Monday, May 21, 2012

Road Project in Mindanao, Philippines

A 15.3-kilometer provincial road section here, which traverses the towns of Buluan, Pandag, Paglat, and SK Pendatun, and connects with the national highway in Buluan Poblacion, has been completed and turned over to local authorities.

This makes it possible for residents of these remote communities, which lie along the fringes of the Liguasan Marsh, to now travel safely and efficiently to the main highway running from Makilala in North Cotabato to Tacurong City in Central Mindanao.

The upgraded road, consisting of all-weather gravel sections and concrete sections, is expected to significantly improve residents' access to markets, business centers, schools, hospitals and government services.

Travel time from SK Pendatun, the most remote of the four municipalities, has been reduced from one hour to approximately 20 minutes.

The completed infrastructure project was turned over on May 16 to the Maguindanao provincial government by Deputy Chief of Mission Leslie Bassett of the U.S. embassy in Manila, together with Reed Aeschliman of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

At the ceremony, Bassett praised the government leaders for their commitment to the project, and for helping to foster peace and development in this conflict-affected area of Mindanao.

Philippine government officials present included Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, Chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Regional Governor Mujib Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Representative Simeon Datumanong (Maguindanao 2nd District) and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu.

The US government-funded project was implemented by USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, in partnership with the provincial government.

The latter provided a counterpart contribution of about 26 percent of the total project cost, with support from the Maguindanao 2nd Congressional District Office.

The ceremonial turn-over took place alongside the Maguindanao Infrastructure Development Forum being held in Buluan, which focused on intensive efforts by the provincial government to implement vital infrastructure projects in the province.

The visiting officials later traveled to Tumbao, in the municipality of Mangudadatu, where the U.S. government turned over a boat landing on Lake Buluan completed in partnership with the municipality. The landing facility will help ensure regular water transport services for the residents.

To date, the US government, in partnership with the local governments, has built more than 1,450 infrastructure projects in Mindanao's conflict-affected areas through USAID's GEM Program which is implemented under the oversight of MinDA. These include larger-scale Regional Impact Projects, like the Buluan provincial road, designed to benefit people in multiple barangays or municipalities.

Bassett also met with a select group of young leaders who are alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. Participants included those who studied in the United States under State Department scholarships, and alumni of USAID's Congressional Internship Program for Young Mindanao Leaders, which gave youths from Mindanao the opportunity to intern in the National Congress of the Philippines.

Road Project in Aurora, Philippines

The contractor of a 10-kilometer portion of the Baler-Casiguran Road has given assurance that it would complete the project in six months as scheduled.

Reynaldo Manalansan, Tokwing Construction Corporation (TCC) president, said the people of Aurora can look forward to good, quality roads once the infrastructure project is undertaken by his firm, a prominent but controversial "triple A" contractor.

TCC built the Buendia flyover, portions of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), a P115-million medical center and at least P330 million worth of big-ticket, foreign-assisted projects in Eastern Samar.

Last week, it won the bid for the concreting of a 10-kilometer portion of the Baler-Casiguran Road (BCR) after submitting a bid of P140 million in a bidding conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Central Luzon.

Its winning bid was considerably lower than the government-set cost of P170 million.

TCC edged out a contractor based in Cabanatuan City which submitted the second lowest bid.

Manalansan said they have already mobilized equipment and personnel to start construction work after DPWH regional director Antonio Molano issued the Notice to Proceed (NTP).

He said up to 80 Aurorans will be employed for the construction works that will last for six months and will also involve slope protection and rip-rap.

TCC, which has been in operation for 25 years, built the 15-kilometer Eastern Samar Road Project funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency 10 years ago.

It also built the P160-million Penaranda Bridge in Nueva Ecija.

He said what would be built in Aurora would be similar to that in Eastern Samar which, he noted, remains a "role model" in terms of quality.

Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said the provincial government will strictly monitor the progress of the project as this would impact on the infrastructure programs of the province.

Partnership of America and the Philippines

A high ranking official from Guam Army National Guard on Saturday disclosed that the United States of America and the Philippines have an existing partnership program to jumpstart development in Central Luzon.

Major General Benny Paulino, Guam adjutant general, said the friendship between the Philippines and their country started long before even during war period.

"We have worked together many times. Our friendship has already been tested by war in the past. Now, we will work together for development," Paulino told the residents and local officials here.

Earlier, a group of 10 soldiers from Guam Army National Guard's 1224th Engineer Support Company together with some members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spearheaded the construction of a school library in an elementary school in this town.

The library was built for the students of San Isidro Elementary School. It has a total of at least 750 students housed to some 19 classrooms.

Paulino led the turn over ceremony of the school library in a simple ceremony held over the weekend.

It was witnessed by the local officials, parents, school authorities, including the ranking officials from the AFP.

"In as much as I remained as the adjutant of the Guam Army National Guard, expect many more to come," Paulino assured the those who attended the ceremony.

They also provided sports equipment such as volleyball and badminton sets for the students.

It was learned that the school's badminton team is the town's current league champion.

The Guam Army National Guard and the AFP also conducted a joint medical and dental mission benefiting not less than 1,000 residents from various barangays in this town.

Filipino Bus Inspector Hit by Isuzu Wagon

A Bachelor Express bus inspector was killed by a speeding vehicle while crossing a national highway to transfer to another Bachelor bus on Thursday along National Highway in Barangay Kapatungan, Trento, Agusan del Sur.

Report from Trento Police Station to Police Regional Office-13 here identified the victim as Nilo Aguilar Vasquez, 45, married and resident of Poblacion, Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

Vasquez worked as a bus inspector of bus transportation giant Bachelor Express Inc.

Initial investigation conducted by Trento PNP showed that the victim alighted from a Bachelor bus from Davao City going towards Butuan City and suddenly crossed the national highway purposely to transfer to another bus traveling in the opposite direction when bumped hard by a speeding vehicle.

Vasquez died while on the way to Bunawan District Hospital for medical attention.

The driver of the Isuzu Wagon, identified as Louie Lucenara Villegas, 46, married, Sales and Promo Coordinator of Lakpuie Drug Inc. voluntarily surrendered to Trento police office. Police impounded Villegas' Isuzu Wagon.

Vasquez was a residing at Block 2, Lot 12, Phase 7, Doña Pilar Village, Sasa, Davao City.


Over 100 barangay chairmen, sangguniang kabataan (SK) officials, and barangay social welfare and development officers from the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon participated in the campaign for 'Child-Labor-Free-Barangays' in the Calabarzon region.

The campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Regional Office IV-A, was launched at the Olivares Convention Center in this city on May 19, to minimize if not eradicate the incidence of child labor and illegal recruitment of minors in Southern Tagalog.

DOLE IV-A regional director Alex V. Avila, who was guest of honor and speaker, said that measures designed to prevent and eliminate child labor in the target barangays were undertaken with the full support of the community and their leaders in the region.

Avila said DOLE IVA, through its provincial offices, would actively coordinate with the local government units (LGUs) in formulating provincial, municipal and barangay development plans, ordinances, and resolutions that were essential in preventing and eliminating child labor in their respective communities.

DOLE Cavite Officer Edwin T. Hernandez, said the campaign involved a broad coalition that included local government units, non-government organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders in all Calabarzon provinces.

Hernandez said the stakeholders would be consulted and involved in planning and implementation, making them the major partners of various communities in the campaign for child-labor-free-barangays.

He cited the difficulty of parents in coping with finances as one of the reasons why their children were compelled to work to help their families..

Hernandez disclosed that DOLE's Integrated Livelihood Program, which includes "Kabuhayan Para sa Magulang ng Batang Manggagawa (KaSaMa)," which is a combination of training for income-generating activities and economic support, could serve an alternative in supporting the schooling of needy children, as well as support from LGUs and various service providers.

To support the DOLE's campaign, Barangay Chairman Bayani G. Jaro Jr. of Barangay 48-A Narra, Cavite City, presented a draft resolution on the protection of children in his area to ensure that the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) shall actively perform their responsibilities.

Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in the south underlined the importance of their role in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as discussions are expected to get more difficult on the peace table.

"We need to be aware of the position of the two panels to keep pushing the talks further," Mary Ann Arnado, Secretary General of the Mindanao People's Caucus, said during a consultative meeting with GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen held in this district.

She said that MPC, a group of non-government groups in Mindanao, wanted to contribute in helping the GPH and the MILF find common grounds in the peace negotiations.

Glad that both sides have come up with the Decision Points on Principles, which they signed during the 27th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last April, Arnado noted that discussion of substantive issues are sensitive at this point.

Written in broad strokes, the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles contains 10 mutually identified common standpoints that serve as a framework for the final peace agreement.

With the development in the peace negotiations, the MPC, together with the Bishops-Ulama Conference, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, International Alert and Mindanao Solidarity Network, has been convening various groups from civil society to hear updates from the respective peace panels of the government and the MILF "in order to plan together to support the parties on pushing further the negotiations toward the signing of a peace agreement."

Negotiations at its peak

Leonen, who met with Arnado as well as other members of the MPC, Mindanao Peace Weavers and Consortium of the Bangsamoro Civil Society, said that the peace negotiations with the MILF was at the "peak of its discussions" on political settlement.

The parties are set to discuss substantive issues in the next round of talks this May. This includes deliberating "details and particulars" on power-sharing, wealth-sharing between the national government and the envisioned new autonomous political entity, mode of defining its geographical area, transition and normalization mechanism.

"We move forward. It's clear where the peace talks are leading us—as laid out in the Decision Points on Principles," Leonen said.

However, he pointed out that while there is guarded optimism and due diligence, the next talks will be very difficult. "We are now at the heart of the negotiations on political settlement. Such political settlement needs continuous consultations with different sectors. This will go through a political process (in the different branches of government and in the national and local governments)," he said.

Gov't remains engaged

The panel chair also emphasized that the government will remain engaged in the peace talks. "It is important that we find a just and lasting solution to this problem in Mindanao," he said.

Philippine Government and MILF on Peace Talks

Government and Moro rebel negotiators are scheduled to meet anew before the month ends to iron out some of the thorny and substantive issues -power and wealth sharing in areas in Mindanao to be governed by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said his panel and that of Lawyer Marvic Leonen are to meet again next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to continue discussing the still unresolved issues that both sides had signed during its last meeting.

In its April 24 meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the GPH and MILF peace panel signed the "Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012," the first major agreement signed by both panels since the talks began in 1997.

"Wealth and power sharing are among thorny remaining issues being ironed out," Iqbal said.

He explained that power sharing is vital in the MILF's desire to run its own affairs through self-determination and self-rule.

The areas claimed by the MILF as its ancestral domain are rich in natural resources and both panels have agreed to come up with sharing of resources settlement.

The GPH-MILF peace process started in 1997 but gained momentum in 2003 with the entry of Malaysia as third party facilitator and the inclusion of other foreign countries in the government's efforts to settle the Mindanao armed conflict through negotiations.

Over the weekend in Zamboanga City, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles assured the public the government will not sign any final peace deal with MILF without making it public.

"No hidden agenda in the government's negotiations with the MILF or with any group, we will make public the document," Deles said.

Brigada Eskwela in Philippine City

A citywide caravan participated by various education stakeholders early Monday marked the start of the week-long "Brigada Eskwela" or the National Schools Maintenance Week of the Department of Education (DepEd) here.

Led by the Division of City Schools under Dr. Nelly Valerio, the caravan passed by major thoroughfares, various city districts and barangays to heighten public awareness and likewise solicit their support as DepEd prepares for the opening of classes in June 4.

Dr. Raymundo Lapating of the Division of Iloilo covering provincial schools said that each of the province's 42 municipalities and one component city has their own separate activities to commence the National Schools Maintenance Week.

The activity, now on its 5th year, gathered the support of private sectors, parents, teachers, barangay officials and other interested organization to ensure that schools are physically ready once classes start.

The school maintenance include among others the repair of classrooms, boards, chairs and tables and cleanup of the school vicinity.

Housing in Iloilo, Philippines

The National Housing Authority (NHA) has P12 million funds ready for the relocation of informal settlers that will be affected by the ongoing development project at the Batiano River.

NHA project manager Isagani Jalbuena said the fund will be used for the site development of the P1.2 hectare-lot identified by the local government unit (LGU) of Oton as relocation site.

Jalbuena said they will look into the possibility of including in the fund the house and lot components.

The Oton LGU has already identified some 86 informal settlers out of the initial 150 that will be affected by the project.

The Batiano River is connected to the Iloilo River which currently is being revived by the city government.

Supported by Senator Franklin Drilon, the Iloilo River Development Council, chaired by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, has been amended to become Iloilo-Batiano River Development Council.

Initial phases of the development in Oton include the identification of informal settlers and dredging of the river, which are already ongoing.

Drilon, during the recent regular meeting of the council here, announced the availability of the notice of cash allocation (NCA) for the P6 million fund that will be used for the dredging activities at the Batiano River.

Of the amount, P5.7 million will be used for dredging activities of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and P380,000 for assistance to fish pen owners.

Already, the NIA has completed 80 percent of their dredging activities at the portions of Lambuyao Bridge to Batiano. Dredging is now being conducted at the Cagbang Bridge.

World Medical Relief Helps Philippine Province

The World Medical Relief (WMR) based in Detroit, Michigan has already agreed to help improve the health services in North Cotabato province.

In an interview here recently, Cotabato Governor Emmylou "Lala" J. Talino-Mendoza said that during her meeting in the U.S. last May 7 with WMR CEO and president George V. Samso, who welcomed and toured them in the headquarters, the latter has assured that they will be sending at least five 40-footer container vans containing medicines and other medical equipment before the end of this year.

She said Samso told her that the shipments are being prepared by the medical team to be delivered to Cotabato province before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Mendoza said a medical mission is also being organized this year to provide free medical services to the people of North Cotabato and neighboring areas in Region 12.

"Cotabato province is in the process of upgrading our eight provincial hospitals and expanding bed capacity to cater and serve the people in this inter-health zone area," Mendoza said during her visit here.

However, she said one of the biggest challenges in this process is the lack of medical equipment and apparatus.

AIDS HIV Victim in Davao City, Philippines

Acting Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said identifying persons afflicted with Human-Immuno-Deficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) blocks the local government's effort to address the pandemic.

Speaking at the public affairs program, "Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa" on Sunday, Duterte said persons with AIDS and even the hospitals where they are treated are covered with rule on privacy under the constitution which does not allow disclosure of their identity.

Duterte said the government could have a better hold of controlling the disease if it knows the persons whom patients afflicted with AIDS got in contact with.

He also stressed that government must come up with a better approach in order to protect the people from the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Duterte recalled that one hospital in the city which had one HIV-AIDS patient who passed away did not even bother to discuss the incident with the authorities until he insisted by threatening to close the medical facility.

He asserted that the local government has taken measures to protect public health.

Duterte surmised that the hospital gave the name of the deceased to Dr. Josephine Villafuerte, the chief of the City Health Office.

He said the government has a program on HIV-AIDS from the national, regional to the city level provided that people afflicted with the illness must come out in the open and consult with the doctor.

Duterte also advised persons with AIDS to practice safe sex with the use of condoms in order to protect their partner.

Brigada Eskwela of DepEd Begins

Brigada Eskwela started as early as 6:30 a.m. Monday in this town to prepare public elementary schools by way of "bayanihan" for the opening of classes in June.

The activity started with a parade participated by school teachers, barangay officials and parents around the major streets of the town to the Samal North Elementary School in Barangay San Juan. A short program was held.

Some classrooms were readied for the "brigada" as early as Saturday and Sunday.

School records and books were piled to give way for the general clean-up, painting and minor repairs of the classrooms.

School desks that needed repairs and cleaning were seen out of the rooms.

After the short program, parents and teachers started cleaning classrooms while others did some sweeping at the frontage of the school.

Brigada Eskwela of DepEd Begins

Brigada Eskwela started as early as 6:30 a.m. Monday in this town to prepare public elementary schools by way of "bayanihan" for the opening of classes in June.

The activity started with a parade participated by school teachers, barangay officials and parents around the major streets of the town to the Samal North Elementary School in Barangay San Juan. A short program was held.

Some classrooms were readied for the "brigada" as early as Saturday and Sunday.

School records and books were piled to give way for the general clean-up, painting and minor repairs of the classrooms.

School desks that needed repairs and cleaning were seen out of the rooms.

After the short program, parents and teachers started cleaning classrooms while others did some sweeping at the frontage of the school.

Philippine Army in Cotabato, Philippines

The military has deployed peacekeeping forces in remote villages in Carmen and Aleosan, both in North Cotabato, following the eruption of armed conflict involving warring Moro rebels.

The local government of Aleosan reported 287 families or about 1,600 persons displaced by the armed conflict that started Friday last week.

Elements of the 7th Infantry Battalion and 40th Infantry Battalion were deployed to prevent the escalation of armed conflict triggered by a long standing family feud involving Commander Tiu of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Commander Tarzan of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which already resulted in the death of one and wounding of another.

Aleosan Mayor Loreto Cabaya said the displaced families were from the village of Tonganon, a part of Carmen, and sought refuge in the village of Lawili which is part of Aleosan.

"We already extended relief assistance to displaced families although they are not from our village," Cabaya told reporters.

Military officials said Commander Tarzan and his followers attacked on Friday dawn the area of his brother-in-law, Commander Tiu of the MNLF, reportedly to avenge the death of the former's follower.

Tiu's followers put up a fight that lasted for about an hour that also sent villagers to flee to nearby communities. Cabaya said the area has been normalized and the displaced families, mostly Maguindanaon Muslims and relatives of warring clans, have returned home.

An Army official said the conflict was more of a family feud than an MNLF-MILF organizational fighting.

Filipino Pilots Missing in Action

Search and rescue operations on the missing training plane of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and its two pilots on the sea between Mariveles, Bataan and Cavite and Corregidor Island, also in Cavite, failed.

Divers of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine Navy have been searching for the PAF Marchetti Training plane, SF-260, that left Sangley Point in Cavite at 6:52 a.m. of Friday and reported to have crashed some minutes later in the morning of the same day.

Reports said that on board were pilots Maj. Neil Tumaneng and Ist Lt. Michael Arugay of PAF's 15th Strike Wing.

Two ships of the Philippine Navy and one from the Coast Guard with several rubber boats and divers were busy scouring the area but returned to their respective posts in Saturday afternoon empty-handed.

"Reports of the search are negative," said a PAF officer, who refused to be identified. He said the Airforce information officer will do the reporting.

The PAF officers have with them three fishing boat officials who reportedly have witnessed the incident.

SPO2 Fernando Fernandez, chief of the Maritime Police Station in Sisiman, Mariveles, said the boat crews were fishing when the plane smashed almost in the middle of the fishing boats.

FB Carlo Capt. Dominador Mirasol surrendered to Coast Guard Petty Officer Efren Dichoso at 7:15 a.m. of Friday parts of the plane fuel tank, pilot's helmet and part of the plane seat that were later turned over to PAF.

Brigada Eskwela

This year's weeklong conduct of the nationwide synchronized activity from May 21 to 26 of the National Schools Maintenance Week or "Brigada Eskwela" emphasized on the importance of health and sanitation in schools in the Davao Region.

Dr. Eunice Atienzar, Brigada Eskwela focal person of the Department of Education (DepEd) Davao, said aside from minor repairs and preparations for the school opening on June 4, Brigada Eskwela will also involve construction and repairs of toilets in all elementary and secondary schools.

She said various stakeholders from all sectors in the society are expected to converge and participate in this yearly "bayanihan" strategy where DepEd personnel from nine school divisions have been deployed to reach out to far- flung schools in the region.

Some 50 to 60 DepEd regional personnel will be joined by their counterparts from DepEd offices in Digos City in Davao del Sur while Panabo City, Tagum City in Davao del Norte, a caravan converged at Tagum City National High School.

Atienzar pointed out that joining the activity is voluntary and that it is not a pre-requisite for enrollment.

She also urged the parents of the students to participate and support "Brigada Eskwela."

Atienzar also reminded that school personnel will not receive cash, but donations in kind such as construction and cleaning materials, and/or services are very much welcome.

Peace Talk with MILF

With the southern peace talks now in the crucial stage, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed hopes on Monday that "things will turn out smoothly" as negotiations proceed.

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief peace negotiator, said they are ready to resume peace talks with the government and just awaiting the date of the next meeting.

"It's difficult to predict [the negotiations] but we are hoping for the best [once we meet again]," he said over the phone.

Malaysia, the mediator of the southern peace process, has yet to set the date for the resumption of amity talks that shall be concurred upon by both the government and the MILF, Iqbal said, adding they are looking towards the end of May for the resumption of the negotiations.

During the 27th exploratory talks in April, the parties agreed to meet again this month.

Significantly, both sides signed in their last meeting in Kuala Lumpur the "Decision Points on Principles," which shall serve as the framework in the discussion and formulation of the comprehensive peace compact.

Aside from the creation of a new autonomous political entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the points laid out in the signed document include introducing the ministerial system, strengthening of the Shari'ah courts, protection of the people's basic rights, and power and wealth sharing between the national government and the autonomous body.

In their next meeting, Iqbal said the MILF may bring up on the negotiating table the creation of a new Moro entity and territory matters.

Both parties earlier agreed to continue talks on wealth and power sharing, he added.

Mario Victor Leonen, government chief peace negotiator, said they are exercising "due diligence" in negotiating with the Moro rebels as issues are expected to become more difficult on the peace table.

In a statement, he said the government is carefully examining substantive issues particularly those of legal concern, such as the creation of a new political autonomous entity that will replace the current ARMM, as well as power-sharing and wealth-sharing that are contained in the Decision Points on Principles.

Emphasizing that the peace negotiations is conducted within the framework of the Constitution, Leonen pointed out that agreeing to create a new political autonomous entity is allowed as stated in Article 10, Section 15 to 22.

He cited Section 15 which stated that "there shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao…(in) areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines."

Further, Leonen said that "the basis of autonomy is democracy."

"In the national politics, there will always be a minority whose views and concerns cannot be always accommodated because they could never become a majority. Thus, the only way to guarantee a level of democracy is allow them to govern in one region, but still remain in the entire Republic of the Philippines," he explained.

Leonen stressed that the peace negotiations with the MILF is at the "peak of its discussions" on political settlement.

The parties are set to discuss substantive issues in the next round of talks this May. This includes deliberating "details and particulars" on power-sharing, wealth-sharing between the national government and the envisioned new autonomous political entity, mode of defining its geographical area, transition and normalization mechanism, according to another statement from the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Flood in Cotabato, Philippines

The local government of Tupi town in South Cotabato will relocate next month some 40 families who were earlier affected by a series of flashfloods along a critical river traversing several villages in the area.

Tupi Mayor Reynaldo Tamayo said they pushed for the immediate relocation of residents off the riverbanks in Sitio Tucalabong in Barangay Crossing Rubber as part of their ongoing efforts to clear the banks of the area's waterways that were usually hit by flashfloods during the rainy season.

"We need to clear the area to avoid possible (flood-related) untoward incidents later on," he said.

The mayor, who chairs the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (MDRRMC), said the 40 families will be transferred to a 2.6-hectare relocation site in Lower Poblacion, Tupi that was earlier acquired by the local government.

Tamayo said the town's engineering and MDRRMC personnel are presently finalizing the development works at the relocation site, which could accommodate 288 houses.

The municipal government earlier called for volunteers among local residents in the building of the houses and related structures at the relocation site.

Tamayo said a number of residents and municipal government workers had signed up for the initiative, which is being done during weekends.

As part of the local government's relocation scheme, Tamayo said the housing facilities at the relocation site will be offered free to the beneficiaries.

But he pointed out that the local government will retain the ownership of the houses and related structures at the site.

"They can live there for free but they will not own the houses. We adopted this system to prevent the beneficiaries from selling the houses later on," Tamayo said.

He said residents or beneficiaries who would violate such measure will forfeit their rights over the local government-provided housing facility.

Meantime, aside from the initial 40 beneficiaries from Barangay Crossing Rubber, Tamayo said the MDRRMC has also recommended the relocation of informal settlers who were occupying the road right of ways within the town's Poblacion area.

He said they were also studying the transfer to the relocation site of residents in other identified disaster-prone areas within the municipality.

Last week, flashfloods and landslides struck Sitios Tukay-el and Mambusong in Barangay Cebuano, Tupi, affecting some 56 families, an MDRRMC report said.

International Airport in Albay, Philippines to Rise

Despite the huge damages it suffered, the Sunwest Construction and Development Corporation (SCDC) on Sunday announced their commitment to continue and finish the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA), a Public Private Partnership Project (PPP) in Barangay Alobo, in Daraga town in Albay.

Elizaldy Co, SCDC president, said "when we accepted the contract to do the construction work of the said airport, we did the same not only as a business venture but, importantly, we want to contribute our share in uplifting the lives of our fellow Bicolanos by giving livelihood and pump priming the local economy."

Co, in a press statement, said despite the loss of 12 heavy equipment worth P100 million, the company is determined to rise again and overcome the minor setback by immediately continue and carry out the construction work of the airport.

Co said they were deeply saddened by the arbitrary burning and destruction of the company's equipment at the SLIA construction site.

The burning of the company's equipment was a major loss for the company, including the trauma and anxiety experienced by the employees who were there during the terroristic attack.

The company also bared that so far P200 million investment in the construction business were lost due to atrocities made by the NPA (New People's Army) in the Circumferential Road Project in Catnaduanes (P50 million), Bula Rinconada Road project (P50 million), Camalig road project (P10 million) and the SLIA project P100 million.

The burnt heavy equipment owned by the ALRO and RAMAR construction was estimated at P20 million.

The Southern Luzon International Airport is a P3.4 billion airport project funded by the national government located at a 400-hectare land in Barangay Alobo, in Daraga town, 10 kilometers from the city.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said some P600 million funding was already released this year to start-up civil works for the construction of concrete roads leading to the airport site.

The SLIA project is expected to be finished and be operational by 2014, Salceda said.

He said the Provincial Government of Albay and Regional Development Council believe in the commitment and the capacity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in providing security to strategic installations and infrastructure vital to the development of the Bicol Region.

The international airport is critical to the achievement of 650,000 foreign tourists in Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate by 2016.

In the short-term, with Legazpi now being served by 11 flights, it is critical to avoid the 22 percent cancellation rate in 2011 due to bad weather while the existing airport could not be fitted with ILS due to its location while sundown restriction curtails flight options.

Moreover, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Mar Roxas has approved last week the realignment of P2 billion of the unspent P8.5 billion PPP fund in 2011 to accelerate the SLIA development, he said.

Salceda said another P2 billion is expected to be budgeted in 2013 to allow the completion of the airport by end-2014. This incident will not move back the completion target date of end-2014 for the airport.

NPA rebels swooped down Friday night in a simultaneous attack on a nearby Army detachment and burned 18 heavy equipment at the construction site of SLIA at Barangay Alobo, Daraga, Albay

The communist rebels, armed with assault weapons, fired at the Army detachment manned by 12 soldiers that led to an exchange of fire that resulted to the injury of Army Private First Class (PFC) Kristian Cornal and Ryan Gapayao, both members of the Army's 2nd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Albay.

An undetermined number of communist rebels swooped down at 9:35 p.m. Friday on a 12-man Army detachment and at the same time raided the two motor pool with 18 units of heavy equipment and swiftly poured gasoline and set them on fire, Army Maj. Angelo Guzman 9th Infantry Division (ID) spokesperson said.

Army Col. Arthur Ang, commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said hot pursuit operation is being conducted to hunt down the NPA rebels belonging to the Jose Binamira Command a guerrilla front operating in Albay.

Ang, in a phone interview, said the motive of the burning of the heavy equipment by the NPA rebels was extortion, the failure of the construction firm to give in to the demands for their "revolutionary tax."

Ang said "This is a desperate move by the NPA rebels because Sunwest Corporation will never concede to their extortion demands."

Free PhilHealth Cards for Members

The provincial government on Monday provided livelihood assistance and Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) cards to small junkshop workers in the province.

Governor Lilia Pineda, together with other local officials, led the distribution of at least 84 "karitons" (carts) to further improve the source of livelihood of the beneficiaries.

"We recognized this sector, especially those small junk shop owners as they helped us in our program on solid waste management as well as in the peace and order situation in the province since they are usually in the streets," Pineda said.

The governor also told the junk shop worker-beneficiaries that they will be given free PhilHealth cards which will cover including their immediate family members.

However, Pineda reminded the beneficiaries not to buy stolen items like communication cables and metal parts of road signs.

This came as part of the continuing campaign of the provincial government to curb criminality in various municipalities.

Pampanga Police Provincial Director Edgardo Tinio, along with other ranking personnel in uniform, also attended the event held at the capitol ground here.

Tinio suggested the provision of identification cards to the beneficiaries to easily differentiate them from other individuals engaging to illegal activities.

Farewell Bienvenido Antonio Escalambre Vicente

Msgr. Bienvenido Antonio Escalambre Vicente died early Monday at a hospital here due to a lingering ailment.

He was 77.

Msgr. Vicente, who hails from Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, had served in various assignments in the Diocese of Dumaguete following his ordination to the priesthood sometime in the 1960's, a family member said.

He was ordained in Spain.

His first assignment was in Basay, the southernmost town of Negros Oriental and his last assignment was in Manalongon, Siaton prior to his retirement sometime in early 2000.

Other assignments included Kalomboyan in Bayawan, Sta. Catalina town and Bais City in Negros Oriental, Lazi in Siquijor and a brief stint at the Saint Joseph Seminary in Sibulan.

Msgr. Vicente's remains currently lie in state at the Jordan Hall of the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral compound in this city.

Road Trip from Santiago to Tuguegarao

The Dept. of Public Works and Highways 4th Engineering District based here has started road upgrading and widening of the Santiago-Tuguegarao road to ensure safety and convenience of the traveling public.

Engr. Renato Claravil, construction section chief of DPWH 4th Engineering district, said the road re-blocking and asphalt overlay aims to provide smooth and safe travel of motorists while the road widening activity aims to decongest traffic from the stretch of the national highway.

Claravil said the newly concreted road can withstand a 40-ton vehicle.

He said the agency will continue the re-blocking and asphalt overlay of roads from Cordon to San Mateo and Cordon to Alicia boundaries.

The DPWH added concreting of the San Agustin-Maddela boundary road will start next year.

Salary Increase of Philippine Workers

The Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board , in collaboration with the Dept. of Labor and Employment in Region IV-A, has started holding orientation seminars on the New Wage Order No. IV-A15 which took effect May 15.

RTWPB IV-A board secretary Robelinda dela Rosa said the orientation aims to inform employers and employees on the new wage hike expected to raise the standard of living of wage earners in Southern Tagalog.

A day before the effectivity of the new order, an orientation was held at the Sta. Rosa Premier Hotel in coordination with the association of semi-conductors and personnel administrators.

In that orientation, Dela Rosa presented the two-tier wage system under the new wage order.

The first tier, with a floor wage of P255, covers all workers and functions as a social safety net while the second tier is a productivity based pay to be determined jointly by workers and management in line with agreed productivity or performance criteria.

DOLE Calabarzon officials has instructed human resource managers and personnel administrators of various companies to set up a productivity improvement and incentives committee within three months starting May 15, 2012.

Some 117 human resource manager from 31 semi-conductor firms from Cavite, Laguna and Batangas participated in the orientation, and many of them interacted with the participants during the open forum, especially on questions raised about the new wage order.

Vegetables from Benguet, Philippines

Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan has asked local farmers to follow the recommended planting calendar to avoid over supply and lower prices on their vegetables.

He said that since last month, the situation was already experienced by farmers who have to bargain their fresh harvests at lower prices or suffer bigger losses.

Fongwan said these vegetables include cabbages, potatoes, pechay, and chayote, among others. Farm gate prices of cabbage is five pesos a kilo while potatoes are 10 pesos a kilo.

Prices of strawberries and carrots remain high due to higher demand.

"While our local farmers have some minimal losses at this period, we are likewise happy that consumers enjoy relatively lower prices but enjoy better quality of our fresh vegetables," he said.

Farm inputs like fertilizer, he said, remain high but tract farming in towns like Buguias and Atok continue to maintain the more than 2,000 tons of daily shipment of the local products to destinations like Metro Manila area.

Philippine Mayor Worried Over His Life

published by Philippine News Agency -

A former mayor here has revealed a serious threat on his life from unidentified persons whom he claimed initially paid P200,000 to still unidentified hired killers in order to assassinate him. 

Mayor Sammy Rosario, mayor here from 2004 to 2010 but now staying more often in Manila, said in a press conference here Sunday that unidentified persons have been stalking him in his house in Makati City and wherever he goes, apparently waiting for the right opportunity to deliver the final blow.

An engineer and contractor in Manila, Rosario said at first he ignored the threat but he had this confirmed through confidential agents who gathered from sources that the threat on his life is for real. His source said the unidentified mastermind had in fact made initial payment to the hired killers.

Rosario, who is close to Vice President Jejomar Binay, admitted he has tightened his security to prevent the hired killers from carrying out the plot.

"In fact the hired killers' plan is to duplicate the killings on the Arcinues of Lingayen that happened in front of their rented apartment on Maceda Street in Sampaloc, Manila in March," he said.

The killings of the Arcinue couple (Ramon and Zorahayda, former vice mayor and incumbent barangay captain in Lingayen, respectively) remain unsolved even as the couple's eldest son, Carl Jonathan Arcinue, continues to appeal on radio in Pangasinan for the apprehension of the killers and the mastermind.

Rosario admitted, however, that the threat is actually not new to him because he was already mayor when he became the target of assassination attempt though at that time, his security was tight as he was still at the helm.

Reading a press statement before the media with his lawyer Armenio Escat beside him, Rosario said he cannot ignore the threat as he values his life and that of his family, thus he doubled his security here in Pangasinan as well as in Manila.

"I cannot imagine that these people learned where we are living in Manila, the plate numbers of our vehicles and the places where I am frequenting, that was why I am taking all the necessary precautions," he said.

He said the threat may not have stemmed from his business in Manila as he has no business rival that is why he attributes it more to local politics in Pangasinan as he is determined to go back to his old post as mayor of Binmaley which he held for six years.

Power Crisis in Catanduanes, Philippines

By Danny O. Calleja

Catanduanes has turned to the government's power agencies for immediate interventions as crisis hits the supply of electricity in the province

"We are experiencing paralysis of our economic activities under this severe situation of power shortage that is hitting the province with six to eight hours brownouts. We need immediate interventions from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Power Corp. to avert it," Gov. Joseph Cua said last weekend.

In a statement, Cua said that in behalf of the province's 35,000 energy consumers, he is bringing the matter personally to DOE Sec. Rene Almendras and NPC president Froilan Tampinco.

It was very unfortunate that the problem broke out three days after the visit to the island province of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III early this month to lead the ceremonial switching-on ceremony of the two mini-hydroelectric power plants built and operated by the Sunwest Water and Electric Company, a private industrial developer based in this city.

During his May 2 visit, the President also inaugurated the multi-million-peso Doppler radar weather monitoring facilities installed by Japanese engineers in Bato, Catanduanes.

The two new power plants backed up by another hydropower facility owned by the NPC have a total rated capacity of 5.4 megawatts or 80 percent of the province's electricity requirement.

Low water levels in its reservoirs however have reportedly reduced its capabilities to only two MWs during peak hours and one MW during off-peak hours.

The situation was aggravated by the breakdown of the bunker-fuel generator set of the Catanduanes Power Generation, Inc. (CPGI) allegedly caused by a defective fuel purifier.

CPGI, an independent power producer is under contract with the First Catanduanes Electric cooperative (Ficelco) for the supply of 3.6-megawatt to the province's power grid.

Owing to these debacles, the entire island of Catanduanes is now experiencing six to eight hours daily brownouts that started last May 4.

The CPGI has ceased operations while invoking that it cannot be held liable over the damages caused by power outages for reasons beyond its control.

Cua said he is seeking the intervention of Sec. Almendras for the immediate provision of three generators sets with a combined capacity of 4.5 megawatts that could be operated in place of the CPGI's power plant.

Cua said: "The generators I am asking for are those that were originally included in the 2012 budget for the NPC's Small Power Utilities Group in Catanduanes.

"But (they) were deferred with the inclusion of the province with the areas placed under the Private Sector Participation program for power generation.

"The inclusion phases out the existing NPC local operations in favor of new private providers."

It was found out that even with the presence of private hydropower facilities, the province still needs those generator sets of the NPC to serve as back up electricity suppliers under the same situation besetting it, he said.

"We cannot afford further power outages particularly now that the province is at the height of economic activities that are seen to improve the living conditions of the people of the island. Our trade and commerce, tourism and agricultural industries are booming but it will certainly go home to square one once this power crisis situation is not remedied at once," he stressed.

Perhaps, NPC Pres. Tampinco could reconsider the provision of the three 1.25-MWgensets for the province in a long-term basis "as we now consider these facilities as the power supplier of last resort given the incompetence of the CPGI to provide stable power", Cua added.

The restoration of the budget for the aborted acquisition of these gensets were among the issues discussed among the Department of Budget Management, NPC and Cua with Pres. Aquino during the recent presidential visit.

College Students Applying for Scholarships in Philippines

Some 4,000 incoming college students applying for scholarships this school year from the local government of Albay would not be granted the college educational opportunity.

This, after provincial officials suspended temporarily the scholarship grant because of the cut in its Internal Revenue Allotment this year.

Arnold Embestro, Provincial Board member and Education Committee chairman, said with a P45-million fund cut in IRA the Sangguniang Panlalawigan decided to suspend temporarily the scholarship program under the Albay Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

Embestro, however, said the suspension would only be for two years, as soon as sufficient funds for the program are available scholarship grant would be restored.

He explained that for every school year, the province is accommodating some 4,000 qualified college students to be enrolled in any state college and university, community colleges and private schools in the province.

He said the province is spending at least P40 million a year to finance the new entrants to this kind of educational grant, so with the P45 million IRA cut other projects would be put on hold.

Embestro, in an interview, said the IRA cut indeed affected the new and on-going projects lined up for implementation, after intense deliberation "we deemed it right to suspend it."

Under the AHECS, Albay provincial government is spending at least P164 million to finance the college education of 16,400 students currently enrolled this school year.

AHECS seeks to produce one college graduate per family in the province. A student who qualifies would receive P5,000 in tuition per semester.

The program is entering its third year. Gov. Joey Salceda said the province borrowed P150 million from the Land Bank to partly finance the program. The loan carries an interest rate of 8 percent per annum and is payable in 12 years.

Trip from Butuan-Cagayan-Iligan Road

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is accelerating the upgrading of the damaged Butuan-Cagayan-Iligan national road network linking the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Lanao del Norte and Misamis Oriental.

In a statement, DPWH Region 10 Director Norma Gironella said the ongoing works at the Butuan-Cagayan-Iligan Road (BCIR) Gitagum Section, costing P107.3 million, focuses on the upgrading of the deteriorated Portland Cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP) about 8.212 kilometers long and 10 centimeters thick identified by the Pavement Management System/Highway Development and Management-4 (HDM-4).

Gironella said pavement markings are also included in the specification of works.

Gironella said DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson has directed the contractor, the Vicente Lao Construction, to fast track the project because it is part of DPWH's program to realize President Benigno S. Aquino III's goal of sustained economic growth and poverty reduction by upgrading, improving and rehabilitating the Philippine road network and make these national roads 100 percent paved by 2016.

"We are optimistic that upon completion of this road project, which is part of the main thoroughfare of Northern Mindanao, a safer, faster and more comfortable travel will be felt by motorists, commuters and the travelling public from the east going to the west of Mindanao and vice versa," Gironella said in a statement.

Ex-OFW Arrested for Drugs

Operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) have arrested a former Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and three others in a buy-bust operation in an east coast village of this city, a top PDEA official disclosed.

PDEA Regional Director Adzhar Albani said the suspects were arrested around 8 p.m. Thursday in Barangay Culianan, 13 kilometers east of this city.

Albani identified the suspects as Joseph Toribio, 35, a former OFW, habal-habal driver Mark Araneta, 26, and mechanics Jobert Macatio, 21 and Christian Toribio, 23.

Albani said the suspects were arrested after they handed over a heat-sealed plastic sachet of suspected shabu to a PDEA undercover agent in exchange for P500.

The buy-bust operation was carried out following two weeks of surveillance on the activities of the suspects.

Cavite Agriculture Forum

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala last weekend led the launch of the province-wide stakeholders forum in Cavite.

The forum is aimed at enhancing the socio-economic status of less fortunate residents in Cavite.

Gov. Junvic Remulla said Alcala's visit coincided with the nationwide observance of May as "Farmers and Fisherfolk's Month" themed "Sapat na Pagkain, Sama-sama nating Kamtin!"

Remulla said the event, at the provincial gymnasium on May 18, was attended by more than 1,000 farmers, fisherfolk, livestock raisers, municipal and city agriculturists, agricultural officers, agricultural technicians, and other stakeholders.

He said the forum gave Secretary Alcala the chance to visit diverse agricultural projects in the province and know personally the different issues and concerns of the agricultural stakeholders.

Remulla said before the forum, Secretary Alcala visited the Dairy Processing Center and Pig City (JE Farm) in General Trias and the Upland Green Farm and Café Amadeo in the Municipality of Amadeo, dubbed as the top coffee producing town of the Philippines.

The provincial governor said he and Alcala discussed lengthily issues and concerns in agriculture, and the DA chief vowed to strengthen the agricultural programs and services in the province.

SME Philippines

The provincial government has allotted this year P70 million aimed at providing and increasing the income of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SME) in the province.

Carlito Tumaliuan, provincial cooperatives officer, said the provincial government through the leadership of Governor Faustino G. Dy III has increased this year the program allotment to further help the SMEs in the province.

Last year, the provincial government allotted P30 million for the program.

Tumaluian said the provincial government through the provincial cooperatives officer is lending an interest-free P3,000 each to applicants of the livelihood loan assistance program.

Tumaliuan said the livelihood loan assistance is for those aiming to put up a small business or additional capital of small entrepreneurs.

Invest in Davao City, Philippines

Majority of migrants in Davao City are interested to invest their remittances in business.

Maria Angela Villalba, executive director of non-government organization Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, said a research conducted on migrants of Davao City showed that 82 percent of migrants in Davao City are willing to invest a maximum of P5 million and a minimum of P10,000, and a typical (median and mode) investment of P100,000 in business.

Nevertheless, she said result of the study showed that only 29 percent of the migrants invested part of the savings. Most of those who are into business have invested in farming, others in agri-business and micro enterprises and lending activities while some gained reasonable profits, others reported a failure or poor performances of their businesses.

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Villalba said there are about 32,196 migrants in Davao City. This is equivalent to a monthly flow of about P321.9 million into Davao City in remittances and P3.86 billion remittances annually. The five top destinations of Davao City migrants are: Japan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; United Arab Emirates, and USA.

She said the research was aimed at providing some indicators to help migrants take stock of their remittances and make financial decisions. It is also aimed at determining their capacity to invest, and at the same time serves as a guide to the city government and other public, private and non-government organization sectors in helping migrants to engage in entrepreneurship.

The migrants also came up with some business-related recommendations, among others, provide business opportunities for OFWs to encourage migrants to invest in the city, establish Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) business associations, fast and easy processing of business permits, improve political and business climate.

Villalba said the study served as a benchmarking for other localities to do similar research in the future.

She said the foundation finds it significant to be aware of the bright side of a migrant's life like their huge remittances and their capability to become investors rather than merely focus on the dark side like the many abuses, which most migrants encounter in their respective areas of deployment.

On the other hand, Villalba said the same study showed that about 53 percent had no experience in business.

She said reasons for the failure and poor performance include inability to collect debts, lack of trustworthy managers and staff, lack of capital, and lack of experience, the study showed.