Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bicol authorities on full alert to cushion impact of transport strike
By Mar S. Arguelles

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- Government authorities on Monday went on full alert and carried alternative measures to cushion the impact of the region-wide transport strike that caused inconvenience to thousands of people in the three provinces of Bicol, the Office of Civil Defense said today.

Rafael Bernardo Alejandro, OCD Bicol regional director, quoting reports from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol and other emergency response agencies, said at the onset of the strike, emergency teams have been placed on “red alert” and deployed in identified critical areas such as highways to lend assistance to commuters stranded during the transport strike.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol has set up police assistance centers in various major highways in the four mainland provinces in the region to assist stranded commuters and prevent untoward incidents during the strike.

Police Chief Ramon Melvin Buenafe, Bicol police regional director said so far, the transport strike was generally peaceful and no untoward incident occurred during the 12-hour strike.

In Albay, Governor Al Francis Bichara deployed engineering trucks to ferry stranded passengers from the first District (Tiwi) Third District (Polangui) and the Daraga-Legazpi routes.

Bichara also directed that ambulance service of all towns and cities be placed on standby.

Meanwhile, militant transport group CONDOR-Piston claimed that the region-wide transport strike was successful in paralyzing thousands of commuters in mainland Bicol.

Ramon Rescovilla, deputy secretary general of the Concerned Drivers and Operators-Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (CONDOR-Piston) in Bicol said 100 percent of local jeepneys, UV Express drivers plying the routes in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte joined the strike, resulting in inconvenience to commuters, mostly students and employees.

Rescovilla in an interview said Condor-Piston-Bicol with 12,000 members, has mobilized all of its members, posting an 80-participation rate in the three Bicol provinces.

No transport strike was reported in the provinces of Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate, reports said.

Trimobiles in the cities of Legazpi, Ligao, and Tabaco in Albay roamed the city streets. Commuters complained about the exorbitant fare being demanded by the drivers.

After setting up mass action centers in capital towns and cities across the region, the transport strike kicked off at 1:00 a.m. Monday and end at 12:00 midnight.

The strikers were demanding for the scrapping of a Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) order that would phase out passenger jeeps that are 15 years old and above.

Rescovilla said the plan to phase out the old jeepneys would greatly affect their livelihood, saying “the LTFRB order would kill the only means of livelihood they have for their families.”

Rescovilla, 48, a native of Daraga town, said a driver earns P400 to P500 a day driving for 8 to 12 hours. “What will happen to our family if this order be implemented?” he asked.

School authorities in Albay suspended classes in all levels on Monday, as a preventive measure that may adversely affect the mobility of the students.

Despite the transport strike, private and government offices across the region were open including banks, malls and other commercial establishments.

Buses plying the Legazpi-Manila and vice-versa route were allowed to do their regular operations. (PNA) LAP/MSA/CBD

Monday, February 27, 2017

Transport strike fails in Sorsogon
By Bobby Q. Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- Passengers in the province of Sorsogon barely felt the transport strike initiated by transport group CONDOR-Piston nationwide as transportation went on normally since this morning.

Sorsogon Governor Robert Lee-Rodrigueza said transport services to and from this city, and from the various towns in the province were unaffected by the supposed strike.

Rodrigueza said as per reports from various municipalities, transport services- jeepneys, vans, buses and even tricycles- are all normal.

“It seems that no transport group in the province joined the move,” the governor said. But he added that they have stand-by vehicles which are ready for deployment should there be a need for them.

The governor also did not order the cancellation of classes and left the matter to the respective mayors or principals for them to decide.

Joseph John Perez, public information officer of the Department of Education Sorsogon Province division, said no school declared cancellation of classes in relation to the transport strike.

Classes are going-on normally as no school was affected by the transport holiday, he said.

Even schools in the city reported normal classes since this morning, Armand Engay, the city schools division information officer, said.

As of noon today, peace and order situation in the province is, likewise, normal, according to Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, the Sorsogon police provincial director.

“We have not monitored any untoward incident, so far, in relation to the strike,” he added.

Rodrigueza said although they do not expect any more development, they would still keep monitoring the transport holiday until the organizers call it off nationwide.

Meanwhile, Ramon Rescovilla, secretary-general of CONDOR-Piston-Bicol, admitted the transport strike failed in Sorsogon but it was successful in the other five provinces in the region.

He attributed the failure to the lack of preparation by their local counterparts in the province. (PNA) FPV/BQL/CBD

Albay sets up countermeasures on nationwide transport strike
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 27 (PNA) -- The Albay Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) set up Monday morning "libreng sakay" or free rides as a countermeasure to the anticipated inconvenience that would be brought about by the the day-long nationwide transport strike.

The strike is being participated in by different transport groups across the Bicol Region.

Army trucks are plying the Daraga-Legazpi routes, and also routes going to the first and third districts of Albay.

Most of the passengers availing the free rides are workers in the private and government offices as no suspension of office works was announced.

Early today, PDRRMC issued advisory number 1 that listed things to do in the entire duration of the strike.

The advisory suggested "early marketing and buying of food stuffs and medicines" to avoid inconvenience in going to markets and stores.

Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara said the main impact of a mass transport strike on public welfare is that it adversely affects the mobility of students, teachers, school faculties and office workers.

Bichara also asked students and the riding public to avoid going to malls and unnecessary movements until the public transport system in the province resumes.

"In order not to impede the access to health services during the transport strike, ambulances of local government units (LGUs) must be put on stand-by and be pre-positioned for the immediate disposition by the mayors," Bichara added.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal has ordered the suspension of classes in all levels within the city.

Mayors Gemma Onghoco of Guinobatan, and Jerry Jaucian of Daraga also suspended the classes in their jurisdiction.

State-run Bicol University (BU) and priest-administered Aquinas University of Legazpi (AUL) earlier announced suspensions of their classes in all levels.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and other offices involved in emergency response were directed to be on alert "in the interest of public safety." (PNA) LAP/CBD/

Militants press for resumption of scuttled peace talks on 31st EDSA People Power anniversary

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb 25 (PNA) -- Hundreds of militant activists, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Bicol, staged separate rallies in the cities of Legazpi, Naga and Sorsogon and Daet town on Saturday to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolt, according to Bayan-Bicol Spokesperson Vince Kasilihan.

In this city, a march was held from Peňaranda Park, Albay District to the Pinaglabanan Monument in this city’s Central Business District.

The protesters urged the resumption of the peace talks between the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and the government.

The militant groups include representatives from partylist Bayan Muna, Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas, Karapatan-Bicol, CONDOR (Concerned Drivers and Operators in Bicol Region), Gabriela, Kabataan partylist group and Selda-Bicol.

Kasilihan said that even if there were positive results attained in the initial round of the peace talks the prospects for a lasting peace were dimmed with the cancellation of the talks early in February.

He said the failed peace talks would lead to a “surge of human rights abuses in the form of illegal arrests, extra-judicial killings and militarization in the countryside.”

CONDOR also staged a protest against the phasing-out of public utility passenger jeepneys, aged 15 years old and above, while announcing that the group will join a nationwide jeepney strike on Monday.

As the phase out plan would greatly affect their livelihood. they want a revocation of the executive order on the old jeepneys’ phaseout.

Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of Police Regional Office in Bicol, said the commemoration of the EDSA People Power in Bicol was “generally peaceful” with no untoward incidents reported in the six provincial police offices and Naga City Police Office. (PNA) RMA/GVR/MSA/CBD/SSC

Legazpi City tops LGU-sponsored PhilHealth card holders in Albay
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb 25 (PNA) -- The share of local government unit (LGU)-sponsored beneficiaries of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in Albay has sharply increased in 2016, said a Philhealth official in the province.

Darlene L. Nuyles, acting head of the agency’s Local Health Insurance Office (LHIO) in Albay, cited in particular the case of Legazpi City which gave 4,407 impoverished residents in the city’s 70 villages access to the government’s universal health care program.

“There was a ‘boom’ in Legazpi’s sponsorship of beneficiaries during last year’s period,” she said.

According to Daisy Jane Daet, who monitors the records of LHIO-Albay, Legazpi’s beneficiaries accounted for 45 percent of the nearly 10,000 total number of LGU-sponsored beneficiaries in the province’s three cities (Legazpi, Ligao and Tabaco) and 15 towns as of November 30, 2016.

She said the total sponsored beneficiaries in the 18 LGUs in Albay reached 9,738 as of that period.

Daet said Tabaco City was second with 1,703 while Daraga town was third with 1,544 who were PhilHealth access card holders.

Nuyles said the increased membership to the national health insurance program in various communities due to LGU sponsorship augurs well for Philhealth, which has turned 22 years old this month of February, that is also celebrated as National Health Insurance month.

PhilHealth was first created in 1995 through Republic Act 7875 and amended by the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 to provide health insurance coverage and ensure affordable, acceptable, available and accessible health care services for all citizens of the country.

The law allows LHIOs to enter into contracts with any accredited government or private sector health provider organization to provide a minimum package of personal health services.

Any employed or self-employed Filipino enjoys Philhealth benefits upon payment of P200 a month or P2,400 a year to LHIOs throughout the country.

Nuyles cited that Legazpi City has adopted a “sharing scheme” with its 70 barangays to ensure payment of the P2,400 annual premium of the villagers qualified for sponsorship.

“This means that Legazpi City pays 50 percent or Php1,200 of the premium while the remaining Php 1,200 is split between the barangay which provides the Php600 while the beneficiary contributes Php600 (or P50 per month),” she said.

Nuyles explained that the non-LGU component of the Philhealth sponsorship program is through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which assures health care services for the poor population through its National Household Targeting System or NHTS program and 4Ps or “Programang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino” program.

She said the other non-LGU component of the PhilHealth sponsorship program are “hospital sponsored” in the those so-called “point of care” or POC facilities, which are actually the three provincial district hospitals in Albay run by the Department of Health in Bicol.

These three are the Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City, Ziga Memorial District Hospital in Tabaco City and the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital in Legazpi City.

LHIO-Albay records showed a total of 5,351 beneficiaries were able to avail of PhilHealth services through the three POCs in the province.

Nuyles said over the years the Albay provincial government has been helping ensure the enrolment of more impoverished members of the community in the province through hospital sponsorship in these POCs.

“Beneficiaries sponsored through these POCs come and go to these hospitals to avail of PhilHealth benefits,” she said.

She added that LHI0-Albay records showed that as of Nov. 30, 2016, Philhealth’s sponsored program, both LGU and non-LGU sponsored, had a total of 240,446 beneficiaries in the province.

Albay has a population of 1.3 million as of August 2015, according to the Philippine Statistical Authority in Bicol (PNA) RMA/GINA V. RODRIGUEZ/CBD/SSC

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Army exec names 5 NPA rebel-returnees from Masbate
By Mar Arguelles and Alan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 24 (PNA) —- The five suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who surrendered on Thursday afternoon to the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Bacolod, Milagros town in Masbate have been identified, an Army official said Friday.

Maj. Virgilio Perez, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), said the NPA rebels who yielded five service firearms--M14, M16, M1 carbine, .45-caliber and.38 cal. handguns, were identified by their "nom de guerre" or aliases--“Ka Aris,” “Ka Bunso,” both vice squad leaders; “Ka Jason;” “Ka Gina,” a finance officer; and “Ka Pogs.”

“The rebel surrenderees, who are undergoing debriefing, are all Masbate natives and members of an NPA guerrilla front under the regional party committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” said Perez.

He said the guerrilla front is operating in the northern part of Masbate covering the towns of Aroroy, Baleno, Balud, Mandaon and Claveria.

Perez said the returnees can avail of financial assistance through the “Comprehensive Local Integration Program” for rebel returnees.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, 9th Infantry Division commanding general based in Pili, Camarines Sur, recently visited the headquarters of the 2nd IB to commend the troops for their successful combat operations in Barangay Pangle in Aroroy, Masbate on February 13 that resulted in the death of four NPA rebels.

The clash between government troops and rebels occurred shortly after President Duterte declared an all-out war against the NPA after lifting of the ceasefire agreements between the communist rebels and government forces early this month.

Orense gave commendations to the troops from the Scout Team and elements from the Alpha Company of the 2nd IB led by 1st Lt. April John del Rosario.

During the clash at 6:30 a.m., the platoon of Army soldiers engaged a 20-man group of NPA guerrillas in a 20-minute firefight. Recovered from the encounter scene were two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles and an M230 grenade rifle.

The slain rebels were identified as Luis Gonzaga, alias "Jaypee," commanding officer of the section platoon of a north guerrilla front in Masbate; Marjun Malahico alias “Erwin," vice commanding officer; Raymart Rapsing alias "Gerome/Ruben," political officer and head of NPA education committee; and Abnito Tugbo alias "Mark/Frank," an NPA member.

Perez said remains of the rebels were claimed by their relatives last February 14.

Gonzaga's body was claimed by his mother Nelita Gonzaga of Barangay Cawayan Interior in Masbate City; Malachico's by relatives from Barangay San Antonio in Milagros town; Tugbo's by a sister from Barangay Cajonday in Baleno, Masbate; and Rapsing's remains by Edgardo Ena of Barangay Igang also in Masbate City. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/AT/CBD

Friday, February 24, 2017

Php1.5-B SM mall puts Legazpi City in map as Bicol’s trading hub -- mayor

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 23 (PNA) —- Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal welcomed the start of civil works construction for the P1.5-billion SM-Legazpi, a public-private partnership between Henry Sy’s SM Prime Holdings and the city government, which Rosal said puts Legazpi in the map as a trading hub not just in the Bicol region but possibly in Southern Luzon, and which also promises to generate employment for thousands of people in the provinces.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday for the SM supermall complex at the 5.8-hectare land adjacent to the City Grand Terminal and Ibalong Centrum for Recreation which is at the heart of the city’s central business district in Barangay Bitano.

Bishop Joel Baylon of the diocese of Legazpi blessed the time capsules during the groundbreaking for the three-story complex that will occupy 84,000 square meters of land area.

Rosal said the entry of giant business groups in Legazpi signifies the city as a center of investment in Bicol with the city’s neighboring municipalities and provinces expected to be a strong market for these groups.

He said the city has become a center of trade in Bicol because Legazpi is strategically located, with four million people from the provinces of Sorsogon, Catanduanes, Masbate-—all in Bicol, and the Samar and Leyte provinces in the Visayas, doing their shopping in the city.

“Huwag tayong matakot (let us not be afraid) if we want to be known. We have to be aggressive if we want opportunities to come that would be for everyone,” he said.

He added that “we just don’t see things happen but rather we make thing happen.”

Annie Garcia, president of the SM Super Mall in Legazpi, said the mall is expected to be opened by the second quarter of 2018. She said it will be a typhoon-resilient structure that can withstand strong howlers.

To jump start the project, Garcia said the company would bring in thousands of local and national jobs aside from the other workers that the firm would be bringing in to construct the mall.

She said the company will follow the local ordinance in the hiring of local personnel and will “strive to be the best employers of choice in nurturing the community and serve as a catalyst for growth.”

Rosal said the SM joint venture is a way of decongesting Manila and of providing opportunities for employment in the provinces. “The mall is expected to provide around 4,000 jobs to Legazpeňos and residents from neighboring cities and municipalities.”

He added he will wait for completion of the construction of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, groundbreaking for which was started in December last year, so that he could establish an economic zone in the current Legazpi airport area that would be vacated.

Rosal said the economic zone could be offered as one whole package to other giant investors from Metro Manila like the Ayala Group of companies, Mega World and other big corporations.

He said the city would remain a top tourism destination in the country’s tourism road map owing to the majestic Mayon Volcano, its resorts, hotels and restaurants.

Rosal said these businesses will create more employment opportunities for the community and contribute to the city’s local coffers by way of business taxes that the city can use for health and social services, infrastructure and environmental projects.

Garcia said the SM mall offers hundreds of stalls that would feature local and high-end merchandises such as shoes, bags, clothing apparels and appliances. There will be hardwares, bookstores, restaurants and coffee shops, she added.

Aside from the stores, the complex would house six state-of-the-art cinema houses and will have a multi-level parking area that can accommodate at least 800 cars.

Including the upcoming SM Mall, Legazpi City would have at least eight major malls. These are the LCC-Ayala Mall, LCC Mall, Metro Pacific Gaisano Mall, Embarcadero, Yashano, 101 Mall and Gregorian Mall.

The LCC (Liberty Commercial Center)-Ayala twin mall is being managed by the Tan Family with the Ayala Group of Companies as its partner while the Gaisano Mall is owned by the Cebu City-based Gaisano family’s group of corporations.

Yashano Mall is owned by the Hong Family while 101 Mall is owned by a local businessman.

The Gregorian Mall, a public-private partnership of the city government and WholeGrain Land Inc. is located at Old Albay District across the City hall building and Albay Cathedral Church while Embarcadero shopping complex, located in the harbor area in the southern part of the city's business district, is owned by businessman Rizaldy Co.

Rosal said the Gokongwei Group of Companies is also planning to construct in the city the Robinson’s Galleria de Legazpi which is patterned after Robinsons Galleria de Cebu.

He said it will also be located at the adjacent area where the SM Super Mall is being built-- in Barangay Bitano.

The four-level shopping mall, which will have a multi-level parking area will house the Summit Hotel, Go Hotel and a Business Process Outsourcing center.

SM-Legazpi is the second SM supermall to be built in the Bicol region after the one in Naga City in Camarines Sur. (PNA) LAP/GVR/EPS/MSA/CBD/EDS

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bicol police chief orders heightened police visibility
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 22 (PNA) —- The top police official of the Police Regional office in Bicol (PRO5) has ordered all provincial directors, unit commanders and chiefs of police in the region to step up the police visibility in their areas after noting nearly one case of shooting incident being reported everyday from January 1 to the present.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, director of Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5), said the six Provincial Police Offices (PPO) and Naga City Police Office have reported 50 cases of shooting incidents over a 53-day period from January 1 to February 22.

He said PRO5 plans to augment the police force in all police stations in the region which have a small number of policemen.

Buenafe said in the 50 shooting incidents reported in Bicol, 25 of the victims were dead on the spot while the rest were wounded, hospitalized or able to escape unharmed.

He said of the 50 cases, 28 cases have yet to be solved, 12 have been solved while 10 of the cases are considered as “cleared” with the suspects already locked up in jail.

Senior Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said most of the shooting incidents happened after the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire of the NPA rebels and the government early this month.

She attributed some of the incidents to personal grudges between the victims and the suspects while the others are still under investigation.

Masbate province topped the list with 19 cases, followed by Albay and Camarines Sur with 9 cases each, Camarines Norte--7, Sorsogon-3, Catanduanes-1 and Naga City-2.

The most recent shooting incidents involved five people who were reported killed in four separate shooting incidents in three towns and a city in Albay province on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday morning at 3:45 a.m., couple Edwin and Nelly Pababiro, both residents of Purok 6, Barangay (village) Upper Binogsacan, Guinobatan town were preparing to deliver vegetables to the town’s public market when a gunman approached and shot them.

The two died on the spot. Investigators from the Guinobatan Municipal Police Office are eyeing the New People’s Army rebels as responsible for the killing as the victims had been tagged by the communist guerrillas as military and police informants.

Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, investigation chief and information officer of Albay PPO, said Nelly’s mother was shot and killed by the rebels sometime in 2013. After the incident, Nelly and her spouse managed to hide in Metro Manila but after three years they had returned to Guinobatan to become vegetable dealers.

On Tuesday at 2:30 a.m. Dennis Mirandilla, 30, was shot by unidentified gunman along Magayon Drive in Barangay Tagas, Daraga town. He died while being treated at Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital. Investigators recovered two empty shells from a .45-caliber pistol.

Investigators said the victim was a notorious burglar and suspect in some robbery cases in their village.

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Ronnie L. Orje, 44 of Barangay Poblacion, Jovellar town, was shot in front of his house. He died from multiple gunshot wounds on his face and different parts of the body. Orje had been tagged as a government informant by the NPA.

At 5:15 p.m., also on Tuesday, Salvador Malana, was on his motorcycle and travelling along Sabloyon Road in Barangay Bantayan in Tabaco City when suspects riding in tandem on a motorcycle gunned him down.

He had come from Libon town where he was a former village chief of Barangay Macabugos. Malana suffered gunshot wounds on his head and different parts of the body. Two empty shells for an unkown caliber of firearm were recovered in the scene of crime.

Initial investigation showed Malana was a witness in a shooting incident case in Libon town that involved the notorious criminal group headed by Gilbert Concepcion operating in the northwestern towns of Albay.

“I have ordered my men to fully investigate the incidents and solve them at the soonest time possible,” said Senior Supt. Antonino Cirujales, director of Albay PPO. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/CBD

Bigger prizes, new events in Masbate’s rodeo festival
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb.22 (PNA)—Officials behind the annual rodeo festival in this city have bared details of the event scheduled from March 23 to April 23, as they expect an increase in the number of visitors, especially during the grand rodeo finals on April 18-22, when more exciting events and bigger prizes await participants.

O.R. Espares, a member of the Rodeo Masbateño Inc. (RMI), which oversees conduct of the festival, said 30 teams coming from Benguet, Ilocos region, the Visayas and mainland Bicol are expected to join the rodeo finals.

He said the grand rodeo finals will include bull whipping, load carrying relay, cattle wrestling on foot, cattle wrestling from horseback, cattle lassoing from horseback, carambola that usually involves two to four persons capturing a bull with bare hands, casting down and bull riding.

“The other rodeo highlights are cattle drive or ‘pasuag,’ cattle horse penning and street dancing,” said Espares.

RMI President Judge Manuel L. Sese said a herd of 150 heads of cow, which will be let loose during the cattle drive at the main street of the city, will be driven by cowboys to the arena.

He said after the drive called “Wigo de Toro,” the most exciting and risky part of the event will follow in which several heads of wild junior and senior bulls will be released at main thorougfares in the city with participants required to register to be able to join the race.

Sese said the heads of cattle, which cost from PHP35,000 to PHP40,000 each, will be given by the provincial government to those who could catch them. “They can take the cattle home.”

Governor Antonio T. Kho initiated more interesting rodeo events this year by increasing the prizes and adding gears to the event.

He said bulls should only be caught or wrestled but not slaughtered.

“A certificate of registration for each of the cattle will automatically be transferred to the lucky players,” said Kho.

Sese thanked the governor for increasing the prizes as he acknowledged the PHP3 million donation of the Masbate provincial government while the Masbate City government and Filminera Resources Corp. gave cash donations of PHP300,000 each and DMCI PHP200,000.

RMI member Socci Tuason there will be carnival rides for the month-long festivities.

“There will be other entertaining activities such as the rodeo saloon or beer plaza, Palabas sa Social Center, garden show, façade dress-up contest, final judging, beef cooking and the awarding and farewell party,” she said.

Tuason said there will be a grand horse parade during the opening program of the rodeo finals on April 18-22.

“Every night during the rodeo finals there will be a governor’s welcome night, city mayor’s night, Filminera’s night, search for Miss Rodeo Cowgay 2017, festival of festivals and the search for Miss Rodeo 2017 which will be capped with a grand fireworks display,” she said.

Tuason acknowledged the support being given by the Rodeo Net, Rotary Club, Red Cross and other partners to make the festival successful.

Judge Igmedio Camposano, an RMI member, said they have announced details of the event this early so visitors could prepare their schedules, bookings and reservations for the festival. (PNA) FPV/GVR/NBT/CBD

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

DA-Bicol consults with farmer-leaders on rice model farm project
By Connie B.Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 21 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol has recently convened farmer leaders of various irrigators’ associations in the region so they could monitor the hybrid rice adoption of farmer beneficiaries under DA’s newest program, the rice model farms.

Rodel Tornilla, officer-in-charge, chief of DA-Bicol’s operations division, in an interview Tuesday, said the farmer-leaders represented the Small Water Irrigation System Association (SWISA) and other irrigators’ associations in Bicol during the consultation.

He said the rice model farms, which will showcase the yield advantage of using hybrid rice seeds as compared to the inbred certified or good seeds currently being used by the farmers, will start in the wet season cropping of 2017 and will continue in the succeeding crop seasons.

Tornilla said the project will provide the farmers-beneficiaries with high quality hybrid rice seeds and technical assistance on the recommended management practices.

“One bag of hybrid seeds at 15 kilograms shall be given to each qualified farmer recipient,” he said.

Tornilla said a total of 4,800 hectares had already been planted to hybrid rice varieties in DA’s roll out of its techno-demo farms.

“To date (dry season planting) there have been 10,317 hectares planted to hybrid rice in the Bicol region,” he said.

He said with proper management of hybrid rice, farmers can attain a yield of six to 10 metric tons per hectare compared to inbred varieties which only yield 3.5 metric tons per hectare.

Tornilla said the hybrid rice varieties recommended in DA’s rice program are PHB 77 (Pioneer), TH82 (Seedworks), Bigante (Bayer), Mestizo 18 and 20 (Public Hybrid), S6003 (Syngenta), and SL 18 (SL Agritech).

He said a rice crop manager, which will issue recommendations to the model rice farm, shall give a maximum of eight bags of fertilizers to farmer-beneficiaries of the program.

DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. Delos Santos said that a minimum of 100 hectares are being targeted per region for the program with at least 10 hectares allotted to a farm cluster but said DA Bicol’s target is to establish 5,000 hectares of rice model farms for 2017.

“These clustered farms shall be geotagged and mapped using GPS and the farmer recipients shall be registered in a field registry and given an identification card,” said Delos Santos.

She said the qualified recipients should be members of farmers’ associations, irrigators associations and farmers’ cooperatives which joined the roll out of the Rice Productivity Enhancement or RIPE program for the dry season 2016-2017.

Delos Santos said the project will be implemented in fully irrigated rice farms to ensure a favorable hybrid rice growing environment and attainment of potential yield.

“But farmers in selected rain-fed areas with adequate water can also avail,” she said.

Delos Santos said baseline data such as production, yield, area and production expenses will be collected during the same season when the rice the model farm will be established.

Farmer recipients are required to attend briefings on hybrid rice production so they can qualify to the program.

To ensure sustainability of the project the farmer recipients will be asked to deposit the corresponding amount of the inputs received from DA to their chosen bank after the harvest season. (PNA) LAP/CBD/SSC

CamNorte town shows how small-scale mining is sustainable
By John Mark Escandor

JOSE PANGANIBAN, Camarines Norte, Feb. 21 (PNA)--Subsistence mining activities or mining done small-scale with no less than 20 but not more than 50 persons involved has proven to be sustainable in this second-class municipality at the northeastern part of Camarines Norte, with the undisturbed verdant hills and mountains with vegetation as the most evident proof.

Sarah Marie P. Aviado, municipal environment and natural resources officer of Jose Panganiban, said the town had been known for its iron and gold reserves even before Spain colonized the Philippines.

“It is really safe to say that small-scale mining had been going on here for centuries ago but you see, our mountains and hills are able to sustain its green vegetation unlike in areas where large-scale open pit mining is allowed,” she said.

Bicol historian Danilo M. Gerona said Jose Panganiban was originally called Mambulao, with the root word bulao pertaining to the distinct reddish color of the soil rich in iron mineral.

“How Mambulao came to be associated with gold apparently came later as the town was earlier on identified only with iron,” he said.

Gerona said it was only in the later part of the 17th century when the name became increasingly associated with gold when the precious metal was discovered in the place,” Gerona said.

He said the abundance of gold in Jose Panganiban town since centuries ago can be shown in the story of a legendary figure named Doña Ponay, who owned a mining site in the 16th century and gave Queen Isabela of Spain a precious gift of gold.

“Doña Ponay sent Queen Isabela of Spain a life-sized statue of chicken with 12 chicks mounted on a platter all made of pure gold,” said Gerona.

He said this story is probably widely known because it was even mentioned by the first American schools superintendent William Freer in the letter he sent to a man he believed to be a descendant of Doña Ponay.

Gerona said the economic frenzy which erupted as a consequence of the emerging gold and iron mining industry had attracted hordes of migrants to the town during the 16thcentury Spanish period.

“A local writer estimated that in the years 1752-54, this town was populated by about 60,000 inhabitants. Although the population estimate was apparently exaggerated, it nevertheless suggests that the town was undergoing a rapid influx of outsiders, who were the ones who benefitted from the mining industry,” he said.

He said the mining industry in Jose Panganiban continued to be vibrant at the end of the Spanish period when British investors like Peele, Hubbell & Co. took interest in the island.

“The mining industry in Mambulao in the second half of the nineteenth century promised profits for investors and employment not only for the town’s residents but also of the neighboring municipalities in the region, sparking an era of massive in-migration,” Gerona said.

Avaido said through the years, the town has not experienced any untoward incident that can be attributed to the mining practices of the small-scale miners in the town.

In Barangay (village) Luklukan, where more than a hundred subsistence miners operate, the surrounding area has remained green with coconut and other indigenous trees standing upright.

Wilfredo Sapalaran, 54, a subsistence miner, narrated that they only make an opening of about one square meter then start digging until they reach the hard rock, examine it for gold vein and continue tunneling while chipping the rock whose pieces are brought outside for selection.

He said the shallowest they could go is 24 feet and the deepest is 230 feet, depending on the potential of gold deposited on the rock.

“As we go deeper, we are aided with a blower to supply us with air,” said Sapalaran.

He said after the operation of the small-scale mine, which could occupy minimum of 50 square meters of a mountain, they plant trees. “You cannot see a mountain stripped of trees here unlike in other areas where mining is rampant, the mountains are made bare.”

Sapalaran said if they are fortunate to mine high-grade gold ore, he could earn PHP10,000 in less than one month of work. On a regular basis, he earns at least PHP5,000 a month.

Evelyn España, 50, a financier of a small-scale gold mining operation, said investing in a gold mining venture would at least require PHP200,000 capital with no assurance of a return in investment while the prevailing price of gold in PHP1,700 per gram.

Aviado said to make the small-scale mining industry sustainable, the local government unit of Jose Panganiban has tied up with the Department of Science and Technology and researchers from the University of the Philippines to establish a mercury- and cyanide-free gold processing plant.

Herman D. Mendoza, mining engineer from UP and program leader, said the gold processing plant will cater to the small-scale miners and will be operated by the LGU of Panganiban anytime in 2017.

He said it will boost small-scale gold production because the technology to be used in the processing plant will have a high recovery of 80-95 percent compared to only 40 percent recovery through the existing technology, aside from being free of the use of mercury and cyanide.

For the meantime, Jose Panganiban Mayor Ricarte Padilla met last week with Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to ask for reconsideration on the cease and desist order issued against the small-scale mining activities in Camarines Norte.

Padilla said Lopez has initially agreed to reconsider lifting the cease and desist order with the crafting a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will be used as guide to permit the operation of small-scale mining in the town.

He said Lopez promised to sign the MOU if he could immediately submit the deed of assignment from claim owners or the entities with approved mineral claims in the area.

“If we can submit the deed of assignment from claim owners or their consent to appropriate certain areas from their claims, Secretary Lopez will sign the MOU,” Padilla added. (PNA) FPV/GVR/JME/CBD

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Finalists to outstanding students search reject jail for 9-year-old law breakers
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA) —- A bill in Congress that seeks to set the minimum age for criminal liability from 15 years old to 9 years old was met with disapproval by finalists to the search for “10 Outstanding Bicolano Students” or TOBS.

The finalists, who were selected by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and AKO BICOL Partylist representatives from among nominees from various private and state colleges and universities in the Bicol region, gave their views on a wide range of legislative measures currently being debated in Congress during interviews sessions held with Legazpi City-based media persons Monday.

Among the key issues in Congress that were raised by the media persons to the finalists were the restoration of the death penalty, condom distribution in schools to curb teenage pregnancy and the change in form of government from the presidential to federalism system.

The media persons, most of them affiliated with the Kapisanan ng Broadkaster sa Pilipinas, and working for provincial, regional and national media outfits are engaged in multi-media platforms such as print, radio, television, social media and online.

TOBS opened its search to Bicolano students enrolled in different higher education institutions, within and outside of the Bicol region, who have shown exemplary performance in scholarship, leadership and service.

Like most of her co-finalists in the search, Cristia Shiena S. Amparo, a graduating student of Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education from University of Nueva Caceres (UNC) in Naga City, Camarines Sur, believes fixing the minimum age for criminal liability to 9 years old is harsh.

House Bill 2 (HB 2) or the “Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility Act,” which is authored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, sets the minimum age for criminal liability at 9 years old.

The measure seeks to amend the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” or Republic Act 9344 which sets the minimum age for criminal liability at 15 years old.

“As a future educator it (HB 2) is harsh as scientific studies have shown that the full maturity of a person sets in only at the age of 25,” said Amparo.

She said a nine-year-old child is not expected to have full knowledge of the consequences of his actions.

Amparo said a 9-year-old, who tangles with the law, does not need punishment but “guidance from the family and government.”

Eric P. Mirabueno, a finalist from Camarines Sur Polytechnic College, asserted that “children are not criminals and need protection instead” from the country’s laws.

He said government intervention is needed for the so-called children in conflict with the law or CICL as described in HB2.

According to Atty. Rodulfo Verzosa, Albay district warden and legal hearing officer of the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Bicol, as of January 2017, they have 18 CICL, “five of whom became of age of majority while under detention."

He said Albay BJMP has 12 CICLs; Camarines Norte BJMP-2 CICLs; Camarines Sur BJMP-3 CICLs and Sorsogon BJMP-1 CICL.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., one of three representatives of the regional AKO Bicol partylist group in Congress, said he will pose strong opposition to HB 2 in Congress.

Aside from Garbin, AKB is also represented in Congress by Rep. Rodel Batocabe and Rep. Christopher Co. AKB which is a regional political party that seeks to improve the lives of Bicolano people always gets the maximum number of three seats for partylist representatives in Congress during elections.

“As people we must respect and uphold human rights, including the rights of those who cannot stand up and adequately defend themselves," said Garbin.

He said the country must strive to follow all local and international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is already part of the law of the land.

The final 10 winners to the annual search, that was first introduced in 2009, will be awarded on March 9 at Bicol University here with Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" M. Angara as guest speaker.

CHED and AKB said TOSB aims to recognize the hard work and contribution of Bicolano students in local and national development, a vision shared by the two award-giving bodies.

The 20 finalists to the search are: In Iriga City, University of Northeastern Philippines or UNEP--Meagan Alexis A. Almasco and Danielle Penelope C. Jebulan, Betsy S. Casyao and Katherine Princess Vista; and University of Saint Anthony (USANT)--Monique L. Gozun, Romeo Sotto, Elijah Louise Tanay, Kevin S. Monge and Claudette B. Mora.

Charles Michael G. Salas, Eric P. Mirabueno of Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges; Critia Shiena S. Amparo, Juvin M. Durante, and Christine Mae Valecia—all from University of Nueva Caceres or UNC in Naga City.

Rio Nino D. Sumallo of Computer Communication Development Institute or CCDI in Sorsogon.

Karen Daniele Besmonte of Aquinas University of Legazpi or AUL, Christiane Romano of Bicol University, Karen Segovia of Divine World College of Legazpi (DWCL)—all schools in Legazpi City.

John II B. Pielego of Ligao Community College in Ligao City and Mika H. Ramos of Mariners Polytechnic College Foundation.

The final 10 winners in the search will be chosen on the basis of scholarship-3 points, leadership -2.0 points, service- 2.0 points, and essay/interview-3 points. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Monday, February 20, 2017

Masbate gov forms 'Oplan Sagip Karagatan' vs illegal fishing boats
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 20 (PNA)—Masbate Governor Antonio T. Kho led the newly formed “Oplan Sagip Karagatan” (Oplan save the seas), composed of various government agencies and law enforcement units, to put an end to illegal fishing in the island-province.

“This is a concerted effort that will involve the police station commander, maritime police, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Prosecutor’s Office, Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP) and others concerned,” he said in an interview today.

Kho said he has met with the heads of the said agencies and the chiefs of police to bring to their attention his plans to curb illegal fishing in the province.

Vowing to give stiffer penalties for those who will be caught and increasing the reward for the apprehending teams, he urged the agencies to “seriously get involved” in curbing illegal fishing.

Judge Igmedio Camposano, MAP president, in a separate interview, said, however, the funds allotted for the campaign to stop illegal fishing could go “down the drain” as the cases against the illegal fishing boats who are apprehended often end up being dismissed.

It is common knowledge in the province that illegal fishing operators often bribe the apprehending authorities in exchange for the release of their boats.

Kho said he believes this happens because the reward money given to the apprehending team is “very small” and “seems so insignificant.”

He promised to increase the reward fund this year, from the current PHP5 million to PHP10 million.

Kho said the reward will vary depending on the kind of vessel caught, such that smaller boats apprehended will fetch a reward of PHP25,000, the bigger boats--PHP50,000, while for large steel boats and ships, the reward will amount to PHP500,000.

He added that a stricter case will be filed against the violators while police officers who drag his name into their illegal activities will not go unpunished.

Kho said he has also ordered Provincial Board Member Jamon Espares to make a resolution for the purchase of two speed boats mounted with a machine gun and other high-powered firearms so the illegal fishing boats could be easily caught.

He said he fears the illegal fishing boats are more equipped with high powered firearms than the law enforcers and apprehending team.

"We must upgrade our men in uniform for this task,” said Kho.

He said the launching of Oplan Sagip Karagatan, which provides for a holistic approach, is “a first in the political history of the province” that could totally stop illegal fishing in the province.

“We should be 101 percent successful in this,” he added. (PNA) FPV/GVR/NBT/CBD

Camarines Norte bizmen top list of 13th month payers in Bicol
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 17 (PNA) —- Initial reports received by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Bicol from its provincial offices in the region showed an increasing number of employers in the region who are giving the 13th month pay benefit to their workers, particularly those based in Camarines Norte.

The number of establishments that voluntarily complied with labor law regulations on the 13th month pay for the period January to December 2016, has reached 148 with a total of 2,945 workers all over the region receiving the benefit, said DOLE Bicol Director Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla.

She cited initial reports gathered by labor employment officer Lynette Heat-Dela Fuente from the six DOLE provincial officials as of the middle of January this year.

“Ang ibang (kumpanya) ay nagbibigay naman. Yun nga lang kung minsan nakakaligtaan nila itong reportorial requirement na dapat ay on or before January 15 ng susunod na taon,” (The others (establishments) are also giving (the 13th month) except that they become remiss in reporting this (to DOLE) as required on or before Jan. 15 of the succeeding year), said Trayvilla in a news release today.

DOLE-Bicol records showed Camarines Norte has 82 establishments voluntarily giving 13th month pay benefits to 1,144 employees. Second is Catanduanes with 32 establishments and 1,323 employees. Albay with 20 establishments and 198 employees is third.

In Camarines Sur, records showed seven establishments with 184 employees give the benefit while Sorsogon has six with 91 employees and Masbate, one with five employees.

Trayvilla said an evident means of knowing whether the workers are really receiving the 13th month benefit is the fewer number of complaints received by DOLE’s “Request for Assistance or RFA to the Single Entry Approach (SENA).”

She said SENA is a major DOLE program that seeks to provide immediate action to resolve the workers’ complaints and grievances by working out an amicable settlement between the two parties involved.

Trayvilla said DOLE-Bicol has also noted the fewer complaints being received by DOLE-Bicol Hotline (0918) 309-665 on the 13th month benefits.

She clarified, however, that DOLE-Bicol is not being complacent as the agency is continuously verifying if the said companies have really given the 13th month benefits to their employees.

“That verification will be made by our inspectors who will go out to the field this February,” said Trayvilla. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

232 nabbed in anti-illegal gambling raids in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- As the government’s war against illegal gambling is starting to warm up, at least 232 persons were arrested in police operations across the six Bicol provinces, a ranking official of the Philippine National Police in Bicol on Sunday said.

Chief Superintendent Melvin Buenafe, director of Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5), said police have carried out 76 anti-illegal gambling operations during the period February 3 to 18.

"The crackdown came in the form of street arrests of jueteng (illegal numbers games) bet collectors and raids in gambling dens operating table games such as 'pusoy,' 'tong-its,' poker and mahjong."

Most of the arrested suspects were also involved in the illegal operation of cockfighting, bookies, lotteng, card games and cara y cruz.

Buenafe said aside from those arrested, the police operations initially yielded some PHP47,841 in bet money confiscated from illegal gambling bet collectors and gambling dens across the region.

Buenafe vowed to stop all forms of illegal gambling believed to be the root of criminality in the region, including drug addiction.

He said many drug dependents resort to doing petty crimes and get involved in illegal gambling to have money for drugs.

During a command conference last week, which was attended by all the highest officials of PRO5 along with the six PNP provincial directors and the city director of Naga City Police Office, Buenafe ordered them to double their efforts to stop any kind of illegal activities in the region, particularly illegal gambling.

Buenafe had warned all the provincial directors and chiefs of police about “the three-strike policy” with the implementation of “Target Output Policy (TOP) Charlie,” which he said “temporarily replaces the anti-illegal drug campaign called Oplan Tokhang.”

Under TOP-Charlie and the chain of command responsibility, the provincial director, city director and the chief of police who will fail three times in the implementation of the program will be facing administrative cases and automatically relieved from their posts.

Senior Inspector Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said the officers and men of PNP Bicol are already familiar with the target output policy especially during the time of then PRO5 director Victor P. Deona.

During Deona’s term, there were provincial directors and chiefs of police who were relieved and had to undergo a re-training course after they failed to meet the target output policy assessment given to them by the advisory board created by Camp Gen. Simeon Ola, headquarters of PRO5 here.

The advisory board consists of heads and representatives of non-government organizations, academe, religious group, government line agencies and some of high ranking police officers of PRO5.

Calubaquib said there were parameters also set up in grading the performance of the provincial directors and chiefs of police with the board given the power to recommend the kind of penalty.

The PRO5 is still consolidating the reports of police provincial offices regarding their operations against the most wanted persons in their area of responsibility, illegal fishing, illegal logging and other criminal activities. (PNA) JBP/GVR/MSA/JH/CBD/RSM

Friday, February 17, 2017

Masbate eyes bigger share of tourism pie with launch of flight to, from Manila
By Norman B. Tamar

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 16 (PNA) —- Top local government officials in Masbate province welcomed the launching of Cebu Pacific’s maiden flights to the province as they see it as an opportunity to make it more accessible to travelers and investors alike and hasten its economic development.

Masbate Vice Governor Kaye Revil, in an interview Thursday, said Cebu Pacific now flies daily between Manila and Masbate four times a week--on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

She said on Wednesday morning, she received a symbolic plane from Alexander G. Lao, president and chief executive officer of Cebgo, Cebu Pacific’s wholly owned subsidiary, to signify beginning of the airline’s operation in the province located west of mainland Bicol.

Lao said the Masbate-Manila route was launched on the same day as its newest Manila-Tablas route in Romblon that utilized the newly retrieved ATR 72-600 aircraft.

He said Cebgo has chosen the world’s lightest aircraft seat, Expliseat for its 72-600 aircraft.

“The titanium seat installed on this aircraft is expected to help decrease fuel burn while allowing the carriage of more guests and cargo on board,” he added.

Lao said Expliseat’s ultralight seats that allow for comfort seating of guests and a more fuel-efficient operation will lead to more affordable fares.

Lao said their lowest one-way-all in year round fare for Manila to Masbate is PHp 1,879 while Manila to Tablas is Php 2,439.

“With CEBS’s low fare offer, we hope to further stimulate inter-island connectivity and contribute to the economies of the destinations we operate in,” he said.

Lao said that even if ATR 72-600 can load up to 78 passengers and can land in Masbate City airport safely, he explained that the plane will only hold a limited passenger of 69 to fly off Masbate airport because the runway condition here stills needs to be strengthened.

“Maybe 5 or 10 years down the line we can look forward and it is more than possible to have jets here in Masbate if airport conditions are all set,” he said.

Before Wednesday’s inaugural flight of Cebu Pacific’s Manila-Masbate route, Philippine Airlines was the only airline of choice of those wishing to see the province.

Masbate City Mayor Rowena Tuason thanked Cebu Pacfic EB for its offer to fly to Masbate. "Ceb's maiden flights here will give comfort to travelers. They can now choose flight schedules that suit their needs,” she said.

Revil added that this could become a chance for Masbate to compete in the market as one of the main tourist destinations in the country.

She pointed out that Masbate has been promoted here and abroad as among the beautiful provinces in the country because of its rich natural resources but tourists and investors have been shying away because of its inaccessibility and steep air fare.

“Air fare (of the lone air passenger carrier) was the same as when one has to fly to international destinations that had made travelers back off and opt to go to other destinations,” said Revil.

The province, which has been tagged as the country’s “rodeo capital” because of its dominant cattle industry is composed of three major islands—-Masbate, Burias and Ticao.

Masbate is also blessed with wide stretches of fine beaches, rock formations and rich marine life that are largely unexplored. It is also touted as the country’s “manta ray capital” due to the discovery of Ticao Pass as habitat of the world’s biggest ray because of the concentration of planktons, making it an ideal manta ray feeding station.

Revil said as Masbate becomes more accessible, investors would also have the chance to visit the province and help push economic development in the province.

She said the challenge for Masbateňos and the provincial government is to ensure the “sustainability” of the new route.

“It means that we all have to do our part in terms of promotions so Masbate can be considered as a major tourist destination and be able to provide a shield for investments,” said Revil.

She said the provincial government will not waiver in its efforts to promote Masbate and vowed to do the “best that we can.”

Revil said the investors should be encouraged into staying in the province. “We want them to stay here forever, ” she added.

Lao said on top of offering more seats available to and from Masbate, Cebgo is the only airline flying to Tablas, Romblon, the marble capital of the Philippines.

He added that both leisure and business travelers alike will take delight in visiting these two places to further stimulate trade and tourism.

Lao said the aircraft ATR 72-600 delivered for this year brings CEBGO airline’s total fleet to 58.

“It operates one of the youngest and most modern aircraft fleets in the world with an average of 4.92 years,” he said.

Lao said the addition of the two newest routes will establish stronger cargo services within the area of Luzon, specifically in the Bicol and MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) regions.

He said Cebgo has two strategic hubs in the Philippines namely, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4 in Manila and Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in Cebu. (PNA) LAP/GVR/NBT/CBD

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hotels to employ child laborers in Cam Norte’s mining sites
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 16 (PNA)-- Six hotels and restaurants in Camarines Norte have committed to employ the first batch of beneficiaries of the Department of Labor and Employment’s program that seeks to eliminate child labor in small-scale mining sites in Jose Panganiban, Camarines Norte.

Raymond Escalante, public information officer of DOLE-Bicol, said the program’s beneficiaries are currently completing a three-month course in housekeeping provided by the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA).

He said after completing certification requirements from TESDA, the children will be deployed by March in six hotels and resorts in Camarines Norte who have committed to support the program.

These establishments are Mila Garden Resort and Conference Center, Bagasbas Lighthouse, Arsen’s Farmville Resort, Wiltan Hotel, Dolor Hotel and Pineapple Resort.

Escalante said DOLE’s “Skills Training to Children Engaged in Mining for Employment” program poses a viable solution in preventing if not totally eliminating child labor in Camarines Norte.

He said the project is a continuing collaborative work between DOLE, TESDA and the local government of Jose Panganiban, a gold-rich town in Bicol, where big miners come and go for centuries now, just like its neighboring town of Paracale.

Escalante said by ensuring the children have adequate skills to be employed by various service sectors in the province, the children could be weaned away from engaging in dangerous mining activities to earn a living for their families.

Escalante said hotels and similar enterprises in Camarines Norte have committed to employ at least one child laborer from Jose Panganiban’s mining site every year for as long as they pass the training and certification requirements of TESDA.

“TESDA will train the next batch of beneficiaries on food and beverage, which is more needed in their establishments,” said Escalante.

He said the hotels and resorts owners will continue to look for other available job opportunities in their establishments for the beneficiaries. (PNA) FPV/GVR/CBD

3 Bicol provinces in priority list of DA’s hybrid rice technology project
By Rhaydz Barcia

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 15 (PNA)—The three Bicol provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Masbate have been included in the priority list of the Department of Agriculture’s six-year program to irrigate an additional one million hectares of rice fields for hybrid crop technology.

Department of Agriculture (DA)- Bicol Director Elena Delos Santos, in an interview at their regional office in Pili, Camarines Sur, said the program, which will begin this year, is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s goal to achieve a “target production yield of six metric tons per hectare to attain rice sufficiency” before his term ends.

She said by applying “climate smart” practices in agricultural production, the farmers could cope with changing climate and adverse weather conditions, among them the El Niňo phenomenon.

The goal is to achieve “inclusive, value-chain oriented and climate-resilient agriculture and fisheries sector through strategic investments in the priority commodity value chains,” said Delos Santos.

She said the three Bicol provinces have been included in the list of 10 priority provinces for the program’s second year of implementation in 2018. The government based its list on the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)’s data on annual poverty incidence in the country.

This year, the first-year implementation of the program, the priority projects are in 10 provinces: Luzon--Apayao; Visayas--Northern Samar, Western Samar, Eastern Samar and Negros Oriental; Mindanao--North Cotabato, Saranggani, Maguindanao, Lanao Del Norte and Zambaonga Del Norte.

She said in 2018, aside from the three Bicol provinces, also in the priority list are Siquijor in the Visayas; and Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Sulu, in Mindanao.

“The aim is to attain food sufficiency during the term of President Duterte so the farmers could cope with changing climate or extreme weather conditions,” said Delos Santos.

She said the Bicolano farmers are noted for their ability to adapt to changing climate conditions that has earned them support from the United States Agency for International Development or USAID to become a priority area for development.

Delos Santos said the Bicolano farmers have the edge in coping with the adverse impact of climate change as the region is able to generate higher rice and corn production despite the series of natural calamities that hit the region.

Records of DA-Bicol showed that in the first quarter of 2016, Bicol has ranked third in terms of palay production with an 8.39 percent share in national production.

“In fact, our farmers are ranked first and best by USAID when it comes to its climate change adaptation and resiliency,” she said.

Bicolano farmers and their agricultural production are faced with the constant reality of volcanic eruption, floods and strong typhoons that batter the Bicol peninsula with an average of over 20 typhoons crossing the country each year.

“With climate smart farming mechanisms adopted by the Bicolano farmers, the Bicol region has emerged as an agricultural giant in the country,” said Delos Santos.

She cited how Bicolano farmers utilize high quality seeds to minimize losses brought by extreme weather conditions and use agricultural machineries that were given by DA to the farmers with minimal farmer’s equity.

Delos Santos said DA-Bicol also works with PSA to ensure updated and accurate production data, particularly on the effects of climate change on agricultural farming and production.

Emily Bordado, DA regional spokesperson, said the implementation of the so-called HYTA techno-demo project in major rice producing municipalities in the region has encouraged rice farmers to shift from certified seeds to hybrid seeds to maximize their productivity.

She cited that a rice technology forum complemented by a 20-hectare demonstration farm on hybrid technology in Albay was successfully conducted last year by DA.

DA-Bicol currently maintains 206 active local farmers’ technicians to augment the technical support being given by local government units to rice farmers.

“Part of the farmers’ adaptation is the planting of the ‘green super rice variety’ as tested in Bicol, specifically in water saline and flood-zone areas of the region like in the Bicol River area,” said Bordado.

She said the technologies adopted by graduates of the so-called “climate smart” farmers’ field schools have shown positive impact on production.

Bordado said to help boost productivity of the rice farms damaged due to El Niňo, a buffer stock program was done coupled with giving “precise type of fertilizers and soil ameliorants.”

She said DA-Bicol also helps collect data on rainfall amount, provides studies on rain gauges, give farmers planting materials and trainings on post-harvest equipment.(PNA) FPV/GVR/RBB/CBD

Army exec identifies 4 NPA rebels killed in Masbate clash
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 15 (PNA) —- An Army official in Bicol has identified the four New People’s Army rebels who were killed in an early morning encounter with government troopers in Barangay Pangle, Aroroy, Masbate on Monday, said a report reaching Camp General Simeon Ola, headquarters of Police Regional Office in Bicol or PRO5, Wednesday.

The report quoted Capt. Joash Pramis, spokesman of the Division of Public Affairs Office of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, who identified the communist guerrillas as Luis Gonzaga, alias “Jaypee,” alleged to be an NPA commander operating in the northern part of Masbate; Jerome Verano “alias Ruben;” Marko Tugbo, “alias Frank;” and one alias “Erwin,” said to be another ranking rebel leader in the province.

Lt. Col. Red Cabanizas, commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, in an interview, said a scout platoon led by 1st Lt. April John S. Del Rosario was conducting the patrol operation in Barangay Pangle at 6:30 a.m. when the encounter with the government troops occurred.

Pramis said the government soldiers on patrol engaged a 20-man band in a 20-minute firefight. He believed more rebels were wounded though they managed to get away as bloodstains were traced in their escape route leading to the forested portion of Aroroy.

Recovered from the scene were assorted firearms including two M14 and two M16 rifles; an M203 rifle; an improvised explosive device or IED; a rifle grenade and a hand grenade.

Also found were three bandoliers for M14, M16 and M203, loaded with ammunition; an VHF Icom radio; detonating switch and wire; and four backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents.

Cabanizas said the government soldiers initially brought the bodies to the police station in Aroroy town as police waited for the families of the four NPA rebels to claim them.

“The dead rebels will be given decent burial,” he said.

Aroroy Mayor Arturo Virtucio has offered to help shoulder the funeral expenses of the communist guerrillas.

Pramis added the bodies were already brought to St. Lawrence Funeral Homes in Barangay Jaboyoan in Aroroy town proper.

It was the second reported encounter in the province following the aborted talks between the government and Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA, its armed wing, early this month.

On February 6, Cpl. Mark Alfred Repol of the 93rd Division Reconnaisance Company was reported by police authorities in the Masbate as wounded in an encounter in Barangay Amotag, 21 kilometers away from the poblacion of Aroroy. (PNA) LAP/GVR/SMT/CBD

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Army official in Masbate vows decent burial for enemies
By Norman B. Tamar

AROROY, Masbate, Feb. 14 (PNA) —A top official of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion here has identified Wednesday one of the four New People's Army (NPA) rebels killed in a clash with government troopers on Monday morning here in Barangay Pangle, Aroroy, Masbate, as a certain “Commander Jaypee.”

Lt. Col Red Cabanizas, commander of the 2nd IB, in an interview, said a scout platoon led by 1Lt. April John S. Del Rosario was conducting patrol operation in Barangay Pangle at 6:30 a.m. when the encounter with the government troops occurred.

Cabanizas said the government soldiers brought the bodies to the police station in Aroroy town.

“The dead rebels will be given decent burial,” he said.

Aroroy Mayor Arturo Virtucio has shouldered the funeral expenses of the communist guerrillas whose remains will be given a three-day funeral at the police station here while waiting for their families to claim the bodies.

“If no one claims (the bodies), it will then be buried,” said Virtucio.

It was the second reported encounter in the province following the termination of ceasefire agreement between the government and the Communist New People’s Army and the NPA, its armed wing, early this month.

On February 6, Cpl. Mark Alfred Repol of the 93rd Division Reconnaisance Company was reported by police authorities in the province as wounded in an encounter in Barangay Amotag, 21 kilometers away from the poblacion of Aroroy. (PNA) FPV/GVR/NBT/CBD

Top Army field commander in Bicol extends hand of peace to NPA rebs
By Jorge Hallare and John Mark Escandor

PILI, Camarines Sur, Feb. 14 (PNA) -- A top official of the 903rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army said Tuesday that even if they are on full military operation following termination of the ceasefire agreements between the government and the communist rebels early this month, they are encouraging the New People’s Army to return to the mainstream of society.

Col. Fernando Trinidad, commanding officer of the 903 Infantry Brigade under the 9th Infantry Division (ID) of the Philippine Army based here in Barangay Sagurong, Pili, Camarines Sur, extended the hand of peace to the NPA as he expressed sympathy to the bereaved families of the four still unidentified rebels killed in an encounter in Barangay Pangle, Aroroy, Masbate on Monday morning.

He said even that even if the Army is in full military operation, they encourage the communist guerrillas “to avail of the government’s programs for the NPA surrenderees.”

The clash in Barangay Pangle, which also resulted in the recovery of assorted firearms, including two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles, one M203 grenade launcher and one improvised explosive device, was the second to occur in Aroroy town this month.

On February 6, Cpl. Mark Alfred Repol of the 93rd Division Reconnaisance Company was reported by police authorities in the province as wounded in an encounter at 1:40 p.m. in Barangay Amotag, 21 kilometers away from the poblacion of Aroroy.

In Sorsogon province, however, top police authorities scored gains in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign with the arrest of Emmanuel Alindogan More alias “Ka Cris,” 53.

According to Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, director of the Sorsogon Provincial Police Office (PPO) Alindogogan was nabbed by joint operatives of Sorsogon PPO and 31st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Tughan, Juban at 1:50 p.m. on Sunday.

Cabral alleged that Alindogogan is the secretary and finance officer of Larangan 1 of CPP-NPA-NDF operating in the province, particularly in Sorsogon City, Barcelona, Casiguran, Gubat, and Prieto-Diaz.

On February 8, Nida Barcenas, secretary-general of Karapatan-Bicol, in an interview, said they expect busy days ahead documenting and conducting more fact-finding missions should the fighting between the government’s security forces and the NPA escalate.

She said in a recent fact-finding mission, she described as “intense” the alleged violations committed by the military in the towns of Dimasalang and Cawayan in Masbate.

“The villagers experienced interrogation from the military which made them flee their homes and camp out at the municipal halls for one week,” Barcenas.

She said the fact-finding mission in Masbate was witnessed by Renante Gamara, a consultant of the NDF consultant who attended the first and second round of peace talks between the government and CPP-NDFP panels in the Netherlands and in Rome in the past months.

Barcenas said they were able to hold a dialogue with the local chief executives of Dimasalang and Cawayan before the villagers were allowed to return to their homes.

She said at present, there are 37 political detainees in the Bicol region because of suspicions they are NPA supporters or members of the communist rebel movement.

Barcenas said the 37 were charged in court with criminal offenses ranging from illegal possession of firearms to murder.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who initially promised to release all political detainees before the start of the peace talks last year, recently said he could not release some 400 political detainees because of opposition from the military and police.

Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, commanding officer of the 9th ID, said the "Spear troopers" will relentlessly go after the NPA to ensure the safety and security of the Bicolanos.

"Every Bicolano is assured of our full commitment in imposing the law against these people continuously committing crimes against the public," Orense added.

The Southern Luzon Command under Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quibilla, in a statement, said the military favors localized peace talks at the grassroots level and encourages the NPA to stop resorting to violent means by attacking civilians.

President Duterte terminated the government’s ceasefire agreement with the CPP and NPA, its armed wing, on Feb. 3 after the NPA announced lifting of its unilateral ceasefire with the government on Feb. 1. (PNA) LAP/GVR/JH/JME/CBD

Legazpeňos join Valentine’s Day march to plant 3,000 Pili seedlings
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 14 (PNA) —- Some 1,000 Legazpeňos briskly walked the three-kilometer stretch from the entrance of the Doňa Pepita Golf Course to the foot of Mount Mayon in Barangay Padang here to plant 3,000 Pili trees and various other seedlings during the annual “Lakad Tanim Para sa Puso” organized by the city government on Valentine’s Day.

Local government employees, members of the Philippine Navy, Philippine National Police, military personnel, teachers, students and various media groups joined the 11th year of tree-planting at the foot of Mt. Mayon that began after super typhoons Milenyo and Reming devastated not only the city’s agricultural areas but also caused the loss of lives of more than a thousand city residents.

But it was only four years ago when the City Legislative Council adopted a resolution declaring every February 14, feast day of Saint Valentine, as the city’s own Arbor Day.

“The 1,500 planting materials have been provided by the City Environment and Natural Resources while the remaining 1,500 seedlings were given by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the city administration,” said Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal.

He said that from 2007 up to the present, the city administration has been able to plant an estimated 80,000 seedlings in various areas near the slopes of Mt. Mayon.

The active volcano, which is one of the 17 protected areas in the Bicol region, is surrounded by five towns and the three cities of Ligao, Tabaco and Legazpi City—-all in Albay province.

Touted to rival the beauty of Mt. Fuji in Japan for its nearly perfect shaped cone, the active Mayon Volcano, which rises 2,420 meters above sea level, has a circular base of 48 kilometers.

In 2006, mudflows and landslides induced by abnormal rainfall brought by Reming, one of the strongest weather disturbances to hit the Philippines in 50 years, buried a big number of houses, including their occupants, in several Albay towns lying at the slopes of Mayon.

The biggest number of casualties was reported in Barangay Padang in this city where a towering marker has been installed at the entry to the village to memorialize those who lost their lives during the onslaught of super typhoon Reming.

Rosal, along with other elective officials, have been spearheading the Valentine’s Day march and tree-planting activity to promote the city's reforestation campaign so it could also be maintained as a “free landslide-zone territory.”

The city mayor noted that most of the seedlings planted during the initial years of the reforestation project have grown, particularly those at the top of the view deck of Lignon Hill, site of the observatory of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

All these planted trees are gifts to our mother nature that will benefit the future generation,” he said.

Rosal commended all the participants for helping plant the trees that would ultimately serve as a protection from the impact of natural hazards like floods and landslides.

In Albay province, Valentine’s Day was also observed in ways other than shielding mother earth away from harm’s way.

The Parish of the Our Lady of the Gate (Nuestra Seňora de la Porteria Church) in Daraga town, Albay along with the Daraga municipal government sponsored a mass wedding at the Cagsawa Ruins Park in the town.

Meanwhile, policemen manning the checkpoint in front of Camp Simeon Ola, headquarters of the Police Regional Office in Bicol or PRO5, had stopped vehicles passing by a checkpoint stationed in front of the camp from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. today.

Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, spokesperson of the Albay Provincial Police Office, told local radio the police suspended routine checkpoints for an hour as they were not on the lookout for wayward motorists but to distribute heart shaped paper cut-outs attached to barbecue sticks with various messages on it.

“Be careful while driving to avoid accidents,” which was written in the vernacular, were among the messages.

Gomez said the activity, which was replicated by police stations Albay-wide early in the morning of Valentine’s Day, also had flowers distributed to commuters instead of the red paper cut-outs. (PNA) LAP/GVR/EPS/CBD

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PopCom- Bicol pilots adolescents RH care services in Albay
By Mike Dela Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA)-– An officer of the Population Commission (PopCom)-Bicol here said the cities of Tabaco and Legazpi have been identified as pilot local government units (LGUs) in Bicol for the establishment of an Information Service Delivery Network (ISDN) for adolescents so reproductive health (RH) care services could be effectively provided to them.

Gemma Robles of PopCom regional office said ISDN is primarily a network of public and private family planning or maternal and newborn child health nutrition or service providers.

She said the network is being established so the providers, who could cater to the "responsible parenthood and reproductive health (RH) service" needs of the priority adolescent population, could be identified.

Robles said ISDN is also a network of facilities, institutions and providers within the province, district, municipality/city-wide health and social system that offer information, training and core packages of health and social care services in an integrated and coordinated manner.

“The network will first identify the priority needs of the target adolescent population and then it will determine which clients are most in need of RH services and what steps could be undertaken to provide these needs,” she said.

Robles said the reports generated by the community health teams or CHTs from 80 percent of the target adolescent population shall be used as basis in determining what type of RH services would be provided.

She said the facilities of various government agencies and stakeholders will constitute part of the “service delivery network” and may include those that are outside the geographic and political boundaries of the province or city.

Robles said they are prioritizing the adolescents' health and development concerns because of factors that are “complex and interrelated.”

She said ISDN promotes the integrative and participatory approaches to avoid “segmented and isolated interventions.” She added the network promotes public-private partnership to ensure the sustainability of projects that it will undertake.

Robles said LGUs must have a package of information services that include basic essential health care for pregnancy, delivery and postnatal care; and diagnosis and management of sexually-transmitted infections, including humano-immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

“It may also include other services deemed preventive in nature such as counseling, skills enhancement and other social services,” she said.

Robles said PopCom-Bicol will maximize its very limited resources to enhance the demand for reproductive health services.

“We will continue our advocacy among the LGUs to mobilize them into creating an enabling environment for women, men and adolescents, particularly through the provision of services and information at the grassroots level,” she said. (PNA) FPV/GVR/MDR/CBD

Gov’t troops arrest top Sorsogon rebel leader
By Bobby Q. Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA) –- A ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in Sorsogon was arrested by government troops as attempts to end the decades-old insurgency through peace talks failed.

Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, director of the Sorsogon Provincial Police Office (PPO) in an interview Monday, said Emmanuel Alindogan More alias “Ka Cris,” 53, was nabbed by joint operatives of Sorsogon PPO and 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Barangay Tughan, Juban at around 1:50 p.m. on Sunday.

“More is currently the secretary and finance officer of Larangan 1 of CPP-NPA-NDF operating in the province, particularly in Sorsogon City, Barcelona, Casiguran, Gubat, and Prieto-Diaz,” he said.

Cabral, however, did not state the circumstances surrounding the arrest, whether the rebel leader resisted or gave up peacefully.

More’s arrest, by virtue of a warrant issued by Judge Victor C. Gella, Regional Trial Court Branch 52, Sorsogon City for attempted murder under Criminal Case No. 2007-6945, occurred just a day after the rebel group officially terminated its unilateral ceasefire following the withdrawal of the government peace panel from the peace talks.

The government had earlier formally served notice to the CPP-NPA-NDF peace panel on the official termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee or JASIG.

Cabral added that earlier during the week, two armed clashes between the government and rebel forces had occurred in Sorsogon within a span of only four days.

NPA rebels and Army troopers clashed at Sitio Burabod, Barangay Trece Martirez, Casiguran town on February 6 while another encounter occurred at Barangay Tula-Tula Norte, Magallanes in the morning of February 10.

Two army personnel were reported injured in the Casiguran clash but none was reported in the encounter in Magallanes. (PNA) LAP/GVR/BQL/CBD

DPWH-Bicol chief, 13 others receive first UP Gawad Oblation award
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA) -- Engineer Reynaldo G. Tagudando, director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol, was honored along with 13 others with the “Gawad Oblation,” a special award to those who gave “extraordinary support” to the University of the Philippines during the incumbency of outgoing UP President Alfredo Pascual.

A post in social media said the awards, which were given for the first time, recognized UP alumni and friends for their “extraordinary service” in making “initiatives that have helped UP perform its leadership role in higher education and national development.”

The university said “extraordinary service can be in as many different areas of university life, including alumni leadership and public service, exceptional teaching, research and extension work, creative production, efficient public and university administration, exceptional generosity and volunteerism, fundraising, and so forth.”

Tagudando received the medal of recognition during the awarding ceremony at the UP-Professional Schools in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City on the first week of February.

The other first UP Oblation awardees were Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda; Taguig Representative Pia Cayetano; former Senator Manny Villar, who is also the chairman of Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc.; former DPWH Secretary Rogelio L. Singson; former Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad; Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan; businessmen Hans Sy and Robinsons Retail Holdings president and chief operating officer Robina Gokongwei-Pe.

Former UP Board of Regents member and Phinma vice chairman Magdaleno Albarracin; UP Engineering Research and Development Foundation president Alfonso Aliga Jr.; I.B. Gimenez Group of Companies president Ignacio Gimenez; and former DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson completed the roster of awardees.

Tagudando started work as general construction foreman in DPWH, which was then the Bureau of Public Works, in 1980.

Touted as the “highest honor UP can bestow upon its alumni and friends” the Oblation Award ceremony was headed by outgoing Pascual and UP Vice President for Public Affairs Edna Estifania Co. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Monday, February 13, 2017

4 NPA rebels killed in Masbate encounter

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 13 (PNA) -- At least four suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed on Monday in a clash with Army soldiers in Barangay (village) Pangle, a remote village of Aroroy town in Masbate, said the Army’s 9th Infantry Division (9thID) spokesperson Capt. Joash Pramis.

Pramis, quoting an initial report, said that at around 6:30 a.m., a platoon of Army soldiers who were on combat patrol engaged a 20-man group of NPA guerrillas in a 20-minute firefight in which four NPA rebels were reportedly killed.

Pramis said the identities of the slain rebels have yet to be determined as their bodies are still being transported to the town hall for identification and documentation purposes.

Recovered from the encounter scene were two M14 rifles, two M16 rifles and an M230 grenade rifle.

Army soldiers are still on hot pursuit operation and scouring the possible neighboring areas where the remaining NPA rebels could have sought refuge. (PNA) LAP/GVR/MSA/CBD

PCSO-Albay has yet to receive order stopping Meridien’s numbers’ game operation

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 12 (PNA) -- The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) branch office in Albay has yet to receive an order from the central office about a directive stopping the numbers game operations of Meridien Vista Gaming Corp. (MVGC) that competes with the government-sanctioned small town lottery (STL) in Albay, a PCSO official here said Sunday.

Nelly Loyola, PCSO Albay branch manager, said her office has not yet received a communication from the central office concerning published reports stopping the operation of MVGC, a firm that was only authorized to operate in areas covered by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) in Cagayan province.

She said once she receives the order she will refer the directive to the Philippine National Police for immediate enforcement.

MVGC is said to be owned by businessman Charlie Atong Ang.

Loyola clarified that STL is not yet operating in Albay as the PCSO-STL operation is still at the “post approval” stage and firming up its operational requirements.

She said the STL operation was test-run by PCSO in 2008 in Albay but “the operation was short-lived due to some corporate issues it has to address.”

Asked if MVGC is authorized to operate a gaming operation in Albay, Loyola said she is not aware of any PCSO-approved gaming outlet that could operate in the province.

“Meridien is not in any way connected with PCSO,” although she admitted the latter has already approved the franchise of a corporate gaming entity to operate STL in the province, she said.

Loyola, however, begged off from naming the franchise holder pending the corporate post-application approval and while the submitted legal requirements are still being processed by PCSO central office.

Meanwhile, lawyer Gelo Santos, MVGC counsel, in a text message, said it is not true the firm is presently engaged in the illegal numbers games.

He said that while its principal gaming operation of jai-alai is actually based in Cagayan, satellite offices located in various provinces are merely betting stations that are governed and under the control of the local government concerned.

“The license obtained by Meridien enables it to exclusively operate jai-alai, its variants and derivatives in CEZA and free port and in support thereof, to set up wagering stations anywhere in the Philippines as may be allowed by law,” said Santos.

He said the betting stations or off-fronton established have secure a corresponding mayor’s permits. The secured permits are good for one year, from Oct. 31 ,2016 to Oct. 31, 2017.

Santos said presently, the government has already assailed the legitimacy of MVGC’s business operation before the courts of law and the status of the cases has remained pending.

“Unless and until the courts have decided on the said issue with finality, the gaming operation of MVGC, through the permits and licenses secured from CEZA, remains to be valid and effective, as it carries with it the presumption of regularity,” he said.

Santos pointed out that the Games and Amusement Board has also issued a permit to MVGC to operate but without prejudice to the outcome of the decision of the Supreme Court.

As this developed, Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, Albay Provincial Police Office spokesperson, in an interview, said their hands are tied in arresting bet collectors of MVGC due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) secured by the firm pending resolution of the case in the Supreme Court. (PNA) JBP/GVR/MSA/CBD/SSC

Majority of LGUs in Bicol donate lots for police headquarters
By Samuel M. Toledo

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 9 (PNA) —- Some three out of four municipal police stations in the entire Bicol region are standing on solid ground, so to speak.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon P. Buenafe, director of the Police Regional Office in Bicol, disclosed that due to the immediate response of various local government units (LGUs) for lot donations, only 28 from among the 118 towns and cities in the Bicol region have no permanent headquarters for their detailed policemen and non-uniformed personnel.

He said these 28, which are in the provinces of Masbate (9 towns) Camarines Sur (7 towns), Albay (3 towns), Sorsogon (3 towns) Camarines Norte (2 towns) and Naga City (4 sub-stations), are either awaiting lot donations or in the process of completing the lot donation requirements.

Buenafe said those awaiting lot donations in Masbate are the police headquarters located in the towns of Balud, Batuan, Dimasalang, Mandaon, Pio V. Corpuz, Placer, San Fernando, San Jacinto and San Pascual.

In Camarines Sur, the towns are Bombon, Buhi, Canaman, Caramoan, Lupi, Ragay and San Fernando while in Naga City, there are four police sub-stations awaiting lot donations.

Buenafe cited the towns of Daraga, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo in Albay while in Sorsogon the towns are Casiguran, Irosin and Sta. Magdalena. In Camarines Norte, the towns without lot donations are Vinzons and Balud.

“All the Municipal Police Offices in Catanduanes have complete lot donations,” he said.

Buenafe said among the documentary requirements for lot donations are the absolute deed of donation in favor of the Philippine National Police along with complete technical description; Sangguniang Bayan (SB) resolution authorizing the mayor to donate a municipal lot; and certification/resolution from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

“There should be a certified true copy of the mother title or transfer certificate of title (TCT) or any document proving ownership of the donor,” he said.

Buenafe said for LGUs willing to provide counterpart funds for construction of the police station, an SB resolution must be included in the requirements for the programming of funds.

He said the lot to be donated will also be assessed, taking into consideration the security aspect, suitability of the lot for building construction, convenience to the public and accessibility to electricity, water and communication facilities.

“Also, a certification from the concerned government agency has to be secured that the lot location is not prone to natural hazards,” he added.

The agencies commonly issuing natural hazard-free certifications include the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau or MGB; Department of Environment and Natural Resources or DENR; Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology or Phivolcs; Department of Public Works and Highways or DPWH; and the concerned LGUs. (PNA) LAP/GVR/SMT/CBD

Friday, February 10, 2017

Catanduanes team to Palarong Bicol 2017 shows Bicolanos’ resilient spirit
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 9 (PNA) -- Despite the challenges confronted by their home province after it was ravaged by super typhoon Nina on Christmas Day last year, young athletes from public elementary and high schools of Catanduanes managed to join Palarong Bicol 2017 even if their contingent had the least number of delegates compared to the other provinces and cities in the region.

Schools Division Superintendent Socorro Dela Rosa said they managed to bring together to the regional games some 229 delegates to represent the province which is known as the “Isle of the Howling Winds” for being in the path of strong typhoons that perennially hit the Bicol region.

She said the division’s contingent to this year’s edition of the regional athletic meet, that started on Sunday and will close on Friday, included 117 athletes and 112 coaches, school heads and trainers.

There are an estimated 7,200 athletes from 13 schools divisions from the six provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes and seven cities of Legazpi, Ligao, Tabaco, Iriga, Sorsogon, Naga and Masbate in the Bicol region who joined the games.

The Albay Schools Division sent the most number to the games with 850 delegates, followed by Ligao City with 846 and Naga City with 720, who competed in 22 events in the games, that included indigenous sports such as sepak tekraw, futsal, arnis and wushu.

Two events, wushu and wrestling, which used to be demonstration sports in the games, became regular events in this year’s games.

“Our athletes managed to join only a limited number of ballgames such as softball, baseball, football and basketball and some athletics, because of the damage caused by the typhoon,” according to Dela Rosa.

Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua, who visited the province’s athletes here, said there were 439 classrooms destroyed during the typhoon with a few so-called temporary learning structures already built to allow the students to resume their classes.

According to the state weather bureau which placed the province under tropical cyclone warning signal No. 4, the typhoon, which had gustiness of 235 kilometers (146 miles), first made a landfall in Catanduanes at 6:30 p.m. In the aftermath, the province’s power supplier, said it would be able to fully restore electricity in all the barangays only after two months.

“I am very proud of you for showing the Bicol region how strong we are, for showing them that we can make it. We never say no to a challenge. I congratulate you,” Cua told the young athletes in their billeting school in this city.

Dela Rosa said their athletes were able to practice for only two weeks prior to the games.

She said, however, that they were able to display the resilient trait for which Catandunganons are known for after learning to get up each time a typhoon strikes their province, where beaches that lie in Bicol’s eastern coasts facing the Pacific Ocean are known as a surfer’s paradise.

“We are very resilient and we have grown with the typhoon,” said Dela Rosa, echoing the theme of this year’s games: “Harmonizing Life Skills, Celebrating Resiliency Through Sports.”

She said to encourage the competitive spirit of their young athletes, school officials tell them during their practice to give their best.

“We tell them that we are ready to fight and make our fellow Catanduanganons proud,” she added.

Dela Rosa said, "even with the least number of athletes who could join them, we chose those with potentials and “willing to participate.”

An independent tally of the medals earned by the contingents that was made by local online publication Bicol Standard at the end of the first day of the regional meet showed Albay and Ligao City winning one gold medal each; Camarines Sur with two silver medals, and Sorsogon City with one silver medal; and Albay and Camarines Norte getting one bronze medal each.

The winners in Palarong Bicol 2017 will represent the region to the 60th edition of Palarong Pambansa 2017 in San Jose de Buenavista City of Antique province come April 10-16. Bicol's delegates will compete against the 17 regions across the country. (PNA) LAP/GVR/CBD

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bicol police chief says 86,000 drug surrenderers, 89 killed in 'Tokhang' operations
By John Mark Escandor

NAGA CITY, Feb. 8 (PNA)— After almost eight months of implementation of the anti-illegal drug campaign “Tokhang,” a total of 89 suspected pushers and users were killed while more than 86,000 drug surrenderers were documented by PRO5, Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, PRO5 director said Wednesday, following the launch of multisectoral group Bicol Region Against Drug or BRAD in Goa, Camarines Sur.

President Rodrigo Duterte has tasked the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to lead in the anti-illegal drug campaign with the Philippine National Police in a supporting role after top police officials were recently tagged in the kidnapping of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo who was killed inside Camp Crame in October last year.

Buenafe said the establishment of BRAD has indicated that the great majority of Bicolanos are fed- up with the illegal drug problem and openly supporting the massive government campaign against it.

“Even though the anti-drug campaign has been suspended, BRAD will continue with its information dissemination and awareness campaign against illegal drugs and conduct medical and dental services in the barangays,” he said.

Buenafe said BRAD is composed of local government units (LGU) and schools supporting the illegal drug campaign.

“We want to continue the anti-illegal drug campaign with less violence and more through persuasion with the help of the LGUs and schools,” he said.

Buenafe said part of BRAD’s activities is the holding of youth camps where young people into substance abuse will be given “worthwhile” activities so they can change their perspectives.

He added Brad will also provide a series of lectures on drug addiction to encourage them to avoid illegal drugs. (PNA) FPV/GVR/JME/CBD

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Duterte approves Medal of Valor for remaining SAF 42

MANILA, Feb. 8 (PNA) -- President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Wednesday approve the conferment of the Philippine National Police Medal of Valor (Medalya ng Kagitingan) to the remaining 42 ill-fated Special Action Force (SAF) personnel, who died during the botched Mamasapano anti-terror raid in 2015.

The Medal of Valor is the highest award that can be bestowed to a member of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The decision came in the wake of the second anniversary of the Mamasapano clash, following the promise made by the Chief Executive during the dialogue with the families of the SAF 44 personnel held in January at the Heroes Hall of Malacañan.

During the dialogue, the President underscored the importance of recognizing the heroism of not only two but all of the 44 fallen policemen. It can be recalled that only two of the 44 SAF personnel were conferred with the Medal of Valor award in 2016, while the remaining 42 were merely given the PNP Distinguished Medal (Medalya ng Kabayanihan) award.

“Bakit dalawa lang ang [Medal of] Valor? Eh lahat naman ‘yun namatay… So I am asking [PNP Director General Ronald] Dela Rosa to study the matter very carefully and look that up… Tutal nandiyan na ‘yung records, hindi naman kailangan mag-imbestiga-imbestiga. Look at the records of the Senate and everything. And if you think as a soldier that the 44 deserves the [Medal of] Valor, then recommend it and I would give it to them. All of the soldiers, the 44,” the President assured.

Following the approval, the 42 SAF personnel award will be upgraded from the Medalya ng Kabayanihan to the Medal of Valor, which will be bestowed in recognition of their acts of conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life and limb above and beyond the call of duty as members of the Main Effort 1 (ME1), 84th Special Action Company (Seaborne), Rapid Deployment Battalion, Main Effort 2 (ME2), 55th Special Action Company, and the 5th Special Action Battalion of the PNP SAF, respectively.

The 42 SAF personnel who will receive the posthumous award were the following:











































These awardees now join the ranks of the two SAF personnel who were conferred with the award last year, Senior Insp. Gednat Tabdi and Police Officer 2 Romeo Cempron. (PNA) JBP/PND/MARO/EDS