Thursday, June 16, 2011

Food Poisoning in Tuguegarao, Philippines

Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro on Wednesday morning visited the wake of the two kindergarten pupils who died Tuesday due to food poisoning at the canteen inside the Larion Bajo Elementary School, and vowed to give financial support to their bereaved families.

Luistro also visited the confined teachers and students at the Cagayan Valley Medical Center, who were transferred from the People's Emergency Hospital. He also promised to give assistance to the confined victims.

"We regret the incident as we conduct a deep investigation into this case," Luistro said.

Tuguegarao City Mayor Delfin Ting has also promised financial assistance to the victims.

Meanwhile, parents of the fatalities have vowed to file criminal and administrative charges against the school officials of Larion Bajo Elementary School soonest, claiming that the school officials have acted in gross negligence that caused the death of two kindergarten pupils and confinement of 42 others to hospital after eating "sinantak" or sauced rice noodles.

Ellen Ballad, mother of Eloisa Marie Ballad, one of the pupils who died, said they would focus on their complaint after the funeral.

The relatives of the other fatality, Jessica Mae Bangayan, have also decided to file charges after the burial of their kin.

Education officials have formed an investigating committee led by the regional office supervisors who have been looking deeper into the poisoning.

Education regional director Benito Tumamao told the Philippines News Agency that they would look into those responsible officials and teachers after the full-blown investigation.

The confined victims have been in "stable condition" and recuperating, according to CVMC medical officer Dr. Encarnacion Malana.

Malana said their initial assessment showed that the rice noodle soup, locally called "sinantak" was sprinkled with oxalic powder, a poisonous white crystalline chemical powder which is being used for cleaning household and kitchen facilities.

Japan Donates Computers to Negros Oriental Schools

The government of Japan has so far extended P40.8 million in grant for 1,256 computers donated to public high schools in Negros Oriental as part of the Personal Computers for Public Schools Project in collaboration with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

This was disclosed by DTI provincial director Javier Fortunato Jr., as additional computers are being distributed in time for the opening of classes this year.

He said Phase 4 consists of 506 computers to be distributed to 46 public high schools all over the province at 11 units each.

The program started in 2002 with 20 units of each of the 12 recipient schools amounting to P7,182,264. Second phase had a total of 28 public high schools as recipients of ten computer units each worth P11,734,515.46. Third phase consists of 22 schools consisting of P8,261,295 and the biggest so far is more than P13.6 million under Phase 4.

He said public high schools in the province are lucky enough to have this grant despite that calamity had struck Japan.

Each computer package consists of 11 units Redfox computers, 11 units Bosline UPS, 11 units AVR and one unit Brother DCP inkjet printer. (PNA)

Proper protocol on media coverage during delicate police operations

In a bid to avoid costly lapses and, at the same time, create a harmonious working atmosphere during "bombing" incidents, police authorities here recently conducted a half-day seminar on the proper protocol on media coverage during delicate police operations.

Bulacan acting police director Senior Superintendent Fernando Mendez Jr., said that higher police authorities at Camp Crame issued a directive to conduct seminar, information drive and disseminate the guidelines during bombing incidents for the media.

Mendez said it is very important and a win-win situation both for the police and members of the working press to have mutual understanding during coverage of delicate police operations like bombing and hostage incidents.

He said that covering bombing or hostage-taking incidents, local media men were also advised to observe police line (at least 50 meters away from the scene) and proper protocol at all times.

Chief Inspector Gerardo Andaya, chief of the Police Community Relations Branch, said that under the guidelines,"the media shall not be allowed access to any area or scene of an incident or crime where there is a possibility that evidence may be damaged, altered, destroyed or otherwise prejudiced by its existence being published or portrayed."

Andaya also said that mediamen should look for the designated spokesperson upon arrival at the scene of the crime. If none, stay at the police designated media area (outside of the police line).

Before releasing information, he added, newsmen should seriously weigh the benefits to the public as against the potential harm the information may cause.

He said that it would be better to avoid inflammatory catchwords and phrases and do not report any information intercepted from police communication.

Andaya also said that it will be helpful to explain to listeners/viewers why certain information is being withheld by the police authorities.

Chief Inspector Sabino L. Vengco III, chief of the logistic branch of Bulacan Police Provincial Office and concurrent head of the Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD), said covering bombing situations has its dangers and the guidelines will remind newsmen as well as the public to "never attempt to approach, examine, poke, shake, squeeze, open, drop or mishandle suspect packages in any way and report immediately to law enforcers the occurrence of a bombing incident."

Planting Trees in Bataan, Philippines

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office has recently launched President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino's National Greening Program (NGP) where more than 2,000 people planted 10,000 tree seedlings below the slopes of historic Mt. Samat in Barangay Parang here,

Lawyer Ricardo Lazaro, provincial environment and natural resources officer, said they are targeting to plant trees on 833 hectares in Bataan for 2011 alone.

It will cover four priority components: reforestation, agro-forestry, protected areas and urban parks, Lazaro said.

Personnel of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, government workers, members of people's and non-governmental organizations as well as workers of big firms like Petron Bataan Refinery and the GN Power Plant joined the activity.

Regidor De Leon, assistant secretary for Luzon Operations of the DENR, said the activity in Bataan is part of the centerfold program of the President that targets to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of forest lands in the country from 2011 to 2016.

"We call this as the most ambitious program because if we attain the target, it will surpass the accomplishments of previous administrations for the last 25 years," De Leon said.

He said the Chief Executive planted the first tree seedling in the official launching of the program at DENR's central office some three weeks ago.

De Leon added that DENR Secretary Ramon Paje has sought the involvement of all Filipinos in the project.

He also said the project will address the country's problems on food security, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adoption, including unemployment. To be planted in the six-year program are narra, mahogany, indigenous species to bring back the old classes of trees and also agro-forest trees like fruit trees.

Honda Motorcycle Accident in Lingayen, Pangasina

Two motorcycle drivers died when their vehicles, traveling at a fast clip, collied head-on along the provincial road in Barangay Matalava, Lingayen at 9:00 p.m. last Sunday, according to the police. 

The fatalities were identified as Nelson Nieto, 33, of Barangay Artacho, Lingayen, driver of Honda XRM 110 motorcycle; and Ronnie Fernandez, 37, of Barangay Lomboy, Binmaley, driver of Honda Wave motorcycle.

Both drivers sustained serious injuries and were rushed separately to Jesus Nazarene General Hospital as well as the Don Mariano Verzosa Memorial Hospital, both in Lingayen, where they expired hours later while undergoing treatment.

Iloilo Election Scandal Update

There exists no problem in the possible recount of votes in the May 2010 mayoral election by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as far as Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is concerned. 

"I was declared the overwhelming winner of the 2010 mayoral elections and it is the right of any person to file a petition challenging my win. However, I want to focus on my obligations as city chief executive and finish all my development projects by 2013," Mabilog said.

The issue on a possible recount came out last week when Mabilog was in New York leading a delegation of Ilonggo officials and Tribu Pan-ay of Dinagyang to grace the advance celebration of the 113th Philippine Independence Day.

Former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. earlier filed a recount petition with the Comelec questioning the 15,706 edge of Mabilog who got 80,654 votes against Gonzalez's 64,948 votes.

Similarly, Mabilog's congressional tandem Jerry P. Treñas got 101,304 votes over Gonzalez son Raul Jr.'s 75,884 votes, notching a 25,420 margin win over the then incumbent congressman.

The 2010 elections also showed overwhelming support to the vice mayoral and city councilor candidates belonging to the Mabilog and Treñas group.

"Iloilo City is fast moving forward non-stop with several bigtime investments settled here. I have already accomplished 60 percent of the 10-point agenda as pledged to the people of Iloilo City and I am determined to finish all the projects before my three-year term expires," Mabilog said.

The city is currently experiencing an unprecedented influx of investors and business locators who made this southern city as the next important business hub outside of Metro Manila.

Current investors in the city include the Global Business Power Corp. and Panay Energy Development Corp., Megaworld Corp., Ayala Landholdings, several business process outsourcing and call centers and several high-end housing subdivisions, among others.

Iloilo News - Major Bridges in Iloilo Philippines

Three major bridges replacing those that were damaged by typhoon Frank way back in 2008 are up for completion this year. 

The projects include the completion of Baltazar Aquino Bridge in Brgy. Iraya, Leon; replacement of the E. Marcos Bridge in Brgy. Amerang, Cabatuan and construction of the Camangahan Bridge in Brgy. Camangahan, Guimbal.

The construction of the Baltazar Aquino Bridge worth P110 million comes in two phases. The Phase 1 worth P38.3 million was already completed in 2010, while the Phase 2 is already 75.5 percent completed as of May this year.

The Phase 2, which covers the construction of five spans pre-stressed concrete girder bridge (PSCG) including approaches and other river protection works, is expected to be finished by June 24 this year.

The project connects 40 barangays of Leon to the town proper and serves as links between the southern part of Iloilo and the municipality of San Remegio, Antique.

On the other hand, the replacement of the E. Marcos Bridge worth P180 million is already 79.1 percent completed as of May this year. It includes the construction of six spans of the PSCG Bridge including approaches and river protection works.

The project directly links central parts of Panay to this city and consequently makes it easier for products of Maasin town and other neighboring barangays to be brought to city.

Meanwhile, the P90-million Camangahan Bridge is 77.57 percent completed as of April, a report from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) here showed.

The project comes in two phases; the first one was already completed last year. The Phase 2, meanwhile, covers the construction of the PSCG Bridge with approaches and river protection works.

Who Shot Atty Cres Dan Bangoy?

A team, composed of Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB), City Public Safety Management Command and the Sasa Police Precinct, arrested a suspect involved in the shooting of an officer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Davao City chapter Sunday evening. 

Authorities arrested one Rogelio Penafiel, 27, a security guard and resident of Purok Dancing Lady, Barangay Saging, Makilala, North Cotabato. He was tagged in the shooting of lawyer Cres Dan Bangoy, the vice president of the IBP Davao. He was accosted in a house at Phase III, NHA Bangkal around 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Sr. Insp. Ranulfo Cabanog, head of the Case Tracker Team of IDMB, said Penafiel was identified by the taxi driver as the same person who boarded his taxi, drew a firearm and shot Bangoy. Penafiel's arrest stemmed from a series of follow-up investigations.

Cabanog said an artist sketch of Penafiel was earlier released to the public. He was then described as heavily built, stood at 5'2 and was wearing a blue T-shirt.

Silverio Caballo, driver of Maligaya Taxi Company, surfaced at the Sasa Police Precinct last Thursday to deny any participation in the crime.

Cabanog said around 7:30 p.m. of June 3, Bangoy was about to enter his house in Bell Air Landmark, Barangay Sasa, this city when shot by Penafiel. Bangoy was then rushed to Davao Doctor's Hospital for a gunshot wound in his arm. Doctors declared him out of danger as of presstime.

Members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) gathered a shell and bullet from a .45 caliber pistol at the scene.

Investigators said they are still looking into the motive of the attempted slay and hunting down the suspect's accomplice, identified only as Lito. (PNA)

Road Project in Boracay Island Resort

The Malay town council which has jurisdiction over this resort island has asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to fast track its long delayed P80-million circumferential road project here. 

Malay councilor Jonathan Cabrera said that the delay in the completion of the circumferential road hampers initiatives for the improvement of this resort island.

Among these are the deliberations on the proposed traffic code and terminal parking ordinance to ease traffic situation.

The DPWH is still waiting for the release of the fund from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the project to be completed.

"Part of our deliberation is to ask the DPWH why the Boracay Circumferential Road has been suspended," said Cabrera.

For several years this resort island has been besieged with traffic woes due to the increasing numbers of both tourists and local residents.

Nissan pick-up truck Accident

A couple and their four-year-old son died on the spot after a black Nissan pick-up truck hit them along the national highway in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur on Monday morning. 

A report from the Bislig City Police Office to the Caraga PNP regional information office identified the victims as Alexander Genon Bongo, 47, his wife, Elena, 39, and son Renz Daniel, all residents of Barangay Mancarao, Bislig City, Surigao del Sur.

The report said the owner of the black Nissan pick-up vehicle bearing plate No. PDQ-820 was later arrested and identified as Benito Duero Arellano Jr., 43, businessman and resident of Block 7, Castillo Village, Mangagoy, Bislig City.

Police said the vehicle was traveling from Bislig City proper when it accidentally swerved to the opposite shoulder of the road and hit the three victims who were then waiting for a ride to Butuan City.

The vehicle dragged the victims into an open canal at the side of the national highway, which led to their sudden death.

Internet Cafe in Zamboanga City

The local government, through the City Administrator's Office, is set to conduct an inspection on all the 168 internet cafés operating in this southern port city to ensure compliance of City Ordinance No. 32. 

The ordinance, which was enacted on June 21, 2007, regulates the operation of internet cafés and computer centers

Assistant city administrator Elmeir Apolinario said a composite group, which will conduct the inspection on all the internet cafés, will be composed of members from his office, City Treasurer's Office, City Legal Office, and City Permits and Licensing office.

The group will also focus on students being allowed to play computer games during classes hours which is prohibited under City Ordinance No. 32, Apolinario said.

He said violators of the ordinance will be slapped with P5,000 fine for first offense, P5,000 fine plus 15 days suspension of operations for the second offense, and P5,000 fine plus 30 days suspension of operations for the third offense.

Full military honors for the burial of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos

By Aure G. Galacgac

Baguio congressman Bernardo Vergara on Tuesday said full military honors for the burial of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos in his hometown in Batac, Ilocos Norte is fitting to his "services to his country as soldier." 

Vergara, who served as former manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) in the 1970s, said the late president "being a World War II veteran deserves a soldier's burial."

"We all know he served as congressman, senator then president of the Republic. But what we have to always remember is that he served our country as a soldier and that he deserves that honor to have a full military burial," he said.

For his part, Baguio city vice mayor Daniel Farinas, although known in his younger years as among the active militant student leaders, also said he is in conformity of Vice President Jejomar Binay's suggestion of giving the late president full military honors' burial.

Internet cafes in Central Visayas Should Ban School Children

A senior education official appealed to owners of Internet cafes in Central Visayas to heed ordinances prohibiting them from accepting school children during class hours. 

Department of Education (DepEd) 7 Assistant Director Carmelita Dulangon urged parents to protect their children against the negative effects of using the Internet amid reports of child exploitation through the Internet.

Dulangon said that while the Internet is helpful to students who need to do research, it can also harm them in many ways.

She raised concern over children's addiction to computer or online games, which turn their attention away from their studies.

"While the school serves as the children's second home, parents should be the first ones to show love and care to their children," Dulangon said.

Last July 1, a couple was arrested after authorities caught them using their six children and a niece for cybersex in their house in Cordova town.

The incident prompted local officials, including Cordova, Cebu Mayor Adelino Sitoy and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, to discuss measures against cybersex in the province.

The Cebu Provincial Women's Commission has planned to create a module that will translate English words related to online pornography for a massive information drive.

With the school year in full swing, Dulangon also called on school officials to keep their students away from violent fraternities or gangs.

In 2004, a gang attempted to torch the bathrooms of the Lahug Night High School in Cebu City, sent death threats to the school principal and nearly assaulted a teacher.

Dulangon also warned teachers against the use of corporal punishment in the classroom.

DepEd took a serious stand against corporal punishment following the death of a nine-year-old pupil in Taguig in 2006.

Metro Cebu police officials

Metro Cebu police officials plan to consolidate their information on major robberies in the region into a single database as a step to eliminate robbery syndicates in Cebu. 

The plan, dubbed "No Borders", was brought up by Lapu-Lapu City Police Director Senior Supt. Anthony Obenza, in light of the murder of an ex-Kuratong Baleleng member, his live in partner and their three-year-old son last week.

Obenza said the idea of creating a consolidated major crime database came up during a meeting with the provincial and city commanders of Metro Cebu last week.

He said that aside form Lapu-Lapu City, the cities of Cebu and Mandaue were also affected by major robbery incidents in the past year.

With the database, police chiefs in Metro Cebu can share information on different robbery cases in their areas.

The information will be organized into files, which could be accessed through the database.

While the police stations will provide the data, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Theft and Robbery Section (TRS) will organize it, Obenza said.

He said the organized data can be used as a reference for future incidents.

Obenza said they were able to come up with "No Borders" during a seminar on major crime case management in Manila earlier this year.

Also, the "No Borders" plan may improve police coordination on major crime incidents as police offices in other areas in Metro Cebu can help in solving crimes committed outside their jurisdiction.

Alex Badayos Sun Star Photographer Mauled

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has indicted six people for less serious physical injuries for attacking Sun.Star Cebu chief photographer Alex Badayos while covering the retrieval and transfer of ballot boxes from Bogo City to Cebu City in 2007. 

Graft Investigator Amy Rose Soler-Rellin found probable cause to charge Ramil Ochea Pelayo, Bobot Son and Marwen Camay, all members of the Bogo Traffic Management Office, with violation of Article 265 of the Revised Penal Code.

Also named respondents were Jikjik Monterola, a job-order worker at the Bogo City Hall; Demosthenes Bacasmas Jr., member of the Civil Security Unit; and private respondent Harry Ybanez.

"The respondents acted in a conspiracy in inflicting bodily harm upon complainant (Badayos)," Rellin said in her 18-page resolution.

Four of the six respondents earlier denied the crime, arguing they were somewhere else when the mauling of Badayos took place.

"Between the positive identification of respondents by complainant and respondents' denial, greater weight must be given to the former," Rellin said.

"What is more, both denial and alibi are considered as the weakest defenses not only due to their inherent weakness and unreliability, but also because they are easy to fabricate," the graft investigator said.

Last July 9, 2007, Badayos and Sun.Star Cebu reporter Mia Abellana went to Bogo City to pursue a story on the retrieval and transfer of ballot boxes from there to Cebu City to finish the canvassing of votes for the hotly contested Cebu's fourth-district congressional seat.

When he arrived at the Bogo City Hall, Badayos began taking photos of supporters of Mayor Celestino Martinez Jr. converging in front of the City Hall.

Later, barangay official Briccio Pilapil assaulted Cebu City elections officer Michael Sarno and snatched the ballot box from the poll officer, Badayos said.

Badayos said he fought his way through the crowd to assist Sarno by taking pictures of Pilapil, who was at that time carrying the ballot box.

Badayos said he saw Pilapil pass the ballot box to Monterola, who gave it to Alvarez. He said Alvarez brought the ballot box to the office of Martinez.

Badayos said he and fellow photographer Tonee Despojo tried to climb the stairs to the mayor's office but Bogo City's traffic group members stopped them.

Badayos said he heard somebody shout "puahanon na." Bacasmas then punched Badayos in the head. Other supporters of the mayor and the traffic group also joined in kicking and punching Badayos.

His camera and laptop computer were taken from him.

His attackers dragged him in front of the City Hall while they continued mauling and punching him. The next thing Badayos knew, he was being assisted by policemen who brought him to the Comelec office.

A medical examination showed Badayos suffered multiple physical injuries, including chest abrasions and bruises. The doctor advised him to seek medical treatment for 10 days.

DTI Diskwento Caravan in Nueva Vizcaya

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) here has recently conducted "Diskwento Caravan" benefited at least 331 buyers in this province. 

Clifford Gregorio, chief trade and industry development specialist, said there were 163 buyers who preferred school supplies, 50 for school uniforms, 68 for footwear items and for rice products.

"One day is not enough for the influx of buyers and here are still buyers coming from other municipalities who wanted to avail of the discount," said Gregorio.

With the caravan, the retailers earned at least P51,507.00 from rice products with P3,500.00, footwear items with P9,412, school uniforms with P12,900 and school supplies with P15,695.

The Diskwento Caravan which intends to provide 10 percent discount among buyers was organized by the local government of Bayombong, National Food Authority(NFA) Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Trade and Industry(DTI) and DWRV Radio Station to help students in availing quality school and food supplies at a cheaper cost.

The caravan was supported by Ludan's RTW, Zenco Footstep, Anita's Department Store, S 7 B Prints and Graphics, Pandayan Bookstore and RO Supermart. (PNA)

Another suspect in the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre

Another suspect in the November 2009 Maguindanao massacre fell into government hands a few days after soldiers unearthed 16 high powered firearms in Maguindanao, a regional Army spokesperson said. 

Colonel Prudencio Asto, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the latest massacre suspect captured by government agents as Nasser Talib.

He was the 92nd crime suspect arrested while more than 100 others remain at large.

Asto said Talib was arrested by soldiers of the 104th Infantry Brigade in Barangay Poblacion Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao at about 9 a.m. Monday while he was watching a basketball tournament.

A warrant of arrest was presented to the surprised Talib and he did not resist arrest although he vehemently denied any hand in the November 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Talib has been turned over to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group which brought him to Manila to be turned over to the Department of Justice.

The massacre, the country's worst political violence, was blamed on the former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Among those killed were supporters of now Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu and 30 journalists.

Davao Prison and Penal Farm with Modern Facility

The Davao Prison and Penal Farm (formerly the Davao Penal Colony or Dapecol), the country's oldest penal colony located in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, is now secured with modern facilities. 

Davao Prison and Penal Farm superintendent Venacio J. Tesoro, at a press conference here recently, assured the penal colony is secured like the entrance of the detention facility now with rigged security cameras and motion sensors that reduce incidents of jailbreaks.

Tesoro said the penal colony only has a total of 150 guards. The ideal ratio would have been one guard for every 10 inmates. But, in this case, it is closer to one guard per 39 inmates.

In this regard, Tesoro said "let technology do the work."

"Lack of manpower can easily be resolved with the help of technology," he said.

Tesoro said nine more will be installed for a total of 10 security cameras and motion sensors. One security camera is like having 10 guards keeping watch.

He said of the 5,800 inmates, 2,000 are classified under maximum security or those serving a sentence of 20 years and above; 2,500 are medium security or those whose sentences are below 19 years; 1,100 inmates classified as minimum security, plus 200 women in the women's correctional at the Juan Acenas Sub-Colony in neighboring Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte.

Tesoro said the penal colony is also providing a work program for its minimum security inmates partnered with the Tagum Agricultural Development Company, Inc. (Tadeco), which is owned by the Floirendo family, to allow prisoners to work in its banana plantation located inside the 5,212 hectares jail compound.

In exchange, Tadeco gets to use part of the penal farm's land as banana plantation area.

Tesoro said inmates who are part of the work program remain to be the breadwinners of their families earning P261 a day from manual work in the plantation. The work program applies only to women and men inmates who are classified as minimum security prisoners.

Meal Allowance of Inmates Prisoners in the Philippines

An official of the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (formerly Davao Penal Colony or Dapecol) located in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte, said the national government is allocating P100 million annually, 85 percent of which or some P85 million, is being utilized for the food allocation of their 5,800 inmates. 

Prison Superintendent Venacio Tesoro told reporters during a press conference here on Monday that the amount is just enough for some 5,800 inmates to have a decent meal.

y P16 per meal for a three-meal a day.

But based on the P85 million meal budget allotted, each inmate only gets P13 per meal and not P16. This amounts to only P39 daily food allowance for each inmate and not P50.

He said the Davao Prison and Penal Farm has an in-house nutritionist to ensure that each meal is packed with proper nutrition.

Water Lily at Rio Grande de Mindanao

The military here has junked a proposal by some local officials to blast aquatic plants which block rivers along Rio Grande de Mindanao and triggered massive flooding in Cotabato City's low lying villages. 

Instead, the 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Colonel Prudencio Asto said Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, Army division commander, ordered the deployment of soldiers to help volunteers remove water lilies that have been clogging the rivers.

"Instead of firearms, our soldiers will bring with them chainsaw and ordinary farm tools, to fight the threat of more flooding," Asto said.

Asto said Army engineers discouraged the use of explosive to blast off the water hyacinth which stretches up to about 10 kilometers long along Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka river, two huge rivers that criss-cross Cotabato City.

"Once blasted, the soil and silt attached to the roots of aquatic plants will scatter in the river beds making it shallow," Asto said. "We better cut the water lilies chunk by chunk and let it flow downstream toward the Moro gulf."

Public works officials who have been working day and night in removing the water lilies said the continued stay of vast water hyacinth at the columns of Delta Bridge and Tamontaka Brigde could weaken its foundation and could collapse anytime.

Commuters from Datu Piang, Maguindanao, who used the river as route in going to Cotabato City, told officials that huge chunks of water lilies are slowly moving downstream.

"We are in a very difficult situation now, we are bracing for bigger problems," according to Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura.

The torrential rains spawned by low pressure areas east of Mindanao swelled marshes in several towns in the first and second districts of Maguindanao, causing the inundation of some 200 barangays and forcing more than 350,000 people to evacuate to high grounds.

Davao City Pre-school Enrollment

The Department of Education (DepEd) Davao has recorded almost double the number of preschool enrollees this school year

Virginia J. Nocos, supervisor for the preschool education program of DepEd Davao City Division, said with the start of the campaign to universalize the kindergarten program, the number of enrollees increased to 13,354 this year compared to the 6,762 preschool children in 2010.

Nocos said the universalization of the preschool education is the first step under the K+12 program of the government which makes kindergarten mandatory as well as adding two years to the current 10-year basic education curriculum with six years of elementary and four years of high school.

DepEd Order No. 37 penned by Education Secretary Armin A. Luistro on May 4 provides that "the inclusion of preschool, currently known as kindergarten in the basic education cycle, making it free and compulsory is presently being considered at the policy level."

Nocos said the program intends to expand the coverage of the kindergarten education through reaching five-year old children who belong to the poorest households.

Rice Production Contest and Cash Award

The Department of Agriculture will recognize local government units and extension workers for their outstanding contribution to the country's rice self-sufficiency program.

DA Regional Technical Director for Operations Valentino Perdido said the DA will select 10 provinces in the country which have the highest palay production and recognize them with P5 million cash award each.

Perdido said 50 municipalities implementing numerous programs and projects in increasing rice production will also be recognized and receive P1 million each. Some 500 outstanding agricultural extension workers will also receive P20,000 each.

Perdido said this will be the first time that the government will recognize LGUs and extension workers in the country for their outstanding performance and contribution to palay production.

The rice production program is one of the priority thrusts of the government who is aiming to become rice self-sufficient by year 2013.

During his visit in this province recently, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has recognized the role of farmers, including the irrigators' associations, who are all contributors to the government's rice self-sufficiency programs.

Cebu Provincial Government Opposes Cebu City Ordinance

The Cebu Provincial Government has made formal its opposition to a Cebu City ordinance that amended the 1996 zoning ordinance mandating that government properties along the Banilad-Talamban corridor should only be for public use.

The province owns a property in the corridor that it wants to develop into a P1.2-billion commercial complex with a private developer.

In 2009, at the height of the conflict between the Cebu City mayor now Rep. Tomas Osmena (south district) and Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia, the council amended the zoning ordinance.

The amendment calls for all lots acquired through the Friar Lands Act to be devoted to the purpose for which they were acquired.

"It curtails the property rights of landowners," read the provincial government's position paper, a statement shared by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.

The province also invoked Proclamation 394 of March 15, 1957, where the late president Ramon Magsaysay revoked Executive Order 20 signed by then governor-general Francis Burton Harrison that reserved the Banilad friar lands estate for public use.

"As it is well within the rights of the Cebu Provincial Government to maximize the use of its land, the curtailment obviously forced upon this ordinance (amendment of the 1996 Zoning Ordinance) is tantamount to taking without just compensation," the position paper read.

It also said hindering development in the Ban-Tal area is not the solution to the traffic problem.

It called the prohibition an oppressive exercise of police powers.

"Easing the traffic problems in the Ban-Tal area can be better solved by the widening of roads or finding other routs," it also stated.

Osmena said these solutions entail a lot of money because of the expropriation of prime property.

Around P50 million was spent to expropriate lots covered by the road widening during the construction of the Banilad flyover alone, he said.

Concluding the position paper is the call to abandon the subject ordinance.

Transfer of Cebu City Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (CCTRC)

The Cebu Provincial Government has ordered the Cebu City Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (CCTRC) to vacate the provincial lot in Salinas Drive, Lahug.

Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia said the Capitol will give the center 60 days so it will have time to look for a relocation site.

She said they need to start advertising the property so they can solicit bid proposals these projects to be finished by then," she said.

Garcia said he has met with the center's administrator, Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., who is also the medical director of the state-run Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City.

The CCTRC, which has 140 patients, sits on an 11,475-square meter Capitol lot. It is close to the former site of the Cebu City jail called the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center and the Asiatown IT Park, the bustling center for business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in the city.

Cebu Provincial Attorney Marino Martiquilla said they sent three demand letters to the center: the first on March 31, 2006, the second on Feb. 20, 2007; and the last on Feb. 8, 2008.

Capitol sent a fourth demand letter last June 3.

Garcia said they will start the ball rolling and not wait for the center to decide when to vacate.

Cebu City Port to be Transferred to Liloan, Cebu?

The Cebu Port Authority (CPA) is set to enter into an agreement with the Korean International Cooperation Agency to update the study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) on relocating the Cebu International Port (CIP).

Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan, who heads the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) maritime cluster, said there's a need to move the CIP because the facility, in its current location at the Cebu City port, won't be able to accommodate bigger ocean-going vessels in the future, especially if there's heavy siltation.

Jica conducted the feasibility study in the early part of the last decade upon the request of then general manager Jose Jake Marquez.

The study was worth USD3.3 million or equivalent to P165 million at that time.

The study recommended the 60-hectare area in Tayud, Liloan, Cebu as the site of the new international port because it is deep, it has a shoreline frontage, it is near Cebu City and the Mactan Economic Zone, it is accessible to transportation facilities and it has natural protection against strong winds.

It also recommended the CPA taking out a P9-billion loan with the Japan Bank for International cooperation to build the international port that will have six berthing area. The construction was supposed to start in 2006.

The project, though, was shelved by Marquez's successor Mariano Martinez.

The plan was revisited during the time of general managers Angelo Verdan and Vicente Suazo Jr. after the Mandaue City Government under Mayor Jonas Cortes banned prime movers and 10-wheeler trucks carrying container vans from the CIP from plying the city's major thoroughfares during the day.

The CIP currently handles 2,000 container vans of imported and export products per week.

Batuhan, who chairs the CPA Board as alternate to the DOTC secretary, said the agency is seriously considering a new international port to decongest traffic in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue.

Batuhan said the CPA and DOTC may consider entering into a package deal with an interested developer who will win the public bidding.