsteps towards success in life.

"The speaker must be a living example of one who works very hard for him to be successful," Abcede said.

He said the guest speaker could be an alumnus or alumna of the school that invited him or her. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

PNP, Kabalikat Civicom ink pact for speedy communication during emergencies, elections
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police Bicol regional office and the Kabalikat Civicom signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for an exchange of information at Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here during the camp's flag-raising ceremony on Monday.

Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr. and Kabalikat Civicom 5 regional governor Archimedes P. Salvino signed the MOA for a close communication for the exchange of information between the two entities.

Based on the MOA, the Police Regional Office 5 and the Kabalikat Civicom will promote fast and effective communication and campaign on disaster preparedness and emergency especially during the forthcoming elections on May 9.

Marquez underscored the importance of cooperation between the PNP and Kabalikat Civicom, especially in times of emergency and calamity like the onslaught of typhoon "Yolanda" during which all communication facilities of PRO5 bogged down and the communication capability of the Kabalikat Civicom played a major role in the dissemination of information.

The PNP and Kabalikat will provide a standby frequency for a two-way radio facility that can be used by the two entities during disaster, emergency and occurrence of crime.

The Kabalikat will also assist the PNP in the improvement of the communication network as part of the modernization plan of PRO5.

The PNP will give the Kabalikat a communication access to police stations for emergency response and police assistance to the public during actual disaster and emergency operations.

Members of the Kabalikat Civicom chapters in the six provinces of Bicol attended the MOA signing. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD

DA-Bicol revives use of ‘Panatang Makapalay’ during flag rites
By Danny O. Calleja

SORSOGON CITY, March 14 (PNA) -– The Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol regional office has renewed the recitation of “Panatang Makapalay” at the end of flag-raising ceremonies of government offices, two years after the practice, started with the takeoff of the 2013 National Year of the Rice celebration, fizzled out.

The renewal came with the revival of the same occasion this month, agriculture officials on Monday said here.

The “Panatang Makapalay” (Rice Pledge), which is originally written in Filipino language to promote rice- saving attitude among Filipinos, goes this way:

Bilang isang mamayang Filipino, nakikiisa ako sa panatang huwag magsayang ng kanin at bigas (Being a Filipino citizen, I am promising not to waste cooked rice and raw rice grains).

Magsasaing ako nang sapat lamang at sisiguraduhing tamang-tama and pagkakaluto nito (I will cook just enough rice for consumption and will ensure that every batch is well done).

Kukuha ako nang kaya ko lang ubusin upang sa aking pinggan ay walang matirang kanin. Ganu'n din ang aking gagawin kung may handaan o kung sa labas ako kakain (I will get a serving that I can consume so there will be no leftover on my plate. I will practice the same whenever I eat in fiestas, parties, restaurants or whenever I eat outside my home).

Ang brown rice or pinawa ay susubukan kong kainin, pati na ang ibang pagkain bukod sa kanin tulad ng saba, kamote at mais (I will try eating brown rice and other energy-giving foods such as saba banana, camote and corn).

Ituturo ko sa iba ang responsableng pagkonsumo nang mabigyang-halaga ang pagod ng mga magsasaka at nang makatulong na maging sapat ang bigas sa Pilipinas (I will preach to others the responsible rice consumption in order to give importance to farmers’ hard work and help in attaining and maintaining adequate rice supply).

Aking isasapuso ang panatang ito dahil sa bawat butil ng bigas o kanin na aking matitipid ay may buhay na masasagip (I will practice this pledge with all my heart, because for every rice and rice grain I save, there is a life that can be saved).

According to Thess Destura, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAg) chief, the revival of the pledge comes with efforts to help the DA and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRICE) in the renewed campaign to prevent rice wastage amid the dry spell confronting some areas of the country and promote the consumption of healthier varieties of the staple.

Taking off from the National Year of Rice in 2013 as declared by President Benigno Aquino III, the campaign, dubbed as “BE RICEponsible”, is a crusade that aims to encourage farmers, legislators, and the people to be responsible rice consumers in their own way.

The campaign is contained in Presidential Proclamation No. 494 that declared year 2013 as National Year of Rice with the theme, "Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas" as part of the Philippine Government bid to achieve rice sufficiency starting 2013.

This advocacy campaign is aimed at promoting productive farming and responsible rice consumption for better health and less rice wastage.

In line with such proclamation, the DA-Bicol has sought the approval of the Regional Development Council (RDC) of a resolution enjoining all government offices and LGUs in the region, including secondary and elementary schools to recite the "Panatang Makapalay" during flag-raising ceremonies every Monday.

With the RDC approval, flag-raising ceremonies in government offices and schools were held not only with the singing of the National Anthem and with the recitation of the "Panatang Makabayan" but also included the recitation of the "Panatang Makapalay"—a practice that did not last long, however.

Destura said the BE RICEponsible campaign is informing everybody, particularly the consumers, on how they can help the country achieve rice self-sufficiency.

As part of the sustained campaign, she said, PhilRice started last year urging government organizations (GOs), local government units (LGUs) and higher education institutions (HEIs) to support the campaign.

The institute has also sponsored the “Be RICEponsible Contest”, a year-long search that started last Oct. 15 for GOs, LGUs and HEIs that best implement the campaign.

According to Destura, OPAg-Sorsogon is joining the contest in support to the campaign and has re-launched the “Panatang Makapalay” to strengthen the office’s commitment towards responsible rice consumption and encourage, as well, other employees of the provincial government to do the same.

The recitation of the pledge was re-started with the flag-raising ceremony on the first Monday of this month and will go on with the same activity with each of the next flag-raising ceremonies being conducted in front of the Capitol every Monday, she said.

“This is also our way to make the people pay gratitude to our farmers who sweat out to provide us rice to eat three times a day,” she added. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

CFO provides website platform to help OFWs decide on SHS program for their children
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) – The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) has opened a free website platform that would help Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) decide on schools and specialization tracks for their children at home who are entering the Senior high School (SHS) for the full implementation of the government’s K to 12 basic education program this year.

In a statement reaching here Monday, CFO Chair Imelda Nicolas said the website platform—Edukasyon.ph which the Commission established recently -- would help the around-27,500 incoming SHS students and their OFW parents in searching for the right school and curriculum tracks ahead of the opening of school year 2016-2017 in June, which will mark the start of the SHS course.

Edukasyon.ph is a free website platform that gives choice, convenience and pieces of advice on education to career options around the Philippines, Nicolas said.

“We understand how difficult it is for OFW parents to involve themselves in the education planning of their children, especially now that there would be SHS. Through the Edukasyon.ph #SeniorHighDreams component, they will no longer feel disconnected from their child’s education,” she said.

CFO has also been able to circulate a memorandum with enclosed tutorial kits on understanding Edukasyon.ph's services and on how using the website can aid them in the selection for their children of senior high tracks, career guidance and advisory, to the many OFWs, Nicolas said.

The memorandum was circulated around countries with large numbers of OFWs like Bahrain, China, East Timor, Greece, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, she said.

Through the Edukasyon.ph website, parents and students can easily search for senior high-ready schools and offered tracks that are near their home location or see which tuition fees are within their budget and what scholarship opportunities the educational institutions are offering, according to her.

“#SeniorHighDreams” is one of the newest features of the platform which aims to educate the parents and students about SHS, its tracks and specializations and the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Voucher Program, apart from the comprehensive information on careers and scholarships that it contains, she said.

“Parents will have a bird’s-eye view on senior high through Edukasyon.ph. Our job at Edukasyon.ph is to make sure we bridge the educational information gap and enable more parents and families to make informed decisions on the educational investments for their children,” Henry Motte-Muñoz, the CFO project creator, said in the same statement.

The CFO, which operates under the Office of the President, is the key agency tasked to look after the welfare of Filipino migrants and permanent residents abroad by fostering and strengthening ties with Filipino communities overseas and the motherland.

The Edukasyon.ph project, Nicolas said, was among the undertakings of the commission as it served as a forum for preserving and enhancing the social, economic and cultural ties of Filipinos overseas, and advanced their interests in the country and abroad by formulating policies and developing and implementing programs to promote their well being.

DepEd Bicol Regional Director Ramon Fiel Abcede lauded the CFO project, saying it would significantly help the thousands of OFWs from the region decide for their children’s education at home, particularly with the implementation of the SHS curriculum starting this year.

Although DepEd-Bicol expects a “smooth sailing” of the opening of the curriculum in June this year, Abcede said Edukasyon.ph would still help greatly as a venue between students and their OFW parents in making wise decisions with regard to the choice of school to enroll in and specialization track to take.

The regional education department, he said, was basing its positive expectation on the preparations for the SHS, which it has already completed.

“We have already oriented school officials, organized the implementation teams, launched advocacy programs, conductive consultative conferences with stakeholders, coordinated with other government agencies, benchmarked SHS pilot implementers, formulated action plans and strengthened the Career Guidance Program,” Abcede said.

These were all the most salient points needed prior to the start of the implementation of the new program, he said, stressing that his office was seriously concerned about laying the grounds for the smooth transition that would usher in significant changes in the educational system not only in the region but also in the whole country, in general.

DepEd-Bicol has also conducted a survey among 78,451 students from public schools and 10,710 students from private schools in the region as to their preference for SHS field of specialization.

The survey revealed that 36,027 in public and 5,956 in private schools were so far interested to enroll in academic track; 30,784 (public) and 3,372 (private) wish to be immersed in technical-vocational track, while the remaining 11,640 (public) and 1,382 (private) would be into sports and arts track.

The survey was part of the intensive preparations undertaken for the implementation of the SHS Program in School Year 2016-2017, which is expected to bring about a major enhancement in the basic education program as stipulated in Republic Act 10533 or K to 12 Law.

Under the law, a student may choose a specialization based on his aptitude, interest and school capacity.

It is the choice of the track to undertake that will define the content of the subjects a student will take in Grades 11 and 12.

SHS subjects will fall either under the Core Curriculum or Specific Tracks.

The Core Curriculum will have to be taken by all students that include subjects in Language, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Literature, Communication, Natural Science and Philosophy.

Specific Tracks, on the other hand, fall under Academic, Technical-Vocational-Livelihood, Sports, and Arts and Design.

As stated in the K to 12 Law, a SHS graduate will be ready for higher education, middle-level skills, entrepreneurship or employment.

More importantly, he will be holistically developed with 21st century skills clearly imbibed in his learning and innovation skills, effective communication, information, media and technology skills and life and career skills, Abcede added. (PNA) RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD

DOST opens 'STARBOOKS' in Legazpi resettlement school
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) --The air around Grade 10 student Venjie Cabria inside a computer laboratory room of the Taysan Resettlement Integrated School in Barangay Taysan in this city was thick with expectations.

“Sobrang (I felt very much) excited,” Cabria said on Monday when he came face to face for the second time with STARBOOKS (Science and Technology Academic and Research-Based Openly Operated Kiosk Station), which is tucked in a corner of the lab room, one of 23 classrooms in the one-story schoolbuilding perched in the hilltop village.

From now on, the computer server, which has a wealth of information on science and technology that could be accessed even if there is no Internet, will be their class' important partner after it was launched inside the room earlier by the Department of Science and Technology.

Schoolmates, teachers, and school authorities, who tried to squeeze inside the room for the inaugural rites, were just as fired up when keynote guest DOST Assistant Secretary Urdujah Tejada asked Cabria to be the first to try the server.

During his first encounter with the gadget, Cabria registered, opened an account, and scrolled the search bar where he typed “DNA structure.”

The screen flashed with the information he was looking for.

“There is a lot I could learn from it. This would be of big help in my studies,” he beamed.

Now Cabria would not have to go to a computer shop anymore if he wants to do research in Biology, a favorite subject.

“The study of life has always fascinated me,” he said.

The computer server at the Taysan site was the sixth installed by DOST in Albay and the 38th across the Bicol Region that included the 6 in Albay, 4 in Camarines Norte, 17 in Camarines Sur, 1 in Catanduanes, 3 in Masbate and 7 in Sorsogon.

Aside from schools, the other STARBOOKS recipients included local government units and nongovernment organizations.

Tejada represented DOST Secretary Mario Montejo in the launch in Taysan, held as part of a three-day “Science Nation Tour” of the department in Albay and Camarines Sur on March 2-4 that was intended to make science felt by the ordinary Filipino.

Library

DOST-Bicol Regional Director Tomas Briñas, in an earlier media briefing, said the server, which he described as a digital science and technology library, is also known as a “library in a box.”

He said STARBOOKS has rich materials sourced from local and foreign linkages, subscriptions, archive collections and in-house publications.

It has thousands of resource materials but browsing of its contents that are in various formats--text and video/audio--are easy because of their user-friendly interfaces.

It even has Encyclopedia Britannica in its collection with its contents categorized into elementary, high school and college levels.

The server, pegged as a “stand-alone information kiosk” by the agency, also has how-to videos on livelihood opportunities called “Tamang DOSTkarte Livelihood Videos” that were produced by DOST’s Technology Resource Center.

Developed by the Science and Technology Information Institute of the agency, STARBOOKS seeks to stimulate curious minds into developing new ideas and inspire their entrepreneurial and research spirit.

Hands-on

“It is very informative with a range of topics such as climate and weather which is what we are discussing now in Earth Science,” said Grade 6 teacher Reggie Baile.

She said her fellow teachers were able to browse through the server a week prior to the launch when it was brought in for testing and they found out that it also contains a lot of modules, even some thesis materials.

“It would make the children very happy as they could do hands-on work even if it does not allow them to save material on their USB,” said Baile.

The equipment is on “read-only” format.

Baile, who is coordinator of the school’s Information, Communication and Technology room, said elementary students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 and the high school students will get their chance to use the server.

School principal Ma. Theresa Ruivivar said the school is “very grateful” for the additional equipment to the computer room, which currently has three functioning computer terminals provided three years ago by the Department of Education’s Computer Program.

The integrated school, the first and only such school in the Division of Legazpi City, has 425 students in elementary and 625 in high school.

“Rest assured what is given to our school will be fully utilized and treasured,” said Analiza Ricamunda, DepEd Legazpi District 1 supervisor.

The school, located south of the city, was created in 2008 to serve children of families displaced from Barangay Padang, a low-lying area north of the city that was ravaged by mudflows from Mayon Volcano during supertyphoon "Reming" in November 2006.

Science tour

The Bicol leg of DOST’s 17-region "Science Nation Tour” in 2015-2016, which has the theme “Agham na Ramdam (science that is felt),” made trips to complementary food processing and production facilities, a key part of the agency’s drive against malnutrition.

There were visits to a training production and livelihood center and project sites of DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), which assists small and medium enterprises to adopt technological innovations to boost productivity and make their products competitive in the market.

The science tour made a stop at an orientation-training for local government units on Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards).

The latter develops cutting-edge technologies to provide information to help the government’s disaster prevention and mitigation efforts.

Tejada and the DOST team helped launch the Bicol Integrated Dengue Vector Management Program (BIDVMP) which integrates the efforts of various government agencies in the prevention and control of dengue in the communities.

The group also attended a summit of DOST scholars, some of whom shared their success stories and talents in the on-the-spot essay writing and poster making contests.

On the last day of the Science Nation Tour, Undersecretary Rowena Guevarra presented in behalf of Montejo the DOST’s banner programs highlighting its goal of “innovation for sustainable development.” This was at the full council meeting of the Regional Development Council at the National Economic Development Authority office in Arimbay, Legazpi City. (PNA) LAP/FGS/GVR/CBD

MGB vows to stop illegal mining operations in Bicol
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) -– The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Bicol regional office here has renewed its vow to stop all illegal mining operations in the region.

Engr. Guillermo A. Molina IV, MGB Bicol regional director, on Monday said the renewed campaign is inspired by a recent order carried in a memorandum circular (MC) issued by MGB National Director Leo Jasareno which establishes the basic procedure in addressing illegal mining operations not only in Bicol but also all over the country.

The order, which is seen to effect a comprehensive and concrete set of actions to address the persistent illegal mining operations in the country, prescribes a standard and systematic set of actions to be undertaken -- from the conduct of ocular investigations to the filing of formal complaints against the perpetrators, Molina said.

“To effectively implement the government’s campaign against illegal mining operations, basic procedure shall be strictly observed by every regional office of this bureau,” Molina said in the order.

The procedure starts from the conduct of ocular investigation, followed by the issuance of a cease-and- desist order, deputation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and/or other concerned law enforcement agencies, seizure of illegally sourced mineral/mineral products as well as the tools, equipment and conveyances used in mining operations and dismantling of facilities used.

These procedure shall lead to the immediate filing of formal complaints in the court against those involved in the illegal act, he added.

The MGB Bicol head said he has already met with Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director, who assured him of assistance in the implementation of the MGB's fight against illegal mining in the region.

Since time immemorial, Molina said, small miners in some mineral-rich provinces of Bicol have been working on mineral deposits for a hand-to-mouth subsistence but since local governments have not established a Minahang Bayan, all these workers, under existing laws operate illegally while braving the penalty of imprisonment from six months to six years as provided under the law.

Defined as the people’s small-scale mining areas, Minahang Bayan is a suitable on-shore site identified by a particular local government unit (city or provincial) for small-scale miners organized into a cooperative that could operate under the monitoring of the MGB.

It is established as a government-designated and regulated area, to bring small-scale miners away from danger zones, concessions already delineated for large-scale operation and prohibited sites such as government reservations and protected areas and those that are assigned to tourism activities and agrarian reform programs, among others.

This means that small-scale miners cannot operate just anywhere, Molina explained.

It is also a government measure to regulate small-scale mining activities that were blamed for dumping mercury and cyanide to the waterways and the underground.

Small-scale mining, as defined under Republic Act 7076 or the People’s Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implements and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment and requires only a small capital investment.

Small-scale miners, on the other hand, according to RA 7076, are Filipino citizens who voluntarily form a cooperative duly licensed by the DENR to engage, under the terms and conditions of a contract or license in the extraction or removal of minerals or ore-bearing materials from the ground.

While it is very clear that only Filipino small-scale miners, organized as a cooperative, can operate in a Minahang Bayan, a limitation, however, was set forth by the same law that they can only mine gold, silver, chromites, kaolin, silica, marble, gravel and sand and clay in an identified mineralized area, Molina said.

Each of the six provinces in Bicol covers a territory that is rich in mineral resources mineable through small-scale operations that could provide lowly miners a good source of income.

Albay, the province that plays host to majestic Mt. Mayon, is rich in precious metallic minerals such as gold and silver and endowed with abundant non-metallic deposits like boulder, earth fill, black and white sand, gravel, aggregates, selected stones, marble and shale clay.

Gold and silver are also widely available in Camarines Norte in addition to diatomaceous earth, white clay, kaolin clay and silica sand while Camarines Sur is known for chromites, ball clay, decorative stone and earth fill.

Both Camarines provinces, as well as Catanduanes and Sorsogon, have sand and gravel while Masbate boasts of huge deposits of gold and silver, boulders, earth fill and also sand and gravel.

Establishing a Minahang Bayan is an effort to give importance to small-scale mining that is responsible for about 70 percent of the gold mined in the country, Molina said.

All these provinces should create and reconstitute their own Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) which under RA 7076 is tasked to implement the policy of the state to promote, develop, protect and rationalize viable small-scale mining activities in order to generate more employment opportunities and provide an equitable sharing of the nation’s wealth and natural resources.

Molina said his office has since been coordinating with chief executives of the six Bicol provinces for the creation and reorganization of PMRB, including the establishment of Minahang Bayan in each province to end illegal small-scale mining operations.

For Camarines Norte, he said, his office is validating two prospective areas in the municipalities of Paracale and Jose Panganiban of Camarines Norte based on petitions for the establishments of Minahang Bayan sites made by the provincial and municipal governments.

These areas, he said, cover 174 hectares of gold panning sites in three barangays of Jose Panganiban and two mineralized properties totaling 40 hectares in a Paracale village.

The MGB Bicol head explained that under the new rules, only the PMRB can identify and determine an area within its jurisdiction that is suitable for small-scale mining operations subject to the review of the DENR secretary through the regional director which will put it under national government monitoring. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

Monday, March 14, 2016

Albay all set for Palarong Pambansa 2016

LEGAZPI CITY, March 14 (PNA) -- It’s all systems go for Palarong Pamabansa 2016 in Albay, Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said Monday.

Preparations for the national games on April 10-16 are 90 percent complete, including the deployment of security, emergency and medical teams in 31 playing venues and 24 billeting areas, Salceda said.

Bernardo Rafael Alejandro IV, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and Palaro Security Peace and Order and Emergency Preparedness Committee incident commander, said at least 2,000 policemen would be deployed in all playing venues and billeting areas.

The security plan assigned the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Albay to set up police assistance desks in all playing and billeting venues on a 24/7 basis.

Police Sr. Supt. Celso Arcueno Jr., PNP Albay provincial director, said in a phone interview that the security measures also include the assignment of Philippine Army (PA) soldiers and village “tanods” to help man various police assistance desks.

Arcueno said a traffic plan has been firmed up to include rerouting of traffic in venues where the national games will be held and billeting areas where thousands of players will stay during the national games.

As for the medical contingency plan, Alejandro said 335 medical personnel composed of doctors, nurses, paramedics backed by ambulances will be dispatched in the playing venues and billeting areas.

Maria Ravanilla, Department of Tourism (DOT) regional director, said in an interview that the week-long national sport events would spur economic growth in Bicol, with an expected receipts from visitors of PHP189 million.

Ravanilla said local government tourism units have been doing their rounds and engaging all tourism- oriented establishments to prepare and be more ready with fast, friendly, flexible and forward-looking services, saying “the ultimate goal is for everyone to have fun and an enjoyable stay in Albay.”

Salceda said there are 31 playing venues, with the center of competition at the Bicol University Main Campus in this city.

There are 24 billeting centers, 22 of which are public elementary and secondary schools and two state universities and colleges (SUC) campuses -- the Bicol University Main and Bicol University College of Agriculture and Fisheries in Guinobatan, Albay.

The billeting centers will house about 18,000 delegates from the 18 regions of the country who are participating in the national school games competition.

Six billeting quarters are ready for sports officials. (PNA) JMC/FGS/MSA/CBD

Friday, March 11, 2016

Philhealth much stronger now than in previous years -- Dorotan, Gov. Salceda
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 11 (PNA) -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is much stronger now than in the previous years, PhilHealth Board Member Eddie Dorotan said.

Dorotan clarified that it is not true that the health insurance company might become non-operational soon due to lack of funds.

In fact, he said, PhilHealth is very much financially sound.

The PhilHealth official said the funding reserves of the company, which stands at Php128-Php130 billion at present, could last up to two years, based on the provision of the law.

Although for the sake of transparency, Dorotan said, the benefit-providing company spent Php97 billion in terms of medical assistance to the poor members of the society like the senior citizens and members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program vis-a-vis its Php96-billion funds last year, the standby reserves make the company very much solid and sound.

He stressed that PhilHealth will further enhance its collection and campaign against graft and corruption in line with the Daang Matuwid policy of President Benigno C. Aquino III.

The former mayor of Irosin, Sorsogon, who has been known for his fight against corruption, cited fraudulent claims and ghost patients as anomalous transactions being done against PhilHealth.

In this connection, he said, PhilHealth has filed cases against those involved who have been meted out appropriate sentences and penalties.

Dorotan said the company has a 92-percent coverage of intended beneficiaries and it aims to achieve the universal health coverage soonest.

He said the remaining small percentage not covered comprises informal settlers.

Dorotan said the PhilHealth has further widened the coverage of its services as it has already included those who have heart diseases, dialysis and other health packages.

In addition, he disclosed, some PhilHealth members no longer pay but enjoy no-balance billing once they are confined in many hospitals all over the Philippines.

Governor Joey Sarte Salceda agreed with the disclosures of Dorotan, saying PhilHealth is much stronger today than it had been in the previous years owing to its fundamental structure.

Salceda said that at present, PhilHealth has an additional compulsory market or predictable source of funding -- the 80-percent collection of sin tax -- aside from the regular contributions of its members from the private and public sectors.

He stressed that the services being given by PhilHealth quadrupled because from the previous expenditures of Php26 billion, it spent Php97 billion last year for the benefit of its members. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD

DOH warns Bicolanos anew vs Zika virus
By Danny O. Calleja

DARAGA, Albay, March 10 (PNA) -– The regional health office here has re-echoed in Bicol the national warning recently issued by the Department of Health (DOH) against the spread of Zika virus.

“There is a need for vigilance among Bicolanos in initiating measures to eliminate the virus’ vector—Aedes mosquitoes—and complete awareness of precautionary means to avoid being afflicted by the viral disease,” DOH assistant regional director Napoleon Arevalo on Thursday said.

In a national advisory issued over the week, Health Secretary Janette Garin enjoined Filipinos to actively participate in measures to eliminate carrier-mosquitoes and their breeding places to prevent the spread among communities and possible Zika virus infection of individuals.

The advisory, according to Arevalo, was in reiteration of the previous warnings issued following a report from US-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) that an adult female American resident was confirmed positive to Zika virus after her four-week travel in the Philippines last January.

The report said the female American traveler developed an illness with symptoms of fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis, and muscle pain during her last week of stay in the Philippines before returning to the US.

“Currently, we are coordinating with US-CDC for the profile of the patient, including information on places she visited in the Philippines. We were informed that shortly after returning home to the US, an evidence of Zika virus infection was detected from the patient,” Garin said in the latest advisory.

Arevalo said the viral disease, caused by Zika virus, is characterized by fever, rash, and conjunctivitis while other symptoms are muscle pain, headache and vomiting.

The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for two to seven days and although most individuals infected are asymptomatic or do not manifest any symptoms, they still have the capability of transmitting the infection, he said.

The symptoms of Zika virus disease can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest, and plenty of water intake, but should these persist, patients are advised to consult the nearest health facility.

The DOH stressed that the infection is asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases and most of the time, the disease is self-limiting.

However, the effect on the result of pregnancy should not be discounted as Zika virus has been linked to congenital central nervous system malformation like microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome, the health agency said, as it calls on pregnant women to avoid mosquito bites, especially during day time.

Currently, there is no available vaccine to prevent Zika infection, Arevalo reminds Bicolanos as, he said, the virus is usually transmitted through the bite of infected female Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

There have also been reports that the virus can be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 55 countries and territories that have reported local Zika transmission from January 2007 to last March 3.

Local Zika virus transmission has also been detected in neighboring countries such as American Samoa, Cambodia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Maldives and Thailand.

Most Zika cases are from other regions, specifically Latin America.

Arevalo said DOH regional offices across the country have been tasked in carrying out the precautionary measures stated in the advisory by way of leading activities geared toward the elimination of the carrier mosquitoes in every community and informing residents on what are to be done in case of infection.

As an initial move, he said, the DOH-Bicol reiterates that cleanliness is still the key against mosquito-borne diseases and Bicolanos should step up strategies with the “4S campaign”, that is, Search and destroy mosquito breeding places; use Self-protection measures; Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than two days; and Say "yes" to fogging when there is an impending outbreak.

In the same advisory, Garin said that in the Philippines, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is capable of testing suspected cases of Zika virus through Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction.

The female American traveler was the first reported Zika case in the Philippines since the disease’s recent outbreak, which initially started in April last year in Brazil.

It has yet to be a year since the outbreak began but already, the mosquito-borne disease has been declared as a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO.

The only other known Zika case in the Philippines was reported in May 2012 in a 15-year-old boy from Cebu City who, during an acute-illness investigation, showed symptoms that included headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, myalgias, stomach pain, anorexia, nausea and vomiting, but no rash.

The boy, who had no recent travel history and no other members of his household felt the same symptoms, did not seek medical care or require hospitalization and his only treatment before a three-week full recovery was acetaminophen, earlier reports said.

The reports also said that an acute-phase blood sample, collected from the boy two days after the symptom onset, was negative for dengue and chikungunya viruses by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

6 police offices in Bicol get awards for compliance with Performance Governance System
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police Bicol regional office on Wednesday honored its six police provincial offices (PPOs) and the Naga City Police Station (NCPS) for Performance Governance System compliance during the conferment ceremonies at Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here.

The conferment was led by Chief Supt. Noel Baraceros, chief of the PNP Center for Police Strategy Management based at Camp Crame, and Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., PNP Bicol regional director.

The respective heads of the PPOs and the NCPS received the honors.

They are Sr. Supt. Narciso Domingo, NCPS which got a rating 88.53 percent; Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral of Sorsogon PPO, 89.16 percent; Senior Supt. Alexander Sampaga of Masbate PP0, 91.52 percent; Senior Supt. Walfredo Pornillo of Camarines Sur PPO, 91.54 percent; Senior Supt. Rodolfo Dimas, Camarines Norte PPO, 92.28 percent; Sr. Supt. Jesus Martirez, Catanduanes PPO, 92.7 percent; Senior Supt. Celso Arcueno Jr., Albay PPO, 92.7 percent; and Supt. Leonidas Castillo of the 5th Regional Police Public Safety Battalion, which got the highest grade of 94.33 percent.

Aside from the awards conferred to the six PPOs, NCPS and 5th RPPSB, a separate Silver Eagle Award was also bestowed on the Camarines Sur PPO, Catanduanes PPO, Masbate PPO, Camarines Norte PPO, Albay PPO and the 5th RPPSB for their more than 90-percent PGS ratings.

Baraceros said the PGS is part of the implementation of the PNP Patrol Plan 2030 which started in 2011 wherein the full police organization is expected to be at the full transformation in their service to the public.

The most important part of the program of the Police Regional Office 5 under the PGS is the target output policy where chiefs of police or provincial directors are booted out of their posts and undergo a retraining course if they fail in the standards of service expected of them within three months, like Lambat Sibat or apprehension of criminals and most wanted persons, One Time Big Time Operation against the drug problem, illegal gambling and other illegal activities, e-blotter system or electronic system of investigation, gallery rouge of wanted persons and others.

Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 public information officer, said that after the conferment of PGS on the PPOs, they will have the conferment on municipal police stations in the entire region.

The next step that the recipients of conferment will undergo are the proficiency and institutionalization of the PNP-Bicol.

This will involve the strengthening of the regional office and the recruitment of additional PNP personnel to reach the 2030 target of 1:500 police-population ratio or one police officer per 500 population.

Calubaquib said there are 160,000 police officers in the entire country while Bicol has 7,500 men.

As of this date, the provinces of Masbate and Catanduanes are nearing the ideal ratio of 1:600, while the others are in the vicinity of 1:700 and1:800.

Others are in the ratio of 1:1,000 like Camarines Sur which has the biggest land area and population in the region.

The PNP Bicol spokesperson said the PNP is slowly making its operations computerized, high tech and employing electronic gadget system wherein all roving policemen and the dashboards of their vehicles and streets will have CCTV cameras. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JH/CBD

Soldiers build schools in rebel-bastion town of Masbate
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

PIO V. CORPUS, Masbate, March 10 (PNA) -- Army Captain Jeric Yuson, 32, of Charlie Company’s 565th Engineering Battalion, and his men did not use guns but instead built a school in this rebel-infested town to help liberate the community not only from the bondage of insurgency but also from dearth of educational facilities.

Pio V. Corpus is a fourth-class municipality in the island-province of Masbate and can be reached in more than three hours' trip from Masbate City.

Yuson, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy in 2007, was first assigned in a combat zone before being sent to a humanitarian mission in this town to build school classrooms for students in Buenasuerte Integrated School in this town.

He said that while constructing a one-unit building with two classrooms, they were able to forge good relationship with the members of the community though some were less cooperative.

“We’re happy that despite the challenges, we were able to finish the construction of school classrooms intended for the students before the implementation of K to 12 in June,” the Army official said.

A similar project was also built in Barangay Tanque here for the Tanque National High School by another Army team led by Army Capt. Rodolfo Reofrir of the Alpha Company, 565th Engineering Battalion.

The materials used for the construction of the two-room school buildings were provided by the Masbate Gold Project based Aroroy, Masbate.

Vgemele Mate, DepEd Masbate Division assistant superintendent, lauded the humanitarian efforts shown by the soldiers.

“I couldn’t imagine seeing a young good-looking soldier mixing gravel, sand and cement as well as constructing and painting a school building. This is truly a labor of love. Indeed, education is everybody’s business. The turnover is timely because the incoming Grade 7 will be occupying these classrooms in June,” Mate said.

She said the government is doing its best in preparation for the opening of the Senior High School program.

“These soldiers sacrifice their lives and leave their family to build schools. So take care of the school built by our soldiers and the MGP, which provided the materials. Imagine, out of 115 public high schools in Masbate, our town was chosen as a recipient of this humble project,” the DepEd official said.

Brigadier Gen. Joselito Kakilala, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Civil Relations Services chief, said the construction of public school buildings in this town will be an effective means to free it from insurgency and liberate its residents from the bondage of poverty.

“Education is a powerful tool and weapon to change the community from the bondage of ignorance and of poverty. Your soldiers are here to assist you in whatever way we can for our countrymen,” he said.

During the turnover ceremony about a week ago, however, communist guerrillas attacked the convoy of vehicles en route back to Masbate City.

The rebels attacked the two Nissan pick-up vehicles and a Toyota Hilux patrol car wherein Police Supt. Brian Castillo was one of the passengers going back to the Masbate Police Provincial Office after attending the turn-over ceremony of the school building in Barangay Buenasuerte in this town.

Castillo’s group almost hit an improvised explosive device that exploded along the national highway of Barangay Mintac, within a quarry area in Cataingan, Masbate, resulting in damages to the Hilux patrol car.

No reported injury among the police troopers was reported and its members were safely evacuated to the 5th Maneuver Platoon headquarters at Barangay Sto. Niño, Cataingan town.

Immediately after the attack, soldiers from the 903rd Infantry Brigade conducted pursuit operation against the government’s enemy but failed to catch up with the rebels. (PNA) FFC/FGS/RBB/CBD

Albay, Japanese city ink sisterhood pact

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay and the City of Fuefuki in Japan on Tuesday signed a sisterhood agreement at the Japanese city in Yamanashi Prefecture, a report from the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) said Thursday.

Albay was represented by a delegation headed by PTO head Dorothy Colle, Department of Tourism Bicol Regional Director Maria "Nini" Ravanilla, Senior Board Member Glenda Ong-Bongao -- the committee on tourism chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Albay (SPA), board members Neil L. Montallana, Joseph Phillip Lee and Job Belen and SPA secretary Grace Magdamit.

Majiddo Komiyama, Fuefuki City mayor and tourism officer, led the group of the Japanese counterpart.

The agreement aims to strengthen the relationship between Albay province and Fuefuki City, which had a population of 69,037 as of November 2015 and a total area of 201.92 square kilometers.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the tourism industry is one way for the government to attain inclusive growth.

Salceda explained that every tourist coming to a place translates to employment of five individuals in the locality.

Colle and her fellow representatives thanked the governor for the trust he put in them to make the sisterhood agreement a success.

She said the host officials toured them around the beautiful city, known for the blue-and-white flycatcher bird.

The Albay tourism office head said she expects Fuefuki City officials to come to Albay soon for a reciprocal visit. (PNA) FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD

Albay 90% ready to host Palarong Pambansa on April 10-16
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, March 10 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay is 90 percent prepared to host the Palarong Pambansa 2016, a month before the national games on April 10-16, Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said Thursday.

Salceda made his assessment based on the comprehensive report his office received from various committees working on the Palarong Pambansa 2016 jointly composed of officials and employees of the province and the Department of Education (DepEd) based on Executive Order 2015-029 that he signed on Dec. 9, 2015.

He said there are 29 playing venues, with the center of competition being inside the Bicol University Main Campus in this city.

There are 32 billeting centers, 30 of which are public elementary and secondary schools and two state universities and colleges (SUC) campuses -- the Bicol University Main and Bicol University College of Agriculture and Fisheries in Guinobatan, Albay.

The billeting centers will house the delegates from the 18 regions of the country who are participating in the national school games competition.

Six billeting quarters are ready for sports officials.

In this connection, a three-day Joint Technical Committee Conference for the Palarong Pambansa headed by the DepEd and Albay is now ongoing to tackle developments and last-minute hitches.(PNA) JMC/FGS/NIM/CBD

PhilHealth says its finances remain robust, healthy and substantial
By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, March 10 (PNA) -- The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) clarified on Thursday there is no truth to the report that its operating funds will run out in six to 10 months.

“PhilHealth’s finances are still robust, healthy and substantial as ever,” PhilHealth President and CEO Atty. Alexander A. Padilla said as he stressed that the report emanating from Legazpi City in Albay was baseless and the PhilHealth official cited in it was probably misquoted.

The report said PhilHealth Board Member Eddie Dorotan made the statement in his speech at the inauguration of a new PhilHealth Office at the Pacific Mall-Gaisano Complex in Legazpi City on Tuesday.

Dorotan was reported as saying that the operating funds of PhilHealth are good only for six to 10 months unless the government pays its past billings for government hospitals amounting to billions of pesos.

“The six months mentioned in the report is really impossible. First of all, our reserves are huge — Php128 billion, and these comprise our biggest reserves for the past so many years,” the PhilHealth president said in a press briefing.

He explained that while PhilHealth has shelled out bigger chunks for the benefit payments to members as the agency improved the package benefits, he also assured that their financial reserves are not depleting.

“Our collections are also increasing at the same time... Our investment rates are also good, all Triple A (government securities that are guaranteed),” he said.

He cited that PhilHealth has investments on Treasury bills, fixed securities (Triple A securities) and is not even entering in doubtful transactions.

Padilla said that upon examining the news story, it was mentioned that in 2015, PhilHealth premium collections were Php96 billion while the benefit payments amounted to Php97 billion, insinuating that they lost Php1 billion in a year.

He said that granting they lost Php1 billion in 2015, since they have reserves of Php128 billion, that will mean PhilHealth will be running out of funds in 128 years and not in six months, which is also impossible since the agency is earning continuously.

He also said that actually, PhilHealth has not at all lost Php1 billion in 2015 because they still have at least Php7 billion surplus.

According to Atty. Padilla, he had already talked to the concerned PhilHealth board member and that Dorotan said he had been misquoted.

“I repeat, PhilHealth is stable, our funds are robust. There is no doubt about that,” he said as he stressed that PhilHealth keeps on enhancing its system of benefit packages.

He added that PhilHealth continues to innovate as it hopes to reduce out-of-pocket expenses of its members. (PNA) SCS/LSJ/EDS