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List of Municipalities in the Albay Province within Region V in the Republic of The Philippines
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300 Fil-Canadians on a "Winter Escapade" in Albay


LEGAZPI CITY (PIA) – Some 300 Filipino-Canadian tourists visited the province of Albay as part of their Winter Escapade Tour Itinerary this year.

The group stayed in Albay from February 4-6 as they also made sorties in other provinces in the Bicol region such as Sorsogon and Camarines Sur visiting prime tourist destinations and other showcases.

Now on its third year, the Winter Escapade Philippine Tour is organized by the Philippine Embassy and consular posts in Canada to escape the cold winter season in their country.

Vancouver Consul General Neil Frank Ferrer, in a press release, has earlier said that this year’s travel itinerary and tour packages aims to attract more participants targeting not only the balikbayan but the mainstream Canadians as well.

Last year’s travel was led by Philippine Ambassador to Canada Petronila Garcia to Dumaguete, Siquijor, Bohol, and Cebu.

The group arrived Thursday this week and was warmly welcomed by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and provincial government of Albay before they proceed to Mayon Rest House and other destinations in Tabaco City.

For February 5, they were divided into four groups for a tour in Naga City, Sorsogon, Camalig and Albay.

The Naga City tour group visited the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, Holy Rosary Minor Seminary, Archaelogical and Ecclesiastical museums, Porta Mariae and Camsur Watersports Complex.

Participants in the Sorsogon tour visited Bulusan lake, Balay Buhay sa Uma Farms and Irosin Hot Spring with stop for karagumoy handicrafts and pili products.

The Camalig tour included Busay Falls and ATV adventure with visits in Hoyop-Hoyopan cave, Calabidongan cave, Quitinday Hills dubbed as the chocolate hills of Albay, Kitwinan Hill considered as the highest point in Camalig.

The tour in Albay highlighted handicrafts and culinary fusion which includes demo on how to make pinukpok and geonet. The group is also taken to various souvenir stores for shopping.

On Saturday, the group stayed overnight stay in Misibis Bay Resort while they can venture on their own on Sunday.

The Fil-Canadian tourists left for Metro Manila on February 8 and proceeded to Palawan on the remaining days of their stay in the country until February 12.

No more walking for Albay kids

By Michael B. Jaucian (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines — Call it a late Christmas present or an early gift for Valentine’s Day.

Poor students from Albay, however, described the brand-new BMX bikes a most welcome and timely intervention that could possibly change their lives.

“Coming to school and going home will no longer be a burden for me,” said Rovelyn Silva, 15, a Grade 10 student from Barangay Bonga here, of the bikes donated by sponsors of the “Bike Mo, Pag-asa Ko (Your bike, my hope)” project.

Silva is one of the students forced to walk at least an hour to school because public utility jeepneys hardly ply the route to their remote village at the foot of Mayon Volcano.

The students’ plight and their determination to finish school despite their difficulty was featured in the Inquirer in December, along with their collective wish for bicycles as a Christmas gift.

Moved by the story, sponsors pitched in to donate more than 200 BMX bikes to Pag-asa National High School, according to its principal, Jeremy Cruz, who said the donated bikes would be added to the initial six bikes used in the project.

Under the project, the bikes will be entrusted to the students until they finish high school, after which they will be asked to return the bikes to the school so the next batch of students can use them.

No more excuses

“Students [who were always late or absent] have no more excuse not to attend classes regularly,” Cruz said, adding that the bikes can help students finish their studies.

The bikes will discourage students from dropping out of school, agreed Ramon Fiel Abcede, the Department of Education’s regional director for Bicol. Abcede promised to support the project even as he urged local governments and other groups to donate bikes to public schools in their community.

For Grade 7 student Jay Agarin, 14, squeezing into an overloaded jeepney on his way to school will now be a thing of the past, as is his being habitually late for school.

Biking to school will also ease his family’s financial burden, said Agarin whose father, a construction worker, hardly earns enough to provide him fare money.

Norberto Jay Toledo, a Grade 7 student from Barangay San Joaquin, considered the bike an early Valentine’s gift. To repay the project’s donors, this son of a security guard promised to study hard to become a policeman.

Sharing their blessings

Grade 10 student Myla Lorca, a Grade 10 student, said having a bike would help her finish school despite her family’s meager means. Now she no longer needs to borrow money from neighbors to ride the tricyle, said Lorca, whose father is a carpenter.


One of the donors, Roberto Eduardo, chief executive officer of AgriDev Corp., said he was touched by the students’ appeal for bicycles when he read their story and realized their determination to attend their classes despite trudging a rocky road to school.

Another donor, Vicente Ocampo IV, said he was happy to share his blessings with the students of Albay, his home province.

“We believe every child has the right to proper education,” he said.

Jovi Mendoza, a mechanical engineer, said members of his group, called “Happy Boys,” donated bikes because they also felt they had to share their blessings with the less fortunate.

Riding bikes to school is sustainable and environment-friendly, he added, as this type of vehicle does not use gasoline and has no carbon emissions.

Mayor Noel Rosal said the project would encourage a healthy lifestyle among residents of Legazpi, where bike lanes had been put up.

DOH to strengthen leprosy awareness on XTERRA triathlon start


LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 6 (PNA) -- The Department of Health (DOH) Bicol regional office, Novartis Foundation and Provincial Government of Albay will conduct the last mile for leprosy awareness drive during the XTERRA triathlon, an international triathlon event, on Sunday at Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga, Albay.

The undertaking is part of the celebration of the World Leprosy Day.

With the theme “Running the last Mile for Leprosy”, it calls for public consciousness on the DOH’s cause to totally eradicate leprosy in the Philippines.

Leprosy has been eliminated as a public health burden in the Philippines, however, recently it is reemerging with pockets of cases in some areas in the country, including the Bicol Region -- with 57 cases as of 2015, according to DOH Regional Director Napoleon L. Arevalo.

The World Health Organization 2012 report listed new cases in Metro Manila with 99 cases detected and 9-percent prevalence rate; Nueva Ecija (Lupao), with 60 cases and 4-percent prevalence rate, and Cebu City, with 37 cases and 27-percent prevalence rate.

This incidence places the country in the lead in terms of new cases detected in the western Pacific region.

The high prevalence rate indicates that there exists a transmission of the disease in the community, Arevalo explained.

He added that the event is a unique way to remember a forgotten disease like leprosy and strives to generate awareness about the existence of the disease in the community and reduce the stigma to the patients.

“This will emphasize that leprosy is curable and the treatment is free,” the DOH regional official said.

The last mile is the most difficult but rewarding part of the race where an athlete needs to persevere and intensify efforts to reach the finish line, Arevalo said.

Likewise, the DOH is intensifying the efforts and developing better strategies of the leprosy program to find and cure the remaining unseen and untreated cases in achieving a leprosy-free country.

Leprosy is a disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, which affects the skin, nerves and eyes.

Although it is not highly infectious, it is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contact with untreated cases.

The disease is curable but when left untreated it can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes, resulting in permanent disability.

Arevalo said dedicating the last mile for leprosy is a symbolic gesture of support from the triathletes who will run the international competition.

The run intends to define a concrete path toward leprosy-free Philippines and forge commitment to developing the potential collaboration with partners at the global, national and local level.

The event will commence with the briefing of triathletes and a message from Secretary of Health Janet Garin and a Novartis Foundation official before the gun starts.

There will be a commitment wall for leprosy at the finish line.

After the gun start, there will be a symbolic hand-to-hand “United for the Last Mile” walk with Governor Joey Sarte Salceda, Assistant Secretary Dr. Nestor F. Santiago Jr., Arevalo, Novartis Foundation, the private sector, the community together with people cured from leprosy.

“Let us support the campaign to increase public awareness and reduce stigma and discrimination to leprosy patients. We want Bicolanos to live a quality life free from the burden of this disease,” Arevalo said.

Legazpi partners with DA in pursuing organic farming

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 5 (PNA) -– The partnership recently entered into between the local government unit (LGU) here and the Department of Agriculture (DA) is expected to boost efforts toward a dramatic shift into organic the farming systems involving vast farms down the hinterlands of this key Bicol metropolis.

The partnership interlocked the city government and the DA in an aggressive campaign for the promotion of sustainable agriculture and implementation of projects designed to support this organic or natural farming system across the local agribusiness sector.

City Agriculture Office chief Jesus Kallos defines organic farming as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that lasts over the long term.

It provides or secure human with safe and nutritious food, enhance the quality of environment base upon which the agricultural economy relies and makes efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources that are integrated into natural biological cycles and conditions.

The system, Kallos on Friday said, also makes farm operations economically viable and enhances the quality of life of farmers and the community or society as a whole and the big shift from the usual practice is part of the Aquino administration’s implementation of Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act (OAA) of 2010.

The city government’s adoption of organic agriculture based on the OAA is aimed at enriching soil fertility, reduce pollution and farming’s environmental destruction, prevent natural resources depletion, save on imported fertilizer, and protect the health of farmers and consumers alike, he said.

It has been a proven approach towards increasing farm productivity and farmers’ income, Kallos added.

Marking the formalization of the LGU-DA partnership was the recent inauguration that signal the start of operations of the newly established Organic Trading Post located at the heart of the city’s Albay District which is also the seat of the local government.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and city mayor Noel Rosal graced the occasion which the former acknowledged as part of the DA’s focus on establishing the same facilities, especially in agricultural areas to provide venues for farmers and fisherfolk to trade for higher profit their organic products directly to the consumers and skipping profit-oriented traders.

Alcala said the new trading post forms part of the project of DA partly made possible through a Php1.5-million grant to the city government for the construction of the edifice and putting up of other required facilities.

The same project is also in line with the ratification of the City Organic Agriculture Ordinance authored by councilor Alex Sy to promote trading of organic agricultural products and see to it that food commodities in the local market are chemical-free and safe for consumption.

According to Rosal, the trading post is widely supported by the 500-strong Organic Agriculture and Vegetable Growers Association of Legazpi, which is making the facility their primary venue in the trading of their naturally-produced crops.

Manned by the CAO, the facility also serves as the city government’s distribution center of non-chemical fertilizers produced by the city-owned Ibalong Organic Fertilizer manufacturing plant that produces effective substitutes to expensive inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and other farm inputs.

“Our organic fertilizers and other farming products are made available to reduce expenses borne by farmers and strengthen the agricultural activity as part of reducing the incidence of poverty in our rural communities,” Rosal said.

The Ibalong Organic Fertilizer is derived from various biodegradable waste materials collected by the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) and processed by the CAO in its manufacturing plant established last year in collaboration with world-renowned microbiologist Dr. Eliseo Ruiz of Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“Ours is the first LGU in the Philippines to adopt biotechnology as solution to nagging problems on solid waste management confronting urban localities of the country like our city,” the mayor said.

Under this project, the tons of biodegradable solid waste materials that the city government collects from all over its urban barangays, instead of being dumped into the Php100-million huge sanitary landfill it established at the outskirt of the city about four years ago, are diverted to the organic fertilizer manufacturing plant.

Initially, Kallos said, full-time local farmers are provided free fertilizer to encourage them to promote this kind of farm input.

The LGU-DA partnership, he said, “gives utmost attention to our organic rice sector which is part of Bicol’s farming communities responsible for the 74 percent of the country’s organic rice production.”

Bicol also contributes 44 percent to the country’s overall production of other organic crops owing to their expansion of organic farming with the Php6-million upland farming project that boosts the region’s hefty contribution, according to records of the DA regional office based in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Under this project, the region’s organically-produced upland rice was further developed for its market potential as some of these traditional strains have been reported to outperform some modern rice varieties.

The advantage of these traditional varieties is in higher grain production and drought tolerance which has become a critical trait amid the prevailing climate change threats, Kallos said.

Upland rice varieties generally have an average yield of only one to two metric tons (MT) per hectare, but selected Bicol organic varieties which the DA uses in projects reviving vast upland rice farms in the region exceed such yield average, he said.

Based on a report of the International Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Bicol had 63,699 hectares of upland farms, some of it rendered idle by unfavorable weather conditions and pest in the past.

DA’s development of upland rice is very timely as these varieties have the potential to withstand higher temperature and less water supply which is needed amid the threatening climate condition, according to Kallos.

Upland rice production is ideal since it can make up for any shortfalls in flood-prone lowland irrigated areas specifically during wet season cropping when flooding in lowland prevails.

Hence, uplands are now organic rice production frontier in Bicol showing improved yield through enhanced varieties and cultural management practices that suit the soil, climatic and social conditions, he added.

Bicol farmers get P83.3-million farm equipment from DA


The Department of Agriculture (DA) turned over farm equipment and planting materials amounting to P83.3 million to farmers in Bicol.

In Sorsogon Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala gave P49 million worth of farm equipment to qualified groups, local government units (LGUs) and other private groups.

Qualified beneficiaries were awarded with 4,961 bags certified palay seeds, 1 hand tractor with trailer, 1 palay thresher, 1 cassava pulverizer, 2 units cassava grater with juice extractor, 1 cassava granulator, 1 cassava chipper, 16 bags assorted vegetables, 48 sets garden tools, 3 green houses, 3 shallow tube wells, and 1 unit four-wheel-drive tractors.

The local government of Sorsogon received 16,000 pieces cacao seedlings, 16,000 pieces coffee seedlings, 8,000 pili seedlings and 50 bags Green Super Rice seeds.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar), an attached agency of the DA, awarded three units of Community Fish Landing Center worth P 2.8 million each to the local governments of Juban, Santa Magdalena and Matnog.

Moreover, 50 units of Stand-Alone Fish stalls worth P11,975 each were given to the LGU of Donsol, Sorsogon City, Prieto Diaz, Gubat and Bulan.

Alcala also turned over checks for farm-to-market road projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) in Juban, Gubat and Prieto Diaz, and for the establishment of flatbed dryer for the PLGU of Sorsogon totaling P8.6 million.

Farm-production inputs and goods were raffled off to lucky attendees including bottom gill nets, nonmotorized fiber-glass bancas, motorized boats and marine motor engines courtesy of the Bfar. Other items that were raffled off include OPV corn seeds, laminated sacks, palay threshers, native piglets, sheep packets, carabaos with implements and hand tractors with trailers.

From Sorsogon, Alcala proceeded to Legaspi City, where he turned over a P1.5 million worth of Organic Trading Post to the city government.

The trading post, which will be established across the Albay Astrodome, will serve as the marketing center of organic products produced in Legaspi City and neighboring municipalities. The center will, likewise, showcase latest technologies and good organic-agriculture practices.

While in Albay, Alcala conducted a stakeholders’ meeting and farmers’ forum attended by more than 2,600 farmers, fishermen and other agri-stakeholders. He also turned over P34.3 million worth of farm equipment and checks for livelihood and infrastructure projects.

Albay showcases Sports Tourism power when it hosts XTERRA Philippines, Le Tour de Filipinas Palarong Pambansa Mayon 360° Marathon this year


LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 2 (PNA) -- Albay unleashes a grand display of its sports tourism power this year when it hosts several major international and national events, including the 2016 Albay Xterra Off Road Triathlon and Le Tour de Filipinas in February, and the 2016 Palarong Pambansa and Mayon 360° Ultra Marathon in April.

Governor Joey Salceda said these events are sure to push further Albay’s strong tourism surge, this time powered by international and national sports tournaments, and bring hordes of multi-national athletes and foreign and local visitors alike to the province.

Salceda said his province goes “full throttle” in 2016, the banner year of ‘Albay Rising’ sustainable development theme “through tourism, agriculture, small enterprises, education, health, social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.”

Albay hosts XTERRA Off-Road on February 7 for the second year now with more than 200 participants, over half of whom are foreign racers. Le Tour de Filipinas 2016, sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the Asian cycling Federation and the Philippine Cycling Federation, comes to the province February 20-21 for the second time after seven years.

XTERRA Albay once more comes with an irresistible offer, a finish line set just a stone’s throw from the grounds of the centuries old Cagsawa Ruins Park, now a National Cultural Treasure. The event ushers in the Cagsawa Festival celebration sponsored by Albay and Daraga town. The festival celebrates and highlights Albay’s rich history and culture of disaster resiliency.

Le Tour, on the other hand has its own prime package. Cyclists will tackle its final 147-km lap circling around the breath-taking Mayon Volcano twice, which organizers describe as most enjoyable and awesome part of the race.

On April 10-16, Albay hosts the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, which Gov. Salceda said will be presented as a sports tourism activity, the first in the history of the games, with the venues scattered around scenic places of the province, all in full view of the majestic splendor of the near-perfect cone-shaped Mt. Mayon.

Salceda said this year’s Palaro also comes as first for Albay since it was launched 68 years ago in 1948. Of its 81 provinces participating, Albay, established in 1574 or 442 years ago, is the 20th most populous. This year’s national games, mandated under RA 10588 which provided clear guidance on competition for hosting, is also the first to be participated by 18 regions, counting in the newly established Negros Island Region.

The Mayon 360° Albay Ultra Marathon is set April 9. Contestants will run around the base of Mayon Volcano passing three cities and at least five towns. Now on its 6th year, the race is jointly sponsored by the province, the Liga ng mga Barangay, and the JCI Legazpi. It draws many foreign and local runners and visitors alike.

The foreign teams joining Le Tour de Filipinas, now on its 7th year, come from Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Japan, the United States, Holland, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Laos. The local teams aiming to grab the title away are the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Cycling Team and the PhilCycling National Under 23-Team.

More than half of XTERRA Albay’s over 200 racers come from 15 countries, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, US, Guam, France, Hongkong, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland and Vietnam.

Many of the country’s national figures, politicians and actors, are also expected to join the race, which last year drew some 5,000 guests to Albay.

XTERRA off-road race tests the participants in courses around Mayon that offer a uniquely challenging terrain. The 1.5 kilometers swim starts on the shores of Lidong in Mayon Rivera, where the water is calm and deep and the sands are black.

The bike course, a 35 km stretch, features wide and open trails and provides a breathtaking view of Mayon. It is a single point-to-point loop race passing through fire roads, grass fields, sands and rocky trails.

The 10-km run follows the now famous ATV route at the foot of the volcano, passing through rocky and sandy areas, river beds, and grasslands with the finish line set at the famous Cagsawa Ruins.

In between these major sports tourism activities, Albay also hosts the Primary Schools Athletic Association and the State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association games in February and March, respectively. These two events are expected to draw about 20,00 visitors to the province.

Albay allots Php450M for Palarong Pambansa facilities

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 1 (PNA) -- The provincial government of Albay allocated Php450-million budget for the construction of state-of-the-art facilities for the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, which it is hosting in April,

Some 20,000 delegates from 18 regions throughout the country are expected to attend the big sports event.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the Php450-million budget would showcase the best facilities for Palarong Pambansa as he promotes sports tourism in the countryside.

Albay will be hosting the annual Palarong Pambansa of the Department of Education (DepEd) for the first time since its inception.

“The 20,000 delegates or so coming from 18 regions will certainly see and enjoy the best of Albay’s destinations, culture and culinary upon their arrival in Legazpi,” he said.

Salceda said he wanted to focus on sports tourism as participants and visitors of the country’s biggest sports event could explore Albay’s best tourism destinations and specialties, boosting the local economy.

Earlier, the DepEd signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the provincial government of Albay in connection with the hosting of the 2016 Palarong Pambansa.

“We will also showcase our sky-diving with the world’s perfect cone Mayon Volcano at the backdrop. We’re also grateful to Mayor Noel Rosal for helping us take care of water facilities and comport rooms to provide better amenities to our guests,” Salceda said.

Prior to the 2016 Palarong Pambansa, key officials of the provincial government of Albay, led by Salceda, proceeded to Tagum City, in Davao Del Norte, host of 2015 Palarong Pambansa, to look into the facilities.

The Palarong Pambansa is an annual sports program by DepEd in cooperation with the Philippine Sports Commission.

It serves as a grassroots program of the education department where they scout for the best and strongest pool of athletes from elementary to secondary levels of public and private schools across the country.

One of the main purposes of the Palarong Pambansa is to become a power house of national athletes which will fly high the Philippine colors in the SEA Games, Asian Games, and in the Olympics.

The Palarong Pambansa is the largest sports gathering of young athletes in the archipelago and also the biggest grassroots events in the country, the culmination of the year-long athletic events student-athletes from public and private elementary and high schools after the district level up to the regional finals, the Palarong Pambansa.

Construction of facilities has been ongoing inside the Bicol University here as well as tennis court beside the Albay Park and Wildllife as venue of the Palarong Pambansa from April 10 to 16.

The construction of sports facilities in Albay is under the supervision of the DepEd, PSC and Provincial Government of Albay to see to it that the standards are at international level and that the coaching staff, the technical officials as well as the playing venues conform with the international standards.

PCIC allots PHP22-M insurance coverage for Albay farmers, fishermen


LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) -- The Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. has appropriated PHP22 million for the insurance coverage of farmers and fishermen in Albay this year, a top official of the government agency said Friday.

PCIC Bicol Regional Manager Corazon SM. Realubit personally informed Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda that the amount came from the PHP1.5-billion fund earmarked by the PCIC for the purpose nationwide.

Realubit said 70 out of the 81 provinces are covered by the fund.

She said once the the program is set on stream, 5,000 beneficiaries will enjoy free insurance coverage.

This number, the PCIC head said, could go higher, depending on the implementation.

She said the beneficiaries will not pay any single centavo.

"All they have to do is coordinate with the municipal or city agricultural officer and see to it they are in the survey list of farmers and fishermen done by the Department of Budget and Management, Philippine Statistical Authority and the city or municipal planning and development offices in 2012," Realubit said.

The list is called the National Registry System for Basic Sectors.

The PCIC regional head said priority as beneficiaries of the program are those who have not yet received any such assistance from the PCIC.

She said the amount a beneficiary can receive for his one-hectare farm is PHP20,000, although PCIC assessors will also look into the extent of damages to a claimant's ricefield, fishpond or animals.

Realubit said among those that can be covered by the insurance are those planted farms to rice, corn and coconut as well as post-harvest facilities, boats and others.

She said the program aims to minimized the losses of the sector in times of natural calamity, pest infestations and diseases affecting farms and animals.

DepEd, Albay ink deal for 2016 Palarong Pambansa


MANILA, Jan. 30 (PNA) -- The Department of Education (DepEd) has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the provincial government of Albay in connection with the latter's hosting of the 2016 Palarong Pambansa in Legazpi City.

The MOA stipulates the duties and responsibilities of both parties to ensure a well-managed and professionally-run annual national multi-sporting event.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro said this year’s staging of the Palaro would have many “firsts”, including the participation of the Negros Island region.

“I want to highlight that this is Albay’s first ever hosting of the Palaro. This is also the first time that 18 regions will take action -- not the usual 17 regions --because of the participation of the Negros Island Region,” Luistro said.

Luistro added that this was also the first time that the Palaro would be conducted following very specific provisions of the law.

Based on Republic Act No. 10588, also known as the Palarong Pambansa Act of 2013, the elementary level would have to compete in 15 games and the secondary with 17 games and four demonstration sports, namely Futsal, Wushu, Billiards and Wrestling. In addition, four special games will also be conducted for special athletes.

Participated in by elementary and secondary students from public and private schools nationwide, the annual sporting event will be held at the Bicol University, Legazpi City from April 10 to 16, 2016.

“We are institutionalizing this sports program to ensure that we are developing athletes that are of international caliber,” Luistro stressed.

“Together with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the provincial government of Albay, DepEd will see to it that the standards are at international level and that the coaching staff, the technical officials as well as the playing venues conform to international standards,” the education chief added.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda responded by stating the province’s readiness and eagerness to host the Palaro.

“We want to show that it will be a joyful Palaro. It's something that celebrates the spirit of national unity, especially in Albay,” said Salceda.

“Gusto naming ipakita na ang isang bayan, no matter how modest, no matter how limited its capacity, will still have the unity and ability to host the Palaro,” Salceda said, highlighting the province’s resiliency or ability to recover from adversity.

DRR advocates work on integration of CCA into school curriculum

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 29 (PNA) -- A project that primarily seeks to develop explicit learning materials and teaching modules on climate change adaptation (CCA) and on disaster risk and vulnerability reduction (DRVR) in the primary and secondary school levels will be rolled out here next month, according to its key initiator.

Manuel “Nong” Rangasa, executive director of the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) who is initiating the project, on Friday said the initiative focuses on the conceptual framework towards the integration of information-related to disasters in the K to 12 basic education program.

The LCCAD, which is based in this city, is the national CCA and DRVR training institution and service provider recognized by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that provides theoretical moorings to national, local government units (LGUs) and multiple stakeholders.

Since its creation about four years ago, the LCCAD has been assisting LGUs in implementing their climate adaptive practices anchored on mainstreaming climate disaster risk and vulnerability reduction based on their Local Climate Change Action Plan as well as integration into already formulated Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Comprehensive Development Plan.

The project, dubbed as “K to 12 Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation, Disaster Risk and Vulnerability Reduction: Learning Materials for Philippine Schools,” was an offshoot of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) recently entered into between the LCCAD and the Climate Change Commission (CCC), Rangasa said.

The MOA, which officially recognizes the LCCAD as capacity development service provider for CCA-DRVR convergence to LGUs, assigned the latter in the development of the K to 12 conceptual frameworks and in the rollout of the project implementation under the guidance of the CCC, Rangasa said.

In the signing of the MOA, he said CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman took note of the LCCAD’s K to 12 conceptual framework that calls for the integration of information from three international agreements related to disasters crafted in 2015 that reflect the growing awareness about the need for more resilient communities and economies.

Rangasa said De Guzman was referring to the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Goals, as enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Year 2016, according to De Guzman, is a critical and exciting year as it marks the start of the implementation of these global agreements which are doubly significant for the Philippines as they address common, interlocking issues affecting the country’s aspiration for a prosperous, sustainable future.

These issues converge on the Philippines’ vulnerabilities which stem from its geographical location, socio-economic features like a rapidly growing population, and external factors like climate change that is outstripping the country’s natural coping capacity.

Rangasa said all of these issues had to be factored in the preparation of the next Philippine Development Plan with resilience becoming a national priority and the soon to be rolled out project primarily sought to develop explicit K to 12 learning materials and teaching curriculum modules on CCA and on DRVR in the primary/elementary and secondary levels.

The project, he said, was a brainchild of Albay third congressional district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez and fully supported by Mayor Noel Rosal of this city.

Gonzalez, who is vice-chair of the Bicol Recovery and Economic Development Committee, in an interview Friday, explained that the K to 12 conceptual framework was anchored on educating the youth, which is a significant element of a new strategy to embed CCA and DRVR in the Philippine educational system.

This new project, he said, was in support of the global campaign on making communities resilient to disaster amid the irreversible threat of climate change with emphasis on the compelling need for the integration of the efforts to address the vulnerabilities of all sectors in the country.

For his part, Rosal expressed optimism that the learning materials to be produced by the project will be a big help in shaping the present and future generations of students into becoming proactive citizens in relation to the government’s risk reduction program.

There was indeed an urgent need to incorporate information on CCA and DRVR in the learning materials to be produced to make them fully instructional and educational vis-à-vis the impact of climate change to community development, he said.

Rangasa said the project could very well be categorized as a sequel to the earlier project he initiated and implemented at the Albay Centre for Initiatives and Research on Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) in August 2008 when he was then the center’s executive director.

That old project, called “Climate Change Adaptation Integration into Curriculum in the Philippines”, was designed to bring climate change issues, impacts and responses into the consciousness of the present and the next generation of Albayanos and the Filipinos as a whole, by integrating such topics in the academic curriculum of primary and secondary schools.

The output of that project were the lesson exemplars in all subject areas in the elementary and secondary levels, which were pilot tested in a Training of Trainers Teaching Demo in some 713 public schools in Albay.

From July 2009 to the present, public schools in the province were using the lesson exemplars with CCA and disaster risk reduction (DRR) integrated into the lesson plan, Rangasa said.

The CCA integration into curriculum initiatives were interlinked but while the former targeted and served the teachers, the sequel to be produced by the new project, probably in handbook form, would serve not only as reference materials for students but for other sectors, public or private as well in need of information, education and communication materials on CCA and DRVR initiatives, he said.

The project rollout will be highlighted by a three-day technical write shops set Feb. 19-21 in this city and Rangasa said “it will be a tough series of technical write-shops for the selected writer-teachers coming from the eight school divisions in the whole Bicol Region consisting of seven city school divisions and one provincial division (Albay).”

“We will be buoyed up by the experience during the first workshop in 2008 for us to come up with a first of its kind CCA-DRVR learning materials for Filipino students as a sequel to the lesson exemplars for teachers developed and produced earlier,” said regional director Ramon Fiel Abcede of the Department of Education (DepEd), which will be in charge of the write-shops.

Required outputs for the project, according to Rangasa, will be provided, among others, by the office of Gonzalez, by Rosal who heads the League of City Mayors Bicol Chapter, DepEd, CCC and by the United Nations Development Programme.

Ecological peculiarity makes Jovellar town spectacular

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

JOVELLAR, Albay, Jan. 28 (PNA) -- Deep through the woods down the outskirts of this poor, sleepy Bicol town are peculiar natural settings that make the place incredibly spectacular.

Nestled along a mountain range greened by verdant woodlands classified by ecological authorities as rain forests, the municipality boasts of exotic underground rivers, breathtaking cave systems, amazing waterfalls and surprising peak.

Most famous among leisure travelers and picnickers who wish to commune with nature is a 120-meter-long cavern oddly serving as an underwater passage for the Quintinday River - a long, expansive watercourse spanning from the lower slope of Mt. Mayon crossing the town of Camalig to this town, down to the Jovellar River that flows through the nearby Donsol, Sorsogon.

Called the Quitinday Underground River situated in Barangay Quitinday, less than a kilometer from the downtown, this extraordinary water conduit offers a narrow arch at its upstream entrance to where the rapids turbulently flow into the four-meter-deep pool inside the cave.

The cave’s width varies from five to eight meters, depending on the irregular span between its walls that features a strange buildup of finely sculptured limestone rocks that eerily look like an army of animated small minions in fancy formations.

Water feed by founts at its ridge also drops intermittently from the cave’s roof, a continuing natural episode that forms overhead stalactites and stalagmites.

Hundreds of visitors coming daily, especially during weekends and summer, days won’t miss exploring with awe the underground river via bamboo rafts manned by young “boatmen” who skillfully propel their makeshift watercraft through its clear, cold and serene waters.

Quitinday River’s fantastic features also include a series of waterfalls, the most prominent of which is the called Sigpit (constricted) Falls because of its being ensconced between exciting rock walls wrapped in vine roots and foliage, giving it a high and narrow attributes.

Another facet that makes Quitinday River an astounding natural asset is the chain of 10 major cave systems that have complex patterns of superimposed passages representing a long history of cave development.

Experts who recently studied the antiquity of the place, according to municipal administrator Justin Luna, theorized that the flow velocity of the water that extracts classic sediments from the river gullies made of massive limestone rocks may have formed over centuries the cave systems.

All these wonders of Quitinday are arranged along the foot of Makatanaw-Dagat, a lushly vegetated peak towering about 500 meters over the municipality to offer unobstructed views of Mt. Mayon, Ticao and Burias Passes off Donsol and Pioduran towns and Albay Gulf by Legazpi City.

Another special attribute of this peak are its series of founts that marvelously jet in forms of tiny waterfalls into the river.

Luna said the local government has built a water reservoir at the mountain’s shoulder that feeds every household in the locality with fresh, crystal-clear water that is absolutely safe for drinking sans hygienic treatment.

This town, however, is not just about Quitinday when it comes to natural wonders as still, three kilometers from the poblacion is Magtaguinting Falls of Barangay Bagacay, a broad waterfall that grandiosely offers an alluring natural beauty.

Its water turbulently cascades from the height of 120 feet into the Naglaus River, which is part of a natural formation of largely unexplored underground river whose 500 meters long tunneled river that looks mysterious and weird could also be navigated using bamboo crafts for a unique experience.

This underground river is a grotto-like caver system set at the hillside of Barangay Del Rosario, about seven kilometers from the town proper traversable to the next barangay of Nabasan, Daraga, Albay and known as the local version of the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan.

The river cave's mouth has a clear and cold lagoon framed by a unique formation of limestone rocks.

Another one of nature’s gifts to this small, sleepy municipality, listed as one of the poorest in Albay, is the Quibaraw Falls in Barangay San Vicente, three kilometers from the town center.

This waterfall, which cascades from 120 feet at the slope of a mountain can be reached via a one-kilometer ascending foot trail that traverses thick patches of old-growth trees.

Apart from all these marvelous natural formations, the municipality is also called the “river town”, being traversed by seven major rivers, among them the Jovellar-Donsol River that strategically runs through the center of the municipality from its source in Camalig town; and Cagnanaga River along its eastern boundary that empties into the Ilog River.

Others are the Kagbuwaya and Quipia Rivers, which flow down from the mountains of Camalig and Buyo River that originates from Pioduran town -- all join the Jovellar River that empties into the Donsol River, the vast waterway whose mouth is the feeding site of the famous whale sharks of Donsol.

And realizing lately that the bizarre features of its backyard are world-class eco-tourism attractions, the locality, situated in the out-of-the-way southwestern section of Albay, is now plucking itself from obscurity into the eyes of the travel industry world.

According to Lourdes Boreta, the municipal tourism officer, the local government has already put in place an intensified tourism industry promotion campaign even as so many tourists are already rediscovering the place for themselves.

Boreta said they are taking advantage of the current foreign market trend showing that international tourists no longer tend to repeat visiting a local destination as they follow a cycle leading them from one place to another.

This trend, she said, creates a demand for a new destination other than Palawan, Donsol and other old eco-tourism destinations “and we now offer our place as an alternative travel point where tourists would surely be delighted by our hospitality, sumptuous delicacies and marvelous natural sites.”

“Our town is no longer a hidden tourism treasure nowadays as people from different parts of the world have already been coming to discover our unveiled natural secrets, especially that we now have a good road that links us to the tourism town of Donsol,” Boreta told the Philippines News Agency during a weekend visit to the place.

The road she was referring to is the 25.6-kilometer Pioduran-Donsol Road whose concreting works by the Department of Public Works and Highways are nearing completion to link with the 24.9-kilometer Guinobatan-Jovellar Road leading to the national highway.

On the other hand, Albay third district congressional Rep. Fernando Gonzalez has filed a bill recently approved by the House committee on tourism seeking the declaration of the municipality as an ecotourism zone which, when enacted into law, will compel the Department of Tourism to give the place priority attention towards development.

Boreta said the congressional measure is urgently needed by the local government as it cannot afford the cost of development, given its very meager resources.

Bicol’s rich biodiversity, unique eco-tourism destinations impress American business tycoon

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 27 (PNA) -- The unique eco-tourism destinations in the countryside, rich biodiversity and friendly people impressed visiting American business tycoon Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd.

“The Philippines is a nice and symbolic place to go with good environmental practices and warm, friendly and very hospitable people. It was a terrific experience here in Legazpi City and in Donsol, Sorsogon with warm and friendly people and remarkable good environmental efforts with WWF (World Wildlife Fund),” Fain told the Philippines News Agency in an exclusive interview at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport VIP Lounge on Monday afternoon.

The CEO of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. -- a global cruise company that operates 38 ships under the Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Pullmantur, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisières de France brands, arrived in Legazpi City through his private jet on Saturday and met with Mayor Noel Rosal and Albay Governor Joey Salceda before heading to Donsol town in Sorsogon for whale shark interaction and environmental advocacy in pursuit of combating carbon gas emission.

He said his firm embarks on projects that will address carbon emission reduction, marine conservation issues for sustainable development goals.

The Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the world’s second largest cruise company, established the Ocean Fund in 1996 to support marine conservation organizations in preserving the world's oceans.

The mission of the Ocean Fund is to support efforts to restore and maintain a healthy marine environment, minimize the impact of human activity on this environment, and promote awareness of ocean and coastal issues and respect for marine life.

In Legazpi, Fain visited several hotels and tourist destinations and lauded Rosal for his remarkable environmental projects that complemented the eco-tourism destinations and flourishing business establishments with Mayon volcano as Bicolandia’s icon.

In Donsol, Sorsogon, he went diving in San Miguel Island where he took a glimpse of the healthy corals, shoals of fish and even sea snakes.

He, however, was not able to glide with the gentle giant fish "butanding" or whale shark, unlike his colleagues.

Aside from praising the good environmental practices and friendly people in the countryside, Fain lauded the remarkable work ethics of the Filipinos.

He said his company prefers Filipino workers because of their outstanding work habit and capabilities.

The cruise ship magnate said the bulk of his employees are highly competent and hardworking Filipinos who are instrumental in the company’s continuous success.

“Our company has 11,000 Filipinos, the biggest crew among other nationalities. In the next five years we’re expecting to have 25,000 Filipinos as part of our crew. Our Filipino employees are terrific,” he said.

When asked if he is considering putting cruise ships in Legazpi, the country’s emerging tourist destination outside the National Capital Region, Fain said they are looking for a worldwide partnership and will be coming back to Legazpi.

“We’re announcing worldwide partnership. The Philippines is a good prospect for business. We have nine cruise ships in Asia,” he said.

Rosal, supported by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, is batting for international cruise ship operation in Legazpi to draw more tourists as an alternative mode of transportation aside from airplanes that use the international airport and by land route to Bicol Region, thus, create more jobs and investments in the countryside.

Climate change crusaders hail children's booklet on disaster preparedness

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 26 (PNA) -– A colorful booklet recently made available as a disaster risk reduction management tool for children has earned the admiration of local anti-climate change impact crusaders.

Published through a coalition of international groups working for the welfare of children, the booklet should be something that “no classroom should be without a copy of,” according to Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Manny de Guzman.

In a statement reaching here Tuesday, De Guzman, who also serves as senior advisor at World Meteorological Organization and president at Asia Pacific Institute for Green Development, hailed the coalition “for this great initiative to make the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction child-friendly.”

The coalition, called Children in a Changing Climate, is composed of ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children, World Vision International and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The ChildFund Alliance is a global network of child-centered development organizations working in the poorest countries around the world to create opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Alliance members believe in the open exchange of resources and information as a means of reaching more children in need more effectively and members cooperate to share best practices in child survival, protection and development.

Together, the alliance works to eradicate the root causes and the effects of poverty on children by implementing meaningful solutions, resulting in positive future.

The Plan International is a development group operating in 51 countries across Africa, the Americas, and Asia to promote and protect children's rights while Save the Children is the world's leading independent organization for children working in around 120 countries to save children's lives, fight for their rights, and help them fulfill their potentials.

The World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice and Unicef is a UN program that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

The coalition, according to ChildFund, is a partnership of leading child-centered and humanitarian organizations, each with a commitment to share knowledge, coordinate and work with children as agents of change in full recognition of their capacity to prepare for and respond to shocks and stressors.

De Guzman said the colorful booklet titled Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: For Children points out that, kids who understand dangers, who are empowered and listened to, can play an important role in their own protection.

Adopted at the Third UN World Conference in Sendai, Japan on March 18, 2015, the Sendai Framework 2015-2030 is the outcome of stakeholder consultations initiated in March 2012 and inter-governmental negotiations from July 2014 to March 2015, supported by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction at the request of the UN General Assembly.

It is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015 conceived to give further impetus to the global work under the International Framework for Action for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction of 1989, the Yokohama Strategy for a Safer World and its plan of action, adopted in 1994 and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction of 1999.

De Guzman stressed that when children speak out and their needs are prioritized, they contribute to long-term development after a disaster and build safer communities for everyone.

“This booklet is about disaster risk reduction – working together to reduce the chance that a hazard will turn into a disaster and preparing for disasters when they do happen. Disaster risk reduction should happen at the level of national government, local government and in communities and families. It means engaging and listening to everyone,” he said.

The Sendai Framework, De Guzman added, aims to make sure that everyone is ready when hazards strike, so that responses are more effective and better organized, the book says, stressing that everyone should be ready when hazards strike so that responses are more effective and better organized.

Written by Helen Kearney and edited by Felipe Cala of the ChildFund Alliance, the booklet of 70 pages acknowledges that “the children that care for our world are the real heroes.”

It reveals that 75 million of children around the world are affected by disasters and nine million of them were forced out of school by disaster in 2014 alone.

This child-friendly Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, its publisher says, was developed in consultation with children by the coalition, resulting in documents that support processes of child-friendly accountability by making the Sendai Framework accessible to children, especially those aged 10 to 14.

Manuel “Nong” Rangasa, the Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD) executive director who is based in Albay, said the booklet can be included as a tool in the K-12 mainstreaming of climate change adaptation and disaster risk vulnerability reduction (CCADRVR) project.

Legazpi City vies for 3rd level in ISA's public governance system

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

LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) -- Mayor Noel E. Rosal on Thursday said Legazpi City is vying for the third level of the Performance Governance System (PGS), which is the proficiency, required by Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) for Public Governance.

Rosal said the city has been enrolled in the ISA for the past several years already.

In fact, the city has been recognized by the ISA as a Trailblazer City, the second highest award from the ISA, after the requirements in the initiated and complaint levels had been complied with already by the city administration.

These requirements were presented by Rosal and approved by the panelists of the ISA in 2014.

He said the PGS has four levels -- the initiated, complaint, proficiency and institutionalized levels.

“Three auditors will come here to check the projects of the city government under PGS. If we pass in this level, we will go for the level of institutionalization -- the highest level in terms of good governance; and if we pass in this level, we can be called as an Island of Good Governance wherein if there are foreign visitors, the national government will introduce Legazpi City to the visitors from other countries as a certified champion in governance,” Rosal said.

The PGS was introduced by the ISA as a transformation tool to nation-building to enable government institutions, including national agencies and LGUS, to deliver quality public service while advocating transparency, accountability and excellence in good governance.

It is a performance management framework that builds on the potentials of government organizations, allowing them to implement strategic projects to achieve and sustain their goals.

"The entry of Legazpi City in the PGS is a very good move on the part of the city administration that will help continue its various programs and projects for the development and progress of this city," Rosal said.

The Office of the Strategy Management of the city headed by former city councilor Chito Ante has created 38 Vision-Aligned Circles (VACs), composed of all elective city officials, department heads and regular employees.

Ante said every VAC has its own initiatives and the VACs have already created the city’s tourist tanods and city concierge.

They have also organized Istoryang Bikolnon, Boulevard Music Festival and Cleanliness Patrol in six villages in the boulevard area, five barangays within the Central Business District and other five villages within the areas of Albay district.

Ante said they proposed also the establishment of Mayon Quality Service Rating System, amendment of existing ordinance on tourist friendly tricycles, establishment of a weekend market and food street at the boulevard and formulated the Model Barangay Project.

He said they have already created tourist help desks in different key tourist destinations in this city.

The VACS have also formulated guidelines for the model tricycle drivers and prepared a tourist-friendly enhancement training module for operators and drivers of vans operating in this city.

They likewise proposed amendments to the City’s Citizen Charter, Ante added.

He said the VACS have conducted five information and education campaigns on the city’s vision among various sectoral groups and held training for 41 on-site STI Educators, including 20 women, on ten distinct Bicolano delicacies.

These groups have also created a City Employees Competency Data Base.

They have prepared a drainage maintenance program and conducted professional skills training and workshop modules for the frontline service providers of the city administration.

They further formulated 5S implementation plan, Ante said.

He said the VACS have also formulated policies and guidelines for model/outstanding city government employees and the guidelines for a quick response team at Barangay Bogtong.

They have also made a design for functional emergency hotlines/stickers in 25 villages within the Central Business District and conceptualized an Agri-Farm Tourism Design Project at the Legazpi Eco Park in the southern village of Homapon, he added.

Ante disclosed the VACS have collated and compiled Legazpi legendary stories, historical landmarks, poems, tigsik and rawit-dawit pieces and drafted an investment incentive package.

2016 Le Tour de Filipinas cyclists to circle Mayon twice; boost Albay sports tourism

By Johnny C. Nunez [(PNA), SCS/JCN/RSM]

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Albay’s sports tourism gets another big boost in February, when the province hosts the fourth stage of Le Tour de Filipinas 2016, where cyclists will circle the world famous Mayon Volcano twice on an out-and-back course of the Tour’s 147-kilometer final lap.

Le Tour de Filipinas, now on its 7th Edition, passes Albay for the second time only in seven years, but its organizers said it, by far, could be the most scenic, rare and extraordinary route of the tournament.

The race is sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the Asian cycling Federation and the Philippine Cycling Federation. UCI, based in Aigle, Switzerland, is an Olympic body organized to supervise and help direct the growth of sport cycling worldwide.

Sports has become an important component of Albay’s tourism, first introduced by Gov. Joey Salceda last year when he successfully negotiated the hosting of XTERRA Off Road Triathlon.

On its second edition this February, XTERRA is expected to bring even more foreign and local visitors. Participants in this race also tackle a portion of the off road course at the base of Mt. Mayon, near an old lava wall, onto the finish line at the grounds of the 201-year-old Cagsawa Ruins.

The Cagsawa Ruins grounds constitute the top surface of the rocks and other volcanic materials spewed out by Mayon Volcano when it erupted violently in 1814, and buried an entire Spanish settlement, including a huge baroque church. The site is prominently marked by the top portion of the church’s iconic bell tower framed beautifully by the magnificent splendor of the near-perfect cone-shaped and world famous Mayon in the background. The National Museum has recently declared the Ruins a National Cultural Treasure.

Albay also hosts the 2016 Palarong Pambansa in April.

Salceda said it will be staged as a sports tourism event, with the venues scattered around the province with a full view of Mayon Volcano, to give contestants and visitors alike the chance to go around and enjoy world class tourist attractions.

In the Feb. 18-21 UCI cycling event, 15 teams — 12 foreign and three local, composed of about a hundred cyclists — will vie for the Category 2.2 Race.

The 69-kilometer race, consists of four stages. It starts in Antipolo City and ends in Legazpi City in four days.

Aside from the cyclists, Salceda said Albay will also play host to a large contingent of tournament officials, the covering media, team supporters and the contestants’ kin and friends. The foreign teams joining Le Tour Filipinas are from Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Japan, the United States, Holland, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Laos.

The local teams aiming to grab the title are the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Cycling Team and the PhilCycling National Under 23-Team.

A UCI release said the race’s Stage One is a 153-kilometer lap from Antipolo City to Lucena City in Quezon. Stage Two will be the winding 204-kilometer span from Lucena to Daet, Camarines Norte. Stage Three will bring the cyclists 187 kilometers further south to Legazpi City, the heart of Bicolandia, on Day 3.

The Final Stage on Day 4 will be a 147-kilometer lap around Mayon Volcano with the cyclist circling the volcano’s base twice. In the final stretch, the competing cyclists and their back-ups will pass through the cities of Tabaco and Ligao and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot, and Sto. Domingo, all of which are rich in tourist attractions.

Cagsawa Ruins to have new look


DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 23 (PNA) -- The more than two-century-old Cagsawa Ruins, recently declared as a historical treasure in the country by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), will soon undergo refurbishing as a means to protect, preserve and promote this national historical property.

Cristina Agapita Pacres, Daraga town tourism officer, said the national and local governments will spend this year some Php42 million to finance the restoration project of the 202-year-old cultural asset.

Pacres said the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism (DOT) has approved the release of Php35 million to be used for the construction of structures that will improve the vast landscape of the historical treasure.

The TIEZA project has been bid out and implementation will start this year.

Pacres, however, said the original structural design by TIEZA will have to be changed to complement the view of the ruins.

“The design is too modern that it doesn’t match with the ruins’ landscape,” she stressed.

She said the design includes a tourist visitor center, function hall, water and electrical facilities and concrete fence.

The local government of Daraga set aside some Php2 million for the preservation works that include cordon structure around the ruins to prevent visitors to go near the ruins.

As for the contribution of the province, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said it will put in additional Php5 million for the restoration works of the other items, especially holograms or glass showcase of three elements: the iglesia, convent, ayuntamiento and the municipio.

The Albay History and Culture Unit will take charge of the “conservation” vision for the Cagsawa Ruins as they are working with the UNESCO National Office for its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Salceda said.

“The Cagsawa Ruins is now tentatively listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he said.

The Cagsawa Ruins lies on a 1.5-hectare land that showcases the Cagsawa Ruins Belfry.

It is 11 kilometers from the Majestic Mayon Volcano, two kilometers from the town proper and eight kilometers from Legazpi City.

Albay now has three national cultural treasures: the Cagsawa Ruins and the Church of Our Lady of the Gate -- both in Daraga, and the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tabaco City.

Father Jose Victor Lobrigo, the former parish priest of Our Lady of the Gate, said in an interview that there are other ruined churches in Albay that need declaration and preservation.

These are the Sinimbahanan in Barangay Budiao in Daraga, another one in Tiwi and the church ruins in Bacacay, among others.

Lobrigo said in the declaration and preservation of historical treasures “we have two things in mind: preservation of national patrimony and support.”

Ana Lorilla, an architect and co-chair of the Sub-Commission on Buildings, Lands, Sites and Cultural Heritage of the Diocese of Legazpi said that aside from the three cultural religious properties declared as historical treasures, there are several other religious sites that are being explored and studied.

Data from the Diocese of Legazpi indicate that there are 45 churches under the three vicariates.

Of these number, seven churches are considered with historical value as they were built in year 1700.

These old churches are St. John the Baptist Parish in Tabaco City, Saints Joachim and Anne Parish in Malinao town, Saint Lawrence the Maryr Parish in Tiwi, St. Dominic of Guzman Parish in Sto Domingo, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Malilipot, Saint John the Baptist in Camalig town and Our Lady of Gates Parish in Daraga town.

"A national cultural treasure is defined as a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and with scientific value, which is significant and important to the country,” the NMP said.

Pacres said that aside from the Cagsawa Ruins, one of Albay’s most popular tourist attractions, the local government of Daraga has embarked on a festival dubbed as The Cagsawa Festival, which has been observed every month of February since 2012.

She said that in February 2014, the province of Albay commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1814 eruption by holding the Cagsawa Festival’s “Cagsawa Dos Siglos.”

The celebration aimed to pay tribute to the strength and resiliency of the people of Albay, according to Salceda.

Pacres said Albayanos are aware that they live within the shadow of a beautiful yet dangerous volcano .

Thus, the anniversary of the 1814 eruption also served as a reminder of the town's commitment to disaster risk reduction as part of the Daragueños' way of life to be able to achieve their goals of development for the community.

The festival showcases various activities and entertainment such as outdoor and sport events, culinary activities and cultural presentations of dances and plays.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, DOT regional director, said in an interview that Cagsawa is considered as the historical landmark that molded the Albayanos in being resilient, determined, passionate and fun-loving people.

The Cagsawa Ruins is the most visited place by day visitors, both foreign and local, hitting the number of 350,000 tourist visitors every year, she said.

“Declaring it as a national treasure will help boost more our tourism industry, culturally and economically,” Ravanilla said.

Salceda said the declaration by National Museum Director Jeremy R. Barns issued on Dec. 23 and published in the NMP’s web site, affirms the Cagsawa Ruins’ landmark role and significance in the richness of the country’s cultural heritage.

In December last year, the NMP declared Cagsawa Ruins in Daraga, Albay as among the new batch of cultural properties to be included as “Important Cultural Properties” and “National Cultural Treasures” after going through thorough research, recommendations, and petitions in 2015.

To be declared as an Important Cultural Property, a land must possess “exceptional cultural, artistic and/or historical significance,” it said.

Bicol gets Php 1.3 B for widening of 33 bridges

By Manilyn Ugalde [(PNA), RMA/FGS/MU/CBD]

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- Motorists have a reason to be alarmed and wary as the Department of Public Works and Highways continues in its massive road widening and concreting since 2013 but its hundreds of two-lane bridges in Bicol have remained narrow, posing great danger to them.

This prompted motorists to ask for the presence of highway patrol troops in the region's national highways to prevent obstructions in roads such as the rampant presence of "padyaks" (foot-pedaled bicycle with a side car) in national roads and palay drying both by residents and traders, which occupies newly concreted roads and pedestrian lanes.

Worse, the palay being dried is barricaded with stones that, they said, could cause accidents.

With an estimated 20 percent already accomplished in road widening to four lanes, the DPWH Bicol budget for 2016 was pegged at a whooping Php19.65 billion, according to DPWH assistant regional director Armando Estrella.

The DPWH widening program, Estrella said, was aimed at a 20-meter concreted national road nationwide.

The DPWH official explained that of the Php19.65 billion budget, however, only Php1.9 billion would be for the road widening-concreting and a total of Php1.3 billion for widening to four-lane of 33 bridges out of the 606 bridges in the region, comprising of six provinces.

According to Estrella, the DPWH was still facing delay in the road widening project, saying many sections whose road sides were still occupied by squatters and other obstructions.

The 33 bridges ready for reconstruction this year are those located only along the Maharlika Highway.

The Bicol portion of the Maharlika highway passes through certain towns in Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon only.

He admitted though that many short two-lane bridges along already- concreted four-lane roads pose danger to motorists.

Col. Jimmy Silva, a retired official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said he was traveling from Legazpi City one evening when he nearly hit a barely recognizable three-meter-long two-lane bridge in a widened road in Barangay Bonga, Bacacay town on his way to Tabaco City in Albay's first district.

He said the not-too-visible and unmarked small bridge is sandwiched by the two-lane Bonga Bridge 2 and Bonga Bridge 3, which have an estimated distance of 120 meters only from each other.

The retired BJMP official said he overtook three vehicles in convoy via the vacant and open concreted second lane in the right side after passing Bonga Bridge 2 when he suddenly noticed the presence of a short bridge that his car missed in seconds.

Silva also lashed at both local and national authorities for allowing pedicabs in national highway even during night time, saying padyaks abound from the town of Malilipot to Tabaco City to Malinao and Tiwi towns.

He said that during sunny days, the first district national road also becomes a scene of palay drying that is barricaded with big stones.

He urged the presence of highway patrol troops to stop these abuses in highway roads being neglected by the DPWH.

In 2008, then Tabaco City mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro declared Tabaco City as the padyak capital of the Philippines, with its estimated number of 7,000 units and even sought recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for this.

With the proliferation of padyaks now operating along national roads, motorists find it rather uncomfortable driving along the highways.

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, who is the chairman of the Regional Development Council, has urged Secretary Rogelio Singson to facilitate funding for all two-lane bridges in the region as road widening continues, adding many two-lane bridges in a widened highway road, especially short bridges, indeed pose danger to motorists.

DOLE-Bicol launches one-stop center for OFWs

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 21 (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment Regional Office-5 (DOLE-5) on Thursday formally launched the Bicol OFW Assist Well Processing Center (B-OFW-AWPC) at its office here.

DOLE Bicol Regional Director Nathaniel Lacambra led the occasion.

Also present were Regional Director Conrado Bares of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority- Bicol; Yco Tan Sr., co-chair of the National Economic and Development Authority Committee on Migration and Development; Rev. Fr. Paul Ocfemia of the Diocese of Legazpi, who solemnized the ceremonies, OFWs and media practitioners.

Lacambra said the occasion coincides with the activities being held in other regional offices of the DOLE nationwide in connection with the OFW Reintegration Program of the department.

Kristina B. Oliveros, DOLE regional reintegration officer under the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, said the DOLE launched the program as a one-stop center to assist the OFWs and their families in matters of employment, livelihood, legal assistance, counseling and other needs.

Oliveros encouraged OFWs who have returned to the region and their families to come to their office and show documents to validate their being OFW like travel documents, passport and employment records to avail of the services.

Some of the services being given by the center are livelihood training, like on meat processing, as well as financial awareness seminar and small business management training.

Oliveros said the center will be the one to coordinate with other government agencies and other sectors of the society in addressing the needs of the OFWs and their families.

Tan, on the other hand, said his office helps OFWs and their families.

He said they are now preparing the records or profiles of OFWs in the region as all provinces, cities, towns and barangays have OFWs.

The NEDA official said he is doing this as he was also once an OFW.

He lamented the report that there is one barangay in the region wherein 50 percent of the families of OFWs are dysfunctional, meaning, troubled and with problems.

Tan said this is the negative effect of working abroad or the social cost of migration.

He said it is the objective of his office, with the help of other government agencies and sectors of the society, to strengthen the families of the OFWs since no amount of money can equal a happy and united family.

BUB in barangay initially launched in Albay

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

LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) -- The Province of Albay is the first among the 80 provinces in the country to launch the implementation of the Bottom-Up Budgeting (BUB) scheme of budget preparation and application at the barangay level, Department of Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said here Friday.

What took place in the Province of Bohol was just a pretest on BUB program implementation, he said.

Abad made this pronouncement during the launch of the budgeting process attended also by Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, mayors of the three cities and 15 towns of Albay, village officials, representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) and regional officials of DBM, DSWD, DOH and Department of Interior and Local Government.

Abad said the implementation of BUB in Albay as a pilot province will start in 2017.

Each barangay, he said, will be allotted Php1 million.

The program will involve the partnership among national government agencies, local government units, villages and identifying projects and allotting funds for these endeavors that will be implemented in their respective areas.

The budget secretary stressed that the project and program to be done will depend on the need of the community.

He said a group will monitor the implementation of the project.

"The implementation will be by batches. It will depend on the readiness of each local government unit or barangay," Abad said.

There are 720 barangays in the three cities and 15 towns in Albay.

In the entire Bicol, there are 3,457 barangays in 107 towns, seven cities and six provinces.

There are 42,028 barangays in 80 provinces.

Soliman, on the other hand, said Albay was the first to be chosen in the implementation of BUB because the province is known in the field of good governance, good management and excellent accomplishments in various fields of endeavor.

In fact, the province has gained honors and recognition in and outside the country.

The BUB aims to alleviate poverty and ensure the effective and good governance of government officials in the national, regional, provincial and city or municipal levels down to the barangay level.

(NewsFeature) Cagsawa Ruins becomes 3rd national cultural treasure in Albay

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

DARAGA, Albay, Jan. 19 (PNA) -- Albay province has now three national cultural treasures to be proud of with the declaration of the 202-year-old Cagsawa Ruins in this town as one by the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP).

"A national cultural treasure is defined as a unique cultural property found locally, possessing outstanding historical, cultural, artistic and with scientific value, which is significant and important to the country,” the NMP said.

It is distinct and of a higher category than a national cultural property, it further said.

The Cagsawa Ruins stands as the mute witness of Mount Mayon's deadliest explosion that took place on February 1, 1814.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said the site has become a symbol of the people’s resiliency to survive the adverse effects of calamities as well as climate change.

The NMP declared Cagsawa Ruins in December 2015 as a national cultural treasure.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines also considers Cagsawa Ruins as an important protected area due to its significance in the cultural history of Albay.

Following the NMP declaration of Cagsawa Ruins, Albay province has now three national cultural treasures: Cagsawa Ruins, the Church of Our Lady of the Gate in Daraga, and the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Tabaco City.

Similarly, the symmetrical Mount Mayon, the world’s perfect cone-shaped volcano, and the Cagsawa Ruins have been tentatively included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, which is now awaiting confirmation.

Historically, Mayon's worst eruption to date was on Februay 1, 1814 when she vomited blazing rocks and lava.

The volcano expelled so much of her innards that it covered the former settlements of Budiao and Cagsawa.

About 1,200 fear-stricken villagers crammed into the Cagsawa church which later served as their grave when steaming volcanic debris buried the structure.

The February 1, 1814 eruption covered the villages around it with ash and lahar.

An estimated 15,000 people died, including 1,200 who sought shelter inside the Cagsawa Church.

Subsequent eruptions further covered the church until only the bell tower remained above ground.

The belfry has become one of Albay’s most famous landmarks and is one of its most popular tourist attractions.

The eruption that buried the Cagsawa Church was the fifth and the strongest, based on accounts of recorded previous eruptions since 1616.

Besides Cagsawa, a neighboring town, Budiao, was laid to waste by Mayon’s fury.

Only the walls of Budiao’s church remain today.

Three other towns -- Camalig, Guinobatan and Ligao (now a city) -- also suffered death and destruction.

The Cagsawa belfry is the remains of an 18th century Franciscan Church built in 1724 but was severely damaged by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano.

History said the parish priest of Budiao was the lone survivor of catastrophic eruption.

He saved himself through a bent coconut tree.

The Cagsawa Church was buried gradually by volcanic deposits from subsequent eruptions.

Sand, gravel and boulders were washed down the slopes by rains and got lodged along the banks of the river near the church.

Today, the church belfry stands as the only man-made object left visible in the aftermath of the eruption.

On November 30, 2006 when typhoon "Reming" hit Bicol, Cagsawa Ruins was miraculously saved.

The Bicolanos believed that it was protected by the Divine Providence as thousands of souls were buried under the earth of Cagsawa Church in 1814's historic Mayon Volcano’s deadliest eruption.

When Mayon sleeps, farmers and tourists conquer her heights and slopes to plant vegetables, which gives the volcano a green mantle most of the year.

When she awakens, villagers run to the evacuation centers to escape her fury.

When the volcano erupts, this historic site draws thousands of foreign and local tourists -- including scientists, media and kibitzsers -- to the province to view her spectacular giant fireworks.

And while media look upon Mayon as news, volcanologists treat her as a science project and tourists admire her for her fireworks.

The people on her slopes make her their way of life.

For them, her children, Mayon is their hope and their life -- the symbol of their living and their dying.

Today, the Cagsawa Ruins Park is among the most popular tourist destinations in the province of Albay wherein tourists may also meet the traditional "herbolario" (faith healers) during their gathering and witness the trail run, cross-country bike race, a chicken-eating contest and an on-the-spot "pamaypay" (fan)-making competition, handicrafts being one of Daraga town’s main products.

The park boasts of a modest-sized swimming pool with plenty of lounges where visitors can relax and gaze at the majestic vista of Mt. Mayon.

Inside the park are restaurants where tourists and local residents can feast on native food and delicacies.

The Cagsawa Park is managed by the municipal government of Daraga, Albay.

Albay adopts local PPP code for smooth infra implementation, unhampered economic growth

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 18 (PNA) -- Albay has adopted a local version of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) code for the implementation of big infrastructure projects in the province designed to pursue unhampered economic growth, and become a development hub in Bicol and Southern Luzon.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the new “Public-Private Partnership Code of Albay” could be regarded as a major breakthrough in local government administration, that will pave the way for implementing monumental infrastructure projects for economic growth — under the build, operate and transfer (BOT) scheme in a “climate of minimum government regulations.”

Salceda said Albay could probably be the first province to have drawn its own local PPP code, as it stands in the threshold of becoming the development hub in Southern Luzon, most particularly the Bicol Region. BOT is regarded as the easier way to administer big government infrastructure development.

The Albay Sangguniang Panlalawigan, headed by Vice Gov. Harold Ong Imperial, recently approved the local PPP code which provides “clear guidelines for public-private partnerships by the province and its component local government units (LGUs).”

Salceda said the Local Government Code allows LGUs to enter “into joint ventures and such other cooperative engagements with non-government and people’s organizations to engage in the delivery of certain basic services…”

Among others, the Albay PPP Code aims to identify specific undertakings and potential support, financial or otherwise, that may be granted to the Project Proponents, as well as specific incentives as provided for under the Local Government Investment Code, the governor said.

As chair of the Bicol Regional Development Council for nine years now, and the Luzon Area Development Council for three years, Salceda has sponsored and pushed for big infra projects among them the Bicol International Airport (BIA) set to open in 2017, and the national government’s P171-billion South Rail Line of the North-South Railways system, now being rescheduled for bidding under the PPP scheme.

For a start, Salceda said there are at least two proposed projects lined up for PPP provincial engagements -- the modern four-storey Climate Change Academy (CCA) building at the lot of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), and the Albay Dialysis Center at the Josefina Belmonte Duran Hospital in Ligao City.

The academy, the first of its kind in Asia, is currently based Bicol University campus here since its establishment four years ago. Founded by Salceda, its creation was hailed by climate change advocates from all over the world and had brought awards to Albay’s decisive campaign for climate change adaptation.

The governor said the academy needs a bigger area and a building of its own to cater to the growing number of enrollees from different LGUs in the country and officials from other countries who want to learn more and train in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

Salceda said more and bigger infrastructure projects are seen to rise in Albay in the future, particularly after the BIA shall have opened, which will pave the way for more rapid economic growth.

He said the drawing of the Albay PPP code is anchored on the Constitutional provision that “the local government, as a territorial and political subdivision enjoys local autonomy… and local governments have the power to create their own sources of revenue”.

The BOT Law also states that concerned LGUs “may formulate additional guidelines/procedures not in conflict with the BOT Law, its IRR and the Local Government Code and its corresponding IRR,” he explained.

DOST-Bicol says first Filipino-made micro-satellite to help agriculture


LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 17 (PNA) -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Bicol regional office here has expressed excitement over the first Filipino-made micro-satellite set to be launched this year as part of the government’s efforts towards improving the country’s agricultural activities.

“The talents of our own scientists are working for our people and we are confident that the benefits of this project will boil down to improving the lives of Filipinos in the long run. We are so proud of it,” DOST Bicol Regional Director Tomas Briñas said over the weekend.

The DOST‘s launch into this new horizon is driven mainly by the project’s major nationwide benefits such as improving agricultural productivity and food security, he said.

Once put in place, the microsat would be able to send critical data on weather systems which are crucial for the country’s farmers to adjust planting methods and procedures in the light of climate change.

A landmark project of the DOST through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, the first Filipino made micro-satellite is poised to fly high in the next two months, Briñas said, citing a recent information received from Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo.

This micro-satellite, he said, uses cutting-edge technology, designed and assembled by Filipino scientists and engineers on a comprehensive training on satellite technology at Japan’s Tohoko and Hokkaido universities.

Named after Filipino mythological character "Diwata" (fairy), this new astronomical object that weighs just 50 kilograms -- but the benefits are indeed heavy -- was designed and developed by an all-Filipino team of scientists and engineers now based in Japan, Briñas quoted Montejo as saying.

These Filipino scientists were trained in this technology in the hope of providing vital information to farmers so they will be prepared on what crops to plant, when to plant and how they can come up with provisional contingencies in overcoming the ill effects of El Nino up to the middle of 2016, according to Montejo.

Just like in other countries around the world, Briñas said, this satellite technology will greatly improve the capability of the national weather agency, the DOST’s Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) to make accurate forecasts and weather monitoring that is crucial in agriculture.

The data that will be generated by Diwata will enable DOST-PAGASA to predict extreme weather systems like the El Niño phenomenon that can dramatically affect agricultural productivity and crop yield and threaten food security.

In fact, the PAGASA was able to map out its strategy months in advance before the onset of El Niño last March 2015, made possible due to satellite weather data that was sourced from independent satellite data providers at that time, Briñas said.

Using satellite data and imageries, the country’s weathermen are able to make a forecast on the extent and severity of weather phenomenon in the different provinces and regions on a month-to-month basis.

With Diwata, PAGASA’s forecasting will greatly be improved because of more available data at its disposal that would allow local farmers, agricultural officers of government units and the private sector involved in producing and processing agricultural products to plan and establish safety nets to cushion the impact of the dry spell, according to Briñas.

Earlier, Montejo had said that by investing in the country’s intellectual resources, harnessing the best minds in the country, DOST developed Diwata to provide Filipinos the opportunity to reap the many benefits it offers, aside from information critical to agriculture.

He cited as among these benefits the use of microsat’s data in monitoring the country’s forest cover and natural resources, implementation of a responsive disaster risk management program like Project NOAH, enhance water resources management systems and improve weather monitoring and forecasting, Montejo said.

NOAH is a project that enables the government to address the serious challenges brought by extreme hazard events by applying advanced science and technology tools, such as enhanced vulnerability maps and a shortened six-hour monitoring and flood warning system for communication along major river basins.

It has various components such as Hydromet sensors development, DREAM-Lidar, FloodNET, hazards information media, landslide hazard mapping, Doppler system development and storm surge inundation mapping that address major needs in various disaster situations.

Diwata, branded as “Proudly Filipino Made,” Briñas said, marks a milestone for the country’s venture into outer space as the Philippines and the two Japanese universities as project collaborators hand it over to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to be “our eye-in-the-sky.”

the JAXA as well as the Tohoko and Hokkaido universities supported the project as apart from training 10 Filipino students in creating and operating micro-satellites, they also shouldered more than P500 million of the P840.82 million program’s budget.

Japan is aiming to create a constellation of micro-satellites within the East and Southeast Asia region and establish Asian Microsatellite Consortium (AMC) together with neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Diwata will be sent to the United States, either in Florida or California, by JAXA for its launch into the International Space Station that will orbit the earth 400 kilometers up in space.

The DOST believes that this is a big step forward attaining technological self-reliance by harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation, Briñas added.

Declaration of less known Albay natural wonders as ecotourism zone nears approval -- solon

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

LIGAO CITY (PNA) – Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s 3rd congressional district has expressed confidence that the province’s sleepy town of Jovellar, which boasts of natural wonders like exotic falls and breathtaking underground rivers, will be soon declared by Congress as an ecotourism zone.

“My House Bill 5967 seeking the declaration was approved by the Committee on Tourism before the adjournment of the session last December and when the sessions resume starting on Jan. 18, my hope is high that it would finally be passed to fast track the recognition of Jovellar as an ecotourism zone,” Gonzalez on Friday here told the Philippines News Agency.

In the bill, the congressman, who serves as vice-chair of the House Committees on Bicol Recovery and Economic Development, cited Republic Act 9593 or the Tourism Act of 2009 that declares “tourism as an indispensable element of the national economy and an industry of national interest and importance”.

Jovellar, a small, fifth class municipality of less than 20,000 people mostly engaged in farming, is listed by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on latest estimates as among the poorest Albay town, with a poverty incidence of 46.3 among families.

Occupying a total land area of 13,540 hectares at the southwestern tip of Albay, the municipality located some 35 kilometers from Legazpi City, the provincial capital, is the smallest among the six towns and one city comprising the province’s 3rd congressional district.

While the municipality is small, Gonzalez said, it prides itself of having hidden natural wonders such as the amazing Quitinday, Sigpit and Mataginting Falls as well as the stunning Naglaus Underground River.

Mataginting Falls is a broad waterfalls cascading into the Naglaus underground river, a natural formation which is a largely unexplored underground river whose 300 meters long tunneled river that looks mysterious and weird, can be navigated using bamboo crafts for a unique experience.

Sigpit Falls is a tourist attraction for its green and cold water with formation of stalactites and stalagmites, with rice field on top.

Quitinday Falls, with clear, ice-cold waters, is ensconced between exciting rock walls wrapped in vine roots and foliage, pour from three points—one in heavy steam and two others -- that split the waters into jets on its way down to the Quitinday River, another underground wonder.

Jovellar also has the broad Quipia River which is a boating favorite as it runs all the way to the nearby Sorsogon town of Donsol, the whale shark capital of the world.

Gonzalez said developing the municipality into an ecotourism zone will help the area generate investments that at the same time would provide employment opportunities for local residents, given that the influx of tourists would make the ecotourism zone a significant source of business opportunities.

As of today, he said, the lack of tourist facilities -- such as lodging houses and retail outlets and round-the-clock public transportation -- hinder the socio-economic and environmental development of the area.

These problems, however, can be properly addressed once the municipality becomes an ecotourism zone which, according to the Gonzalez's bill, shall be accorded priority development by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

When the bill is enacted into a law, it will mandate the DOT to prepare, in coordination with the local government and other agencies, a development plan involving the construction, installation and maintenance of appropriate faculties and infrastructure which shall enhance tourism in the area.

The development plan, it said, shall ensure the preservation and conservation of the natural beauty and indigenous nature of the area giving consideration to the formulation, development and implementation of programs and strategies that will generate livelihood and employment opportunities for the local inhabitants.

The DOT will likewise be mandated to implement the tourism development plan that will suit the natural characteristics of the area and shall incorporate the same in the overall development plans and programs for national implementation.

Under the proposed law, promoting Jovellar as an area for ecotourism in all its natural, regional and local promotion programs shall also be a responsibility of the DOT.

Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society (IES) as responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and improve the welfare of local people.

These destinations are often remote areas, whether inhabited or uninhabited, and are usually under some kind of environmental protection at the national, international, communal or private level.

Ecotourism, according to the IES, means education for both tourists and residents of nearby communities as tour operators should formulate and apply a code of conduct for both the traveler and the industry itself to minimize their negative impacts on sensitive environments and cultures.

Luring tourists into the place, Gonzalez said, is not difficult this time as the Php2.7-billion coastal roads interlinking municipalities along Burias and Ticao Passes, including Jovellar, are nearing completion.

These roads are the 46-kilometer artery along the Albay West Coast connecting several key fishing barangays within this city and the municipalities of Libon, Oas and Pioduran; the 25.6-kilometer Pioduran-Donsol (Sorsogon) Road; and the 24.9-kilometer Guinobatan-Jovellar-Donsol Road.

These projects that form part of the DPWH-DOT convergence program under the Aquino administration’s 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), when completed, would facilitate growth to the already booming tourism of Donsol and Albay’s 3rd district, enabling tourists to travel with ease.

The Donsol-Jovellar-Guinobatan road will make travel shorter between Donsol and areas covered by the third district of Albay, including this city, the site of the alluring Kawa-kawa Hill and Nature Park from where Mt. Mayon’s southwestern quadrant can be closely viewed.

Legazpi gets ready to host final stage of 2016 Le Tour de Filipinas

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 15 (PNA) – Over a month ahead of this year’s staging of the Le Tour de Filipinas, whose final stage will be hosted by this premier Bicol metropolis recognized by the world tourism industry as the City of Fun and Adventure, the local government on Friday started its preparations purposely to add more delight to the international sport event.

Referring to the preparations, Mayor Noel Rosal said “we would make it sure that all delegates — the competing cyclists and their respective teams, race officials, sports followers and other visitors for the event coming from all over the world—enjoy their coming to and stray in the city.”

Le Tour de Filipinas -- the only Philippine cycling tournament duly sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, Philippine Cycling Federation and Asian Cycling Federation -- is a yearly professional road bicycle race first staged in Luzon in 1955.

Before carrying its current name, its previous names included the Tour of Luzon, Marlboro Tour and Tour ng Pilipinas.

Now on its 7th Edition, which will run on Feb. 18-21, the race will be composed of four stages to travel a total of 691 kilometers starting from Antipolo City and ending the first stage with a distance of 153 kilometers of mountainous road terrain in Lucena City, passing through the towns of Baras, Pililla, Siniloan, Pangil, Lumban, Pagsanjan and Lucban.

About a hundred professional cyclists composing the 15 competing teams—12 of them from abroad—will respond to the starting gun in Antipolo City, according to Rosal who attended the race’s press launch in Manila last Monday.

This will be the first time that the race will head to Bicol in seven years and, Rosal said, bikers’ teams from the United States, Germany, France, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Netherlands, Belarus, Taiwan, Laos and Luxembourg will be seeing action in the category 2.2 race.

The Philippines' teams joining the tournament are the 7-Eleven Road Bike Philippines, Kopiko Cebu Team and the Philippine National Squad.

All eyes in the race will be focused on Frenchman Thomas Lebas, last year’s individual category winner, who will be paraded anew by Japan’s Bridgestone Anchor Cycling Team, Rosal said.

The second stage on Feb. 19 will be from Lucena City via the Maharlika Highway through the famous “3M” zigzag climb in Atimonan, Quezon to the historic town of Daet, Camarines Norte’s provincial capital from where the third stage of 187 kilometers to this city will take off on the next day.

The fourth and final stage will be a double out-and-back course of 147 kilometers from the city and around the majestic Mt. Mayon, passing through the two other Albay cities of Tabaco and Ligao and the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot and Sto. Domingo.

Parts of the city’s preparations, Rosal said, are the setting of road security, traffic management and crowd control measures in coordination with the local police and other local government units; and hotel room reservations, night tours around the city’s tourism sites and welcome and see off activities for the visitors, among other things needed to make their coming more memorable.

“I saw during the press launch the excitement among the cyclists, race crews and officials over the race’s coming to Legazpi for Mt. Mayon. However, we are going to show them that the city now is not only for the breathtaking view of the volcano’s magically-configured perfect cone but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities, mouth-watering cuisine and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” he said.

They will also find out that the city, which is home to warm and hospitable people, is already a world-class metropolis that caters to an influx of investments and massive urban development that continuously attract travelers, Rosal said.

The city’s air and coastal waters are certified “clean” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources while the local police consider the peace, order and security prevailing over its communities as stable and manageable, he noted.

The city is also recognized now as a “convention capital” owing to its attractiveness as venue of sport competitions and big formal gatherings such as international conventions, conferences, meetings and reunions.

Last year, the city hosted over 50 grand national and international occasions, among them the 1st International Convention on Children and Family and the National Information and Communication Technology Summit, both in October, and the Nov. 14-15 Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)–Adventure and Travel Conference.

These big gatherings brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world as the city works on becoming one of the convention capitals of the country as part of its massive tourism industry development program.

All these involve tourism that is indeed taking a crucial role in the city in its pursuit for inclusive and horizontal growth that benefit not only big investors such as hotel operators but also the people in the countryside, where most of its tourist destinations are located, by providing more opportunities for employment and business ventures, Rosal said.

And since tourism growth, owing to its irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities, enlivens trade and commerce, the mayor said, the local business climate has also been made pleasant as investment opportunities have been going broader and more fortified.

Listed as number 14 in the country’s most visited tourism destinations in the country since two years ago, the city officially identified as one of the three most livable cities of the country is also vying for a slot in the five top tourist favorites at least for the Luzon area this year.

Antonio Reyes, the City Tourism Office chief, said the coming of Le Tour de Filipinas that is expected to bring in hundreds of visitors will be an addition to the count of arrivals in the city for this year.

Last year, he said, the city received tremendous number of arrivals which, when the official count is completed with local hotels submitting their lists, could reach one million, a remarkable growth from the over 700,000 in 2014.

The 7th Le Tour de Filipinas is supported not only by the city government but by 7-Eleven, Smart Communications, Isuzu Philippines, Petron, Novo Nordisk, Phenom Athletic Apparel and Kopiko, among others.

Legazpi City, DAR to train local farmers on cassava industry development

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 14 (PNA) -- The Legazpi City Agriculture Office, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Catholic Relief Services -- a non-government organization based in the United States, will conduct a series of capability-building training on the last week of January among agrarian reform beneficiaries and other legitimate farmers in the city on how to improve the cassava industry here, City Agriculture Office head Jess Kallos said Thursday.

Kallos said the training would give additional knowledge to and improve the skills of the farmers in order for them to become effective entrepreneurs.

It would also add to the livelihood activities in the community, he said.

With this training, all small groups of farmers would be clustered into only one group in order for them to avail of credit assistance and the bank could easily assist them, Kallos said.

The city agriculturist revealed that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was also part of this program and would distribute starter kits like planting materials, fertilizers and cash for work to the qualified farmers.

There was already a fund from the DSWD downloaded to the city for improving cassava production to make it more attractive for human consumption and use as materials for processing of flour, feeds, dried chips and starch, he added.

Kallos disclosed that his office would provide the technology as well as to teach the beneficiaries the right way of planting cassava and help them on how to manage their money for proper planting activity in order to make it more productive.

BU expects higher level accreditation of Education programs

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

LEGAZPI CITY (PNA) -- Bicol University (BU), the region's premiere government-run higher education institution with main campuses in the city, is expecting to pass the recent assessment that will elevate its Education programs to a higher level of accreditation.

The assessment was conducted by the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities (AACCUP) for Level IV-Phase accreditation of the university’s College of Education (BUCE).

Headed by Dr. Manuel Corpuz, AACCUP executive director, the assessment team evaluated both the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and the Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education programs of BUCE, university president Dr. Arnulfo Macariñas said Tuesday.

“We are confident to pass the assessment for the Level IV-Phase 2 accreditation as our academic programs have excellent outcomes in five areas such as instruction, research, extension service, international linkages and consortia and planning processes, he said.

Among the documents that the AACCUP team examined as part of the assessment, according to Macariñas, were those pertaining to whether the program objectives are consistent with the visions, missions, goals and objectives.

Also looked at were the extent of researches in refereed journals, studies on the impact of extension service programs and the planning processes that sustain quality in the academic programs.

Programs that pass AACCUP standards and are awarded accreditation status lend prestige to member-institutions since it is evidence of quality standards and help parents know to which program they may send their children for quality education, he explained.

BUCE first underwent the formal survey visit in 2001 and passed Level II accreditation in 2006, Level III in 2013 and Level IV-Phase 1 in 2014.

With this, higher accreditation expected, Macariñas said that indeed, the BUCE is going a long way from its humble beginning as Albay Normal School way back in the 1950s, then Bicol Teachers College in the early ‘60s and later as the teacher training college of the university in 1969.

Another audit which BU passed late last year was for the certificate of excellence at par with international standards from the Organization for Standardization (ISO).

“We passed the audit made last November by one of the leading international certifying bodies and satisfactorily complied with the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 in our campaign to retain the certification we first obtained five years ago,” Macariñas said.

The audit was conducted through campus visitations by a team from TÜV SÜD PSB Philippines, an internationally recognized certification body with accreditations by Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS-ANZ) and Philippines Accreditation Office (PAO).

Visited for the audit were the BU main campuses here, in Tabaco City hosting the College of Fisheries (BUCF) and in the Albay municipalities of Guinobatan and Polangui which are home to the College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF) and the annex campus, respectively.

The ISO 9001:2008 certificate was awarded to BU in 2011 to become its first recipient among state universities in the Philippines.

It is a global symbol affirming the university’s processes and standards are at par with international management systems.

Its first recertification was received in 2013 and the second is expected to come soon as the TÜV SÜD PSB Philippines has recommended to TÜV SÜD International, with headquarters in Munich, Germany, that the ISO certificate of BU be maintained.

The scope of the audit leading to the possible renewed certification includes the provision and development of tertiary and graduate education degrees and non-degree courses as well as research and extension services.

The survey visit evaluated not only the conformity of the management system with the audit criteria but also the effectiveness of the management system to ensure that the organization is capable of meeting applicable statutory, regulatory and contractual requirements.

It also determined the effectiveness of the management system in ensuring that the organization is able to meet its specified objectives.

The ISO International Standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality.

For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity.

Educational institutions are increasingly recognizing these benefits and international standardization features in many curricula being recognized as the vital contribution educational institutions bring to raising awareness of standardization and its benefits.

The ISO Award for Higher Education was started in 2007 to promote and support higher education institutions running successful programs that raise awareness of the benefits of international standards.

Every two years, a selection panel -- including representatives from academia, economics and the media -- choose a higher education institution that is leading the way in education about standards.

The ISO audit system, Macariñas said, is just one of the quality assurance mechanisms utilized by BU to ensure the efficient performance of the university in meeting its goals such as commitment to quality and client satisfaction.

BU’s commitment to implement quality assurance methods in both the academic and support services and its zeal to build procedures for its maintenance is anchored on the BU vision to be a world-class university, he said.

The university is the oldest state-owned higher education institution in Bicol which has been on the lead in producing globally competitive graduates imbued with the highly held values of scholarship, leadership, character and service toward generating and disseminating new knowledge and technologies beneficial to all stakeholders and to improve the well-being of the community.

Green Convergence Philippines names Albay as first LGU Eco Champion

By Johnny C. Nunez [(PNA), FPV/JCN/EDS]

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 12 (PNA) -- Green Convergence Philippines (GCP) has named Albay as its LGU Eco Champion, the first province to win its newly launched award, for its successful and effective environment policies and ecologically sound tourism program.

Green Convergence is a coalition of networks, organizations and individuals working for a development paradigm that addresses the need for social and economic uplift, while preserving nature’s life support system including air, water and land, for generations to come.

GCP president Angelina P. Galang announced Albay’s latest award in a recent letter to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, where she stressed the province’s “implementation of and compliance with various Philippine Environmental Laws sum up to good environmental governance and best practices which can be replicated by other local government units (LGUs).”

Salceda, also known as the Green Economist, is credited for pioneering the Albay Green Economy, anchored on the principles of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA), tripled the province’s mangrove area from 700 to 2,400 hectares, and expanded forest cover by 88% from 26,000 to 44,000 hectares from 2008 to 2014.

Salceda’s administration has also been globally hailed for its firm commitment to CCA and climate change mitigation. The governor is set to receive Albay’s award during the First Environment Summit scheduled February 9-11, 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Arnold Embestro, Salceda’s executive assistant for environment, who facilitated GCP’s strict award validation, said Albay will have a booth for its credentials as the first Eco Champion at the SMX Complex during the two-day summit. Among Albay’s strong points in winning the award was its organization of the Albay Climate Change Academy, the first in Asia and now a popular learning center for LGUs and even government executives from other countries on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, he shared.

GCP has partnered with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the 2014 launch of the first-ever National Search for LGU Eco Champions. Galang said the purpose of this search is “to determine the local governments’ compliance with the various Philippine environmental laws and similar quasi-issuances that are aimed at protecting the environment and human lives”.

The search was conducted between September 2014 and February 2015 among 17 city governments and three top provinces. Albay garnered the highest compliance score of 115.5 points. This was subsequently validated by Green Convergence researchers.

Albay’s “invaluable contribution to the LGU Environmental Laws and Compliance research will help DENR/EMB to address gaps in our environmental governance and mainstream their implementation,” Galang said in her letter to Salceda.

Initially a geostatic intervention scheme to move people from harm’s way in risk areas to safer grounds, Albay’s Albay GUICADALE (Guinobatan- Camalig-Daraga-Legazpi) Economic Township is now fast shaping up as an economic development platform to transform its 64,000-hectares of mountain lands into a sprawling business boom center, with the Daraga International Airport at its center.The multi-billion peso GUICADALE in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, has been the best example of the “building back better elsewhere” principle in DRRM.

Albay has earned many national and international awards under Salceda’s administration, among them: the Gawad Kalasag Hall of Fame Award as Best Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for three consecutive years; and three Galing Pook Awards, an assurance for a niche in the Hall of Fame of this highest government honor for LGUs.

More infra projects soon to be completed in Legazpi City

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 11 (PNA) -- Different major infrastructure projects in this city are expected to be finished while several important programs will be implemented this year, Mayor Noel Rosal bared on Monday.

Rosal cited the on-going construction of the Legazpi City public hospital, which is expected to finish by June while the target completion for the renovation of the City Health Office is on May before the national and local elections.

The state-of-the-art hospital is considered as one of the most modern health facilities in the Bicol Region and is located within a 3,000-square-meter lot owned the city government in the heart of the commercial district in Barangay Bitano.

The construction of the hospital is funded with PHP30 million allocated by the city administration, with a counterpart of PHP50 million from the Department of Health, the mayor said.

The city chief executive said the widening of Yawa bridge located in Barangay Rawis is being undertaken by the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH) 2nd Engineering District and is expected to finish in March.

The project has a total funding of PHP140 million from the national government for the expansion of the existing two lanes into four-lane bridge with a total length of 140 meters and width of 14.4 meters, including 16.4 meters approach.

Upon completion of the project, this bridge will serve as a toll to decongest the traffic situation in that area going to the first district of the province.

DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson has approved already the road widening project in Barangay Rawis and is just only awaiting the approval of Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje for the cutting of old trees at the side of the road, Rosal pointed out.

He said that his administration will also construct another road opening project in Barangay Taysan and other portion of the southern areas of this city through a Php90 million funding from the national government.

The construction of the four-lanes mega highway in the southern section is now in the finishing touches in connection for the preparation for the opening of the on-going construction of the International airport expected to open next year.

These roads will be used as alternate routes by the motorists from the Province of Sorsosgon.

It will also decongest the traffic situation in the Municipality of Daraga.

Rosal said the civil works and the installation of the three pumping stations being undertaken by the DPWH Bicol regional office are almost finish and ready for the turnover to the city administration for the final operation of the project.

The project is part of the city’s Comprehensive Flood Control Program with a total funding of PHP2.1 billion from the national government.

Rosal noted that his administration will also install grand fountain and skating range at the Kalayaan Park through a PHP5-million funding from the DOT.

He revealed that the construction of the Gregorian Mall located within the 2,855-square-meter Locsin Park in Old Albay District is expected to be completed and be operational in April.

It is the 3-in-1 project being undertaken by the city administration and the WholeGrain Land Inc. that includes the construction of a mall, the Legazpi City Museum and the City Activity Center.

Rosal said the establishment of this Gregorian Mall is an innovative program that will bring more employment opportunities to residents and expected to boost its economic progress.

The 500-square-meter portion of the area will be occupied by the Locsin Activity Center that includes the construction of a basketball court, mini grandstand and covered court.

The 200-square-meter portion will be occupied by the city museum which would give more character in the locality and additional attraction to the different tourism personalities, Rosal said.

He disclosed that the SM Prime Holdings is now fine-tuning all necessary documents to break ground this month for the start of the construction of the SM Legazpi.

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