Friday, April 29, 2016

PDRP helps Albay develop camote industry into priority enterprise
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) through its Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component is helping Albay develop its sweet potato (camote) industry into a priority rural enterprise.

“We are now having our initial business planning for the crop following our conduct of enterprise identification and prioritization which determined the suitability, market potential, impact on the poor and rural women’s participation in the province,” Albay I-REAP head Rafael Nicoleta on Thursday said in this provincial capital.

The process, he said, enables proponents to come up with proposals that are responsive to the value chain analysis (VCA) findings and aligned with the proposed interventions identified in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP), a three-year strategic plan based on the value chain analysis of commodities.

Nicoleta describes PCIP as a rolling plan that rationalizes the interventions within the various segments of the commodity value chain and will be the basis in selecting eligible interventions and sub-projects for PRDP funding.

It also emphasizes on climate-smart agriculture as a way to achieve short- and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities.

“Through enterprise prioritization, meanwhile, we are able to have proper direction for the establishment of the business enterprise. Kumbaga, hindi bara-bara (In other words, it is not done in an aimless manner),” Nicoleta said.

The Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO), according to its officer-in-charge Cheryl Rebeta, has identified in its PCIP, submitted recently for assistance to PDRP, the development of camote into an industry that would help local farmers earn more and even put up self-run agricultural enterprises for additional profit.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund -- consisting of Php20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units (LGUs) and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In six years (2013-2019), the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20 percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services. With PRDP, Rebeta said, the PAO is moving up to value adding in the province’s engagement with climate smart agriculture by giving more attention to the production of sweet potato even as Albay is already contributing at least 7.17 percent to the country’s production of the crop.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the province, with its 1,675 hectares of effective area for sweet potato production, produces an average of 40,167 metric tons yearly.

According to Rocelyn De Vera of the PRDP South Luzon Project Support Office (PSO), sweet potato is a unique commodity because unlike other plants, it is less prone to diseases, drought-resistant and grows with minimal use of fertilizer.

Nonetheless, she said, Albay farmers must learn to explore other products from the crop and take the industry to the next level with the help of other stakeholders, including government agencies, to support its value chain in the province.

There are also recommendations that include the revitalization and strengthening existing nurseries, constructing warehouse near island port, providing access or linkage to funding agencies, intensifying Farmer Business School (FBS) and training on good agricultural practices, De Vera said.

Provision of farm, processing, and packaging equipment as well as construction and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads, ports, and bridges were also proposed in addition to a call for an updated research and development agenda on sweet potato and market study involving new products.

This project, when approved for funding by PDRP, Rebeta said, will certainly benefit more farmers in Albay, especially that its household population of 255,672, representing a total of over 1.2 million individuals as per official survey in 2010, has over 100,000 families that rely mainly on farming for their livelihood as recorded by the BAS.

These farming families are well within the 36.1-percent poverty incidence of the province as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on its 2012 survey.

The sweet potato (Pomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.

Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens and contrary to old misconceptions that it is a “poor man’s food,” sweet potato has now gained popularity among health conscious individuals from all walks of life because of its health benefits.

According to Organic Facts, a team of food and nutrition enthusiasts that aim to spread awareness and information about organic food and healthy lifestyle, sweet potato is rich in beta carotene, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, effective in relieving asthma and arthritis, a good facilitator for digestion, beneficial for curing stomach ulcers as well as cancer of the colon, kidney, intestines and other internal organs and helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels and water balance.

Hence, it is recognized as a very important cash and food crop in the province and all over the country that is highly marketable either as raw or processed.

With these potentials and health benefits, stakeholders of the proposed sweet potato industry in the province are convinced that the sarcastic advice when somebody is turned down from a job or found inefficient in work-- “to go home and plant camote”-- should no longer be taken as offensive but a push to engage in a productive and vibrant industry. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD

Albay solon belittles Bicol governors' change of support from Mar to Grace
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The transfer of support of Bicol governors from Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas and vice presidential bet Leni Robedo to the camp of Grace Poe has no effect, if not a little, at all since there are more remaining LP stalwarts in the Bicol Region.

This was the reaction Thursday of Congressman Fernando V. Gonzalez of the 3rd District of Albay to the defection of Bicol governors to Poe's camp.

Earlier, Bicol governors Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay, Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte, Migz Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate have reportedly jumped to Poe's ship while Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee has announced his support to Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Gonzalez said Lee's wife, Sally, is Roxas' candidate for mayor of Sorsogon City, while his son, Bobbit Lee Rodrigueza is running for governor under the LP.

In Camarines Norte, he said, the entry of Tallado in Poe's lineup has no effect as he had long been removed from the LP with which he had problems and the province has strong candidates who have full support to Roxas and have been helping the LP standard bearer a lot like the Reyes and Unico families.

Gonzalez admitted that since Salceda has been a good leader in Albay, there could be an effect but in the whole, he said, he and the other LP leaders in Albay can push Roxas and Robredo to victory in the province because they have no strong opponents.

He, for instance, has no strong opponent in the 3rd District of Albay while former congressman Edcel C. Lagman is a sure winner in the 1st District and Mayor Noel E. Rosal of Legazpi City is certain to retain his position.

Gonzalez said they also have the support of the candidates of their party in the cities of Tabaco and Ligao which have big numbers of voters.

If ever some candidates move from the LP to other parties, more strong candidates are transferring to LP from other parties, he said.

The Albay lawmaker said as officials and members of the LP, they are just the local political machinery for those running for national posts.

What is more important, he said, is the influence of the radio and television media through political advertisements which are being seen by voters in the entire country, especially the airing of the debates, which could give wider and stronger influence to the electorate in deciding whom to vote on the May 9 elections. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD

Ombudsman certifies that ex-solon Lagman has no pending case
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) –- The Office of the Ombudsman has certified that their records as of April 21, 2016 showed that former 1st District representative Edcel C. Lagman has no pending criminal and administrative cases with the agency.

The Ombudsman's clearance was recently issued by Maria Agnes L. Forteza, Graft Investigation Officer I on the request of Lagman for election purposes.

Earlier, Hernando Bruce and Roberto Barcela was reported as having charged Lagman and his daughter, former Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro, with graft and malversation of public funds before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Burce and Barcela alleged that Lagman misused Php129.7 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel for various projects of Lagman-Luistro in Tabaco City.

They also cited a Commission on Audit report on Lagman's PDAF from 2007 to 2009 that alleged, among others, that he diverted Php86 million of his PDAF for areas outside his legislative district, according to the reported complaint.

They further alleged that Lagman funded the construction of private properties in Quezon City worth Php18.56 million, including the repair of a clubhouse in a private subdivision.

Lagman, however, branded the complaint against him and his daughter, as inordinately belated, malicious, partisan and baseless.

He said he is presently running for representative in the First District of Albay while Lagman-Luistro is an aspirant for mayor in Tabaco City.

The veteran Albay lawmaker said the alleged special COA report referred to by the complainants is tentative and lacks sufficient basis.

Lagman said he was never previously informed of any investigation on this matter by COA and he was not notified to submit controverting evidence.

"The accusation that I had misused my PDAF is utterly false and malevolent,” he said.

Lagman said the erstwhile Php70 million annual PDAF per congressional district was inelastic and cannot be exceeded in any given year.

“Consequently, the huge total amount which I had allegedly misused is much more than my PDAF allocations,” Lagman said.

He said he had allocated his entire yearly PDAF to programs and projects solely for the First District of Albay.

He said the reported projects elsewhere were funded from his leadership fund which was traditionally allocated to ranking leaders of the House of Representatives like the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, the Majority and Minority Leaders and the Chairman of the committee on appropriations, which position he held during the first half of the 14th Congress (2007 - 2008).

The leadership fund is a nationwide allocation to allow leaders of the House of Representatives to respond to requests outside of their respective districts.

It is legitimate and appropriated in the previous annual General Appropriations Acts, Lagman said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Da-Bicol continues training farmers on cacao production
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 28 (PNA) –- The Department of Agriculture Bicol regional office here on Thursday said it recently trained 40 more farmers who would fire up the commercial production of cacao in six municipalities of Camarines Sur.

The activity, dubbed as Training on Sustainable Cacao Production, is part of the agency’s continuing effort aimed at educating farmers on the profitable production of the commodity which is being groomed as another sunshine industry of the region -- next to abaca, pili nut and coconut -- by way of promoting its significance both in terms of economic and health gains.

This promotion effort is supported with interventions falling under DA’s application of Republic Act 7900 or the High-Value Crops Development Act of 1995 that allots funds for providing production assistance, technology transfer, marketing and processing.

In DA's High-Value Commercial Crops Program (HVCDP) formulated and now ongoing implementation in line with this Act, assistance to producers concerning crop insurance, credit, post-harvest facilities, good seeds and planting materials and fiscal incentives are also provided.

The recent training provided by DA’s cacao specialists was held last April 19 in Minalabac, one of the six Camarines Sur towns eyed for the program.

The five others are Goa, Tigaon, Lupi, Sipocot and Libmanan, whose economies rely mainly on agriculture.

These 40 newly–trained farmers distributed among the six municipalities will spearhead the growing of cacao in their respective areas using planting materials and other inputs to be provided by the DA and applying the new technologies they learned, according to Elena de los Santos, the DA regional officer-in charge.

“We are conducting 17 more training sessions this year for different sets of farmers across the region as we hope to make Bicol a major contributor in making the Philippines a cacao industry winner and among the world’s leading producers and exporters of cacao beans and cocoa products,” De los Santos said.

These training courses address DA's goal to steer farmers towards generating high income by way of providing them the latest package of technologies for cacao production, post-harvest knowledge and proper equipment in crop cultivation.

The training is also a venue in spreading in Bicol farming communities the technologies and good words about cacao whose seeds are traditionally being processed to produce chocolate bars and drinks.

So far, De los Santos said, Bicol already has “a good number” of farmers intercropping cacao with other traditional crops such as pili and coconut, a good farming practice that is projected to give a farmer additional income estimated at Php60,000 per hectare by producing quality-grade fermented dry cacao beans at about 500 trees per hectare.

“We are continuously initiating activities to develop warm acceptance of the smallholder cacao production approach among farmers and renew their interest and willingness to collaborate for the promotion of sustainable cacao production,” she said.

Apart from these, the DA is identifying more suitable areas in Bicol for cacao production and maximizing the presence of markets that could be organized into workable production-market system.

The region has 242,644 hectares of coconut land and at least 10 percent of it or 24,264 hectares can be inter-cropped with cacao, Delos Santos noted.

Initially, she said, the DA-HVCDP aims to come up with 850 hectares of cacao plantations in the region and produce around 4,000 metric tons of high-quality cacao seed by year 2020.

Onward, the Bicol cacao industry envisions to grow at least 12 million cacao trees with the participation of about 2,400 Bicolano farmers.

De los Santos said the region’s climatic conditions and soil characteristics support cocoa growing and “we are taking advantage of these in increasing interest in production among local farmers by way of training them on latest technology and informing them on the local and international demand for cocoa products whose world prices have been constantly favorable.

The annual worldwide production of cacao is 4.2 million tons and the demand for cacao increases by three percent every year, De los Santos said.

In Sorsogon, she said, a two-hectare nursery where one million cacao seedlings are being propagated and distributed to local farmers is a good intervention under the joint initiative of the COOP NATCCO Partylist and the South Luzon Federation of Cooperatives (SLFC), the umbrella organization of all rural-based cooperatives in Bicol and the Southern Tagalog regions.

The initiative is under the Cacao Contract Growing Program for the province which Rep. Anthony Bravo, the partylist’s representative, has arranged with Kennemer Foods International Inc. (KFI), a foreign-invested agri-business with corporate and contract-farming operations throughout the Philippines whose specialization is the trade and export of cocoa.

For the contract-growing operation, farmers and cooperatives are provided with planting materials, technology, training and a guaranteed buy-back of harvest linked to world prices.

The program is also implemented in partnership with the DA and Philippine Coconut Authority which provide technologies in cacao intercropping with coconut and pili.

With these Bicol undertakings as contributors, De los Santos said, the country could be one of the biggest producers of the crop in Asia and this could be achieved if some 500 million more cacao trees are made growing in about 200,000 hectares of land in the next eight years so that by 2024, the country can produce 100,000 tons of cacao beans.

Widely called as the “foods for the gods”, cacao bean is a major agricultural commodity traded worldwide with the reported health benefits of dark chocolate as the main driver in current market growth.

Studies say chocolate and cocoa derive their health benefits from flavonoids which are plant pigments capable of acting as antioxidants to counteract some of the cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Cocoa powder has also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow in humans. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD

PDRP helps Albay develop camote industry into priority enterprise
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) through its Investments in Rural Enterprises and Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity (I-REAP) component is helping Albay develop its sweet potato (camote) industry into a priority rural enterprise.

“We are now having our initial business planning for the crop following our conduct of enterprise identification and prioritization which determined the suitability, market potential, impact on the poor and rural women’s participation in the province,” Albay I-REAP head Rafael Nicoleta on Thursday said in this provincial capital.

The process, he said, enables proponents to come up with proposals that are responsive to the value chain analysis (VCA) findings and aligned with the proposed interventions identified in the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP), a three-year strategic plan based on the value chain analysis of commodities.

Nicoleta describes PCIP as a rolling plan that rationalizes the interventions within the various segments of the commodity value chain and will be the basis in selecting eligible interventions and sub-projects for PRDP funding.

It also emphasizes on climate-smart agriculture as a way to achieve short- and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities.

“Through enterprise prioritization, meanwhile, we are able to have proper direction for the establishment of the business enterprise. Kumbaga, hindi bara-bara (In other words, it is not done in an aimless manner),” Nicoleta said.

The Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO), according to its officer-in-charge Cheryl Rebeta, has identified in its PCIP, submitted recently for assistance to PDRP, the development of camote into an industry that would help local farmers earn more and even put up self-run agricultural enterprises for additional profit.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded program being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund -- consisting of Php20.553 billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units (LGUs) and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

In six years (2013-2019), the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20 percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services.

With PRDP, Rebeta said, the PAO is moving up to value adding in the province’s engagement with climate smart agriculture by giving more attention to the production of sweet potato even as Albay is already contributing at least 7.17 percent to the country’s production of the crop.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) show that the province, with its 1,675 hectares of effective area for sweet potato production, produces an average of 40,167 metric tons yearly.

According to Rocelyn De Vera of the PRDP South Luzon Project Support Office (PSO), sweet potato is a unique commodity because unlike other plants, it is less prone to diseases, drought-resistant and grows with minimal use of fertilizer.

Nonetheless, she said, Albay farmers must learn to explore other products from the crop and take the industry to the next level with the help of other stakeholders, including government agencies, to support its value chain in the province.

There are also recommendations that include the revitalization and strengthening existing nurseries, constructing warehouse near island port, providing access or linkage to funding agencies, intensifying Farmer Business School (FBS) and training on good agricultural practices, De Vera said.

Provision of farm, processing, and packaging equipment as well as construction and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads, ports, and bridges were also proposed in addition to a call for an updated research and development agenda on sweet potato and market study involving new products.

This project, when approved for funding by PDRP, Rebeta said, will certainly benefit more farmers in Albay, especially that its household population of 255,672, representing a total of over 1.2 million individuals as per official survey in 2010, has over 100,000 families that rely mainly on farming for their livelihood as recorded by the BAS.

These farming families are well within the 36.1-percent poverty incidence of the province as determined by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on its 2012 survey.

The sweet potato (Pomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.

Its young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens and contrary to old misconceptions that it is a “poor man’s food,” sweet potato has now gained popularity among health conscious individuals from all walks of life because of its health benefits.

According to Organic Facts, a team of food and nutrition enthusiasts that aim to spread awareness and information about organic food and healthy lifestyle, sweet potato is rich in beta carotene, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

It has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, effective in relieving asthma and arthritis, a good facilitator for digestion, beneficial for curing stomach ulcers as well as cancer of the colon, kidney, intestines and other internal organs and helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels and water balance.

Hence, it is recognized as a very important cash and food crop in the province and all over the country that is highly marketable either as raw or processed.

With these potentials and health benefits, stakeholders of the proposed sweet potato industry in the province are convinced that the sarcastic advice when somebody is turned down from a job or found inefficient in work-- “to go home and plant camote”-- should no longer be taken as offensive but a push to engage in a productive and vibrant industry. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD

Woman survives grenade blast in Camarines Sur

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- A grenade lobed by a motorcycle riding-in-tandem suspects exploded on Wednesday afternoon at the back of a Ford Ranger vehicle parked outside the Pili Sports Complex in Pili, Camarines Sur, a report reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said Thursday.

Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said Myrna Reyes, 36, married, a resident of barangay (village) San Felipe, in Naga City, and the driver of the vehicle, was unhurt when the grenade exploded at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Calubaquib, quoting the police report, said the victim was at the driver’s seat when the grenade exploded, bringing damages at the back of the Ford Ranger car.

Witnesses told police investigators said they saw two unidentified suspects riding a motorcycle threw a hand grenade as they passed at the parked vehicle at the intersection of Berva and Velarde Sts., in Barangay San Juan, in Pili town.

Police are still investigating the motive of the grenade attack. (PNA) FFC/FGS/MSA/CBD

Albay solon belittles Bicol governors' change of support from Mar to Grace
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 28 (PNA) -- The transfer of support of Bicol governors from Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas and vice presidential bet Leni Robedo to the camp of Grace Poe has no effect, if not a little, at all since there are more remaining LP stalwarts in the Bicol Region.

This was the reaction Thursday of Congressman Fernando V. Gonzalez of the 3rd District of Albay to the defection of Bicol governors to Poe's camp.

Earlier, Bicol governors Joey Sarte Salceda of Albay, Edgardo Tallado of Camarines Norte, Migz Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate have reportedly jumped to Poe's ship while Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee has announced his support to Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Gonzalez said Lee's wife, Sally, is Roxas' candidate for mayor of Sorsogon City, while his son, Bobbit Lee Rodrigueza is running for governor under the LP.

In Camarines Norte, he said, the entry of Tallado in Poe's lineup has no effect as he had long been removed from the LP with which he had problems and the province has strong candidates who have full support to Roxas and have been helping the LP standard bearer a lot like the Reyes and Unico families.

Gonzalez admitted that since Salceda has been a good leader in Albay, there could be an effect but in the whole, he said, he and the other LP leaders in Albay can push Roxas and Robredo to victory in the province because they have no strong opponents.

He, for instance, has no strong opponent in the 3rd District of Albay while former congressman Edcel C. Lagman is a sure winner in the 1st District and Mayor Noel E. Rosal of Legazpi City is certain to retain his position.

Gonzalez said they also have the support of the candidates of their party in the cities of Tabaco and Ligao which have big numbers of voters.

If ever some candidates move from the LP to other parties, more strong candidates are transferring to LP from other parties, he said.

The Albay lawmaker said as officials and members of the LP, they are just the local political machinery for those running for national posts.

What is more important, he said, is the influence of the radio and television media through political advertisements which are being seen by voters in the entire country, especially the airing of the debates, which could give wider and stronger influence to the electorate in deciding whom to vote on the May 9 elections. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Anti-climate hazard learning materials for kids ready before class opening — LCCAD
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) – Top-caliber teachers-writers-critics from Albay’s public schools will gather in one workplace on Tuesday for a tedious two-day work to finalize the draft of learning materials on anti-climate hazards for school children that would be ready for use as the next school year opens in June.

The gathering is part of the “K to 12 Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk and Vulnerability Reduction (DRVR): Learning Materials for Philippine Schools” project being carried out by the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) based in this city.

The LCCAD is the national climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk and vulnerability reduction (DRVR) training institution and service provider recognized by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that provides theoretical moorings to multiple stakeholders, including the educational sector and national and local government units (LGUs).

Manuel “Nong” Rangasa, the LCCAD executive director, on Monday told the Philippines News Agency that the coming together of the selected teachers from the four schools divisions of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Albay is for the rewriting, re-editing, fine-tuning and finalization of the draft learning materials prepared last February by a separate set of teacher-writers.

“We are gathering this new set of teachers at the function hall of Sarung Banggi Beach Resort in Sto. Domingo, Albay to work for two days (April 26-27) on the learning materials in preparation for its final production and distribution to all public elementary and secondary schools in Bicol before the opening of school year 2016-2017,” Rangasa said.

The project, a product of the recent interlocking among anti-weather disaster campaigners mostly based in Bicol, is pushing on the production of teaching materials that would incorporate CCA and DRVR in the primary and secondary schools curricula.

Jointly spearheaded by the office of Albay 3rd district congressional Representative Fernando Gonzalez, city government of Legazpi headed by Mayor Noel Rosal and the LCCAD, the move supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has tied up with the DepEd and Climate Change Commission (CCC) in coming up with the learning materials.

Its roll-out activities last until Feb. 21 and assembled under one roof, 78 writer-teachers from the province who developed in a tough three-day live-in technical write-shop explicit learning materials and teaching modules focused on the conceptual framework towards the integration of information related to disasters in the K to 12 basic education program.

A brainchild of Gonzalez, Rangasa said, the project concept was anchored securely on the commonly accepted fact that measures to address climate change and disaster risk impacts started at home, where families and individuals were the basic elements of the day-to-day decision-making process.

According to Gonzalez, educating the youth is a significant element of a new strategy to embed CCA in the educational system.

“Our schools can provide the venue for the adoption and implementation of the integrated global goals for resilience among vulnerable peoples, multiple stakeholders and communities by preparing the populace, both socially and culturally, to meet the unequivocal challenges of climate change and natural disasters,” the congressman stressed.

Gonzalez, who is vice-chair of the Bicol Recovery and Economic Development Committee, explained that the K to 12 conceptual frameworks were anchored on educating the youth, which is a significant element of a new strategy to embed CCA and DRVR in the Philippine educational system.

Rangasa said the goals of CCA and DRVR education were to foster public awareness of and concern about economic, social, political, ecological and cultural interdependence of rural and urban areas as well as create new patterns and norm of behavior of individuals, groups and multiple stakeholders as a whole towards CCA and DRVR.

It also aims to simplify, facilitate and provide individual with opportunities to acquire solid foundation of knowledge, values and skills needed to protect and improve the environment to develop and implement comprehensive risk management strategies and build better for community resiliency, the LCCAD head said.

The implementation of the project is governed by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) EARLIER ENTERED INTO BETWEEN THE LCCAD AND CCC, WHICH OFFICIALLY ASSIGNED THE FORMER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE K TO 12 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS AND THE ROLLOUT OF ITS IMPLEMENTATION UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE LATTER.

IN THE SIGNING OF THE MOA, RANGASA SAID CCC SECRETARY EMMANUEL DE GUZMAN TOOK NOTE OF THE LCCAD’S K TO 12 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORKS THAT CALL FOR THE INTEGRATION OF INFORMATION FROM THREE INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS RELATED TO DISASTERS CRAFTED IN 2015 THAT REFLECT THE GROWING AWARENESS ABOUT THE NEED FOR MORE RESILIENT COMMUNITIES AND ECONOMIES.

RANGASA SAID DE GUZMAN WAS REFERRING TO THE PARIS AGREEMENT OF THE UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE, THE SENDAI FRAMEWORK ON DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, AS ENSHRINED IN THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. (PNA)
RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD

Poor CamSur town gets PHP13-M shelter aid from DSWD
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD) has awarded the poor town of Balatan in Camarines Sur an amount of PHP13.3 million for the construction of housing units that will serve as new homes for local families rendered homeless by past typhoons.

Balatan, which is occupied by nearly 30,000 people -- mostly farmers and fishermen, is a fourth class town located along the coastline of Burias Pass, a vast inland sea that separates Masbate’s Burias Island from the Bicol mainland.

The PHP13.3-million grant is for the construction of 190 core shelter units that are environmental-friendly and structurally strong to withstand super typhoons with up to 220-kilometer-per-hour velocity; earthquakes with strength up to Intensity 4; and other natural hazards, DSWD Bicol Regional Director Arnel Garcia based here on Monday said.

The same number of families -- whose old houses in the barangays of Coquit, Duran, Siramag and Luluwasan were totally destroyed by typhoons "Glenda" and "Ruby" -- will benefit from the bounty given by the DSWD under its Core Shelter Assistance Project (CSAP), said Garcia. who recently turned over the check representing the amount to Balatan Mayor Alfredo Bagasbas.

Typhoon Glenda (international name Rammasun), which hit some parts of the country -- including Bicol -- in July 2014, was a Category 5 super typhoon while Ruby (international name Hagupit), which came in December of the same year, was considered one of the worst disasters suffered by the country.

The CSAP is a project that provides typhoon-resistant shelter units to families displaced by typhoons or other form of natural disasters and too poor to reconstruct their homes.

The project is also for families living in areas that are vulnerable to the same form of disasters and needing permanent relocation.

At the same time, the project is aimed at reducing the number of homeless families and providing them structurally strong shelter while developing and promoting at the same time the value of self-reliance among the beneficiaries and their communities.

The implementation of the project involves mobilization of people’s organization, particularly the neighborhood association for shelter assistance (NASA), the local government units (LGUs) and the sourcing of needed materials and other requirements that will contribute to a more effective project implementation.

The CSAP fosters "bayanihan" spirit wherein all family-beneficiaries are united in actively working for the benefit of everyone in their community and whenever they have problems in the family and community, they talk it out and consult the NASA officers to help settle issues, Garcia said.

Since these new homes will be absolutely owned by the beneficiaries, each of the prospective beneficiaries is enjoined to help in the construction works by applying the spirit of “bayanihan”.

“They are moved into extending help to each other toward the proper completion of their new houses and let the project that is forming a new community for them start a lasting unity among themselves,” he said.

The social welfare regional chief explained that each core housing unit assigned to the 190 Balatan families to be constructed by the LGU under the supervision of its Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office MSWDO) will cost PHP70,000.

The local government has acquired a two-hectare lot in Barangay Coquit for the project which would serve as a safer new community for these homeless families.

Apart from the Php13.3 million, the DSWD also released to the Balatan municipal government an additional amount of PHP370,000 which will be given to the housing beneficiaries as food for work support while they render labor in the construction works, according to Garcia.

Each family will receive an amount of PHP1,950 for their labor.

The Camarines Sur provincial government, Garcia said, has also committed to provide a share in the project by shouldering the houses’ inside features such as partitions as well as the painting.

Garcia said the constructions of the 190 core housing units are set to be completed in five months and will be turned over for occupancy to assigned recipients in October, this year.

These housing units, he said, will provide the beneficiaries not just roofs above their heads but the comfort of a decent dwelling point and relief that even during a “super typhoon,” they are in a safe place.

This is not the first time that the CSAP made its presence in Camarines Sur as, Garcia said, in January last year, 200 families in 12 rural barangays of Tinambac town were awarded the same structures worth a total of Php40 million.

In July of the same year, 97 indigent families in eight barangays of San Jose town got their new disaster-proof homes from the same project in a relocation site away from their old abodes along flood and landslide-prone areas while earlier, 178 indigent families in three Goa town barangays got the same housing assistance.

Garcia said the CSAP is not only true in Camarines Sur insofar as Bicol is concerned, as in Sorsogon, 382 housing units were awarded last year in the municipalities of Prieto Diaz and Irosin that are both disaster-prone -- the former being a coastal locality along the Pacific Ocean and the latter sitting near the foot of Mt. Bulusan, an active volcano.

All houses under the CSAP are in permanent relocation sites provided by the municipal government and certified by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a safer place based on its hazard mapping, he added. (PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD

Albayanos remember fallen heroes

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay (PGA) on Saturday led Albayanos in paying homage to three distinguished local heroes who died during the Philippine Revolution.

The celebration with the theme ‘Ambagan para sa Kapayapaan’ was marked with a wreath laying ceremony for the Albay Heroes of National Liberation.

Remembered and honored during the activity were General Simeon A. Ola, General Ignacio Paua and Camilo Soledad Jacob.

The PGA also gave honor to the Team Albay for showing a heroic deed by being an instrument through timely humanitarian services during the Team Albay Countryside Development Caravan (TACDEC) throughout different municipalities.

"Marami pang ibang bayaning Albayano na nangarap, nanindigan at nakibaka para sa kalayaan ng bansa. Marami ang mga nabulid sa karimlan ng kasaysayan nang hindi nakilala kung sino. Wala silang bantayog, walang tanda ang naging libingan. Ang kanilang bantayog ay nasa isip na lamang ng kanilang mga inulila (There are other Albayanos who dreamed, stood firm and fought for the freedom of the country. More fell in the darkness of history without getting recognized. They don't have statues, no markers on their graves. Their statues are embedded only in the minds of people they left behind)," Governor Joey Salceda said.

The weekend event started with a parade at the Vel-Amor Subdivision here with a lively street dance presentation led by the Magayon Dance Troupe and ended at the Penaranda Park for the program proper.

It was participated by students and personnel from the Department of Agrarian Reform, Philippine National Police, Philippine Navy, Bureau of Fire Protection, Special Weapons and Tactics team, Philippine Air Force, Philippine Coastguard, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Team Albay Youth Organizations, provincial officials and employees and civil society organizations.

It also featured regents from BFP for disaster response. (PNA) PGL/FGS/ANNE SUZETTE TORRES-OJT/CBD

Legazpi City celebrates Earth Day with coastal clean-up, other activities
By Anne Suzette Torres

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- The Provincial Government of Albay, in partnership with Team Albay Youth Organizations (TAYO), held a whole-day celebration of the Earth Day on Saturday with the theme "Promoting Sustainable Behavior through Environmental Messaging".

The activities involved a coastal clean-up as the first event which started at 6 a.m. in Barangay Puro, Legazpi City and participated in by youth volunteers and the pioneer youth ambassadors and ambassadresses.

In the afternoon, there was a mural painting at the Governor's Mansion, joined by by young artists and volunteers.

"It is an instant advocate and an interaction. It is also a great way to celebrate with purpose. The mural wants to inform the youth how science contributes a lot in climate change," said A. G. Sano, a DAKILA artist.

A mini concert of different local Albayano artists capped the day's event at the Penaranda Park. (PNA) LAP/FGS/ANNE SUZETTE TORRES-OJT/CBD

Smart gives Bicol subscribers 3 simple tips to protect passwords
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- As a consequence of the cyber theft of the voters’ records from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) database, PLDT and Smart Communications are encouraging their subscribers in the Bicol Region and elsewhere to take precautions to protect their online privacy and security.

Based on published reports, the data breach disclosed voters’ personal information such as their names, birth dates, home and email addresses, the full names of their parents and in some cases passport details.

As result, authorities have expressed fear that these information can be used in identity theft and other fraudulent activities.

To give their subscribers peace of mind, PLDT and Smart issued some simple, practical tips for proper management of one's online password.

For one, the sister communications companies advised their subscribers to update their passwords and make it a habit to change passwords regularly for all their online accounts – email, social (like Facebook and Twitter), and online banking accounts, among others.

The two firms also suggested that their subscribers make their passwords strong through a mix of letters and numbers, of capital and lowercase letters, and with symbols like “&” or “@”.

Best to use passwords with at least six letters, numbers and symbols, the two firms added.

Lastly, PLDT and Smart cautioned on using predictable words like birthdays (yours, your spouses or children, etc.) or common number or alphabet patterns like “123456” or “abcdef”, or predictable words like “password”.

PLDT and Smart said they are stepping up measures to strengthen their subscribers online security and will periodically share information that can help subscribers protect themselves.

When managing information regarding PLDT and Smart accounts, the subscribers are advised to use only their official channels.

For PLDT, these are: the official websites pldt.com, and pldthome.com and its official social media accounts on Facebook are facebook.com/PLDTpublicaffairs, facebook.com/PLDTHome, and facebook.com/SMENation, and on Twitter, @PLDTHome, @PLDT_Cares, and @PLDTMedia. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Last presidential debate goes to Roxas, say Bicolanos
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- Many in the Bicol region chose Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas as the one who shone in Sunday's presidential debate held in Pangasinan in the northern Philippines.

The debate focused on the platforms of the different presidentiables not on their personal issues and they were more serious in convincing people to vote wisely, said Shiena M. Barrameda of Naga City, adding, "Presidential promises sounded so nice. If only expectations become a reality."

Among the presidential candidates, only Roxas and Jejomar Binay manifested years of experience and knowledge of the nitty-gritty of politics and governance, Barrameda said.

The rest, she said, seemingly saw governance as a band-aid solution -- Rodrigo Duterte was messianic, and Grace Poe was fond of motherhood statements.

Ken Tabuena, a grade 9 student of Catanduanes National High School, said: "Mar Roxas is my president, I may not be able to vote yet but being the future leader of tomorrow, I believe that Mar Roxas is the best choice. I listened very carefully to them, He was prepared, emphasized platforms, plans and executed his job perfectly. He got the people's sympathy and with his outstanding wits and knowledge of his profession, it seems that his plans for PhilHealth, 4Ps and many others are practical and beneficial".

Other presidentiables may have some experiences but Roxas has a triumphant card and has clean background, Tabuena added.

"Go, Mar Roxas!, I believe in him, no matter what the survey says. I will devote my time in campaigning for him!" said Jiorgia Jan Tuazon, a civil engineering student.

Avvy Cristabelle Alba, a lawyer, said: "Yes, we all want change, and we want a leader who can make a difference. But come to think of it, we all have what it takes to make a difference in this country. Lack of jobs? Go, be an entrepreneur and give jobs to other Filipinos. Fight and curb corruption? Have integrity and strong sense of self-respect. Problems on healthcare? Volunteer on information dissemination. Show support for other causes. Yes, we cannot address all the concerns of the country, but each of us can do something about it. Stop the blame game and start doing something. I am still undecided but I am sure, I will support the next president. Goodnight, Philippines!"

Lynbee Niebla, however, found the debate boring.

"It was boring, as I had expected, but at least we have come a long way from those days when campaigns are all about songs and dances and other 'paandar'," Niebla said.

Liza Traballo Bonafe, a teacher and a mother, said, "For me, they are all the same. All they want is to make our country a better place to live in but it's too hard to believe in their promises. We, Filipinos, must be more vigilant in this coming election. We must vote wisely according to what our conscience... not because he is popular, he is rich nor she is a mother but has concrete plans for our nation."

Christopher Dy-Liacco Flores -- former mayor, businessman and a father -- assessed each candidate.

He said Binay's experience in governance is his strongest point, policy response is on track and accurate but the corruption issue hounds him without letup -- this is his Achilles' heel.

Poe finally found the "puso" in her, especially on the issue of permanent jobs, Flores said, adding "her recitation and memorization are less apparent tonight but her rehearsed fix and boxed answers are still quite evident."The Albay businessman said Roxas was quite a revelation in the debate with factual and well-studied answers.

Numbers and policy cohesion are very evident. Superiority in policy response is apparent. But the unspoken question is: How come these programs were not implemented?" Flores said.

He noted that it was not the best performance of Duterte in the debate series but he disarmed the people and connected on gut issues.

"The gentlemanly conduct (of Duterte) towards Miriam and Grace are nice counterpoint to his recent controversial statements," Flores noted.

On Santiago, the former Guinobatan town mayor said, "Her brilliance overflows but she falters and has long pauses. Her health problems come to the fore. I miss the old Miriam -- her witty repartees, especially."

He said Roxas won Round 3 while Poe poured out her heart and Duterte connected with the people despite his obvious limitations.

"Duterte lost the debate to Roxas but won the people. One can lose the debate but win the election. Perception is everything in politics," Flores said.(PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Lagman brands charge of alleged fund misuse as malicious, baseless
By Floreno G. Solmirano

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) -– Former Rep. Edcel C. Lagman has branded the complaint against him and his daughter, former Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro, for alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007-2009 as inordinately belated, malicious, partisan and baseless.

Earlier on Friday, Hernando Bruce and Roberto Barcela charged Lagman and his daughter with graft and malversation of public funds before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam.

Burce and Barcela alleged that Lagman misused Php129.7 million of his PDAF or pork barrel for various projects of Lagman-Luistro in Tabaco City.

They cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report on Lagman's PDAF from 2007 to 2009 that alleged, among others, that he diverted Php86 million of his PDAF for areas outside his legislative district.

They also alleged that Lagman funded the construction of private properties in Quezon City worth Php18.56 million, including the repair of a clubhouse in a private subdivision.

Lagman said on Sunday he is presently running for representative in the First District of Albay while Lagman-Luistro is an aspirant for mayor in Tabaco City.

He said the alleged special COA report referred to by the complainants is tentative and lacks sufficient basis.

Lagman said he was never previously informed of any investigation on this matter by COA and he was not notified to submit controverting evidence.

“The accusation that I had misused my PDAF is utterly false and malevolent,” he said.

The veteran lawmaker said the erstwhile Php70-million annual PDAF per congressional district was inelastic and cannot be exceeded in any given year.

“Consequently, the huge total amount which I had allegedly misused is much more than my PDAF allocations,” Lagman said.

He said he had allocated his entire yearly PDAF to programs and projects solely for the First District of Albay.

“Not a single centavo of my PDAF was used to fund projects outside of my district -- definitely not for Quezon City, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija,” the well-known human rights and labor lawyer said.

He said the reported projects elsewhere were funded from his leadership fund which was traditionally allocated to ranking leaders of the House of Representatives like the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers, the Majority and Minority Leaders and the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, which position he held during the first half of the 14th Congress (2007-2008).

The leadership fund is a nationwide allocation to allow leaders of the House of Representatives to respond to requests outside of their respective districts.

It is legitimate and appropriated in the previous annual General Appropriations Acts, Lagman said.

“The projects outside of my district were thoroughly validated and fully implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways which would never allow construction in private properties. They were accurately covered by Special Allotment Release Orders, indicating the source of funds as released by the Department of Budget and Management,” Lagman said.

The consistently chosen outstanding congressman every year during his term in Congress said the scholarship fund under his district’s PDAF was awarded to applicants who: (a) had passed qualifying examinations; (b) were enrolled in accredited schools, colleges and universities; and (c) submitted their semestral grades.

Moreover, he said, certificates of enrollment issued by the scholars’ school, college or university formed part of the attachments submitted and the corresponding checks were made in the name of the scholar and/or they signed receipts corresponding to the amount of their scholarship.

“The grant of small loans to cooperatives and associations were transparent and overboard. They are covered by requisite documents, including memoranda of agreement between the recipient and the LGU concerned where the amounts covering the loans were downloaded,” said the author of Republic Act No. 9502, or the “Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008.”

Lagman said the loan to San Carlos Agro-Industrial Multi-Purpose Cooperative is only Php500,000, not Php1,500,000.

He explained that the salutary purpose of the loan was to assist the members of the recipient cooperative to acquire or access post-harvest facilities.

Meanwhile, the former vice chair of the special committee on Bicol Growth Area said the loan to the Bacolod-Tayhi PNR Homeowners Association Inc. in the amount of Php134,000 is almost fully paid.

The purpose of this loan was to help the informal settlers with one-percent equity payable to the Philippine National Railways for the amortization of the abandoned PNR property they were occupying.

Both recipients are existing and legitimate organizations, unlike the fake NGOs in the Php10-billion Napoles scam where, Lagman said, he has never been implicated. (PNA) SCS/FGS/CBD/SSC

Donsol readies for Butanding Festival in May
By Danny O. Calleja

DONSOL, Sorsogon, April 24 (PNA) -- The local government here on Sunday said preparations for its Butanding (whale shark) Festival are in full swing.

“From April, the usual start of the peak of the butanding season, we have moved the festival to May so that it coincides with our traditional celebration for the town fiesta in honor of our patron, St. Joseph the Worker, that starts on the 18th of the month,” Mayor Josephine Alcantara-Cruz said.

She said the first reason behind the change in schedule is for Donsolanons living somewhere else outside the municipality, particularly in Metro Manila and abroad who come home only for the fiesta, to be able to witness and enjoy. too, the festival which serves as an occasion of thanksgiving for the economic blessings that the presence of whale sharks gives to the locality.

Besides, the mayor said, this year’s season for whale shark tourism in the municipality has started irregularly in January, instead of the usual period that in the past years would come in the months of November through June.

During this period in the past since the official discovery of the marine mammals in the local waters way back 1998, schools of these marine mammals usually arrive from nowhere of the ocean and stay near the mouth of the Donsol River to take advantage of the continuous abundance of plankton that fill their diet, to mate and even breed.

Since then, this third class municipality has been known as the Whale Shark Capital of the World and achieved tremendous local tourism industry gains.

Barely 18 years ago, Donsol, which sits 540 kilometers southeast of Manila, was described as a sleepy rural community where weathered public utility vehicles spurred swirling clouds on dusty, unpaved roads.

Over years following its discovery as seasonal sanctuary of whale sharks, it captured international attention with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Philippines spearheading a holistic conservation program which ranges from satellite butanding tagging and photo-identification, to the effective management of tourism impacts.

Since then, the national government has poured in funds to improve the 29-kilometer main road linking the area to the Maharlika Highway and road networks within and outside the municipality to make them more accessible to land trips.

The biggest among these road improvement projects being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) are the ongoing Php769.2-million Donsol-Pioduran and the Php700-million Donsol-Jovellar-Guinobatan roads that have opened new convenient and shorter routes between the municipality and the southeastern sections of Albay.

The road connection between Donsol and Pioduran would also allow tourists to move around ecotourism sites along the coastline of Ticao Pass and jump through the Pioduran port to Burias, Masbate, a quaint island that offers unexplored ancient landmarks and pristine beaches away from the hassles of urban life.

The Donsol-Jovellar-Guinobatan road, whose 25-kilometer section between the first two municipalities is now almost done, on the other hand, makes travel shorter for tourists who after here are now raring to make journeys down the newly-known ecotourism wonders of Jovellar—Albay’s town of exciting rivers, astounding caves, magnificent falls and exotic underground rivers.

It also leads tourists to areas covered by the third district of Albay where Mt. Mayon’s southwestern quadrant could be closely viewed as well as Ligao City, the site of the alluring Kawa-Kawa Hill and Nature Park.

Whale sharks are species of giant sea mammals scientifically called Rhincodon typus.

They are slow-moving filter-feeding sharks and the largest extant fish species, reaching as big as 13 meters in body length and weighing more than 21 metric tons, and are migratory in nature but some of them have adopted the waters here as residence.

Friendly to human beings, these creatures swim from surface to mid-water and with their size, they are hard to miss.

Usually, Cruz said, this resident group composed of around eight fully matured butandings would stay behind after the feeding season and continue entertaining tourists and visitors until September then disappear from public view and stay not farther than the nearby Manta Bowl to wait for their next season.

The Manta Bowl is a deep portion of Ticao Pass that is sanctuary of manta rays, an equally-protected marine wildlife species.

Study says that the largest annual congregation of the whale sharks is in the coastal waters of this municipality where they migrate in vast number to take advantage of the dense food concentration of plankton and krill which is brought about by the current patterns, water temperature and the general health of the sea.

Starting 2012 down to 2013 and until the early months of 2014, however, no whale shark arrived, idling the tourism industry of the municipality that in the past years would be visited by an average of 25,000 tourists yearly.

During these periods of absence, the butandings stayed away from the high temperature of the Donsol waters and lack of food due to intense heat of summer, Cruz explained.

"Now that they are back, we are inviting all butanding and fun-lovers to come and join the biggest festival ever for the biggest sea mammal in the world and let your imagination run big and wild with the launch of extra-large activities for this year’s extraordinary festival that guarantees super-sized fun, adventure and memories,” she said.

It will feature a bigger regatta, fluvial parade with boats carrying colorful banners and giant images of the butanding along the Donsol River, a street parade of life-size images of the butandings on floats accompanied by barangay delegations, brass bands, drum and bugle corps, and festival street-dancing contingent winners from other Bicol provinces.

The town fiesta, on the other hand, will be composed of Eucharistic celebrations, mass christening of babies, food gatherings featuring sumptuous local cuisines and religious processions, the mayor added. (PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD

Bicol governors will support Poe --Salceda

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) -- Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said on Sunday Senator Grace Poe, Gobyernong may Puso (GP) presidential standard-bearer, has the support of the four Bicol mainland governors and a gubernatorial candidate in Catanduanes.

In a text message, Salceda said, “All Bicol mainland governors are now for Grace Poe.”

He said Governors Edgar Tallado of Camarines Norte, Migz Villafuerte of Camarines Sur and Raul Lee of Sorsogon have already expressed their support to Poe’s candidacy; while Catanduanes Vice Governor Bong Teves, who is running for the gubernatorial post, also has signified his support for Poe.

Salceda said he is still trying to negotiate with Masbate Gov. Vince Revil to support Poe.

He said the Bicol governors will meet on Monday in Daet, Camarines Norte to finalize their commitment of support to Poe.

Salceda bolted the Liberal Party (LP) and dumped presidential aspirant Mar Roxas for Poe on Friday.

“I am Governor Salceda and my president is Grace Poe,” he said, ending all wild rumors and speculations that he was about to jump ship and dump Roxas.

Salceda said in an emailed statement that he supports Poe because “she shares our values of authentic humanism, shares our goals of countryside development and national competitiveness and certainly her compassion will ensure that the impact will be shared by all.”

He said he believes that Poe would be the best leader of the country that would be a driving force that would bring prosperity to the countryside.

Meanwhile, the LP stalwarts in Albay said in a joint statement that they are not a bit troubled by the recent turnaround of Salceda, an LP provincial chairman, by dumping Roxas and expressing support for Poe.

Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzalez said in a phone interview that the LP in Albay stands solidly behind Roxas, adding that the party machinery in Albay will ensure that the administration candidates will win in the May 9 presidential elections.

Gonzalez said the LP members in Albay issued on Saturday a signed joint statement expressing their full and unquestionable support for Roxas.

The joint statement was signed by Gonzalez, former Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, who is running in place of his son Congressman Grex Lagman, the three city mayors -- Noel Rosal of Legazpi, Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua of Ligao and former representative and former Tabaco City mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro.

“Governor Joey Salceda’s decision is his own. The LP of the 1st district and 3rd district -- including the cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco -- stand solidly behind Mar Roxas who will have an overwhelming support in Albay,” the statement said.

"No one was surprised when Salceda bolted the LP and transferred his support to Poe as everybody expected him to somersault as usual," Lagman said in a separate emailed statement.

"He did this in 2010 against Lakas presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro and in 1998 against LAMMP vice presidential candidate Edgardo Angara before whom he took his oath of affiliation as a member of LAMMP," the veteran lawmaker from Albay’s first district said.

“Since we expected Salceda to abandon ship even without a crisis, the Liberal Party in Albay is ready to sail the Mar-Leni vessel victoriously ashore,” the known human rights and labor lawyer said.

The latest political defection of Salceda was premeditated since the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs), Lagman said.

He said Salceda fielded candidates in Albay under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) against LP bets in anticipation that the NPC would support Poe.

“In the First District of Albay, he put up an NPC congressional candidate against me, and in the municipalities of Bacacay and Tiwi, he fielded NPC candidates against the local LP aspirants. In Sto. Domingo, he enveigled the incumbent LP mayor to run under the NPC banner,” Lagman said.

"Salceda cannot cleanse himself of his chameleon brand of politics as he persists in his turncoat recidivism," he added.

Lagman's son, Albay Rep. Grex Lagman (LP, 1st District) said in a text message, “Salceda is a political turncoat. What else is new? He did a 180-degree turnaround in 2010 when he junked partymate Gibo Teodoro for PNoy.”

He said he was telling his partymates at LP as early as October last year that he would also eventually junk Mar Roxas, saying Salceda is a recidivist and most partymates at LP are not surprised.

The young Lagman said, “We can do better without Salceda.”

Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal said “with 50 percent of the voters from Albay’s 2nd district coming from this city, the party stands solidly behind Mar and he will win overwhelmingly in this city.” (PNA) SCS/FGS/MSA/CBD/PJN

Garin admits PhilHealth standby fund low

LEGAZPI CITY, April 23 (PNA) -- Health Secretary Janette Garin has admitted that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) reserve fund has depleted due to fraudulent claims and huge amounts of collectibles pending with the Department of Budget and Management.

Garin, however, said the problem was being addressed and corrective financial measures had been instituted.

In an interview Thursday, she said the social health insurance provider was checking it closely and apprehending and filing cases against persons and hospitals with questionable or fraudulent claims which, according to her, indeed affect the reserve fund of PhilHealth.

When asked if the DBM should also be blamed for the delay in replenishing the billions of funds paid to hospitals' claims for millions of seniors citizens, she said the agency was overhauling the master list of bonafide members -- including the names of senior citizens enrolled with PhilHealth.

PhilHealth records indicate that there are 6 million senior citizens across the country that are enrolled as lifetime insurance beneficiaries.

“It is partially true that there was a delay in the replenishment of funds by the DBM, but the problem was the agency could not present to the DBM as a requirement the list of names of senior citizens that benefited to program,” Garin said.

She said the data base problem have been the situation six months ago.

“This was the problem when I assumed office,” she added.

Earlier, Dr. Eddie Dorotan, PhilHealth Board member, said the agency reserve fund this year would only be good for ten months due to billions spent to cover claims for millions of senior citizens and the delay by the DBM to replenish billions of funds used to pay hospital claims.

Dorotan said it lost Php1 billion last year after it spent Php97 billion for payment claims while it only received Php96 billion in contributions.

To prevent the financial strain in its reserve, the PhilHealth has to maintain a two-year reserve funds of at least Php100 billion which when used should be immediately reimbursed by the DBM.

The deficit was attributed to the Php10 billion spent to cover claims for millions of senior citizens, he said.

In Bicol, PhilHealth has spent Php3.5 billions for claims while it only earned Php980 million in collection.

As this developed, Garin turned over hundreds of medical equipment under the Department of Health (DOH) “TseKap” program to various Rural Health Units-Barangay Health Stations (RHU/BHS) in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes.

In Albay, Garin was assisted by Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and City Mayor Noel Rosal in turning over Php3.8 million worth of medical equipment to 207 RHU/BHS in a ceremony at the Divine Word College Gymnasium on Thursday.

The medical equipment is composed of two non-contact thermometers, stethoscope, digital BP apparatus, glucometer set, two nebulizers and wound dressing set.

DOH data reveal that the agency is spending some Php700 million for the purchase of TseKap medical equipment for distribution nationwide.

On the dengue vaccination program, Garin said, it has covered 200,000 grade 4 elementary public school pupils in the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

Another 50,000 pupils enrolled in private schools.

She said the DOH would also include Central Visayas in the program due to the rising dengue cases there.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MSA/CBD/PJN

Monday, April 18, 2016

Salceda to try bringing 2019 SEA Games in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, April 17 (PNA) -- After successfully playing host to the Palarong Pambansa 2016, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said on Sunday he plans to bid for the hosting by Albay of the Southeast Asian Games 2019, the second biggest sports event in the world.

Salceda said with the new and modern facilities used in the Palarong Pambansa, Albay is very much ready for a bigger sports event.

The facilities were constructed in a span of five months by Verzontal Builders Inc. under the close supervision of the Provincial Engineering Office.

"We only need a few more additional facilities to be able to have better hosting of a bigger sports activity, like facilities for indoor games and additional air-conditioning units for the existing facilities," Salceda said.

The governor said he and Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro have already talked about this and they both believe that some events of the SEA Games can be held in the province so not all would be concentrated in Metro Manila and that Manila-Albay could be co-hosts.

Aside from access facilities, he said, one of the assets of Albay in bidding is being expert in establishing and running joint operation and incident commands in more orderly and systematic manner.

In terms of accommodation, Salceda said Albay has been used to handling and taking care of a number of guests because the Albayanos have learned to face all situations in times of calamity like strong typhoons and Mayon volcano eruptions wherein not less than 50,000 individuals are being taken care of for a span of 120 days.

In terms of security, he said, all Albay needs to know is to replicate the security plan done during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the country.

The Albay chief executive said that under the "Gintong Albay Program," which was patterned after that of Michael Keon, the province will focus on three events where the Albayanos excel, from athletics wherein they become the champion in Palarong Bicol in three years -- 2011, 2012 and 2013 -- to swimming and cycling where height is not needed to win.

He said he will do this and pursue this even if he will no longer be at the provincial capitol and instead be in Congress.

All that are needed, he said, are determination, resources and early training of athletes with more incentives like what the province is now doing -- Php5,000 cash incentive for gold medalist, Php4,000 for silver and Php3,000 for bronze.

In the Bicol Region, only Albay has been practicing the incentive system, Salceda said.

Meanwhile, for the maintenance of the sports facilities, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan committee on budget and appropriations headed by Board Member Ralph Andes passed an ordinance allotting Php5 million so these would be continuously taken care of. (PNA) SCS/FGS/JH/CBD/PJN

Saturday, April 16, 2016

DepEd allots Php600,000 cash incentives for PWD athletes

LEGAZPI CITY, April 16 (PNA) -- For the first time, the Department of Education (DepEd) has allocated cash incentives for special student athletes playing for Para Games or games for persons with disabilities (PWDs), DepEd deputy secretary general Cesar S. Abalon said Saturday.

“This is the first time that DepEd is giving cash incentives to student athletes belonging to SPED or PWDs. It will be giving similar cash incentives to winning regular student athletes,” Abalon said.

The cash incentives to be given by the education agency are Php3,000 for gold, Php2,000 for silver and Php1,000 for bronze.

Out of 18,000 delegates from 18 regions, 684 are PWDs.

Abalon said that 10 years after the inception of Para Games in the Palarong Pambansa, more games for PWD-participants will be included in the annual Palarong Pambansa following strong clamor from stakeholders and as provided under Republic Act No. 10588 entitled "An Act Institutionalizing the Conduct of the Palarong Pambansa and Appropriating Funds Therefor", otherwise known as the “Palarong Pambansa Act”.

The law aims at institutionalizing the Palarong Pambansa as the premier national sporting event of the country under the DepEd as a venue for talent identification, selection and recruitment of student athletes.

It also seeks to improve the DepEd’s national school sports program and give more prestige to the annual sports event by encouraging better participation of schools through incentives and rewards.

The law also provides that appropriate sports events shall be organized for students with disability.

The enacted law also encourages local government units (LGUs) to take a proactive role in the promotion of the Palarong Pambansa locally and nationally by providing incentives and rewards.

Abalon said the enacted law encourages and promotes the participation of PWDs in mainstream sporting activities at all levels and ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to play, recreation, leisure and sporting activities.(PNA) PGL/FGS/RBB/CBD/PJN

UAAP, NCCA talent scouts brand Albay's hosting of Palarong Pambansa 2016 as 'best ever'
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 15 (PNA) -- Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda posted in his Facebook account that University Athletic Association of the Philippines and National College Athletic Association talent scouts had told him that Albay's hosting of Palarong Pambansa 2016 is the best ever for them, for the athletes and for the spectators.

As Palarong Pambansa continues to its Day 4, most indoor venues are air-conditioned and well-maintained, especially those in Catholic schools and Bicol College.

Outdoor venues and billeting sites are not far as compared to all previous Palaro sites, the talent scouts said.

"We have 38 venues and 24 billeting, all separately and conglomerately vibrant, with the BU Albay Sports and Tourism Complex as the biggest. All are heavily clustered inside the Metropolitan Circuited, Networked and Connected Legazpi and Daraga with spokes into Camalig-Guinobatan to the south and Sto. Domingo-Bacacay to the northeast -- still within 15 minutes despite the heightened traffic," Salceda said.

The 2,527 Philippine National Police personnel deployed are on the job and 1,217 emergency responders are ready and quick to respond but the heat index of up to 41 degrees centigrade is putting tremendous pressure -- not just on the participants but on the crowds, which are so much bigger than expected.

The crowd watching the football match between Bicol and Caraga was so huge even at 8 p.m. - 10 p.m. that the spillovers had to be cleared first before the officials allowed the match to start.

The swelling crowds should have been mitigated by the fact that this is the first live-streamed coverage by so many media networks and covered by national TV network (ABS-CBN) for the first time in 40 years.

Cedric Daep, Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) head, is personally handling the transport of collected garbage from venues to material recovery facilities.

"A few issues are mostly on account of overwhelming or even preponderant attendance, especially at the main central venue -- which begins very early at 4 a.m. and ends very late at 11 p.m., giving our sweepers awkward and limited window for total cleanup," Salceda said. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NCR doubles gold medals to 40 on Palaro Day 4
By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo

LEGAZPI CITY, April 14 (PNA) -- The National Capital Region (NCR) still leads the 18 delegations competing in the Palarong Pambansa 2016 being held now at the Albay Sports and Tourism Complex inside the Bicol University here.

From 21 gold medals as of Tuesday night, the NCR had plucked 40 golds as of Wednesday night count, with 23 bronze and 19 silver medals won in various games.

Region IV-A dislodged Region VI from the second place by posting 20 gold, 14 bronze and 18 silver medals.

Region VI slid to third with 18 - 13 – 14; while Region X inched up to fourth from fifth with its 10 - 12 – 17 score, exchanging places with Region VII which had 10 – 10 - 12.

The newly created region, the NIRAA, went up from ninth to sixth with 9 - 12 – 12.

Also exchanging rankings were Region XII, 9 - 6 – 10, and CARAA, 7 - 11 – 8.

CARAA used to be seventh with 7 - 9 - 5; and Region XII, eighth, with 6 - 4 - 9,.

Maintaining its ninth position is Region III, hauling in 5 - 4 – 10.

Others that had gold medals as of Wednesday night were ARMM, 3 - 3 – 4; Region XI, 2 - 11 – 5; Bicol, 2 - 6 – 6; Region II, 2 - 3 – 3; Region IV B, 2 - 1 – 5 and Region VIII, 1 - 1 – 3.

Those that have not yet garnered any gold medal are Region I, 0 - 6 – 6; Region IX, 0 - 3 – 3; and CARAGA, 0 - 2 – 2.

The overall combined harvests of the competing regions are 140 gold, 140 bronze and 157 silver medals.

The Department of Education has placed at stake 485 gold, silver and bronze medals for the winners in the elementary level and 610 medals for the secondary.

Palarong Pambansa Secretary General Cesar Abalon earlier said he expected a tighter competition among the regions due to the new program of preparations the DepEd has made like in the case of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), which had previously not entered the Top Ten but landed in the Top 4 in the Palarong Pambansa 2015.

Its current standing as of Wednesday night was at eighth place.

For this year's Palaro, the DepEd included the special games for players with handicap -- especially in swimming, athletics and ballgames -- and, especially the blind chess because the department plans to formally include them in the Palarong Pambansa 2017 in the Visayas Region .

For now, this category has not been included in the medal standing.

With the implementation of the K-12 or senior high school, there will be age adjustments in 2017 wherein those aged 17 and 18 will be included, thus, resulting in higher performance level of the players. (PNA) BNB/FGS/NIM/CBD/EBP

Sinulog dancers, Lanete supporters offer thanksgiving mass for Masbate gov’s release
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, April 14 (PNA) -- The Sinulog dancers of the provincial government of Masbate, grand slam winner in the Cebu Sinulog Festival celebrations since Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete headed the province, and her supporters on Wednesday offered a Thanksgiving Mass for her temporary liberty.

Nine similar masses will also be held starting Thursday.

Lanete had been in the Female Dormitory of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig until the Sandiganbayan early Wednesday issued a release order for her following a grant on her petition to fix bail.

The Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division cited weak evidence of guilt in granting the bail petitions of Lanete, former Masbate representative.

The anti-graft court set bail at Php500,000 for Lanete.

Radio dzMM, however, reported that Lanete paid a total of Php830,000 -- Php500,000 for the plunder charge and Php330,000 for 11 counts of graft.

Lanete is charged with plunder and 11 counts of graft for allegedly misusing Php112.29 million of her Presidential Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel from 2007-2009.

Plunder is a non-bailable offense punishable with reclusion perpetua, but bail may be granted if there is no strong evidence of guilt.

The Sandiganbayan said the grant of bail to Lanete "is not indicative of acquittal as their cases are still at the preliminary stage and appeals can still be made."

Lanete's supporters expect her to return home this Friday. (PNA) LAP/FGS/NBT/CBD/EDS

Blind special games player of Region 4-B survives electrocution
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) -- Palarong Pambansa medical team members rushed a blind female player for special games of Region 4-B or Mimaropa to the nearby Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) after she was electrocuted when she held the metal railing of the Jollibee food chain beside the grandstand of the Albay Provincial Sports Complex inside the Bicol University compound about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

A report identified the victim as Pamela Tabas-tabas, 17, a player of Region 4-B in standing long jump in the special games of the Palarong Pambansa 2016.

The report said Tabas-tabas was preparing for the game when she decided to go to the comfort room.

As she was feeling her way by to the facility barefooted, she touched the metal railing of the food stand and suddenly quivered.

Alert bystanders who saw what happened, however, immediately put off the main switch of the sports complex.

Tabas-tabas cried in desperation after the medical team refused to allow her to join the competition while she is under observation inside the hospital.

Dr. Eric Raburar of the BRTTH said it is their automatic decision to prevent her from joining the game as she needs to undergo a thorough medical examination because when one is electrocuted, it is the heart and the blood that are affected.

In the case of Tabas-tabas, Raburar said that although she is conscious, her left hand and left body are numb after having been electrocuted and so she needs close observation.

Nika Vargas, a resident of Legazpi City and a saleslady in another food stall, said she was also a victim of electrocution when she held on the railing but because she was wearing a rubber shoes, she did not feel hard the electric current.

Authorities believe that the cable attached to the food stand has a live wire touching the metal railing which caused the power current.

As a result they temporarily closed the food stand while the Albay Power and Energy Corp. disconnected the electric cable line that supplies power. (PNA) LAP/FGS/JH/CBD/EBP

Comelec, PNP reject PDP-Laban's request to declare Sorsogon as election hotspot
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) disapproved the request of the local candidates of the PDP-Laban in Sorsogon to declare the entire province as an election hotspot.

The request of the party was in connection with the harassment experienced by the local candidates, led by gubernatorial candidate Eric Dioneda, son of former Reform the AFP Movement leader and former Sorsogon City mayor Leovic Dioneda.

On April 3 night, Dioneda's group was having a campaign rally in Barangay Hall of Buhatan, Sorsogon City when 20 fully armed men came and told them to stop their campaign.

The young Dioneda said the harassment resulted in fear and trauma among them, especially that the armed men poked guns on the heads of most of them, asked them to drop with heads facing the ground and threatened to kill them.

The PDP-Laban gubernatorial candidate said the Comelec and the PNP did not accede to their party's request as the two agencies considered the incident as an isolated one.

The PNP Provincial Office of Sorsogon said it had already sent police escorts in places where the PDP-Laban group would be campaigning or have political rally.

Meanwhile, PNP Bicol officials based in Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here received a report from Sorsogon PPO that it had already identified one of the armed men who harassed the PDP-Laban candidates.

The report identified the driver of the suspects' getaway vehicle as Fernando Domens alias "Metal."

It said the suspects were apparently members of the New People's Army (NPA).

Dioneda confirmed that Domens or Metal was formerly an NPA rebel who has gone to farming.

The police are still looking deeper into the possible identification of the suspects for filing of appropriate charges. (PNA) FFC/FGS/JH/CBD/EBP

Running record-breaker gets offers from RP, US schools
By Marife B. Sesor

LEGAZPI City, April 13 (PNA) – Sixteen-year-old record-breaking runner Mia Meagey Niñura of Davao is now having various offers from prestigious universities in the Philippines and in the United States.

This, after Niñura won the first gold medal in the 3,000-meter secondary (girls) event in the athletics category of the Palarong Pambansa 2016.

After clinching the gold medal, many universities are willing to have Niñura.

Recruitment offers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) in the US poured in along the way.

Aside from these, there are also offers from different universities in Metro Manila like the University of Santo Tomas.

The young achiever exhibited and proved her skills and strength when she created a new record in the athletic game at the newly paved and constructed Albay Sports and Tourism Complex oval.

The competition became an instant news-breaking story since this is not an ordinary competition.

Niñura defeated her long-time contending rival from Northern Mindanao Region Athletic Association (NMRAA), Jian Calis, a three-time gold medalist.

Calis last year ran for about 10:10.6 and broke her own record by finishing in 10:07.8 now, making her 2nd to Niñura who clocked 10:03.4.

Camila Tubiano, also competing for NMRAA, came in third at 10:45.0.

Niñura said she played with courage and, of course, potential of winning, and that her family was her inspiration in her every game.

She also conditions her mind that she will be a winner not just for her own benefit but also as a reward to her coach.

He mother is so proud for her daughter as, she said, everything was worth the pain.

It is the first time for this student of Kapatagan National High School to bring home a gold medal in her six years of participation in the sporting event and will surely have uprightness in having one.(PNA) RMA/FGS/ MARIFE B.SESOR-OJT/CBD

Floor heats up as first competition in rhythmic gymnastics for secondary begins
By Joana Angela Prianes

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) -- The first competition for rhythmic gymnastics with the rope and club apparatus in the secondary level began on Wednesday in Hotel St. Ellis here.

Fifty-four gymnasts from different regions flaunted their dexterity as they showed off their skills, flexibility, and precision in their routine moves for the first two categories in rhythmic gymnastics.

The contest started with Region 11 as the first performers for the rope and Region IV-B as the first competitors in club, and ended with the performances from Region 8 and Region 3.

The top eight qualifiers for rope are Rayma Bermejo and Jhazelle Lemenzon of the National Capital Region, Shaira Guevara and Helena Secillano of Region V, Jubaile Reyes of Region IV-A, Marianne Alegado of Region VII and Jerrmela Solivio of Region XII.

While for the club, Lemenzon and Bermejo of NCR are still in, with Flezarha Pateña of IV-A, Eunice Odag of Region VII, Katrina Loretizo and Danielle Jamelo of NIR, and Francess Ramirez and Helena Secillano of Region V.

On Thursday will be the second competition in rhythmic gymnastics for the secondary level in the Ball and Hoop Category where the judges will also pick the top eight.

The top eight qualifiers for apparatus finals will compete on Friday afternoon, also at the Hotel St. Ellis. (PNA) RMA/FGS/JP/CBD/RSM

NCR bags 21 gold medals, leads medal tally in Day 4 of Palaro

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) -- The National Capital Region is leading the 18 delegations competing in the Palarong Pambansa 2016, being held at the Albay Sports and Tourism Complex inside the Bicol University here, in terms of the number of gold, bronze and silver medals won in various games as of Wednesday noon.

It raked in 21 gold, 12 bronze and 9 silver medals; while the closest rival, Region VI, got 16 gold, 11 bronze and 8 silver.

Region IV-A scored 16 - 11 - 15; Region VII had 9 - 6 - 8; Region X clinched 9 - 11 - 14; CAR garnered 7 - 9 - 5; and XII hauled in 6 - 4 - 9.

Others who had five gold medals are Region III, with 5 - 3 - 9 medals brought home; and Negros Island Region, with 5 - 11 - 9.

Those with below five gold medals were: ARMM, 3 - 3 - 4; Region XI, 2 - 7 - 5; Region II, 2 - 3 - 3; Region V, 2 - 5 - 6; Region VIII, 1 - 1 - 3; Region I, 0 - 3 - 5; Region IV-B, 0 - 1 - 4; and Region IX, 0 - 3 - 3.

The Department of Education has placed at stake 485 gold, silver and bronze medals for the winners in the elementary level and 610 medals for the secondary.

Palarong Pambansa Secretary General Cesar Abalon earlier said he expected a tighter competition among the regions due to the new program of preparations the DepEd has made like in the case of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), which had previously not entered the Top Ten but landed in the Top 4 in the Palarong Pambansa 2015.

Meanwhile, he said the National Capital Region, which has always been the champion, has been observed to have been raking in less gold medals in the past three years.

The formation of the Negros Island Region, Abalon said, would have a telling effect on Region 6, which was at the third place in 2015, and on Region 7 because they were divided to come up with the NIR.

He noted that almost all of the best players went to the NIR.

For this year's Palaro, the DepEd included the special games for players with handicap -- especially in swimming, athletics and ballgames -- and, especially the blind chess because the department plans to formally include them in the Palarong Pambansa 2017 in the Visayas Region .

For now, this category has not been included in the medal standing.

With the implementation of the K-12 or senior high school, there will also be age adjustments wherein those aged 17 and 18 will be included, thus, resulting in higher performance level of the players.(PNA) BNB/FGS/NIM/CBD/PJN

Legazpi to receive 2 Hall of Fame awards from Gawad Kalasag
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, April 13 (PNA) -– This key Bicol city is going to receive this year two Hall of Fame awards in the Kawad Kalasag national search being conducted by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

The first is for the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) as the city, for the third time topped the 2015 search in the Component City Category and the other is for the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRMC) of Barangay Oro Site here which bested other finalists from various regions in the Urban Barangay Category.

The awards that will be conferred by the NDRRMC and OCD on May 2 are for the sweep by the CDRRMC and BDRRMC of the yearly search in three consecutive years starting in 2013.

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

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

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

City Mayor Noel Rosal on Wednesday told the Philippines News Agency that the upcoming Hall of Famer national award is a prestigious recognition of the city government’s continuing improvements toward perfection of its DRRM efforts.

“While we have already proven the excellence of our DRRM, our sustained obsession is focused on more improvements toward perfection not only to land in the Hall of Fame of Gawad Kalasag but also primarily to sustain our attainment of ‘zero casualty’ and resilience in the face of disasters,” he said.

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

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

For Oro Site, barangay chairman Joseph Philip Lee said “our victory in the last two years inspired us a lot into strengthening further the barangay DRRM capabilities.”

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

“We have improved further from what we have achieved in the past. It was done by way of learning more on disaster preparedness, mitigation and resiliency from national agencies promoting the same, among them the NDRRMC and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST),” he said.

Wilfredo “Pecos” Intia, the city administrator and CDRRMC action man, said the city and Barangay Oro Site won the Hall of Famer national awards because both the CDRRMC and BDRRMC achieved the national framework for disaster management required by the NDRRMC – which includes the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and rescue and rehabilitation and recovery.

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

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

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

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

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

Apart from the CDRRMC and Oro Site BDRRMC, another bet from Bicol — the Simon of Cyrene Community Rehabilitation and Development Foundation based in the nearby Daraga town of Albay will also be conferred a Hall of Famer award for its third Gawad Kalasag victory for Best Non-Government Organization nationwide.

Another entry from Bicol -- the D.Q. Liwag National High School in Vinsons, Camarines Norte -- won the national championship in the Rural Public School Category while a special award for individual hearoic act will be given to Chief Insp. Archilles Santiago, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) chief in this city. (PNA) LAP/GS/DOC/CBD

DA entices Bicol upland farmers into singkamas production during summer
By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, April 13 (PNA) –- Following the successful holding recently of the 1st Singkamas Harvest Festival in Polangui, Albay, the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bicol regional office here is enticing Bicolano farmers into commercial production of the crop during the summer season.

Singkamas or turnip (Pachyrhizus erosus) is an important food crop whose season is but a perfect timing for its thirst-quenching quality during the summer heat, the DA on Wednesday said.

Besides, this root crop provides low calories, making it a perfect substitute meal for people who want to attain a physically fit body without sacrificing the need for energy for performing strenuous activities, it said.

Thus, according to the agency, singkamas, which grows widely on most upland and non-irrigated farms in Bicol, has become a famous dietary alternative, especially for today’s health-conscious and body-conscious generation.

Themed “Grow, Eat and Buy Local—Albayano Resilient,” the 1st Singkamas Harvest Festival that recently celebrated the production success of the two-hectare integrated farm of Ronaldo Cagnayo in Barangay Agos, Polangui, Albay, was attended by about a hundred local farmers as part of their learning of various agricultural technologies being promoted by the DA.

Various local government and agriculture officials graced the affair which, the DA said, served as an eye opener into the economic benefits of singkamas farming that could be availed of too by many Bicolano farmers tilling upland farms and even those in plains or lowland but not irrigated.

Instead of leaving their farms idle during the dry season, farmers of these rainfed lands could make use of it to produce singkamas which is a heat-tolerant, short-term crop, it said.

Cagnayo has been into singkamas production during summer since 2011, using his more than two hectares farm to harvest around 20 sacks per week that he delivers to markets of nearby urban centers -- like Daraga, Albay; Legazpi City; Nabua and Iriga City of Camarines Sur -- from where he generates a seasonal gross earnings of around Php50,000.

Singkamas is indeed a highly saleable summer commodity, given that much like other fruits and vegetables that are not available during summer, it is also known for its dietary fiber, thus, it can sufficiently satisfy hunger without being heavy on the belly.

Commonly eaten raw, singkamas, which provides a cooling effect owing to its great water content, helps in reducing the risk of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

Since over 70 percent of human bodies is made up of water, eating turnips also serves as an alternative or supplement to people undergoing water therapy, the DA said, stressing that the water from this root crop helps to replace the soiled water in human bodies for cleansing, helping organs like pancreas, kidney, stomach and skin to function well.

Studies show that aside from low calorie, dietary fiber and water, singkamas is also an excellent source of anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins.

It is rich in Vitamin C, which is a powerful anti-oxidant that helps in the creation of collagen as well as provides the body forage damaging free radicals for the deterrence of germs, viruses and bacteria -- including destructive oxidation reactions that can cause sickness, inflammation or even cancer.

The same studies reveal that singkamas helps in boosting human body’s natural immune system while it provides other vitamins such as A, and Vitamin B-complex composed of folates, riboflavin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and thiamin.

Citing researches, the DA also said that singkamas could help facilitate healing of a broad range of health issues because of its high nutrient content that includes calcium, phosphorous, folic acid magnesium, niacin, iron, potassium, and sodium which are essential for the overall well being of human body.

Owing to its health benefits, Filipinos have devised different ways of serving singkamas, one of which is lumpiang sariwa (fresh spring roll), a popular side dish and atsara (relish), a mouth-watering native appetizer.

Since cooking singkamas is not advisable because heat could destroy its natural nutrients and minerals, the DA said, the best way to consume it and enjoy its health benefits is through the good old fashion way of cutting the fresh vegetable into bitable pieces and enjoying its natural taste with a pinch of salt, natural vinegar or as it is.

The farmers who attended the festival have been informed of these benefits that could be derived from commercial or even small holding farm production of singkamas and in Polangui and other parts of the third congressional district of Albay down to other areas of the province that are highly agricultural, they vowed to replicate Cagnayo’s good summer agricultural practice, the DA said.

There are already hundreds of farmers using their farms in producing singkamas during the summer season in Albay and the DA regional office wants more areas covered by this practice as the demand for the crop has been consistently growing not only in Bicol but also nationwide.

“As one could observe, truckloads of singkamas are being transported from Albay to Metro Manila and other markets of Luzon during summer and still the volume of current production is small compared to the demand. Hence more production is needed,” the DA said.

In the festival, the farmers were also advised to practice integrated farming like using gabi (taro), string beans, lemon, mushroom, pili, and cacao, among other high-value farm commodities that could be intercropped with coconut, the DA added. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD