Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TESDA credits tech/voc workers for Bicol’s high employment rate

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) -- Technical and vocational workers significantly contributed to the high employment rate achieved by Bicol this year, a top official of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in Bicol said Tuesday.

Conrado Barres, TESDA regional director, said majority of those employed were graduates of technical and vocational courses in Bicol.

The latest national Labor Force Survey (LFS) done by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that Bicol posted the second highest employment rate, the second among the regions.

PSA said out of the 3.7 million working population in Bicol, 96.2 percent or 2.4 million people are employed. It said this even surpassed the 93.9 percent national employment rate.

Barres, in an interview, said the high employment rate may be attributed to the soaring number of technical and vocational workers group employed by the services, industry, trade, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

He estimated that eight out of 10 people employed are either technical or vocational workers.

Rey Merjilla, PSA supervising statistical specialist, in an interview, said the major occupational group that contributed to the employment growth rate came from the ranks of laborers at 35 percent, farmers--18 percent, government workers --14 percent and service workers--13 percent.

He said professionals such as engineers, doctors, lawyers and accountants accounted for 4 percent, trade related workers--6 percent, clerks --4 percent, plant and machine assemblers--3 percent and technicians--2 percent.

PSA said the Bicol economy last year recorded the highest growth rate with 8.4 percent growth in terms of Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) or PHP154 billion in goods and services produced compared to all the other regions in the country.

According to its latest report, the accelerated growth was fuelled by infrastructure projects that hiked government spending. These projects in turn required the services of a big number of laborers.

Barres said that under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, TESDA will continue to embark on programs aimed at poverty reduction by enhancing “productive and world-class skilled workforce that would meet global competitiveness standards.”

He said the agency would launch a two-pronged strategy to highlight its flagship program “Barangay Kasanayan para sa Kabuhayan at Kapayapaan.” (Skills Training in the village for livelihood and peace)

The program will provide education and skills trainings to identified poor villages in Bicol.

He said the initial phase of the program will cover villages in the fifth and sixth class towns in the region.

This year, TESDA in Bicol has poured PHP80 million to fund various skills training projects.

Camarines Sur had the biggest slice of this fund at PHP28 million, followed by Albay with PHP18 million, Sorsogon-PHP10 million, Masbate-PHP9 million, Camarines Norte-PHP8 million and Catanduanes-PHP7 million.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Bicol cited the other programs of other agencies for the high employment rate of Bicol.

“The convergence of programs from other agencies and local government units has also brought Bicol to this high employment rate,” said Atty. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla, Officer-in-Charge Regional Director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Bicol.

For instance, she cited DOLE’s major employment enhancement programs like the job fairs, job search kiosks, government internship program or GIP, DOLE Kabuhayan Starter Kit, Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD and Special Program for the Employment of Students or SPES.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD/EBP

Albay solon quizzes PHP530-M medical screening, certification for Kuwait-bound OFWs
By Mike dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) -- Albay second district Representative Jose Salceda is seeking investigation of an alleged irregular medical screening and certification process for Kuwait-bound Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) being required by a private firm through the Kuwait Embassy.

Salceda filed House Resolution No. 220 seeking an inquiry into the new certification and medical screening process to be undertaken by Winston Q8 Certifications Solutions Inc. in partnership with the Embassy of Kuwait.

An official of an organization of agencies sending OFWs to Kuwait told Salceda that Winston Q8 is charging PHP 8,400 (eight thousand four hundred) for the medical tests of every job applicant to Kuwait while the Embassy of Kuwait will not process the visas of the applicant unless endorsed by Winston Q8.

The Albay lawmaker estimated that the amount to be generated from the thousands of jobseekers to Kuwait will reach around PHP530 million if the screening and certification procedures will be followed.

Salceda said the Philippine government should not allow a foreign embassy to intrude in its policies to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers through a “questionable and highly irregular medical screening and certification process.”

He said those aspiring for work in Kuwait cut across all regions and represent workers seeking a better life.

“We should not allow Winston Q8 to earn from the backs of these prospective overseas workers, especially not at the instigation of a foreign embassy,” Salceda said.

He told a forum on August 22 that the House inquiry will find out who should be held responsible so that “remedial legislation” could be done to further protect the OFWs.

Winston Q8, in its website, describes itself as a Philippine-based company representing the Ministry of Health of Kuwait.

Roland Collado, vice-chairman of the Philippine Association of Agencies Accredited for Kuwait, said their officers were called to a meeting at the Embassy of Kuwait last Aug. 5.

The meeting discussed the new certification and medical screening process to be undertaken by Winston Q8.

Collado said Winston Q8 charges PHP8,400 from every jobseeker to Kuwait who upon payment registers online using an activation code to be provided by the company.

He said after uploading the deposit slip as proof of payment and a scanned copy of passport and photos, the applicant shall be made to choose from only seven clinics for medical tests, all of which are based in Metro Manila.

Job applicants would have to go through Winston Q8 because the Embassy of Kuwait will not entertain any request for visa stamping unless endorsed by the said company,” said Collado.

Salceda said the practice should be stopped because “it is exploitative, fraudulent and monopolistic.”

He said if made with the best of intentions, Winston Q8 should have asked approval from the

Department of Health and Department of Labor and Employment.

“I find this very fishy, hence the need for a full-scale House investigation,” Salceda said.

Leaders of the association of recruitment agencies accredited for Kuwait and civil society organizations such as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center welcomed the House resolution authored by Rep. Salceda.

“We welcome the resolution because right now, overseas job applicants for Kuwait are in a quandary,” said Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.

She said the recruitment agencies deploying the Kuwait-bound jobseekers have no intention of referring the applicants to Winston “otherwise they will be complicit in violating the law.”

“There is an impasse going on, and it must be resolved in favor of the rights and welfare of our modern-day heroes,” said Susan Ople. (PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD/EBP

Popcom-Bicol intensifies IEC work among Bicol's teen moms
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA)—-The Commission on Population (Popcom) in Bicol, which is observing the month of August as “breastfeeding month” and “family planning month,” has continued to intensify its information and education campaign (IEC) geared especially to teenage mothers in the region.

Popcom-Bicol Director Magdalena Abellera said the campaign stems from previous studies showing a rise in teenage fertility in the Bicol region and the sizeable number of youths in the region having sexual experience.

She said the rate of teenage fertility for females, aged 15 to 19, was 6.3 percent in 2002, but this went up to 7.3 percent in 2013.

Abellera said “a recent study of PopCom Bicol showed that 62.9 percent of the youth in the region or 1 in 3 young people from the ages of 15 to 24 have had sexual experience.”

In Bicol, around 200,000 belong to the age group 15 to 24 years old. They comprise 30 percent of the total population of 5.7 million in the region, data of Popcom Bicol showed.

During a teenage pregnancy summit conducted by PopCom Bicol, Abellera expressed alarm at how the teenagers engaging in sex and getting pregnant in the region have become younger.

"The Department of Health (DOH) even has records of a nine and ten-year-old who got pregnant in the region,” she said.

Around 70 teenage mothers from Legazpi City and neighboring Albay municipalities participated in the pregnancy summit.Dissemination of information was made available to the young women on such concerns as child rearing, nutrition, livelihood skills and alternative learning while resource persons also tackled topics such as the laws on violence against women.

Students from the Bicol University, teachers from various schools and Popcom's program partners--government agencies and their pool of child specialists and workers introduced to the teenage mothers the skills and knowledge that will help them cope with the challenges of motherhood at a young age.

Popcom’s program partners included the Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education Skills Development Authority, local government units and non government organizations.

During the same summit, DOH-Bicol Director Dr. Napoleon Arevalo confirmed the cases of the nine-year-old and 10-year-old who became pregnant.

He said DOH learned of the girls’ plight when the girls visited the health workers in their villages for pre-natal consultations.

Arevalo said one of the girls was a victim of incest while the other became pregnant after having sex with her boyfriend.

"The parents should always look after the welfare of their children, especially their daughters,” he said.

Arevalo added the parents must be knowledgeable about the day-to-day activities of their children.

He added the parents should regulate their children’s access to social media and Internet where “irresponsible persons post scandalous material.”

Among the participants in the summit was Salvacion Abina, mother of a three-month old baby boy whose husband works in the farm in Barangay Banquerohan in this city.

She said she is thankful to Popcom for helping her with “life skills” that would help her survive in life and continue to pursue her dreams.

Abina advised other young people to learn to “open up about their problems to their parents.”

She said the young should be obedient to their parents and learn how to discipline themselves.

Another teenager who joined the summit, a resident of Barangay Kiwalo in Daraga, Albay who preferred to be called “Nena,” said she and her husband, who is a construction worker, are still staying with her husband’s parents.

Nena, 18, advised students to pursue their studies first before having a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

“They should always obey their parents,” she said.

The plight of Abina and Nena is shared by other youths in the country.

Authorities estimate 19 million who belong to the age group 15 to 24 in the Philippines.

Results of the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) cited that: “One in ten young Filipino women, age 15-19, has begun childbearing: eight percent are already mothers and another two percent are pregnant with their first child.”

The survey results, which was released by the Philippine Statistical Authority in August 2014, also stated that 15 percent of young adult women, age 20 to 24, had their first marriage or began living with their first spouse or partner by age 18.

“Motherhood in childhood is a huge global problem, especially in developing countries, where every year 7.3 million girls under 18 give birth,” said a report the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which was published in January 2013.

“Too often, society blames only the girl for getting pregnant,” said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA executive director.

He said reality points to adolescent pregnancy being most often “not the result of a deliberate choice, but rather the absence of choices, and of circumstances beyond a girl’s control.”

Osotimehin said pregnancy during the teenage years is an offshoot of “little or no access to school, employment, quality information and health care.”

The 2013 UNFPA report said early pregnancy not only takes a toll on a girl’s health, education and rights but also prevents her from realizing her potential and “adversely impacts the baby.” (PNA) FPV/GVR/JH/CBD

Sept. 2 special non-working day in Albay for General Simeon A. Ola’s 151st birth anniversary
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) —- President Rodrigo Duterte has issued Proclamation 54 declaring Friday, September 2, as a special non-working day in Albay so the province could mark the 151st birth anniversary of General Simeon A. Ola, the last revolutionary general to surrender to the American forces during the Philippine-American War.

Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea signed the proclamation dated August 26 that honors Ola’s heroism during the Philippine-American War at the turn of the 20th century.

The regional police command located in this city, which has been named Camp Simeon Ola after the Albay hero, built his statue inside the camp to serve as a continuing reminder to the present generation of Albayanos of the hero's life.

According to Mandirigma.org, website of Kapisanang Mandirigma, a research organization dedicated to cultural research, Albay’s revolutionary hero was born in Guinobatan, Albay to Vicente Ola and Apolonia Arboleda.

The cultural research group said Simeon Ola enrolled at the Mater Salutis College Seminary in Daraga town in Albay where he studied Philosophy. He was, however, unable to complete the course.

Ola joined the local branch of the Katipunan and later became its leader. He was promoted to the rank of captain after the battle of Camalig in Albay in 1898. After a daring ambush mission that led to the capture of three Americans, Ola was again promoted to the rank of major.

The Albay hero led subsequent bold attacks in the towns of Oas, Ligao and Jovellar. He later surrendered on the condition that his men would be granted amnesty. Ola was put on trial and proven guilty of sedition before being meted a 30-year prison term in November 1903.

On Oct. 8, 1904, he was granted executive clemency by the American government. Ola then returned to his birthplace and in later years served in the municipal government.

Mandirigma.org said Ola entered politics in 1910 and won as town mayor of Guinobatan, which he served until 1913. He was re-elected to the same position in 1916 and served the term until 1919.

Simeon Ola died on Feb. 14, 1952 at the age of 86 and was interred at the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Guinobatan.(PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Philippine Marines win anew in national dragon boat race in Legazpi City
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 25 (PNA) -- For the second consecutive year, paddlers of the Philippine Marines bagged the championship crown in the 200-meter national dragon boat race off Albay Gulf, as spectators at the Legazpi City Blvd. watched them post their best heat time recently.

On day one of the race, when the three-round elimination race was staged, the Marines recorded an average time of 1 minute 53.83 seconds on the first round, 54.31 seconds on the second round, and 48.8 seconds on the third round.

On day two and final round, the Marines finished at less than a minute with a record of 50.52 seconds.

The Philippine Titans was first runner-up with a speed time of 53.30 seconds while second runner-up Manila Dragons recorded 54.77 seconds during the final round.

There were 10 teams of paddlers from Bohol, Samar, Metro Manila and different parts of the country who joined the race.

Although non-winners, the seven other participating teams were distinguished by the names they bannered --Taytay Mixed, Speed Devilz, Smart DB Team, Ninjas, 1925 team, Philippine Tiger Sharks, and Taytay Halo-halo team.

Each team had a crew of 20 with nine pairs -- 10 boys and eight girls -- serving as paddlers while another serves as a steersman and the last member tasked to be the signal man.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal and Board Member Alan Rañola handed the trophies with cash to all the winners in the Dragon Boat Race during the awarding ceremony held at the Embarcadero de Legazpi.

Rañola, who also served as chairman of the event, expressed optimism that the city's boat race would become an international event next year.

He said Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal instructed him to invite paddlers from Southeast Asia to make the dragon boat race “more colorful and exciting”.

Rañola said he will prepare a very good work plan to convince international paddlers to come next year. His plan is to bring to Legazpi about 20 teams from Asia to compete with local paddlers.

T/Sgt Romar Morta, coach of the Philippine Marines team, said all the teams who joined the race were “very strong and difficult to beat but because of our discipline, determination and rigorous daily training, we snatched the championship crown again.”

He said his team, which has been joining competitions in different parts of the country, always manages to get the crown.

The National Dragon Boat race was spearheaded by the city administration in cooperation with the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation.

It is one of the national sports events showcased in the month-long Ibalong Festival, an annual event, now on its 25th edition, that continues to showcase Legazpi City as a major tourist destination.

Embarcadero de Legazpi, where the awarding event of the boat race was done, is a waterfront commercial complex located at the city harbor.

The Legazpi City Blvd., from where spectators viewed the grace, strength and talent of the paddlers in the boat race, is a coastal road network extending from the city’s central business district and port area to the southern villages.

It provides a picturesque view of Mayon Volcano and what is referred to as “Kapuntukan hill” to the north.(PNA) CVL/GVR/EPS/CBD

Bicol-RDC asks DOTr to 'review and revise' PHP4.8-B Bicol int’l airport design

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 25 (PNA)--The Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) has adopted Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara’s motion urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to “review and revise implementation” of the PHP4.8-billion Bicol International Airport (BIA) project because of technical flaws in its approved feasibility study.

Bichara, who was unanimously nominated as the new Bicol RDC chairperson, has asked the council to endorse his proposed revision on the airport project through the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Inter-agency Coordinating Committee (ICC).

Agnes Espinas, NEDA regional director who presided during the Aug. 17 council meeting, saw no objection from the 47 voting members of RDC composed of Bicol governors, city and capital town mayors and regional directors of various national government agencies.

She said Bichara’s resolution was accepted during the same Aug. 17 meeting and subsequently “endorsed to the NEDA-ICC board and the DOTr.”

A former Representative of Albay, a pilot and owner of a flying school here, Bichara noted deficiencies in the proposed runway, apron and taxiways that do not conform to international norms.

“The airport ramp and taxiways that measure 475 meters in length, 220 meters in width with 25 meters for expansion as stated in the feasibility study is the one under question by Bichara,” said Macario Pavia, head of Albay’s Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO).

Pavia, in an interview Thursday, said the provincial government did not have a hand in the preparation of the airport’s design.

He said the feasibility study was crafted by technical personnel contracted by the DOTC in 2009.

“I would say that we are not building a new airport instead we are just relocating the Legazpi airport facility to Daraga,” Pavia said.

BIA which is also known as the South Luzon International Airport or SLIA is located in Barangay Alobo in Daraga town, some 10 kilometers away from this city.

He said once the project is completed, there would be no further room for airplane carriers to maneuver during arrival and departure due to the limited area at the ramp and taxiways.

Pavia said the design did not even contain airplane tube facilities which is a requirement to meet international airport standards.

He added the said facility should accommodate six to 12 flights a day but the existing design could not hold the potential volume of flight arrivals and departures.

Bichara said he had talked about this problem with former Governor Joey Salceda, now Albay 2nd District Representative.

Salceda in a text message, said he would not yet comment on this as he has yet to verify with NEDA.

BIA will occupy a 148-hectare area with a 2,100-meter runway strip to be equipped with night landing capability and take-off facilities, control tower, passenger and cargo terminal, car park, fire station, and other modern facilities.

Bichara said the BIA project should have been completed this year had the original timetable been followed. Despite the availability of funds, however, there were lapses in the bidding process for the Public Private Partnership project, he added.

Since 2009 up to 2012, the government has been pouring some PHP 1.6 billion for the construction of the airport facility.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Solon pushes agriculture modernization, revival of Bataan Nuclear Plant
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 23 (PNA) -- Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito stressed on the need to modernize agriculture by stopping smuggling and the use of nuclear power to address the country’s power needs during a recent visit here to hold a dialogue with the youth.

“We really need to modernize our agriculture but we need to cut on the smuggling first. Our agriculture is dying because of smuggling,” he told a press conference after the youth forum.

In same media conference, Ejercito talked on the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) which he said should be revived to address the country’s power needs.

The youth forum that delved on the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Law was held at the Ibalong Conference Room at the Legazpi City Hall compound here.

Ejercito, who is chairperson of the economic affairs committee in the Senate, introduced Senate Bill 2923 which gives stricter penalties on the illegal importation of agricultural products.

He said the measure, which provides for a fine of “twice the fair market value of the smuggled product and its corresponding amount of taxes, duties and other charges,” will be of great help to the Filipino farmers.

The lawmaker said the government should subsidize Filipino farmers so they could compete with farmers in Thailand and Cambodia.

Ejercito said by helping the farmers make the prices of their produce become more competitive their families will be helped.

He said when the Filipino farmers become more productive, the country could attain food security even with the adverse effects of climate change.

On the BNPP, Ejercito said it was a Marcos project but it is “completely owned by the Filipino people.”

He said the BNPP will help solve the country’s energy requirements as it is a source of the “cheapest and cleanest energy.”

The BNPP's construction was done between 1976 and 1984 and payment was completed in 2007 but its operation was put on hold.

In a report in January this year, rappler.com said the country had completed payment of the US$ 2.3-billion debt that had been used to defray BNPP’s construction.

The same news organization said that when former president Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986 and the government of Mrs. Corazon Aquino took over, assets of the nuclear power plant was transferred to the government but the latter did not operate it. In the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Russia, the BNPP has since been left in the backburner.

Ejercito said the BNPP was built similar to the world’s three running power plants--Angra I in Brazil, Krško in Slovenia and Kori II in South Korea.

“(South) Korea is now the top manufacturer in the world who has even surpassed Japan,” he said.

Ejercito said that by failing to operate the BNPP the government is unable to utilize the US$ 2-billion taxpayers’ money.

“If it will be utilized the cost of our electricity will drastically drop at P2 per kilowatt hour,” he said.

The BNPP has a 620-megawatt (MW) capacity that can supply 10 percent of the power requirement of the Luzon grid, said Ejercito.

He said the revival of BNPP could help the shore up energy requirements of the country which intermittently faces an energy crisis.

“It will cost about US$ 2 billion to revive it (BNPP) but the return of investment will be profitable,” Ejercito said.

Rappler.com, in its Jan. 10, 2016 report on the BNPP, said “for every year the matter sits in indecision alley, the government is spending P50 million (US$ 1.06 million) to maintain the mothballed plant.” The news organization was referring to the “matter” of whether to operate or not the power plant.

Despite endorsing its operation, Ejercito said that the “safety precaution must be followed” before the revival of BNPP.

Rappler. com said that since its near completion in 1984, the 31-year-old BNPP has lain dormant in a sprawling 389-hectare lot in Napot Point, Morong, Bataan. (PNA) LAP/GVR/RBB/CBD

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Albay solon eyes big dams to irrigate farmlands during dry spells
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (Third District) cited the need for big impounding dams that could be used for the irrigation of rice farmlands, especially during dry spells, particularly in the third district towns of the province or those located northwest of this city.

“The third district is considered the food basket or rice granary of the province where (such) irrigation system is most needed,” said Gonzales.

The third district of Albay covers the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon, as well as Pio Duran town, which is southwest of Legazpi.

“These are the things we have to study and further attend to so the plight of the farmers could be improved,” he said.

Gonzales said the need for sufficient irrigation systems to improve rice production and ease the poverty of Albay’s farmers came up during his discussion with Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bicol Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said 60 to 70 percent of the community in Albay are farmers who “directly or indirectly” depend on agriculture.

Gonzales said there is no need for farmers to expand their land production areas to get the highest productivity but what is needed is water to produce more cavans of rice.

“If there is sufficient irrigation system the province will have an increased rice production,” he said.

The Albay lawmaker cited that an unirrigated farmland with an area of one hectare normally produces 80 cavans of rice.

He said the same farmland if well irrigated could generate a harvest of nearly twice the unirrigated farmland, or from 120 to 150 cavans per hectare.

“During the rainy season the farmers do not have much problem in farming but during the dry season almost half of the land area cannot be cultivated because of the problem of water," added Gonzales.

He said the help of DA, National Irrigation Administration and Department of Public Works and Highways is needed for the construction of additional “big impounding dams” that could help farmers during El Niño or dry season.

Gonzales cited the peculiar situation in Albay, particularly in the third district towns, which serve as a catchbasin of floodwaters during the rainy season “but also have a big problem on where to get irrigation water during the dry season or El Niño.”

He said there is heavy flood in Albay when it rains but the excessive rainwater is not utilized during the dry season.(Bumabaha nga sa Albay kapag umuulan pero di naman nagagamit ang bahang ito...)

“So we have to balance it through a big watershed that will impound this water and use it in the coming days,” said Gonzales.

He said he has already allocated hundreds of millions of pesos for the farmers’ irrigation systems but there is need for “more comprehensive projects” by putting up big impounding dams like the Pantabangan Dam (in Nueva Ecija) and La Mesa Dam(in Quezon City).

Gonzales said the water in these dams could be used for irrigation, household and industrial needs.

He said there were watersheds constructed in Albay decades ago, some of them around 50 years old like the Bahamas dam in Nasisi Village in Ligao City and Ogson dam and Sta. Cruz dam in Libon town.

“There is also a need to dredge the silted watershed in the province as well as upgrade, modernize and retrofit it,” he added.

Gonzales said aside from adequate irrigation facilities the rice farmers should be helped in enhancing their production through technical help, new farming tools and equipment and provision of high value seeds.

“DA should give priority to helping the farmers increase their rice and corn production so the government could have sufficient stock and be able to rid of its importation program,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said during his discussion with Bragas they planned to have joint undertakings that will address the farmers’ problems not only in Albay but also throughout the Bicol region.

Cynthia Perdiz, director of the Philippine Statistical Authority, in a report made public early in August, said there was a “drop in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector” in 2015.

She explained this came about while notable growth was seen in the industry and service sectors that fueled Bicol’s growth rate of 8.4 percent and made the region the fastest growing among all regions in the country last year.

Perdiz said last year saw the onset of El Nino which affected the agricultural sector’s performance and reduced rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said DA is refocusing its thrust to the production of more food rather than the building of farm-to-market roads under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Piñol made the statement when he came to DA’s regional center in Pili, Camarines Sur last July 12 for a consultation with Bicol governors, congressmen and agriculture officials. (PNA) BNB/GVR/JH/CBD

Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara nominated as Regional Development Council chairman

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA)--Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara has been nominated as the new chairman of the Regional Development Council (RDC) at a special meeting at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) office here.

Majority of the chief executives of the provinces and municipalities and heads of various national government agencies in the Bicol region approved of Bichara’s nomination as the new RDC chairman during the selection process.

Some 32 of the 47 RDC voting members composed of Bicol governors, city and capital town mayors and regional directors of various national government agencies acceded to Bichara’s nomination by Masbate Gov. Antonio.

During the nomination, Kho requested the council to do away with the procedure of submitting to the President two nominees as council chairperson.

Under the rules, the council has to submit to the President two nominees for council chairperson and another two nominees for vice chairman from the private sector for RDC vice chairman.

Following these rules, the President would then select and appoint from among the nominees his choice for RDC chairman and vice chairman.

The council nominated two private sector representatives for vice chairman. They were John Abejuro, 51, who represented the business and fishery sector and Jose Medina Jr., 50, for the tourism sector.

Bichara would be RDC chair for a term of three years from 2016 to 2019.

Kho said Bichara was most qualified to head the Bicol RDC after he was elected chairman of the country’s governors’ league.

The Masbate governor said the consensus attained in nominating Bichara would demonstrate to the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte the Bicol leaders’ show of unity.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal welcomed Kho’s proposal to endorse the sole nomination of Bichara to the President.

“Why not give it a chance to nominate only one – in case the President would question this process, we could easily reconvene.”

Camarines Norte Gov. Edgar Tallado was second to give his motion nominating Bichara before it received unanimous approval from all the council members.

Bichara thanked the council members “for their support and the confidence” they gave him.

Showing his interest in leading the RDC council, Bichara immediately passed two urgent resolutions.

The first resolution urged the Department of Transportation and Communication to “review and revise” the technical flaws seen in the Bicol International Airport project plan.

Bichara said the plan “does not conform with international standards.”

The second resolution of Albay’s provincial chief executive seeks to transform the idle airports in Sorsogon and Daet into “community airports” that would cater to small aircrafts during tourism events and emergency operations.

The governors of the provinces of Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, Masbate and Albay and the city mayors of Legazpi and Iriga were present, along the with the regional directors of national agencies, during the RDC meeting.

NEDA in Bicol serves as the principal technical staff and administrative secretariat of the RDC, which is tasked, along with its committees, to support socio-economic planning and development in the region.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD

Friday, August 19, 2016

Albay solon eyes big dams to irrigate farmlands during dry spells
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzales (third district) cited the need for big impounding dams that could be used for the irrigation of rice farmlands, especially during dry spells, particularly in the province's third district towns northwest of this city.

"The third district is considered the food basket or rice granary of the province where (such) irrigation system is most needed," said Gonzales.

The third district of Albay covers the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui and Libon, as well as Pio Duran town, which is southwest of Legazpi.

These are the things we have to study and further attend to so the plight of the farmers could be improved,” he said.

Gonzales said the need for sufficient irrigation systems to improve rice production and ease the poverty of Albay’s farmers came up during his discussion last week with Department of Agriculture (DA)-Bicol Director Abelardo Bragas.

He said 60 to 70 percent of the community in Albay are farmers who "directly or indirectly" depend on agriculture.

Gonzales said there is no need for farmers to expand their land production areas to get the highest productivity but what is needed is water to produce more cavans of rice.I

"If there is sufficient irrigation system the province will have an increased rice production," he said.

The Albay lawmaker cited that an unirrigated farmland with an area of one hectare normally produces 80 cavans of rice.

He said the same farmland if well irrigated could generate a harvest of nearly twice the unirrigated farmland, or from 120 to 150 cavans per hectare.

“During the rainy season the farmers do not have much problem in farming but during the dry season almost half of the land area cannot be cultivated because of the problem of water," added Gonzales.

He said the help of DA, National Irrigation Administration and Department of Public Works and Highways is needed for the construction of additional "big impounding dams" that could help farmers during El Niño or dry season.

Gonzales cited the peculiar situation in Albay, particularly in the third district towns, which serve as a catchbasin of floodwaters during the rainy season "but also have a big problem on where to get irrigation water during the dry season or El Niño."

He said there is heavy flood in Albay when it rains but the excessive rainwater is not utilized during the dry season.(Bumabaha nga sa Albay kapag umuulan pero di naman nagagamit ang bahang ito...)

"So we have to balance it through a big watershed that will impound this water and use it in the coming days," said Gonzales.

He said he has already allocated hundreds of millions of pesos for the farmers’ irrigation systems but there is need for “more comprehensive projects” by putting up big impounding dams like the Pantabangan Dam (in Nueva Ecija) and La Mesa Dam(in Quezon City).

Gonzales said the water in these dams could be used for irrigation, household and industrial needs.

He said there were watersheds constructed in Albay decades ago, some of them around 50 years old like the Bahamas dam in Nasisi Village in Ligao City and Ogson dam and Sta. Cruz dam in Libon town.

“There is also a need to dredge the silted watershed in the province as well as upgrade, modernize and retrofit it,” he added.

Gonzales said aside from adequate irrigation facilities the rice farmers should be helped in enhancing their production through technical help, new farming tools and equipment and provision of high value seeds.

“DA should give priority to helping the farmers increase their rice and corn production so the government could have sufficient stock and be able to rid of its importation program,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales said during his discussion with Bragas they planned to have joint undertakings that will address the farmers’ problems not only in Albay but also throughout the Bicol region.

Cynthia Perdiz, director of the Philippine Statistical Authority, in a report made public early in August, said there was a “drop in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector” in 2015.

She explained this came about while notable growth was seen in the industry and service sectors that fueled Bicol’s growth rate of 8.4 percent and made the region the fastest growing among all regions in the country last year.

Perdiz said last year saw the onset of El Niño which affected the agricultural sector’s performance and reduced rice production.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said DA is refocusing its thrust to the production of more food rather than the building of farm-to-market roads under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Piñol made the statement when he came to DA’s regional center in Pili, Camarines Sur last July 12 for a consultation with Bicol governors, congressmen and agriculture officials. (PNA) JMC/GVR/JH/CBD

20 Legazpi villages cited for best practices in solid waste management
by Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17, (PNA)--The city government awarded with certificates of commendation 20 villages with the best practices in garbage collection during the first half of the year.

“Collection of garbage is the foremost item in the agenda of the city administration as a way of sustaining a healthy community and maintaining its image as an environment-friendly locality in the (Bicol) region,” said Mayor Noel E. Rosal.

He said the awardees were recognized for their “effective implementation of the city ordinance on solid waste management,” that is in accordance with Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The solid waste management awardees were grouped into the “large barangay” and “small barangay” categories.

Among the 10 winners in the “large barangay” category were the villages of Bigaa, Gogon, Puro, Bagumbayan, Arimbay, Bogtong, Bitano, Cruzada, Oro Site and Cabangan West.

Recipients in the “small barangay” category were the villages of Cabangan East, Sabang, Maoyod, Dap-dap, Tamaoyan, Sagpon, Binanuahan West, EM’s Barrio South, Bano and Cabugao.

Rosal said the city ordinance on solid waste disposal provides for the mandatory segregation of biodegradable wastes from the non-recyclable materials.

“The 30 percent of all the garbage produced by households, as well as commercial and other business establishments operating in this city, are deposited at the sanitary landfill,” he said.

Rosal said the remaining garbage are recycled as composts for use as organic fertilizer.

A flagship project of the Philippine and Spanish governments that was built in 2009, the 1.3-hectare sanitary landfill is located 20 kilometers away from the central business district of the city.

UPOPS

City Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) Salve Corral said the awardees were evaluated on the basis of seven criteria set.

The criteria included “best practices of waste segregation at source, segregated collection, collection coverage, and cleanliness and orderliness of their garbage collection center, also known as ‘material recovery facility’ or MRF.”

CENRO also assessed the awardees as to how they maintain and operate their equipment on solid waste disposal.

Records of Cenro also showed the villages were monitored as to their “initiatives in recycling, composting and ‘plastic recovery’” and their documentation (filing and photos) of their management activities.

Rosal also urged the village officials to always inform the villagers on how to be “responsible in the dumping of their waste materials.”

“Throwing of garbage in rivers, canals, esteros and other waterways will cause heavy flooding in the city,” he said.

He added this will contaminate the river and make it hazardous to the people’s health in the community.

Aside from encouraging the proper collection of garbage, Rosal said the burning of waste materials is also forbidden.

The prohibition is meant to reduce the ‘Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants’ or UPOPS from waste materials,” he said.

Rosal said in recent years, the city government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources inked an agreement for the implementation of an anti-UPOP project.

Bicol’s first

Rosal said the city’s sanitary landfill, located in Barangay Banquerohan at the upper portion of the southern areas of this city, “provides two concrete cells where the non-recyclable materials and special waste were deposited and covered with soil.”

He said it was the first and only ecological solid waste management project established in Bicol pursuant to Republic Act 9003.

The engineered landfill was constructed through a PHP100 million fund granted by the Spanish government through Agencia Española Cooperacion International Para El Desarollo, commonly known as Aecid, to the Legazpi city government.

A memorandum of agreement was signed between Rosal and Spanish Ambassador Luis Arias Romero for the undertaking.

Rosal pointed out the landfill in Banquerohan has become a model in promoting a safe and sustainable environment.

He said other localities have shown interest in having similar facilities for the treatment of their waste. The city government monitors more than 70 villages around the city to effectively implement its ordinance for a healthy and safe environment. (PNA) FPV/GVR/EPS/cbd

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Albay solon seeks creation of independent authority to strengthen PHL disaster management
By Alan Tan

DARAGA, Albay, Aug. 16 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Jose Salceda (2nd District) is seeking the creation of a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, to be commonly known as NDRRMA, which will carry out the “complex responsibility” of disaster management in the country that is prone to natural hazards.

He said the proposal for an integrated framework in managing disaster work in the country considers the “institutional constraints” of the existing Republic Act No. 10121, known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010.

Salceda said RA 10121, which mandates the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as the main coordinating body of all local disaster councils, has been due for evaluation or “sunset review” by the congressional oversight committee five years since it was signed on May 27, 2010.

Among those that are up for review are the performance and organizational structure of the member agencies of NDRRMC and the “the issues and gaps in RA 10121” so that remedial legislation could be done to address the increasing challenges of DRRM in the country.

The lawmaker from Albay, a province which has been acknowledged internationally for its best practices in achieving zero casualty during disasters, said the NDRRMA will be constituted according to a proposed bill he will submit to the 17th Congress.

He said the proposed bill had resulted from “action research, sharing of experiences and dynamic discussions among various stakeholders from national and local government agencies, organizations and communities.”

Salceda said the planned bill is also a product of “comparable international experiences.” The lawmaker was recognized by the United Nation International Strategy for Disaster Reduction for his efforts to institutionalize DRRM when he was Albay governor.

After supertyphoon Yolanda (international name:Haiyan) devastated Eastern Visayas, especially Tacloban City, in November 2013 the Japanese International Cooperation Agency has expressed its support for the creation of an agency for the speedy rehabilitation of devastated areas.

“Team Albay” which the former governor organized was the first responder to the devastated city and region immediately after the supertyphoon made its landfall.

Salceda was also elected as the co-chair of the United Nations Green Climate Fund (UN GCF) Board in Paris, France in 2013, to become the first Asian and first Filipino to lead the Fund’s 24-member Board, which was created to help developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change.

He said the aim of the bill is to create an independent NDRRMA that will monitor, serve as oversight, and ensure implementation of DRRRM objectives in all localities in the country.

“The NDRRMA will be equipped with the necessary competency and resources to engage new actors, particularly in the field of risk transfer and insurance, and built with the necessary structure to manage broader governance arrangements and oversee the implementation of DRRM efforts towards sustainable development goals,” said the Albay lawmaker.

He added that his proposed bill will designate and empower the NDRRMA as the lead agency and attached agency of the Office of the President for the implementation of risk reduction policies, programs and projects and rehabilitation and reconstruction.

“It has the authority ...to administer, mobilize, report, monitor and oversee the utilization of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, recovery and rehabilitation funds, and donations for DRRM,” he said.

NDRRMA, NDRRMC, OCD

Salceda said under the proposed bill, the NDRRMA will be separate from the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), which will continue to perform its original mandate to administer a comprehensive national civil defense program, training of community volunteers and other mechanisms for local preparedness.

“The NDRRMC will now focus solely on policy-making and function as a platform for coordination of policy concerns with the NDRRMA organizing and managing the secretariat and operations center to support the NDRRMC,” he said.

He added RA 10121, also known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, was a landmark legislation for Philippine DRRM as it initiated a shift from the decades old DRRM polices on “reactive emergency management and preparedness” to one that is “proactive by prioritizing DRR, prevention and mitigation over disaster response.”

He said many years of intense advocacy work by stakeholders and two unfortunate large scale disasters—-Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng—-that hit Luzon and particularly hurt Metro Manila in 2009, finally compelled the passage of RA 10121.

Salceda said RA 10121 came after 32 years of the previous law that was crafted through Presidential Decree 1566 in 1978.

Innovations

Among the institutional innovations of RA 10121, Salceda said, was the establishment of permanent disaster management offices at all levels of the local government in contrast to the disaster management councils before “but which for economic expediency was maintained at the barangay level.”

Salceda said the practice of a permanent disaster management office was pioneered by Albay in 1994 through the creation of its Albay Public Safety and Management Office, more popularly known as Apsemo.

He said from the previous inter-agency body, known as the National Disaster Coordinating Council, it was radically expanded and transformed into the NDRRMC as it is now known today.

“The NDRRMC has been mandated to supervise and lead not only in emergency management but also in the implementation of disaster risk reduction through its ‘policy-making, coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring and evaluation’ functions,” said Salceda.

Supertyphoon YolandaSalceda said supertyphoon Yolanda, however, exposed the weaknesses of the institutional set up under RA 10121.

He said extreme difficulties were encountered in carrying out the “heavy responsibility of concretely integrating the disaster risk management framework in the national and local planning processes.”

Salceda said that RA 10121’s strength lies in its institutionalization of stakeholder participation in policy-making for DRRM, that was accomplished through the expanded membership of the NDRRMC.

He said however the law “failed to create an institution that is in a sufficiently high position to oversee the implementation of a streamlined DRRM policies nationwide.”

Salceda said RA 10121 failed to create an institution that has the necessary authority, mandate and resources to lead and coordinate the efforts of different stakeholders towards a more resilient nation.

He emphasized how the occurrence of superyphoon Yolanda and other large-scale disasters revealed the problems encountered in coordinating and implementing large-scale DRRM efforts.

In 2015, the Global Climate Risk Index ranked the Philippines as the fifth among the most affected countries within a 20-year period, from 1994 to 2013, with the most number of climate-related extreme weather events.

In the same year, the World Risk Index raised the ranking of the Philippines as the second most at risk country out of 171 countries in the world.

Salceda said the best form of response under an intensifying global warming is a “fast, well-funded and well-coordinated response under the NDRRMA.”

“The country’s policies should be able to reflect this,” he said.

Salceda said his proposed bill in Congress will be entitled: An Act Further Strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System by Institutionalizing the Framework and Plan and Establishing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, Appropriating Funds Thereof and For Other Purposes.(PNA) JMC/GVR/AT/CBD

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ex-Albay governor: Pay back time for higher education beneficiaries
by Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 15 (PNA)-- Albay Rep. Jose Salceda (2nd district) welcomed the “hands on” approach of new Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara in running the affairs of the provincial government, especially the latter’s move to improve collections from the beneficiaries of the “higher education scheme” of the province.

He said he agrees to Bichara's order to collect the PHP30.4 million from the 84,444 student beneficiaries of the Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme (AHECS) which he implemented during his term.

Salceda said to date, the province was only able to collect PHP348,849 from the program’s beneficiaries, which was implemented from 2007 to 2015 under his flagship program of "a college graduate for every Albayano family."

“Maybe, it’s time for the beneficiaries to pay, especially those who are working now and earning money, because the province is still paying the debt and interest of the bank loans,” he said.

Salceda, who was the governor of Albay before Bichara, said many Albayanos were able to benefit from the AHECS program.

He said before he led the provincial government, the Bicol University (BU), which is the premier state university in the region, had only a college population of 13,000 but he said this number had tripled to 35,000 enrollees during his term.

“Before, Albay had a low percentage of college population, of only 4.5 percent compared to the national total average of college population of 40 percent,” he said.

Salceda added that when the province used to have only 34,000 Albayano college graduates but under his administration, many families were able to send their children to college because of his program of a “lower tuition fee,” or only PHP4,500 per semester in BU.

“Of the college enrollees who enjoyed the program of AHECS, 18,000 were able to graduate with different baccalaureate degrees,” he said.

Salceda said 26 percent of the college enrollees under the AHECS program, who were able to earn units in college, managed to work in some private companies.

He cited the business processing outsourcing firm in Legazpi, the Sutherland, which is “accepting even a second year college student.”

Salceda said these AHECS beneficiaries “are able to help their families and some are still studying in college.”

He said the “fiscal” type of governance that Bichara seeks to implement is focused on improving tax collections and revenue generating activities.

Salceda cited that “increasing quarrying fees...is good for the province.”

He admitted that despite his expertise as an economist he did not implement the “system of fiscal government” during his nine-year term as governor of the province.

Instead, he said, he gave all the responsibility to the department heads and Sangguniang Panlalawigan members to execute some functions of the local chief executives.

“Masyadong naging maluwag ang aking administrasyon (my administration has been lenient) in implementing the province’s revenue collection programs,” he added.

He cited as example the full responsibility he had given to Provincial Board Member Job Belen in implementing programs on the environment, Ramon Alsua on matters on agriculture, and “RB” Imperial on education concerns.

Salceda said he allowed the council to be a working model while he was busy “soliciting for the budget and projects outside of the province.”(PNA) FPV/GVR/JH/CBD

Albay lawmaker pushes reactivation of 'committee on oversight' in the House of Representatives
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 15 (PNA)--Albay Rep. Joey Salceda (2nd District) said the House of Representatives must reactivate the committee on oversight as a “working group” that would “monitor, measure and rate” the performance of the executive branch in achieving the targets set in President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).

He said the oversight committee will help the President achieve the goals of his vital programs as articulated in his SONA.

Salceda said the congressional committee will focus on the government agencies which have been instructed and assigned by President Duterte to attain the SONA targets.

“Generally, oversight exists to support the Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the government for the benefit of the people,” he explained.

He said that through periodic monitoring and constant “engagement” of these agencies, “Congress similarly shines upon emerging and evolving trends in public needs, public sentiment and marketplace.”

Salceda said Congress must abandon its traditional adversarial approach on how it relates with the executive branch.

“Instead, it should be more affirming by holding the hands of executive agencies in their effort to achieve the targets both in terms of quantity, quality and timeliness,” he said.

He said the mid-term “course corrections” may be formulated that would result in revised targets that use the insights derived from periodic performance evaluation.

Salceda initiated the formation of the Congressional Oversight system in 2001 and even chaired the committee which he said was left in the “backburner” in 2010.

He said the oversight system was not reinstated in the 15th and 16th Congress.

Salceda said that based on an analysis of the transcripts of the President’s first SONA, Congress was able to identify 60 commitments.

He said these 60 commitments have quantifiable targets to fulfill with 12 commitments requiring legislation.

Salceda said “federalism topped the priorities.”

“While the SONA did not set specific targets for each, three have clear timelines,” he said.

Salceda said the first is the “war on drugs,” which has a target of three to six months.

The second, he added is federalism, while the third commitment made in the Sona is to push the anti-colorum campaign.

“The other 11 legislations are presumed to be approved in the 17th Congress,” Salceda said.

He said the “congressional scorecard” on the SONA commitments has been designed to allow for the periodic updating of performance.

Salceda said this in turn would allow “recommendations for adjustments” when still possible but “not when it is already dead at deadline.”

He observed the President has started his “compact of change” with the people “with a bang” as shown by his 91 percent trust rating and that Mr. Duterte has “virtually no negative rating.”

Salceda cited that the new President has the full support of Congress, which has gathered a “historic supermajority” for Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

The Albay lawmaker added that the President could also muster support from a “workaholic team of pragmatists in the Cabinet.”

He said aside from congressional monitoring and affirmative engagement, Congress should exercise self-regulation and adopt the “pay-as-you-go” principle.

Salceda said this principle is the mechanism that would ensure funding support for existing unfunded laws which he said “in the last estimates would require PHP477 billion to get them going.”

He said Duterte’s first SONA could be summed up through the theme: “social revolution through national discipline.”

Salceda who is currently affiliated with the administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, more commonly known as PDP-Laban, compared such theme of the new government with the theme of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He said Mrs. Arroyo had focused on a “strong republic,” “super regions,” and “strong economy.”

Salceda said the credibility and efficacy of future SONAs as an instrument of the state for social, economic and other public policies will be shaped by “its achievements in prompting positive consequences in the lives of the ordinary people.(PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD

On Marcos' burial: Albay solon seeks 'closure to 30-year national dilemma'
By Alan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 15 (PNA) -- The planned burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Hero's Cemetery) on Sept. 18 will put a closure to the dilemma which has divided the nation for the past 30 years, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda (2nd district) said.

Based on regulations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, deceased persons such as awardees of the Medal of Valor, presidents, secretaries of national defense, Armed Forces chiefs of staff, generals and flag officers, and members of the uniformed services are qualified to be buried at the Libingan.

Salceda said the same rules said those personnel, who have been dishonorably discharged from service or convicted of an offense involving moral turpitude, do not qualify for interment and burial at the LNMB.

"Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos died before he could be convicted," said the solon.

Salceda said for 30 years now, the nation has agonized about this but those who opposed Marcos had been "given the chance" to rule the country.

The Albay lawmaker was referring to former presidents Corazon Aquino (seven years), Fidel Ramos (six years), Benigno Aquino III (six years) or "even debatably" the nine years of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.."

"Twenty-eight years of anti-Marcos regimes (or except for two years of the past 30 years) or two generations of ruling coalitions should have been enough democratic space to change the law ruling on burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani," said Salceda.

He said there should be the same political will to change law on burial at the LNMB in the same way past government were able to "write a new new Constitution with the best social justice provisions...to legislate compensation for human rights victims...named our airport...Ninoy Aquino International Airport."

"The fact is we have failed to memorialize the demons of the Marcos regime," he added.

Salceda said out of the country’s 103 million population, 59.96 million could be deemed as “millennials” or those born since 1985 or who could use a cellphone by 1992.

He said these millennials “have no memory of martial law.”

Salceda said during the 2016 presidential campaign, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte had been clear and transparent about his plan to bury Marcos in Libingan.

"He won overwhelmingly by a margin of over 6 million votes," added Salceda.

He said Vice Pres. Leni Robredo's win over Bongbong Marcos, son of former president Marcos, in the vice presidential race can somehow be seen as the people's rejection of the (sins) of Marcos' past, "even if the margin was thin (and being protested) which dilutes the level of rejection."

"Some or even many say burying Marcos in LNMB will not heal our division or allow our nation to move on. But I dare say that not burying Marcos as allowed by law and as wished by his family has been deeply dividing the nation for the past 30 years," he added.

He said burying Marcos in LNMB will not make him a hero, as critics say.

“What is holding me is whether it makes a mockery of the sacrifices of the human rights victims of martial law,” Salceda said.

He said the country has had to deal with victims of social injustice and human rights violations through each administration in varying degrees, “from state omission and state-tolerated to state-sponsored.”

He said those who have fallen in fighting Marcos did so for something higher -- better lives for our people.

"It is also a moral choice to honor them– that I will continue to be inspired by their sacrifices and the grief of their widows and orphaned children," he added.

"Only history will judge the correctness of our judgment that our nation will be better off in burying Marcos in LNMB to close a dark chapter that has haunted and a past that has shackled our worldview of our future as a people," said Salceda.

Weighing the choices to be made, he urged the people to respect the decision and the “executive prerogative” of the President in executing the law and that is to bury at the Libingan a former president who "has not been convicted for an offense involving moral turpitude."(PNA) JMC/GVR/AT/CBD

Saturday, August 13, 2016

PDEA to probe agent's role in husband’s illegal drug deal
By Mar Arguelles and Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 13 (PNA) -- The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bicol has begun investigating a shootout where four alleged drug pushers were slain by police anti-narcotics operatives in Guinobatan, Albay.

The incident prompted PDEA to conduct a probe after one of the victims, Ferdinand Rigo, a former policeman and alleged leader of the illegal drug group, turned out to be the husband of a PDEA intelligence officer in Bicol, said Jeamary Buendia, acting PDEA information officer.

Buendia, in a phone interview, confirmed a police report that Ferdinand Rigo was the husband of PDEA Intelligence Officer 2 (IO2) Judith J. Rigo.

The name of Rigo’s wife was discovered after police operatives recovered classified documents about 'Oplan Tokhang' from the service vehicle of Ferdinand.

Tokhang is an anti-illegal drug campaign jointly conducted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and PDEA.

Documents seized included a validated list of “drug personalities” and drug-affected villages.

Also among those recovered was a designation order of Judith, wife of the slain drug peddler.

When asked if the victims of the Guinobatan shootout were included in PDEA's illegal drug watch list, Buendia declined to answer for lack of authority from her superiors to issue classified reports.

Buendia, however, assured that the investigation would be thorough and include the “possible involvement of the PDEA officer in her husband’s illegal drug deals”.

Guinobatan

Meanwhile, Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO) 5, said that aside from Rigo, also slain in the Guinobatan shooting was Private First Class Joel Coderes, 26, assigned at the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Juban, Sorsogon.

She identified the third and fourth cohorts of Rigo who were slain, as live-in partners Valdemar Olaguer, 36, and Crisanta de Castro, 29, both from Barangay Mauraro, Guinobatan.

The four drug suspects died before reaching the Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City, added Calubaquib.

Camalig

She said another suspected drug pusher was slain Thursday night by a combined team of law enforcers in a buy-bust operation in the neighboring Albay town of Camalig.

Calubaquib identified the slain as Emerson Llanza Jr., alias “Kulot.”

Llanza, 29, was killed after allegedly resisting arrest at the operation in Barangay Del Rosario, Camalig, she said.

He sustained several gunshot wounds and was declared dead at the Camalig Municipal Health Unit.

Recovered from him were a .38-caliber gun and a plastic sachet of shabu. (PNA) CVL/GBR/MSA/JH/CBD

Legazpi City’s 'Ibalong Festival' kicks off
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 12 (PNA) -- City Mayor Noel Rosal formally opened today, Friday, the silver year anniversary of the Ibalong Festival, a yearly non-religious fiesta showcasing the city as a major tourist destination.

Rosal launched the festivities at the Ibalong Heroes Monument on Lapu-Lapu St., a major thoroughfare in this city tagged as a “city of fun and adventure” by the Department of Tourism.

Based on the “Ibalong epic” written by the late Bicolano scholar Merito Espinas, the festival depicts Bicol’s ancient period that tells of mythical superheroes, villains, monster and wild animals.

The festivities started with a Eucharistic celebration at St. Raphael Church.

It was followed by simple rites and the launch of the “Third Ibalong Weekend Market” at the “Boulevard,”an eight-kilometer seaside road near the city harbor that is a favorite venue for biking, jogging or walking.

In the afternoon, the “First Bicol Construction Expo” opened its exhibit to visitors.

During today’s opening, the “Beach Volleyball Republic Royals” kicked off the various national and international sports events slated for the month-long festival.

On Sunday, the Mayon Triathlon event will open, while the volleyball exhibition match between the Ateneo University’s Blue team and De La Salle University’s Green team will start on Monday.

There will also be national competitions in such events as dragon boat race, open autocross (alongside a car show), and mountain bike race.

A badminton tournament and a pigeon race will lend color to the festivities while Rain or Shine and Global Port will carry the banner of the Philippine Basketball Association during the festival.

On August 16-17, “Ibalong the Musical” will be presented at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation.

As the 25th edition of Ibalong Festival relives the tale of Bicol’s ancient heroes—-Baltog, Handyong and Bantong, their misadventures and tribulations will be depicted in a colorful street presentation on August 29.

On that date, groups from various schools in the city will be decked in indigenous gear and riotous color of fun and adventure as they present scenes from the Ibalong epic.

City Tourism Officer Antonio Reyes has said that since the festival is based on Bicol’s indigenous legend, it is probably the only such celebration of an epic in the country.

Legazpi City posted a 45 percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2015 compared to the previous year, up to 967,396 in 2015 from 666,210 in 2014.

Many of the city’s visitors came to see not just the majestic Mayon Volcano with the nearly perfect-shaped cone but also Legazpi City’s major tourist attractions, among them Lignon Hill, Embarcadero de Legazpi and the Boulevard near the city port. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bicol records 47 new HIV/AIDS cases this year; highest since 1984
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 12 (PNA) -- A total of 47 new cases of the Human Immuno Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) were reported in the Bicol region from January to May this year, the highest number since the first case was reported in the country 32 years ago, said the Department of Health (DOH).

“This was the highest number since the Philippines' first case in 1984,” according to the Department of Health (DOH) Philippine HIV and AIDS registry.

From 1984 to the present, a total of 422 cases were recorded, 83 of them have AIDS while 339 were “asymptomatic.”

Asymptomatic means the virus is present in the body but there is no symptom of any infection.

In the Bicol region, the 422 cases recorded from 1984 to the present, by province, showed that Camarines Sur has 155 cases, Albay-129, Sorsogon-54, Masbate-40, Camarines Norte-28, Catanduanes-15, and from an undisclosed Bicol province -1

In terms of cases by sex, the report showed that 47 were female and 375 were male. The mode of transmission of the virus also showed that 184 of them were homosexual, 133-male bisexual, 101-heterosexual and 4 of of unknown gender.

During the same period it was noted that there were 56 HIV/AIDS cases among Overseas Filipino Workers in the Bicol region.

Dr. Napoleon Arevalo, director of Department of Health-Bicol, recently urged local government units and local partners to take the necessary action to prevent spread of the infection in the region.

He said the local AIDS Council should become “operational” and each local government unit (LGU) should allot a budget for a prevention and control program for HIV/AIDS.

In Bicol, the cities of Tabaco, Legazpi and the municipality of Daraga, all in Albay and Naga City in Camarines Sur are the LGUs which have an operational local AIDS Council.

Meanwhile, the Albay AIDS Council program management has stopped operation on June 30, 2016 when Gov. Al Francis Bichara took over from the previous administration.

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community in Bicol region has expressed alarm over the increasing number of bisexuals and gays infected with HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

Gayon Albay, an LGBT community-based organization here, announced that massive information and outreach activities are being conducted throughout the region.

Toots Rivac, Gayon Albay director, said that regular community outreach and school-based information and education were being conducted that include condom distribution to identified high-risk groups.

The organization has asked all local government units to comply with a memorandum from the Department of Interior and Local Government directing LGUs to establish their aids response at the local level.

The Department of Budget and Management here also issued a “local budget memo” requiring LGUs to allocate a budget for the HIV/AIDS program.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD

DA-Bicol project documents language of disaster
By John Mark Escandor

PILI, Camarines Sur, Aug. 11 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol recently held a focused group discussion (FGD) as part of efforts to localize the terms used to describe the occurrence of a natural disaster.

Representatives to the FGD that included farmers, fisherfolk, DA researchers, Camarines Sur provincial government and the media discussed the terms in Naga-Bikol, which will be put into a handbook to help the common folk understand warnings and weather conditions.

Dr. F. Charito Sebastian, discussion group leader, said the FGD is a research project of the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiatives in Agriculture Program under the Component Disaster-Risk Reduction and Management program of DA.

She said the focused group aims to document commonly used terms in describing the weather and phrases that describe the occurrence of disasters such as typhoons, floodings and dry spell.

Sebastian stressed the importance of the use of language which is “commonly understood” when it comes to communicating the occurrence of disaster and the warnings that come with it.

She recalled the “deadly effects” of not understanding the terms used when disasters occur, such as the use of “storm surge” when super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Tacloban, Leyte on Nov. 14, 2013.

During the discussion, it was viewed that the people may have heeded the great danger of the “storm surge” if the term used was “tidal wave,” in disregard of the formal technical meaning in favor of the more commonly understood term.

Among the terms revisited during the FGD were the local terms used to describe the strength of the typhoon, speed of wind, the temperature during the occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon, flooding, volume of water, height and behavior of water and damage due to disaster.

Prof. Ana Marie Alfelor, project associate, explained that the FGD as a method of their research wanted to draw from the participants the “right language in giving disaster warnings” and their dissemination to various parts of the country.

She said they hope to publish a handbook that would list down the right language used in the locality in order to help mitigate the effects of natural calamities.

In June, the state weather bureau announced the launching of its first ever weather dictionary called “Patnubay sa Weder Forkasting”.

An initiative of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino the dictionary can be used as a reference book by the public on technical weather terms which are simplified and translated into Filipino.

The project was closely coordinated with technical experts from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said a media release from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-PAGASA.

It said the dictionary, which includes terms that are taken from other languages and local dialects such as Ilokano and Bikolano, aimed to strengthen the campaign for a simplified forecast so that the public can better understand the warnings on the state of the weather. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JME/CBD

625 minors hooked on drugs in Bicol; 18 in elementary grades
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 11 (PNA) -- A Bicol police official said the number of minors, who have surrendered to various police stations and local government officials, reached 625 as the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign that started on July 1 continued.

Senior Insp. Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of Police Regional Office (PRO)-Bicol, said Camarines Sur topped the list with 188, followed by Albay-170, Masbate-119, Camarines Norte-79, Naga City-34, Sorsogon-12, and Catanduanes-23.

She said from among the 625 minors who surrendered, 18 were in the elementary grades, 234 in high school, 74 in college and 299 out-of-school youths.

"We are saddened by the reports that an early age, those children, who are still in their elementary and high school years, have already been hooked on drugs," said Calubaquib.

By school level: the 18 elementary pupils, by province-- Albay has 11, Camarines Sur-4, Catanduanes-2, and Masbate-1.

In high school, PRO-5 data showed the 234, by province-- Camarines Sur topped the list with 76, Albay-69, Masbate-63, Catanduanes-16, Camarines Norte-9, and Naga City-1

In college, the 74 surrenderees were--Albay-34, Camarines Sur-34, Catanduanes-4 and Naga City-2.

Evelyn Jerusalem, spokesperson of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Bicol said all the Municipal and City Social Welfare Offices under the local government units in Bicol were tasked to provide “intervention measures” for the minors- surrenderees.

Calubaquib said from July 1 to August 8, PRO5 has recorded 36,134 drug surrenderees, of whom 34,211 were users and 1,923 drug pushers.

She said Philippine National Police Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and President Rodrigo Duterte have been constantly monitoring the daily report on drug surrenderees, especially the data on the minors.

“PRO5 submits its daily report to them,” she added.(PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/CBD

Thursday, August 11, 2016

DOH-Bicol asks local execs to promote “modern natural family planning”
By Mike dela Rama

NAGA CITY, Aug. 11 (PNA)—-Some 141 mothers have died for every 1,000 live births in the Bicol region in 2015.

Dr. Rita Mae Ang told participants to the “modern natural family planning summit” held here Thursday that the figure cited represented the maternal mortality ratio in the region last year as reviewed by the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol.

Dr. Ang told delegates to the summit organized by DOH-Bicol that maternal deaths can be reduced or prevented if a “family program is properly introduced or implemented.”

The summit participants, who included mayors, local legislators and other stakeholders in the region, were asked by Ang to support the health agency in its information and education services as well as in the “provision of services” for DOH-Bicol’s family planning program.

She said the summit is “our (DOH-Bicol) venue to call upon local officials in the Bicol region to achieve our goal to fully implement the Reproductive Health Law.”

New President Rodrigo Duterte, who was inaugurated in office on June 30, had on various occasions during the past months prior to and after his assumption to office emphasized his concerns on the need to realize the goals of the law.

Dr. Ang stressed the local government officials’ help are needed “in order to increase the popularity of modern natural family planning methods ‘in the context of informed choice and volunteerism.’”

She urged all local elected officials, health professionals, service delivery providers, media and non government organizations in the Bicol region to “fulfill the goal of reducing the unmet needs of women of reproductive age and increasing the contraceptive prevalence rate of the region.”

Dr. Ang said “family planning” has the potential to reduce by 32 percent the number of maternal deaths worldwide.

She said the practice of family planning can also reduce by 10 percent the number of deaths among the newborn, infants and children worldwide.

“Family planning can also avert 80 percent of cases of human immune virus (HIV) infections while family planning has the potential to decrease by 71 percent (the number) of unwanted pregnancies worldwide,” Dr. Ang said.

She added that family planning practices can eliminate “53 million fewer unintended pregnancies, 23 million fewer unplanned births, 25 million fewer induced abortion and 7 million fewer miscarriages worldwide.”

The lady doctor explained that family planning is an integral component of DOH-Bicol’s program on “maternal and neonatal child health nutrition,” referring to the services for pregnant women and their unborn children.

The whole day summit was also an initial activity for the “first national family planning conference” set on Nov. 9-11 in Manila which has been designed to help sustain public and political support for “modern natural family planning.”(PNA)

Legazpi puts up tourism desks; gears for Ibalong Festival
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 10 (PNA)--Expecting an influx of tourists for the 25th year celebration of “Ibalong Festival” this month, Mayor Noel Rosal called on the City Tourism Office (CTO) to establish numerous tourism desks in Legazpi City’s major tourist attractions.

He asked City Tourism Officer Antonio Reyes to put up desks at Lignon Hill, Embarcadero de Legazpi, the City Boulevard, Grand Terminal station and other areas sought by tourists.

Rosal said aside from serving as a monitoring station on tourist arrivals, the desk will assist visitors who want to spend their vacation in this city.

Legazpi City, which has been tagged as a “city of fun and adventure” by the Department of Tourism was recognized on July 14 as the “third most competitive city” among more than 1,300 local government units nationwide for offering an attractive business climate to investors.

The National Competitive Council, a public private sector partnership initiated during the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III, gave the recognition.

CTO records showed the city, which hosts an annual average of 35 various gatherings, posted a 45 percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2015 compared to the previous year.

The number of visitors in 2015 was up to 967,396 from the 666,210 in 2014.

Rosal said the city expects more visitors to come this month as the city formally opens the silver year anniversary of the Ibalong festival on August 12.

Based on the “Ibalong epic” written by the late Bicolano scholar Merito Espinas, the festival is a yearly non-religious fiesta depicting Bicol’s ancient period that tells of mythical superheroes, villains, monster and wild animals.

Reyes said since the festival is based on Bicol’s indigenous legend, it is probably the only such celebration of an epic in the country.

He said the festival that showcases Legazpi City as a major tourist destination effectively complements its number one crowd drawer, the fabled Mayon Volcano, depicted by local lore as a “daragang magayon” (beautiful maiden) at times given to seething fury.

Lignon Hill

Visitors coming to the city will be challenged by the hike to Lignon Hill, home of the Mt. Mayon observatory of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Located near the Legazpi domestic airport, Lignon Hill at 511 feet offers the best view of the volcano and the entire city landscape that stretches to as far as Albay Gulf and the nearby Albay towns of Daraga and Sto. Domingo.

The CTO said during early morning hikes up the hill the breezy air and majestic view of the 2,460-meter Mt. Mayon, whose nearly perfect shaped cone is said to rival the beauty of Japan’s Mt. Fiji, will be a soothing sight to the tourist.

During afternoons, Lignon provides a welcome mat to hordes of picnic loving Legazpeños, among them students, private and government employees, and workers from the service industry such as shopping malls and call centers.

Legazpi City visitors, who are into physical fitness activities, will get a leisurely workout through the eight-kilometer “Southern Boulevard,” a seaside road that is a favorite venue for biking, jogging or walking with its two-lane expanse framed by palm and coconut trees.

The coastal road network, that extends from the city’s central business district and port area to the southern villages, provides a picturesque view of Mayon and what is referred to as “Kapuntukan hill” to the north.

A visitor walking along the boulevard would come across the waterfront commercial complex called “Embarcadero de Legazpi.”

Located at the city harbor, the multi-billion public private investment of businessman Elizaldy Co, it provides space for various name brands in the lifestyle market.

The Legazpi City Central Terminal located at the sprawling satellite market site provides visitors with land transportation amenities, that include UV express vans, aircon buses or non-aircon public conveyances for those coming from the National Capital Region, Southern Tagalog or the Visayan provinces.

It is also a favorite shopping area for “pasalubong” where stalls sell abaca-made products and confectioneries concocted from pili, a major Bicol crop.

Ibalong festival’s opening day activities will consist of simple rites at the Ibalong heroes monument in Barangay Lapu-Lapu and the launch of the “Third Ibalong Weekend Market” at the “Boulevard” to be followed by the opening of the “First Bicol Construction Expo” in the afternoon.

Aside from the “Beach Volleyball Republic Royals,” there will be other national and international sports events. These include the Mayon Triathlon and the volleyball exhibition match between teams from Ateneo University and De La Salle University.

There will also be national competitions in such events as dragon boat race, open autocross (alongside a car show), and mountain bike race.

A badminton tournament and a pigeon race will lend color to the festivities while Rain or Shine and Global Port will carry the banner of the Philippine Basketball Association during the festival.

Visitors will get a sampling of local culture through a street presentation with competing dance groups from the various Bicol provinces.

On Aug.16-17, “Ibalong the Musical” will be presented at the Ibalong Centrum for Recreation.

As to how to get to these riveting sites with riotous color and fun, visitors are egged on to ask the city’s various tourism desks.(PNA) FPV/GVR/EPS/CBD

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Camarines Sur solon raises alarm over spate of killings
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Aug. 8 (PNA) -- Amid the spate of killings of suspected drug pushers and users, a neophyte congressman from Camarines Sur raised the alarm and sought protection for the innocent.

Camarines Sur third district Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte and the legal minds in Congress to put in place systems and mechanisms that could protect the innocent and helpless.

“The spate of killings in recent days have triggered pained and alarmed reactions from various sectors,” he said.

“In fact, in the House, I was riveted to the compelling discourses on the matter. There is a need, I believe, to raise the alarm...,” he added.

Bordado acknowledged how the drug menace has been “systematically destroying the very foundation of our nation and by all means the President must be supported to nip the menace in the bud."

He said putting in place mechanisms to protect the civil rights of every Filipino will not affect the momentum in the current all-out war against illegal drugs.

Bordado said he even rejoiced when the President declared “his firm resolve to intensify the crusade against the purveyors of illegal drugs” during his first State of the Nation Address on June 30.

In Camarines Sur, a suspected drug pusher was killed August 2 in Iriga City, said Senior Supt. Walfredo Pornillos, police provincial director.

The incident was the most recent record of a shootout during a buy bust operation as alleged by arresting lawmen that occurred during the first days of the month.

He said police operatives were conducting a buy-bust operation against drug suspect Nicholas Morallo in his house at San Antonio Subdivision, Barangay San Roque in Iriga City.

Pornillos said Morallo, who was listed number 2 in the drug watchlist, resisted arrest and drew a gun when the police operatives arrested him at 5:30 a.m.

“Morallos was immediately brought to Lourdes Hospital but he was declared dead on arrival by an attending physician,” added Pornillos.

The number of drug “personalities,” who have surrendered to local chief executives and police officials in the Bicol region reached 34,059 as of July 31 since the Police Regional Office (PRO5) launched its war against illegal drugs on July 1, a report of PRO5 said last week.

PRO5 spokesperson Malou Calubaquib said that among the 34,059 surrenderees, 32,305 of them were users while 1,754 were pushers.

Calubaquib said lawmen were able to knock on the doors of 11,210 houses in the Bicol region from July 1-31 as part of Operation Tokhang, a Visayan term that means to knock on doors.

She said Camarines Sur had the most number of surrenderees at 11,654, followed by Albay with 9,649, Camarine Norte-5,041, Masbate-2,874, Sorsogon-2,072, Catanduanes 1,238 and Naga City-1,531. The latter, which is in Camarines Sur, is separately listed from the six Bicol provinces by PRO5.

PRO5 records in July showed the drug war in Bicol had resulted in the killing of 19 drug personalities and the arrest of 226 suspects involved in the drug trade. Lawmen recovered 780 plastic sachets of the illegal drug shabu during the same month. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JME/CBD

Albay radiomen plant 3 rare tree species in Lignon Hill
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 8 (PNA) --- Local broadcast journalists and their partners from different government agencies in Albay planted some 250 seedlings of three species of trees identified as indigenous and endemic to the Philippines over the weekend morning in Lignon Hill in this city.

Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-Albay chapter president Hermogenes “Jun” Alegre Jr. said their group decided to plant the “Lauan, Dao and Cuyaoyao” species this year.

He said "Project: Broadcastreeing" at the hilltop, which was also site of the Mayon Volcano observatory of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, is an annual undertaking of their group.

“This is my fourth year as KBP chapter president in Albay and I want it to be part of the noble program of the Legazpi City government and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to cultivate and preserve the nearly endangered species of the endemic and indigenous trees of the country."

Alegre, owner and station manager of local radio station Zagitsit News FM (100.3hz), said members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Legazpi City, Albay and the Police Regional Office 5 or PRO5 trooped to Lignon Hill to support the project.

Miel Loria, forester of DENR-Bicol, said last year’s “broadcastreeing” program planted hundreds of narra seedlings in Lignon Hill.

“This time, however, the group decided to plant the three species as these can hardly be found because of the alarming massive cutting of trees and ‘kaingin’ (slash and burn farming) done by farmers,” he said.

He said Lauan, Dao and Cuyaoyao could only be found in the forested areas in the Philippines, which is why they are deemed “endemic and indigenous” to the country.

“But these tree species are rarely found in forested areas in country,” said Loria.

He said the white “lauan” (Lawaan) (scientific name: Shorea Contorta) is a large tree reaching up to 50 meters high and 182 centimeters in diameter.

On the other hand, “Dao” (scientific name:Dracontomelon Dao) is a native tree that reaches up to 40 meters high and 90 centimeters in diameter,” said Loria.

He added that the small to medium tree, locally called “Cuyaoyao” (Kuyawyaw) or “Batino” (scientific name: Alstonia Macrophylla), that belongs to the Moraceae tree family, can be found mostly in Masbate and some parts of the Bicol region.

Loria said there were other endemic and indigenous trees in the Philippines such as “Amurao,” “Yakal,” and “Apitong” but DENR-Bicol does not have these in their nursery.

“We have difficulty finding them,” he said.

He said the agency’s forest rangers continuously search for these tree species.

“But we are still hopeful we could find a mother tree or seedlings of these trees that are endemic or indigenous trees to the country,” added Loria.

He said in the Bicol region, there were still virgin forests where endemic and indigenous trees could be found, citing Mt. Bulusan in Irosin town and Magallanes town, both in Sorsogon province; Mt. Masaraga in Albay; Bicol National Park in Camarines Norte; and Mt. Isarog in Camarines Sur.

“Some primary forested areas in Catanduanes also have these endemic and indigenous trees,” he added.

Alegre said they had decided to plant the Lauan, Dao and Cuyaoyao in Lignon Hill so that they could easily “look after the trees and take care of them.”

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, who joined the activity, said they had allocated 2.1-hectares, that were part of Lignon Hill, for the city government’s reforestation program.

He declared the 2.1-ha area as “Arboretum Area” that would be devoted primarily for the planting of indigenous and endemic trees.

The “Broadcastreeing” program is yearly observed by KBP members every month of August nationwide. (PNA) RMA/GVR/JH/CBD

PSG protects children's welfare in Camarines Sur
By Connie B. Destura

NAGA CITY, Aug. 8 (PNA) -- PSG as most everyone knows stands for Presidential Security Group or the leading agency tasked with securing the President of the Philippine Republic.

In the mainly agricultural Barangay (village) Pawili in Pili, capital town of Camarines Sur province, however, PSG is a denotation for something else.

PSG means Parents Support Group, an advocacy of development organization Plan International Philippines, that gives children a different sense of “security.”

The humanitarian, child-centered group which has no religious, political or government affiliations, believes such a support mechanism is essential to ensure that the children’s welfare in this side of the province of Camarines Sur are protected.

PSG in Pawili, which was initiated by community members, started with four members in 2013 and has to date grown to 40 active members.

Ensuring that children are properly guided and disciplined without having to resort to “physical contact or degrading punishment” that could cause children to misbehave or become disobedient, is the main advocacy of PSG, a component of Plan’s positive discipline program.

Jayson P. Lozano, project manager of the program, said PSG promotes “positive and non-violent” forms of providing discipline to children.”

He said the support group prohibits “corporal punishment” and “all forms of degrading and humiliating punishment of children in all settings.”

Corporal punishment could take the form of verbal abuse, slapping, kicking, boxing or other physical means to get a child to obey he added.

Lozano said Plan seeks to help build the capacity and commitment of “those responsible” for ensuring that the children’s rights are met.

By “those responsible” he was referring to both the local and national government. He said their work on “capacity-building” in the grassroots level is in partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

OFW's spouse

Michelle Bungos, 43, spouse of an Overseas Filipino Worker who hails from Pawili, said she has learned that a positive form of discipline is an effective way to handle her three children.

Bungos, whose husband works as an electrician in Saudi Arabia, said such a style of discipline has helped her rear her three boys, ages 21, 8 and 7.

She said it is a no mean feat considering that she has to be both a mother and father to her children.

The support group, she said, has been helping instill the value of positive discipline among the villagers.

“In one instance when we were conducting a learning session in a remote zone of our barangay, a mother came out of the house and hit her little boy who was playing outside,” she recounted.

Bungos said the PSG in Pawili invited the mother to a two-hour session on the benefits of the positive style of discipline.

Children’s Month

Village councilwoman Erlinda Tengco said that prior to implementation of the “anti-corporal punishment” program of the PSG, the village had noted at least five cases of parents who use physical means to punish their children.

“After a year of the program’s implementation, we could now see the difference. We now have recorded only two cases from the five cases before the program came in,” she said.

She said at the beginning of its program, PSG conducted a house-to-house visit to orient parents on how to discipline their children without having to resort to violence.

Tengco said different monthly activities were organized to support and monitor each PSG member.

“The work involves monthly group activities involving backyard gardening, a feeding program, learning sessions and social interactions,” she said.

Tengco said each year, PSG promotes a so-called “Children’s Month” where members submit entries for a “slogan contest” that promotes child protection while children showcase their talents in a group presentation.

Food security

The PSG also holds food security projects through its “Clean and Green” program where every household is encouraged to have a backyard garden and care for livestock.

“Simula sa kani-kanilang mga bakuran bibigyan sila ng mga libreng binhi at kapag namunga na ay sila naman ang magbibigay ng binhi sa iba pang mga kabarangay na nais ding magtanim.” (In the beginning they get free seeds and when these bear fruit they in turn share their seedings to fellow villagers who also wish to raise vegetable crops), said Tengco.

She said the backyard ventures of PSG members earned merit for Pawili when it received an award during the town’s Agriculture Expo.

Play areas

As part of their counterpart to the positive discipline program of Plan International Philippines, the village officials made plans to put up another daycare center to augment their existing facility.

They said the village has seven zones with each zone provided with a recreational facility where children can play.

The village also has an education program that gets additional support from PSG.

Village councilman Mario Amparado, chairman committee on education, said the village council, which gets support from PSG, earmarks P30,000 yearly cash support for 30 scholars in high school who each receive a P1,000 cash for their educational needs.

He said the program has benefited 390 high school graduates for the past 13 years, which include those years when PSG came to Pawili.

Tengco added that as part of her personal advocacy she sends on her own two college scholars, five high school students and five elementary pupils as part of her contribution to the village’s education work.

Drug-free community

Village leaders also carry out a daily curfew program prohibiting children from roaming the streets from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Village officials said the changes in the community became apparent when PSG was introduced into the fabric of the community’s everyday lives.

Pawili officials have now become proud in declaring their village as a “drug-free area” for minors.”

They said the village received various recognitions, including “champion for two consecutive years at the “Youth Empowerment Summit” in 2014 and 2015.

Officials said their village was also recognized as the “most disciplined government unit” in Pili town.

Lozano said before the PSG program came to Pawili, the village was “behind” compared to Plan’s other target project areas when it came to providing a “children’s program” in the community.

“Now the villagers have become very much motivated and willing to speak about their concerns on raising their children,” he said.

Lozano said the villagers have also become “ready volunteers” to the program and its projects.

He shared the community members have come to realize the value of becoming volunteers for PSG’s projects.

“For who will help the people of Pawili but the people of Pawili themselves,” said Lozano. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

(News Feature)Albayanos thank Duterte for NEDA approval of 3 major infra projects
By Johnny C. Nunez

LEGAZPI CITY, August 8 (PNA) -- Albayanos are ecstatically happy and thankful to President Rodrigo Duterte over the recent approval by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) of three major infrastructure projects, which they see as decisive growth propellers for their province and the entire Bicol region.

Delayed for a number of years, the three major transport infrastructure projects worth about Php 185.64 billion, were approved by the NEDA Board, chaired by President Duterte, on recommendation by the NEDA Investment Coordinating Committee (ICC).

Albayanos and other Bicolanos now look forward to what they expect to be an unprecedented economic boom for their area.

PDP-Laban Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd District), as former Albay governor and chairman of both the Bicol Regional Development Council (BRDC) and the Luzon Area Development Committee (RDCOM) for nine and six years, respectively, have initiated and labored doubly hard to push them during the previous administration.

He identified the projects as the Php 170.7 billion- North-South Railways Project (NSRP) South Line, the Php 4.79-billion long delayed Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay with an increase in its Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) Area, and the Php 10.15-billion Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) project, in his province’s third district.

The three projects are among the first batch of NEDA approvals worth Php 300 billion under the new Duterte administration, 60 percent of which will benefit Bicol, especially Albay. They were recommended by the NEDA ICC to the board for final approval and release of funds.

The NSRP Southline and the BIA are projects Albayanos take pride in. Minutes after Salceda posted the news of the approval in his social media account, it gained more than a thousand likes and was flooded by comments from Albayanos thanking the Duterte administration for releasing their long awaited projects, with record speed.

Himself elated over the positive development on the stalled projects, Salceda said he was informed of their approval by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Ernesto M. Pernia and Department of Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno.

He said the Duterte administration wanted to fast track the rollout of infrastructure and development projects so that the lower income class, especially in the countryside, could immediately feel the effects of rapid economic growth. Faster deliberation and eventual approval await other major projects in the pipeline.

The 653-kilometer NSRP Southline, which runs from Tutuban in Manila to Legazpi and eventually to Matnog, Sorsogon was approved following several modifications, including the shift to the use of standard gauge, a newer and more internationally accepted technology. A monumental government project, Salceda said it would give about 24 percent economic returns to the countryside and is expected to offer massive growth opportunities for Bicol, particularly Albay, the regional center and hub. Formerly known as the Bicol Express, the link is the oldest rail system in Southeast Asia.

“I am privileged as former BRDC and Luzon RDCom chair to have contributed to this game changer infrastructure for countryside development,” Salceda shared.

As for the BIA, a new domestic-Principal Class 1 airport of international standards, the budget was maintained at Php 4.79 billion since the proposed changes would not entail additional cost, and the construction would be shorten to 2.5 years, he added.

The BIA is expected to open the floodgates for international tourism to the Bicol region, particularly Albay which is now a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and an emerging global ecotourism destination. The IPAC, on the other hand, will particularly benefit Albay’s third district. It aims to enhance market access and competitiveness of smallholder farmers in the target clusters of agrarian reform communities. (PNA) RMA/JCN/EDS