Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Panama wilt attacks Davao farms

By Aurelio A. Pena

"Panama wilt," a plant disease which has been devastating farms in Davao Region during the last few years, has remained as the "biggest threat" to the country's banana industry.

Also known to agri-researchers as "frusarium", this plant disease turns leaves of banana plants from green to yellow, then to brown and black, killing the whole plant.

Rene Dalayon, president of the Mindanao Banana Growers and Exporters Association (MBGEA) said "if nothing is done to fight this plant disease, the entire Philippine banana industry will be wiped out in five to ten years."

"Many banana plantations have already been abandoned by our farmers and growers. There's no way we can control this disease. All we do is just to quarantine the affected areas to keep the disease from spreading to other plantations," Dalayon said.

The MBGEA president, who also heads the banana industry cluster as its chairman, urged all regional directors of government agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)"to see for themselves what's really happening to the banana industry" here in the Davao Region.

"It's much better if all the regional directors can see with their own eyes the extensive damage done by this plant disease in the region," Dalayon said during a meeting with consultants of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at DTI regional office here.

Dalayon, along with members of the banana industry cluster, submitted a proposal for its own research project to find ways to fight and control Panama wilt in the banana plantations run by small growers and farmers in the Davao region.

The research proposal was submitted as part of the second phase of the Davao Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project or DICCEP-2, a joint project of JICA and DTI supported by government agencies, academe, local government agencies and private sector.

A complete research proposal was presented formally to JICA and DTI by Dr. Geronima Estimada, a plant scientist from the agro-research school Southern Philippines Agri-Business, Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST) in Davao del Sur.

Planting and growing falcatta trees still generates a lot of income

By Aurelio A. Pena

Planting and growing falcatta trees still generates a lot of income for many tree farmers in the Davao Region.

This was made clear by the forest division chief Alfredo Zarasate of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to consultants of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) during a recent workshop of the National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (NICCEP), a joint project of JICA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Zarasate, who also sits as chairman of the wood industry cluster, said the demand for falcatta has remained strong among factories in Mindanao that uses this soft wood specie in the manufacture of plywood and paper.

"There's still a big demand for falcatta and tree farmers are still planting and expanding their tree plantations to meet this demand from wood manufacturing plants in Mindanao," Zarasate told JICA consultants.

The wood cluster chairman cited manufacturing firms like Alcantara and Sons which is still buying big volumes of falcatta from tree farmers for its plywood production.

Zarasate also cited the banana industry which is urging tree farmers to grow more falcatta for its huge demand for banana poles in the banana plantations.

According to Zarasate, the region is running out of supply of naturally-grown wood trees which might not last in the years ahead. This tight supply is moving DENR to encourage more tree plantations in the Davao region with private firms investing in tree plantations.

"We like to see more tree plantations run by the private sector to meet the increasing demand for more wood by various industries," Zarasate said.

In the National Greening Program of the government, the DENR is determined to see more planting programs for indigenous species like molave, lawaan, narra and acacia, Zarasate said.

"These are the natural species we like to propagate in this national tree program as part of our efforts on reforestation" he said.

Tree farmers, on the other hand, have began losing interest in the planting of Gmelina trees due to its low market demand in the wood industry, but in the near future this demand is still expected to recover depending on the market conditions in the Davao Region, Zarasate said.

Police Senior Inspector Marcelito Garcia Shot Dead

A former police chief in coastal Palanan town and now head of the police rescue team died at about 10:45 a.m.Monday after he was attacked by armed men in a pre-christening celebration in Barangay San Lorenzo, Iguig, Cagayan on October 3.

Police Senior Supt. Franklin Moises Mabanag, Isabela police director, said the fatality, Police Senior Inspector Marcelito Garcia, Search and Rescue Team leader of the 2nd Maneuver Platoon of the Isabela Provincial Public Safety Company died while being treated at the St. Paul Hospital in this city.

Mabanag said Garcia had an early celebration with friends for a supposed christening of his child on October 3 but an unidentified armed gunman shot him and hurriedly left with a motorcycle.

Violator of Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002

By Alfredo L. Vargas Jr.

Barely nine months after an acquittal for charges of violations of the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, a suspected drug pusher was arrested again by PDEA operatives while in the act of selling methamphetamine hydrochloride (Shabu) in an urban village here.

Arrested was Joven Barcelon, a resident of Barangay Binanuahan, this city, in a buy bust operation jointly conducted by PDEA and the city police.

PDEA Bicol director Archie A Grande said that prior to the entrapment, a series of test buy fielding different poseur buyers were done, which resulted to confirmation of the suspect's involvement in illegal drug sale in the barangay and other contiguous villages.

A PDEA team led by Agent Jonathan Ivan Revilla and another team from the city police led by Senior Inspector Steve Dela Rosa baited Barcelon with a female operative acting as poseur buyer and arrested the suspect while in the act of receiving the marked P500 peso bill as payment for a plastic sachet containing suspected shabu.

Barcelon was charged in 2009 for similar offense but was acquitted by the court in January this year.

Former Governor Runs Provincial Board Member

Former Compostela Valley Governor Jose Caballero filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) as independent candidate for provincial board member of district 2 late Friday afternoon.

His COC was filed by his lawyer Roland Tusay.

Caballero said he is running for the post in next year's election since he is a lawyer.

"I can do a lot to serve and infuse ideas for good provincial leadership, for good governance and for public service. I can humble myself for the sake of public service. It is not the position that is important but public service," he said.

Caballero was the first elected governor of Compostela Valley after its creation in 1998 from mother province of Davao del Norte. He held the governor's post for three terms ending in 2007.

The former governor has his daughter Kris Caballero, a first-termer board member in the same district, running for reelection under the Liberal Party led by current second-termer Governor Arturo Uy.

Uy is unopposed in next year's polls for his last term and has as runningmate for vice governor ex-Congressman Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora, who is opposed by independent candidate Franco Tito, erstwhile famed ex-barangay captain of Mt. Diwalwal.

On the other hand, controversial former police superintendent Cesar Mancao II is running for board member in the province's first district. He ran for congressman in the same district in 2010 polls but lost to first-termer Congresswoman Maricar Zamora, who this time around has no opponent in her reelection bid in the 2013 polls.

Mancao was questioned by Sen. Panfilo Lacson as a government witness in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case. The Department of Justice tried to transfer Mancao's custody from the department's Witness Protection Program (WPP) to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Earlier, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that because of the Supreme Court's affirmation of a Court of Appeals ruling that Mancao was an unreliable witness and the Manila Regional Trial Court's decision to deny Mancao's motion to be discharged as co-accused and to turn witness, there was no basis anymore to have him covered by the WPP. Discharging Mancao as a state witness would make him one of the accused, a legal scenario that is yet being challenged by Mancao's lawyers.

DSWD Fights Malnutrition and Poverty

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Davao gave this city over P5 million for its continued drive against malnutrition and poverty.

City Councilor De Carlo Uy said the DSWD gave a total of P5,499,710.40 to fund its various nutrition programs for the city's 23 barangays.

Uy, chairperson of the city council budget committee, said the fund is intended for programs on nutrition, especially among pre-schoolers in the city's 84 day care centers.

Mayor Rey Uy said the fund is a boost to the city's drive at eradicating malnutrition and hunger as well as helping increase the learning abilities of pre-schoolers by providing them nutritious food during feeding programs.

Seal of Good Housekeeping in Iloilo

Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Regional Dir. Evelyn Trompeta unveiled on Monday the Seal of Good Housekeeping at the lobby of the capitol that it won in 2011.

Speaking during the unveiling ceremonies, Dir. Trompeta congratulated Gov. Defensor and other local officials and employees of the Iloilo provincial government for exercising transparency and accountability that earned its award.

"All the procurement processes must be in compliance with the law," Trompeta explained adding that to ensure compliance with the full disclosure policy the DILG requires posting of 14 documents in conspicuous places or on the website of the LGU to show how much is the budget of the province and where it goes.

Along with the marker, the DILG is giving the province P7 million as its financial reward.

Defensor said the award money will be used to finance road improvements.

Election Fever in the Philippines

City mayor Mauricio G. Domogan Monday asked local officials at the Cordilleras to concentrate on their duties and responsibilities despite the prevailing "election fever."

Domogan said he observed that after the five-day filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) which ended on Friday, many incumbent officials are now more occupied in their bids to be elected on May 2013.

"Let us be focused in our respective responsibilities and duties especially with the delivery of basic services to our constituents," Domogan exhorted them.

Rotavirus a leading cause of diarrhea

Rotavirus a leading cause of diarrhea continued the second killer of infants in the country prompting health authorities to include rotavirus vaccination as part of the Department of Health (DOH) Expanded Program of Immunization(EPI).

DOH records showed that at least 13 children under five years old die every day due to diarrhea, while every minute, 1 child dies of diarrhea worldwide.

This accounted to at least 12 percent of deaths among children under five in the country.

Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of ROTAPHIL, a leading anti-Rotavirus advocacy group, said at a media launch over the weekend that a public-private partnership with the DOH was initiated to curb the rising incident of the disease.

Bravo said the DOH has confirmed that the Philippines is the first country in Southeast Asia to include a Rotavirus vaccination program in the EPI.

The program aims to vaccinate 700,000 newborns from the 5.2 million families identified as "poorest of the poor" by the Department of social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under its National Household Targeting System (NHTS).

The DOH has earmarked P600 million for the procurement of vaccines.

The DOH and Rotaphil is looking forward for further partnership with various provincial, city and municipal health officers across Bicol to support the public information drive.

Bravo believed that with the cooperation of health workers and the public the campaign would move towards a zero death due to rotavirus.

Belen Fernandez vs Benjamin Lim in Dagupan City

The City Election Office here has confirmed that the mayorship of Dagupan is now a one-on-one fight after the namesake of Vice Mayor Belen Tan Fernandez, the official candidate of the Liberal Party (LP) in the city, has voluntarily withdrawn from the race last Saturday.

City Elections Officer lawyer Remarque Ravanzo accepted the affidavit of Belen Tamondong Fernandez, 66, a widow, at 3:20 p.m. Saturday, stating her reasons for withdrawal in her candidacy for mayor.

Thus, the mayoralty fight here is now narrowed down between Vice Mayor Belen Fernandez of the LP and reelectionist Mayor Benjamin Lim of the Nacionalista Party.

In her affidavit subscribed and sworn before lawyer Victoria Cabrera, the widow manifested that she had no genuine desire to run for any elective office and neither has she any capacity to sustain her candidacy.

She admitted further that she was convinced by influential people who she can not refuse to file her COC for mayor.

Ravanzo said she immediately submitted the affidavit of withdrawal of Belen Tamondong Fernandez to the Comelec Law Department in Manila and the Comelec provincial and regional offices for their information.

Belen Tamondong Fernandez, who belongs to a poor family in Barangay Bonuan Gueset and is engaged in buy and sell whenever she has capital, admitted she was fetched by certain people, one of them a former village councilor, in the morning of Oct. 5 because a ranking city official wanted to see her.

Belen Tamondong Fernandez is a frail woman and looked sickly in contrast with the vice mayor of Dagupan who is a tall woman and has a large body frame.

However, the fact that the two Fernandezes have the same given name, middle initial and surname will surely confuse voters during the election.

After learning that her namesake was made to sign a prepared COC without even knowing what is it in the house of a city official, Vice Mayor Fernandez said she pities the woman who she said was only misguided.

Corollary to this, Vice Mayor Fernandez and her runningmate Michael Fernandez appealed to their opponents to campaign within the bounds of law and not resort to dirty tactics that may muddle the conduct of honest, fair and peaceful elections.

In an interview, the vice mayor lamented that this cunning maneuver directed against her was made just at the filing of COCs, an indication that her opponents will stop at nothing in order to put down her.

Vice Mayor Fernandez hugged the teary-eyed Belen Tamondong Fernandez after the latter realized her mistake and withdrew her candidacy, saying the woman was just a victim of a plan to deceive the people of the city .

Meanwhile, former councilor Michael Fernandez, who is running for city vice mayor, said the Liberal Party which they belong believe in fair play and expects their opponents to do the same.

At the same time, lawyer Jose Netu Tamayo, a candidate for councilor under the Fernandez-Fernandez tandem sees malice in some people who induced the old woman to run for mayor.

Vote for Pampanga Governor

A three- cornered fight looms in the gubernatorial race in the province.

Incumbent Governor Lilia G. Pineda is being challenged by former de-facto Governor Eddie Panlilio, a priest-turned-politician and Jose Cabrera Montemayor, Jr, a doctor and attorney by profession.

The two aspirants that will slug it out with Pineda, are both members of the ruling Liberal Party.

Montemayor, in his resume, claimed that he is the district chair of LP in the second district while Panlilio is the provincial chair of the same party.

Pineda said that it is good that the Kapampangans have their choices for the highest position in the province.

At the end of the day, Pineda said, it is the people who will decide on who they want to serve as governor of the province.

"If their platforms of government and programs are better than what we have done for the Kapampangans, why not choose them? After all, the voice and will of the people will prevail in the election."

Philippine Post Office Offers Banking Services

Our friendly neighborhood "karteros"(postman)may soon turn into "bankers" as banking services will soon be added to its mail delivery operations.

Philippine Postal Corporation Chairman Cesar N.Sarino, in an interview with the Bohol media on Monday said that by next January, post offices nationwide will serve the banking needs of municipalities even as reforms are now set in place to regain the trust and confidence of the people in the postal system.

Sarino, concurrent president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank, Inc. said "By next week, will be submitting to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas all the documents for the approval of this ambitious plan."

Post offices will serve as extension banks of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank and will initially accept deposits and extend withdrawal services, according to Sarino.

"After three to four years all the 1,800 post offices will serve as bank extensions", a confident Sarino said.With 32 percent of municipalities that have no access to basic banking services, Sarino's bold program to convert existing postal offices into extension banks would provide banking facilities at relatively lower costs.

The plan to convert post offices performing quasi banking services will help boost local economies that are in dire need of the services of banks.

Sarino also bared an aggressive program to cash in on the more than P22 billion foreign remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers(OFWs)using the facilities of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank.

Fighting to remain relevant amidst the onslaught of newer modes of mail delivery, PhilPost has embarked on a slew of programs to stay competitive not only domestically but worldwide.

With only a year at the helm of the Philippine Postal Corporation and the Philippine Postal Savings Bank, Sarino grudgingly admitted that the poor quality of the postal service has eroded the trust and confidence of the public.

Sarino vowed to strictly implement the "zero pilferage" program under his watch while the fast and efficient delivery of mail is now under the watchful eyes of a private company hired to monitor and fast track every movement of mail from the post office to the recipient.

2013 Elections: Nuisance Candidates in Philippines

Negros Oriental provincial election supervisor Atty. Eddie Aba is calling on all candidates seeking elective positions in the May 2013 polls to file early their petition for disqualification of a candidate to relieve the work load of the Law Department of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Atty. Aba issued his appeal Saturday, a day after the Comelec ended its five-day filing period for certificates of candidacy for persons wanting to run in next year's elections.

According to Atty. Aba, a petition to have a particular candidate declared as "nuisance" and have his or her name struck out of the official list of candidates and the official ballot is a tedious process that requires ample time for the law department of the poll body to act on.

Filing the petition for disqualification of a candidate earlier would avoid the risk of having this particular candidate's name printed on the official ballot even if the Comelec ruled in favor of the petitioner much later after the ballots have been printed, Aba pointed out.

The National Printing Office will be printing the official ballots in February 2013, Aba said.

In 2010, Rep. George Arnaiz filed a disqualification case against rival candidate Raul Aniñon, seeking to strike his name out of the official ballot. Arnaiz expressed frustration that even if he had filed his petition early, the Comelec central office released its decision much later, after the official ballots had already been printed.

Arnaiz, who is seeking re-election in 2013 for his 3rd term in Congress, announced last week after filing his COC that he is no longer interested in filing a disqualification case against Aniñon, who is also contesting the same position.

Atty. Aba explained that in the filing of a disqualification case against a particular candidate for whatever reason, the poll body's Law Department will have to scrutinize the petition and determine the legal grounds for disqualification.

He believes the Law Department of the Comelec will be saddled with similar petitions in the coming months prior to the May 2013 mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, the deadline for the substitution of candidates with respect to withdrawal of candidacies has been set on December 21.

Mephentermine is used in maintaining blood pressure

By Bingo P. Dejaresco III

Shabu users have apparently found a substitute for shabu without the risk of apprehension and drug abuse charges--the latest challenge of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The PDEA-national office recently sent a memorandum to its regional offices warning of the abuse of mephentermine "which is a stimulant that has similar effects and characteristics with that of shabu", based on the account of the chemist from their Laboratory Service.

PDEA only learned of the abuse and the resulting addiction to mephentermine after a police operation in Metro Manila which resulted in the arrest of two suspected drug personalities.

The court dismissed the charges against them, since mephentermine is not classified among the prohibited, dangerous, illegal, or regulated drugs under Republic Act 9165.

What makes the job difficult for PDEA is its availability to anyone over-the-counter.

Mephentermine is used in maintaining blood pressure in cases of hypotension. But PDEA learned recently that some of the known shabu users had shifted to its use, although its effect is lesser than that of the amphetamine.

PDEA fears that its use might lead to dependence similar to amphetamine addiction.

With this, PDEA ranking officials plan to lobby before the Dangerous Drugs Board to include mephentermine in the list of regulated drugs.

Meanwhile, PDEA regional directors are getting the names of those who purchased the drug and will trace if anyone of them exceeded the recommended dosage.

Then PDEA will subject those who exceeded the recommended dosage to surveillance.

Meanwhile, Governor Edgar Chatto expressed disappointment in the absenteeism of PDEA-Bohol representatives in recent monthly meetings of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC).

He called on the regional director of PDEA-7 to make his Bohol staff explain to PPOC their consecutive absences in the monthly meetings at the height of the alarming illegal drugs problem in the province.

Lack of personnel could no longer be accepted as a reason since the PDEA regional director already announced the deployment of three additional personnel here.

For his part, Police Provincial Director Constantino Barot Jr. said the Bohol Police Provincial Office (BPPO) is constantly coordinating with PDEA, as the lead agency in solving the illegal drugs problem.

Barot admitted that they are having a hard time, although the police have a high accomplishment record in the anti-illegal drugs campaign because personalities involved in illegal drugs are penetrating through less familiar entry points such as the islands.

On this, Barot called on PDEA to expand intensive operate to the islands, not only in the town of Carlos P. Garcia, but also in the island barangays in Buenavista and Inabanga where intelligence reports revealed that illegal drugs trade remains rampant.


The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) said that there are more job opportunities for graduates of technical-vocational courses.

TESDA director general Secretary Joel Villanueva said that businesses are stepping up their hiring, offering jobs that match the required skills and expanding opportunities to graduates of various skills.

"Our battle cry in TESDA is 'You have a Choice.' Even without going to college, tech-vocational that is quality and relevant will pave the way for job opportunities," Villanueva told some 3,000 Pampanga youth, who recently finished their technical vocational courses.

Majority of the graduates were recipients of TESDA scholarships under the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) and in partnership with technical vocational institutions led by the Pampanga Federation of Technical Institutions (PAFTI).

Jobs are up for grabs, especially for tech-voc graduates who have acquired the skills through the course they have chosen, he said.

The TESDA chief particularly cited the internet-based recruitment companies wherein JobOpenings.ph has posted a total of 16,966 job vacancies; PhilJobNET has a demand of 123,238 jobs; JobsDB needs at least 82,500 workers; and JobStreet has a demand of 70,420 jobs.

Various manufacturing and construction firms are also on the lookout for workers that would match their skills needs, he said.

Villanueva said the TESDA can boast of pool of graduates who have been successful in their career or in their business endeavor after graduation.

"We bask in the positive stories of TESDA graduates, we hope they are inspiring enough. But we work harder knowing that more needs to be done to bring before every graduates the right job and the financial security that some felt was slipping away from them for too long," he said.

He also said that TESDA would continue to offer scholarships to deserving students.

To date, there are 434,676 TWSP beneficiaries, and 75,738 beneficiaries of the Private Education Student Financial Assistance (PESFA).

Cases of Child Labor

Cases of child labor have persisted in the last several months in small-scale mining areas in T'boli town in South Cotabato despite a ban imposed by the local government on the employment of children or minors in mining activities in the area.

Chona Mantilla, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Region 12 director, said Monday they uncovered during a recent assessment of the mining activities at the gold rush village of Kematu in T'boli that a number of mining operators in the area have continued to employ minors for their operations.

She said the current pool of child laborers reportedly come from areas outside of Barangay Kematu, which passed a resolution and an ordinance last May that sets the elimination and prohibition of the deployment of minors and under age children within the village's mining sites.

The measure, which was endorsed by the local government of T'boli, called for the full enforcement of such prohibition in the area.

"They (mining operators) resorted to hiring transient and visiting child workers or laborers from neighboring villages because of the ban," Mantilla.

The Barangay Council of Kematu earlier passed the measure to put an end to the long-time practice of local mining financiers and operators of illegally employing minors for their operations.

Barangay Kematu was earlier identified by DOLE central office as among the eight villages in Region 12 that were considered as "child labor areas."

The other areas were Barangays Malire of Antipas, Cadungon and Saguing of Makilala, Presbitero of Pinagkawayan, all in North Cotabato as well as Barangays Lagao, San Isidro and City Heights in this city.

The Provincial Council for the Protection of Children (PCPC) of South Cotabato had documented 64 minors who were recruited and employed by mining operators in Kematu.

The council, which is backed by DOLE and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), said the child laborers in the area worked as "abanteros," packers and haulers in small-scale mining projects.

A number of minors reportedly worked in "banlas" or sluice mining operations, a method deemed illegal by the provincial government due to its destructive effect on the environment.

To address the renewed child labor cases in the area, Mantilla said they are set to expand their ongoing advocacy campaigns against child labor in the area.

She said they would also engage with local authorities and stakeholders to push for the strict enforcement of the ban among local mining operators.

Mantilla said that as part of their advocacy campaign, the agency has partnered with local government units and the private sector to provide livelihood assistance to parents of the child laborers.

"We will engage with the parents of these child laborers since it's their primary responsibility to take care of their children and make sure that they are in school instead of working in these dangerous conditions," she said.

Mantilla said their advocacy drive would also focus on addressing the cultural aspect of the problem, specifically the tradition of going into early marriages of the T'boli tribal folks.

NSO population and housing data of various localities

The National Statistics Office in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region has stepped up the verification of the population and housing data of various localities in the region in a bid to address possible discrepancies.

Lawyer Maqtahar Manulon, NSO Region 12 director, said they are currently conducting spot checking and physical inspections in several parts of the region to specifically verify anew and establish the accuracy of the 2010 Census of Population and Housing results in the area.

"We're doing this to come up with the most accurate and reliable data for the region," he said in a press conference in Koronadal City.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Manulon said that aside from physical verification, they were also verifying the count through the use of computer application Google Earth.

Google Earth is a popular virtual globe, map and geographical information program that maps the Earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and geographic information system or GIS three-dimensional globe.

The official said the agency has opened its communication lines to individuals or groups that may want to report any discrepancy or irregularity regarding the population count.

He said concerned parties may call up their offices regarding problems with the count and they will immediately verify or act on them.

"This is a priority endeavor and rest assured that NSO will address all population count problems with dispatch," said Manulon, who also heads the Regional Development Council-12's Regional Statistical Coordinating Committee.

In the event they find some discrepancies with a locality's statistical data, he said the agency will immediately work for their reversal and proper correction.

The official cited the case of a congressional district in Luzon wherein a local court ruled its dissolution due to discrepancies with its population data that eventually made it ineligible based on the minimum population requirement.

He said such ruling, which was mainly influenced by the NSO's findings, was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

"It is important to correct the statistical discrepancies since they would only create problems later on in terms of the delivery of services to an affected area or locality as what we've experienced in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) area," he said.

Manulon said that due to "bogus" statistical findings, the accomplishment of targets of some government programs in parts of the ARMM was earlier hampered.

Important historical landmarks in Iloilo

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has allocated P20 million to rescue and rehabilitate Sta. Barbara church and convent, one of the important historical landmarks in Iloilo.

The rehabilitation was aimed at preserving the place as one of the country's national landmarks after playing an important role during the 1898 Philippine Revolution.

NHCP chairman Maria Serena Diokno disclosed that the Department of Budget and Management has allotted P20 milion for the Phase 1 of the rehabilitation that will commence next year. She added that the actual budget allotted for the initiative in 2013 was P50 million.

Diokno, who was here last week to personally inspect the site said that the other P 30 million for the Phase II project, which is for the rehabilitation of the convent, will be included in the 2014 budget.

Diokno added that she looked forward to a fund augmentation from Ilonggo Sen. Franklin Drilon through the help of the Iloilo Provincial Government.

The NHCP chairman said if the senator through the help of Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. could provide the additional budget, she hopes for the early restoration of the project before 2015 Independence Day celebration in Sta. Barbara. President Benigno Aquino III was scheduled to visit and attend the celebration that will be held for the first time outside of Luzon.

Meanwhile, Defensor governor said that he will try his best to convince the senator to allocate additional budget for the said project.

Aside from Sta. Barbara, Diokno also inspected several sites in Iloilo particularly the old capitol building which is currently under restoration and Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) which is being eyed to be converted into a regional museum. The lady chairman appreciated the effort of the provincial government for preserving the historic sites in the province.

Is Iloilo Safe?

It is fun to visit and invest in Iloilo City these days after it earned the reputation as the safest area in Western Visayas region.

The image of the city being where both residents and visitors will feel protected is based on the Philippine National Police (PNP)latest report of crime volume, incidence and solution efficiency rate from the second quarter of 2011 up to the present.

The report showed that Iloilo City, a highly urbanized city and regional center of Western Visayas, emerged as the safest area in the region.

NEDA assistant regional Raul Anlocotan, in his report on the regional economic situationer to the local media, said the crime situation in Iloilo City has gone down tremendously and lauded efforts of City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and the Iloilo City police office headed by S/Supt. Marietto Valerio in providing a safe and secured atmosphere free from celebrated and heinous crimes during the period.

The round-table discussion with the local media and information officers of government agencies on Monday is expected to enhance awareness and understanding of media personnel and government information officers about the basic statistical terms used by the government.

The PNP report showed that crime volume in Iloilo City has gone down from 421 in the second quarter of 2011 to 262 in the second quarter of 2012 thereby posting a 37.76 percent drop.

Compared to Bacolod City, the other highly urbanized city in Region 6, the Negros Occidental city posted 533 crime volumes in the second quarter of 2011 and 605 crimes in the second quarter of 2012 by posting a 13.50 percent change.

As to the crime incidence rate, Iloilo City posted a significant decline from 31.97 to 19.89 percent in the same period with a 37.78 percent cut as compared to Bacolod with 31.50 to 35.76 and posting an increase of 13.52 percent change in the same period.

Crime solution efficiency also posted an increase from 46.08 to 62.97 percent by posting 36.64 percent change in the same period. Bacolod City posted a negative 65.41 percent change from 66.41 percent to only 22.97 percent during the same period.

Campaign against illegal firearms and ammunition

Police operatives scored big in its campaign against illegal firearms and ammunition in the province.

The Sta. Ignacia police confiscated guns and ammunition in the house of Jan Domingo, 26, a resident of Barangay Pila-Pila here over the weekend.

Seized were two .22 caliber rifles, one magazine assembly for M-14 rifle, four pieces of ammunition for cal. 22; two pieces magazine assembly for carbine, 143 pieces ammunition for carbine, 422 pieces of ammunition for M-16 rifle, five pieces of long magazine assembly for M-16; 10 pieces short magazine assembly for M-16 rifle and 52 pieces of ammunition for 9MM handgun.

Domingo was not able to show any legal paper of ownership of the confiscated items and even denied ownership of the guns and ammunition. He claimed that he just kept them in behalf of his 80-year-old grandfather, who retired from military service.

But police chief inspector Ronald Fernandez said they received reports on the indiscriminate firing of guns by Domingo whenever he was under the influence of liquor.

Domingo was brought to the police station for further investigation wherein a case for violation of PD RA 8294 as amended by PD 1866 or illegal possession of firearms and ammunition is being readied against him.

Traffic Management and Transport Regulation Office (TMTRO)

Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog here has assured zero-violence at the Traffic Management and Transport Regulation Office (TMTRO) after a jeepney driver complained of being threatened at the office.

"I assure everybody this will not happened and as long I am the city mayor here, violence will never happened inside the TMTRO office or in any other cityhall office against anyone transacting business at city hall," Mabilog said.

The city mayor said a series of trainings on courtesy for city hall employees dealing with the general public will soon be executed. Courtesy trainings for front line services employees will be conducted within this month of October while a courtesy training for TMTRO employees and traffic enforcers will be conducted by November this year.

Candidates of Liberal Party (LP) in Capiz province

Three candidates of Liberal Party (LP) in Capiz province are running unopposed as the other parties failed to field their own bets during the filing of certificates of candidacy at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last week.

LP bets who have no opponents are Vice Governor Esteban "Nonoy" Contreras, Dumarao Mayor Leslie Warren "Beboy" Benjamin and Maayon Vice Mayor Weldie "Tambol" Apolinario.

Contreras and Apolinario will be second termers while Benjamin will be serving his last term.

It was learned that the opposition led by former 2nd district congressman Fredenil Castro, who is now running for the same position, run under the National Unity Party (NUP) while gubernatorial candidate Joel Longares is running under the ticket of United Nationalists Alliance (UNA).

Castro is facing Sigma Mayor Maria Andaya (LP) while Longares will oppose the last termer incumbent Governor Victor Tanco, Sr. also of LP.

Meanwhile, there is a three-cornered fight in the 1st district congressional race after Diosdado Tinsay and Zinon Amoroso, both independent candidates, filed their COCs to oppose incumbent 1st District Rep. Antonio del Rosario of the ruling LP.

The city vice mayoral race is also three-cornered fight among incumbent Vice Mayor Ronnie Dadivas of LP and Isagani Acat and Dr. Jose "Piping" Barrio, both independent.

Former City Mayor Vicente Bermejo is again challenging again incumbent City Mayor Angel Alan Celino of LP.

Celino, who was a challenger during the 2010 election, defeated Bermejo with only over 600 margin votes.

Negosyo sa Kariton

Twenty-two ambulant vendors in Tuao, Cagayan were the recipient of fabricated vending carts under the labor department's "Negosyo sa Kariton" (Nego-Kart) livelihood project.

DOLE 2 regional director lawyer Sixto T.Rodriguez, Jr., said,"It is inspiring to be back where I spent most of the memorable times of my life.To return with package of employment intervention like this 'Negosyo sa Kariton' makes it even more significant and heartening".

Rodriguez said the total cost of the livelihood assistance is P330,000. Each vendor beneficiary was provided with a total of P15,000 in assistance.

Each vendor received the cart which costs P10,000 along with working capital of P5,000.

The awarding ceremony was attended by Manuel N.Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and municipal officials led by Mayor William N. Mamba and the townsfolk.

Meanwhile, Mamba expressed appreciation to the DOLE for the livelihood assistance to his constituents.

Ceres Bus Accident

An 11-year-old girl was killed and 17 other passengers were injured in late Sunday afternoon vehicular accident in Brgy. Luca, Ajuy, Iloilo.

The Ajuy police identified the lone fatality as 11-year-old Sheryn Buendia of North Baluarte, Molo, Iloilo City.

The victim was with her mother who was among the injured onboard the ill-fated Ceres bus.

Police said two units of Vallacar Transit were tailing each other on their way to their respective destinations towards northern Iloilo when the accident took place.

Alcon Aldea, the driver of the Ceres bus ahead, said they were on their way from Iloilo City to Lemery, Iloilo when an elderly suddenly crossed the highway along Brgy. Luca, Ajuy town.

He stepped on the brake to avoid hitting the old man but he lost control of the wheel and the bus veered to its side before it crashed to the mahogany tree on the roadside.

After hitting the tree, the vehicle ended up in the middle of the road where it rested on its side.

The victim, who was sitting next to the bus driver, was thrown out of the bus.

Seeing the incident,the 33-year-old Roel Borlado who drove the Ceres bus tailing behind Aldea's, immediately stepped on the brake but he, too, lost control of the vehicle which also hit the tree beside the road.

Injured passengers were rushed to the nearby hospital in Barotac Viejo town for treatment.

PO3 Giselle Igbaras of Ajuy police believed the Ceres bus driven by Aldea was running at high speed when the accident happened.

But Aldea, who hailed from Balasan, Iloilo, said it was heavily raining in the area and the road was slippery.

Both Aldea and Borlado were detained at the lock-up cell of Ajuy police station.

Dumaguete City Councilor Scandal

Dumaguete Mayor Manuel Sagarbarria is asking Vice Mayor Alan Gel Cordova to take appropriate action and conduct an immediate investigation on an incident last month involving an anti-hot meat operation in which a city councilor was purportedly involved.

In a letter dated October 4, 2012, Mayor Sagarbarria noted that the incident, which happened last September 21 and involved Councilor Antonio Remollo, was a matter within the competence/jurisdiction of the city legislative branch and that as presiding officer of the city council, he was endorsing the matter to him.

The mayor's request for a probe by the city council via Vice Mayor Cordova stems from an incident last month in which the Hot Meat Surveillance Team of Task Force Sagarr had swooped down on an alleged hot meat vendor who was reportedly roasting a pig (lechon) within the vicinity of his house.

The inspecting team was headed by Charles Tubog, Team-1 leader of Task Force Sagarr and who was joined later by Dr. Lourdes Socorro, city veterinary officer.

During the inspection at Cervantes Extension in Barangay 8, the suspect, identified as Jerry Barrera, who city officials tagged as a "well-known hot meat vendor/supplier", purportedly made a phone call to Councilor Joe Kenneth Arbas, apparently seeking his intercession.

An incident report by Task Force Sagarr showed that Councilor Arbas, whose voice was heard over the speaker phone of Barrera's cellphone, told the latter to contact Councilor Antonio Remollo.

After he was contacted, Councilor Remollo arrived and spoke to the inspecting team, asking them not to confiscate the lechon but to just impose penalties and collect fines from Barrera. However, Dr. Socorro insisted that this was a violation of the law and therefore, the lechon must be confiscated apart from penalizing the suspect.

Remollo claimed that a City Hall employee had ordered the lechon to be delivered to Singapore, to which the city veterinary said she will not issue a clearance for its shipment, citing a law against hot meat.

The city councilor then announced that he would instead take charge of the lechon as it was the birthday of a nephew/niece, but Dr. Socorro again reminded him that it was hot meat and that the rotisserie pig must be confiscated.

The city veterinarian left ahead of Tubog and his team, who told Barrera to report to the City Hall and sign the confiscation receipt.

Barrera appeared later that day at the office of Dr. Socorro, who told him there was no confiscation receipt to sign as the lechon was not delivered to her office.

Tubog admitted there was miscommunication that apparently led to the failure of the anti-hot meat team to confiscate the lechon after Councilor Remollo had interceded.

Mayor Sagarbarria, in asking Vice Mayor Cordova to conduct an investigation, expressed optimism of an appropriate response that would "surely help regain the confidence of our law enforcers and would serve as a good example to the public at large".

National Statistics Month (NSM) celebration

The Regional Development Council (RDC) through its Regional Competitiveness Committee (RCC) will soon craft its regional competitiveness index that will measure the performance of local government units, specifically cities in Western Visayas.

This was disclosed by Engr. Gilberto A. Altura, chief economic development specialist of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) who also sits as secretary of the committee.

In today's roundtable discussion in line with the 23rd National Statistics Month (NSM) celebration, Engr. Altura explained that the RCC is a special committee created by the RDC whose functions are to measure local competitiveness indicators, formulate programs to improve competitiveness, engage in investment promotion activities and contribute to the employment generation and job creation in Western Visayas.

The RCC serves as the counterpart of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), a public-private sector body tasked to "improve the country's global competitiveness ranking."

He stated that the RCC has already came up with an initial assessment of the 66 regional competitiveness indicators under six areas identified by the NCC in coordination with the Regional Statistical Coordinating Committee of the RDC. These areas include dynamism of local economy, responsiveness of local government units to business needs, infrastructure, quality of life, cost of doing business and human resources training.

In fact, the assessment result was used as reference by all other RCCs in the country for baseline data gathering.

Altura said that the NCC through the Project Inquest with a support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is expected to come up with the index within the next 30-45 days, he added. It will then serve as basis for the regular evaluation among cities in the region.

Philippine sail boat race

Thousands of people from all walks of life witnessed the successful holding of the sail boat race in this southern port city amid the scorching heat of the sun and moderate winds.

The sail boat race, dubbed as Regatta de Zamboanga, was held on Sunday at R.T. Lim Boulevard with a total of 125 vintas adorned with colorful sails joining the race in 13 hits.

The winners in the 13 hits competed for the championship round which was a very close race between the yellow sail boat No. 2 and white sail boat No. 44.

Sail boat No. 2 was maneuvered by Amil Hamja, who was also the winner in last year's Regatta.

The crowd cheered wildly when the two sail boats struggled to advance and tried to outrun each other in the championship race.

In the end, sail boat No. 2 raced to the finishing line less than a meter ahead of sail boat No. 44.

Hamja, a resident of Barangay Sinunuc, west of this city, went home with a P10,000 cash prize from the local government and a Honda in-board engine courtesy of Safety Enterprises.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, who helped facilitate the race, said the Regatta is one of the main crowd-drawing events during the Hermosa Festival in celebration of the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar.

Youth Employment Migration (YEM) of DOLE

A total of 120 out-of-school youths (OSYs) in Antique would benefit from the Youth Employment Migration (YEM) program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) here.

The YEM is one of the initiatives identified to achieve the social protection pillar under the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (LEP).

Labor information officer Amy Judicpa said that recipients, who were identified by the local government units and endorsed to DOLE, are provided with skills training and starter kits.

Three of the four batches have already completed skills trainings while starter kits were already provided to the first batch.

The first batch has 26 recipients; 28 for the second batch; and 30 each for the third and fourth batches.

Judicpa during the roundtable discussion here Monday in line with the 23rd National Statistics Month (NSM) celebration presented their agency's LEP on behalf of assistant regional director Salome Siation.

The LEP that covers the period 2011-2016 is a "tripartite-plus" plan aligned with the Philippine Development Plan that provides the consolidated strategic direction for labor and employment.