Friday, September 30, 2016

Catanduanes solon urges DOTr to hasten 'detailed plan' to resolve traffic crisis

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 29 (PNA) -- Catanduanes Representative Cesar Sarmiento, chairperson of the House committee on transportation, urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to submit a detailed plan on the immediate projects it will pursue to address the traffic crisis in the country, specifically in Metro Manila.

Sarmiento, in a phone interview, said the specific plan will facilitate formulation of a House Bill granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to solve the pressing traffic crisis in the country.

He said the plan will serve as a “road map” on how, where and when the President will exercise the emergency powers.

Sarmiento said DOTr’s detailed plan should include identified subdivisions that should be opened up as alternate roads, legal measures to take once the subdivision owners file temporary restraining orders at local and higher courts, DOTr’s reorganization plan, procurement systems to be adopted and other traffic issues.

He said despite a ban on tackling other issues while Congress deliberates on the budget, the House committee on transportation has been allowed to tackle the urgent issues it is facing.

Sarmiento said submission of the detailed plan will allow the newly created Technical Working Group (TWG) to hasten consolidation of House Bills filed by 11 members of Congress, the latest of which was that submitted by Albay second District Rep. Joey Salceda.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe, Representatives Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Arthur Yap, Strike Revilla and Pia Cayetano, were among those who submitted their versions of the Bill addressing the traffic crisis.

The TWG is chaired by Sarmiento with members from the house committee on transportation, DOTr and private stakeholders.

Sarmiento said they have started two sessions that reviewed and deliberated on the 11 versions.

“Hopefully, these would be consolidated into one and presented at the house plenary for discussion and approval,” he said.

Sarmiento said the TWG is expected to submit to the House its consolidated version for plenary debates on October 7.

He said they hope to come up with a comprehensive bill granting emergency powers to the President by the end of the year.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on transportation, will formulate and handle deliberations on the Senate version of the Bill.

Salceda’s House Bill 3712 mandates the formulation of a decongestion and transportation network development reform plan for four sectors--land-based, rail transport and toll roads, air-based and seaports.

The bill seeks the designation of a traffic crisis manager under DOTr, grant of authority for special modes of procurement, safeguards in implementing the executive order on Freedom of Information to ensure transparency and accountability and creation of a congressional oversight committee.

Salceda said the House Bill provides an initial P20 billion to jump start the traffic reform plan which can be sourced from the current year’s budget of the agencies implementing the measure and from savings of the national government.

The Albay solon stressed the urgency of the House Bill by citing a report of the Japan International Cooperation Agency which said that land and air traffic congestion is costing the country losses in potential income of P2.4 billion daily.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) has added this daily losses will balloon to P6 billion by 2030 if no intervention is undertaken,” said Salceda. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/CBD

Thursday, September 29, 2016

DA to enforce 10-point agricultural reform agenda

POLANGUI, Albay, Sept. 29 (PNA)-- The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for a 10-point agricultural reform agenda that would address the country’s goal of producing sufficient rice and food during the six-year administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, said a ranking DA official.

Roy Abaya, DA operations department head, in an interview, said DA’s 10-point agriculture agenda will focus on agriculture road map, research and development, irrigation development, land use plan, hybrid rice technology development, farm mechanization and farmers’ access to financial programs.

He added that under the watch of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, DA will promote agricultural competitiveness, intensify agricultural exhibits and farm demonstrations, and revive gardening as a basic subject in the curriculum of public and private elementary and high schools.

William Dar, former DA secretary, said the agri-reform agenda would seek a stop to corruption in the agriculture sector.

He said to achieve this, DA shall focus on the campaign against the smuggling of rice, meat and other agriculture products. Dar said DA will also campaign against the rice cartels, illegal fishing and other unlawful practices impeding the government’s rice sufficiency target and affecting the production of farmers and fisherfolk.

“The country’s rice sufficiency is now on the crossroad. We cannot produce enough food for every Filipino so it is imperative that this agriculture scenarios be adopted,” he said.

Dar, who is also the president of the Inang Lupa Movement and nongovernment organization, said there is a need to put a stop to land conversion as the agricultural sector must have additional land for it to achieve its goal.

He said agriculture is among the main pillars of the economy but the Philippine Statistical Authority had said the sector is facing a decline after posting a 4.4 percent decrease in Gross Regional Domestic Product from January to March this year.

The DA with the Rice Board and other private stakeholders are holding a three-day National Rice Technology Forum in Polangui town, that ends today, Sept. 29.

Almost 2,000 rice farmers, agricultural extension workers, students and local executives are joining the forum that is pushing for the use of hybrid rice seeds among Bicolano farmers.

Abaya said during a press conference that DA is endorsing the hybrid rice technology because it is “all-weather and pest resistant” and would give farmers a big return on their investments.

Frisco Malabanan, Rice Board spokesperson, said farmers could expect to double their production when they adopt the hybrid technology.

He said a hectare of rice land that adopts the technology can produce 10 metric tons or 200 sacks of rice as compared to the ordinary rice variety which produces only 4.5 metric tons or 90 sacks of rice. (PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD

Legazpi City inks sisterhood pact with Castilla town in Sorsogon
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 28 (PNA) -- Mayor Noel E. Rosal of this city and Mayor Joan Aquende of Castilla, Sorsogon on Tuesday signed a sisterhood agreement to foster a strong partnership that would be mutually beneficial for the two localities.

The agreement, which was signed on September 27 at the session hall of the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) of Castilla, resulted from the council’s Resolution 046-2016 “expressing willingness for a sisterhood relationship” with the Legazpi City government.

Legazpi City also passed a resolution recognizing the importance of fostering friendship and understanding between the two localities.

Rosal said the sisterhood agreement will help the two local governments improve their initiatives in the areas of science and technology, culture and arts, education and sports development, environmental protection, public health and social services, tourism development and in planning and urban development.

He said he will encourage other investors to put up businesses in Castilla to improve the economic activities in the place and give employment to the people.

Aquende said the pact is only the start of the sharing of best practices between the two localities that will benefit the constituents of two parties.

She expressed optimism that Legazpi City’s contributions in the areas of good governance and tourism development will help Castilla a lot.

Legazpi City, capital of Albay, was recently declared by the National Competitive Council (NCC) as the third most competitive component city in the country.

It obtained high scores from the NCC in terms of government efficiency, economic dynamism and infrastructure development. NCC is a public-private sector partnership created during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

Legazpi City is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country. It posted an increase of 45 percent in tourist arrivals, or from 666,210 visitors in 2014 to 967,396 in 2015.

Castilla, on the other hand, is a third classmunicipality which has 34 barangays, 13 of which are coastal areas dependent mostly on fishing and farming for livelihood.

The municipality has a total land area of 18,620 hectares with a total population 52,903 based on the 2010 census of the Philippine Statistical Authority. (PNA) LAP/GVR/EPS/CBD

Bicol holds simultaneous earthquake drill for third quarter

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 28 (PNA) —- Simultaneous earthquake drills kicked off Wednesday morning in six Bicol provinces with Pamplona, Camarines Sur as the central pilot area in the third quarter nationwide earthquake exercise, the head of Office of Civil Defense Bicol (OCD-Bicol) said Wednesday.

Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, head of OCD-Bicol and the Bicol Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said hundreds of disaster responders took part in the drill that started around 9 a.m today in 107 towns and seven cities in Bicol.

The disaster responders included units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines such the Police, Army, Air Force and Navy, Bureau of Fire Protection and Philippine Coast Guard.

The third quarter drill aimed to perfect the basic “duck, cover and hold” model and increase public awareness of the concept.

“The simultaneous drill in Bicol has achieved its objective as the disaster responders were able to impress evaluators that they can swiftly respond during a high magnitude earthquake scenario,” Alejandro said.

He said the outcome of the exercise indicates that “Bicol is now prepared for the Big One.”

Alejandro, in a phone interview, said that in the past two quarters of this year, the towns of Pasacao and Sorsogon City were designated as the central area of the region-wide earthquake drill.

Alex Baloloy, volcanologist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), in a phone interview, said Bicol is vulnerable to both offshore and inland quakes.

He said the Bicol peninsula sits between two quake zones, the Philippine Trench which stretches along the Pacific area and the Philippine Fault that traverses Luzon up to Mindanao.

Baloloy said an offshore quake of magnitude 7 to 9 can trigger a “tsunami” that could affect the eastern coastal areas of Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, and the Camarines provinces.

Phivolcs defines a tsunami as a series of sea waves commonly generated by under-the-sea earthquakes whose height could be greater than five meters.

Mark Miraballes, senior geologist of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), in an interview, said an inland earthquake with a high magnitude could hit all the Bicol provinces as these areas are situated in the periphery of the Philippine Fault, where local faults such as the Legazpi Fault, Masbate segment and suspected faults in Camarines Sur lie.

He said high magnitude quakes could “extremely affect” flat lying areas with “alluvial soil material deposits,” flood plains, coastal and river channels.

Alluvial deposits that consist of silt, sand, clay and gravel are materials deposited by rivers.

Miraballes added that an earthquake with magnitude 6 to 9 can trigger ground shaking, landslides, sinkholes and flooding. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/CBD

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

DA pushes hybrid rice seeds among Bicolano farmers
By Connie B. Destura

POLANGUI, Albay Sept. 28 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol is conducting a three-day national rice technology forum in Polangui, Albay that is pushing for the use of hybrid rice seeds among Bicolano farmers.

Now on its second-day, the forum that started on Tuesday, Sept. 27 encourages farmers to adopt high quality rice varieties that can adapt to climate change and boost production and income.

More than 2,500 farmers, local government units’ agricultural extension workers, students and other stakeholders in the Bicol region joined the forum which is being supported by the Rice Productivity Advocacy Board (Rice Board).

Dr. Frisco Malabanan, spokesperson of the Rice Board and a senior technical consultant of SLAgritech Corp., said the Rice Board provides assistance to the national government in providing new rice production technologies to farmers in the country.

“We are focusing on hybrid rice technology,” he said.

He said their goal is to help the government educate the farmers on the importance of this technology so food security and self-sufficiency could be attained in the Philippines.

Malabanan said the best way to convince the farmers on the value of the technology is to show them how the hybrid rice variety is being applied by farmers.

“With farmers to see is to believe, they will not use your technology if they cannot see the technology in the local area,” he said.

The technology forum has technical and plenary discussions as well as exhibits that complement the learnings and experiences of the farmers in the field. It is highlighted by field visits to demonstration farms.

A 20-hectare land of farmers led by Edgar Pesebre in Barangay Balangibang, Polangui has been chosen site of the demonstration farm.

Pesebre showcased the actual use of technology for the hybrid and inbred varieties that give farmers a choice of the appropriate technology for their respective growing conditions.

Aside from its strategic location, Polangui town is one of the northwestern towns in Albay’s third district that is known as the rice granary of the province.

Polangui has been recognized nationwide as it is a “hall of famer” during in the search for the national rice achievers for three consecutive years, from 2012 to 2015.

Polangui Mayor Cherilie Mella-Sampal said given the right direction government services could be effectively brought to the farmers.

“We shall move forward in our quest for a successful agricultural program geared towards attaining food security and better productivity,” she said.

Some 400,000 hectares of farmlands nationwide have been planted with the hybrid rice variety.

DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol recently announced that DA looks forward to planting hybrid rice in around one million hectares of land in the country.

Malabanan said with private sector participation he believes the goal can be achieved in helping speed up the transfer of modern rice technology to farmers in the country.

He said the Polangui activity is the third national forum held in the country since 2015. The first was held in Digos, Davao Del Sur in February 2015 while the second was in Pototan, Iloilo in March this year.

The seven member companies organizing the Polangui forum include Bayer Philippines Inc., DuPont Pioneer, SL Agritech Corp., Seedworks, Syngenta Philippines Inc., PhilRice and PhilsCAT. (PNA) JMC/GVR/CBD

Albay’s rice granary gets boost from “hanging irrigation” structures '
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, Albay, Sept. 27, (PNA) -- Even with dry spells, rice lands in the northwestern part of Albay and some municipalities in the southwestern side are being fed with irrigation water.

Credit goes to the unique “hanging irrigation” structure called “flume” that was built to help boost rice production in farmlands in these areas.

According to Ed Yu, spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Bicol, a flume is an elevated canal used as a foot bridge to convey water from its source.

“Flume allows the flow of water from the source to another end to distribute water and irrigate waterless rice fields,” he said.

In remote Binatagan village, some 15 kilometers away from Ligao City proper, the flume conveys water over the bridge to provide irrigation to vast tracts of rice fields that were formerly idle lands.

Albay third district Representative Fernando Gonzalez said water impounded at the source is conveyed through the flume across the river so irrigation could reach dry farm lands.

He said in past years, several hectares of rice fields in the village were idle but when the flume came to Binatagan “it was able to irrigate 40 to 50 hectares of land whose owners waited for so long a time.”

In Barangay Binanawan, about four kilometers away from the city proper, another flume or hanging irrigation was built.

It is about 50 meters long and reinforced with stronger pillars to support the structure and withstand even natural calamities.

“This flume can carry a very large volume of water due to its stronger pillars as 300 hectares of rice land will be irrigated,” Gonzalez said.

He said the flume serves two purposes, as a public pathway in case of flooding, and to carry a big volume of water to rice canals for distribution to vast tracts of rice lands.

Gonzales said the very big volume of water carried by the flume passes through the concrete reinforcement for distribution to rice fields in Ligao City and neighboring municipality of Oas.

“We provide water to 300 hectares of rice land that used to be an abaca plantation,” he said.

The Ogsong Irrigation Association with more than 100 members manages the flume in Barangay Binanawan.

Yu said the flumes are unique in Bicol, specifically in the third district of Albay, that embraces Ligao City and municipalities northwest of the province, such as Guinobatan, Oas, Polangui and Libon, and Pio Duran and Jovellar in the southwestern side.

Water channeled through the unique irrigation system over the bridge is being sourced from the major dams established in the third district.

Local government units in the district manage five major dams and numerous communal and small impounding irrigation projects.

Gonzales said the oldest irrigation facility is the Nasisi Dam that was put up in the 1950’s during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay.

A major irrigation project of the government, Nasisi was able to withstand the wrath of fierce storms and super typhoons that have hit Albay.

The dam can irrigate 700 hectares of rice fields in Ligao and Oas.

Yu said the third district of Albay has two rubber dams, the only such type of dams in Bicol. These are the South Quinale in Oas and Cabilogan-San Juan in Ligao City.

He said as of December 2015, around 10,030 hectares of rice land were irrigated by NIA in Albay’s third district, known as the rice granary of the province.

Gonzales said “climate smart agriculture” has allowed water to be distributed innovatively in the district.

Climate smart agriculture is a term a term that was coined in 2010 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as an approach to farming that addresses the challenges of food security and climate change.

Gonzales said there is “need to innovate” to provide irrigation to farmers with rain-fed farmlands and “help boost food production and augment their income.”

“A lot of innovations, be it over the bridge or under the bridge, make the water available to the farmers,” he said.

Gonzales said without innovation many areas would not have been irrigated.

“The imagination makes things possible,” he added. (PNA) LAM/GVR/RBB/CBD

Monday, September 26, 2016

Albay solon files House Bill vs 'traffic congestion crisis’
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) —- Albay second district Representative Joey Salceda filed House Bill No. 3712 which will grant emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte so that the traffic congestion crisis in Metro Manila could be immediately resolved.

He said studies have established that the massive and traffic congestion in the country has become a “national emergency” requiring “immediate, decisive and comprehensive solutions.”

Salceda said Waze, an international traffic software application, reported that Metro Manila had the worst traffic in the world in 2015.

Citing Waze, he said Metro Manila residents spend 1,000 hours in traffic per year while metropolitan areas in other countries spend only 300 hours.

The Albay solon cited a report of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which said that land and air traffic congestion is costing the country losses in potential income of P2.4 billion daily.

“The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) added this daily losses will balloon to P6 billion by 2030 if no intervention is undertaken,” said Salceda.

He said JICA also reported that more cars on the road are causing a rise in greenhouse emissions from 4.7 million tons per year in 2012 to 5.7 million tons per year by 2030, thus “causing a staggering cost in human health and climate change.”

Salceda said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has reported that airport congestion is causing the airlines at least P7 billion per year in fuel and engine maintenance costs.

The Albay lawmaker noted the everyday nightmare experienced by commuters in Metro Manila.

“There is no lack of daily reminders of the pervasive traffic crisis with personal stories of friends and family members missing out on their personal and professional lives because they spend literally half of their day in cars, jeepneys, buses, and planes wallowing in traffic,” he said.

Salceda said what is lacking is a solution that will stop the crisis from escalating and spreading to other urban hubs such as Cebu and Davao.

He said HB 3712 mandates the formulation of a decongestion and transportation network development reform plan for four sectors--land-based, rail transport and toll roads, air-based and seaports.

The bills seeks the designation of a traffic crisis manager under the Department of Transportation, grant of authority for special modes of procurement, safeguards in implementing the executive order on Freedom of Information to ensure transparency and accountability and creation of a congressional oversight committee.

Salceda said the House Bill provides an initial P20 billion to jump start the traffic reform plan which can be sourced from the current year’s budget of the agencies implementing the measure and from savings of the national government

He added the House Bill is in line with Article 2, Section 10 of the Philippine Constitution “to promote social justice in all phases of national development. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD

National rice technology forum set in Polangui, Albay
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) –- Over 2,000 farmers, extension workers, students and other rice industry and agriculture players from various provinces in the country are expected at the National Rice Technology forum on September 27-29 at the Bicol University (BU) Polangui campus in Albay.

The event, which is under the aegis of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol and the Rice Productivity Advocacy Board, will showcase advances in rice technology that will help the Philippine rice industry become more competitive with other countries.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol is expected at the event, which will feature exhibits, technical and plenary discussions and field visits at the demonstration site of various rice hybrid and inbred varieties in Barangay Balangibang, Polangui. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Legazpi City welcomes country’s first woman chess Grandmaster Janelle Mae Frayna

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) —- Welcome honors during the flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall and a motorcade around the city greeted 20-year-old Janelle Mae Frayna, the country’s first woman chess Grandmaster (GM), when she arrived in Legazpi City Monday morning.

Frayna earned the title after a match in the ninth round of the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan on September 11. During the welcome ceremonies, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said Frayna’s achievement has been an “inspiration not just for the young generation in Legazpi City but also for those in the Philippines and the rest of the world.”

Frayna said she was very happy for the support given to her by the Legazpenos.

She encouraged young people to start playing chess early, “even at the age of six years old.” Frayna recalled she started playing chess when she was 11 years old and joined the Magayon Chess Club to hone her skills.

“Always play and practice chess. Read a lot of chess books so you can improve your moves and learn different strategies,” Frayna said.

Rosal, along the city’s legislative council, handed a P50,000 worth cheque to Frayna who was accompanied by GM Jayson Gonzales, captain of the women’s team in the chess Olympiad in Azerbaijan and executive director of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Legazpi gave chess boards to representatives of four elementary and high schools in the city, such as Ibalon Central School, Taysan Resettlement Elementary School, Legazpi Port High School and Oro Site High School to signify the inspiration brought by Frayna’s victory.

The 14th City Legislative Council during its eighth regular session on Sept. 19 adopted Resolution 14-0038-2016 that commended Frayna for being the first woman chess Grandmaster of the Philippines.

Rosal said he will invite Frayna and Gonzales to play against selected members of chess clubs in the city as part of the city’s fiesta celebration on October 22.

After the flag raising ceremony, students from various schools and universities joined the motorcade which went around the city’s main thoroughfares.

Gonzales said in December, Frayna will play against various male Grandmasters from Europe in an international chess competition to be held in Subic, Zambales.

Sonia Frayna, Janelle’s mother, a civil engineer who heads the housing division at the City Planning and Development Office, said it was a dream come true for Janelle when she became the first woman GM of the country.

The elder Frayna said it was “sheer determination that made her daughter achieve the feat.”

Janelle is the youngest and the only daughter among three siblings that include brothers Jam Mari Felix, 25, and Don Mari Phil, 22. Her father George is also an engineer.

Sonia said her daughter first showed interest in playing chess during her elementary days at the Divine Word College of Legazpi (DWCL).

In her first and second year in high school, also at DWCL, Janelle won in chess tournaments during City Meets, Palarong Bicol and Palarong Pambansa.

Sonia said Janelle’s winning streak in various chess tournaments at the age 14 earned her a scholarship at the Far Eastern University (FEU) when she was in third year high school.

A consistent honor student in elementary and high school, Janelle will graduate as a Psychology major in college. She is a candidate for cum laude at FEU.

Gonzales said among the chess competitions Janelle won were as athlete of the year in a season of the University Athletic Associations of the Philippines and most valuable player in chess.

“She was twice first runner up and twice champion in the women’s national championships and twice a national junior champion, and many times a champion in the age group chess championships in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) competitions,” he said of his prodigy.

Gonzales said Janelle enrolled in the Philippine Academy for Chess Excellence in 2010 after undergoing six to eight months of extensive training.

“She gained prominence in the Philippine Chess scene when she won the National Juniors in 2011, one of the youngest winners in that particular event,” he said.

After that, Janelle kept on winning various national and international tournaments, he added.

She became a three-time member of the Philippine team for the world chess Olympiad.

Janelle achieved her first woman’s GM norm in the 2014 National Men’s grand finals while her second WGM norm was achieved at the Bangkok open in 2015.

Gonzales said in 2014 Janelle made history after qualifying as the first female player to reach the men's grand finals in the national chess championship and getting the fourth spot.

“Janelle beat several Filipino Grandmasters such as Rogelio Antonio Jr. and Richard Bitoon while getting a draw with Barcenilla,” he said.

In the same competition she defeated International Masters Joel Pimentel, Oliver Dimakiling and Jan Emmanuel Garcia.

Earlier, Albay second district Representative Joey Salceda pushed for a House resolution that congratulated Frayna for her victory.

He said he would give his one-month salary to Janelle as an incentive to her while consulting with the Philippine Sports Commission for another “substantial incentive.” (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/EPS/CBD

(Features) Ligao City puts spotlight on little-known Mt. Masaraga of 'Magayon Trio'
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 26 (PNA) -- At 1,328 meters above sea level (masl) Mt.Masaraga has been described by mountaineers as one of the “Magayon Trio” or the three beautiful mountains of Albay that include Mt. Mayon (2,463 masl) and Mt. Malinao (1,450 masl).

Ligao City Mayor Patty Alsua said the city government wants to implement a tourism plan to promote the beauty of Mt. Masaraga which is little known but has a potential to be one of the city’s tourist destination areas.

Naturally gifted with caves, hills, lakes and coastal areas, Ligao City is more well-known for its Kawa-Kawa Hill and Natural Park, a pilgrimage site for nearly a million faithful who flock during the Lenten season each year to the hill, famous for its hollowed top resembling a giant cauldron, the English term for “kawa.”

Alsua, however, believes the city also has a jewel in Masaraga.

As attested by mountain climbers and bikers, who have explored the trail to Mt. Masaraga’s summit, the trail gets steeper and steeper as they make the ascent.

They say there is a final challenging assault but the visual rewards when the backpacker reaches the summit is well worth the arduous climb.

According to the climbers, the visual feast includes a “stunning view of Mt. Mayon” and “spectacular views of the north, revealing Mt. Isarog, Mt. Asog, and Lake Buhi”--the last three located in the neighboring province of Camarines Sur.

Early this month, more than 150 professional bikers from various parts of the country joined the first biking challenge mounted by the Ligao City government in Mt. Masaraga.

Aside from bikers from the Bicol region and elsewhere in the country, there were also five Singaporeans and a New Zealander who participated in the first “Mayor's Cup National Enduro Bike Challenge.”

Alsua said the enduro bike competition, a form of mountain bike racing, was part of a tourism program that is anchored on launching sports events to promote Masaraga and the city.

There were four bikers declared as champions in their respective categories in the bike competition held on Sept. 4.

Eleazar Barba of Dumaguete City topped the “open elite” category while Karlo Akdol of Iloilo City dominated the pack of bikers in the “curious” category.

Joel Ducanti of Legazpi City outclassed the bikers in the “executive category” while women bikers, who followed the same route as the male bikers, produced their own champion in Joyce Del Socorro of Quezon City in the “feminino category.”

Alsua said part of Ligao City’s program is to give the villagers around Mt. Masaraga an extra income by selling their native food and agricultural products during such occasions as the bike challenge.

According to her, the activity also seeks to send the strong message to the the villagers to take care of the natural beauty and environment of Mt. Masaraga.

"Mt. Masaraga has endemic trees that can be found only in the Philippines such as the apitong and the red and white lawaan species,” she said.

She added that even the locals attest to sightings of the "opon" or wild pigs, monkeys and a variety of endemic birds that can be found in some areas of the mountain.

“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared Mt. Masaraga as one of their National Integrated Protected Areas in the Bicol region,” said Alsua.

Because of this, the local government of Ligao has organized the village officials around the mountain as a "Bantay Kalikasan Group" (environment watchdog) to help the DENR's forest rangers in protecting the whole area.

Albay third district Representative Fernando Gonzales said his office is very supportive of the city government’s plans for Masaraga.

“I want to have some program to generate employment and livelihood for the villagers around Masaraga,” he said.

Gonzales said the enduro bike challenge could be an eye opener to other environmentalist hikers to come and see the beauty of nature through a trek on the mountain.

He said their next plan is to invite motocross enthusiasts to conduct their sports challenge in Mt. Masaraga.

Gonzales assured that even as they are promoting tourism and income generating programs in the area they will be pushing hard to protect Masaraga and its ecological balance.

Alsua believes that now that Mt. Masaraga has been discovered by some sports enthusiasts the mountain is more than ready to embrace other adventure-seeking visitors.

A major jump off point to reach Masaraga is Sitio (sub-village) Sabluyon, Barangay (village) Amtic in Ligao City, which is located northwest of mainland Legazpi City.(PNA) JMC/GVR/JH/CBD

Salceda proposes Carmaggedon Law granting the President 3-year emergency powers to solve traffic crisis
By Johnny C. Nunez

MANILA, Sept. 26 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has filed House Bill 3712 which seeks to decisively solve the country’s debilitating traffic and congestion problem by declaring a “state of traffic and congestion crisis” and granting President Duterte emergency powers and additional resources to address the ‘Carmageddon’ within three years.

The bill seeks to give the President emergency powers for “three years necessary and proper to effectively respond to multiple problems caused by the worsening and debilitating land and air traffic crisis in the country.”

The horrendous traffic and congestion problem, most particularly in Metro Manila, is now referred to as “Carmageddon” by commuters to describe their daily ordeals.

HB 3712 titled “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016m” proposes to: declare the existence of traffic and congestion crisis; adopt state policy to address it based on the constitutional directive of promoting social justice; grant the President emergency powers to solve the crisis; mandate the formulation of a Decongestion and Transportation Network Development Reform Plan for four sectors: Land-based transport, Rail and Toll Roads, Air transport, and Seaports; designate the DOTr as crisis manager; authorize special modes of procurement; install safeguards through the Executive Order on Freedom of Information and a Congressional Oversight Committee; and provide an initial PHP20 billion for its implementation.

Salceda, vice chair of the house’s committees on Appropriations and Ways and Means, said his bill “provides an answer, the necessary solution –- an innovative, effective, swift, and never before seen solution -- that will stop the crisis from escalating and spreading to other urban hubs like Cebu and Davao, alleviate the situation, and prevent its recurrence.” He noted that the traffic crisis takes a heavy toll on the economy which now translates to billions of pesos in daily losses, has become so serious that conventional remedies have proven futile and ineffective. The problem has reached a point where the government is forced to think out of the box and to come up with a novel course of action.

Under his proposed emergency powers, the President “may reorganize and rationalize the existing structure of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Civil Aeronautics Board, Metro Manila Development Authority, PNP-Highway Patrol Group, and other agencies in the transportation sector.”

The bill also provides that within six months from its enactment, the President “may abolish, merge or create agencies, offices and positions; split, group, or merge positions; adopt a rationalization plan, transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel; institute drastic cost-cutting measures; and take such other related actions necessary to carry out the declared State policy.” It also proposes to authorize special modes of procurement to immediately provide the facilities and infrastructures and cut through red tapes, but “install safeguards through the implementation of EO on Freedom and Information and the creation of Congressional Oversight Committee.”

HB 3712 likewise provides an initial budget of PHP20 billion for the early phases of the program, sourced from the current year’s budget of agencies implementing the act, and from the savings of the national government.

In filing HB 3712, Salceda said woeful stories about commuters caught in Metro Manila’s traffic “are the stuff that Metro Manila traffic nightmares are made of.” One commuter was reported in the newspapers to have “spent the first few hours of his birthday with strangers on a passenger bus, rather than with his loved ones at home, staying on the road September 8 – 9,” because there was a flash flood. Even without the aggravations of climate change impacts, however, he said these stories are “repeated every day in hundreds and hundreds of narratives of hapless and weary travellers and commuters, braving the traffic jungle that is Metro Manila.”

An economist, Salceda said there is no shortage of data and literature on Metro Manila’s traffic nightmare which aside from the torture it imposes, has also taken serious effects on the economy.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said in a recently published report stating that land and air traffic congestion is costing the country a daily loss of PHP2.4 billion in potential income.

The National Economic Development Authority said this daily loss will balloon to PHP6 billion daily by 2030 if no interventions are undertaken. JICA also reported that more cars on the road is causing a rise in greenhouse emissions from 4.7 million tons per year in 2012 to 5.72 million tons by 2030, causing a staggering cost in human health and climate change.

CAAP has reported that airport congestion is causing the airlines at least PHP7 billion per year in fuel and engine maintenance costs; and to top it off, an international traffic software application, Waze, said Metro Manila has “the worst traffic in the world” in 2015.

Salceda said Metro Manila residents spend 1,000 hours in traffic per year while metropolitan areas in other countries spend only 300 hours, based on research. He added that studies clearly have established that the massive and horrendous traffic congestion in the country has assumed the nature and magnitude of a national emergency, which requires immediate, decisive and comprehensive solutions.

“We do not lack of daily reminders of how pervasive the traffic crisis has become. Traffic congestion is the perennial topic in TV, radio, and print news. Complaints and tirades are constantly trending in social media, and we hear personal stories of friends and family members missing out on their personal and professional lives, because they spend literally half of their day in cars, jeepneys, buses, and planes, wallowing in traffic,” he added. (PNA) FPV/JCN/EDS

Friday, September 23, 2016

Albay execs vow full implementation of Reproductive Health program
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 22,(PNA)-–Local officials in Albay vowed to fully implement the Reproductive Health (RH) Law by allocating funds to ensure all RH services are available and accessible to the public despite a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on certain provisions of the law.

The TRO covers the distribution and administration of Implanon and Implanon NXT and similar contraceptives until they have been determined to be safe.

Herbert Borja, vice mayor of Polangui town, earlier confirmed they have passed an ordinance creating the Municipal Interagency Council with funds provided for it so that all RH-related services are implemented.

He said implementation of these services will help reduce maternal and child mortality, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV infections.

Borja said despite the TRO issued by the high court, the entire provision of the law will not be affected.

“The TRO barred the Department of Health from acquiring and distributing the contraceptive products Implanon and Implanon NXT to the public,” he said.

Borja said the local government unit must respond to the needs of its constituents in providing RH services that are not limited to family planning issues.

He said Polangui has already adapted the provincial ordinance that was approved when he was a board member.

Borja said this was the provincial ordinance which received help from the Advocacy Team headed by the Forum for Family Planning and Development being supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Camalig town mayor Maria Ardhail Baldo has endorsed to the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal legislative body) the local RH ordinance and said the budget to be allotted for RH services will be included in the 2018 annual budget.

She said the existing budget of the health sector from the gender and development fund will be used to implement the RH program “because our annual budget for 2017 has been completed and finalized.”

Baldo expressed concern about reducing teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and increasing the acceptance for family planning using modern or natural methods.

Tiwi mayor Jaime Villanueva, a long time advocate of RH services in Albay, has committed to certify as urgent the enactment of a municipal RH ordinance.

In Tabaco City, councilor Sheina Onrubia said the committee on health will possibly review the Gender and Development (GAD) Code so that RH services are integrated with specific programs and projects.

She said Tabaco City has no problem in implementing the RH law as Mayor Krisel Lagman was one of the prime movers of the law when she was representative of Albay’s first district.

“She is strongly committed to achieve all indicators in the sustainable development goals,” Onrubia said.

Onrubia is set to sponsor passage of the local RH ordinance, including creation of a local RH council to act as a recommending body and assist the local government in developing health programs.

“The TRO is only on the implementation or provision of implanon service but other elements (of the RH law) must be provided,” she said.

Onrubia said the local government of Tabaco City has been conducting a series of information and education activities on family planning.

One of these is “Usapang Buntis” (discussions on pregnancy) that is held among pregnant women in every barangay (village) where the topics being discussed include maternal and child health, responsible parenting and regular health check ups.(PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Palace bars Cabinet members from speaking for President Duterte on sensitive issues
By Cielito M. Reganit

MANILA, Sept. 22 (PNA) -- A high-ranking Malacañang official has ordered all other Cabinet members to refrain from speaking on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte especially on sensitive issues.

In a memorandum issued Tuesday by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Cabinet members were advised that “official statements of the President on significant national and international issues shall be coursed through and delivered only by Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella or, in his absence, by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.”

“The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shall be the primary office authorized to respond to media inquiries and to disseminate information relating to the policies, programs, official activities and accomplishments of the President and the Executive Branch,” the memorandum said.

Members of the Cabinet, heads of agencies, offices and instrumentalities of the National Government, including Government-Owned or –Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), shall refrain from giving statements to the media “except on matters directly concerning their office or unless prior clearance has been secured from the PCOO.”

The order was issued pursuant to the instructions of President Duterte and in accordance with the consensus reached during previous Cabinet meetings. (PNA) BNB/CMR

President Duterte visits 9th Infantry Division soldiers in Camarines Sur
By Connie B. Destura

PILI, Camarines Sur, Sept. 21 (PNA) -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte arrived here Wednesday afternoon and proceeded to Camp Elias Angeles, headquarters of the 9th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Barangay San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur, to visit the troops.

Maj. Gen. Manolito P. Orense, commander of the 9th ID, also known as the Spear Division, gave a situation briefing to the President when he arrived at the Officers’ Club at around 3:30 p.m. or four and a half hours later than his scheduled arrival of 11 a.m.

At around 4:30 p.m. when the President started his speech before the soldiers in Bicol, he initially dwelt on the “encompassing” illegal drug problem, which he said, has come to destroy the nation.

He said the drug menace will “destroy your children and the next generation.”

But the President said “the technicality of the law makes it hard for me to deal with the problem on illegal drugs.”

He added: “What is very disturbing about this country now, ang droga kasi within the government na ang away.” (the fight against illegal drugs has reached the ranks of the government)

The President made passing remarks on how the United States became interested in Mindanao.

“Naging interesado ang mga Amerikano sa Mindanao kasi walang typhoon (The Americans became interested in Mindanao because there is no typhoon). But they could not get workers to work for them,” he said.

President Duterte gave assurance to the soldiers that “there will be an inclusive government with the left but there will not be a coalition government.”

With regards to the problem with the Abu Sayyaf Group or ASG, the President said, “I do not want to talk with the Abu Sayyaf Group.”

He told the Bicol soldiers to “make the most of this time to come up with doctrines on how to deal with terrorism.”

Before the end of his speech at around 5 p.m., the President gave three Glock 30 and four magazines to the soldiers which he said were for use in encounters with the terrorists.

“Para sa engkuwentro sa mga terorista,” he said.

The President has been going around military camps in the country in previous weeks with a promise to the soldiers that they will be given what is due them while soliciting support for his programs.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said President Duterte has to visit the military camps just like the previous Presidents to boost the soldiers’ morale and to personally interact with them on the government’s programs lined up for the AFP.

In past weeks, government troops from Bicol under the 9th ID have been sent to help fight the ASG in Mindanao.

On September 3, the 49th Infantry Battalion of the 9th ID was sent to augment the troops of the Western Mindanao Command. Soldiers from the 65th IB, also from the 9th ID, were earlier deployed to the same area.

The President's visit here in Camp Elias Angeles was his third visit to military camps across the country in a span of four days. On Tuesday, September 20, the President took the time to visit and talk to the Agila troops of the Philippine Army at Camp General Manuel T. Yan Sr. in Mawab, Compostela province.

Earlier, on Sunday, Sept. 18, the President visited the 5th Infantry Division (ID), at Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Isabela. (PNA) LAP/CBD/EDS

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

President Duterte set to visit 9th ID headquarters in Camarines Sur Wednesday
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 20 (PNA) -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte will visit government troops in Bicol under the 9th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Elias Angeles, Barangay San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur.

He will arrive on Wednesday morning in Naga City from where he will proceed to Camp Elias Angeles for a situation briefing with Maj. Gen. Manolito P. Orense, 9th ID commander.

The President will give a talk to the Army soldiers under the 9th ID, also known as Spear Division at the multi-purpose gym.

He is expected to join a boodle fight with the soldiers and have a photo opportunity with them.

On September 3, the 49th Infantry Battalion of the 9th ID was sent to augment government troops fighting in Mindanao.

Soldiers from the 65th IB, also from the 9th ID, were earlier deployed to the same area.

The President has been going around military camps in the country in previous weeks with a promise to the soldiers that they will be given what is due them while soliciting support for his programs.

In August, President Duterte visited the troops in Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu and met with top military officials to get first hand information on the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Camp Bautista was the eighth military camp visited by the President since he assumed the presidency.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said President Duterte has to visit the military camps just like the previous Presidents to boost the soldiers’ morale and to personally interact with them on the government’s programs lined up for the AFP. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/EDS

Police nab top drug dealer in Sorsogon; pal of drug lord Peter Lim

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 19 (PNA) -- An alleged close associate of a top drug lord in the country fell into the hands of a police raiding team that swooped down on a resort in Sorsogon over the weekend, a report reaching the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO-5) showed.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO-5 spokesperson, said suspected drug dealer identified as Reynaldo Diaz alias "James Tan" was with six other gunmen who helped him elude arrest from the police team.

Diaz, whom police tagged as a close associate of top drug lord Peter "Jaguar" Lim, was arrested by the police at Subic Saday Resort in Barangay Calintaan, Matnog town in Sorsogon.

Calubaquib said Diaz, who is facing two complaints for frustrated murder, is included in the drug watchlist of national authorities.

She said Diaz and the six other gunmen claimed to be members of the Department Of Justice' Witness Protection Program Intelligence Service Operations Group.

The six were identified as Raul Relojas, Sandy Odicta, Rodolfo Abapo Jr., Elmer Labay, Charlice Ganosa and Niño Carlo Paraiso.

"They tried to assist Diaz in eluding the police dragnet but the raiding team was quick to collar Diaz as he tried to escape towards the grassy portion of the resort," said Calubaquib.

She said the arresting team presented an arrest warrant when they seized from the suspects ten firearms that included four M16 rifles and six .45-caliber pistols.

The police confiscated magazines and ammunitions for several firearms from the seven suspects.

"There were 14 pieces of magazines for the M16 rifles and 14 pieces of magazines for the .45-cal. as well as 351 pcs. of ammunition for an M165 and 117 pcs. ammunition for the .45-cal. that were seized from the seven suspects," said Calubaquib.

Diaz was presented to Philippine National Police Chief Ronaldo Bato dela Rosa who was at the fluvial procession for the Peñafrancia festival in Naga City.

A day earlier, Dela Rosa graced the celebration of the 115th Police Service Anniversary at PRO5 at its headquarters at Camp Simeon Ola here. (PNA) JMC/GVR/MSA/CBD

Alert level 1 remains in effect on Mt. Bulusan
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept.19 (PNA)--The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), in its 8 a.m. bulletin on Monday, said alert level one remained in effect on Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon.

Phivolcs raised the alert level on Bulusan on Friday after it spewed ash measuring 1.5 kilometers high, which it said may lead to a steam-driven eruption, or what it calls a “phreatic eruption.”

In Phivolcs’ terms, level zero means “normal” while level one denotes an “abnormal” behavior.

In its bulletin today, Phivolcs said it has recorded three volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours while steaming activity could not be observed due to thick clouds covering the summit of Bulusan.

It said data it obtained in August showed slight swelling at the slopes of Bulusan compared to that taken in May which Phivolcs said is an indication that “hydrothermal processes are underway beneath the volcano that may lead to more steam-driven eruptions.”

The agency reminded the local government units in Sorsogon and the public that entry to the four-kilometer radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) is strictly prohibited due to the possibility of sudden and hazardous “phreatic eruptions.”

Civil aviation authorities also advised pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any phreatic eruption can be hazardous to aircrafts.

The bulletin said people living within valleys and along river or stream channels, especially on the southwest and northwest sector of Bulusan, should be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahar should there be heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Mount Bulusan is around 70 kms southeast of Mayon Volcano in Albay and about 250 kms southeast of Manila, the Philippine capital.

The new alert level on Bulusan was recorded around a week since alert level one was also raised over Mt. Mayon.

On Sept. 8, Phivolcs raised the alert status of Mayon Volcano to alert level one.

Phivolcs, in its 8 a.m. bulletin today, also said “no magmatic eruption is imminent” or that of magma rising to the crater of Mayon.

It said its seismic monitoring did not detect any volcanic earthquake in the past 24 hours while wispy to moderate emission of white steam plumes that crept downslope towards the northeast was observed.

“No crater glow was observed last night,” it said.

Phivolcs reiterated that the six-km PDZ around Mayon is a no-entry zone to the public because of the perennial danger of life-threatening rockfalls, landslides or avalanches at the middle to upper slopes, sudden ash puffs and phreatic eruptions at the summit.

Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, has asked the disaster councils in the towns of Camalig and Guinobatan and the cities of Ligao and Tabaco to help secure the monitoring instruments of Phivolcs.

He said safeguarding the monitoring equipment on the restive volcano can determine accurate and timely advisories as well as evacuation procedures.

"These critical instruments can spell the difference between life and death on those who are still staying inside the six-kilometer PDZ," he said.

In an interview over local radio this morning, Daep said APSEMO personnel have been conducting a survey over the past week of the “actual population inside the 6-km PDZ up to the 8-km” extended danger zone of Mayon.

He stressed the importance of having an updated listing of the affected population in the danger zones so APSEMO will be prepared to undertake proper evacuation procedures when the need arises.

As both Bulusan and Mayon are on alert level one, this means Phivolcs is closely monitoring two active volcanoes in Bicol at present.

Phivolcs’ volcanologist Alex Baloloy, however, said a direct link between the activities of Bulusan and Mayon has yet to be established.

“Though both volcanoes exhibit somewhat similar abnormalities, the observed changes are isolated,” he said.(PNA) FPV/GVR/CBD

Albay solon decries DepEd’s lack of focus on kindergarten in K-12 program

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 19, (PNA)--Albay second district Representative Jose Salceda has expressed disappointment over the Department of Education (DepEd)’s K-12 program, particularly its implementation of the kindergarten classes across the country.

He said DepEd has performed “dismally” in inviting children to enroll in kindergarten in public schools considering that the kinder level is the “most delicate and sensitive stage” when children start to enter formal education.

Salceda, in a recent emailed statement, said DepEd has been saddled with “structural issues” confronting implementation of the K-12 program.

He said the population of grade 1 pupils is greater than those in kindergarten, there is lack of training of kindergarten teachers and the differences in qualifications of teachers for kindergarten and grade one are not clear to the community.

Salceda said DepEd has given “marginal management attention” and “allocated token new and incremental resources” to the existing elementary system.

The Albay lawmaker, who is vice senior chairperson of the House appropriation committee, observed these flaws during recent budget deliberations for DepEd in the General Appropriation Act (GAA) for 2017.

At the budget hearing the committee found out that since kindergarten was made mandatory DepEd had failed to report on new classrooms for kinder classes or new kinder teaching items, especially in its National Expenditure Program (NEP-GAA).

“Nowhere in their reports was mention made about new classrooms and teaching items,” he said.

Salceda said the K-12 program should be renamed “10+2.”

He said that during visits and dialogue with DepEd officials in Albay he observed that the number of pupils in kinder is much lower than that of the grade 1 population.

Salceda said he did not see distinct kindergarten classes during these visits which led him to ask if there were trainings for kindergarten teachers and if there was budget allocated for this.

He questioned why there was 60 percent more pupils in grade one than in kindergarten.

Salceda said he presumed that DepEd has not been serious with the mandatory teaching of kindergarten.

“If you compute the difference between the kindergarten population in public schools and grade one population, it’s as if there is a population explosion,” he said. (PNA) RMA/GVR/MSA/CBD

Monday, September 19, 2016

House drops use of phrase 'extrajudicial killings'

MANILA, Sept. 18 (PNA) -- Members of the House Committee on Public Order and Safety have decided to drop the use of the phrase “extrajudicial killings” in all its future hearings, investigations and reports, and will instead use the term “death under investigation” of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The committee chaired by Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) approved the motion raised by Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia who questioned the use of the term “extrajudicial killing” in the absence of capital punishment or death penalty in the country.

“I am really curious what the definition of extrajudicial killing is because extrajudicial would mean outside of the parameters of a judicial killing. But do we have such a thing as judicial killing in the Philippines? As far as I know, the last law that was passed that imposed the death penalty by lethal injection was Republic Act No. 8177. But this was repealed by R.A. 9346. And therefore right now, we don’t have the death penalty in the Philippines. How could we have such a thing as a judicial killing? And yet it is now so commonly used, that even in the Senate, there was an investigation conducted by the Committee on Justice as regards extrajudicial killing,” said Garcia.

Garcia said her father, former Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, had in fact authored the bill that became R.A. 8177, which was later repealed by R.A. 9346.

Based on the definition of Wikipedia, Garcia said “extrajudicial killing” is “the killing, mainly politically motivated, of a person by governmental authorities or dominant political groups without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.”

“So there is the condition of the possibility of a judicial proceeding or legal process. This definition may apply to the 10 top countries that still have capital punishment. So such a judicial proceeding or process is possible, the condition is possible. But here in the Philippines, there is no such possibility because we do not have the death penalty,” Garcia explained.

Garcia then moved that as far as all other investigations or reports that may be taken up by the committee, the panel shall not recognize the term “extrajudicial killings,” but will rather use “death under investigation.”

“May I move that as far as this committee is concerned, let it be known that at least in the House of Representatives, in the Committee on Public Order and Safety, we have found it imperative to put things in proper perspective and correctly define the issue by adopting the definition of the PNP which is death under investigation?" said Garcia.

Acop said it has been moved and duly seconded that the committee will no longer use the phrase “extrajudicial killing.”

The issue on “extrajudicial killing” was first raised during the hearing by Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City) who said the highlight of the PNP crime index now is on the campaign against drugs.

“The most controversial feature of that campaign is the so-called extrajudicial killings or summary execution. May we ask what is the stand of the PNP on this? Does it condone extrajudicial killings?" asked Castelo.

Police Director Lazarus Vargas, PNP Director for Plans, said the PNP never used the word or term “extrajudicial killing.”

“We use the term death under investigation because as you’ve earlier said there is no such thing as extrajudicial killing. We did not define it. It is used by organizations outside the PNP. It did not come from us,” said Vargas.

Vargas stressed the so-called “extrajudicial killing” is not part of the campaign against illegal drugs.

Police Chief Supt. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, Acting Director of the Directorate for Operations, said there are 1,571 deaths under investigation. He said these are not all drug-related cases. “There are still cases that we are still identifying,” he said.

Cascolan further said one of the things the PNP does is to investigate immediately all kinds of killings. “We do not tolerate any kind of illegal police operations,” Cascolan said. (PNA) SCS/PR/RSM

Police nab top drug dealer in Sorsogon; pal of drug lord Peter Lim

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 19 (PNA) -- An alleged close associate of a top drug lord in the country fell into the hands of a police raiding team that swooped down on a resort in Sorsogon over the weekend, a report reaching the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO-5) showed.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO-5 spokesperson, said suspected drug dealer identified as Reynaldo Diaz alias "James Tan" was with six other gunmen who helped him elude arrest from the police team.

Diaz, whom police tagged as a close associate of top drug lord Peter "Jaguar" Lim, was arrested by the police at Subic Saday Resort in Barangay Calintaan, Matnog town in Sorsogon.

Calubaquib said Diaz, who is facing two complaints for frustrated murder, is included in the drug watchlist of national authorities.

She said Diaz and the six other gunmen claimed to be members of the Department Of Justice' Witness Protection Program Intelligence Service Operations Group.

The six were identified as Raul Relojas, Sandy Odicta, Rodolfo Abapo Jr., Elmer Labay, Charlice Ganosa and Niño Carlo Paraiso.

"They tried to assist Diaz in eluding the police dragnet but the raiding team was quick to collar Diaz as he tried to escape towards the grassy portion of the resort," said Calubaquib.

She said the arresting team presented an arrest warrant when they seized from the suspects ten firearms that included four M16 rifles and six .45-caliber pistols.

The police confiscated magazines and ammunitions for several firearms from the seven suspects.

"There were 14 pieces of magazines for the M16 rifles and 14 pieces of magazines for the .45-cal. as well as 351 pcs. of ammunition for an M165 and 117 pcs. ammunition for the .45-cal. that were seized from the seven suspects," said Calubaquib.

Diaz was presented to Philippine National Police Chief Ronaldo Bato dela Rosa who was at the fluvial procession for the Peñafrancia festival in Naga City.

A day earlier, Dela Rosa graced the celebration of the 115th Police Service Anniversary at PRO5 at its headquarters at Camp Simeon Ola here. (PNA) JMC/GVR/MSA/CBD

PHP170.7-B South Railway project to be pursued this year -- Albay solon

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 18 (PNA) -- Two infrastructure projects, including the PHP170.7-billion South Railway project that will revive the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) Manila-Legazpi “Bicol Express” Line, will be pursued this year, an Albay lawmaker said.

Albay second district Representative Joey Salceda identified the PHP4.79-billion Passenger Terminal Building (PTB) area of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) project as the second infrastructure project to be pursued.

He said the two transport projects are now in the pipeline following their approval by the National Economic and Development Investment Coordination Committee.

Salceda, in a statement sent via e-mail, said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, in a recent meeting, had assured him that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will pursue the multi-billion south line railway project as previously approved by the past administration.

He said DOTr will start to work where the past administration left off, specifically the publication of Instruction to Bidders and the firming up of the project timelines.

Salceda, in an earlier interview, said that Ayala Corp., which will partner with Metro Pacific and San Miguel Corp. had expressed interest in participating in the bidding process for the south line railway project from PNR Tutuban to Legazpi City then to Matnog, Sorsogon.

“The participation of the investors in this project is a welcome move and I feel affirmed that this would be a viable investment,” he said.

Salceda, an economist, said the railway project investment would carry a 24 percent pure Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and PHP30 billion Net Present Value (NPV) at 15 percent Special Drawing Right (SDR).

He explained that the IRR, NPV and SDR are investment formulas that determine the feasibility and investment growth of a project.

The project would revive the PNR Manila-Legazpi “Bicol Express” Line which has a total span of 653 kilometers. It starts at Tutuban Center in Manila and run through Laguna, Batangas, Quezon before ending in Matnog, Sorsogon.

Salceda said this year DOTr earmarked PHP4.79-billion for construction of the PTB of the BIA, previously named Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA).

The project is being implemented in two packages.

He said package 1 is an ongoing project involving construction of the runway, taxiway and apron and the putting up of a PHP708-million perimeter fence that was funded under calendar year 2012.

“This project consists of the concrete paving of a 2,100-meter by 45-meter runway, 2-stub taxiways and apron and the perimeter fence for the entire airport complex,” said Salceda.

He said there will be a rebidding based on the existing Terms of Reference for the PHP1.4 billion for the runway completion and PTB.

The airport project will also have a passenger boarding bridge or tube that is modularly designed to accommodate the addition of tubes.

Salceda said Tugade made a committment that the BIA would have two tubes worth PHP105 million which would be included in the budget once construction of the PTB starts.

“The DOTr management team assured that the BIA will be at par to international standards,” Salceda said.

Under package 2 the project will cover the construction of 17 buildings, including the control tower, cargo, administration and other auxiliary buildings and site developments such as the embankment work for the landslide area.

The two-story PTB will cover an area of 13,220 square meters while the runway extension will be from 2,100 meters to 2,500 meters of concrete pavement.

Site development will include the construction of a perimeter road and the completion of developments on the land side such as drainage and the water and power utilities.(PNA) BNB/GVR/MSA/CBD/PJN

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

US press attache: US to continue working with PHL in many areas of 'mutual concern'
By Connie B. Destura

MANILA, Sept. 13 (PNA) -- The United States will continue to work together with the Philippines in the many areas of mutual interest to the two countries, said US Press Attache Molly Koscina.

Koscina, in an interview with PNA Tuesday, cited the two-day seminar for regional media held at the US Embassy in Manila that ends today as an area of mutual concern to both the US and the Philippines.

The seminar, which has media representatives from across the country as participants, is on the “Role of Media in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.”

Koscina cited other areas of shared interest between the two countries such as counter terrorism, improvement of life of the Filipino people and the upholding of shared democratic values.

“Our relationship is very broad and our alliance is one of the most enduring and important relationship in the Asia Pacific,” she said.

According to her, the Philippines’ and the US’ relationship has been the cornerstone of stability for more than 70 years, and is an “important relationship in the Asia Pacific.”

"It is built on shared sacrifice for democracy, human rights and built on strong people ties," she added.

When asked how many US troops are in Mindanao, Koscina said she will refer the question to the defense department.

In a speech on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wants US forces to pull out of Mindanao as he pushes for an independent foreign policy.

"Yung mga (Those) special forces, they have to go. They have to go. In Mindanao, maraming mga puti doon (there are many whites there). They have to go," he said during the oath-taking of 43 new appointees in Malacañang.

”I do not want a rift with America, but they have to go. The Americans, they (Abu Sayyaf bandits) will really kill them. They will get ransom and they will kill (them),” he said.

President Duterte also mentioned the Bud Dajo incident, a “counter-insurgency action fought by the United States against the Moro”, where hundreds of Muslims were killed. With many still remembering such historical injustices, he said, many Mindanaoans are still angry when they see Americans in Mindanao. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

(Features) Coastal town of Bacacay cradles 'harvest' of priests in its arms
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

BACACAY, Albay, Sept. 13 (PNA)-- While the slums of Calcutta, India have produced a saint in Mother Teresa, the coastal community of Bacacay town in Albay that faces the Pacific Ocean is credited for being the cradle of the most number of clergy, or those ordained to become priests, in the Philippines.

“Bacacay is one of the smallest towns in Albay without any Catholic schools but it is blessed with 100 living priests,” said Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi.

Located on the eastern slopes of the famous Mayon Volcano, Bacacay is composed of the mainland and Cagraray island, with about 11 islets strategically scattered within its coasts. It has a population of nearly 70,000.

The predominantly agricultural town, which has 143 kilometers of irregular coastline, takes pride in having the longest shoreline in Albay, most of which is composed of black sands which are due to the erosion of volcanic rocks.

Baylon told the 100 priests, who returned recently to the town for a homecoming, known as a “centuplex” celebration, that Bacacay is the “number one producer of priests in the Philippines despite its being a small and poor municipality.”

The clergy came from various parishes in Bicol and elsewhere in the country, as well as from their mission work overseas.

Msgr. Crispin Bernarte Jr., current parish priest of the Parish of St. Rose Lima in downtown Bacacay, which organized the homecoming with support from the diocese, explained that centuplex is a Latin word for “a hundredfold.”

He said they had come together to be thankful to God for the “gift of a hundredfold of priestly vocation.”

“At a time when many parts of the world are experiencing a shortage of priests to serve the pastoral needs of the Church, the town of Bacacay, Albay joyfully celebrates an upsurge in priestly vocation,” said Bernarte.

In the Roman Catholic Church, the term clergy, which “includes the orders of bishop, priest and deacon, is understood as persons functioning within the priesthood of all the people.”

According to, they are “ordained, or set aside, for particular service, especially in connection with eucharistic ministry.”

Bernarte said the Filipino clergy, who trace their roots to Bacacay, include one bishop, 98 priests and three deacons--all of them still living.

These ordained men work either in various dioceses or outside the diocese as members of different religious orders.

Retired Legazpi Bishop Lucilo B. Quiambao, was among those who concelebrated the Mass for the centuplex celebration on August 31.

Quiambao, 83, is himself a native of Bacacay. Born in Barangay Napao, Cagraray island, the bishop emeritus of the diocese of Legazpi served as a priest for 56 years and bishop for 34 years.

Aside from Baylon and Quiambao, Legazpi Bishop Emeritus José Crisologo Sorra, 87, graced the concelebrated Mass.

During the homily for the Mass, Msgr. Sabino Vengco, echoed the uniqueness of Bacacay in being the midwife to 100 living priests.

Vengco, a seminary professor, serves as parish priest of Malolos in Bulacan, the town which comes next to Bacacay as having the most number of clergy in the country.

He said Oas town in Albay used to produce the most number of priests in the country but in past decades Oas had been surpassed by Bacacay town.

Vengco said every town has a vocation which in Bacacay has been translated into a “strong brotherhood at the service of the Catholic Church throughout the country and even abroad.”

“Through the years, the cross that was planted by the first Christian missionaries on the coastal town of Bacacay did not only bring in a big catch of believers from among its people but also a big number of fishers of men,” according to Bernarte.

He said Christianity found its place in the hearts of Bacacayanos not long after the first Franciscan missionaries set foot in Albay.

Bacacay was founded in 1649 as a barrio of Tabaco. In 1660 it became independent and developed into a town, the same year it became a parish.

St. Rose of Lima, a Peruvian saint, who was canonized by Pope Clement in 1671 thereafter became the patron saint of Bacacay. Her feast day falls on Aug. 30.

Two years ago, the St. Rose of Lima Parish celebrated its 350th founding anniversary.

The Church of the St. Rose of Lima here, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in Albay, stands as a “strong symbol of faith,” according to the town’s official history.

Bernarte said located on the left side of the church are the ruins of the old church and belfry named Porta Fidei 1649.

“My guess is these are the ruins of the church built in 1660,” he said.

The ruins are located just beside the present church, which Bernarte said was “probably built in the 1800s.”

Bernarte said Fr. Thomas Gier, an American priest, who arrived in the country on Feb. 3, 1975, had instituted a strong sense of Christianity among the Catholic population in Bacacay.

The late Bishop Teotimo Pacis of the Diocese of Legazpi invited Gier to start the mission work of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) in the country. Pacis gave him Cagraray island which eventually become known as the “cradle of SOLT mission in Asia.”

Gier stayed in Barangay Cabasan, Cagraray from where he conducted his mission work from the early 80’s until the late 90’s.

After his death, he was succeeded by Filipino priests from the same congregation. Bacacay is currently home to three parishes: St. Rose of Lima, St. John Nepomucene in Barangay Bonga and Sacred Heart in Barangay Cabasan, all manned by priests from SOLT.

Records of the diocese of Legazpi showed that 93 percent of the 1.2 million population in Albay are Catholics. The diocese has 45 parishes serving in 15 municipalities and 3 cities in the province.

Just as Bicol has for its patroness, the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, lovingly called “Ina,” (mother), whose novena procession in Naga City in Camarines Sur, from Sept. 9 to 18, is expected to be witnessed by around half a million devotees, the townsfolk of Bacacay has its own “Ina.”

Since the 1900s, Bacacayanons have been venerating the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparado as its own patroness, protector and “Ina.”

“History tells that our Blessed Mother appeared at the foot of Mayon Volcano in (Barangay) Bonga, Bacacay before some abandoned Aetas,” said Bernarte.

He said since then the devotion to her flourished among the local Catholic Christians.

“This devotion, whose feast is celebrated every August 31, has made Bacacay truly “un pueblo amante de Maria,”(a town truly loving of Mary) said Bernarte.

He said the Marian tradition must be the major reason for Bacacay’s abundance in religious vocation, making it a “cradle of priestly vocation,” not just in the (Bicol) region but in the entire country.

Bernarte said just like the other towns of Albay that were on the path of strong typhoons in the past, such as Olive, Sisang, Reming and the most recent, Glenda in 2014, Bacacay and its townspeople were able to withstand the challenges.

“Amid the pain and burden brought by calamities, the people’s faith gets stronger, putting full trust in God despite the manifold ordeals,” he said.

Bernarte added that families in Bacacay have continued to give their sons for the endless mission of the Church, “that we all love to serve as teacher of the Word, minister of the sacraments and servant of the community.” (PNA)

Salceda’s proposed national disaster authority gains wide support
By Johnny C. Nunez

MANILA, Sept. 12 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda’s proposed measure in Congress that seeks to create an independent national authority to handle and strengthen the country’s disaster risk reduction (DRR) management system has gained wide and popular support among community-based and globally known DRR advocates and practitioners.

Salceda’s measure, House Bill No. 1648 filed last July, seeks to create the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA) that will radicalize the country’s disaster response and management system and make it “the world’s best approach to DRR.”

HB 1648 is titled “An Act Further Strengthening the Philippines Disaster Reduction and Management System by Institutionalizing the Framework and Plan and Establishing the NDRRMA, an independent body under the Office of the President dedicated to pre-disaster risk reduction and post-disaster reconstruction.” It aims to amend Republic Act No. 10121, the country’s DRR law, and further strengthen calamity response by “institutionalizing the framework and plan, with NDRRMA.”

Salceda said HB 1648 is a result of “action research, sharing of experiences and dynamic discussions among various stakeholders from national and local government agencies, organizations and communities.” He describes the bill as a “product of comparable international experiences” and is timed with the review of the performance and organizational structure of R.A. 10121 enacted in 2010.

The NDRRMA will monitor and ensure implementation of DRRRM objectives in all localities in the country, and perform oversight functions as well. The agency, Salceda added, 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 DRRM efforts towards sustainable development goals.”

Among those that have vowed to support HB 1648 is the Disaster Risk Reduction Network Philippines (DRRNetPhils), a broad group of known DRR practitioners and advocates who recently held a consultation meeting with Salceda at his office in the House of Representatives in Quezon City last Sept. 7.

DRRNetPhils is a national coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs), people’s organizations, and practitioners and advocates of community-based disaster risk reduction and management (CBDRRM) which include the Center for Disaster Preparedness; Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement; Oxfam; Coastal Core; Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development; Damayan ng Maralitang Pilipinong Api Inc.; Plan International; UP College of Social Welfare and Community Development; and the World Vision Development Foundation Inc.

In a letter to Salceda prior to their consultation meeting, DRRNetPhils Lead Convenor Maria Felizar-Cagay has pledged support to the bill and commended the lawmaker for “being a champion and for continuously seeking ways to improve the disaster risk reduction and management system in the country.”

In line with CBDRRM’s advocacy of building resilient communities, Cagay said they have — among others — “undertaken legislative advocacies in both houses of the Philippine Congress” and supported the passage of R.A. 10121, the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010

Salceda was former governor of Albay, a province acknowledged internationally for its best practices in achieving zero casualty during disasters. He was elected as co-chair of the United Nations Green Climate Fund Board in Paris, France in 2013, the first Asian and Filipino to lead the Fund’s 24-member Board. (PNA) SCS/JCN/SGP

Anti-narcotics lawmen gun down Legazpi drug pusher

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept.12 (PNA)--Anti-narcotics lawmen gunned down an illegal drug peddler in Barangay Rawis in this city Saturday evening, a report reaching the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) said Monday.

Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of PRO5, said the slain illegal drug pusher, identified as Jeffrey Dayto alias "Pating/Jepoy," had resisted arrest and engaged in a gun duel with the police operatives during a buy bust operation in Purok 3(sub village), Barangay Rawis at 8:15 p.m.

Barangay Rawis is the regional business center where the Bicol offices of national government agencies are located.

She said Dayto, who was deemed a “high-value target” as he was in the watchlist of the law enforcers, was armed with a .38-caliber handgun when confronted by the raiding police team.

“Dayto engaged the raiding team in a gun duel, prompting the police to shoot him,” said Calubaquib.

On Sept. 3, PRO5 reported that two drug suspects were killed in separate buy bust operations in the towns of Pili and Buhi, Camarines Sur, which brought to 37 the number of killed since Bicol’s drug war started in July.

Chief Supt. Ramon Melvin Buenafe, Bicol police chief, earlier said 34 chiefs of police in the region were relieved from duties on Aug. 23 due to “poor performance” in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

He said 30 percent of the 114 police chiefs assigned in the 108 towns and six cities in Bicol were affected by the relief of the police officials.

Buenafe said that from July 1 to Aug. 23, a total of 2,331 drug pushers and 39,619 had voluntarily surrendered.

During the same period, 333 were arrested, 53 firearms seized and 1,140 sachets of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) with a street value of Php 306,087 confiscated. (PNA) RMA/GVR/MSA/CBD

Monday, September 12, 2016

Robredo: Kiwanis Club can be VP’s partner in promoting Filipino children’s welfare
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 11 (PNA) -- Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo has said the Office of the Vice President and the Kiwanis Club should become partners so the Filipino children can look forward to a better future.

Robredo shared this outlook on the opening day of Kiwanis’ three-day 41st Philippine Luzon District Convention here.

A former representative of the third district of Camarines Sur, where she had supported various programs benefiting children, she expressed willingness for the Office of the Vice President to become a partner of Kiwanis Club in advocating for a “good future for the Filipino children.”

During the Kiwanis event, Robredo affirmed her commitment “to change the face of poverty in the country” by implementing different programs promoting children’s welfare.

Around 1,500 Kiwanis officers and members attended the conference at the City Convention Center here that has for its theme “A Kiwanis HEART (Health, Education, Affection, Recognition and Trust) in serving the children of the world.”

According to, the Kiwanis clubs, which are located in 80 countries, help their communities in various ways but service is at the heart of the organization. They focus on “changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time.”

Robredo said in past years during the time of her late husband, Jesse Robredo, who once served as Naga City mayor, the Kiwanis was able to establish various projects that contributed much to the city’s development and progress.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal told the gathering, also on opening day, that he was a “Kiwanian” and that the city government was long a partner of Kiwanis Club in its advocacy to protect the children from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

“This comes with respecting their rights as members of our society,” he said.

Rosal said the local government unit (LGU) of Legazpi has put up various day care centers in the city’s different villages, particularly those living in far flung areas of the city.

“This is to ensure the children will get good, quality education,” he said.

Rosal said the LGU has completed construction of three lying-in clinics, two of these in the southern portion of the city and the third clinic in the northern part of the city.

He said the lying-in clinics provide health care services to both the mothers and their infants, especially those staying in remote villages.

On Sept. 9, the Kiwanis conference started a plenary session and conducted its annual meeting with the group’s top officials and different district officers presenting their reports.

The giving of plaques of appreciation and international awards followed the presentation of reports.

On Sept. 10, delegates to the Kiwanis conference enjoyed an early morning walk along the four-kilometer stretch of the eight-kilometer “Southern Boulevard,” a seaside road that is also a favorite venue for biking and jogging with its two-lane expanse framed by palm and coconut trees.

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

A waterfront commercial complex called “Embarcadero de Legazpi” ushered the visitors to their seaside walk.

Rosal said aside from the Kiwanis meeting, the city has been hosting in the last eight months of this year various conferences of professional, business organizations and national and regional government agencies.

During the same period, another civic organization which mounted its meeting in the city was the 18th National Convention of Federation of Filipino–Chinese Catholic Women’s Organizations.

Rosal said the city government supports the Kiwanis in seeking for more projects for children that he hopes will come out from the conferences increasingly being hosted by Legazpi City.

Data from the City Tourism Office showed Legazpi City posts an average of 35 different gatherings yearly. It also hosts national and regional athletic meets of private and public schools along with several international and national sports events. (PNA) SCS/GVR/EPS/CBD

Friday, September 9, 2016

DSWD-Bicol forms TeamBRE volunteers to help families prevent drug abuse
By Mike de la Rama

STO DOMINGO, Albay, Sept. 9 (PNA)-–Government social workers in the Bicol region have selected the fisherfolk from two coastal villages in Bacacay, Albay, who will undergo training so they can be a support mechanism to families in communities fighting the scourge of drug abuse.

Nida Macenas, social welfare officer 3 of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Bicol (DSWD-5), said the chosen fisherfolk will form part of the volunteers to to be called Team Balikatan Rescue and Emergency (TeamBRE) for the “Family Drug Abuse Prevention Program.”

“TeamBRE is composed of fisherfolk trained to assist village officials in rescue and emergency during disasters,” she said.

Macenas, however, said their training will not be limited to disaster-related operations because they can also be mobilized as advocates to prevent the menace of illegal drugs in their villages.

She said TeamBRE will be coordinated by the DSWD-Bicol field office for this program which also aims to help the government in its grassroots campaign to curb drug abuse.

Macenas said the two-day training seeks to develop and enhance the partnership between the “vulnerable sectors,” such as the fisherfolk, and the local stakeholders.

She said the collaboration will develop a mechanism not just for effective disaster management but also to help prevent potential threats to the community like the proliferation of illegal drugs.

Macenas said that TeamBRE volunteers are expected to become “frontline messengers” in the community on such advocacy as the “prevention and control of illegal drugs.”

She added that aside from this the volunteers can help deter potential health threats such as dengue, rabies, human immunodeficiency virus or HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

“They can start their information and education in their own families to ensure a drug-free home and community,” Macenas said.

DSWD Bicol has initially launched project TeamBRE as consisting of teams of fisherfolk engaged in the rescue and evacuation of affected families in coastal villages and other disaster-prone areas.

Macenas, however, characterized disasters as “seasonal” in nature so the TeamBRE volunteers could also be advocates on drug prevention as illegal drugs have “saturated the grassroots.”

She explained that during emergencies and disasters TeamBRE volunteers have the opportunity to avail of alternative livelihood and subsidy cash grants while the qualified children of TeamBRE volunteers can get educational assistance.

“Next year, the training program will be replicated in all coastal towns throughout the Bicol region,” according to Macenas.

The training activity has other components that include creating awareness and educating TeamBRE volunteers, especially on the underlying causes of the drug abuse problem and its ill effects.

Parenting and life skills in promoting a drug-free home and community are included in the training to help enhance the capability of the volunteers and their families.

Macenas said the training program will also organize and mobilize the TeamBRE volunteers and their families so there would be consolidated efforts in support of the program and of families-at-risk.

She added the training will help promote and strengthen Filipino family values that uphold the importance of “family ties, unity and growth.”

DSWD-Bicol Director Arnel Garcia said the role of TeamBRE volunteers is very important in terms of providing a support system for affected families in the communities.

He said the challenge in the country in the fight against illegal drugs is the insufficient number of facilities that could accommodate drug users and pushers or surrenderees submitting for rehabilitation.

Garcia told the DSWD-Bicol field officers that their participation in the TeamBRE program is to help the drug users and pushers.

“Dapat ipakita sa kanila na mayroon pa ring community na tatangap sa kanila para magbago,”(So they (the drug users and pushers) will be motivated to change it should be shown to them that there is still a community that is willing to accept them) he said.

Garcia said not all drug users and pushers need rehabilitation but instead need guidance from the community.

He explained that if a surrendered drug user is a member of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, popularly known as 4Ps--the government’s poverty alleviation program, there is no reason to cancel or remove them in the list of beneficiaries.

“Kapag ginawa natin yun mas maapiktuhan ang buong pamilya na dapat ay bigyan natin na suporta.” (When we do that the entire family, which we have to support, will all the more be affected) (PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Phivolcs raises Mayon Volcano alert level from 0 to 1, but allays fears of imminent eruption
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 8 (PNA) -- The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Mayon Volcano’s alert level status from 0 to level 1 Thursday morning after noting abnormalities in its behavior but allayed fears of an imminent eruption.

Monitoring by Phivolcs’ instruments showed an increase in steam emissions at the crater, slight swelling at the base or slopes and drying up of water wells at the southeastern section of the volcano, according to Eduardo Laguerta, Phivolcs resident volcanologist at the Lignon Hill observatory here.

He said these parameters prompted the raising of the alert level from 0, which means normal, to level 1, which in Phivolcs’ terms means “abnormal".

Laguerta, however, said the abnormalities detected by the agency’s instruments were no indication of an imminent eruption as the other “parameters being reviewed by Phivolcs are not yet present.”

No crater glow, locally referred to as "banaag", has been observed so far, he said.

Phivolcs, in its advisory, reiterated that the six-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) is a no-entry zone to the public because of the perennial danger of life-threatening rockfalls, avalanches, ash puffs and sudden phreatic or steam-driven eruptions.

The raising of the volcano’s alert level prompted the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to issue an advisory today that strictly prohibits “any human activity” inside the six-km PDZ at the slopes of the volcano.

Albay Governor and PDRRMC head Al Frances Bichara directed local disaster councils, various village chiefs and police and military authorities to enforce the “no human activity” inside the designated PDZ, which include mountain climbing, farming, orchids gathering and ATV (all-terrain-vehicle) tour activities.

He also directed the disaster councils of the cities of Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Sto. Domingo, Malilipot and Guinobatan to be on alert and to closely monitor advisories released by Phivolcs and PDRRMC.

“The agency’s instruments have been noting ‘slight ground inflation’ or swelling at the base or slopes of the volcano since July, said Phivolcs in its bulletin.

Laguerta said steaming activity from the crater has ranged from weak to moderate.

“Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission has consistently increased beyond the baseline level of 500 tonnes per day, exceeding 1,000 tonnes per day,” Phivolcs noted in its bulletin.

Laguerta explained that SO2 emission increases through time as magma degasses with increasing rates as it moves up from great depths beneath the volcano.

Phivolcs said the seismic network recorded from August 3 to 6 a total of 146 earthquakes, that were located some 10 kms away at the southeastern section of Mayon Volcano.

“Earthquake swarm likely emanated from rock-fracturing processes that may or may not be associated with magmatic activity,” said Laguerta.

He said four of the 14 monitored water wells located on the southeastern side of Mayon are experiencing “a decrease in water discharge” while one well has dried-up. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Smart and PLDT Bicol subscribers can now text “Bato” for direct access to PNP chief

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 7 (PNA)-–Subscribers of PLDT and its mobile subsidiary Smart Communications in the Bicol region can now directly access Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

Smart subscribers can text relevant police concerns by typing BATO (space) their message then send to 7444-2286, said a press statement issued by Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs of PLDT and Smart Communications.

Once the reports reach the hotline, the “Text Bato” platform will send a confirmation message to the sender with “PNPBATO” as the unique sender name. The PNP will then verify these reports to determine the appropriate course of action.

Smart also assigned a dedicated wireless device for Dela Rosa himself to personally access all incoming messages and even directly reply to every message sender.

In designing the platform, the PNP took into consideration citizens with access to “ordinary” mobile phones with mere call and text functionalities.

Isberto said the telco will be committed to help the PNP make its services widely accessible to the general public.

“Aside from enabling this service, we also pledge to support the PNP in protecting the privacy of participating subscribers and in ensuring the confidentiality of each message transmitted to the text hotline,” he said.

PLDT is also backing up the hotline system by providing internet connectivity at the Text Bato Operations Center. This will provide round-the-clock support for Dela Rosa in verifying the text reports and mobilizing a speedy response.

To complement the 911 emergency hotline, Text Bato will focus on getting citizen-generated reports about law enforcement and police concerns such as leads on criminal activities, erring cops and traffic management issues, and other police concerns.

The Text Bato message syntax for Smart subscribers

- BATO (space) message then send to 7444-2286.

- P1 fee applies for every SMS. (PNA)

Masbate police seizes arms cache in Masbate City port
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 7 (PNA) —- Police have stepped up the inspection of all baggages of passengers at the terminal port area in Masbate City after discovering 20 pieces of .45-caliber pistols inside the bag of a 59-year-old man suspected to be a member of a gunrunning syndicate on Wednesday morning (Sept. 7), said a report reaching the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) here.

Senior Supt.Jerry F. Bearis, acting police chief of the Masbate Provincial Police Office (PPO), who identified the suspect as Celso Brigoli, 59, said the guns were found during the mandatory inspection of baggages done by the police at the terminal entrance area of the port in Barangay Bapor, Masbate City.

"We are still investigating if Brigoli belongs to an organized criminal group engaged in gun smuggling and as to where the firearms were supposed to be delivered," said Bearis.

He said Brigoli had listed his home address as Barangay Candinayla Poblacion, Borbon town in Cebu.

Investigation showed each of the 20 pieces of .45-caliber pistols were neatly wrapped with a plastic packing tape and tucked inside three small boxes placed inside the bag carried by the suspect.

The .45-cal. guns consisted of five pieces Colt; two pieces Springfield; five pieces para cal.; four pieces Remington; and one piece each of the pistols with brand names Sti, Armscor, Kimber and Caspian.

Bearis said Brigoli had failed to present any document to the authorities for the transport of the firearms whose point of destination is Nueva Ecija.

Brigoli is now facing a case for violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act.

Bearies said the seizure of the cache of firearms resulted from the intensified security work and vigilance of the Masbate police.

He cited the “police’s relentless intelligence gathering and the help of the civilians who gave the information” that led to the suspect’s arrest.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, PRO5 regional director, lauded the Masbate PPO and the Masbate City Police Office for a job well done after the seizure of the firearms.

He ordered a thorough investigation of the suspect because the firearms could be intended not only for gun smuggling but may be used for a terrorism activity.

Buenafe reminded all his men to intensify their checkpoints and conduct police patrols in strategic areas. He added police security operations should be “maximized” in areas where most people converge.

He especially mentioned Naga City in Camarines Sur, that will celebrate the Peñafrancia Festival from September 9 to 18, where millions of local and foreign devotees are expected to converge.

Buenafe asked the public to provide vital information should they know of any plan of lawless elements to spread criminality and commit acts of terrorism. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/CBD

PNP Bicol deploys battalion of policemen to beef security at Peñafrancia festivity

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 7 (PNA)--The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol has deployed a battalion of policemen to assist in securing around a million Catholic devotees expected to flock to Naga City to honor Bicol’s patroness, the Virgin of Peñafrancia, a ranking police official said Wednesday.

Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5), said Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, PRO5 director, led the send off ceremony on Wednesday at Camp Gen. Simeon Ola, PRO5 headquarters.

Calubaquib said 500 policemen from various police units would help the existing police force in Camarines Sur maintain security during the week-long religious event from Sept. 9 to 18.

She said the deployed policemen would assist the Naga City Police Office in ensuring a peaceful and orderly celebration of the Peñafrancia Festival, an annual religious event in the Bicol.

“The deployment of a battalion of policemen would prevent lawless elements from taking advantage of the festivity by sowing possible atrocities that would mar the religious event,” Calubaquib said.

She said additional police force would also be fielded to secure vital installations such as power and communication facilities, and hold checkpoints and police patrols in areas near various churches, malls and transport terminals.

The Peñafrancia festival would start with the "Traslacion" on Friday, wherein the image of “Ina,” as the virgin is fondly called, would be transferred from the Basilica to the Naga Cathedral where the Ina would stay for a week.

During the Traslacion procession, thousands of male devotees with red headbands and on barefoot would carry the "Ina" mounted in a pagoda.

During "Ina’s" stay, parishioners would hold daily masses and novenas.

The Bicol religious fest would end and be highlighted by a fluvial procession on Sept. 17, where the Ina image would be carried in a pagoda on its return journey to the Basilica Minore, where a pontifical mass would be held. (PNA) FPV/GVR/MSA/CBD