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List of Municipalities in the Albay Province within Region V in the Republic of The Philippines
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Bicol power coops nix bill to grant franchise to a new energy supplier

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY — Electricity retailers in Bicol are opposed to the proposed grant of a congressional franchise to a new independent power producer (IPP) that intends to serve as an alternative energy supplier for the region.

Allowing this [new] IPP to operate could result in higher power rates since it is a profit-oriented private company which is expected to add on profit to its power rates on top of its recovery of the cost of development and maintenance of its energy generation and distribution infrastructure, the Bicol Electric Cooperatives Association (BECA) said in a statement.

The statement was issued by the association over the week in opposition to House Bill No. 4935 which seeks to grant a franchise to Bicol Light and Power Corp.(BLPC) to operate and manage an energy distribution system in the entire region.

The bill — jointly sponsored by Reps. Deogracias Ramos, Jr. of the second district of Sorsogon, Elmer Panotes of Camarines Norte’s second district, and Salvio Fortuno of Camarines Sur’s fifth district — when enacted would allow the BPLC to “establish, operate, manage, own, lease, and maintain for public interest and commercial purposes.”

In an earlier statement, Ramos said the corporation, whose owners or people behind he did not name, will invest in the setting up and operation of a dependable and efficient power distribution system that will provide the Bicol provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon with alternative source of energy.

This new firm, he said, will join the power distribution business in the region in the essence of free trade competition to challenge all the existing suppliers and distributors into making their services efficient for the benefit of consumers.

It will also generate more jobs and boost the economic growth of Bicol with the anticipated coming in of more investments when power supply and cost is stabilized, Ramos said.

“We in Bicol have been confronted with constant power service interruptions and perpetual threat of disconnections due to the inefficiency, mismanagement, corruption and political meddling that are true among power cooperatives, resulting in bankruptcy,” Ramos said.

He cited the case of the Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (Soreco II) which is suffering from a financial crisis and the cash-strapped Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) whose operation has been awarded by the government to a giant private firm due to huge indebtedness.

Brownouts and unrest among member-consumers of Aleco, however, have not ceased even as the operation and management of cooperative is now under Albay Power and Energy Corporation (APEC) of the San Miguel Corp.’s Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMC Global) to whom the National Electrification Administration has awarded its concession a year ago.

A case to win back Aleco from this giant private firm filed by member-consumers and old coop officials is now pending in a court in Legazpi City.

Soreco II, on the other hand, is under attack from its members for alleged shady deals and huge indebtedness that threaten to send the power coop into bankruptcy.

Masbate and Catanduanes are suffering from constant power shortages and higher cost of electricity as both provinces are off-grid areas served only by petroleum-fed generator sets provided by the National Power Corp. (NPC) and private suppliers, he noted.

Same problems are also being encountered by electric cooperatives in Camarines provinces, according to Ramos.

When approved by Congress, BLPC, Ramos said, will be granted a 15-year franchise.

Higher power rates that could result from the operations of this new IPP, the BECA said, may no longer be affordable to economically-depressed rural consumers in Bicol, resulting further in the deprivation of their right and privilege to have access to cheap electricity in their homes.

“The passage of the bill will be an act of ‘electrocuting’ the Bicol electric cooperatives and paving the way for the corporatization of all power utilities in the country, monopolized and controlled by the opulent and powerful,” it claimed.

The association perceives a serious and present danger in HB 4935 that could lead to the abolition of electric cooperatives leading to a massive displacement or unemployment of their workforce, wastage of assets funded by the government, and economic depression in the rural areas.

It could also render the National Electrification Administration irrelevant and redundant, and subsequently pave the way for its abolition, the BECA added.

These statements are carried in a resolution passed by the association during its regular meeting recently held in Daet, Camarines Norte.

BECA is composed of the Aleco, Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative I (Casureco I), Casureco II, Casureco III, Casureco IV, Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative (Canoreco), Soreco I, Soreco II, First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Masbate Electric Cooperative, and Ticao Island (Masbate) Electric Cooperative.

The first eight power cooperatives draw their power supply from various private energy giants like the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp., the Aboitiz Power Corp., and SMC-Global– through the transmission lines of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

PHL first CCA-DRR research institute to rise in Albay

By Rhaydz B. Barcia [(PNA), FPV/FGS/RBB/CBD]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 27 (PNA) -- The Philippines, through the province of Albay, will establish the first-ever research and operation center that will serve as a one-stop shop for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCA-DRR) training institution for disaster responders, local officials, educators, farmers and indigenous communities on disaster mitigation and adaptation measures against the challenging threat of climate change.

The county’s first CCA-DRR research institution will go beyond disaster risk reduction training not only for disaster responders and public officials as it will also train educators, farmers, fishermen and indigenous communities to laymanize science and the effects of global warming that cause climatic change, Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said.

“We want to go beyond disaster risk reduction, with Albay as a designated training institution for DRR as agreed upon with the Office of Civil Defense to train eight regions on disaster mitigation and adaptation measures. We want not only disaster responders and local officials to be trained but including our farmers, fishermen and indigenous communities for them to adapt to the changing climate and comprehend science as the core and impetus of our mission,” Salceda said.

The governor said the existing two-storey Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office building will be re-constructed as a five-storey building through the build-operate-transfer mode with local counterpart from the provincial government.

It will house research institution and training centers and related studies on disaster risk reduction management, agriculture and education.

Two years ago, the provincial government of Albay established the first-ever Climate Change Academy within the compound of the Bicol University in this city aimed to bolster the government’s response and adaptation measures to mitigate the adverse impact of global warming that triggers climate change.

The academy, according to Salceda, will serve as a think-thank and center for local and international academic studies and conferences. While the CCA-DRR training institution will go beyond disaster risk reduction management as it will train the grassroots.

“As center for training, we want not only the responders and local officials to be knowledgeable on disaster risk mitigation and adaptation measures but also the sectors who feed the world like farmers and fishermen. We need to work together to help and lessen the world’s carbon emission,” he said.

The Philippines, according to the green economist, contributes 0.31 percent of the aggregate carbon emission or 159 metric tons of CO2 in 2010. It is ranked 159th on GHG per capita basis versus 127th in income per capita. The Philippines has the 13th biggest population of 105 million (1.58% of total), GDP of USD351 billion or 40th largest in GDP (0.48% of total) and 41st in C02 (0.31% of total).

Citing the World Risk Index study, Salceda said the Philippines ranks among the top 3 "most at risk" countries in the world to natural hazards since 2011.

In 2014, it ranked second because of urban exposure.

The World Humanitarian Trend of 2014 reported that “the overall number of large-scale natural disasters has slowly decreased, but disasters associated with the effects of climate increased.”

In the report on World Humanitarian Trends and Trajectories to 2030, Philippines is on the top of the list.

Disaster damages for the country is, on the average, 0.52 percent of the GDP in 1990-2014, which represents an escalation from the 0.3 percent in1990-2009.

Like all developing countries, the Philippines contributes little to global emissions and bears even less responsibility for historical emissions, yet is among those that suffer the most but, at the same time, the least able to cope with the increasingly adverse effects of climate change.

“Learning from our experience in Albay, this may be possible in a framework where a green economy nurtures a low-emission, inclusive and empowering, resilient and sustainable development. It is important to note, that communities across the country have shown the way forward by ensuring mangrove forests are protected and plantation is encouraged for the purpose of contributing to carbon capture and enhancement of forest carbon stocks while securing protection against powerful storm surges,” Salceda, UN senior global champion on climate change adaptation and UN climate fund advisor, said.

Since Salceda’s getting at the helm the provincial government of Albay, forest cover has increased by 88 percent over the past seven years and mangrove forests almost quadrupled from 700 hectares to 2,400 hectares.

“Despite unremitting climate disruptions, we increased our rice production from 147,900 MT (2008) to 228,080 MT (2014) through proper use of water resources like irrigation. Many Filipino indigenous communities live to protect the sustainability of ecosystem services, equitable and sustainable use of resources while enhancing forest carbon stocks,” he noted.

They who protect the environment should be given their rightful space of participating in the local economy and benefit from them, he said. “We will, however, not deny the fact that the country will need help. We are striving to develop but challenged by hazards beyond our control. It is at this point that we see the value of solidarity. In the context of global climate action, climate financing is one of manifestation of such solidarity,” the governor pointed out.

For countries at the mercy of climate hazards like the Philippines, according to Salceda, adaptation will be a priority, bearing in mind that adaptation actions must contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

“If we want to avoid the climate-related disaster risks of the future, investments in climate and disaster science that lead to understanding not only of the hazards and how they are formed but also of vulnerabilities and capacities of people, crops, infrastructure, and biodiversity to contribute to both adaptation and mitigation will be necessary under the green economy framework.

For countries like the Philippines, surviving the next climate challenge requires a reduction of vulnerabilities as a pre-requisite for resilience. This means massive investment on infrastructure, industrialization, adaptive agriculture and safer settlements; only then will we, perhaps, earn resilience.

Salceda said mitigation is imperative because it is the only global response that would give time for people to adapt.

“Adaptation actions alone, no matter how purposive and massive, will not stall the intensifying climate-related hazards. GHG mitigation by a few countries will also not make a dent in the problem. That is why the Philippines will do its share in mitigation,” the green economist governor pointed out.

Salceda explained that the creation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) gives hope as the only climate fund for developing countries.

“The GCF is the core channel of financing for both adaptation and mitigation, and loss and damage, supported by development and transfer of technology and capacity-building in any Paris agreement as proposed by the developing country parties of the UNFCCC. The current USD10.3-billion fund is a first step towards the USD100 billion annually by 2020 committed in Copenhagen,” Salceda said.

The demands for survival and development that trigger policy action, according to Salceda, must inspire and usher in a new economy that considers development not only as growth in the economy but also a meaningful, sustainable, inclusive, low-emitting and empowering development.

“Ours is not a plea for help rather a call to recognize the essential right of our people to life, environment and development. This recognition must be at the heart of any climate financing initiative in the era of a new green economy. Any decision in Paris must consider that climate change context is specific and must therefore take into account realities such as ours,” Salceda said.

200 CARP beneficiaries in Albay attend DTI livelihood training


LEGAZPI CITY, March 26 (PNA) -- About 200 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) beneficiaries from different Agrarian Reform Communities in Albay are participating in the livelihood training conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)–Albay Provincial Office on Wednesday.

Entitled “SMERA (Small Medium Enterprise Roving Academy) Para sa mga Negosyanteng Paraoma,” the training is being held at the Concourse Convention Hall here.

SMERA, which is a continuous learning program for the development of micro, small and medium enterprises, is designed to promote entrepreneurship and develop key competencies in opportunities searching, product development, marketing and other skills training.

The activity is part of the DTI’s continuing program to assist the CARP beneficiaries to further help them in enhancing their skills and knowledge in developing sustainable livelihood, and eventually prepare their products for the global market.

The training is being conducted through lectures, discussions, demonstrations and workshop.

It is divided into two courses: Productivity Seminar Course and Skills Training Course.

The first course involves topics on Marketing: Awareness and Strategy, Promotion of Green Economic Development: Green Farm Practices, and Updates on CARP Programs.

The second course includes topics on Agricultural Waste Conversion, Capacity Development on Raw Vegetable Processing, Fashion Accessories, and Technology Training on Corn and Root Crops By-product Conversion.

The DTI activity is in partnership with the DTI-CARP National Program Office and the Department of Agrarian Reform-Albay.

It is in line with the government’s thrust to address economic development in the countryside through the provision of alternative livelihood opportunities to the community residents and to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

PNP-Bicol ready for Oplan Summer Vacation, Holy Week

By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo [(PNA), FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/EBP]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 25 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police-Bicol regional office is all prepared to keep the public safe and secured during the summer vacation, especially Holy Week, with at least 1,000 police officers and 3,000 force multipliers ready to ensure peace and order.

Chief Supt. Victor Deona, PNP-Bicol regional director, had given full instructions to his men to be on a 24-hour duty to implement Oplan Summer Vacation and Holy Week, said Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PRO5 spokersperson.

Calubaquib said the PNP-Bicol leadership has implemented the operational security plan early for the safety of the vacationers and the residents alike.

The operational plan is effective on March 20 to May 31, she said.

The plan involves setting up of motorist assistance centers along the Maharlika Highway from Barangay Tabogon, Daet, Camarines Norte, to Matnog, Sorsogon, and in the island-provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

Police officers have also been posted in populous areas like transport terminals, airports, sea ports, markets, malls, churches and tourist destinations.

Deona has also assigned uniformed men in entry and exit points in the region and asked his men to intensify patrol and police visibility, especially in areas of convergence.

The police officers will be assisted by about 3,000 force multipliers from different sectors of the society like village law enforcers, security guards, radio communication groups like the Kabalikat Civicom and Barangay Peacekeeping and Action Teams.

Each police station has also put up a hotline where people needing assistance can call for assistance.

"We want to ensure peace, order and the security of the public in the entire region during the whole summer vacation," Calubaquib said.

She said the order of Deona covers all police offices and stations in the six provinces, towns and cities in the Bicol Region, whose chiefs will be required to submit accomplishment reports that would be reflected in their report cards to the Office of the Regional Director.

Philtoa picks Albay anew among top summer destinations

By Johnny C. Nunez [(PNA), LAP/JCN/EBP]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 24 (PNA) -- The Philippine Travel and Operator’s Association (Philtoa) has once again picked Albay as among its top summer destinations. The province has remained among the top tourist destinations in the country in 2014 with a recorded 7.1-percent share of foreign arrivals.

Philtoa president Cesar Cruz said that other than the "sights and activities" as part of the major considerations in selecting top summer destinations, the organization also considers the local government’s political leadership and its commitment in providing a sustainable tourism program.

Governor Joey Salceda, banking on Albay’s global standard tourism destinations, has embarked on a strong and holistic program, which involves the province’s cultural heritage from historical religious edifices, old roads and houses, to ethnic culinary wealths, branching out most recently to sports tourism.

As a result, Albay’s domestic arrivals have doubled during the first three months of 2015 based on gate receipts at the Albay Parks and Wildlife, a favorite destination of local visitors, and a 40 percent increase in the number of visitors at the Cagsawa Ruins Park.

Albay will hold its Daragang Magayon Festival 2015 last week of March and the whole of April, with culinary tourism on the spotlight, and where famous chefs around the country will meet local talents for a gastronomic showdown.

Salceda was among the initial recipients of the Tourism Star Award by the Department of Tourism (DOT) for 2014, for exemplary excellence and dedication in driving the Philippine tourism industry forward, under the Tourism Star Philippines (TSP) program.

Philtoa has invited Salceda to speak at the organization’s 2nd general membership conference on April 8 to discuss updates on Albay’s summer holiday program, highlighting recommended destinations. Philtoa had declared Albay as its 2013 summer destination.

Salceda said Albay’s strong position in the industry and the continuous upward trend in its performance has further opened up more opportunities for investors in the hotel business, where more competitively priced rooms are needed to accommodate the growing numbers of tourists.

He said the “key is cheap accommodations and the key to cheap accommodations is more rooms, not just in Legazpi but in Daraga, Tabaco, Camalig, Guinobatan, Polangui, Sto. Domingo, Bacacay. This should get Albay into the budget domestic tour packages.”

Albay, Salceda said, has already laid down the requirements of a strong tourism program: robust year-round national promotions — most specially in social media, increased domestic flights, road access which are among the best in the country), and improved sea travel with the ROROs (Matnog, Bulan, Pioduran, Tabaco, Legazpi).

More tourists mean more demand in food and souvenir items, and activities, which should be priced competitively enough for domestic tourists, he said.

The province was declared the fastest growing tourism area in the country in 2013, with a 66-percent growth rate, way up the national figure and dubbed as a “tourism powerhouse” by the DOT. It “will likely lead in the next major wave of the country’s tourist inflow.”

Albay has emerged from being a disaster-afflicted to a dynamic province with a phenomenal tourism growth, from 8,700 foreign visitors in 2007 when Salceda assumed its governorship to 339,000 in 2013. The number has consitently remained above 300,000 since 2011 and has steadily increased.

DOT has continuously showcased Albay in many international tourism expositions, the latest of which was the 2015 Marche International Proffesionels d’Immobilier, an annual show participated in by influential property players worldwide, at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France March foreign 10 to 13, and the Manila FAME, March 13-16, the design and lifestyle event, trade platform for exports and design.

Albay is also pushing culinary tourism as among its most recent attractions. This will kick off with a showdown of the country’s famous chefs April 27 – 29 in support of DOT’s Flavors of the Philippines campaign and at the same time farther promote the province’s ethnic cuisines.

Various international and national tourism promotions where Albay was featured by DOT included the Berlin ITB 2012 in Germany, the London WTM 2013, Shanghai TM 2013, DOT Hongkong 2014, and special events of the Philippine Asia Travel Association and the Philippine Travel Operators’ Association.

Government allots P131 million for agriculture projects in Bicol

(Philippines News Agency)

LEGAZPI CITY—The national government has allocated P131 million for various agricultural projects in the Bicol region under the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) approach.

In a joint memorandum circular issued by the departments of Budget and Management, Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare and Development and the National Anti-Poverty Commission, all heads of the departments involved in the implementation would release the fund for BUB 2015 projects to implementing agencies as part of the General Appropriations Act.

Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Regional Information Officer Ed Bailon said Camarines Sur got the biggest allocation at P35.3 million for the purchase of planting seeds and organic fertilizers, procurement of equipment, infrastructure and livelihood for farmers.

Sorsogon was allocated P24.1 million, followed by Albay with P21.5 million; Camarines Norte, P20.8 million; Catanduanes, P6.7 million; and Masbate, P6.6 million.

Bailon said that, in the Bicol region, 109 local government units (LGUs) have substantially implemented their Financial Management Improvement for calendar years 2014 and 2015.

“This means that they are qualified for the 2015 Bottom-up Budgeting fund,” he said.

In Albay, according to Bailon, most of the projects to be implemented within the year are infrastructure facilities, provision of agricultural machines, sustainable agri-based livelihood and other agri-business investments and distribution of assorted vegetables.

The BUB process is focused on engaging 300 to 400 of the poorest municipalities identified by the Cabinet’s Human Development and Poverty Reduction cluster.

Local-level engagement will be facilitated via relevant government agencies, local community leaders, LGUs and partner-civic organizations.

Legazpi attributes twin Gawad Kalasag national championship wins to firm anti-disaster commitment

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/RSM]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 22 (PNA) -- The city government here and one of its urban villages will receive honors on March 26 for winning anew the Gawad Kalasag Awards national championship—a twin victory that its leaders attribute to their resolve in ensuring that each local community is a truly livable place for everybody.

“Basically, it is our unrelenting commitment to this area of governance supported by our people in the barangays that won for us for the second time the national championship awards,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday told the Philippines News Agency.

An announcement made by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) late last week named the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDDRM) as the best nationwide in the Component/Independent City Category of the 2014 Gawad Kalasag search.

Barangay Oro Site, a densely populated village at the heart of the city’s commercial district, on the other hand, won the number one spot for having the Best Barangay DRRMCs for the Urban Barangay Class. Launched in 1998, the awards is among the national government’s mechanism in obtaining sustained commitment and support from DRRM practitioners in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks by recognizing their exceptional contributions.

Kalasag stands for Kalamidad at Sakuna, Labanan, Sariling Galing ang Kaligtasan.

Rosal, who is CDRRMC chairman along with City Administrator and CDRRMC action man Pecos Intia, and Joseph Philip Lee, the Oro Site village chieftain and Barangay DRRMC head, will receive the awards during formal ceremonies at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The accolades will be conferred on them by Department of National Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chair Voltaire Gazmin who will also honor all the 28 other national winners for their outstanding contributions in strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacities of the country and communities to disaster risks.

Intia said the recognitions, which both the city and Barangay Oro site won for the second time in two consecutive years (2013 and 2014), are affirmations of their being the country’s model in their respective categories in DRRM programs and a challenge for them to sustain those gains in the coming years.

“This inspires us towards working for more in ensuring that the city is indeed a very livable place not only for Legazpeños but also for the thousands of people coming on a year-round basis to our place as tourists, visitors, students, shoppers, businessmen and delegates of dozens of national and international conventions, seminars, conferences, sports competitions and other grand occasions that choose the city as venue,” he said.

The city was cited last year as among the three winners in the first Livable City Challenge organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

Iloilo City won the first place, followed by this city which got the second spot and by Cebu that placed third in that competition which measured their respective strategic visions and plans for a resilient and livable city.

Intia said the city got the Gawad Kalasag National Award for the second time this year because the CDRRMC achieved the national framework for disaster management required by the NDRRMC – which includes the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response and rescue and rehabilitation and recovery.

Rosal said “we got our toughness against calamities from the painful lessons we’ve had from various disasters several years back—one of them was the February 1993 Mt. Mayon eruption that killed 75 villagers of the city who were caught by the sudden avalanche of super-hot volcanic materials while farming at the lower slope of the volcano.”

After that incident, the city government worked on the permanent relocation to a safer place of all residents in barangays within the danger zone of the volcano.

The other one was from the catastrophic impact of two super typhoons — "Milenyo" and "Reming" that battered in late 2006 the city as severely as if it was the doomsday, killing over 1,200 people who were swept by the massive flashflood that hit some of its low-lying barangays.

“Amidst those devastating scenarios, the badly shaken spirit of the city regained its composure promptly and the herculean character its administration has developed for the local government and instilled among the governed swiftly roused back to work towards speedy recovery,” he recalled.

Now, life does not only continue to bloom in this city after those disasters. It has also been getting livelier and highly livable as the city administration continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high, he added.

Lee said he dedicates this new national championship award to all the people of Oro Site who have been very supportive of the BDRRMC in making the barangay calamity-resilient and every household disaster-ready and vigilant all the time.

Apart from the honors, both winners will receive from the NDRRMC cash prizes amounting Php100,000 each that should be spent for DRRM-related activities.

Bill to extend services of gov’t scientists passes House body


LIGAO, Albay, March 21 (PNA) -- Albay third district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez on Saturday announced here that the bill he authored seeking the extension of services after mandatory retirement age of government scientists has been approved by the House committee on science and technology.

The approval, which came during a committee meeting last March 17, makes possible the passing of House Bill No. 515 into a law that will allow the extension for five years of the services of government scientists who would be due for compulsory retirement.

Principally sponsored by Gonzalez , the Bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8439, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers and Other Science and Technology Personnel in Government of 1997.

Gonzalez told the Philippine News Agency that although RA 8439 provides for the rehiring of a retired employee “who possesses technical qualifications and the capability to undertake specific scientific research activities, provided no qualified science and technology expert is available to undertake said scientific activities,” extending their services behind their mandatory retirement age is more favorable to both the government and the employee.

“It is of my honest belief that even at the age beyond 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil service employees, most, if not all scientists, are still at the peak of their mental capabilities and are still very much capable of continuing their invaluable work on scientific projects that they had been working on prior to retirement,” he said.

He clarified that while the Magna Carta covers all scientific personnel in government including science and technology (S&T) managers, supervisors and planners; members of the scientific career system; scientists, engineers and researchers; and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) technicians and related S&T personnel, HB No. 515 covers only “scientists."

RA 8439 defines S&T managers, supervisors and planners as those who are graduate degree holders or have at least 10 years of managerial experience or are performing executive, planning and policy-making functions to effectively carry out science-related activities.

Scientists, engineers and researchers, the same law says, are at least undergraduate degree holders in any of the natural science and engineering courses and are involved in research and development or other scientific and technological activities.

DOST technicians and related S & T personnel are those who obtained at least 12 units in science, engineering and other related courses or any appropriate training and are providing support services.

Gonzalez explained that under HB No. 515, the extension of services shall be subject to conditions such as the project that the scientist is working on at the time of compulsory retirement is within the priority research and development programs of the DOST and is identified as strategic to the national development.

Other conditions are that the scientist is still mentally and physically fit to complete the project; and the request for extension of services shall be submitted to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for approval at least three months prior to the date of the compulsory retirement of the scientist, he said.

When the extension is approved, a scientist will continue receiving preferential salary approved by the President under the Magna Carta outside the existing law on salary scales and other benefits such as honorarium, share in royalties and hazard allowance.

Honorarium is for S & T personnel who rendered services beyond the established irregular workload of scientists, technologists, researchers and technicians whose broad and superior knowledge, expertise or professional standing in a specific field contributes to productivity and innovativeness shall be entitled to receive honorarium subject to rules to be set by the DOST.

Share in royalties is defined as a share in the proceeds of royalty payments arising from patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights divided on a 60-40 percents basis in favor of the government and the entitlement is for personnel involved in the technology activity which has been produced or undertaken during the regular performance of their functions.

Hazard allowance, on the other hand, is paid to S& T personnel involved in hazardous undertakings or assigned in hazardous workplaces.

The amount ranges from 10 to 30 percent of their monthly basic salary depending on the nature and extent of the hazard involved.

Considered hazardous workplaces are radiation-exposed laboratories and service workshops; depressed areas; areas declared under a state of calamity or emergency; strife-torn or embattled areas; laboratories; and disease-infested places of assignment.

Gonzalez has thanked the House committee chaired by Rep. Victor Yu for approving the bill which when finally passed into a law will play an important role in the government efforts to entice scientists from the country’s universities to join the DOST and address the “brain drain” following retirements of some of the agency’s experts.

TESDA-Bicol allots Php177M for scholarship in 2015

By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo [(PNA), LAP/FGS/NIM/CBD/RSM]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 20 (PNA) -- At least Php177 million has been allotted by the Technical and Educational Skills Development Authority-Bicol for its scholarship program in the region this year.

TESDA-Bicol Regional Director Conrado Bares disclosed this in a press conference held Thursday at the TESDA conference room here.

The amount is for some 20,000 scholars in the six provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

The biggest allocation is for Training Work Skills Program, Php104.16 million; Bottom-Up Budgeting, Php25.20 million; Skills Training for Employment Program, Php25.50 million; and Private Education Students Financial Assistance, Php22.18 million.

Bares asked the public to contact their provincial offices for the details and procedure on how to apply for these various scholarships.

He clarified that the courses that can be pursued under the four scholarship programs are agriculture, fishery, agribusiness and agro-industrial, tourism, information technology, business process management, semi-conductor and electronics, automotive, general infrastructure, manufacturing, logistics, and trainers' methodology.

The TESDA head said there are 225 TESDA-accredited schools in the region.

Camarines Sur has 82; Albay, 58; Camarines Norte, 27; Masbate, 24; Sorsogon, 21; and Catanduanes, 13.

Bares said their office, through the Economic Sector of the Regional Development Council-Bicol headed by Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, plans to put up additional training centers in remote areas of the region like in Pandan, Catanduanes; third district of Masbate; Pioduran, Albay; Capalongga, Camarines Norte; and other areas.

He said that aside from the TESDA, he urged local government units to also establish technical-vocational schools in their respective areas.

60 Legazpi street vendors get Nego Karts


LEGAZPI CITY, March 19 (PMA) -- Sixty ambulant vendors received Nego-Karts from Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)-Bicol Assistant Regional Director Karen Trayvilla during a simple ceremony Wednesday at the newly constructed city’s Activity Center at the Motorpool Compound.

The Nego-Kart project is a shared responsibility or a counterparting agreement among the City Government of Legazpi, the DOLE regional office and the 60 ambulant vendors.

The beneficiaries contributed PHP1,500 each while the city administration committed PHP108,000 and the DOLE also shared PHP402,000 for assembling the karts.

This livelihood project is the result of a tie-up among the City’s Public Employment Services Office (PESO), market administrator Julius Del Rosario and 60 selected street food vendors as recipients of this project.

Rosal said that aside from these Nego-Karts, the city administration and the DOLE have also distributed some livelihood materials to the city’s women’s organizations for manicure services, cooking and other activities.

The city chief executive revealed that these ambulant vendors are considered as partners in development by the city government because these people have big contribution to the movement of the local economy.

He revealed that part of the plan of his administration is to establish a road night market in the commercial areas of this city to give those ambulant vendors sufficient time to do business as well as to encourage other people to also engage in the street food businesses.

Rosal also urged the beneficiaries of this project to always offer healthy, clean, safe and affordable food to the consuming public.

He asked the DOLE to always cooperate with the program of the city administration to give the people more employment opportunities in order to improve their daily living condition.

Trayvilla said this Nego-Kart project is part of the agenda of the national government under the Aquino administration for an inclusive growth that all people in the community will benefit.

The official disclosed that based on the record collated by the DOLE, Bicol Region has the highest poverty incidence and “this project is part of the solution to that kind of problem that we encountered by way of giving our constituents an opportunity to become self-employed.”

Through the help of Rosal and PESO manager Cristine Zantua, the services of the DOLE was very much effective in helping the people in the community, she pointed out.

Trayvilla urged the recipients to always take care of their Nego-Karts because these would serve as the tools for their livelihood activities that will surely help them increase their daily income.

The Nego-Kart is one of the many DOLE’s projects to assist the unemployed and to improve the lives of many hardworking persons in the community but they only earn insufficient income.

This project also provides assistance to all the ambulant vendors that will enable them to upgrade their products and services for the satisfaction of the consuming public.

The recipients expressed optimism and vowed to work in the right way of engaging in business and gave assurance to always protect the equipment that they received from the DOLE and the City Government of Legazpi.

Famous chefs gather in Albay for DMF 2015 Food Festival

By Johnny C. Nunez [(PNA), FFC/JCN/EBP]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 18 (PNA) -- The Philippines’ famous chefs will converge in Albay on April 27-29, in a creative showdown with local culinary masters designed to enable them to concoct their own versions of the province's popular and favorite cuisines.

The showdown will give Albay’s culinary tourism a more defined and expanded role in tourism development. It will be held at the Penaranda Park in front of the Provincial Capitol here as a component event of the month-long 2015 Daragang Magayon Festival (DMF15).

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the event supports the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) Flavors of the Philippines campaign, and at the same time further enhances Albay’s local food favorites that will ultimately benefit the local restaurant industry.

Salceda said food is not just an appendix of the tourism industry; it is a legitimate tourism industry in itself that provides the best gastronomic experiential adventure for tourists, local or foreign.

“Albay's cuisines are very Pacific and the most Asian in nature. The use of gata (coconut milk), sili, pili, and the perfect addition of taro (gabi) leaves and the abundance of camote makes it one of the most flavorful culinary experience one can get anywhere in the Philippines,” said Salceda.

Albay is the largest pili nut producer and second largest camote producer in the country. Taro leaves are principal ingredients of the now famous ethnic culinary specialty, the Pinangat.

Among those expected to participate in the DMF15 food festival are Chef Gene Gonzales and son Chef Gino, Chef Boy Logro, Chef Rolando Laudico and wife Chef Jackie, who will team up with top Albay chefs for a series of exhibitions. The culinary experts will explore their creativity in coming up with their versions of Albay's favorite cuisines, both traditional and fusion.

The event will be featured as an out-of-town destination of Madrid Fusion Manila, and dubbed as Albay: The Coco Spice Tour. It will be first ever edition of the globally popular Madrid Fusion in the Philippines. It is considered a very important Spanish gastronomic congress.

Madrid Fusion’s invitational offers the chefs the opportunity to commune with and have breakfast at the foot of majestic Mayon Volcano, discover making pili nut processing, have a glimpse of the local market and homegrown culinary ingredients, learn how to prepare authentic pinangat (coconut and taro leaf dish) and Guinobatan’s longganisa, savor the flavor of laing pasta, taste the difference of dinuguan (pork blood stew) cooked with roasted coconut, bite into the delicious depth of bagnet Bicol express, and cool off with a chili ice cream.

Daragang Magayon Festival, a yearly cultural fare of Albay that has consistently and successfully given the province’s tourism the needed boost, will kick off last week of March and go on through the whole month of April. DOT has declared Albay as a “tourism powerhouse” and predicted to lead in the next major wave of the country’s tourist inflow.

Tagged as the hottest tourist destination in the country, Albay has displayed a phenomenal tourism growth, from 8,700 in 2007 when Salceda assumed the governorship, to 339,000 in 2013. The his figure has steadily grown since 2011.

DOT has continuously showcased Albay in many international tourism fairs, the latest of which was the March 10-13, 2015 Marche International Proffesionels d’Immobilier at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, an annual show participated in by influential property players worldwide.

Albay's west coast benefits from DENR’s coral management program

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), FFC/FGS/DOC/CBD/EBP]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 17 (PNA) -- A national government program for the sustainable development and protection of the local marine ecosystem has been put in place in barangays along the western coastline of Albay.

Called the Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Program (SCREMP), this undertaking being spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will benefit at least 23 barangays covered by four local government units (LGUs) within the third congressional district of the province.

These LGUs are the City of Ligao and the municipalities of Libon, Pioduran and Oas whose marine ecosystem sitting along the northern coastline of Ticao and Burias Passes is considered unique and extremely important owing, among others, to its proximity to the sanctuaries of manta rays and whale sharks that are both government-protected species.

The Manta Ray Bowl that draws a notable number of international leisure divers is located off the nearby town of San Jacinto at Ticao Island of Masbate while the whale sharks locally called butandings that are major tourist drawer are seasonally homed each year at the neighboring coastal waters of Donsol, Sorsogon.

As an initial move for the full implementation of SCREMP, the Bicol University (BU), through its Research and Development Center, has already been conducting a series of “coastal vulnerability assessment” to determine the status of the area’s coral reefs and determine management measures that should be instituted under the program.

BU, representing research and academic institutions, is one of the DENR's partners in the implementation of this program that is also being coordinated with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture, other concerned national government agencies, LGUs, non-government organizations and the private sectors.

DENR Regional Director Gilbert Gonzales on Tuesday here explained that SCREMP is a national program being carried out by the environment and natural resources department to conduct a strategic, sustainable and ecosystem-based approach in protecting and rehabilitating the coral reef ecosystem.

Its implementation in selected coastal areas in the country, which was started by the Aquino administration in 2012 and set to last until 2020, carries with it various components that include habitat and vulnerability assessments, coral reef rehabilitation and protection, social mobilization and development, marine protected area strengthening and networking and sustainable livelihood interventions, Gonzales said.

In livelihood interventions, he said, the estimated benefits of the SCREMP activities from this year to 2017 alone in terms of job generation would go to around 40,000 families, amounting to some PHP500 million that could be gained from activities such as coastal ecosystem enterprises and coral reef protection and management works.

Participating barangay residents will be trained for these undertakings by field officers from the DENR and other involved agencies who are equipped with expertise and basic information on such activities.

Gonzales said the Albay west coast was included as beneficiary of the program because it is identified as among the country’s Protected Landscape and Seascape, a priority site proclaimed protected area under the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 291 dated April 23, 2000.

Like the other programs of the DENR, the implementation of SCREMP is expected to contribute to food security and improve human well-being of the coastal communities, implement sustainable management of coastal and marine resources through resource and habitat conservation, protection and rehabilitation, among other objectives, according to Gonzales.

Congressman Fernando Gonzalez lauded the DENR for the inclusion as beneficiary of the program of the coastal area of his district which he wanted also to be developed into a tourism haven in line with the government’s drive to create multi-faceted tourist destinations.

For this, Gonzalez has recently filed House Bill 4599 seeking that the unspoiled white sand beaches along the Albay west coast, whose diversity and unique attraction offer an alternative to the highly commercialized beaches and mangrove or Boracay and Palawan, be developed as an additional tourism site for the province.

The bill, when enacted into law, will declare the area as a tourism spot and task the Department of Tourism (DOT) in its development through funds to be appropriated by Congress.

The area includes the beaches along barangays Buenavista, Malidong, Basicao Coastal and Marigondon, all in Pioduran town; Maonon, Cabarian and Catbulawan of Ligao City; Badian, Cagmanaba, Maramba and Nagas of Oas; and Apud, Rawis, Talin-talin and Pantao of Libon.

According to Gonzalez, the development of the area, which in the past has been off the beaten path, was started in 2010 and going on today through the huge amount of money already allocated under the government’s general appropriations to complete the Albay West Coast road by 2016.

The proposed law says that “in coordination with other government agencies concerned, the DOT shall prepare, within one year from the approval of this Act a tourism development plan involving the construction, installation and/or maintenance of such appropriate facilities and infrastructure as shall encourage tourism in the area.”

The DOT shall also take the necessary steps to implement such development plan and incorporate the same in its tourism development program for the ensuing calendar year, the bill states.

Gonzalez explained that when the Albay west coast is declared as tourism development site, its beaches would add to the attractiveness of the province apart from what are offered by Mt. Mayon, the world’s most perfect cone-shaped volcano, the most photographed Cagsawa Ruins and other national historical and cultural heritage sites in the locality.

The SCREMP, on the other hand, will help maintain the natural wonders of the place by way of protecting and preserving the beauty and usefulness of its marine ecology, he added.

Tigerair flies Manila—Legazpi route starting March 29

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), FFC/FGS/DOC/CBD]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 16 (PNA) -- Low-budget leisure travel carrier Tigerair Philippines will start flying the Manila-Legazpi route on March 29, its management has announced.

“We are happy to announce our new flights to one of the most beautiful destinations in the Philippines – Legazpi. We look forward to offering low fares to even more destinations,” Leilani de Leon, the company’s legal and corporate affairs chief, said in a statement reaching here over the weekend.

De Leon said the airline company will use any of its fleet of four Airbus A320 aircraft in flying this new route that will make a total of 14 the destinations it serves: Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Clark, Cebu, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Legazpi, Manila, Roxas, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, and Hong Kong.

Tigerair Philippines, formerly known as SEAir and South East Asian Airlines, is a low-cost airline headquartered in Manila and a franchise and subsidiary of JG Summit, the parent company of Cebu Pacific which operates the airline.

This Tigerair flight will bring to at least five the total number of flights serving the Manila-Legazpi route daily; the others are being made by Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Zest Air.

Cebu Pacific also maintains a four-flight weekly schedule between the Legazpi-Cebu route.

“Tigerair is very much welcome as it is a response to the need for more carriers serving the growing number of tourist and visitors coming to our city,” City Mayor Noel Rosal on Sunday told the Philippine News Agency here.

The city, he said, has been fast emerging as among the favorite travel destinations and venue of big national and international gatherings like conventions, meetings, conferences, sport events and tours making wise the decision of Tigerair management to fly the route.

While the city has been playing host to big occasions, the local government, at the same time caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers, the mayor said.

After playing host to 17 grand gatherings during the first 10 weeks of this year, 14 more and still counting, so far have been set to take place here until the last week of November.

These already listed occasions expected to bring in tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country and abroad, come as the city guns for a slot in the five top convention destinations—at least in Luzon by 2020.

The biggest of these gatherings would be the 99th Annual Communication (ANCOM) of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the Philippines which will be on April 23-16 at the city government-owned Ibalong Centrum for Recreation (ICR).

It is expected to be attended by more than 6,000 delegates from the hundreds of Masonic Lodges in the country and abroad.

“Our quest for preference as venue of big national and international gatherings is anchored on our being highly capable now of hosting and properly handling friendly visitors from any part of the world,” Rosal said.

The city is also eyeing this year a slot in the country’s top 10 best tourist destinations where it placed 14th in 2013 for achieving an impressive tourism industry growth represented by the listed 579,470 domestic and foreign tourist arrivals, which was higher by 32.27-percent rate from the previous year counted at only 141,370.

After surpassing that half-million tourism arrival mark, the city government improved further its tourism performance by hitting the 700,000 count last year for an industry growth rate of at least 25 percent which perhaps would be good enough for the city to capture one of the top slots in the country’s best tourist destinations.

“Our daily arrivals either via the average five daily commercial flights from Manila and Cebu or land trips coming from Metro Manila and several other origins in Luzon and the Visayas islands are the biggest contributors to our tourist arrivals, averaging around 1,500 daily,” he noted.

The city has indeed become a favorite destination not only because of the majestic Mt. Mayon, the world’s most perfect coned volcano, but also of the picturesque Albay Gulf with its aquamarine waters kissing the clean black volcanic sand beaches, the Legazpi Boulevard, Ligñon Hill, Kapuntukan Hill and lava front ATV (all-terrain vehicle)-driving terrain near the volcano’s foot, among other places to boast.

Legazpi’s unique culture, cuisine, natural wonders including Legazpeños’ resilience developed with their ability to endure natural calamities and disasters are endearing factors that also attract tourists and visitors, the mayor said.

Tourism facilities like hotels, dining places, recreational sites, convention sites, shopping and transportation hubs also offer no problem as since the past 10 years, such amenities have been sprouting like mushrooms around the city and ready to take in all visitors on any given time.

“Our city is one of the country’s top tourism destinations that is why we are making every inch of our development focused on tourism as a primary strategy in our pursuit for inclusive and horizontal growth,” he said.

This growth benefits not only big investors such as hotel and resort owners and operators but also the people in the countryside where most of tourist destinations are located by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures, he added.

2016 Palaro in Albay to become a sports tourism event

By Danny O. Calleja (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has approved a P700-million budget for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, with host Albay committing to put up a counterpart fund of P150 million.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said half of the budget approved by the President has already been released for the construction of sports facilities, among them the Albay Sports Complex in Guinobatan town, the games’ main venue.

The facility will have an international standard track oval and grandstand.

The Albay Palaro will be rolled out as a sports tourism event, the first time in the history of the national games. The event will be a source of additional revenue for the host province with the influx of tourists during the games, Salceda said.

Salceda said about 15,000 athletes and officials from the country’s 17 regions are expected to join the Palaro.

Aside from playing host, Albay also hopes to improve on its ninth-place finish in the 2014 Palaro in Laguna, where it garnered five of the nine golds earned by the region. Albay hopes to fare well in the May 3-9 Palaro this year in Tagum City.

In line with its tourism program, the host province will spread Palaro’s 21 events around the province to give participants and visitors a chance to explore Albay’s best tourism destinations and specialties.

“My guideline to Team Albay, the Palarong Pambansa 2016 technical working group, is to design a multi-venue layout, that shall distribute participants in different sports sites around the province so they can also enjoy our global standard tourism sites while competing,” Salceda said.

As a leading province in the country’s travel and tourism, Albay figured prominently in the March 10-13, 2015 Marche International Proffesionels d’Immobilier at the Palais de Festivals in Cannes, France.

The province has been featured in many national and international travel marketing fairs, including the Berlin ITB 2012, the London WTM 2013, the Shanghai ITM 2013, and the Department of Tourism promotions in Hong Kong in 2014.

The modernized sports facilities will be viable and sustainable for Albay since they can host future big international events like the Southeast Asian Games, Salceda added.

The games facilities will sport locally inspired designs, drawing ideas from Albay’s iconic products.

For instance, the Albay Sports Complex main arena will feature Abaca Weave and Pili Nut-inspired designs; the Oas Arena, with a “Puto”-inspired ambience and “Coco Coir” finish; and the gymnastic events building, with a “Pinangat”-inspired images.

In Daraga town, the Bagumbayan Gym will also be reconstructed and the historic Daraga Covered Court restored into a park.

The park was formerly known as the Ninoy Park in honor of Ninoy Aquino. Here, President Aquino, first sought the help of Albayanos in the quest for justice for his slain father.

Week-long euphoria to mark Ligao City’s 14th Foundation Day

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), RMA/FGS/DOC/CBD/]

LIGAO CITY, March 14 (PNA) – It will be a no-work day for workers in this fast-growing young Bicol metropolis on March 24 as the city culminates a week-long jubilation for its 14th Cityhood Anniversary this year.

The break was authorized by Malacañang through its recently issued Proclamation No. 965 declaring the anniversary date a non-working holiday.

Recognized as a barrio of Polangui, Albay, since 1606 and ceded to its nearby town of Oas in 1665 to finally become an independent municipality in 1666, this locality gained its city status on March 24, 2001 through Republic Act No. 9008 or the Ligao City Charter which was ratified in a plebiscite with a overwhelming “yes” votes of 17,753 as against the 1,387 “no”.

The Cityhood Anniversary Motorcade around the city will open the celebrations on Wednesday morning to signal the start of various events and activities for the day -- such as the photo exhibits, the regular mass blood-letting for donations, Financial Literacy Seminar, Persons with Disabilities Mini-Olympic and Mass Eye Screening.

The day will also see the inaugurations of the Barangay Calzada-Maharlika Diversion and the farm-to-market road linking Barangays Batang and Pinit that are both projects funded through national allocations initiated in Congress by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s 3rd Congressional District.

The Farmers’ Day that will honor peasants, whom the city government highly regards as the backbone of the local economy, will be on Day 2 of the celebrations -- featuring the opening of an agri-trade fair, farm photo exhibits, medical check-up, a job’s fair and career information drive and farmers’ “Laro ng Lahi”.

Farmers are special here because the local economy is anchored on 80-percent agriculture with some 20,000 hectares of its total land area devoted to agricultural crop production.

A Zumba Total Dance Fitness for Health will be staged in late afternoon while at the end of the day, there will be the Talent’s Night for the Binibining Ligao pageant.

The next days will be more of fun and excitement from a mass tree-planting activity, awarding day, youth concert dubbed MuziKabataan, coastal caravan featuring colorfully-decorated boats, Binibining Ligao Coronation Night, a synchronized estero and river clean-up, mass wedding, youth caravan, parade of festivals and the anniversary ball.

Several other sports events like Amazing Race-Coastal Edition, Cityhood Babies Race, pedicab race, chess and volleyball tournaments, the Takbo-Panalo: Fun Run to Fitness and Wealth and the Francisco V.Gonzalez Memorial Cup – Mountain Bike (MTB) Challenge have been lined up for the week-long celebrations.

“We expect thousands to arrive for this occasion that also serves as grand homecoming of Ligaueños who are working or now living anywhere in the country or overseas as an expression of the oneness of our people,” City Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua told the Philippines News Agency on Friday.

She said the week-long events depict religious, cultural and economic transformation of the locality from a second-class town to a component city that is proud of its rich cultural heritage and good social values.

Alsua said visitors and tourists also come for this special yearly occasion particularly that it is timed with the Lenten Season that brings in thousands of devotees and pilgrims to the Kawa-Kawa Hill Natural Park, one of the city’s key tourism sites for its featuring of the Way of the Cross with giant sculptures dramatizing the final days of the life of Jesus.

Nicknamed the “hill without a hilltop,” Kawa-Kawa Hill’s summit comes as a thin wall that surprisingly encircles a sunken three-hectare plateau, forming a sprawling flat surface that looks like an elegantly-landscaped amphitheater carpeted with carefully-mowed green grasses serving as a playground, activity complex, horseback-riding field and camping site.

Hence, the hill’s name is derived from such natural feature that resembles a “kawa,” the local term for cauldron or Chinese wok.

The top of its rim, however, offers the panoramic view—on the northwestern side—of the entire city sitting amid an expansive green field of rice paddies crisscrossed by irrigation systems deriving water from rivers whose banks are guarded by concrete flood-control structures.

Such scenery draws sighs of confidence that the city, whose development is primarily focused on its agricultural communities, is assured of sufficiency in farm-sourced food supply.

The natural ambience and healthful surroundings offered by Kawa-Kawa Hill is supported by the gentle blowing of the wind that soothes every visitor’s body with cool and refreshing air even during summer when the blooming of sunflowers on established fields all over the place down to street sides, backyards flower gardens and public parks in the city is an impressive sight.

Gonzalez describes the city, his hometown, as a locality with a distinct charm as it has the blend of relaxed atmosphere and a scenic view that soothes the tired mind, mesmerizes the body and delights one’s soul.

Its unspoiled beaches along three coastal barangays offer an alternative to the highly commercialized beaches of Boracay and Palawan as well as business opportunities for possible investors and entrepreneurs for further development into a tourism site, he added.

DepEd Bicol bares list of schools to offer senior high school in 2016

By Joseph John J. Perez (JJJP-PIA5)

LEGAZPI CITY, March 13 (PIA) – The Department of Education (DepEd) confirms that 1,251 schools in Bicol are ready to offer the senior high school (SHS) program under the K to 12 curriculum by 2016.

“These schools, mostly big schools in the provinces, have basic facilities already and have already met the requirements of the SHS program,” DepEd Bicol Curriculum and Learning Management Division Chief Haydee Bolivar told the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) during the “Aramon Ta Daw” (Be Informed)” radio program recently.

Bolivar also clarified that the list is constantly updated as more schools qualify for the SHS program and as other learning institutions express intent in establishing SHS facilities.

In an earlier interview conducted by PIA in the same radio program, DepEd V Education Program Supervisor Cecile Ferro disclosed that the SHS program will offer four components or tracks; academic, technical/ vocational and livelihood (TVL), arts and design, and sports.

Bolivar further clarified that there will be four strands under the academic track, namely, Accountancy, Business and Management (ABM), Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS), Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and General Academic Strand (GAS).

Camarines Sur leads the provinces with 371 schools qualified to offer SHS followed by Albay with 251 and Sorsogon with 144 schools. Masbate province has 130 schools, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes have 108 schools each for SHS program.

Among the Bicol cities, Sorsogon City has the most number of schools with 35 followed by Legazpi and Tabaco Cities with 22 each, and Naga City with 19. Masbate meanwhile has 16 schools, Iriga City with 13 and Ligao City with 12.

All provinces and cities in the Bicol region have schools that will offer ABM, STEM and GAS under the academic track, and TVL.

However, both Ligao and Masbate Cities do not have any school yet that will offer HUMSS, while Iriga, Legazpi, Masbate and Sorsogon Cities is facing the same case for schools that will offer arts and design track. The same is true with Iriga, Legazpi, Ligao, and Sorsogon Cities with no schools yet to offer sports track under the SHS program.

In Albay, the following schools will offer senior high school: St. Benedict’s Academy, Rapu-Rapu Community College, Oas Community College, Virgin of Carmel High School, Libon Community College, Zamora Memorial College, Republic Colleges of Guinobatan, Inc., Bicol College, Mary’s Child Science Oriented School, Sunshine International School, St. Peter’s Academy, Dominican School of Camalig, Immaculate Conception High School, Carolyna Institute of Technology, Inc., St. Michael Academy and PLT College of Guinobatan.

In Camarines Sur, the schools identified for SHS offering are: La Florianne Institute of Learning, Inc., Pasacao Academy, Inc., Philippine Computer Foundation College, Inc., Mariner’s Polytechnic Colleges Foundation, Colegio De Santa Rita Foundation, Inc., Mataas na Paaralan ng Pagatpatan, St. John The Baptist Institute of Bicol, Inc., Holy Trinity College, WRI Colleges, Partido College, Siena College Tigaon, King Thomas Learning Academy, Inc., Bicol Central Academy, St. Paul Academy, Camarines Science Oriented High School, Inc., Colegio Del Santissimo Rosario, Partido State University and Santa Monica Academy.

In Camarines Norte, Our Lady of Lourdes College Foundation, AMA Computer Learning Center, St. John the Apostle Academy, Calabaca Academy, Manila Bicol South Road Academy, Maria Aurora Academy, Capalonga Institute, La Consolacion College-Daet, and Mabini Colleges confirmed that they will also open SHS.

The Christian Polytechnic Institute and Catanduanes Colleges will offer SHS in the island province of Catanduanes.

In Sorsogon, the following schools will also offer senior high school: AMA Computer Learning Center, Aemilianum College, Inc., St. Louise de Marillac College of Sorsogon, Solis Institute of Technology, Villanueva Gabao Institute, Inc., Estenias Science Foundation School, Inc., Data Base Technology Computer School, Sorsogon Our Lady of Foundation College, Inc. (ACSAT), Meriam College of Technology, Veritas College of Irosin, AMA Computer Learning Center, The Lewis College and the Dominican School of Pilar.

The University of St. Anthony, WRI Colleges and Ceguera Technological Colleges, Inc., in Iriga City will also do the same.

In Masbate, these schools are: Osmeña Colleges, Burias College, Inc., St. Anthony High School Seminary, Liceo de Baleno, Liceo de San Jose, Immaculate Conception Academy, Liceo de Masbate, Liceo de San Jacinto Foundation and Southern Masbate Roosevelt College.

In Legazpi City, the schools are: Informatics Computer Institute, Divine Word College of Legazpi, St. Raphael Academy, Aquinas University of Legazpi, Southern Luzon Technological College Foundation, Inc., Genecom Institute of Science and Technology, Inc., Computer Communication Development Institute, St. Agnes Academy, Datamex Institute of Computer Technology, and Mariners’ Polytechnic Colleges.

In Naga City, Ateneo De Naga University, Naga College Foundation, University of Nueva Caceres, St. Joseph School, WRI Colleges, Universidad de Santa Isabel, Naga Hope Christian School, Mariners Polytechnic College, Concepcion Pequeña National High School and Naga City Montessori School have also SHS offerings.

In Tabaco City, the schools that will offer the senior high school program are: Daniel B. Peña Memorial College Foundation, Informatics Computer Institute, Tabaco College, Computer Communication Development Institute, Polytechnic Institute of Tabaco, Dr. Carlos S. Lanting College, MTC Academy-Albay, Amando Cope College, St. Louise de Marillac School of Tabaco and Carolyna Institute of Technology, Incorporated.

National government allots Php125M for 210 villages in Albay under Barangay Forest Program

By Nancy Ibo Mediavillo [(PNA), FFC/FGS/NIM/CBD/]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 12 (PNA) -- The national government has allotted Php125 million for the implementation of the Barangay Forest Program (BFP) under the National Greening Program (NGP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2011 and Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2013-03 of the DENR and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Imee Baltazar, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer-Albay, said the amount represents the mobilization fund to start the program in Albay.

Each of the 210 barangays will receive Php20,000 for every hectare of land covered by the program, which aims to increase and protect trees in the villages.

Baltazar said that after one year, the barangay local government unit is required to allot fund from its internal revenue allotment.

She said the DENR-Bicol has already evaluated 204 villages included in the program and field personnel of the DENR, DILG and Provincial Government of Albay headed by Governor Joey Sarte Salceda are still evaluating other barangays.

The 204 barangays under the program are well distributed in the three cities and 15 towns of the province, covering 1,492.4798 hectares of land.

These are in Malilipot, 7; Malinao, 8; Sto. Domingo, 6; Tabaco, 9; Tiwi, 12; Daraga, 6; Legazpi, 15; Manito, 12; Rapu-Rapu, 11; Bacacay, 3; Libon, 18; Ligao, 14; Oas, 16; Jovellar, 11; Pioduran, 16; Camalig, 17; Guinobatan, 12; and Polangui, 11.

Ongoing works on Legazpi’s urban drainage system impress DPWH chief

By Emmanuel P. Solis [(PNA), FFC/FGS/EPS/CBD]

LEGAZPI CITY, March 11 (PNA) -- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson was impressed with the on-going construction of the Legazpi City Urban Drainage System (LCUDS) during his visit here on Monday, Mayor Noel E. Rosal said Wednesday.

The LCUDS is considered a mega flood control project of the city administration and the DPWH, with a huge funding of Php2.1 billion from the national government.

The project started with an initial release of Php500 million included in the General Appropriations Act of 2012 followed by another Php300 million in 2014 from Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the DPWH Bicol regional office.

The civil works of the project, now being supervised by the DPWH in coordination with the Legazpi City Engineering Office, include the flood control structure along Tibu and Macabalo rivers to serve as waterways together with the rehabilitation and widening of canals in the main thoroughfare, which removed the old culvert-type canals and replaced these with the new wide box-type canals.

The project also involves the improvement and construction of flood control dikes, drainage systems and sea walls as part of the preparation for the installation of three giant pumping stations in barangays San Roque, Bay-bay and Victory Village.

These pumping facilities will be the first flood-mitigation structure in the Bicolandia patterned after project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency with a capacity of throwing-out three cubic meters of flood waters per second.

Singson disclosed that this flood control project is one of the most important factors in addressing the perennial flooding problems in this city that it will surely work for a quick release of flood waters during rainy seasons.

He said this kind of infrastructure project is the best structure that other local government units need to establish at their own respective areas, especially those localities vulnerable to typhoons and other forms of calamities.

Rosal said in his statement that this anti-flood control project materialized after the city suffered a very unforgettable experience brought by the aftermath of a destructive super typhoon “Reming” in 2006 that resulted in the huge number of casualties and destroyed the agricultural sector in this locality.

The city chief executive revealed that this anti-flood control structure materialized through the project study made by his administration in 2009 and submitted to Malacanang and approved by President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

He pointed out that all residents along the Macabalo River that will affected by the construction of this drainage system were already relocated by the city administration to the resettlement site in the southern section of this city in Barangay Taysan.

He said these three pumping stations will be closed during heavy rains, high tides and typhoons because the flood waters from the slopes of Mount Mayon and other sources of waters from the rivers of nearby municipalities will be pumped out into the Albay Gulf.

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