Monday, March 11, 2013

Biomass power plant in San Carlos, Negros Occidental

The construction of a P3-billion, 18-mega watt biomass power plant in San Carlos, Negros Occidental will begin in May, the San Carlos BioPower, Inc. (SCBP) announced during the weekend.

The SCBP is a partnership between Bronzeoak Philippines Inc. Biomass Holdings Inc. and WBE International Green Energy Ltd. of Hong Kong. Biomass Holdings Inc is jointly owned by the PSE-Listed Greenergy Holdings Inc, and the Germany-based ThomasLloydCleanTech Infrastructure Fund.

According to Jose Maria T. Zabaleta, chairman of the Philippines Bronzeoak Asia Pacific, funds have been received by the company on March 7 to begin the project implementation.

"The power plant is to be designed, supplied and built by Wuxi Huaguang Electric Power Engineering, the General Supplier & Contractor of the project. Site clearing will begin immediately, with construction to follow in May and June. The plant is expected to be completed by the end of 2014," Zabaleta said.

The new plant will be located in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, alongside the existing integrated sugar mill and ethanol distillery of San Carlos BioEnergy, owned by Menarco Clean Energy and Bronzeoak Philippines.

The plant is expected to provide approximately 1,000 jobs during construction, and will eventually employ nearly 400 people during its operation, Zabaleta added.

Zabaleta explained that the SCBP was issued its Certificate of Registration by the Board of Investments (BOI) on Dec. 21, 2012 and has satisfactorily met the minimum documentary requirements of the Department of Energy (DOE) to avail of the Feed-in-Tariff rates when it begins commercial operations in early 2015.

The Energy Department has recently announced it will allocate feed-in tariff, or preferential power rates, to the first renewable energy developers to commission their projects.

Feed-in tariff allocation will be given to the first developers who can complete the quota. Definition of completion is the first to commence commercial operation, Energy Department Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.

The ERC approved the feed- in tariff rates for run of the river hydro, P5.90 per kilowatt hour; biomass, P6.63 per kWh; wind, P8.53 per kWh; and solar, P9.68 per kWh.

For his part, DOE Director Mario Marasigan expressed his support of the new project, saying "the DOE is very excited to see the start of construction of the new biomass power plant, which is expected to be among the first under the Renewable Energy Law."

Meanwhile, ThomasLloyd CEO Michael Sieg was in the country recently to sign the joint venture agreement with Bronzeoak where he announced and committed to invest US$ 50 million to the construction of the biomass plant.

He said that he was very optimistic about renewable energy prospects in the country especially that their investments would also contribute to the continued economic development of the country, particularly in countryside and agriculture.

Festival of Lights 2013 in San Fernando, La Union

Despite being only two years in age, the Sillag Festival also called the Festival of Lights 2013 in San Fernando, La Union is slowly putting the city in the tourism map.

Day one of the festival, which kicked off on Saturday, 4 p.m. at the Thunderbird Resorts in the Poro Point Freeport Zone, featured a performance of marching bands, a fun run, Un-Identified Flying Object (UFO) formation, and the ceremonial lighting of the Sillag village.

On Sunday, activities will include an air show, street dancing competition, pyro musical show, and a concert/variety show as well has the much-awaited Lantern Fluvial Parade and the releasing of Hope Lanterns in the evening.

Poro Point Management Corporation (PPMC) president and CEO Florante Gerdan explained in an interview that the Sillag Festival, which was first conceptualized last year, celebrated for the first time.

"It was only a one-day activity last year, this year, it is now a two-day activity," Gerdan said. "We plan to extend the days celebration in the coming years."

Gerdan said that after last year's festival, he and his team had been thinking of ways to contribute to what was already bringing in tourists in the area.

"We conceptualize night activities because during day time, tourists usually go to Baguio City and other tourism destinations but by four o'clock of everyday, we shall have more activities here," Gerdan explained.

"It has put San Fernando and the province of La Union in the tourism map because Sillag is already being compared to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Clark, Pampanga and the Panagbenga Flower Festival in Baguio," he said.

But just like newly born festivals, Gerdan said that so far, the local government of San Fernando, the PPMC, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Thunderbird Pilipinas Hotels and Resorts were making do with what they had.

However, he also mentioned that next year, he has high hopes that they can triple or quadruple the activities and further publicize the festival.

Future plans

Among tourism businesses being handled by Thunderbird included a seaport, airport, food products and global resources which will cater to distant learning in the future.

Gerdan said that he and his team are further developing open spaces for business in the area.

"For example, is a lighthouse — we already have a design for the six-hectare lighthouse which we will bid maybe in the next three months," Gerdan said.

"We shall be developing a 50-hectare light industrial area and finish the master planning by December this year and we will also be opening up an airport terminal," he added.

The amount spent for the funding of the entire Sillag Festival, including contributions from partnerships totaled to some P 5.8 million, Gerdan said.

Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario Confirms Release of Filipino Soldiers

Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario on Sunday confirmed the release of 21 Filipino United Nations peacekeepers from their Syrian captors after three days in captivity.

Citing a report from Philippine Permanent Representative to the U.N. Libran Cabactulan, Del Rosario said UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has advised that "the 21 Filipino peacekeepers have now been separated from the Syrian rebel group in Jordan."

"He said that the problem had been solved," Del Rosario said in a text message.

The Filipinos, who are members of a U.N. peacekeeping mission monitoring the armistice line in Golan Heights between Syria and Israel following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, were seized by Syrian gunmen on March 6 in Al-Jamla.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Lauds Release of Filipinos in Syria

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday announced that the 21 Filipino peacekeepers seized by Syrian rebels on the Golan Heights are now free and in the custody of the Jordanian border patrol headquarters since late Saturday.

AFP spokesperson Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos, Jr. said they were able to verify the release when one of the captured Filipino soldiers called his battalion commander to inform him that they are all safe.

Three AFP officers and 18 enlisted men were seized by the Syrian rebels last March 6 while on a logistic.

Release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers seized by Syrian gunmen

The Philippines on Sunday welcomed the release of 21 Filipino peacekeepers seized by Syrian gunmen last week and renewed calls to respect freedom of movement, safety and security of United Nations (UN) peace troops.

A Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement said: "The Philippine Government and its people express deep appreciation to the Jordanian Government and military officials on the successful safe passing over to the Jordanian side of all our 21 Filipino Peacekeepers."

It also thanked those who have exerted and contributed to the collective efforts to effect the safe release of the Filipinos who are members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

The Filipinos, who are part of the UN mission monitoring the armistice line in Golan Heights between Syria and Israel following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, were seized by rebels on March 6 in Al-Jamla.

The abduction drew condemnation from the UN and foreign governments.

There are 333 Filipino military and police contingent in Golan Heights.

DFA said the Philippines, stresses the impartiality of UNDOF and its mandate to monitor the Disengagement of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria as it strongly reiterated its call on all parties to respect the freedom of movement and safety and security of peacekeepers there.

March 30 Start of Philippine Election Campaign Period

Since March 29 falls on Good Friday, the supposed start of the campaign period for local candidates, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is moving it to the next day, March 30.

This was the clarification issued by city election officer Aimee Ferolino Ampoloquio in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Sunday afternoon.

Ampoloquio said that as per Comelec resolution 9385, March 29 marks the start of local candidates campaign with 45 days before the election day.

But she said March 29 is Good Friday and the Comelec has prohibited campaigning for that day. Section 5 of Republic Act 7166 provides that, in the preparation of the election calendar, the Commission may exclude the day before the election day itself, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

"Pwede sila ma-charge for violation of the campaign rules. Nationwide ang prohibition (They can be charged for violation of the campaign rules. The prohibition is nationwide,)" Ampoloquio said.

Given this fact, local candidates will only have 43 days period to do the campaign works.

Local candidates are allocated 45 days of campaigning but with mid-term elections set on May 13, the number of days are reduced.

Modernization program of the Metro Rail Transit - Line 3

The government ruled out on Friday all hopes of private sector participation at the proposed expansion and modernization program of the Metro Rail Transit - Line 3.

The decision affects the separate proposals of San Miguel Corp. and the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. which earlier bared plans to upgrade and modernize the facilities of the line stretching 16.9 kilometers across Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong and Quezon City.

Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the SMC and MPIC proposals will no longer be pursued as the government has already decided to buy out the interest of the private sector at MRT-3.

"SMC has a proposal and MPIC has its proposal but our direction right now is for the buy out to happen," Abaya said on Friday.

This pertains to the plan for government to stop paying the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) equity rental, maintenance cost, guaranteed debt payments as well as insurance expense and other items in a transaction seen costing the national coffers close to $ 1 billion.

Malacanang already approved of the plan last December and told the Department of Transportation and Communication to begin the buyout transaction.

MPIC gained control over the MRTC when it acquired the bond holdings of the Fil-Estate Group and offered to spend $ 300 million to expand and modernize the line and $ 350 million more to acquire equity and some of the debt notes issued by the MRTC.

SMC, on the other hand, offered to purchase new light rail vehicles for the line in exchange for revenues.

The proposed buy out plan will be executed under the leadership of Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima and enable President Aquino to issue an executive order that formalizes the agreement.

Presidential Security Group (PSG) of the Philippines

President Benigno S. Aquino III thanked members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) that served the administration of his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino, as he recognizes the group's contribution to national development.

"Gagamitin ko na rin po ang pagkakataong ito upang ipaabot ang aking taus-pusong pasasalamat sa pagbabantay ninyo sa aming pamilya at sa pakikibalikat ninyo sa pagsisikap naming magdala ng pagbabago sa ating bansa," the President said in his message during the PSG Reunion circa 1986 to 1992 at Camp Aquinaldo Saturday night.

"Alam ko pong mahihiya kayong iangat ang sariling bangko at sasabihin ninyong ginagawa lang ninyo ang inyong tungkulin. Pero ang totoo po, hanggang sa ngayon, tinatanaw naming pamilya ang napakalalim na utang na loob dahil sa mga sakripisyong dinaanan ninyo noong mga panahong 'yon."

During the birth of the PSG after the EDSA People Power Revolution in 1986, the President said it was also the dawn of the promises of new democracy in the country, giving the momentum for the country's progress.

"At habang may PSG masisiguro nating hindi matitisod, hindi malilihis; tuloy-tuloy ang arangkada ng mga plano't paninindigan natin upang sa wakas ay mapitas na ang bunga ng mga pangarap na ipinunla ng taumbayan noong 1986," he said.

The PSG then overcame so many adversities given its meager resources, manpower and capability, the President said. Personnel providing security to the former president have to operate using unconventional techniques to be effective, the President stressed.

According to the President, during the coup d'etat in 1987, the PSG defended the Palace grounds with antiquated equipment, mainly by using World War II era weapons adding that despite the odds, they were able to perform their duties well in defending the Aquino family and the country's democracy.

The PSG's years of facing adversities and challenges made it a stronger, dependable and formidable organization today, the President said.

"Binigay sa atin itong mga eksperyensang ito, lalo tayong tumibay, lalo tayong humusay, lalo tayong gumaling dahil nga may mahalaga kayong bahagi para sa pagsasaayos ng bansang ito," he said.

The organization is also well-respected because it also produced leaders in the military. Many of the officers from the PSG rose to later become chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND), chief of the Philippine National Police and many other positions.

Many officials of the PSG also became members of the civilian government and some are serving as local executives and leaders.

The group providing security to the President was originally organized by President Emilio Aguinaldo after he was elected president in 1897.

The then Department of War, the forerunner of the Department of National Defense, set up the El Cuerpo dela Guardia Presidencial or the Corps of Presidential Guards.

It became the Malacanang Guards during the time of President Manuel L. Quezon. During the presidency of Sergio Osmena it was called Presidential Guards Battalion. And during the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay it was changed to Presidential Security Force.

Philippine Weather Forecast March 2013

The country will experience generally good weather condition with clear skies in the next three days, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Monday.

Weather forecaster Jori Loiz said they do not see any tropical cyclone that may affect the country in the next two to three days.

"We expect good weather and most of the times, skies will be generally clear," Loiz said.

He added that the dominant weather system in the country for the next two to three days will be the easterlies or the wind coming from the east affecting the eastern part of Luzon and Visayas.

Aside from being "warm," Loiz said that easterlies are also "rich in moisture" and this "warm, moist winds" are expected to bring cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms in the provinces of Aurora and Quezon, Bicol region and Eastern Visayas.

The rest of the country including Metro Manila, Loiz noted, will have sunny to partly cloudy skies with brief light rains in the afternoon or evening.

He added that the chance for tropical cyclone for the month of March will be zero to one.

Meanwhile, Loiz added that they cannot consider that it is already summer because they are still analyzing data.

He also said that the weakened northeast monsoon or hangin amihan is still lingering in western part of Luzon.

For the next two to three days, Loiz said that temperature in Metro Manila is expected to range from 24 to 32 degrees Celsius.

PAGASA also said that moderate to strong winds blowing from the east will prevail over the eastern sections of Luzon and Visayas. The coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the east to northeast with slight to moderate seas.

Bohol Enjoys Peace and Order without Communist Insurgency

AFP Confirms Bohol Still Insurgency-Free

            Bohol remains free from the grip of communist insurgents due to the strong presence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here and the active cooperation of the public and various local governments units (LGUs), a top rank AFP official has said.

            The confirmation came even as pockets of New People's Army (NPA) attacks, deemed economic sabotage, rocked various parts of the country, most recent of which was the deadly attack in Del Monte and DOLE plantations in Bukidnon province.

            AFP's Vice-Chief of Staff Lt Gen Alan Luga said the AFP recognizes the sustained efforts of the Provincial Government of Bohol in maintaining Bohol free from the influence of communist insurgents which, he said, serves as model in the whole country.

            "The economic development of Bohol and its tourism boom can only be sustained when there is peace and security in the province," Luga said during Thursday's graduation ceremony of Boholano community organizers tapped in Capitol's Purok Power Movement.

            Luga came to Bohol Thursday to deliver the message of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista for the new community organizers trained by AFP. He also witnessed the turnover of giant clams to a marine protected-area council in Bingag, Dauis.

            Earlier, Lt Col. Julius Ancheta Tomines, commander of the 2nd Special Forces Battalion based in Carmen, Bohol, told the Chronicle that growing public awareness has made it difficult for communists to establish a stronghold in the province.

            Meanwhile, Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, in a graduation message at the Bohol Cultural Center, said the provincial government is committed to work closely with the AFP in securing Bohol as a peaceful and safe eco-tourism destination of the country.

Chatto launched the PUROK system, an offshoot to AFP-LGU partnership dubbed as IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) Bayanihan, as a comprehensive and strategic approach to public governance whereby government projects and programs are served to the people at the purok level.

            Bohol's peace and security programs have earned awards from the AFP, aside from DILG's "Best Governed Province of the Philippines" award which Bohol had received in two successive years, and DSWD's "Gawad Sa Paglilingkod ng Sambayanan" or GAPAS Award for Bohol.

            In delivering Bautista's message, Luga said that Bohol's Countryside Development Program: Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM), technically supervised by SEEM Cluster Head Liza M. Quirog, has helped establish an effective system for the management and implementation of various programs for agriculture, health services, infrastructure, environment, sanitation, education, sports and youth development.

            "The Armed Forces of the Philippines recognizes the need to approach our country's peace and security concerns with deep understanding of other issues connected to them, and the expected results on other fields, particularly on the welfare of our people, economy, and the environment," Luga said.

            "Through this partnership, we have pushed for and succeeded with projects in education, medical outreach programs, internal security and disaster management, with other government agencies and civilian groups and organizations," he added.

            Luga underscored Bohol provincial government's initiatives in support of the various programs of the AFP, particularly in the implementation of our IPSP Bayanihan, "as a great example of how unity can help uplift our fellow people and develop a peaceful society through a whole-of-nation approach."

The second-in-rank AFP chief pointed out that the new community organizers (in Bohol) "will be of great addition to the working group in our joint project creating a peaceful and prosperous province, free of threats coming from groups who wish to sow discord among the citizens, and only preoccupied with the welfare of our citizens."

"With your training and understanding of the needs of the community, I believe you will be one of the many competent allies of public servants in promoting peace and people's welfare in the communities you will be organizing and helping to develop in the near future," he told the community organizers coming from various Bohol towns.