Monday, January 30, 2017

LGU execs lock horns on over P200-M budget for sanitary landfill in Naga City
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Jan. 30 (PNA) —- Mayor John Bongat said the city council is still locked in a debate on whether to approve the budget for the planned sanitary landfill, that will cost the city government more than PHP200 million, even as an Ombudsman case may loom over the continuous operation of an open dumpsite here.

Bongat, in an interview, said he made an appeal to the council after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) served several written warnings to the city government for the continuous operation of the open dumpsite in the city in violation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act of 2000.

He said the DENR noted that the open dumpsite should have been closed in 2006.

“I was even reminded by the Ombudsman about this (continuous operation of open dumpsite),” Bongat said.

He said he told the council that if a case will be filed against the local government unit (LGU), it will be the mayor, the vice mayor and the council who will be sued.

At present, six Bicol LGUs, including the towns of Camalig, Guinobatan, Tiwi, Daraga, Polangui and Tabaco City —- all in Albay -- have pending cases for violation of RA 9003 at the Ombudsman which was filed by the Solid Waste Management Commission on Feb. 10, 2016.

Wilfredo Prilles, head of Naga City planning and development department, said there are two options: a three-hectare sanitary landfill which will cost the LGU some P203 million or a five-hectare sanitary landfill to be constructed at a cost of P237 million.

He said the three-hectare landfill will last for three years while the five-hectare landfill will have a life span of five to seven years “if coupled with segregation of solid wastes and with cooperation from the LGUs in the 27 villages of Naga City.”

According to Joel Martin, head of the Naga City Solid Waste Management Office, Naga City produces 96 tons of garbage daily.

Bongat said the city council could not make up its mind on the two options with the councilors still seeking a detailed breakdown on the engineering work for the planned landfill.

The mayor noted that during the last regular session of the city council, councilor Julian Lavadia Jr. questioned the more than PHP200-million cost of the landfill, “which will last for only 62 months,” while Councilor Mila Arroyo sought for a comparative study of the engineering costs.

Arroyo noted that funds for the landfill should come from the coffers of the city instead of funding its construction through a loan from the banks.

She said the original plan of the city during the time of the late mayor Jesse Robredo was to buy a 10-hectare land in Barangay (village) San Isidro for a waste-to-energy facility where the landfill would be put up.

“The original plan for the said project has not been shelved because the planned landfill includes a facility for waste-to-energy through a methane plant that will be put up after three years,” Bongat said.

He said he is not in a rush for the council to approve the budget but noted that the continuous operation of the old dumpsite has been in violation of the law while a suit against the LGU looms.

Bongat said there is no other option but to charge the budget for the proposed landfill from the city’s PHp1.1 billion budget in 2017.

He compared this to the Quezon City government’s allotment of PHP2 billion for garbage collection from its annual budget of some PHP17 billion.

Martin said closure of the old dumpsite, which had been given a 10-year extension, will be done in February.

“The winning bidder, GB Garay Philwide Builders, which is owned by Ceferino Bactad Garay Jr. from Quezon City, will implement the closure,” he said.

Martin said closure of the old dumpsite, that has an area of four hectares, would cost the LGU some P20 million but its implementation must be done while a sanitary landfill is being constructed. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JME/CBD

Duterte's 'narco list' includes elected Bicol officials

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- While the Bicol region was not spared among the areas included in the narco list that President Rodrigo Duterte had been brandishing all along, it sent quivers to local officials as well as police officers and members of the judiciary, a top official of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) said Sunday.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, also the RPOC chairman, admitted there were indeed local officials, police officers, prosecutors and judges, whose names were included in the narco list referred to by the President.

Rosal, who was installed RPOC chair by the President early this month, however, said he could not yet reveal the names of the local officials as the data would still need further verification and case build-up.

When pressed to at least give the number of local elected and appointed officials included in the list, he refused to give a categorical answer but instead said “basta mayroon” (there are.)

Rosal said President Duterte has emphasized during his recent dialogue with local town and city mayors in Malacanang that the drug problem in the country is serious, saying "I urge you to work closely with the local Philippine National Police (PNP) in identifying and arresting drug pushers and users in your respective areas".

"The President has expressed concern about the 'narco-industry' growing in the country where about 4 million people are considered as 'addicts,'" added Rosal.

He said the narco list includes 5,000 names of elected local officials, judges and police officials across the country who are reportedly coddlers of big-time drug traders.

Meanwhile, as the government’s war against illegal drugs went on high gear in Bicol, the campaign found problems on the aspect of rehabilitation and treatment of thousands of drug personalities who surrendered or were arrested during police anti-narcotics operations, Rosal said.

The campaign in Bicol took off in July last year but has been saddled with hitches, such as the proper handling of drug dependents, especially with respect to their treatment and rehabilitation as only a few drug rehabilitation centers are operational in Bicol.

Rosal said he has directed the Departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Health (DOH), Justice (DOJ), PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to work out solutions to address the problems confronting the administration’s centerpiece program.

As this developed, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara, in an interview, said the province is ready to put up a drug rehabilitation center in Barangay Tula-Tula in Ligao City.

He said at least 10 40-foot aluminum containers donated by friends and supporters are ready to be set up at the one-hectare rehabilitation site.

Bichara, however, questioned the procedures as to how many of those who surrendered could be considered as severe, moderate and light cases.

"As a standard practice the rehabilitation centers could only accommodate patients with severe drug problems," he said.

Bichara said the categories of drug dependents should be determined first as these would be the basis of how many drug rehabilitation centers should be put up.

"Without the numbers and the categorization of drug patients we would not be able to provide the much needed intervention," said Bichara.

The PNP in Bicol reported that 86,428 drug personalities have either surrendered or arrested. Of this figure 5,935 were pushers while 80,493 were drug users. (PNA) JBP/GVR/MSA/SSC

Bicol farmers, irrigators’ groups divided on government’s free irrigation service

LIGAO CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- The implementation of the government’s free irrigation service for farmers, which took off this month, has generated mixed reactions from farmers and members of various irrigators associations operating the various irrigation facilities in Bicol, said a top official of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Bicol.

Eduardo Yu, spokesperson of NIA-Bicol, said thousands of irrigators association members expressed fears that the new found privilege given to the farmers would greatly affect the operation and maintenance of the facilities, which are currently being managed by different irrigators associations across the region.

He said NIA is caught in a bind since the abolition of the irrigation service fees was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte during the May elections.

On the other hand, most farmers and landowners welcomed the privilege of the “free irrigation fees” that used to be required by NIA.

They said it would be a “blessing” as the money intended for payment of the irrigation charges would be used to improve their farm lots.

“Malaking tulong ito sa aming pagsasaka dahil magagamit namin yong pera sa ibang bagay,” (this is a big help to us as we can use the money for other farm expenses) said Nelia Mantes, 62, a riceland owner from Barangay Mahaba in Ligao City.

She said in an interview that the savings generated from removal of the irrigation fee charges would also help cushion the impact of the very high cost of farm inputs being bought by farmers during planting seasons.

Mantes explained that every planting and cropping season, farmers are also burdened by the high operational and maintenance costs of their ricelands.

“This is also aggravated by the low market price offered by rice traders,” she said.

Mantes said rice traders are dictating the prices of palay by pegging the rice they buy from the farmers at P14 a kilo.

But she said farmers are discouraged from selling their produce to the National Food Authority (NFA), which offers a higher buying price at P18 per kilo, because of the strict requirements being asked by the agency.

Ariel Buenavente, a farmer and member of an irrigators association operating in this city, said the removal of the irrigation fee, which is called Irrigation Service Fees or ISF, would “possibly disband the association.”

He said the life of the association largely depends on the incentives the group gets in maintaining and operating the irrigation facilities.

Buenavente said the association has been seeing to it that the NIA’s irrigation facilities are well operated and maintained by keeping the irrigation canals in good shape and that the water facilities are flowing for their intended beneficiaries.

Peter Lavinia, NIA administrator, in an interview, admitted that the agency would be spending PHp2 billion a year as subsidy fund so various irrigation facilities across the country could be maintained.

He the government’s subsidy for the facilities would replace the nearly PHp4 billion it generates from the ISF it collects from millions of farmers.

Lavinia said with the implementation of the free irrigation charges, NIA’s budget would be adversely affected as NIA is a GOCC or a government-owned and controlled corporation.

He said NIA would lose around P13 billion in back accounts and collectibles for all irrigation fees and loan amortizations that arose from the operation of the communal irrigation systems.

“If mawawala itong ISF and ma-condone ang mga back accounts malaking kalugian ito sa NIA,” (It would be a great loss for NIA if ISF would be abolished and the back accounts condoned), he said.

Lavinia said NIA is currently operating on a PHP38-billion budget, from which PHp 12 billion goes to debt servicing.

NIA data indicates that there are 1.4 million hectares of irrigated lands that service 1.5 million farmers across the country.

Lavinia said he hopes that during Duterte’s term, that will end in 2022, NIA could attain the goal of “additional 380,000 hectares of irrigated farmlands.”

In Bicol, 240,000 hectares are irrigable lands, of which 58 percent or 140,000 hectares are irrigated that service 500 irrigators' associations in the region. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/CBD

DOT: Bicol among PHL’s top five tourist destinations
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA)— A top official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said the Bicol Region has emerged as one of the top five tourist destinations in the country compared to its “sluggish” performance during the early ‘90s.

“Bicol is now a promising and rosy tourist destination compared to the other areas in the country as the number of visiting tourists, particularly foreign tourists, has tremendously increased annually, said Maria O. Ravanilla, DOT-Bicol director.

She said the region has been attracting more foreign and domestic tourists as shown by the latest records of the agency.

DOT-Bicol records showed that domestic and foreign tourist arrivals in all the six Bicol provinces and six cities in the region, that were recorded from January to June 2016, increased by 26.6 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

The total number of combined domestic and foreign tourists was 2,202,003 million from January to June 2015, while for the same period, the total arrivals in the region was 2,787,719 million.

In the first half of 2016, Camarines Sur, which is famous for its Caramoan group of islands, recorded the most number of combined domestic and foreign tourist arrivals with 613,062 in 2016. Albay which is known for the majestic Mayon Volcano was second with 352,483 arrivals.

Camarines Norte which has become known for its powdery white sand beaches such as Bagasbas Beach and the Calaguas Group of Islands, was third with 249,988 arrivals during the first half of 2016.

The records showed that for the same period, Catanduanes had 105,557 tourist arrivals, Sorsogon--86,735 and Masbate--40,651.

Among the five Bicol cities that include Legazpi City, Naga City, Iriga City, Masbate City and Sorsogon City, Legazpi City, a component city which is the capital of Albay province had the most number of combined foreign and domestic tourist arrivals during the first half of 2016.

The combined total tourist arrivals from January to June in 2016 in Legazpi City was 569,527, while Naga City was a close second with with 560,586 total arrivals. Masbate City was third with total tourist arrivals of 106,882.

But as to domestic tourist arrivals in the five cities, Naga City ranked first with 468,045 tourist arrivals during the first half of 2016 compared to Legazpi City with total visitors of 367,022.

According to the tourism department, the increasing tourist arrivals in Bicol has contributed multi-billion pesos in gross receipts to the Bicol economy and generated jobs for Bicolanos in various tourism-related industries in the region, specifically in hotels, restaurants, resorts, transportation, handicrafts and entertainment sector.

Ravanilla attributed the rosy tourism industry in Bicol to the joint initiatives of the private and government sectors who have been working together to build more infrastructure projects to be able to create new tourism hubs.

She cited that among the five Bicol cities, Legazpi City posted the highest growth rate of 27.7 percent of combined foreign and domestic tourist arrivals in the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015.

Legazpi City recorded 569,527 total arrivals compared to total tourist arrivals of 445,867 for the same period in 2015.

“Naga City followed with a 16.47 percent growth rate for the two periods, with 560,586 arrivals for the first half of 2016, compared to 481,304 arrivals for the same period in 2015.

Ravanilla said the Legazpi City government under Mayor Noel Rosal has “fast tracked” the construction of a coastal road known as the 4.08-kilometer Legazpi City Boulevard.

“The boulevard, which passes through barangays (villages) Victory, Dapdap, Puro and Lamba, contributed to boosting such growth rate,” she said.

Barangay Lamba in Legazpi City connects to the Bicol International Airport in Barangay Alobo, Daraga. The groundbreaking of the new airport was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte early in December 2015.

Ravanilla said this has meant more jobs, investments and more tourists for the Bicol region as a whole.

“This coastal road now serves as an alternate route to decongest traffic jam from the city proper and likewise provides commuters safe access and easy transport of their marine, livestock and agricultural products to the city’s newly built commercial centers,” she said.

Ravanilla said foreign investors are now eyeing Legazpi as the “most promising business and ecotourism hub in the country.”

She added that in the six provinces in the Bicol region, local government officials, from congressmen, to governors and mayors, have been working together to make tourism a vibrant industry in the region.

DOT-Bicol has acknowledged the private sector, specifically Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy S. Co, chief executive officer of the Sunwest Group of Companies, who has been putting in more investments in Bicol, particularly in Albay province, so that new corridors could be developed along the coastal and upland areas of Legazpi. (PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD

Friday, January 27, 2017

DILG, PASUC challenge SCU heads in Bicol to tackle federalism in academe
By Connie B. Destura

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 26 (PNA)— Under the federal system of government there will still be a president and vice president and their terms of office will be for six years without reelection.

This was the statement issued by Dr. Enrico Sampang, program manager on federalism of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for Bicol, as he gave an overview on President Rodrigo Duterte’s advocacy on the federal system of government during a two-day trainors’ training that started Thursday at the Bicol University here.

Participants to the training sponsored by DILG-Bicol, along with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) Bicol chapter, included more than 50 school officials of various state colleges and universities in the region that included their presidents and administrators.

Ronald Adamat, commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), challenged the audience to organize their own seminars in their respective institutions so they could explain to today’s young people the agenda of the national administration in transforming the present system of government.

“President Duterte believes that with federalism the people will be empowered, taxes will be 100 percent collected for the people, power will be enshrined in the local (governments) and projects will be under the control of the regional states,” he said.

Sampang explained that as to the allocation of resources, 20 percent will be given to the federal government while 80 percent will be for the regional states.

He said in Luzon, there will be four federal states: one state each in Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Bicol.

In the Visayas, the four federal states will consist of Minparom (Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon), Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas and Central Visayas.

Sampang said Mindanao will also have four federal states: Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Bangsamoro and Sabah.

Adamat said that as one of the flagship programs of the Duterte administration federalism seeks to eliminate graft and corrupt practices and help reduce poverty in the country. (PNA) FPV/GVR/CBD

Bicol police chief seeks speedy resolution of cases filed by wives vs policemen-husbands
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) —- The top official of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) has ordered the speedy resolution of complaints filed by the wives of policemen at the Regional Women’s Desk Office (RWD0) and Regional Internal Affairs Service (RIAS) at PRO5’s headquarters at Camp Simeon Ola here.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, PRO5 director, said he issued the order because every personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has an obligation not only to secure peace and order but to become a role model of “clean living” in their communities so they could gain the respect and support of their fellow villagers for various PNP programs.

Sr. Insp. Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said data from October 14, 2014 up to the present showed there have been 15 cases of grave misconduct filed by the spouses of the Bicol policemen that constitute violations of Republic Act (RA) 9262.

RA 9262 or “The Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004” has defined the acts of violence that may be committed by the policemen against their wives and children.

She said the complaints against the policemen ranged from “abandonment, living in with another woman, claims of financial support, mental and physical abuse and other forms of domestic abuse.”

“Out of the 15 cases filed before RWDO and RIAS five cases that involved marital conflicts have been resolved,” she added.

Calubaquib said one of the five cases involved a police officer with a rank of Police Officer 3 who was dismissed from PNP service while another case that involved a police officer with a rank of Police Officer 2 was meted with suspension of 90 days.

She said another of the five cases involved a police officer with a rank of Senior Police Officer 1 who was demoted by one rank because of the complaint filed against him.

“The latest case, which involved a Police Officer 2, was resolved after it was dismissed because the erring policeman and his wife have had an amicable settlement,” said Calubaquib.

She said some of the 15 complaints will likely face dismissal proceedings because the complainants had failed to appear in the scheduled hearings.

"We are presuming that the complainants and the respondents agreed to settle the complaints outside of the RWDO and RIAS or have decided to live with each other again," she said.

Calubaquib said the recent cases of violence committed by some police officers against their wives prompted PRO5 to implement a program called "Men Opposing Violence Everywhere or MOVE" in all provincial police offices and PNP stations in the Bicol region.

“These police officers, who are facing charges with regards to violation of RA 9262 were obliged to join MOVE and automatically undergo seminars and workshops,” she said.

Calubaquib said MOVE was able to gain support from media, non-government organizations and other government agencies in facilitating the seminars and workshops.

Last year, Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, who is the “regional focal person” for MOVE, was able to visit and organize the men in all PNP stations in the Bicol region regarding MOVE’s objectives.

He said the trainings and workshops tackled how the policemen could take care of the welfare of their families and avoid domestic violence.

"We trained them also how to investigate and deal with cases of domestic violence in their areas of responsibility," said Gomez.

Buenafe said he ordered a speedy resolution to the pending cases because he believes that policemen should be able to uphold strong family ties.

"This is one way of the policemen gaining the love and respect of the community,” he said.

Buenafe said this would in turn lead to the community’s “unconditional support” to every program of the PNP.

He added that a happy PNP officer with strong family ties tends to be more very effective in performing his duty and becomes more immune against vices and is likely not to engage in corrupt activities.

“Their family serves as an inspiration in doing good and in performing their obligations to the community,” said Buenafe. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/CBD

Farmers in Albay’s rice bowl areas do 'bayanihan' to restore dikes ruined by 'Nina'
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA)— In Albay’s third congressional district composed of Ligao City and the towns of Oas, Polangui and Libon, also known as the province’s rice bowl areas, farmers have been resorting to “bayanihan” to restore washed- out earth dikes and save what was left of the agricultural crops destroyed by typhoon Nina last month.

Albay third district Rep. Fernando Gonzales, along with local officials, irrigators associations and farmers, are doing bayanihan, a Filipino custom which is derived from the Filipino word “bayan” that refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

Gonzales said the ruined earth dikes are being reconstructed by sandbagging to divert the water to the irrigation dam and address the need for water supply of the rice lands of the South Quinale Irrigators’ Association.

“These efforts were achieved through bayanihan and at no cost to the government,” he said.

In Barangay (village) Busac, Oas town, bayanihan is headed by village chairwoman Lorna Sergio, who has resorted to the “food-for-work” scheme to restore the earth dike.

“This earth dike is essential in the accumulation of water supply at the irrigation dam and its restoration is very urgent for the water supply needs of the rice lands in Oas, Polangui and Libon,” said Gonzales.

He said in the third district, the farmers, along with their local officials in the city, municipal and barangay levels have also been declogging the irrigation canals aside from sandbagging activities.

Gonzales said the “food-for-work” scheme is being utilized in all these rice bowl areas to hasten face-lifting of the destroyed earth dikes.

Eduardo Yu, spokesman of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), in an interview, said in the Bicol region, the government needs PHP158.7 million to rehabilitate the irrigation facilities damaged by typhoon Nina in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

He said there were 8,888 farmers affected and 7,221 hectares of riceland destroyed in the four provinces due to the typhoon.

Among the four provinces, Albay and Camarines Sur, which are the rice granaries in the Bicol region, had the most number of farmers affected and the biggest area of rice lands affected.

Vicente R. Vicmudo, NIA director in Bicol, said there is an urgent need to rehabilitate the devastated irrigation projects in the region to bring back “rice sufficiency” in Bicol.

He said that among the six Bicol provinces, Camarines Sur is the region’s top rice producer and has been ranking sixth nationwide in rice production from 2014 to 2016.

“Half of the province’s (Camarines Sur) land area is allotted for rice production,” said Vicmundo.

Next to Camarines Sur as top rice producer in Bicol is Albay province.

“Unfortunately many irrigation facilities were destroyed (in Albay). That’s why we need to build back the irrigation facilities as soon as possible,” he said. (PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD

Thursday, January 26, 2017

DILG forms MASA-MASID teams in Bicol villages to act as 'good governance advocates'
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) —- A top official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Bicol said the agency is now forming Mamamayan Ayaw sa Anomalya, Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MASA-MASID) teams in over one thousand barangays or one third of the total number of barangays in the region which have been affected by the illegal drug program.

Grace Joy Tango, information officer of DILG-Bicol, said the program, which encourages volunteers to fight crimes at the barangay (village) level, targets to implement the MASA-MASID program in 1,114 out of 3,471 barangays in the entire Bicol region.

She said the barangays were selected in terms of the degree in which they were affected by the proliferation of the illegal drug problem as reported by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“The program encourages support from the grassroots to the regional level to fight corruption, criminality and illegal drugs,” said Tango.

She said DILG will not engage in recruiting volunteers to the program but will encourage the people in the barangays to volunteer.

Tango identified three implementation strategies of the program: “demand reduction” through advocacy and education campaigns; “supply reduction” through information gathering and reporting; and community-based rehabilitation.

She said in the demand reduction stage, volunteers will inform, educate and disseminate information to fellow villagers on the ill effects of illegal drugs, criminality and corruptions.

"This is not only about illegal drugs, a MASA-MASID team can report any barangay official who is corrupt or involved in any anomaly,” said Tango.

She added volunteers can also report on criminals hiding in the locality.

Tango said during the supply reduction stage, which is a more sensitive stage, the volunteers are tasked to gather information and report to authorities the information they have gathered.

“They will be the “ears and eyes” of the government,” she said.

Meanwhile, the community-based rehabilitation stage consists of a 48-week program designed by the DILG for the “light to moderate” drug surrenderers.

The program consists of a series of activities that will be facilitated by medical professionals, religious or faith-based organizations in their respective cities or municipalities.

“We are not discouraging other barangays from creating MASA-MASID teams in their barangays since the project is not limited to illegal drugs alone,” Tango said.

She said priority is only given to the 1,114 barangays.

In Catanduanes, MASA-MASID teams have been formed in 148 barangays: with 31 in Viga, 62 in Virac, 5 in San Miguel, 27 in Bato and 23

In Camarines Sur, teams have been organized in 78 barangays with an orientation already held in 27 barangays.

Tango said individuals who want to volunteer will undergo screening to be conducted by the Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS), a technical working group that “monitors the delivery of services while promoting good governance, transparency and inter-faith participation at the grassroots level.”

“UBAS also aims to develop barangays as centers of development by empowering citizens into good governance advocates while strengthening cooperation between the barangay, church and government for the effective delivery of social services,” said Tango.

The MASA-MASID program was among the topics included in the first regular meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) that was convened last Monday by Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal, who was newly appointed to the post by President Rodrigo Duterte.

During the RPOC meeting, authorities underscored problems on the aspect of rehabilitation and treatment of thousands of drug surrenderers. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Vice Pres. Robredo identifies top 10 Bicol towns devastated by 'Nina'
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Jan. 25 (PNA) -- Vice President Leni Robredo has identified the top 10 towns in Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes that bore the brunt of Typhoon Nina when it barreled through the Bicol region last Christmas Day with peak winds of 185 km. per hour.

“The 10 Bicol towns are Bato, Baras and San Andres in Catanduanes; Tiwi in Albay; and Sagñay, Buhi, Bula, Ocampo, Pili and Pasacao in Camarines Sur,” she said.

In an interview, Vice President Robredo said that nearly a month since the typhoon, she was able to consult with the mayors of the affected areas, some of whom appealed for rehabilitation assistance in terms of building materials and alternative livelihood rather than food packs.

She cited that in Bato, Catanduanes, where 1,700 houses were destroyed by the typhoon, Mayor Leo Rodriguez requested “iron sheets rather than canvasses” to help families rebuild their homes.

“Rodriguez also appealed for assistance for alternative livelihood for his constituents and fast-growing crops that can be harvested in a short period of time, as a form of rehabilitation assistance,” she said.

She added that Buhi town Mayor Margie Arguinillo also lamented the “lack of assistance to rebuild homes” in the villages in her town, where most houses were flattened by the typhoon.

Robredo said that next month, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will extend PHP5,000 in shelter assistance to each family whose house was destroyed by 'Nina'.

Noting that the amount is insufficient, Robredo recalled that when Typhoon Glenda hit the third district of Camarines Sur when she was still a congresswoman, they were able to raise funds from private donations and provide PHP20,000 to each family whose house was leveled.

“The PHP20,000 and ‘bayanihan’ labor was sufficient in helping the typhoon victims build semi-concrete houses,” she said.

Robredo further said that what is worrisome are the losses sustained by the agriculture sector, estimated at more than PHP5 billion by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Due to the absence of additional assistance for 'Nina' victims from foreign embassies, on top of the national government’s commitment of PHP500 million for agricultural rehabilitation, the vice president encouraged local government units (LGUs) to directly ask for assistance from foreign development agencies for their rehabilitation efforts.

Robredo emphasized that 'Nina' victims would need “building materials and alternative livelihood more than relief assistance, like food packs” during the rehabilitation phase.

She said representatives of the DSWD, DA, Office of Civil Defense, Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Education, and Department of Trade and Industry have already provided the mayors of affected areas with the documentary requirements so they could access government help.

“With the absence of request for assistance from the national government to foreign embassies like the United States of America or the European Union, the available local resources of the local government units and private donors to rehabilitate the hardest hit areas will not be sufficient,” said Robredo.

She said she had spoken with the United Nations Development Program and European Union and was told that a request from the national government is required for them to extend assistance but they are also open to LGUs seeking assistance directly from them. (PNA) CVL/GVR/JME/CBD

Mayor seeks 'livelihood support' for farmers in Libon, Albay affected by typhoon Nina
By Mike Dela Rama

LIBON, Albay, Jan. 24 (PNA) -— Nearly a month since the devastation wrought by typhoon Nina in Bicol, Mayor Wilfredo Maronilla of Libon town in Albay continues to seek help from national government agencies and private organizations in restoring the livelihood of displaced families, particularly in the town’s low-lying and upland areas.

He said Libon town, which is located northwest of Legazpi City, was most affected by the landslides, floods and strong winds that totally destroyed the agriculture sector when the typhoon struck.

Maronilla cited the urgent need to help the agriculture sector in the town so farmers could rebuild their farms and regain their livelihood.

He said coconut and fruit-bearing trees, root crops, poultry, rice fields, abaca and vegetation were totally damaged by the recent typhoon.

Maronilla said Libon’s farmers have become “temporarily dependent” on assistance from other groups and agencies after the typhoon.

He said the local government has been continuously providing relief assistance to affected families such as food packages, medical commodities, educational and hygiene kits but he admitted that their resources are not enough to support the affected families.

He said the assistance he is seeking from national government agencies and other humanitarian organizations would be “temporary in nature.”

“As soon as we rebuild their (farmers) sources of livelihood we will stop seeking assistance,” said Maronilla.

He added there has been continued clearing operations in the upland areas.

Maronilla said the local government finds it very difficult to clear the connecting roads in the upland villages because of the abnormal weather condition in the province and continuous occurrence of landslides in the villages,” said Maronilla.

He identified the villages, which were most affected by the landslides and floods, as Malabiga, Sampongan, Bariw, Matura, Libtong, San Agustin, Balinsayawan and San Pascual.

Maronilla said these villages have 1,800 households which were severely affected by typhoon Nina that slammed Bicol on Christmas Day.

He said that his daily monitoring and inspection of the villages in Libon showed that the motorcycle is the sole means of transportation to be able to reach the villages of Malabiga, Samponga, Matura, Libtong and San Agustin.

Maronilla cited that the access roads were destroyed by landslide.

“We already exerted our resources to clear the area but there are roads that need repair,” he said.

The Philippine Red Cross has been conducting a medical mission in Libon town since Monday while the Team Albay Youth Organization has been conducting a separate “psychosocial caravan” to help the typhoon victims cope with the sudden loss of their sources of livelihood.

A food relief operation was also initiated by the Dios Mabalos Foundation for the typhoon victims. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

RPOC-Bicol convenes first regular meeting
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 23 (PNA) —- As newly appointed chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal convened the first regular meeting of RPOC Monday as it tackled plans for peace and order in the region, particularly the war against drugs, criminality and insurgency.

RPOC convened its first joint meeting with the Regional Management and Coordinating Committee so it could address the key issues on peace and order, said Eloisa Pastor, director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bicol, who headed the secretariat.

She acknowledged the participants and declared the quorum of the members during the meeting that was held Monday afternoon at Venezia Convention Hall, Renaissance Gardens in this city.

Pastor said the agenda included updates on security in the region and implementation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Rosal echoed what President Rodrigo Duterte said during his recent meeting with local government officials in Malacanang--from the mayors to the governors--that he is seeking their support in the fight against “the serious drug problem” in the country.

“He (the President) asked all the governors and mayors to join the local police in this (illegal drug) campaign because this is what it takes now if we want to attain peace and order in our country,” said Rosal.

Chief Supt. Ramon Melvin Buenafe, director of the Police Regional Office in Bicol, gave an update on the accomplishments of Project Double-Barrel, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) anti-illegal drug campaign and how majority of the drug-affected barangays in the region have been “cleared” of the problem of proliferation of illegal drugs.

He also reported on the PNP’s campaign against illegal fishing, gambling, mining and logging.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Drug and Enforcement Agency updated the RPOC members on the implementation of RA 9165.

Other member agencies of the RPOC such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Agriculture and DILG gave updates on projects that would benefit various villages in the region.

Early this month, the President appointed Rosal as RPOC chairman in Bicol, to become the first mayor to hold the post after it was previously headed by governors in the region. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/SGP

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Humanitarian group HAVMed schedules surgical-dental mission in Albay
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -- The Provincial Health Office (PHO) of Albay has announced the holding of a joint surgical-dental mission by non-profit humanitarian group Health Alliance of Volunteers and Medicine (HAVMed) in Albay’s underserved communities on February 20-24.

Daisy Adrales, Albay PHO nurse coordinator, said the mission is a joint undertaking of the provincial government, Department of Health (DOH) Bicol and Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) which aims to evaluate and treat the “underserved and unserved patients” in the 15 municipalities and three cities of Albay.

“The 2017 Joint Surgical and Dental mission is an undertaking of HAVMed and University of the Philippines (UP)- Manila through Ugnayan ng Pahinungod-Manila,” she said.

Dr. Rogelio G. Rivera, medical center chief of BRTTH, said the mission is primarily a project of HAVMed whose member volunteers from the United States seek to provide medical services to the marginalized sector of society.

“HAVMed’s primary purpose is to help with the medical needs of low-income families in impoverished communities in the Philippines through its medical missions,” he said.

On the other hand, Ugnayan ng Pahinungod is UP’s system-wide volunteer service organization.

Rivera, in an interview, said BRTTH will provide the venue for the mission.

“HAVMed will ensure that quality care rather than the number of patients attended to during the mission” will be the major consideration in conducting the activity, he said.

Rivera said BRTTH will extend the necessary hospital services and medical facilities during the patients’ confinement such as equipment, operating rooms, delivery room, dressing room and stock room for the equipment and supplies of the humanitarian group when they perform surgical procedures that will include minor and major surgery.

He said wards will also be made available for the pre-operative patients while there will be recovery rooms for the post-operative patients.

“Services to be given for free include thyroidectomy, cholecystectomies, hernia repair-Inguinal or abdominal, cystectomies, vasectomies, lumps and bumps excision, incision and drainage, circumcision, repair of mild to moderate congenital hand deformity and other hand deformities, vein stripping and carpal tunnel surgery,” said Rivera.

He said that being a partner of the joint mission, BRTTH shall ensure the safety and security of the humanitarian group within the vicinity of the hospital for the duration of the mission.

Adrales said the pre-screening of the patients will still be scheduled and patients who want to avail of the free surgical and dental services must coordinate with their respective Rural Health Units (RHUs).

"After the pre-screening in RHUs, the patients-to-be will go to the three district hospitals (in the province) for further screening,” she said.

Adrales said the final screening with the HAVMed team will be on February 19.

She said the provincial government as one of the sponsors of the joint mission shall facilitate patient recruitment and provide free transportation for patients from remote barangays. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/RSM

DOH-Bicol says Catanduanes post-typhoon victim died of severe dehydration, not cholera
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 20 (PNA) -— Health authorities, who made followup investigations of the lone post-typhoon Nina fatality, had confirmed that the 36-year-old farmer of Barangay Sto. Nino in Virac, Catanduanes died of severe dehydration due to diarrhea, and not cholera as earlier reported in the media.

France Genorga, food and water-borne diseases program coordinator of the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol, said they conducted a revalidation following persistent reports in the local and national media that the farmer died of cholera and that this disease was fast spreading out in the typhoon-hit villages of Catanduanes where Nina made its first landfall on Christmas Day.

Catanduanes Health Officer Dr. Hazel Palmes confirmed that the dead, whose name was withheld, had been diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis with severe dehydration.

She said a fecal sample of the victim showed he was infected by “Entamoeba Hystolica,” a kind of bacteria, after reportedly drinking water from Inagasan Falls, a few meters away from Barangay Sto. Nino in Virac town.

Quoting reports from a DOH-Bicol inspection team, Palmes said some 12 samples collected from the different water sources at the Virac District Jail and in two villages with diarrhea cases had tested positive for fecal contamination.

Water samples collected from some faucets of the Virac Water District, a barangay waterworks system, and shallow and deep wells were found with fecal coliforms above safe levels.

Meanwhile, Engineer Connie Ramirez, DOH-Bicol in-charge of refilling station inspection, said that the two refilling outlets found positive with e-coli, already turned negative of the bacteria in recent tests.

She said they subjected the water samples from these refilling stations to at least three tests that all turned negative already from the ecoli contamination.

“When water samples from these refilling stations turned positive from ecoli, their pipelines were still busted by Typhoon Nina. But in the succeeding three tests after the lines were already repaired, the samples were found negative already of e-coli contamination,” Ramirez said.

Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua had earlier asked Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial to help them set up sources of safe and potable water in the typhoon-affected communities to prevent a possible diarrhea outbreak.

He asked for mobile filtration machines that could produce some 5,000 liters of potable water daily.

Diarrhea cases were reported to have hit Catanduanes as early as November last year. (PNA) LAP/GVR/SMT/CBD

Friday, January 20, 2017

International cycling event returns to Legazpi City
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 19 (PNA)—-Mayor Noel E. Rosal has announced the return to this city of the eighth edition of the cycling competition “Le Tour De Filipinas” on February 18 to 21.

He said 75 bikers from various international and local cycling teams are expected to join the four-stage competition in Southern Luzon that will carry the slogan “8s Amazing.”

Rosal said the event that will cover the same route as last year when it started in Antipolo City to Lucena City in Quezon, to Daet in Camarines Norte and to Legazpi City with the majestic Mayon Volcano as backdrop.

“It will be first international sports event for the city this year,” said Rosal.

He said the foreign squads will come from South Korea, Japan, China, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Spain, France, England and Australia.

“The local teams will be Road Bike Philippines, Team Kopiko Cebu and the Philippine National Team,” he added.

Rosal said in Legazpi City, the bikers will start their race from the City’s Southern Boulevard in Barangay Puro before going to Albay’s various towns and returning to the Boulevard to be able to circle the 360 degree Mount Mayon Volcano.

According to race organizer Ube Media Inc. Le tour De Filipinas is the only International Cycling Union Road Race in the Philippines duly sanctioned by the Union of Cyclists International, Philippine Cycling Federation and Asian Cycling Federation as a yearly professional road bicycle race. (PNA) FPV/GVR/EPS/CBD

Bicol police reports 'clearing' 80% of drug-affected villages in region of illegal drug problem
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 19 (PNA) -- A top official of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) said that 80 percent of the total number of barangays deemed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as drug affected in the region have been declared “cleared of the problem of proliferation of illegal drugs” during the past six months and two weeks since the government launched its war against illegal drugs.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, PRO5 director, said data from July 1, 2016 to Jan. 18 this year showed that 466 of the 580 barangays have been “cleared” of the illegal drug problem.

PDEA records showed that there were 580 barangays or 16.7 percent of the total 3,471 barangays in the region which it deemed to be drug-affected when the campaign started.

“The remaining 20 percent or 114 barangays of the total drug-affected barangays are still under the PNP’S clearing operation,” said Buenafe.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said they declared all of these barangays as "cleared" instead of "drug free" because only the PDEA has the authority to declare it as drug-free.

Among the six provinces and seven cities in the Bicol region, Camarines Norte and Naga City in Camarines Sur were able to record a hundred percent number of cleared barangays.

In Camarines Norte, 81 of 81 drug-affected barangays were declared "cleared" as with Naga City, where 15 of 15 drug-affected barangays were declared “cleared.”

In Sorsogon, the percentage of cleared barangays is 98 percent or 98 of 99 drug-affected barangays; Masbate-93 percent or 62 of 66 barangays; Camarines Sur-85.9 percent or 141 of 164 barangays; Catanduanes-73.6 percent or 36 of 81 barangays; and Albay-31.3 percent or 33 of 106 barangays.

Calubaquib said PRO5’s Double Barrel Alpha campaign from July 1, 2016 to January 16, 2017 recorded 86,141 drug surrenderees (80,222 users; 5,919 pushers) in the Bicol region.

She said Project Tokhang was able to knock on the doors of 1,166,872 houses, arrested 900 drug personalities while 83 drug suspects were killed in police operations in the region.

In November and December last year, anti-narcotics lawmen were able to confiscate multi-million pesos worth of illegal drugs in the region.

These were in Barangay Palta Small in Virac, Catanduanes, where 359.7 kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were seized, while in Barangay Sogod, Tiwi, Albay, authorities were able to recover 18 bricks of high-grade cocaine weighing 12.17 kgs off the sea waters of Sogod. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/CBD

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Phivolcs reiterates warning on Mayon, Bulusan volcanoes due to monsoon rains
By Samuel Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- Local watchers of Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon and Mayon Volcano in Albay reiterated today the warning initially issued to the public by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to avoid entry inside the mountains' Permanent Danger Zones (PDZ) due to the prevailing monsoon rains over Bicol for nearly a month now.

In Sorsogon, Crispulo Diolata, resident volcanologist at Phivolcs' Cabid-An monitoring station, said residents should not dare enter Bulusan's four-kilometer radius PDZ and its six-km extended danger zone on the southern slopes.

“Deposited thick ashfalls could be mobilized into lahar in case of heavy downpour due to the prevailing monsoon rains in the province,” he warned.

Diolata said that thick ashes ejected during the November explosion of Bulusan “merely dropped along its slopes” due to the absence of strong winds at that time.

"We would like to inform the public to refrain from entering the danger zones of Bulusan because heavy downpour is likely to mobilize the latest ejected ashes into lahar," he said.

Phivolcs’ latest bulletin is reminding people living within valleys and along river or stream channels, especially on the southeastern, southwestern and northwestern sectors of the volcano, to be vigilant against sediment-laden stream flows and lahars in case of heavy and prolonged rainfall.

It recorded four volcanic earthquakes on Bulusan in the past 24 hours.

Bulusan Volcano remains at alert level one, which means that hydrothermal processes are underway beneath the volcano that may lead to steam-driven or phreatic eruptions.

Phivolcs said pilots should avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ash from any sudden phreatic eruption can be hazardous to aircraft.

In Albay, volcano watcher Jude Mallorca said they were having difficulty making physical observations of Mayon in the past days due to thick clouds brought by the monsoon rains.

He said, however, that Phivolcs’ instruments have not yet detected any lahar movement along Mayon's slopes.

Mayon volcano remains under alert level one, which means it is in an abnormal condition.

Mallorca reiterated their warning to the public that while magmatic eruption is not imminent over Mayon, “the public should not enter the six-kilometer PDZ due to the occasional heavy downpour over Mayon.”

Phivolcs latest Mayon bulletin added that “active stream or river channels and those identified as perennially lahar-prone areas on all sectors of the volcano should also be avoided, especially during extreme weather conditions when there is heavy and prolonged rainfall."

It said there is also the perennial life-threatening dangers of rockfalls, landslides and avalanches at the middle to upper slopes, sudden ash puffs and steam driven or phreatic eruptions from the summit.

But despite the warning, Mallorca said some farmers and orchid pickers continue to be spotted inside the 6-km PDZ.

Three volcanic earthquakes were recorded over Mayon during the past 24-hour monitoring period.

Phivolcs maintains close monitoring of Mayon Volcano and will report any new development. (PNA) LAM/GVR/SMT/CBD/RSM

Bicol records high maternal death rate in past 2 years
By Mike Dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- The big number of maternal deaths in the Bicol region over the past two years continues to spoil the efforts of health authorities and local government agencies in improving the reproductive health of women in the region over the years.

The latest report from the Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol Family Cluster program cited “complications arising from hypertension” as the major cause of the maternal deaths.

“In 2015 alone, there were 173 maternal death cases (per thousand live births),” said Dr. Rita Mae Ang-Bon, coordinator of DOH-Bicol Family Cluster program.

She said the biggest number of cases were reported in Camarines Sur at 61, followed by Masbate-31, Albay-29, Camarines Norte-23, Catanduanes-16 and Sorsogon-13.

Bon added they were able to record 124 cases in the region as of November 2016.

She said from 2015 to 2016, “hypertension resulting to pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hemorrhage have contributed to the maternal death cases in the region.”

Eclampsia is a condition in which convulsions occur in a pregnant woman suffering from high blood pressure. Often followed by a coma these pose a threat to the health of the mother and the baby.

Bon said the other causes of deaths are “indirect medical conditions, sepsis infection (or blood infection), ‘home transit to health facility’ and unknown.”

Citing the 2015 data, the report said 85.50 percent of the 173 cases in the Bicol region cited the place of maternal deaths as the hospital.

“Only 14 percent of the deaths occurred while in transit (from the home to birthing facility) or at home,” added the report.

Bon said the consolidated report from the six Bicol provinces showed that “maternal deaths by stage at time of death” were mostly in the “post-partum phase” or the immediate period after the baby has been delivered.

She said local government units (LGUs) in the region have been intensifying their campaign on maternal and child health.

“This is to make sure that all pregnant mothers are being properly monitored and that they submit themselves to regular prenatal check up,” said Bon.

She said barangay health workers (BHWs) and midwives have been deployed to all villages to provide direct services to mothers.

Bon said that rural areas also have higher Maternal Mortality Rates, also called MMR by statisticians, because many women in rural areas begin having children at a young age.

“Since adolescent women are normally not developed enough for childbirth, these young mothers face many complications during and after pregnancy and contribute to the high maternal mortality rate,” she said.

Bon said DOH, along with local population officers, BHWs and their rural health units have introduced many interventions to reduce maternal and child deaths.

“Since a majority of maternal deaths occur during and soon after delivery, many interventions concentrate on this period,” she said.

She said that currently traditional birth attendants or TBAs are only allowed to assist midwives and mothers during pregnancy or birth at the birthing facility.

Bon said programs have attempted to utilize this existing system by giving short training courses to TBAs.

“But there is little evidence that such programs are effective in reducing maternal mortality even if they may be effective in reducing mortality among newborns,” she said.

Bon said through a “nutrition promotion program” the DOH and its counterparts in the LGUs continue to implement effective interventions just before a baby is delivered by the mother.

“Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding is highly recommended to mothers,” she said.

Bon said there have been a number of interventions aimed at educating and supporting women to initiate breastfeeding and adopt optimal breastfeeding behaviors. She said it has been shown that “improving breastfeeding practices can help to reduce neonatal mortality.”

In its “2012 Philippine Health Statistics,” the DOH Epidemiology Bureau said the number of registered maternal deaths in Civil Registry Offices nationwide reached a total of 1,447 (per 100,000 live births) while the MMR was 0.8 per thousand live births.

It said that in 2012, the Eastern Visayas Region recorded the highest MMR of 1.6 maternal deaths per thousand live births while the Cordillera Administrative Region recorded the lowest with 0.5 deaths per thousand live births.

The bureay said six out of 17 regions "had MMR higher than the national rate of 0.8.”

In the Bicol region, the DOH-bureau said maternal mortality in 2012 was 103 per 1,000 population with the MMR at 1.05 deaths per thousand live births.

The Epidemiology Bureau reported that by province, for the same year, there were 23 maternal deaths in Camarines Sur with an MMR of 0.9; Albay-23 (1.3 MMR); Camarines Norte-19 (1.4 MMR); Masbate-14 (1.0 MMR); Sorsogon-12 (1.0 MMR); and Catanduanes-4 (0.7).

In the same report, the DOH bureau described maternal mortality rate or MMR as the “mirror of a woman’s health and nutritional status during pregnancy, at childbirth, or in the period after childbirth. It also highlights her access to professional medical services before, during and even after childbirth.”

Population Commission (PopCom)-Bicol Director Magdalena Abellera has said that “the target is to lower maternal mortality to 52 deaths per 100,000 live births” under the government’s new Sustainable Development Goals or SDG program.

SDGs otherwise known as the “Global Goals” are universal calls to action to promote development that are being implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in 170 countries.

Policy planners said the goals, that combine the factors necessary for quality life in the 21st millennium, must serve as a framework in governance.(PNA) LAM/GVR/MDR/CBD/EDS

DA-Bicol sends 21 technical experts to 3 provinces to assess needs for post-typhoon Nina recovery
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol has started the deployment of 21 technical personnel who will evaluate the destruction to physical infrastructures and its effect on the socio-economic activities of the people in Albay, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes that were ravaged by typhoon Nina.

Dr. Elena B. de los Santos, DA-Bicol regional executive director, has ordered the deployment of the personnel who will be grouped into seven teams for what DA calls “post-disaster needs assessment or PDNA.”

Each team consists of three personnel with 1 team for Albay, 4 teams for Camarines Sur and 2 teams for Catanduanes.

The deployment, which will last for nearly a month, has started on January 8 and will last till February 2.

De los Santos said the PDNA teams will also provide technical and logistical help to the validation team from DA’s central office so they could craft a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for the affected areas.

Emily Bordado, DA-Bicol’s information officer, said the technical personnel will come from five government agencies in charge of the agricultural subsectors engaged in “permanent and seasonal crops, coconut, livestock, fisheries, fibers and irrigation facilities.”

“The team includes agriculturists, agronomists, irrigation engineers, fisheries experts, economists and other professionals who are experts in assessment methodology and socio-economic conditions of the affected areas,” she said.

Bordado said there are five government agencies involved: DA, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic resources or BFAR, Philippine Coconut Authority or PCA, Philippine Fiber Development Authority or PHILFIDA and National Irrigation Authority or NIA.

She said the agencies will closely coordinate with their local government counterparts and other agencies and development partners in doing the work.

"The assessment report of the individual agencies will be consolidated and submitted to the Office of the Civil Defense for further consolidation,” she added.

Bordado said the output of the teams should include the damage and losses for all sectors, potential impact, framework and identified programs and projects for recovery and reconstruction.

She said these will be presented to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council or NDRRMC, international development partners and other concerned bodies. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/RSM

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DOLE-Bicol gives Php.5-M livelihood grant in Camarines Norte mining site

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 17 (PNA) —- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has released early this month half-a-million-pesos worth of livelihood grant to 59 families living in a mining site in Camarines Norte.

The grant, which is in the form of equipment, raw materials and small hand tools under the “DOLE Kabuhayan Starter Kits” (DKSK) program has amounted to Php 566,714, according to Atty. Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla, DOLE-Bicol director (officer-in-charge).

She said the program aims to provide an alternative livelihood to the informal sector workers in the province, many of whom rely on income through construction of open-pit mining holes in areas not far from their dwellings.

Trayvilla, in a news release today, said beneficiaries of the DKSK program get to have access to a “more defined income” through enterprises that are “self-earning.”

She said DKSK provides both skills training and the necessary tools so its beneficiaries can quickly start livelihood activities and become self-employed.

Trayvilla said the livelihood starter kits have tools that would be beneficial in areas such as massage, plumbing, cosmetology, electrical servicing, welding, native snack preparation, car wash, repair of motorcycles, cellular phones, appliances and upholstery.

She said under DKSK, the beneficiaries can render services to other members of the immediate community either as “home-based" or “on-call” workers.

Trayvila echoed the hopes of DOLE-Bicol that with the latest livelihood grant, the 59 families living in mining sites in the province could be prevented from making their children engage in child labor.

“This has been a yearly activity here to intensify our anti-child labor program in the province (Camarines Norte),” she said.

Travilla said child labor continues to exist in the province, especially in the mining sites.

“We will not stop until we liberate the last child laborer here,” she said.

Over the past years, DOLE Bicol’s livelihood program has been helping stamp out child labor in the municipality of Paracale, the mining capital of Camarines Norte.

Without any skills for more decent jobs, the target beneficiaries of DOLE’s program have been resorting to working in mining pits as laborers, locally called “Parasurok.” This entails engaging their children to work alongside them in manually dug out underground tunnels that gravely put to risk their health and safety.

Travilla said DOLE has been addressing this problem by promoting business and entrepreneurship for the identified parents of the child laborers.

She said by introducing a self-sustaining and decent livelihood, their children would be saved from child labor.

Under DKSK, beneficiaries receive “capability-building trainings,” wherein they learn basic entrepreneurial skills so their businesses could grow profitably given knowhow in the areas of marketing, production, bookkeeping and management.

Travilla said the trainings are facilitated either through the “in-house trainors” of DOLE or through other government institutions.

“As the project operates, DOLE will provide other services or assistance that the beneficiaries need so the project will continue to operate and generate more income for the families,” she said. (PNA) LAP/GINA V. RODRIGUEZ/CBD

Bicol villages implementing KALAHI-CIDDS to get funds for post-typhoon Nina recovery
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 17 (PNA) -- The Department of Social and Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Bicol will augment funding support to municipalities in the region, which are currently implementing projects for the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) program, to assist them in their recovery efforts after the devastation wrought by typhoon Nina last December 25.

DSWD-Bicol Director Arnel Garcia said that from 2014 to 2019, Php 4.1 billion has been allocated for the Bicol region with Php2.27 billion being utilized by poor villages for the implementation of the “Community-Driven Development or CDD program” of Kalahi-CIDSS.

He said eligible municipalities must be currently implementing Kalahi-CIDSS and have declared a state of calamity as supported by a resolution of their Sangguniang Bayan or municipal councils.

Garcia said there will be a shift from the standard Kalahi-CIDSS processes and operations to “Disaster Response Operations Procedures (or DROP)” in the allocation of funds to the various municipalities.

He said the funds for the early recovery efforts of the areas devastated by typhoon Nina will be directly provided to the villages.

He said DSWD-Bicol has set certain fixed criteria for providing grants to the targeted disaster-affected areas.

These are the population of the barangays that relies on the results of the latest census; poverty incidence as generated from the DSWD National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction or NHTS-PR; and the extent of damage as measured by the percentage of damaged households or other available data that would allow comparison across all barangays.

Garcia said grants under the program will be allocated based on the severity of damage.

“Thus, barangays will be categorized into three groups--severely damaged or affected, moderately damaged and least affected,” he said.

Garcia said the priorities and ranking of all villages in a municipality will be conducted based on the given criteria.

“The non-prioritized villages will be referred to their local government units or other national government agencies,” he said.

Garcia said the Kalahi-CIDSS Engineering Unit has been visiting at random municipalities and villages in Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Albay to assess the extent of damages to sub-projects and gather relevant data to enhance the design of future sub-projects.

“Based on the initial data they gathered last January 11, there were 118 damaged sub-projects out of the 2,806 funded sub-projects under Kalahi-CIDSS from 2002 up to the present,” he said. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD/EDS

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DPWH to make Bicol a pilot area for earthquake and typhoon-resilient school buildings
By Rhaydz Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) —- Starting this year, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will be constructing typhoon and earthquake resilient public school buildings in the Bicol region that could withstand even typhoons with the strength of 300 kilometers per hour.

“Bicol will be the pilot area for the country’s first and strongest public schoolbuilding that could withstand stronger typhoons,” said DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, who flew to Bicol to check the status of rehabilitation efforts, particularly in Albay and Camarines Sur, which were devastated by typhoon Nina on Christmas day.

He said current public infrastructures like public school buildings could only withstand typhoons with the strength of 255-kph.

Villar said that as natural calamities get intense due to climate change, the government will have to build the country’s first typhoon and earthquake-proof public school buildings in disaster-prone Bicol.

“For single public school classrooms, the department is allocating a budget of Php1.2 million but with the new master plan for disaster mitigation, the budget will be doubled,” the state public works chief said.

He said under the 2017 budget, the department has allocated funds for disaster mitigation that include the construction of schoolbuildings.

“The goal is not only to use the public school infrastructure for evacuation but to serve as a lasting structure conducive for learning,” said Villar.

Earlier, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol reported Php1.1 billion initial damage to public school buildings and Php34 million damage to non-infrastructure assets during the post-assessment briefing of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council here.

Roy Bañas, DepEd-Bicol information officer, said that in Albay, there were 186 classrooms totally damaged by typhoon Nina that need a budget of Php223.2 million.

He said there were 625 classrooms totally damaged or in need of replacement in 3,827 public schools from elementary to senior high school in the Bicol region with the damage estimated at Php750 million.

Aside from this, there were 1,082 classrooms in the region that were partially damaged and in need of major repairs with estimated costs to reach Php378 million.

Banas added there were 988 classrooms, which were partially damaged and in need of minor repairs amounting to Php14.82 million.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri of the Senate committee on finance said that he will ask Congress to double the budget for public school infrastructures to lessen the impact of disasters in regions.

As to the other infrastructure development programs in the country, Villar said he aims to build a superhighway from La Union to Bicol as a major thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“The President believes that infrastructure projects could breed massive development, open new business opportunities and (generate) employment,” he said.

Villar said there will be road widenings and bypass roads from Legazpi City to Daraga town in Albay while an expressway will be built in Naga City in Camarines Sur to decongest traffic in the area.

“More environmentally friendly projects will also be put up across the country such as bike lanes and walkable roads for the public to lessen carbon footprints,” he said.

Villar said the government has allocated a multi-billion budget for 2017 to address traffic congestion traffic problems in the country, specifically in Metro Manila, by establishing more access roads and superhighways.

“Ultimately, I want to have a superhighway in Luzon from north to south, that would include Bicol, before the President’s term ends,” said Villar.

He said he was in Bicol to look into the possibility of pursuing a superhighway from Lucena to Bicol or from La Union to Matnog, Sorsogon.

Villar said he is also studying if there could be six to eight lanes in Bicol International Airport’s (BIA) access road as the existing two lanes could not accommodate the big volume of vehicles that would travel to and from the international airport once it becomes operational here. (PNA) LAP/RB/EDS

Sunday, January 15, 2017

President Duterte asks Filipinos to show nationalism by fighting graft

DAVAO CITY, Jan. 15 (PNA) -- President Rodrigo Duterte said Filipinos can stop graft and corruption in government by being patriotic and that it is time to fight abuses in government.

In a speech during the 49th Annual Installation of the Board of Trustees and Officer of the the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. on Saturday, the President reiterated his pledge of zero corruption in government under his watch.

"Dito sa graft and corruption, alam mo kayo lang ang makahinto niyan, hindi ako. Kayo lang talaga. The Filipino guy must be assertive," the President told Davao City businessmen during the event in Marco Polo Hotel.

"Do not be afraid of government employees even the military and the pulis if you are right. That is what I guarantee you now," he added noting that if Filipinos want to help the government they have six years to do it.

The public, he said, must be assertive in dealing with government agencies whether in applying for land certificates or clearing packages at the Bureau of Customs.

Only the people can effectively combat graft and corruption because as president, he said, he cannot micromanage everything.

"Anyway I think that we should have a respite from corruption. Ngayon, if you want your country really to grow, ayaw ko ng away," he said.

The President also mentioned his war on drugs, adding that after meeting the country's mayors last week, he is arranging to meet the governors next week to warn them about getting involved in the drug trade. He vowed to eliminate illegal drugs in the country under his term.

Telling criminals and drug dealers how the ongoing deadly crackdown will stop, the President said: "Drop your guns if you are a terrorist; drop the shabu tonight and tomorrow it will be heaven."

The President also reported about recent Mindanao bombings involving the Maute group, saying all suspects have been accounted for. One of the suspects, he announced is the son of a Cotabato mayor, who is now detained in Malaysia.

There is good working relations with Malaysia and Indonesia in tackling cross border security and terrorism, he said.

He also said he gave the approval to other countries' navies to enter Philippine waters during pursuit operations.

President Duterte also discussed the ongoing peace process particularly with the communist rebels and Muslim separatists.

At the same time, he told Davao City businessmen that he has brilliant people in his cabinet helping him move the country forward. While he ensures peace and security, the cabinet members work on improving the economy and uplifting the lives of the people, he said. (PNA) BNB/PND/SSC

Catanduanes expects full power restoration in one month
By Connie B.Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 14 (PNA) -- The entire province of Catanduanes will have to wait for at least a month before its power supply could be fully restored after its power lines were cut due to typhoon Nina.

Engineer Francis Gianan, technical services department manager of First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative (FICELCO), said they were doing their best to restore the power supply in the province.

“But based on our assessment of the damage it is not possible to restore completely on the deadline given by the Department of Energy (DOE) which is on January 31,” he said.

Gianan said FICELCO could fully restore the power supply only by February.

He said initial reports showed there were 1,219 poles that were damaged while 96 transformers and 141 poles were “leaning” after being hit by strong winds during the typhoon.

He said in the 11 towns of Catanduanes: power had been restored in 45 percent of Bagamanoc, or 8 out of 18 barangays; 22.2 percent in Bato, or 6 of 27 barangays; 51 percent in Caramoran, or 14 of 27 barangays; 53.8 percent in Pandan, or 14 of 26 barangays; 65.2 percent in Panganiban, or 15 of 23 barangays; 5.2 percent in San Andres, or 2 of 38 barangays; 4.17 percent in San Miguel, or 1 in 24 barangays; 67.7 percent in Viga, or 21 of 31 barangays; and 38.10 percent in the capital town of Virac,, or 24 of 63 barangays.

Gianan said in the municipalities of Baras and Gigmoto no barangay had been energized because the lines and poles that were cut could not be found.

He said the four power plants in the province were all operational. These are Marinawa Diesel Power Plant (DPP), Balongbong Hydro Power Plant, Viga DPP and Catanduanes Power Generation Inc. DPP.

Gianan said as of Jan. 12, the partial damage costs in Catanduanes’ power supply due to typhoon Nina was estimated at Php38 million. (PNA) RMA/GVR/CBD/RSM

DepEd, DSWD remobilize 'Brigada Eskwela' for schools’ post-typhoon 'Nina' recovery
By MIke Dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 13 (PNA)-- The social welfare and education departments in Bicol Region are conducting an emergency provision of food assistance to Bigrada Eskwela volunteers to hasten the restoration and rehabilitation of school facilities affected by typhoon 'Nina.'

Tolentino Aquino, assistant regional director of the Department of Education (DepEd), said the food assistance is under the “food-for-work” program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

He said the food support is in collaboration with DepEd to support formation of the “emergency” Brigade Eskwela.

Brigada Eskwela consists of “voluntary troops or brigades” of parents, teachers, students and other members of the school community who have been organized by DepEd and the Parents and Teachers Associations in all campuses of public elementary and high schools nationwide to provide clean-up and maintenance services for school facilities just weeks before the start of every schoolyear.

Aquino said the call to duty to the Brigada Eskwela volunteers at this time of the schoolyear is to help the “immediate recovery and rehabilitation of classrooms.”

He said it has become “imperative not to defer the access to education.”

“Brigada Eskwela can also become applicable during and after emergency conditions,” he added.

DSWD and DepEd have signed a memorandum of agreement to fast track the repair of school facilities in the Bicol Region which were damaged by typhoon 'Nina.'

Aquino said the move to mobilize anew the volunteers hopes to “promote the values of cooperation, cleanliness, camaraderie and sense of community involvement,” which he said are significant factors for the fast recovery of the schools.

He said after typhoon 'Nina' hit Bicol on Christmas Day, the pupils’ attendance in schools became a big issue.

“The students often help their parents find food for the family,” said Aquino.

He said the food assistance to be provided by DSWD is highly significant for the parents and community members who will provide volunteer services for the remobilized Brigada Eskwela.

“The volunteers themselves were victims of the calamity,” he said. He said DSWD-Bicol has already provided 350 family food packs to DepEd, which are intended for Catanduanes and Camarines Sur.

Aquino said DepEd is set to request 5,000 food packs to be given to the other provinces.

He said the priority provinces and municipalities include those in the third district of Albay (such as Polangui, Oas, Libon and neighboring municipalities); areas in Tabaco City near San Miguel Island in the first district of Albay; some municipalities in Masbate; and the provinces of Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon. (PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD

DOH-Bicol intensifies 'Oplan Goodbye Bulate' campaign for 2.5-M children
By Mike Dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 13 (PNA) -– The Department of Health (DOH) in Bicol, along with local government units (LGUS), have intensified their deworming campaign called “Oplan Goodbye Bulate” among the 2.5 million “18-year-old below” population in the region.

Dr. Janish Alcala-Arellano, DOH cluster program coordinator, said the deworming activity is being conducted to achieve a “100-percent bulate (worms)-free” target population in the region.

She said deworming for the 5- to 18-year-old age group is being conducted in all public schools while those pupils enrolled in private schools need to avail of the medicines in their communities through their Rural Health Units (RHUs).

Arellano said the 1- to 4-year-old population will be provided with medicines during their communities’ scheduled deworming activity.

She said in Bicol, they see an estimated 2.5 million children as the target population of “Oplan Goodbye Bulate.”

Arellano said the target population is 605,438 for ages 1 to 4; 1,403,262 (ages 5-14); and 497,940 (ages 15 to 18).

She explained that the DOH campaign seeks to address the fears and myths associated to deworming as it conducts a “harmonized schedule and mass drug administration” in public and private schools nationwide against the soil-transmitted worms called helminthiasis or STH.

Arellano clarified that the deworming activity is also a year-round activity of the DOH, along with the LGUs and Department of Education, as school-aged children enrolled in private schools and children who are not in enrolled in the school system may avail of the free deworming services at health centers, RHUs and barangay health stations.

She said the program aims to deworm approximately 19 million school-aged children enrolled in public schools (Kindergarten to K12) and some 23 million pre-school and school-aged children not enrolled in public schools within a month nationwide.

Arellano said the “National School Deworming Month” is not a new campaign of the DOH.

“Last 2015, it was already administered to public schools. We will continue this campaign twice a year, particularly in January and July,” she said.

Arellano assured the public that all medicines distributed are certified by the World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration.

She dismissed misconceptions on the anti-bulate (worms) medicines and appealed to the parents and guardians not to believe in wrong information being circulated in social media and community.

“The administration of medicines is voluntary and will not be implemented without the consent forms filled up by the parent or guardian of the child in public elementary schools,” said Arellano.

She said just like any other drug, taking deworming drugs may lead to minimal side effects like dizziness, nausea, headache and vomiting.

“These effects are transient, minor, self-limiting and disappear after some time and can easily be managed with remedies like resting in a quiet room for a few hours and providing water mixed with sugar to the patient,” Arellano said. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD

Friday, January 13, 2017

High school education inaccessible to teens in upland village of Oas, Albay
By Mike dela Rama

OAS, Albay, Jan. 12 (PNA) -- Like many other teenagers in Barangay Bogtong in Oas, Albay, Norelyn Minas, 17, is a high school dropout.

The rough terrain and poor road network in the upland village of Bogtong have made it difficult for young people in the community to get a high school education in the nearest public school in Oas town or neighboring Ligao City.

The eighth among the nine children of a coconut farmer, Norelyn said she managed to finish only first year high school in a private school in adjacent Barangay Badian.

She said she stopped going to that school because Badian proved to be inaccessible from Bogtong.

She recounted that she used to wake up at 4 a.m. to reach her former school.

“From my barangay (Bogtong) I needed to walk for almost two hours and cross rivers four times daily to reach the school,” she said.

But during heavy rains, crossing the rivers becomes impossible because of the strong water current.

“Sometimes by chance, I am able to commute by riding a motorcycle,” said Norelyn.

She said there is no other way to reach the nearest high school from their village.

“Our community is located in the upland and it is too dangerous if we will climb the steep mountains just to reach the main road in the neighboring barangay,” said Norelyn.

She said she is even lucky she was able to reach first year high school unlike her seven other siblings who finished only elementary school in their barangay.

Her youngest sibling, who is eight years old, is still in elementary school.

Norelyn said rice and coconut farming are the sources of livelihood of their family of 10 members that include their father. Her mother died sometime last year.

Her elder siblings work on the side as charcoal-making helpers where they earn Php150 to Php300 per week.

“I am not the only person with the same problem, most of the teenagers in our community intend to finish only elementary,” Norelyn added.

Danjoveh Carison, 19, also a resident of Barangay Bogtong, shared Norelyn’s sentiments.

He said he could not pursue high school because of poor access roads and transportation.

“I need to walk for more than two hours to reach the public high school located in Barangay Cabarian (a coastal area in Ligao City in the western coast of Albay),” said Danjoveh.

“Some of our village mates have their own motorcycles while others are using their carabaos as means of transportation,” he said.

Danjoveh said this mode of transportation is called “pababa” which means a carabao pulling a wooden cart.

“The farmers would have to rely on the carabao’s hard work and patience to get the job done,” he said.

Danjoveh said even if he could avail of a school scholarship, another concern would be the school expenses and fees for a boarding house near the public high school.

“It is impossible for me to earn,” he said as farm work gives him only P15 per harvest of 100 pieces of coconuts.

Prisco Tipano Jr., village chief of Bogtong, affirmed the stories of Norelyn and Danjoveh.

He said the coconut farmers need to increase their production so they could send their children to high school but the poor farm-to-market roads make it difficult for them to improve their livelihood.

Barangay Bogtong is seven kilometers away from the nearest main road, which is in Barangay Catburawan in Ligao City.

Tipano said to help farmers in the village, they seek assistance from government agencies like the Philippine Coconut Authority in Bicol to provide them with seedlings.

“Our teenagers should strive hard if they want to have a better future. They need help from the outside community,” he said.

This was echoed by Norelyn who said barangay officials were able to provide assistance to elementary pupils in the form of school supplies.

But she said “young persons like me” need more help from other government agencies for their high school education.

“I want to continue my studies so I can finish even a vocational course. I want to have a better future and earn a living,” said Norelyn. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD/RSM

OMB’s 'Oplan Pokemon' yields Php21-M pirated CDs, VCDs
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) -- Agents of the Optical Media Board (OMB), along with the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) of the Philippine National Police, confiscated Php21-million worth of pirated CDs and VCDs from two store owners in the old market in this city on Thursday afternoon (Jan. 12) in what could be the second biggest operation of the agency since last year.

According to OMB Chairman Anselmo Adriano, the inspection, dubbed “Oplan Pokemon,” seized 150 sacks of assorted replicated movies in DVD-9 format and in compact discs at the market in Barangay Pating, Masbate City at 12:30 p.m.

“They found the facility in operation, selling replicated movie compact discs without the necessary permits,” he said.

Adriano said the OMB agents were led by Joseph Arnaldo while the SWAT was led by Inspector Rolando Guzman of the Masbate Provincial Police Office.

Arnaldo said their operation in Masbate “could be the second biggest operation,” next to that in Naga City last year, where they confiscated around 240 sacks of pirated CDs and VCDs valued at Php 33 million.

According to Guzman "Oplan Pokemon" was the first raid operation for Masbate province this year.

The team identified one of the store owners as Saranggani Mangandang Bantayao while the other store owner has yet to be named.

Adriano said the violators will face charges for violation of Republic Act 9239 and meted with fines from Php300,000 to Php1.5 million or six years imprisonment.

He said OMB is looking forward to amend RA 9239 so violators will face tougher penalties.

Adriano warned the public not to patronize pirated CDs and VCDs as violators will be charged accordingly.

He said the confiscated items will be shipped for destruction to OMB’s headquarters in Manila at No. 35 Scout Limbaga St. Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City. (PNA) LAP/GVR/NBT/CBD/RSM

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Youth volunteers give school supplies in 3 Albay towns hard hit by typhoon 'Nina'
By Mike Dela Rama

LIBON, Albay, Jan. 11 (PNA) -- Around 600 elementary school pupils in the coastal and upland villages in the towns of Libon and Oas and Ligao City received school supplies, bath and dental kits from Team Albay Youth Organization (TAYO) which is conducting a series of barangay outreach activities as part of its post-typhoon "Nina" humanitarian services.

TAYO is a community-based organization working on disaster risk reduction, health and education advocacy in the province of Albay.

Alfred Nimo, president of TAYO, said the community outreach activity is extending school supplies to the students who were mostly affected by the recent typhoon.

He said the most common concern among children in the upland and coastal areas are educational, bathroom and dental supplies.

“This project is part of our psychosocial intervention for children who are considered a vulnerable group during calamities,” Nimo said.

The upland and coastal villages in the municipalities of Libon, Oas, Polangui and Ligao City were among the areas most devastated by typhoon Nina last December 25, 2016.

Nimo said the organization is targeting some 150 more barangays in the four areas during the next three weeks.

“We will reach them and distribute educational supplies, dental and bathroom kits to the children,” he said.

He said TAYO volunteers from different schools and municipalities will also be conducting an orientation on proper hygiene, health and nutrition of children.

Nimo urged parents in these areas to establish “front and backyard vegetable gardens to counter nutrition deficiency among the children.”

In a random interview conducted among children in visited villages in Rawis and Apud of Libon town, Bogtong in Oas and Catborawan in Ligao City, school pupils said their main problem are school supplies.

“Bihira po kami makatangap ng tulong galing sa grupo ng mga youth,” (we seldom receive help from youth groups) a grade 6 pupil said.

Nimo assured that they will continue to provide educational supplies to different barangays in Albay, especially those in far flung areas, such as those in the island town of Rapu-rapu. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD

City helps farmers in 31 villages recover from crop losses due to typhoon 'Nina'
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 11 (PNA) —- Mayor Noel E. Rosal has directed the City Agriculture Office (CAO) to fast-track rehabilitation efforts for some 548 farmers in 31 agricultural villages in Legazpi City whose livelihood were destroyed by typhoon Nina.

He said there is a need to assess the initial survey results on all the farmers whose land was affected by the typhoon so the city administration could support them in starting again for their daily planting activities.

City Agriculturist Jess Kallos said that monitoring by his office after the typhoon showed 222 hectares of the city’s agricultural lands were affected by the calamity.

He said 75 hectares of rice lands suffered extreme damage while coconuts, vegetables and other root crops suffered “slight damage.”

Kallos said they estimated that the farmers had lost Php3.1 million worth of production costs that went to their planting activities before the calamity happened.

He said his office is ready to provide rice seedlings to all the farmers whose fields were battered by typhoon Nina.

“The seedlings are part of the city’s techno-demo farm on hybrid rice production,” said Callos.

He said, however, that these seedlings could be used by the farmers for their next cropping season and that the “borrowed seedlings” could be returned to CAO after the next harvest season.

Kallos said CAO is also willing to provide different seedlings of vegetables to all affected farmers that could be used as “start-up materials” for the next planting season so the farmers could recover their capital losses due to typhoon Nina.

He added that all the identified affected farmers, including the list of the affected agricultural lands, will be submitted to the Albay Provincial Agriculture Office and Department of Agriculture (DA) for inclusion in the rehabilitation assistance program.

Kallos said this will fast track the recovery of the city’s agricultural areas.

Rosal earlier handed over Php100,000 each to the mayors of five municipalities in Albay whose agricultural land and houses suffered much destruction from the typhoon.

The five Albay towns were Polangui, Oas and Libon, all in the province’s third district, and Tiwi and Malinao, both in the first congressional district.

Rosal said the financial aid was part of the calamity fund of the city administration that will be used for “clearing operations” in the five affected towns. (PNA) LAP/GVR/EPS/CBD

Population body in Albay taps youth volunteers to help curb teen pregnancies

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 11 (PNA) —- The Population Management Division of Albay is organizing youth volunteers who will act as “front line advocates” in promoting adolescent and youth health activities among the youth in various barangays (villages) in the province.

Eden Gonzales, provincial population officer of Albay, said health promotion among the young population must be popularized, particularly in far flung areas, to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancies and violence against young people expressing a different sexual orientation, which have been a cause for concern among authorities in recent years.

She said the volunteers will be called “Junior Community-based Health and Gender-based Violence (GBV) Advocates.”

Gonzales said the junior volunteers will undergo comprehensive trainings in community organizing, communications, peer education, referral system and policy development.

She said the volunteers will also be mobilized to assist local government units in implementing adolescent and youth health activities in the localities.

Gonzales explained that barangay health workers are overloaded with tasks and the role of the youth volunteers is to help them in their advocacy work.

She said data they have gathered showed that in 2014 there were 1,661 teen pregnancies in Albay with the figure increasing by nearly half as much to 2,534 teen pregnancies in 2015.

“From January to September 2016, there were 710 reported teens who got pregnant based on records from the Civil Registrar Offices of different towns and cities in all of Albay,” added Gonzales.

She said records from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional office in Bicol also showed there had been seven cases of discrimination against adolescents and youth in connection with their “sexual orientation, identity and expression.”

Gonzales stressed that it is also important to address maternal mortality incidents among the young population.

“We need to strengthen our campaign to inform young mothers that home deliveries are strictly prohibited. Pregnant women should deliver in a lying-in or birthing facility to prevent pregnancy related complications,” she said.

The Albay provincial health office recorded a total of 28 maternal deaths from 2014 to 2016.

“There is no reason for pregnant women not to avail of the services of their rural health or birthing facilities which have skilled birthing attendants,” Gonzales said. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD

5.1 magnitude quake jolts parts of Bicol
By Gina Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 11 (PNA) —- A 5.1 magnitude earthquake jolted parts of the Bicol region on Wednesday afternoon, said an earthquake bulletin issued at the website of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The bulletin recorded the quake at 2:24 p.m. and traced its epicenter at 15 kilometers southwest of Virac, Catanduanes. The quake had a a depth of nine kilometers.

Local radio, Bombo Legazpi, citing data from Phivolcs, reported that the quake was tectonic in origin with no expected tsunami or damage to structures.

It said the instruments of Phivolcs recorded the quake at Intensity III in Legazpi City and Bulusan, Sorsogon.

Bombo Legazpi, however noted that Phivolcs' teams in the ground observed the earthquake at intensity 4 in Virac and Panganiban, Catanduanes; and in Legazpi City.

It was also felt in Daet, Camarines Norte; Sipocot, Camarines Sur and Naga City. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Salceda thanks Duterte, GSIS for P1.6-B concessional loan package for Albay members and pensioners
By Johnny C. Nunez

MANILA, Jan. 10 (PNA) -- The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has approved a P1.6-billion concessional loan package for Albayano victims of Typhoon Nina which ravaged vast areas of the province, along with other provinces on Christmas day.

Beneficiaries of the loan package include both GSIS members and pensioners.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda who issued a flash appeal for help in the wake of Nina has thanked President Rodrigo Duterte and the new GSIS management for the prompt approval of some P1.6 billion of the concessional loans.

Salceda personally presented Albay’s condition to GSIS officials led by Chairman Wilfredo Maldea and GM Nora Saludares during the agency’s full board meeting last Tuesday where he proposed the package of calamity assistance for the agency’s members in his province.

Nina’s damage to Albay as of January 9, are as follows: cost for damaged houses - P3,696,333,000; agriculture, P568,729,360; poultry and livestock, P11,146,510; and infrastructures as reported by both the provincial engineering and local government units - P4,728,277,872. Total: P9,004,486,742.90.

Specifically, Salceda requested three items for cash flow relief and new funds flow to the Albay economy which were readily approved by the GSIS Board, as follows: P1.431 billion in emergency loans at P40,000 for active members and P20,000 for pensioners; the loan will be payable in three years with 6-month interest-free grace period; and installment payments on P172,068 million existing loans will also be deferred for six months interest free without the need for Albay resident members to apply for it.

Under the second item, a member who borrows P40,000 emergency loan this month will start paying P1,311.11 monthly installment starting July 2017 while pensioners can borrow P20,000 and pay P655.56 every month for three years.

In short, Salceda explained, all installment payments on existing loans falling due between February and July will not be collected and will not be charged penalties or additional interest except on their original terms. GSIS pensioners, he added, can borrow P20,000 and pay P655.56 for 36 months and start paying 6 months after loan takeout.

The Albay congressman profusely thanked President Duterte for his newly appointed GSIS Board headed by its new Chairman Wilfredo Maldea and the GSIS management headed by Saludares for their expeditious action on the matter. “Change is coming because the officials’ decisiveness and generosity are elevated,” he noted.

Salceda had embarked on at least three emergency financial measures following the devastation by Nina in Albay on Christmas Day. The moves were designed to cushion the long term effects of the destruction, and prop up rehabilitation efforts of several heavily devastated towns.

Aside from the GSIS, he had also coordinated with the Social Security System and the Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loan Association Inc. for calamity loans and other assistance which these agencies could extend to their members in Albay.

The lawmaker has also “started talks with Pag-IBIG (or the Home Development Mutual Fund (HMDF) for quick disbursement of P150,000 home rebuilding loans for residences damaged by Nina in his province, with special urgency for residents of Libon and Polangui towns.

He said he will also propose a P2.5-billion package in the 2017 Supplemental Budget for Libon, Polangui and Tiwi in the first district, and other parts of Albay, based on the rehabilitation plans these local government units have submitted to the Office of Civil Defense.

Nina, which hit Albay on Christmas Day, is reputedly the worst recorded calamity in the province in the past ten years, and was even more devastating than supertyphoon Reming (Durian) in 2006. Salceda had issued a flash appeal for relief assistance and donations for the victims of Nina in Albay following the devastation. (PNA) LAP/JCN/EDS

PAGASA-Legazpi issues red rainfall warning in parts of Sorsogon
By Mike Dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 10 (PNA) —- The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Administration (PAGASA)-Legazpi station has raised the red rainfall warning in Sorsogon, particularly in certain “high-risk” areas in the province due to continuous rains pelting the province.

The state weather bureau in its 11 a.m. bulletin on Tuesday said a low pressure area west of Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte has been causing moderate to occasionally heavy rains in the Bicol region.

Ariel Samudio, weather forecaster of PAGASA Legazpi, said that landslides and severe flooding are to be expected especially in high risk areas like Juban town in Sorsogon due to the continuous rains.

He said the red rainfall warning is a call for “community response” among local government units because severe flooding and landslide are expected.

“Possible evacuation is highly recommended because flooding and landslide may occur anytime,” said Samudio.

He said PAGASA has recorded 184 millimeters of rainfall since Monday (January 9) in the Sorsogon area which are sufficient to cause landslides or floods.

Aside from Juban, the other areas in the province, which have a “high probability” of having floods and landslide are those in lower Donsol town, including the villages of Ogod and Putiao.

Meanwhile, PAGASA-Legazpi has raised the orange rainfall warning in Albay due to threats of floods in low-lying areas and those near river channels and the possibility of landslides in mountainous areas.

Samudio said the orange rainfall warning has also been issued in the other provinces in the Bicol region, particularly those living near river channels in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes and Masbate. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MDR/CBD