Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bicol police chief orders probe on 121 shooting cases in 4 months
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 26 (PNA) —- The head of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) on Wednesday ordered the Regional Investigation Division or R7 to investigate the cases of shooting incidents in the Bicol region, that to date have reached 121 from January to April this year, said an official of PRO5.

“Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, director of PRO 5, has ordered the Regional Investigation Division or R7 headed by Sr. Supt.Ronald Briones to investigate the 121 shooting incidents recorded in the region from January 1 to April 26,” according to Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson.

She said part of the investigation would find out if the incidents were drug-related or if loose firearms were used.

Of the 121 cases, 108 involved male victims while 13 were female, according to Calubaquib.

“There were 71 killed, 38 wounded while 12 others were unharmed in the shooting incidents,” she added.

Calubaquib said Masbate province topped the list with 43 cases, followed by Albay-28, Camarines Sur-22, Sorsogon-15, Camarines Norte-10, Naga City Police Office-2 and Catanduanes-1.

She said probers are also looking into those hours when when the shooting incidents occurred.

“Did they occur when there were not so many people around?” she added.

R7’s data showed 14 percent of the 121 cases occurred between 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. while another 10 percent, at 10 p.m.

The same records showed 8.5 percent occurred from 9-9:30 a.m.; 8 percent from 12 to 1 p.m.; 8 percent from 9-9:30 p.m.; and 7 percent from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

R7 added that 6 percent occurred at 1:30 a.m. while 4.6 percent happened from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

"We are still investigating why these incidents occurred within these period of time, who are these victims, who are the suspects and the motive behind these cases,” said Calubaquib.

She said many factors are being considered in the investigation but all the possibilities must be known so the cases could be solved and to “preempt” an increase in the number of victims. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

NNC prioritizes areas with 'stunting, wasting' in 6-year action plan
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) —- The head of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in Bicol said they have prioritized certain areas, where the local government units will be mobilized to help address “stunting” and “wasting,” which are among the nutrition issues being addressed by the agency in the plan of action it has mapped out in the next six years.

Arlene R. Reario, head of NNC in Bicol, said its plan of action, also known as the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition or PPAN from 2017 to 2022, has noted that malnutrition among children under five years old is a major concern.

“Malnutrition includes high levels of ‘stunting’ and ‘wasting’ for the under-five years of age, and those underweight and overweight-for-height (in the same age group),” she said.

According to nutrition policy makers and planners, stunting occurs when a child has a short height for his age while wasting is when a child has low weight for his age.

“PPAN 2017-2022 has prioritized the areas where there is greater magnitude of stunting and wasting,” said Reario.

She said this would mean that the local government units in these areas would be mobilized to help NNC in its action plan.

NNC-Bicol data showed that in 2015 the prevalence of stunting in the Bicol region was 40.2 percent which was 6.8 percent higher than the nationwide stunting of 33.4 percent.

As to wasting, NNC-Bicol records showed that in 2015 the prevalence of wasting in Bicol was at 8.2 percent compared to the nationwide rate of 7.1 percent.

In 2016, NNC has also recorded the top 20 municipalities in the region which have a high prevalence of underweight children: 10 in Camarines Sur; 4-Masbate; 4-Catanduanes; 1-Albay; 1-Sorsogon; and no town recorded in Camarines Norte.

Reario said aside from malnutrition, NNC’s PPAN from 2017 to 2022 has listed the six other nutrition problems prevalent in the country.

These are deficiencies in vitamin A, iron and iodine; hunger and food insecurity; overweight and obesity; maternal nutrition; poor infant and young child feeding; and exclusive breastfeeding.

Reario noted that NNC’s action plan is consistent with the health agenda of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte whose battle cry is “All for health towards health for all.” (PNA)

DOLE-Bicol showcases 'puto' maker in livelihood program competition
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, April 25 (PNA) -- A “puto” (rice cake) maker from remote Barangay (village) Balza in Malinao, Albay, who has helped other villagers in her community earn a living as well, is a contender of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Bicol in the agency’s nationwide search for “most successful livelihood beneficiary in the individual category.”

Raymond P. Escalante, DOLE-Bicol labor information officer, said the agency’s bet, Wilhelmina Reyes, is an enterprising and hardworking mother of four who ekes out a living making and selling puto, a native fare concocted from rice flour.

He said Reyes used to travel 15 kilometers from her house in Barangay (village) Balza to the nearest city in the province to avail of the services of a rice grinding machine so her rice could be turned into flour, the main ingredient of puto.

Escalante said those were the times when Reyes had to do everything by hand and start at the crack of dawn.

“With only her hands and some from her family, time in puto production has always been the enemy,” he said.

Escalante said Olga Ludovice, livelihood focal person of DOLE Albay Provincial Office, said Reyes had recounted that her travel of 15 kms is equivalent to taking a 30-minute full packed jeepney ride.

“The ride from Balza to the city four times a week can be tiring but I do not have any choice,” Reyes told Ludovice.

Reyes said she had to endure the difficulties because she has four mouths to feed.

In December 2014, however, Reyes was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of DOLE’s Integrated Livelihood Program or DILP and was awarded a heavy duty grinding machine that cost PHp13,500. ,p>The livelihood grant resulted in increased production and increased income for Malinao’s puto maker.

Ludovice said out of the increased income, Reyes has managed to buy a generator set and a motor vehicle. The generator set aided in the production especially during those times that power in Reyes’ area was intermittent.

“The grant made a big difference and helped the puto business grow,” Reyes told Ludovice.

Aside from the added machineries and tools, Reyes was also able to generate jobs by way of extending on consignment basis to 20 puto vendors in Barangay Balza.

Ludovice said from Php400 a day, Reyes’ income increased to PHp1,000 a day due to the DILP grant.

Escalante said before Reyes was chosen as bet for the nationwide search, she was honored by DOLE-Bicol as one of the best and most successful entrepreneurs in the Bicol region in its "2016 Oragon Awardees." (PNA)

Albay police chief cites 'alarming' suicide cases in blotters
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 24 (PNA) —- A ranking official of the Albay Provincial Police Office (PPO) expressed alarm over the cases of suicide being recorded by their office that would require “immediate intervention.”

Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, chief investigator of Albay PPO, said in 2016, they were able to record 24 cases of suicide.

He said even as they are still consolidating their records on the number of suicide cases from January to April this year, “which Albay PPO believes are still alarming,” another case of suicide was reported last April 22.

Gomez said the case involved a 24-year-old resident of Barangay Libod in Camalig town who shot himself in front of his girlfriend who lives in Barangay Poblacion, Guinobatan town, also in Albay.

“Investigators said the girl broke up with the suicide victim which prompted him to take his life,” he said.

Gomez said there were 21 males and three females from among the 24 recorded cases of suicide in 2016.

“Among the victims, 18 were single, two were married while four were widows,” he said.

Gomez said eight of the suicide incidents were attributed to emotional problems, four--mental disorder, two--health problems, two-—family problems while eight other cases were for unknown reasons that were not communicated by the victims.

He noted that they even recorded a victim who was a regular employee of the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“The employee committed suicide inside their house a few weeks ago,” he said.

Gomez said Sr. Supt. Antonino Cirujales, director of Albay PPO, has put in place a program that could serve as an “intervention measure” to combat depression.

Mental health experts said depression, which is characterized by long periods of sadness and social withdrawal, can make a person unproductive and at worst lead to suicide.

According to Gomez the police chief of Albay has ordered all of the chiefs of police in the 15 municipalities and 3 cities of the province to coordinate with their local municipal health offices or rural health units, social welfare officers and barangay officers so “interventions” could be put in place on the cases of depression.

“They should find out who among the residents in the barangay (village) have ‘full-blown’ depression and may tend to commit suicide,” he added.

Dr. Evy Sarmiento told a forum on depression that was initiated by the Department of Health-Bicol early this month that “attention should be given to adolescents and young adults; women of child-bearing age; and older adults or those over 60 years old.”

Sarmiento, who is head of DOH-Bicol’s Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control or NCDPC cluster units, said these age groups are the most prone to being affected by depression.

“It is important to find the root cause of depression of those affected,” she said.

Depression is one of the priority conditions covered by WHO’s “Mental Health Gap” action program which DOH-5 has been implementing in the various provinces in the region over the last two years, Windalyn Baluis, coordinator of DOH-Bicol’s mental health program under the NCDPC cluster, said in a separate interview.

She said through the program mental health patients in the communities, particularly those who are indigent, get access to proper care, psychosocial assistance and free medication from public health doctors and health workers.

“DOH-5 provides continuing technical assistance to all public health doctors and health workers in the region to enhance their assessment and management of the patients in their communities,” said Baluis. (PNA)

Owner of vehicle with PHP50-M shabu faces raps
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 22 --The municipal police chief of Matnog, Sorsogon filed charges on Friday against the owner of an abandoned van where methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) valued at PHP50 million were discovered by lawmen during Holy Week, said reports that reached the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Bicol on Saturday.

Sr. Insp. Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said charges had been filed against Ramil L. Mercado, identified as owner of the Toyota Revo (WLP-687) where 10 kilos of shabu were found, even as police were still conducting operations to locate his whereabouts.

Chief Insp. Jeric Don Sadia, Matnog police chief, filed the charges against Mercado before the provincial prosecutor’s office in Sorsogon City. (PNA)

PCOO, PIA spearhead 2017 ASEAN multisectoral forum in Bicol
By Gina V. Rodriguez

LEGAZPI CITY, April 21 -- The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in Bicol led the 2017 ASEAN multisectoral forum in this city Friday that aims to raise public awareness on the impact of ASEAN for the Philippines.

Nearly 200 representatives from national government agencies based in the Bicol region were informed on the rationale for an ASEAN community that would enhance economic, cultural and social cooperation and help promote peace and stability among the ten ASEAN member states.

Gregorio Angelo Villar, deputy director general of PIA, told participants to the forum that the massive information and education campaign on ASEAN is being spearheaded by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) through the PIA.

He said PIA seeks to communicate to every member of the population how they can benefit from being part of one ASEAN community.

Villar said efforts have been made by the government to make information on having one ASEAN community accessible to ordinary citizens by putting up information kiosks at domestic airports and sea ports.

Yesterday, one of the kiosks was put up at the Legazpi domestic airport with various materials underscoring the ASEAN campaign’s theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”

Villar said for real change to happen there must be a change in mindset among the Filipino citizens before they can fully understand what it means to belong to one ASEAN community.

He said the Filipinos must not think of citizens of other member states of the regional organization of Southeast Asian nations, that was first organized 50 years ago, as “them.”

“The Filipinos must learn to call themselves as ASEAN citizens” in the long term, said Villar.

Marlon A. Loterte, assistant PIA-Bicol director and PIA-Albay manager, stressed during yesterday’s launch of the information kiosk on ASEAN at the Legazpi domestic airport that it is important to promote information on ASEAN as this will help uplift the quality of life of ordinary citizens.

He said in Bicol, the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA and Regional Development Council - Private Sector Representatives or RDC-PSRs have made commitments to become development partners for the ASEAN economic integration.

Loterte said this economic integration among the ASEAN member states aims to hasten economic, social and cultural progress in the region through joint endeavors.

During the whole-day ASEAN multisectoral forum at Hotel St. Ellis today, Agnes Espinas, director NEDA in Bicol spoke on the “economic context in the ASEAN and RP.”

She said in Bicol there are challenges to be faced in improving the region’s competitiveness, particularly in the areas of health services and in the education sector.

Espinas, however, noted that while it is a “long road to development,” the Bicol region has at least been awakened.

She cited that the Bicol region is “not yet ready to be competitive” particularly when it comes to infrastructures that will support economic integration such as electricity, transportation and utilities.

“There are local policies that have to be amended,” said Espinas.

She added, however, that “we’re positive we can do it.” (PNA)

3 civilians including 2 children killed in Masbate clash with NPA
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 21 -- Three civilians, including two children, were killed in a crossfire when government troops encountered a group of suspected New People’s Army rebels in Cawayan, Masbate Friday morning, said a sketchy report that reached Camp Simeon Ola, headquarters of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) here.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokesperson, said government troops from the 3rd Scout Ranger Company led by Lt. Karl John Cabillo were on combat patrol in Sitio Lubigan, Barangay Panan-Awan in Cawayan at 5:30 a.m. Friday when they spotted around seven communist rebels.

Calubaquib said the NPA guerrillas were positioned outside the house of the three victims during the ensuing firefight lasting for several minutes.

She identified the fatalities caught in the crossfire as Lolita Pepito, 70, and her two grandchildren--Crislyn, 11 and Reden, 4.

Their grandfather Paulino Pepito, 70, suffered a gunshot wound on his left arm, added Calubaquib.

There was no reported casualty or injuries on the government side while the rebels fled towards the hinterland of the village. (PNA)

Friday, April 21, 2017

MSMEs gaining grounds, contributing significantly to PHL growth
By Mar Arguelles and Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 20 -- Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSME) are gaining grounds as an economic booster by creating millions of jobs and producing Gross Value Added (GAV) revenue in the country, a ranking official of the Department of Trade (DTI) said Thursday.

DTI Assistant Secretary Blesila A. Lantayona, in an interview, said the MSME sector had been significantly contributing to the country’s inclusive growth rate by accounting for 62.8 percent in job generation in the Gross Domestic Product or GDP while sharing 35.7 percent in GVA revenue.

She explained that GVA is an economic indicator that measures the contribution to an economy of an industry, sector or region, saying “the economic landscape shows that MSMEs are significantly contributing to the country’s economic growth.”

Lantayola, DTI’s regional operation group chief, at the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) program launched on Thursday said there are 946,000 MSMEs across the country.

She said the figure accounts for 99.8 percent of the total business enterprises operating in the country.

Engineer Jocelyn Blanco, DTI regional director, said that in Bicol, over 50,000 individuals, partnerships and corporations belong to the MSME sector.

Blanco, when asked to name successful MSMEs operating in the region, cited the Palanog Cement Plant, pulp and paper producer ALINDECO, mining companies, commercial malls, business processing outsourcing firms or BPOs and big hotels.

“The MSME industry’s success could be showcased in presenting the best practices done by the country during the Association of Southeast Asian or ASEAN summit to be held soon in the Philippines,” Lantayano said.

Nearly 200 participants of diverse persuasions in the MSME sector joined the one-day KMME launching on Thursday here.

KMME is a 10-module program organized by the DTI with support from the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE) that aims to promote the inclusive business model in the country in which successful entrepreneurs would be guided and mentored by fellow entrepreneurs

DTI and PCE presented two modules today: Entrepreneurial Mind-setting and Values Formation and Marketing.

The program will also assist MSMEs to scale up their businesses by providing them free lectures and mentoring and coaching sessions on different functional areas of entrepreneurship.

Lantayola said KMME was piloted in Laguna and Mandaluyong before the modules were tested and the system rolled-out.

She said from two areas, the number of areas conducting KMME grew to 11 areas in 10 regions in a span of three months.

“After that we learned what to be improved,” she added.

Lantayola said to date, the number of KMME programs conducted by DTI and PCE has reached 89 with mentees expected to add up to 1700.

She said local MSMEs in the Philippines are ready to compete or give services to other ASEAN countries.

“In a scale of 1-10, wherein 10 is the highest, MSMEs in the Philippines are 6-7 ready,” said Lantayola.

She said, however, that if given the “chance and the know-how,” the Philippines can get a rating of 10.

A separate launching of KMME will be conducted in Camarines Sur on May 10. (PNA)

NPA leader killed in encounter in Oas, Albay
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 19, (PNA) -- A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leader operating in Albay province was killed in an encounter with government troops in a mountainous area in Oas, Albay Wednesday morning, said a sketchy report that reached Camp Simeon Ola here, the headquarters of the Police Regional Office in Bicol.

The report, which was confirmed by Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, chief of the investigation division of Albay Provincial Police Office (PPO), said the clash occurred in Barangay (village) Talisay, Oas town at 6:30 a.m.

He said the report has reached the Albay PPO, which was asked to help erect chokepoints in the province against the fleeing rebels, as government troops are still conducting hot pursuit operations.

According to the report, troops from Bravo Company of the 83rd Infantry Batallion and 97th Military Intelligence Company led by a certain "1st Lt. Catuday" were on combat patrol when they encountered around five NPA guerrillas operating in the area.

The NPA leader slain in the 10-minute encounter between the Army troops and communist rebels, was identified as Deomides Apiniado alias Ka Delio. The four other rebels had escaped towards the hinterland portions of Talisay.

Apiniado is allegedly a unit commander of a section of the NPA rebels operating in the hinterland areas of the towns of Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Pio Duran, Polangui and Libon.

A .45-caliber pistol, hand grenade, anti-government documents and some personal belongings were recovered from the slain NPA leader.

No one was hurt from among the government troops. (PNA)

Zero tuition in SUCs foretaste of universal access to tertiary education — Salceda
By Johnny C. Nunez

LEGAZPI CITY, April 21 (PNA) —- College students in the Bicol University here and its campuses in Tabaco City and Polangui and Guinobatan towns, and in all State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the country, will no longer have to pay their tuition fees starting this school year, 2017-2018.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said this piece of good news, however, only gives the country a foretaste of more exciting benefits coming when the Universal Access to Tertiary Education Act of 2017 (HB 7221) which he principally authored becomes a law.

Salceda, vice chair of the House Committee on Appropriations also co-authored the free SUCs tuition bill that college students will start enjoying this year, and was once its “noisiest and most ardent campaigner during the hearings attended by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)”.

The lawmaker, however said HB 7221 will be the real game changer that will provide lasting effects on the country’s growth. The measure provides wider coverage for students in SUCs including both tuitions and school fees, accessible to even those enrolled in technical vocational institutions run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

He said those enrolled in private universities and colleges, community colleges and TESDA-accredited institutions will have access through: a subsidy, “free for those belonging to families within the 50% lowest income bracket,” and/or through the National Student Loan Program (NSLP) for those belonging to families not within the top 20 percent income bracket, and payable only after graduation when they land good paying jobs or put up feasible business ventures.

The House Committee on Higher and Technical Education has already approved HB 7221 last March, after two other bills were consolidated with it. The highlights of the consolidated measure include full funding of SUCs with its proposed P38 billion budget and another P21.6 billion for other expenses; sufficient funding for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Technical Vocational Institutes (TVI) run by TESDA with P6.7 billion; Tertiary Education Subsidy, P15 billion limited to Decile 1 to 5 students, for tuition and other expenses in accredited private HEIs, LUCs, SUCs and TESDA accredited TVIs.

The measure aims to provide other mechanisms to increase the participation rate in tertiary education from all socio-economic classes; give all Filipinos equal opportunities to quality education in both private and public schools; give priority to academically able students from poor families; optimize utilization of government resources in education; and recognize the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the tertiary education.

It also provides the NSLP with a P15 billion allocation, limited to Decile 1 to 8, for tuition and other expenses in accredited HEIs and SUCs. Aside from promoting universal access to tertiary education in SUCs and state-run TVIs, HB 2771 strengthens the unified financial assistance system for tertiary education, and amends an older legislation, RA 10687 more known as the UniFAST Law.

Under the measure, NSLP loans are payable when their beneficiaries become gainfully employed or become entrepreneurs and their gross incomes reach the minimum critical threshold.

Payments will be collected on top of their Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System premiums, based on a reasonable schedule of repayment and interest rates, UniFAST will formulate.

Salceda considers the bill’s passage in the House as “a major victory and a legacy borne out of Albay's commitment to higher education for all,” since it absorbed the major elements of his original bill, which includes the Higher Education Contribution Scheme or HECS, now NSLP, as a major modality.

Eligible under the program are Filipino citizens pursuing bachelor's degrees or comparable undergraduate degree courses.

After qualifying for admission, students are “exempt from paying tuition and other school fees for enrolled subjects. Disqualified are those taking second courses. (PNA)

SC orders LEB to respond to plea vs PhilSAT implementation

BAGUIO CITY, April 19 (PNA) -- The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Legal Education Board (LEB) to answer the petition filed by a retired Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge seeking a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the Republic Act 7662 or the Legal Education Reform Act which requires aspiring lawyers to take up the Philippine Law School Admission Test (PhilSAT).

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the magistrates made the decision to order the LEB through its chairman Emerson Aquende and LEB member and former Court Administrator Zenaida Elepaño to answer the plea of retired Makati City court judge Oscar Pimentel during their summer en banc session in Baguio City Tuesday.

Pimentel is currently a member of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law and a lecturer in the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education.

”The Court directed respondents to comment 10 days from receipt on the Petition for Prohibition with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order dated April 6, 2017,” Te told reporters.

In his plea, Pimentel challenged the constitutionality of Republic Act 7662 or the Legal Education Reform Act of 1993 and sought to restrain the implementation of LEB Memorandum Order No.7 Series of 2016 which scheduled the conduct of the PhilSAT on April 16 in several cities in the country.

LEB’s Memorandum Order No. 7 dated Dec. 29, 2016 provided for the mechanisms on the one-day aptitude test that intends to measure the academic potential of an examinee who wants to pursue law.

The first PhilSAT examination was held last April 16 in seven sites across the country: Baguio City, Metro Manila, Legazpi City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, Davao City and Cagayan de Oro City.

According to LEB’s memorandum, while school year 2017-2018 will be the pilot year for PhilSAT, law schools in the country will still be allowed to enroll students who took the exams but did not meet the passing score of 55 percent.

The LEB said schools will not be allowed to enroll students who did not take the PhilSAT and that if they failed to comply, they will be subject to possible sanctions, including the payment of fine of up to PHP10,000.

It explained however that schools can ask aspiring law students to take complementary exams such as to test the ability to write in English through an essay or conduct a panel interview if they want so as not to curtail their academic freedom.

The memorandum though said that honor graduates granted professional civil service eligibility, who are enrolling within two years from their college graduation, are exempted from taking the PhilSAT and instead will have to submit a civil service recognition to the LEB. (PNA) CLTC

Thursday, April 20, 2017

PCOO, PIA-Albay all set for launch of ASEAN info kiosk
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 19 (PNA) -- The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) through the Philippine Information Agency (PIA)-Albay will launch the “Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Information Kiosk” at Legazpi City airport on April 20.

Marlon A. Loterte, assistant regional director and PIA-Albay manager, said the information kiosk will include profiles on tourism, socio-economic status, demography, agriculture, and arts and culture in the province of Albay and in its three cities and 18 municipalities.

He said PIA intends to inform and educate every Filipino how they could benefit from the regional organization.

Loterte added that PIA also seeks to communicate to every member of the population how they can help strengthen the initiatives among the ASEAN member-states.

“The campaign will speak to everyone coming from all walks of life--government workers, media, non-government organizations, civil society, academe, business sector, youth and even communities in the grassroots,” said Loterte.

The information kiosk at the local airport here is “aligned” with the ASEAN theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” according to Mike dela Rama, focal person for ASEAN-related activities in Bicol.

He said the ASEAN activities in the region, that dwell on this theme, aim to enhance economic, cultural and social cooperation that would help promote peace and stability among the 10 ASEAN member states.

Dela Rama added this would also include other forms of collaboration beneficial to all citizens of the ASEAN member countries.

The lead agency which will conduct the series of activities related to 2017 ASEAN is PIA-Bicol that is headed by its director Aida Naz.

Dela Rama said aside from the information kiosk at the Legazpi domestic airport, a similar kiosk will also be established at Matnog sea port in Sorsogon and at the domestic airport in Pili, Camarines Sur.

He stressed that it is important to promote information on ASEAN as this will help uplift the quality of life of ordinary citizens.

In Bicol, the National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA and Regional Development Council - Private Sector Representatives or RDC-PSRs have made commitments to become development partners for the ASEAN economic integration.

Dela Rama said this economic integration among the ASEAN member states aims to hasten economic, social and cultural progress in the region through joint endeavors.

He said the joint undertakings will be in the “spirit of equality and partnership” that would serve to strengthen the foundation for a prosperous and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Bicol health authorities remind public about '6S' in summer
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 18 (PNA) —- Regional and provincial health authorities in Bicol have reminded the public to be more careful about their health in the flurry of activities this summer season because of the common diseases that usually arise at this time.

Noemi Bron, health education provincial officer of Department of Health (DOH)-Bicol’s non-communicable disease prevention and control program, advised the public to be aware of the six common summer diseases or conditions, referred to as the “6S,” that can adversely affect one’s health.

“These are sore eyes, sunburn, suka at tae (diarrhea), sipon at ubo (colds and coughs), sakit sa balat (skin diseases) and sakmal ng aso (animal bites),” she said.

Bron said hand washing can limit the spread of harmful bacteria or viruses that cause sore eyes or conjunctivitis.

Dr. Nathaniel Rempillo, provincial health officer of Albay, said it is good to drink plenty of water.

“This will make one’s body fresh from too much heat and will help in avoiding dehydration,” he said.

Bron said drinking 8-12 glasses of water can help avoid heat stroke due to too much exposure to the sun.

Rempillo said families should bring their own food while traveling to prevent food poisoning as food spoils easily because of the heat.

“Always have oral rehydration salt solution ready in case one suffers diarrhea,” said Bron.

She issued a reminder to the public about the skin diseases that abound when one swims in dirty water or unmaintained public swimming pools.

“Remember to take a bath before and after plunging into the pool and to refrain from urinating in the pool,” said Bron.

She said colds and cough spread during the summer season because of erratic weather that brings sudden downpour from time to time.

“Senior citizens are advised to get vaccinated against influenza before the flu season begins in June,” added Bron.

As to animal bites, particularly dog bites, she said there is an animal bite center in the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Center where rabies vaccination is immediately available.

Rempillo gave additional tips to prevent diseases such as avoiding use of dark-colored dress for it absorbs heat.

He told the elderly especially to “take maintenance medicine.” (PNA)

Tourism chief wants Rodeo Masbateño showcased in ASEAN summit
By Norman B. Tamar and Rhaydz B. Barcia

MASBATE CITY, April 18 (PNA) —- While the unveiling of a new bust or statue of a cowboy on horseback in front of the capitol building here in this city gave a new flavor to this year’s staging of the 34th Rodeo Masbateño Festival, it was the long parade of hundreds of cowboys on horseback, some of them on foot, which stole the attention of the spectators.

Particularly awed was guest of honor Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo who said the Department of Tourism will work so the Philippines can showcase the unique Rodeo Festival in the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in December.

Expressing admiration for the action-packed festival showcasing the life of local cowhands, Teo said such an event, which is seen only in the US, is the only one of its kind in Asia.

“Rodeo Masbateño is the most unique festival in the country as locals portray a way of life in which men and women dressed up in cowboy outfits compete western style in bull riding and steed wrestling,” she said.

Teo added the tourism department will do its best so the rodeo festival could be presented to ASEAN leaders.

The Philippines is hosting the 50th anniversary of ASEAN this year wherein all heads of states, foreign ministers, senior officials and other high-level officials from the 10 member-states of ASEAN will be visiting the country.

She said the festival, that showcases Masbate as the top cattle producer in the Philippines, will also promote the country’s livestock and be a top tourist draw in the ASEAN conference.

Teo added she will also work so that airline companies will add more affordable flights to Masbate due to the increasing number of tourists drawn to the province.

Maria O. Ravanilla, Bicol Tourism director, said the Rodeo Masbateño festival is the only rodeo event in the entire Asia.

The festival has its roots from the day to day ranch practice in Masbate that was later turned into a contest of skills on livestock handling such as lassoing, wrestling and cattle-riding among cow hands or farm workers.

Ravanilla said in 2010, the number of tourists going to Masbate increased tremendously due to the rodeo festival.

She said the “notable tourist arrivals” greatly helped fuel economic growth in the province.

Masbate Governor Antonio Kho said the festival also provided vast opportunities for the continuous growth of the province’s cattle industry.

“As a matter of fact a roll-on-roll-off (Roro) port has opened in the municipality of Mandaon that will connect it to Roxas City leading to Caticlan in Boracay and vice versa,” he said.

Masbate Mayor Rowena Tuazon said for 24 years now, the festival has been giving a distinct identity to the province which is blessed with vast pasture land and a prolific cattle industry.

“Since the staging of this festival, it has been our locality’s show window,” she said.

Prior to the long horse parade a so-called “festival of festivals” was held wherein eight contingents from different municipalities in the province performed street dancing.

The town of Balud was declared the grand champion from among the eight municipalities that joined. Mandaon was first runner up while Placer town was second runner up.

The other municipalities that joined the street parade were Aroroy, Milagros, Mobo, Palanas and Uson.

Judge Manuel Sese, president of Rodeo Masbateno Inc., has been overall chairman for five years now of the festival that was initiated by former Masbate Governor Emilio R. Espinosa in 1993.

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Masbate as the “Rodeo capital of the Philippines” in 2002. (PNA)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Cops pick up witness to slay of Sorsogon Board member
By Bobby Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, April 12 (PNA) -— An unidentified man was picked up by the police in a subdivision here minutes after the killing of Sorsogon first district Board Member Pedro Ravanilla on Tuesday morning as he could be a possible witness in the slay, police said.

The victim, a first-term Board Member and a former member of the Sangguniang Panlunsod, died on the spot after a lone gunman shot him in the head along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Pangpang this city at 8:50 a.m.

Ravanilla, 54, was 50 meters away from his residence and had come from a morning walk in the city proper when gunned down. His killing stunned relatives and local community members who said he had no known enemies.

Supt. Dionesio Laceda, Sorsogon City police chief, in an interview, said the possible witness, whom he declined to identify, was wearing a bull cap, sleeveless shirt and short pants.

He said the unidentified man was personally fetched by police at San Rafael Subdivision, a few hundred meters from the crime scene, and was loaded onto a police mobile.

Laceda himself rode with the unidentified person in the vehicle.

In an exclusive interview with PNA, Laceda said the person was not a suspect but a possible witness to the incident.

The police chief was alerted about the “person” by his men over the police radio as he was inspecting the crime scene.

He, however, said the man failed to provide substantial information on the suspect as the gunman was wearing a bull cap.

Laceda said there was no closed circuit TV camera along the route taken by the victim from the city center up to the crime scene that could record any activity and provide information on the killers.

Pangpang Barangay Captain Peter Jolloso, the victim’s brother-in-law, said he was clueless on the killing, saying that Ravanilla had not been staying in his residence but transferred already to Metro Manila.

The Board Member was estranged from his wife.

Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, director of Sorsogon Provincial Police Office, in a phone interview, said that he has organized a dedicated investigating team or DIT that would focus on the slay case.

“We have raw information which have to be thoroughly probed,” he added, even as he cleared the victim of involvement in illegal drugs.

Cabral said he himself was stunned by the killing, the report of which reached him while he was on a regional command conference in Camarines Sur. He said that he had excused himself from the meeting and would rush back to this city to personally look into the matter. Meanwhile, Board Member Eric Ravanilla, a nephew of the victim, strongly condemned the killing, as he urged the Philippine National Police to ensure that the perpetrators and mastermind are caught.

He said they were all shocked by the incident which had not happened to an incumbent official in recent history of the province.

As this developed, Gov. Robert Lee Rodrigueza has put up a PHp100,000 reward for any information that could lead to the identity or arrest of the suspects.

Lee said he had instructed Cabral to leave no stone unturned in the probe on Ravanilla’s killing.

The governor condemned the slaying which he described as dastardly and shocking, saying that he could not think of any possible motive that would provoke anyone to murder the victim.

“From what we know, Board Member Ravanilla was a jolly and friendly person,” he said. Ravanilla, who ran under the UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) during the May 2016 elections, was a contractor and involved in property leasing at the time of his murder.

He was a three-term Sorsogon City councilor before running for Board member.

Ravanilla was supervising the repair of one of his properties just meters away from his residence when gunned down by a suspect who fled towards the diversion road on board a motorcycle driven by his cohort.

The victim is also a cousin of the husband of Department of Tourism-Bicol Director Maria O. Ravanilla. (PNA)

PHp50-M 'shabu' seized in Matnog port in Sorsogon
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 12 (PNA) -- A combined police and military team seized big plastic sachets of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) estimated to have a street value of PHp50 million inside an abandoned blue van at Matnog Port in Sorsogon Tuesday afternoon, the top official of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO-5) said in a press conference late Tuesday evening at Camp Simeon Ola here.

“The anti-narcotics lawmen found the shabu inside a blue-colored Toyota Revo GLX van (WLP-687) at Matnog port compound,” said Chief Supt. Melvin Buenafe, PRO5 director.

He said the shabu contraband, which weighed 10 kilos, were placed inside 20 pieces of big plastic sachets, each of which was packed with half a kilo of the illegal drug.

“The Dangerous Drugs Board estimated the value of the 20 sachets at PHp50 million,” he added.

Senior Supt. Ronaldo Cabral, Sorsogon Provincial Police Office director and Chief Insp. Jeric Don Sadia, chief of Matnog Municipal Police Office, joined Buenafe in presenting before media the confiscated illegal drug.

Buenafe said police had been tipped off by port authorities about the vehicle left behind by unidentified men at around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

He said the port authorities, who sensed danger and suspected that there might be an improvised explosive device or IED inside the van, reported the matter to the Matnog Municipal Police Office.

Cabral immediately organized an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Division) team from the Matnog MPO, 31st Infantry Battalion of Philippine Army, K9 unit from the Sorsogon Provincial Public Safety Company, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and Philippine Coast Guard and cordoned off the area.

“At around 3:45 p.m. the team was able to forcibly open the vehicle and discovered the illegal drugs,” said Buenafe.

He said that upon search of the van, they found an identification card, tickets from passenger ships and based on the vehicle’s documents, the car was found registered to a certain Ramil Luna Mercado of Fisherman's village, Navotas in Metro Manila, who is now a suspect for involvement in the illegal drug trade.

Buenafe raised the possibility that the suspect had been delivering drugs in the Visayas and Mindanao regions a week before the abandoned vehicle was discovered by the lawmen.

“They were able to recover some receipt and tickets from Lipata town in Surigao and Liloan town in Leyte province,” he said.

Buenafe said the authorities believe the vehicle with the illegal drug was left behind by the suspects because of the strict and tight security inside the port compound and passenger vessel.

He said the suspects had been wary too of the presence of police and military officers inside the area.

Buenafe said the Bicol police authorities are currently coordinating with Navotas authorities to verify the identity of the suspect who is now the subject of a pursuit operation.

He said the suspect is deemed “big-time courier or dealer” because of the bulk of shabu recovered from the car.

“We would file a case against the suspect after our verification," he added.

After learning of the good news, PNP Chief Ronald Dela Rosa had called up the Bicol police authorities and congratulated Buenafe.

Director General Dela Rosa created a team under Cabral.

Buenafe assured the public they will be more vigilant and strict in passenger bus terminals and sea ports so they can intercept similar illegal contrabands.

He assured the security of the public not just during the summer season but also during the year round campaign of the Philippine National Police and its other partner agencies.

The recovered shabu had been turned over to the regional crime laboratory at Camp Ola here for further examination and safekeeping. (PNA)

Solon asks scientists to study Batong Languyon, Kawa-Kawa Hill
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LIGAO CITY, April 12 (PNA) -- Kawa-Kawa Hill and Batong Languyon, two famous ecological tourism destinations in this city that were formed through past volcanic episodes, require a study from scientists, especially geologists, so local officials could be guided in their tourist promotion campaigns, said Albay Rep. Fernando Gonzalez.

He said getting to know the historical and geological facts behind the two sites will be educational for both officials and the public.

Batong Languyon is a unique rock formation located half a kilometer from the shoreline off Barangay Maonon in this city that lies on the western coasts of the province of Albay facing Burias Pass.

The rock formation has different sizes just like the volcanic debris ejected to the surface from the depths of the earth.

Batong Languyon is enveloped at its base by basalt rocks and a coral reef that serves as a habitat of rare and endangered species in the world such as the giant megamouth shark.

Last year, a rare megamouth shark was trapped and fished out of Burias Pass by fishermen from Marigondon, Pio Duran.

Burias Pass which is a vast body of water located between Albay and Masbate provinces is considered as a productive fishing ground and home to an array of important species like sharks, rays, dolphins and whales.

The waters in Burias Pass are also known as plankton rich with a constant current, traits that make it ideal as an alley for so-called pelagic creatures like whale sharks, thresher sharks, hammerheads and tiger sharks.

Due to this, Filipino and foreign scientists are studying the importance of biodiversity in Burias Pass, home to rare and endangered species in the world where Batong Languyon is also located.

Another notable eco-tourism site in Albay is Kawa-Kawa, which is actually a “hill without a hilltop,” a hollowed top that resembles a giant cauldron.

Located in Barangay Tuburan in this city, some 1.5 kilometers away from the Maharlika Highway, Kawa-kawa Hill is one of the favorite sites of local and foreign tourists who want to commune with nature as they trek from the foot of the hill till they reach the hilltop.

Everyday, thousands of tourists come to visit Kawa-kawa Hill but the peak number of tourists register during weekends.

During Holy Week, a bigger number of pilgrims ascend the hilltop as life-size images of the Stations of the Cross are displayed along the path and surrounding the crater of Kawa-Kawa Hill. (PNA)

3 NPA rebels killed in Masbate clash
By Alan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, April 16 (PNA) -- Three New People's Army rebels were killed while an undetermined number of rebels were wounded in an encounter with government troopers in Milagros, Masbate on Holy Saturday, an Army official said in a belated report that reached this city today.

Col. Greg Almerol, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Batallion, added that four high-powered firearms were recovered during the hour-long “intense firefight” that occurred in Barangay San Antonio, Milagros town between elements of the 2ndIB and some 50 communist rebels.

He said the three communist rebels, who have yet to be identified, were killed during the firefight while three M-16 rifles, an M-14 rifle and a shotgun were recovered from the rebels.

“In addition, there were 23 improvised explosives taken from the rebels,” he added.

Almerol said a generator set, ammunition for M-16 and M-14 rifles, communist propaganda materials and personal belongings of the rebels were left behind in the clash site.

He said villagers in Barangay San Antonio had tipped off authorities about the presence of the NPA guerrillas because they “resented the extortion (of the rebels) through the so-called revolutionary taxation.”

Almerol said he immediately organized a team from the Scout platoon of the Alpha and Bravo companies of the 2nd IB under Capt. Jessie Cabangcala to check the information but the government troops were immediately fired upon around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday when they reached the area.

He said the NPA rebels were under the command of Ruel Ibañez alias "Gemo."

"Our troops in the area are still conducting hot pursuit operation against the fleeing rebels," he said.

It was the second encounter between 2nd IB troops and NPA rebels this year. On February 13, four top NPA rebels were killed in a clash in Barangay Pangle in Aroroy town.

Almerol said the 2nd IB based in Barangay Bacolod in Milagros, Masbate has been intensifying its security operations by conducting more combat patrols after intelligence reports showed the Abu Sayaff bandits in Mindanao had come to the Visayas, particularly in Bohol, so they could kidnap tourists.

"Masbate is a favorite tourist destination in Bicol and we want to ensure that the tourists are safe, especially with the coming Rodeo festival this week," he said. (PNA)

DA-Bicol pilots 'coco water cum coco hub' facility
By Connie Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 12 (PNA) -- The Department of Agriculture (DA) in Bicol has plans to upgrade its existing coco water facility into a “coco hub” by combining coco water production with copra and virgin coconut oil (VCO) processing at the agency’s compound in Pili, Camarines Sur.

“We plan to upgrade the existing coco water facility into a business incubation facility for coco water and VCO before transferring the technology to the coconut farmers,” Elena delos Santos, DA-Bicol executive director, said in a phone interview.

She said the pilot project in Bicol will be done with the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) as partner.

Delos Santos, who is also PRDP project director, said that within the next three to six months the upgrading efforts will seek to enhance the coco water’s shelf-life and reduce the production cost per unit as well as the overall production performance of the facility.

She said DA will fine-tune the technology and operation of the facility so that when the operation is transferred to an organization it will be an income-generating enterprise for the proponent group.

Delos Santos said the facility and technology to be transferred to the farmer organization will be “comprehensive and perfected along coco water, VCO and other coconut by-products production.”

She added that once the facility is perfected, identified farmer organizations will be provided with a separate facility, funding of which will be generated from other sources.

“The coco water facility cum coco hub facility in DA-Bicol will serve as a training ground for farmer organizations in Bicol and other regions who are interested to venture into coco water, VCO and other coco by-products production,” said delos Santos.

Presently, the pilot facility at the DA compound has a small equipment for VCO processing.

“An additional area for VCO production will be established and a processing equipment will be procured to upgrade the existing facility,” she said.

According to delos Santos funding for this will be jointly shared by PhilMech (Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization) and DA-Bicol. PhilMech is a sub-agency of DA.

She said the PRDP project support office in South Luzon will provide P1 million for the operational expenses.

This will be in addition to the P1.53 million allotted by PRDP-Bicol for the pilot testing of the village level coco water processing system.

The pilot project in Bicol will also serve as the model of PhilMech who will showcase the facility’s actual operation.

Delos Santos said the facility will also promote the “Be Cool” coco water being produced by the facility.

PhilMech also currently assists in a VCO and coco water production project in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, which is co-funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research.

She added PhilMech has a similar project in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato which is co-funded by the Philippine Coconut Authority.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics in 2013 showed that Bicol has 453,501 hectares of coconut area with a volume production of 1,240,458.84 metric tons.

Delos Santos sees bright prospects for the coco hub facility project as over 50 percent of the agricultural area in Bicol is planted to coconut.

She said if the project is brought to the level of the coconut farmers in Bicol this will mean additional value to their coconuts and will “generate additional income” for them. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sandiganbayan metes 3-month suspension on mayor of Malinao, Albay
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) —- The mayor of Malinao, Albay was meted a three-month suspension by the sixth division of the Sandiganbayan on charges of graft and corruption stemming from the construction of a cockpit arena in the town, said a decision issued on April 4.

Malinao Mayor Avelino "Billy" Ceriola said the 90-day suspension order, a copy of which he received on Tuesday morning, was for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

He said the three-page order directed him to cease and desist from further performing and/or exercising the functions, duties and privileges of his position as municipal mayor.

The decision was signed by Associate Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada as chairperson and concurred by Associate Justices Oscar Herrera Jr. and Karl B. Miranda.

The case, which was filed against Ceriola by municipal councilor Irene Fajut in 2013 during his first term as municipal mayor, was about the construction of the Malinao cockpit arena in Barangay (village) Balading.

Fajut had accused Ceriola of conflict of interest and said that the cockpit’s construction did not have any business permit.

Ceriola, in an interview, said the case filed against him was part of “political harassment by councilor Fajut and her allies.”

He pointed out that all the papers pertaining to construction of the cockpit arena were all legal and that it had a business permit to operate.

"There was no conflict of interest here as the cockpit arena is owned and run by my family. It’s a family business. It's not mine," he added.

Ceriola said he would file a motion for reconsideration in the Sandiganbayan as soon as possible but will continue to fulfill his duties as town mayor until stopped by the Department of Interior and Local Government. (PNA)

Barangay day care workers in Albay to get added benefits
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 11 (PNA) —- A provincial government official in Albay announced a new set of benefits that barangay day care workers or BDCW could avail of under “an integrated and comprehensive approach” that would ensure children in the province could acquire quality education.

Provincial Board Member Howard S. Imperial, in an interview, said the package of benefits and incentives include Philhealth insurance coverage, medical examination in government facilities, free legal assistance, financial assistance and use of government facilities for BDCW’s conventions.

He made the disclosure following passage of the “Barangay Day Care Workers Benefits and Incentives” ordinance on April 10 by the Sanguniang Panlalawigan ng Albay or SPA (Provincial Council).

Imperial said the measure which ensures a holistic approach to day care services programs was approved on its third and final reading by SPA.

He said the ordinance will be providing additional benefits aside from those currently being enjoyed by the BDCW.

"It will motivate them to sustain and…improve further their performance and services," said Imperial.

He said all registered BDCW who are actively performing their duties as certified by the punong barangay (village chief) shall be entitled to the benefits.

Imperial said that for Philhealth insurance coverage, all registered BDCW may be enrolled in the national health insurance program through the “point-of-care” or sponsorship scheme so they can receive personal health services.

These point-of-care facilities are the three district hospitals in the province, among them the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital in this city.

“These services may include in-patient hospital care, out-patient care, emergency and transfer services and other supplementary health benefits subject to existing rules and regulation,” he said.

Imperial said a BDCW of Albay can also receive free medical exam in any hospital that is owned, operated and managed by the provincial government.

He said the hospital shall provide such a service as a requirement for its registration or renewal of registration.

“They can also avail of free legal representation and consultation services from the provincial legal office should they encounter any legal problem in performing their duties as BDCW,” he added.

Imperial said the ordinance provides that a BCDW can also avail of a quarterly financial assistance of PHp2,000 from the provincial government as a recognition of valuable services.

He said the Provincial Association of Barangay Day Care Workers will be allowed free use of provincial government facilities for their official functions.

Imperial said that if the additional incentives to the BDCW would require expenditures from the provincial government fund these will be validated by the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO).

The establishment of barangay day care centers for Filipino children up to six years of age is provided for by Republic Act No. 6972 that was promulgated in 1990.

A BDCW is selected, trained and accredited by DSWD which sets the standards for the operations of the day care centers.

Under RA 6972, a BDCW receives a monthly allowance of PHp500 charged from the budget of DSWD. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Provincial Board member in Sorsogon shot dead
By Bobby Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, April 11 (PNA) —- A member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council) of Sorsogon was shot dead by a still unidentified assailant Tuesday morning.

An initial police report said Board Member Pedro Ravanilla was inspecting his building along Maharlika Highway at Barangay Pangpang in this city when a lone gunman fired at him, hitting his head.

The victim, a first-term board member and a former member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) died on the spot.

His younger brother Martin, in an interview, said they were stunned by the tragic incident as the victim had no known enemies.

It was learned that Ravanilla had just come from the city proper for his morning walk.

The victim’s body had been retrieved by the Scene of the Crime Operatives or SOCO for autopsy.

Supt. Dionesion Laceda, city police chief, said they are still conducting a thorough investigation on the incident.

The crime incident was just about 50 meters away from the victim's residence. (PNA)

Sorsogon SDO to conduct random drug tests after arrest of employee

SORSOGON CITY, April 10 (PNA) -- The head of the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division Office (SDO) in Sorsogon on Monday said it “may soon conduct random drug testing on its personnel and even learners” or students following the arrest of one of its employees in a buy-bust operation last Friday.

Dr. Loida Nidea, superintendent of DepEd Sorsogon SDO, in an interview today, made the disclosure following the arrest of a non-teaching personnel at the division office identified as Gerry Cadag.

According to Joseph John Perez, SDO public information officer, Cadag is a dental aide with a permanent plantilla position assigned at DepEd’s Health and Nutrition Section.

A combined police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency operatives arrested Cadag in a buy bust operation at the Our Lady’s Village, Barangay Pangpang in this city last April 7.

Supt. Dionesio Laceda, Sorsogon City chief of police, said “sachets of shabu” and a 9 mm cal. handgun with ammunitions were confiscated from Cadag, who was deemed as a “high value target” under the Philippine National Police’s intensified “Tokhang” operation.

Following Cadag’s arrest, Nidea has called for a “more intensified anti-drug campaign and actions in the Sorsogon Division Office and the field” while assuring the public they are taking concrete actions on the matter.

She said Cadag’s case is an “isolated case” and does not reflect the “general and true state of the institution (SDO).”

Nidea said the SDO has been fully supportive of the anti-illegal drug drive being waged by the government to weed out the so-called drug users and pushers involved in the illegal drug trade nationwide.

She assured the SDO has been abiding with DepEd’s directives on the illegal drug campaign as it anchors its campaign on the department’s National Drug Education Program (NDEP), including the implementation of the planned random drug testing program which will cover learners, teachers and DepEd non-teaching personnel.

NDEP is a “comprehensive educational program, which provides a holistic approach in preventing and eliminating the menace of drugs in the country,” according to a post on DepEd’s website.

It “enables all sectors to work collaboratively--with the school system as the core—-thereby unifying all sectoral endeavors,” the post added.

NDEP has five components to create awareness on the ill effects of illegal drugs: curriculum and instruction; co-curricular and ancillary services; teacher and staff development; parent education; and community outreach, research, monitoring and evaluation.

Nidea has appealed to the public to report to SDO and proper authorities the students or DepEd personnel suffering from the influence of illegal drugs so they could be helped in mending their ways or be rehabilitated.

She said she is optimistic that through education, the youth and other Filipinos could be rid of the menace brought by illegal drugs. (PNA) BOBBY Q. LABALAN

Albay police exec reminds motorists on road safety

LEGAZPI CITY, April 10 (PNA) -- A top official of the Albay Provincial Police Office (PPO) has issued some reminders to motorists on how to avoid road accidents as police records showed that the most number of accidents during the past two years occurred in the peak months of April and August, particularly during the rush hours of the day in the province.

Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, chief of investigation division and information officer of Albay PPO, said in 2015, they have recorded 3,604 cases of vehicular accidents.

“Of this number, 854 were recorded in the first quarter and 904 during the second quarter, when the highest number of recorded road accidents happened in April,” he said.

Gomez added that in the same year, there were 895 cases recorded during the third quarter, during which the most number of accidents occurred in the month of August. There were 951 cases during the fourth quarter.

Gomez said in 2016, they recorded a total of 3,823 cases of vehicular accidents with the number of accidents also peaking in the months of April and August.

“The highest recorded number of road accidents in Albay (during the two-year period) occurred from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., which are the rush hours of the day,” he said.

Gomez explained that “distracted driving, non-slowing down of drivers in pedestrian lanes and bad overtaking” were the three major causes of road accidents.

He said in the cases of distracted driving, the driver involved were mostly using cellphones for texting or calling or were hearing music using headphones or earphones.

Gomez said drivers who do not slow down in pedestrian lanes in intersections, school and church zones and in front of malls also contributed to the rise in road accidents.

He added that in certain cases, the drivers involved in accidents often were overtaking haphazardly, especially in the double yellow lanes or in the “no overtaking” signs.

“Or the driver would overtake even if there is an oncoming vehicle in the opposite lane,” said Gomez.

He added that for the two-year period, their data showed that overspeeding, mechanical problems of the vehicles and driving under the influence of liquor ranked next in the list of reasons for the road accidents.

“Over the same period, there were some 10 cases of road accidents due to stray animals crossing the streets,” noted Gomez.

He admitted, however, that the Philippine National Police had been weak in implementing traffic laws, there was insufficient traffic law enforcers and some policemen lacked knowledge on traffic laws and ordinances.

Gomez said Albay PPO has recommended the regular conduct of safety education seminars to be spearheaded by local government units and Land Transportation Office that would target the erring drivers.

He said they would also work for the strict implementation of existing traffic laws, rules and regulations such as the “no permit, no travel policy,” helmet law and Drunk Driving Act.

Gomez said they would assign personnel to enforce ordinances especially during night time and also endorse ordinances regulating and providing additional requirements in procuring motorcycles like drivers license, motor vehicle OR/CR and safety gears.

He said they would aggressively work for these recommendations as during the first quarter of 2017 Albay PPO has already recorded 804 vehicular accidents.

Gomez added they “anticipate more road accidents to occur during this month of April” as motorists start traveling to various destinations with the observance of the Holy Week and the start of the summer vacation of students. (PNA) JORGE HALLARE

Monday, April 10, 2017

PHp12.6-M civil works for closure of Legazpi's old dumpsite completed
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, April 6 (PNA) —- Mayor Noel E. Rosal of this city told environment officers from different parts of the country, who are gathered here for a three-day training on the best technology for solid waste management, that the civil works for closure of the old dumpsite in the southern part of the city have been completed.

The University of the Philippines National Engineering Center (UP-NEC) spearheaded the three-day training for the municipal and city environment and natural resources officers or MENROs and CENROs that ends today at the Oriental Hotel.

Focus of the training has been on the “Best Available Technology and Best Environmental Practice (BAT/BEP)” for solid waste management and on how the emissions of “dioxins and furans” from solid waste materials could best be reduced.

Rosal said the rehabilitation and closure of the old dumpsite site, which materialized through a PHp12.6-million grant of the World Bank Global Environment Fund (WB-GEF) to the city, had been a requirement for the implementation of the “Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants” or UPPOP project.

The UPPOP project came about after the global funding body recognized Legazpi City’s efforts in properly segregating its solid waste materials and its effective campaign in preventing the open burning of garbage in the communities.

Rosal said the city used the financial grant for civil works of the closure project.

“The civil works included the site preparation, road construction, leach collection system, slope protection, erosion control, flood control, drainage system, gas venting, final capping, aesthetic improvement and landscaping” of the old dumpsite area, he said.

Rosal said his administration plans to build a housing project “or even a golf course,” recreation center and other related tourism infrastructure projects at the newly closed old dumpsite.

He said he wants to ensure that the land will be used as part of the developments in Legazpi City that will benefit its people, especially the residents in the upper portion of the southern villages.

Rosal told the participants of the UP-NEC training that the city government has been implementing a “no segregation no collection policy.”

“We want to make sure all the residual waste materials will be deposited at the sanitary landfill as the best way of maintaining the cleanliness in our locality,” he said.

He said Legazpi City practices the no burning of garbage in public places, backyards, residences and all other areas in the communities.

Rosal said the measure aims to reduce air pollution that causes serious health problems and destroys the environment.

He said that his administration will continue to implement that proper way of disposing waste materials to maintain the image of Legazpi as one of the best implementors in the Bicol region of the national government’s solid waste management program.

Rosal said since inception of the city’s solid waste management program in 2010, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office or CENRO has been collecting waste materials from 49 barangays (villages) in the downtown areas of the city.

“But now we have already 57 barangays (in the expanded list) because of the eight villages who have conformed to the city’s ecological solid waste collection practices,” he pointed out. There are 70 villages in Legazpi City.

Rosal disclosed that his administration has also received a grant from the WB for three garbage trucks and eight motorized collection equipment that could be used to improve the city’s solid waste disposal program.

The old dumpsite is located adjacent to the engineered sanitary landfill, that was funded by a grant from Spanish development agency AECID (Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation), in Barangay Banquerohan in the southern part of this city. (PNA)

Police in Bicol put in place 'Ligtas SumVac 2017'
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 6 (PNA) —- The head of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5) said they have put in place “Ligtas SumVac 2017” covering the summer vacation period during which police help desks will be stationed in major areas of convergence to ensure public order and the security and safety of tourists and southbound travelers from Metro Manila to any part of the Bicol region.

Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, regional police director, said aside from the police assistance centers, the Philippine National Police will be establishing beat patrols and traffic management teams, especially in areas of convergence in main thoroughfares and highways heading towards different tourist destinations.

He said Ligtas SumVac 2017, which will cover the period from April 7 to June 13 or from the start of the students’ vacation up to the opening of their new school calendar year, include the observance of the Lenten season, Araw ng Kagitingan, Labor Day, Flores de Mayo and various town fiestas usually held in the summer months of April and May.

He said during this period, thousands of people will be in major thoroughfares, business and commercial centers, recreational areas and tourist destinations.

Buenafe said traffic congestion and accidents are expected in the areas where the crowds converge while criminals such as robbers, pickpockets and other lawless elements are expected to step up their activities.

Aside from the PNP personnel, who will be assigned in all strategic places, the Bicol police has coordinated with partner agencies like the Department of Health, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, private radio groups, non-government organizations and other community-based volunteers to help them provide public assistance in ports and road safety services.

Buenafe said he has directed all the provincial police office directors and the city director of Naga City Police Office to maximize their PNP personnel to ensure the community is protected and local and foreign vacationers are safe.

“They have to be vigilant and must always take precautionary measures against domestic threat groups and lawless elements who may take advantage of the occasions," he said.

Buenafe has appealed for the active support and involvement of the public by reporting any relevant and timely information that may distract police operations during summer.

He said the Bicol police is accessible through the social media Facebook account “Kasurog Bicol,” twitter account @PRO5 React, or they can call or text CRMS hotline 0917-3097862, 911 and Text Bato 2286. (PNA)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

DPWH-Bicol prepares help desks for Lenten holiday motorists
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, April 5 (PNA)-–The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Bicol is setting up motorist assistance centers to provide emergency services to travelers expected to flock to the region during the Lenten holidays.

DPWH Regional Director Danilo Versola said the undertaking is part of the “Lakbay Alalay” (help for travelers) project being carried out as a yearly commitment of DPWH in cooperation with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Land Transportation Office (LTO) and local government units to ensure the safety of motorists rushing to the provinces from the metropolis during the week-long holiday break.

He said 31 points along the Maharlika Highway and other national roads across Bicol have been identified as stations for the motorist assistance teams.

“These have been organized by the agency in the region while all district engineers had intensified their road maintenance activities in their respective areas of jurisdiction,” he added.

Versola said in Camarines Norte, the stations would be along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Tabugon, Camarines Norte, which will serve as the entry point for motorists to the Bicol region.

He said there will be six assistance centers in Camarines Sur, three in Albay, seven in Catanduanes and two in Sorsogon.

Versola said in Masbate province, which is composed of three islands, there will be assistance teams stationed in 12 points in the province.

"Each member of the team must be oriented on their specific assignments for the delivery of the best service to the public," he said in a interview at the DPWH regional office in Barangay Rawis in this city.

The DPWH regional chief said where road construction, improvements and maintenance activities are ongoing or where traffic congestion on a particular route may be encountered the project or maintenance engineers must install the appropriate traffic advisory.

“For proper identification, I also directed the field personnel to wear the prescribed DPWH orange T-shirt uniform,” he said.

Every year, the Lakbay Alalay project is organized by DPWH to serve as an “emergency assistance provider that stand-by along roads in the spirit of public service,” he added. (PNA)

Bicol delegation to Palarong Pambansa expects 5th place finish —- DepEd exec
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 4 (PNA) —- The Bicol delegation of 623 athletes to this year’s Palarong Pambansang in San Jose, Antique, who left at 2 p.m. today (April 4), are expecting to get an over-all finish of fifth place, said a high-ranking official of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol.

Ronald Asis, secretary general of DepEd’s Palaro Board, told a media briefing that there were several reasons why they believed the Bicol contingent, which placed ninth in the medal standings during the 2016 Palarong Pambansa hosted by Albay province, could perform better in this year’s national meet set on April 23 to 29.

He said there are better prospects this year because of the “well-organized” preparations in terms of the selection of athletes, training requirements and budget needs of the participants.

Bicol’s delegation of 623 is composed of 497 athletes and 126 coaching staff and chaperons. Among the 497 athletes, 456 will compete in the regular events, 35 in special events and 6 in demonstration sports.

“A budget of PHp14.66 million has been allocated for the Bicol delegation,” said Asis. Included in this budget is that for transportation--PHp5.2 million; meals--PHp4.7 million; and uniform of athletes, coaching staff, trainors, DepEd officials and chaperons—PHp3 million.

He said DepEd central office has allocated PHp10.11 million to DepEd-Bicol for the Palaro budget while the regional office gave an additional PHp3.7 million as counterpart.

Asis said DepEd-Bicol has an additional fund of PHp 850,000 that was earmarked during the Bicol fun run conducted months ago by the regional office with help from all DepEd schools divisions.

He said they did away with the usual practice of hiring caterers to serve the meals of the delegates this year to cut on costs so that what would be saved could serve as added budget for all the teams’ meals.

Asis said the Palaro Board decided to assign officials from the Masbate schools division to take charge of the meals instead.

He said they expect this year’s athletes from Bicol to excel in the team sports like basketball, baseball and volleyball because of the intensive preparations and trainings for these sports the whole year round.

“Bicol’s athletes never excelled in the team sports events during the (past) Palarong Pambansa but due to the complete equipment and facilities, funding and a big number of good athletes who were selected to compete, Bicol region has a big chance (of getting a good finish),” he added.

The Palarong Pambansa Board officials are hopeful that Bicol’s athletes will get more gold medals in the gymnastics and athletics events.

"We are also hopeful in the arnis, wrestling, wushu, taekwondo and swimming events,” said Asis.

He said there is a big chance for medals, particularly in the arnis event, wherein Bicol’s bet from Tabaco City became a champion and was declared “Batang Pinoy” in the 2015 Palarong Pambansa in Tagum City in Davao.

He said the athlete in the wrestling event who became a silver medalist last year in the 45 kilograms division will compete this year in the 43 kgs. division.

Asis also cited the swimming talents from Legazpi City and the athletics competitors from Ligao City who will gun for medals for the Bicol contingent.

He said, however, that if it is not possible to land in fifth place they have remained hopeful they could get the seventh place.

May Jumamil, public information officer of DepEd-Bicol, said to encourage the athletes to give their best efforts they will give additional incentives for the gold medalists aside from the usual PHp 5,000 incentive.

“Even the schools divisions and local government units in the region have allocated additional funds for the gold, silver and bronze medalists,” she said.

Jumamil said in Antique, all the Bicol delegates, including the faculty and staff, will be billeted in San Pedro National High School and San Pedro Elementary School.

In December, DepEd formed a steering committee that would direct the conduct of the Palarong Pambansa that Antique will host for the first time.

In its website, DepEd said the steering committee is composed Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua, and Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali. (PNA)

Naga City council opposes appointment of barangay officials

NAGA CITY, April 4 (PNA) —- President Rodrigo Duterte’s public pronouncement to appoint a “punong barangay” or barangay chairman (village chief) was opposed Tuesday by the Naga City Council which issued a collective motion citing that 40 percent of the village heads all over the country have been found to be allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, either as so-called users or pushers.

Resolution No. 2017 of the city council sees the idea of appointing village chiefs by the President as running “counter to the essence of democracy and hearing the voice of the Filipino people, from whom sovereignty resides and all government authority emanates.”

Vice Mayor Nelson Legacion said their opposition stemmed from a clamor of village officials for elections rather than appointment of village officials.

“If the raison d’etre behind the proposal is to get rid of those barangay leaders involved in (illegal) drugs, the proper course of action is not to punish the people and disenfranchise them of their rights to suffrage but to charge those concerned officials before the courts and let due process (take its course) administratively, (and) criminally punish them,” said the resolution.

The city council is furnishing a copy of the resolution to the Liga ng mga Barangay (league of barangays), President Duterte, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Camarines Sur third district Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. and Vice President Ma. Leonor G. Robredo for action. (PNA) JEJR

Road network off Albay’s west coast seen to boost local tourism
By Rhaydz Barcia

LIGAO CITY, April 4 (PNA)—-The western coast off Albay province with its white powdery beaches, mangrove forests and unique rock formation is the newest site for tourism development and investments that has been made more accessible by the development of a new road network.

“A road network being developed along the province’s western coastal towns of Pio Duran, Oas, Libon and Ligao City is now in the final stage,” said Albay third district Rep. Fernando Gonzales.

The Albay solon made the disclosure during a coastal caravan organized by his office for media and visitors to celebrate the 16th cityhood of Ligao City, a fourth class component city of Albay which was converted from a municipality into a city on March 24, 2001. It has a population of around of around 111,400.

He said after the infrastructures are completed the water system and telecommunication lines will come next.

“We’re looking for local and even foreign investors to help develop the western coasts (of Albay),” said Gonzales.

He said this will provide employment in the countryside and decongest Manila of rural folks seeking work in the big city.

Among those who have seen the bright prospects for the tourism market in Albay’s western coasts is Inocentes Sabando, 66.

A native of Polangui, Albay, Sabando worked as a seaman for two decades before putting in his retirement savings in a resort facility which he calls Victoria Bay Resort. The resort is located in Oas town, a municipality with a population of nearly 68,000.

He said he is grateful to the local government’s initiatives to make the roads in the western coast of the province accessible to the public, especially the tourists.

Sabando said local businessmen like him have been encouraged to invest their hard earned money in helping develop the local tourism industry and spur growth in the countryside.

“With a good road network and easy access to the western coastal towns the locals will no longer go to Manila to seek employment. They can work here and promote our place,” he said.

Sabando said the scenic landscape and seascape in this part of Albay was inaccessible to local and foreign tourists in the past due to the absence of a concrete road network.

Victoria Bay Resort, which is located in Sitio (sub-village) Imacoto, Barangay (village) Cagmanaba, Oas town, is a good jump-off point for local and foreign tourists seeking to go island hopping in nearby areas, particularly the so-called Trinity islets.

Sabando said the islets are situated between the coasts off Cagmanaba, Oas town and Barangay Catburawan in Ligao City.

During the coastal caravan media visitors also passed by the coasts off Barangay Maonon, also in Ligao City, for other attractions that could lure more tourists to visit when the road network is completed.

Gonzales said the coasts off Maonon is home to three fish sanctuaries with unspoiled coral reefs where various marine species thrive.

“It is also site of the unique rock formation called ‘Batong Languyon’ which is about half a kilometer from the shoreline,” he said.

Gonzales said the area is most suited for snorkeling while a floating cottage was also set up for tourists visiting the rock formation.

He said Batong Languyon could be easily reached by smaller boats but the more famous boat is the air-conditioned boat called Armageddon that could ferry around 50 tourists.

Also off Sitio Tambac, also in Maonon, tourists are greeted by the white sands and long shoreline with crystal clear waters.

Gonzales added that off the coast of Barangay Cabarian, also in Ligao City, visitors will find 62 hectares of mangrove plantation.

“Since 2008 the Ligao city government has been planting 340,000 mangrove propagules in the area,” he said.

He added the city government has also initiated a coral reef rehabilitation and sea grass protection program in the area.

Gonzales also noted that a must see is Barangay Catburawan in Ligao City, which has been given the name “orchid village” as every corner and street in the village has been planted with different varieties of flowering orchids.

He noted with pride that the beaches in the western coast off Albay are “most clean and totally pollution free.”

Gonzales said even a PHP3-million worth of local investments will boost development in the western corridors of Albay that could be the next tourist haven in the province. (PNA)

8-lane highway from Daraga town to Legazpi City 'being finalized' -- solon
By Alan Tan

LEGAZPI CITY, April 4 (PNA) -- Albay second district Representative Joey S. Salceda said an eight-lane highway from Daraga town to this city, which will be called a “Duterte road,” is being finalized by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Salceda made the disclosure on April 1 during the kick-off of the month-long basketball tournament called First Albay Congressional Cup 2017 at the Albay Sports Complex in Bicol University (BU) here that was graced by PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) personality James Yap and mayors and councilors of various towns in the province.

Some 2,000 basketball players competing in the junior, senior and 40-years-old above divisions from 46 teams from various villages in Albay took part in the launch of the basketball competition.

The Albay solon said the eight-lane highway, which will be constructed from Barangay Busay in Daraga and pass through Barangay Bogtong before winding up in Barangay Pawa in Legazpi City, will be called “Duterte Urban Traffic Reduction Road Network.”

This will be called a Duterte road in Albay's second district," said Salceda. The second congressional district is composed of the towns of Camalig, Daraga, Manito and Rapu-Rapu and Legazpi City.

He said that aside from the so-called Duterte road, he expects the Bicol International Airport or BIA, whose groundbreaking was attended by the President early in December last year, to become operational by 2019.

Salceda said Cebu Pacific will make BIA a hub to service its routes in Visayas and Mindanao.

"Most of the planes of Cebu Pacific will be deployed at BIA which is still being constructed at Barangay Alobo in Daraga, Albay,” he said.

The Albay solon added that in Congress he has pushed for free tuition fees at BU, the premier state university in the Bicol region located in this city that has an enrolment of around 20,000 stduents who come from various provinces in the region.

Salceda said Albay Congressional Cup 2017 is the first among the six he will organize within the next nine years.

James Yap of the PBA team Rain or Shine, who was recently cited as “PBA player of the week,” graced the launch of the congressional cup.

"Practice and hard work has made me what I am now," said Yap who added he was like most of the participants in the basketball tournament when he was just starting many years ago before he qualified to the PBA.

He said “discipline and more prayers to God” are his secrets in having a successful basketball career.

Present during the event were Mayors Jerry Jaucian of Daraga, Ahrdail Baldo of Camalig, Ann Ongjoco of Guinobatan, Herbie Aguas of Sto. Domingo, Ronald Galicia of Rapu-Rapu, Alan Arandia of Pio Duran, Cherry Sampal of Oas, and Legazpi City councilors Alan Raňola and Vince Baltazar III who led the pledge of sportsmanship.

Sponsors of the 2017 congressional cup were Team Albay Youth Organization Inc. or TAYO, Junior Chamber International or JCI-Legazpi, Department of Health in Bicol, Globe Telecom, Boysen, First Colonial Grill and McDonald.

There are four divisions in the basketball tournament with first place winners in each division to receive PHp50,000, second place winners—PHp30,000, and third place winners—PHp15,000. (PNA)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Legazpi LGU, JICA ready community projects in 4 villages
By Emmanuel P. Solis

LEGAZPI CITY, March 30 (PNA) —- The local government of Legazpi City and Japan International Cooperation Authority (JICA) are now “fine-tuning” all documents so another set of community development projects could be put up in four southern barangays (villages) of this city.

This was disclosed Thursday by city Mayor Noel E. Rosal during the so-called “Participatory Local Social Development Projects” or PLSD training for community workers held at Alvis restaurant here.

The city administration has agreed to provide a counterpart fund to the projects funded by JICA through Furusato Minamishinsu Green Foundation Inc. (FMGF) that will be implemented in Barangays Lamba, Maslog, Mabinit and Matanag, according to Yorinaga Oribe, PLSD project manager and chief secretary of FMGF.

Oribe said the proposed projects will constitute phase 3 of PLSD being undertaken in the city.

He said Legazpi City is the only local government unit in the entire country that has benefited from PLSD projects funded by JICA through FMGF.

Rosal said the training includes building the capability of community organizers so the projects could be properly implemented for the benefit of the villagers.

He said “institutional building” was also discussed during today’s training to give added inputs to the community workers on how the projects could become sustainable.

Rosal said the community workers will conduct house- to-house visits, create people’s organizations and also hold capability trainings among the villagers in the four villages.

“These will be done to know the possible projects that could be established in their own respective areas,” he said.

After the projects have been identified, these will be processed as part of the Barangay Development Plan before their inclusion during the final planning in the Legazpi City Development Plan.

Oribe said based on the study prepared by Jocelyn M. Cordonez, project evaluator of the City Planning Office and member of the Technical Working Group of PLSD projects, JICA and the city administration will establish different infrastructure projects in 24 barangays of this city from 2017 until 2019.

He said during this period, JICA will provide PHp16 million for technical assistance that will cover organizing and training costs; exchange training program; administration costs; and labor costs while Legazpi LGU will pour PHp29 million for civil works of the projects.

Oribe added the study for the proposed projects was approved by JICA as part of the city administration’s plan to expand PLSD to all the rural villages of this city.

He said the experience of Iida city of Japan will be used as a governance model in expanding PLSD to all rural villages.

This means “development planning will be formalized from the purok (sub-village) level to the village level,” said Oribe.

He cited how JICA has already ensured continuous supply of potable water through a water supply project set up in Purok San Isidro, Barangay Puro in 2005 as part of PLSD.

Another PLSD was the multi-purpose community center called “Kominkan” that was set up in Barangay Taysan in 2013 to serve as a venue for meetings and other forms of gatherings by the villagers.

Both Puro and Taysan are upland villages in the southern part of Legazpi City. (PNA)

Army commander in Bicol pushes localized peace talks
By Bobby Q. Labalan

SORSOGON CITY, April 3 (PNA) —- A top official of the 903rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army operating in Bicol said they are working out a localized peace talk between between the military and the New People’s Army with the Army taking the initiative.

Col. Fernando Trinidad, commanding officer of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, in an interview, has called on the members of the communist rebel organization to return to the fold of the law.

He said he has started the ball rolling for a possible talk with local guerrilla leaders even as he expressed full support to the ongoing informal peace talks between the government and National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panels.

“We can stop fighting to talk and if we fail to reach an agreement then we can resume fighting again,” Trinidad said.

He added he has initially coordinated with some sectors, including the church, non-government organizations and community leaders who could help push the local peace talk.

Trinidad said the government still has the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) wherein rebel returnees are provided with cash grants and livelihood programs.

“Rebels who surrender with their firearms are given an additional amount,” he added.

However, Trinidad’s idea was shot down by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Sorsogon which also supports the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF at the national level.

Rey Hababag, BAYAN-Sorsogon spokesperson, said engaging in a local peace talk would only muddle the peace process.

“Even as we speak, we hear statements from the military which are different or opposed to the statements of the government peace panel or even Malacañang,” Hababag stressed.

He said holding a separate peace talk at the local level would only complicate the issues and would just cause confusion.

Hababag said they are only fully supportive of the peace talks now ongoing in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

The peace negotiation bogged down earlier this year after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government negotiators to discontinue the talks with the NDF panel.

Immediately after the negotiation was severed, both sides also discontinued the ceasefires declared by both sides which had resulted in encounters between government troops and communist guerrillas.

In Sorsogon, the latest encounter between Army troops and the rebels occurred last March 16 at Barangay (village) Tugas, Matnog.

Trinidad said sporadic skirmishes between the two sides are still to be expected despite the declaration of Sorsogon province as a “conflict-manageable, development-ready” area.

He said although the clashes could not be totally eliminated, he expressed confidence that development projects could be carried out in the province because the rebel forces have been reduced to an insignificant level in Sorsogon.

Trinidad said this means the projects could be carried out with lesser apprehension of harassment from the NPA. (PNA) LAP/BQL/EBP

ABC president in Ragay, Camarines Sur nabbed for cache of firearms
By Jorge Hallare

LEGAZPI CITY, April 3 (PNA) -- The president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) in Ragay, Camarines Sur was arrested for illegal possession of assorted firearms on Saturday morning, said a belated report that reached the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Bicol headquarters here Monday morning.

Sr. Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of PRO5 based in Camp Simeon Ola here, identified the suspect as Petronillo G. Mercado, chairman of Barangay (village) Lohong in Ragay town.

She said Mercado is also a current municipal councilor representing ABC in the Sanguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) of Ragay town.

Mercado was found in possession of a M16 armalite rifle, a sub machine gun, a .45-caliber pistol and live ammunition for the said firearms during a search conducted in his house in Lohong, Ragay at 6:20 a.m., added Calubaquib.

She said Mercado was subject of surveillance operations in the past weeks by intelligence operatives after villagers had tipped him off regarding his cache of firearms.

A combined team from the Camarines Sur Provincial Police Office (PPO); Camarines Norte PPO; Del Gallego Municipal Police Office (MPO) and Ragay MPO-—both in Camarines Sur; and Criminal Investigation Division Group (CIDG) in Camarines Sur conducted the search operation by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Cecilia Borja-Soler of Regional Trial Court Branch 29 in Libmanan, Camarines Sur.

Mercado is now in the custody of CIDG-Camarines Sur. (PNA)