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Legazpi promotes sustainable agriculture for dynamic environment

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 31 (PNA) -– This key Bicol metropolis is hell-bent on preserving the vitality of its agricultural areas through sustainable agriculture even as it is vigorously campaigning for its conversion into highly urbanized city (HUC).

At least 40 percent of the city’s 153.70-square-kilometer total land area occupied by 30 of its 70 barangays remains rural and, according to City Mayor Noel Rosal, “We are maintaining the vibrancy of these communities as agricultural domains that boast of natural environment through sustainable agriculture.”

The City Agriculture Office (CAO) has been tasked to spearhead moves toward this end and while it has been introducing various infrastructural developments such as farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems and other man-made support facilities for farm productivity, still the ecological landscape of these areas would remain unchanged, the mayor said on Monday.

CAO chief Jesus Kallos said the concept of sustainable agriculture embraces a wide range of techniques -- including organic, free-range, low-input, holistic and biodynamic -- given that the common thread among these techniques is an embrace of farming practices that mimic natural ecological processes.

Under these methods, farmers minimize tilling and water use; encourage healthy soil by planting fields with different crops year after year and integrating croplands with livestock grazing; and avoid pesticide use by nurturing the presence of organisms that control crop-destroying pests, Kallos explained.

Beyond growing food, the philosophy of sustainability also espouses broader principles that support the just treatment of farm workers and food pricing that provides the farmer with a livable income, he stressed.

In simplest terms, sustainable agriculture is the production of food, fiber or other plant or animal products, using farming techniques that protect the environment, public health, human communities and animal welfare.

“This form of agriculture enables us to produce healthful food without compromising future generations' ability to do the same,” Kallos said.

The primary benefits of sustainable agriculture, according to him, is, among others, environmental preservation wherein farms produce crops and raise animals without relying on toxic chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified seeds that degrade soil, water, or other natural resources.

By growing a variety of plants and using techniques such as crop rotation, conservation tillage, and pasture-based livestock husbandry, sustainable farms protect biodiversity and foster the development and maintenance of healthy ecosystems, he said.

Another benefit is public health protection in such as way that it follows food production that never comes at the expense of human health.

Since sustainable crop farms avoid hazardous pesticides, they are able to grow fruits, vegetables, cereals and root crops that are safer for consumers, workers and surrounding communities.

Likewise, Kallos said sustainable livestock farmers and ranchers raise animals without dangerous practices like use of nontherapeutic antibiotics or arsenic-based growth promoters and through careful, responsible management of livestock waste, they also protect humans from exposure to pathogens, toxins, and other hazardous pollutants.

It also upholds animal welfare as farmers and ranchers treat animals with care and respect by way of implementing livestock husbandry practices that protect animals' health and wellbeing.

By raising livestock on pasture, he said, these farmers enable their animals to move freely, engage in instinctive behaviors, consume a natural diet and avoid the stress and illness associated with confinement.

Sustaining vibrant communities is a critical component of sustainable agriculture for its ability to remain economically viable, providing farmers, farm workers, food processors, and others employed in the food system with a livable wage and safe, fair working conditions.

“While we are pushing hard to be elevated into HUC, we never wanted our rural barangays to be left behind by its urban counterparts. They remain complementary to each other and one project that makes this relationship alive is the organic fertilizer manufacturing venture that the city government has hatched in partnership with a leading industrial firm,” Rosal said.

In this project, he said, the urban barangays produce the household and commercial garbage that would be used as raw materials for the manufacture of organic fertilizer for distribution to rural areas for their sustainable agriculture practices.

As HUC provided under Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, this local government unit, which is currently a component city, will become independent from the province of Albay.

Rosal said his administration is dramatically aiming for this conversion that will accelerate further the development of the city into a top-class urban locality being sought by investors for their business investments, thus, opening more job opportunities for the local manpower and more revenue that the local government can use in maximizing the delivery of social services to its people.

It will serve as an additional attribute to the locality that is now officially recognized as one of the three most livable cities in the country, the City of Fun and Adventure for the world travel market and a convention capital; admired for its excellent in local governance and in disaster risk reduction and management; and a business-friendly city, among other inspiring traits.

With its sustainable agriculture practices, on the other hand, the city’s farms will also bolster local and regional economies, creating good jobs and building strong communities, the mayor added.

(Feature) Street revelries culminate Legazpi’s Ibalong Festival

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 30 (PNA) – Hundreds of revelers in colorful ethnic costumes on Saturday occupied three kilometers of the city’s main thoroughfare as they performed indigenous dances and played tribal music in a parade cheered by thousands of locals, tourists and visitors.

The grand event was the street presentation in culmination of Ibalong Festival, a month-long yearly celebration of the city’s exceptional achievements in economic development, tourism, rural-urban uplift, local governance and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), among other accomplishments that make this key Bicol metropolis a highly livable locality.

“For us in the local government and for all Legazpeños, this year’s Ibalong Festival, now on its 24th year, is another big success measured through the impressive number of participants as well as of visitor and tourist arrivals within its duration,” City Mayor Noel Rosal told the Philippines News Agency here Sunday.

The bigger crowd of participants means more fun and greater acceptance and more arrivals mean more receipts for the local tourism industry, he explained.

Since its first staging in 1991, Ibalong, which is a non-religious festival based on the indigenous folklore of Bicol and probably the only festival in the country celebrating an epic, has emerged as the region’s most attended tourism event.

Reliving the myth of Bicol’s folklore heroes, the festival tells of the city government’s relentless pursuit of modernity and economic progress while looking back at its ancient origins pre-dating the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and Christianity.

“We started counting the arrivals of tourists and visitors on day one of the festival, which featured the 2nd Mayon Triathlon race last Aug. 9 which saw the participation of 300 local and international triathletes and drew about 2,000 sports enthusiasts from all over the world,” Rosal said.

“We are still in the process of counting how many tourists and visitors came for the celebration but surely, a good number would come out which we can add to the close to a million arrivals targeted for this year,” Antonio Reyes Jr., the city tourism officer, said.

The target, Reyes said, is 900,000 arrivals by the end of this year, a sensational prelude to achieving the city’s one million target by 2016.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Maria Ravanilla has expressed optimism that this year’s target could be hit by the city, based on latest data that listed around 450,000 arrivals as of the first half of this year.

“The trend established by massive local tourism promotions and industry development that the city government and the DOT have been initiating is leading to that,” she said.

These continuing initiatives have been showing impressive results that showed off highly noticeable arrival figures starting in 2013 when the city hit the half-million target by way of surpassing by a whopping 32.27 percent its previous year’s number of arrivals.

As recorded by the DOT regional office based here, total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579,470 which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.

Last year, the figure rose to around 700,000 or 40 percent over 2013’s and led the city government to improve it to 900,000 this year and to one million next year.

Ravanilla said the 2015 goal is almost achieved and the 2016 goal is very much workable as Rosal relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities.

“Tourists now visit Legazpi not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” she said.

The Ibalong Festival alone -- a local tourism product which, years back, has given the city its “City of Fun and Adventure” caption now popular within the international travel industry -- world chalks up an impressive number of arrivals, according to Ravanilla.

In celebrating achievements in local development and good governance, Rosal said “ours is now officially recognized as one of the three Most Livable Cities in the country today, based on a citation awarded late last year by the Livable City Challenge”.

The Livable City Challenge, sponsored by the United States Assistance for International Development, was organized by the National Competitive Commission, APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, World Wildlife Fund, Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction and Asia Society and Urban Land Institute.

The city government was also awarded last year the Galing Pook Award and Silver Governance Trailblazer (SGT) Award for excellence in the implementation of Public Governance System (PGS).

The Galing Pook Award was given by the Galing Pook Foundation in recognition of the city government’s excellence in local governance with its public-private partnership (PPP) undertakings that have been proven effective in the implementation of high-end development projects in the locality.

The SGT Awards was from the Institute of Solidarity in Asia, a non-government organization that developed and promotes the PGS as a management tool for local governments across the Philippines by way of requiring LGUs to implement a series of reforms that fundamentally transform their policymaking process and bureaucratic structure.

Early last year, the city government won another Seal of Good Housekeeping — the second awarded by the DILG since this kind of recognition for excellence in the field of good governance measured by administrative, social, economic, environmental and other forms achievements that benefited both the community and its constituents -- was introduced in 2011.

In DRRM, the city is vying this year for the Hall of Fame in the Gawad Kalasag Award of the National Disaster risk Reduction Council (NDRRMC) after winning for two consecutive years the yearly award.

“While we take pride and celebrate these achievements, we always maintain humility and prudence in carrying out the daily operations of the city government. We use the accolades we won as our inspiration to work more and achieve more for a more vibrant city,” Rosal added.

CSC Bicol to lead tree-growing activity for 115th Phl Civil Service anniversary


LEGAZPI CITY (PIA) – The Civil Service Commission (CSC) Bicol has enjoined officials and employees of government agencies in the region to participate in the tree plantign and growing activity on September 1, 2015 in Lidong, Sto. Domingo to significantly commence the month long celebration of the 115th Philippine Civil Service anniversary with the theme “Kayang-kaya mo Lingkod Bayani!.”

“This activity aims to imbibe in every civil servant a deep sense of environmental responsibility, as part of their duty to the country as lingkod bayani," said CSC Bicol director Cecilia Nieto.

Nieto added said activity also seeks to raise awareness among government employees about their important role in the implementation of the National Greening Program.

The National Greening Program (NGP) is a massive forest rehabilitation program of the government established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued on Feb. 24, 2011 by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

It is a priority program of the government that aims to reduce poverty; promote food security, environmental stability, and biodiversity conservation; and enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation.

To raise consciousness on environmental protection, participants are also discouraged from bringing plastic bags or containers.

Assembly time is 5:00am at the Peñaranda Park, Legazpi City.

For more information, contact CSC office at 480-2332.

Also part of the activities in line with the anniversary celebration are display of anniversary banner in government offices, fun run, Honor Awards Program (HAP) Rites for the 2015 Presidential Lingkod Bayan, Dangal ng Bayan, and CSC Pagasa Awardees, government choral competition (GCC) and special treats for government employees such as discount packages and freebies.

Abaca weavers in full swing with DOLE-Bicol financial aid


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 29 (PNA) -- Fifty-nine members of the Buhatan Abaca Weavers Association (BAWA) of Buhatan, Sto. Domingo, Albay are now in full blast in making “sinamay” out of abaca fiber.

Sinamay is a common raw material for abaca handicrafts and Sto. Domingo is known to be a source of quality handicrafts.

For the purchase of the raw materials, the Department of Labor and Employment gave BAWA PHP289,000 which was personally handed over by DOLE Bicol Regional Director Nathaniel V. Lacambra to barangay officials in a recent simple turn-over ceremony.

Lacambra said the amount was used to purchase some 4,130 kilos of abaca fiber which will be distributed to BAWA member-beneficiaries.

“Upon learning that the grant was less than PHP300,000, I told your barangay officials that you could have asked for more. However, you must promise us that you must cultivate what you have and develop it to an earning abaca enterprise,” Lacambra told BAWA members and village officials.

DOLE Bicol Assistant Regional Director Ma. Karina Perida-Trayvilla said their office is gearing its livelihood programs to agri-products and produce to support rural development.

The grant is part of the DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program, which is aimed at providing alternative livelihood to individuals and rural workers associations in support of the job-creation agenda of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and to the regional development agenda of Bicol.

Sen. Bam to grace opening of 2 Negosyo Centers in Legazpi


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 27 (PNA) -- Senator Bam Aquino will lead the launch of two more Negosyo Centers here on Thursday.

The activity is part of the government efforts to further boost the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the Bicol Region, according to Joy Los Baños, Department of Trade and Industry Bicol regional director.

The Negosyo Centers to be inaugurated are at Sedcen Building at the Landco Business Park and at the DTI-Albay Provincial Office, both in Legazpi City.

“This is part of our continuing work to further improve the business environment for MSMEs. Now, our Bicolano businessmen can enjoy ease of doing business and other services through the Negosyo Centers,” Aquino, chair of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, said in a press statement.

Aside from the senator, also expected to attend the event are Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya, other local officials and representatives from private partners and stakeholders.

Aquino is the main author of Republic Act 10644, or the Go Negosyo Act, which mandates the creation of Negosyo Centers in all provinces, cities and municipalities in the country.

The Negosyo Center will provide access to linkages to bigger markets and financing for businesses, and a unified and simplified business registration process, thus, helping ease doing business and fast-track government processes in putting up a business.

With the two latest Negosyo Centers, the Bicol Region now has four such centers, with the other two located in Daet, Camarines Norte.

At present, the DTI has already established 84 Negosyo Centers in different parts of the country.

It has pegged its initial goal at 100 Negosyo Centers but with the present rate, the agency will exceed its target for 2015.

65% of target families in Bicol encoded for DSWD’s Listahanan


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug 26 (PIA) --The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office V has encoded the Family Assessment Forms (FAF) of more than half of the target families to be assessed for the on-going Listahanan program.

According to DSWD Bicol information and technology officer Wilson Ecat, as of August 19, a total of 716,101 or 65% forms were already encoded. This is out of the region’s target of 1, 087, 720 households to be assessed.

The FAF is the main tool used by enumerators assigned in rural areas in the conduct of house to house interviews. It is a four page questionnaire with 52 variables that determines the socio-economic status of a household.

In this phase, the information gathered through the FAF is encoded in the database for Proxy Means Test (PMT) processing.

PMT is a statistical model that approximates family income based on observable and verifiable indicators of the family’s income such as access to basic services and facilities like water and electricity, ownership of assets as well as materials used in housing structure.

Meanwhile, the department has assessed 990, 468 or 91 % of the target households.

The household assessment is expected to be completed this August.

An initial list of poor will be posted in all barangays to be validated by the community once the assessment is completed.

A local verification committee will be formed to receive and act on complaints and grievances from the community.

Families who were not visited during the enumeration are given a chance to appeal and be assessed.

After the validation, the official and final list of poor families is shared with data users to serve as their basis in selecting beneficiaries of social protection programs.

Listahanan is the DSWD’s information management system that aims to establish a database of poor households that will become beneficiaries of social protection programs.

Consistent with EO 867, the updating of the Listahanan database of poor families shall be done every four years.

Team Albay Humanitarian Assistance Program chosen as finalist in Galing Pook Awards 2015

By Connie B. Destura [(PNA), FFC/BNB/FGS/CBD]

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 25 (PNA) -- The Team Albay Humanitarian Assistance Program bagged a spot in the roster of finalists in the Galing Pook Awards 2015.

Public Safety Emergency and Management Office head Dr. Cedric Daep on Monday made the announcement of the said achievement.

In a letter to the provincial government, the organizers of the awards explained the guidelines for the upcoming panel presentation and interview and the awarding ceremony during the Galing Pook Governance Fair which will start on August 31 at the SMX Convention Center Manila, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The panel interview will be held on August 31, while the awarding ceremony will be on September 1.

In the panel presentation and interview, each finalist will be given 10 minutes to present its program which highlights its innovative features and outstanding accomplishments in accordance with the Galing Pook criteria composed of positive results and impact, promotion of people's participation and empowerment, innovations, sustainability and efficiency of program service delivery.

Each delegation will be composed of a maximum of eight participants during the panel interview.

The presentations and questions-and-answers will be done in succession.

Each finalist must also submit at least 10 high-resolution action photos for submission and these should best represent the program activities and accomplishments.

The finalists in the awards is composed of various groups from the country's provinces who set examples in implementing key projects and initiatives for the betterment of their respective citizens.

The Galing Pook Awards is a pioneering program that recognizes innovations and excellence in local governance which started in 1993 under the joint initiative of the Local Government Academy, Department of Interior and Local Government, the Ford Foundation and other advocates of good governance from the academe, civil society and the government.

Winners are chosen each year from a wide array of programs from the local governments after undergoing a rigorous multi-level screening process.

The winning programs are selected based on positive results and impact, promotion of people’s participation and empowerment, innovation and efficiency of program service delivery.

Marines win national dragon boat race in Legazpi

By Emmanuel P. Solis (CTB/FGS/EPS/CBD)

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 24 (PNA) -- The Philippine Marine Paddlers team bagged the championship crown in the 200-meter two-day national dragon boat race competition held at the Albay Gulf in front of the Legazpi City Boulevard on Aug. 22-23.

During the first three rounds of the elimination race, the Marines recorded an average time of: 1st round - 1 minute and 1.52 seconds, 2nd round - 1 minute and 2.14 seconds , and 3rd round -1 minute and 2.01seconds.

In the semi-final round, the rowers got an average time of 1 minute and 0.65 second and in the final round, the team had less than a minute time recorded of 59.28 seconds.

The 1st runner-up in the major finals was the PMC Warriors group with a speed time recorded at 59.64 seconds followed by 2nd runner-up Sagwan Tanauan, with a time record of 1 minute and 0.34 seconds, and 3rd runner-up, PDRT 1 minute and 03.06 seconds.

The Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) Warriors, in the elimination round, recorded: 1st round - 1 minute and 02.31seconds; 2nd round - 1 minute and 02.91 seconds; and 3rd round - 1 minute and 02.23 second; while the Sagwan Tanauan got a time record of 1st round - 1 minute and 01.84 seconds; 2nd round - 1 minute and 03.76 seconds; and 3rd round -1 minute and 02.01 seconds.

The Philippine Dragon Rowing Team (PDRT) recorded in the 1st round - 1 minute and 01.87 seconds; 2nd round - 1 minute and 04.32 seconds; and 3rd round - 1 minute and 05.48 seconds.

In the semi-final round, the PMC warriors had a recorded time of 59.78 seconds while the Sagwan Tanauan got 1 minute and 01.22 seconds and the PDRT, 1 minute and 00.73 seconds.

The event was participated in by 11 team-paddlers coming from Metro Manila.

Each team is composed of 12 members, ten of them were paddlers, one steersman and one signal man.

The other participating teams were the PYROS, Zem Wave, Manila Wave, San Beda, Red Sea Lions, Sangley and Manila Ocean Park.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal, Councilor Allan Rañola and Ako Bikol Party-List (AKB) Congressman Christopher Co handed over the trophies with cash to all the winners in the dragon boat race during the awarding ceremony held at the Embarcadero de Legazpi on Sunday while the non-winners received consolation prizes with certificates of participation. Rañola, who served also as chairman of the event, expressed optimism that the dragon boat race competition in this city will become an international event next year as Rosal instructed him to invite the paddlers from Southeast Asia to make this kind of race more colorful and exciting for the incoming silver year celebration of Ibalong Festival in 2016. He said he will prepare a very good work plan to convince the international paddlers to join in the dragon boat competition next year as, he said, he is planning to bring here in Legazpi at least 20 teams from Asia and local paddlers. Captain Romel H. Robles, Marine Corps Special Service Officer and team manager of the Philippine Marine Paddlers, said all the teams who participated in this event were very strong and difficult to beat “but because of our discipline, determination and daily hard training exercise, we got the championship crown. Robles revealed that his team has always joined in the competitions in different parts of the country and always got the championship crown. The national dragon boat race competition was spearheaded by the city government of Legazpi through Rañola in cooperation with the Philippine Canoe-Kayak Federation.

Legazpi International Airport completes refurbishments

By Rosalie C. Periabras

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced over the weekend the completion of P40 million worth of refurbishments for the Legaspi International Airport Passenger Terminal Building in Legazpi City, Albay. The airport accommodates landing of medium-sized commercial jets and military aircraft on its single runway. Currently, it handles eight regular flights from Manila and Cebu from Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and CebGo (Tiger Air) and chartered international flights mostly from China. Although operating as sunrise-sunset because of the ongoing improvement and installation of its instrument landing system, the airport can handle night landings and take-off but only on prior notice. The newly renovated Passenger Terminal Building offers improved features and conveniences to airline passengers with its eco-friendly and clean and green airport atmosphere, utilizing available sunlight that passes through its wide glass walls that illuminate the interior reducing the use of electrical energy.

First batch of 120 4Ps beneficiaries finishes soap making training


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 22 (PNA) -- Some 120 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) on Friday completed a four-day training on making powder soap and fabric conditioner at the Concourse Convention Center here.

The trainees were divided into four groups or one group for each training day.

Another batch of 120 will train on the preparation of dimsum food products (siomai and puto pao) and polvoron.

The training also includes values formation and simple bookkeeping and basic cash management.

Each successful trainee was given a starter kit with necessary utensils and equipment and ingredients that are good for 20 kilograms.

Entitled ANTI-POVERTY (Addressing Basic Needs through Initiatives that Provide Opportunities and Viable Economic Resources that Yield Income), the project is envisioned to provide livelihood to the trainees-beneficiaries to give them a source of income.

The training was very relevant, timely and productive, the participants, who came from the various villages of Legazpi City and who like to venture into entrepreneurship, said in their evaluation sheets.

The project was approved during one of the meetings in 2014 of the Legazpi City Local Poverty Reduction Action Team (LPRAT) under the Bottom-Up Budgeting scheme of the national government for implementation in 2015.

It is being carried out with a Php2-million funding from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) based on a joint project proposal of six civil society organizations that are all members of the LPRAT.

These are the Entrepinay Legazpi City Chapter as lead organization, Legazpi City Senior Citizens Organization Inc., Legazpi City Slumdwellers Federation Inc., Legazpi City Finest Retirees Association Inc., Legazpi City Women’s Federation Inc., and Bicol Consortium for Community Development Inc.

This project is a partnership among the DSWD, Department of Interior and Local Government and City Government of Legazpi.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel E. Rosal congratulated the trainees who he called the new entrepreneurs of the city.

The Php2-million DSWD funding is another intervention of the agency to improve the well-being of 4Ps beneficiaries by empowering them through skills training assistance towards gainful enterprise.

Besides, this assistance to 4Ps beneficiaries in the city is also viewed from a broader perspective as the Aquino administration’s own strategic investment in the country’s human capital, so that the poorest of Filipinos are empowered to take control of their socio-economic conditions and become active contributors to the country’s growth, DSWD Bicol Regional Director Arnel Garcia said.

The 4Ps is a poverty-reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education, particularly of children aged 0-14.

These financial grants under the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme of the program is a work in progress and do not attempt to solve poverty immediately, but instead aim to alleviate it by providing social protection tools through interventions such as empowerment, participation and economic opportunities to the poor.

It is under this broader role that the DSWD, the program’s lead implementing agency, has been doing means to break intergenerational poverty cycle in the long run where long-term poverty alleviation comes into play.

“The 4Ps will eventually end and when such time comes, the DSWD is ensuring that its beneficiaries will have already been nurtured into the culture of self-help leading to a productive life on their own feet,” Garcia said.

So far, he said, DSWD-Bicol is currently in partnership with at least 24 private organizations and 12 licensed and registered Social Welfare and Development Agencies in line with the implementation of the 4Ps across the Bicol region.

(News Feature) Tourist arrivals in Legaspi to hit 0.9 M-mark this year

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 21 (PNA) – - This prime Bicol metropolis recognized as Bicol’s travel industry center would be an inch closer to hitting the one-million tourist arrivals mark this year, according to the Department of Tourism.

“I am optimistic that the city is going to realize 900,000 arrivals by the end of this year, a sensational prelude to achieving its one-million target by 2016, DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla told the Philippine News Agency during Thursday’s opening here of the week-long Ibalong Festival led by City Mayor Noel Rosal.

The optimism is based on latest data that listed around 450,000 arrivals as of the first half of this year and when the trend established by massive local tourism promotions and industry development that the city government and the DOT have been initiating is maintained up to year-end—“bingo, the city hits the .9-million mark,” she said.

These continuing initiatives have been showing impressive results that showed off highly noticeable arrival figures starting in 2013 when the city hit the half-million target by way of surpassing by a whopping 32.27 percent its previous year’s number of arrivals.

As recorded by the DOT regional office based here, total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579, 470, which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.

Last year, the figure rose to around 700,000 or 40 percent over 2013’s and led the city government to improve it to 900,000 this year and to one million next year.

Ravanilla said the 2015 goal is almost achieved and the 2016 goal is very much workable as its mayor, in the person of Rosal, relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities.

“Tourists now visit Legazpi not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” she said.

The ongoing Ibalong Festival alone is chalking up an impressive number of arrivals starting with its kick-off event last Aug. 9, the 2nd Mayon Triathlon that drew 300 local and international triathletes and hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists who are followers of the prestigious sporting event.

The festival is a local tourism product which, years back, has given the city its “City of Fun and Adventure” caption now popular within the international travel industry world.

It is an annual non-religious fiesta, now on its 24th year, depicting here Bicol’s early beginnings based on the Ibalong Epic written by the late Prof. Merito Espinas that tells of mythical super heroes, villains, monsters and wild animals in the ancient times.

Launched in 1992, the celebration -- that relives the epic featuring the extraordinary feats of strength, courage and heroism of these ancient heroes -- has since then lived to become the longest running tourism promotion-related festival in the Bicol Region that expresses warmth and goodwill to all people and encourages visitors and tourists to celebrate with the Legazpeños.

The arrivals for this festivity include those who have been traditionally coming in to participate in the merrymakings, witness the exciting events embedded in it, compete in some national championship sports events and enjoy the fun and adventure it offers.

Thursday’s formal opening was highlighted by a ceremony at the monuments of the Ibalong Epic’s mythical heroes at the city downtown and the Carnival Parade from the City Hall complex to Legazpi Boulevard, featuring a mardi gras joined by various contingents that danced in colorful ethnic costumes. dazzling thousands of spectators lined along the five-kilometer parade route.

The day also marked the opening of the 3rd Ibalong National Women’s Beach Volleyball competition with 10 teams from famous colleges and universities, mostly based in Metro Manila, participating.

The games, which will run for three days, are staged on a jet-black sand court at the Legazpi Boulevard along the scenic Albay Gulf.

Other sporting events included in this year’s celebration are the National Dragon Boat Race, the National Cross Country Mountain Bike Race, the Ibalong Festival Invitational Golf Tournament at the Doña Pepita Golf Course near the foot of Mt. Mayon, the 1st Ibalong Festival Pigeon Race and the Football Clinic at the Bicol University ball ground hosted by James and Phil Younghusband.

Other tourism-related activities taking place in the city at the remaining of this year are five more conventions, meetings and other grand gatherings expected to bring in thousands more of tourists and visitors from different parts of the world.

These gatherings include 7th National Tripartite Conference for Cooperative Development on Sept. 9-11; Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum on Sept. 14-15; 1st International Convention on Children and Family on Oct. 15-17; the National Information and Communication Technology Summit 2015 on Oct. 21-23 ;and the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) –Adventure and Travel Conference on Nov. 14-15.

These grand occasions are part of this year’s 51 international and national gatherings in the city, which works on becoming one of the convention capitals of the country as part of its massive tourism industry development program.

Listed as number 14 in the country’s most visited tourism destinations in the country 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.

“We have all the attributes of a top tourism destination and convention capital—from marvelous tourism sites and world-class facilities to stable peace and order situation, clean air quality, pollution-free coastal water and livable communities,” City Mayor Noel Rosal said.

TESDA to recognize partners in skills development of Bicolanos

By Connie B. Destura [(PNA), CTB/CBD/EBP]

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 20 (PNA) -- The Technical Education Skills Development Authority ((TESDA) Bicol will give recognition to individuals, local government units and different organizations in the region that have given valuable support to the agency.

In a press briefing Wednesday, TESDA Regional Director Conrado G. Bares, announced the persons who have made efforts in promoting and strengthening technical vocational education and training (TVET) in the region.

They are Catanduanes lone district Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento for the legislative sector; Masbate City, for local government units category for city; Bulan, Sorsogon, for municipality; Catanduanes, provincial and Daraga Human Resource Developmet Center in Daraga, Albay, for institution.

The TESDA “Kabalikat Award” gives due recognition to the agency's outstanding ppartners in the promotion and enhancement of TVET.

It is conferred to outstanding institutions, private firms and companies, local ggovernment units and legislative partners because of their good practices and contribution in the promotion and development of Filipino skilled workers.

The Idols ng TESDA are as follows: for Self-Employed Category -- Romy M. Evangelista of Catanduanes, and for Wage-Employed -- Salvacion M. Danao.

The Idols ng TESDA will also be conferred to graduates of various TVET courses, who are gainfully employed either as wage workers or are managing their own businesses and have contributed to socio-economic improvements in their respective communities.

Nominees for TESDA Idols must be 21-40 years old, graduate of any TVET course, and who are either self-employed or wage-employed.

"TESDA Idols are individuals who have graduated in TESDA and become successful in their own fields after finishing TVET programs," Bares said.

The success stories of the "Idols" are used by the agency to attract other youths and out-of-school youths to a realistic and short-term studies that will help them get employment.

For the “Kabalikat Award,” the following categories were established: Institutional Partner, which includes TESDA’s partners from the private schools/training institutions, training centers, non-government organizations/institutions that employ good practices in the promotion and enhancement of TVET through the conduct of regular tracer study of graduates, meeting market-based performance standard, proper incentives, labor market research, and public-private partnership, among others.

Industry Partners, which are TESDA partners that may be an industry association or individual private and public establishment/firm/company that adhered to good practices in the promotion and enhancement of TVET.

The Local Government Unit Partner may be a municipality/city or provincial unit, and other related government offices which provided exemplary support and cooperation with TESDA in various TVET activities translated to programs/ projects related to workforce development such as training and assessment scholarships; donations; provision of technical assistance in the TESDA Provincial or Regional Technical Education and Skills Development Committees; skills competition; and standards/curriculum development, etc.

The Legislative Partner category includes the office of a congressman or senator which provided exemplary support to and cooperation with TESDA in various activities that led to the improvement of TVET in the country.

PHP93-million FMR to connect 4 Legazpi villages to urban center

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 19 (PNA) -- Another farm-to-market road will be constructed here next year after members of the validating team of the Department of Agriculture (DA) recently reviewed the necessary documents and inspected the site of the proposed project, Legazpi City Agriculturist Jesus Kallos said in an interview Wednesday.

The project will be a three-counterparting agreement among the City Government of Legazpi, the DA and the World Bank (WB), with a proposed budget of PHP93 million.

The WB will shoulder 80-percent of the project financing, the city administration will share 10 percent and the national government, through the DA, will give 10 percent for the construction of the project.

The project is part of the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Program for the delivery of strengthen priority crops to the market and for agricultural development.

Kallos said the civil works for the opening and concreting of 6.5-kilometer infrastructure project at the upper portion of the southern section of this city have started already.

It will serve the four villages of Puro, Lamba, Taysan and Maslog -- all identified as coconut-producing areas.

He said a farmers’ association in Barangay Taysan processes coco husks and makes it into geo-textile used in slope protection to prevent landslide.

The coco fiber will be used as furniture material while the coco dust will be used in mixing with fertilizer to make it organic, becoming a material for planting medium.

Kallos said he will ask farmers and other villagers to develop the rice fields and plant more root crops, vegetables and castro beans in that area in order to improve their agricultural livelihood and meet the growing demand of the consuming public.

Mayor Noel E. Rosal said once this farm-to-market road is done, the transport of agricultural commodities to the market will become easier on the part the farmers.

Moreover, the land value in those villages will surely increase, benefiting the residents in the area.

Rosal said his administration will continue to work for the programs and projects in agriculture to maintain a sufficient supply of foods needed by the people in the community and make it more affordable for our daily consumption.

Albay bares 10 TROPICAL Awards nominees

By Connie B. Destura [(PNA), CTB/FGS/CBD/EDS]

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 18 (PNA) -- The Search and Awards Committee (SAC) of the Albay Council for Education (ACE) has approved the final list of candidates for the Three Outstanding Principals in the Countryside of Albay (TROPICAL) Awards.

In a special meeting held Monday at the Bicol University, members of the SAC announced the names of the 10 successful nominees considered for the awards project, which is part of the successful Gawad sa Edukasyon sa Albay Program.

The committee decided to retain this year’s TROPICAL awards after Governor Joey Sarte Salceda vetoed its earlier decision to scrap the annual award due to shortage of nominees.

In vetoing the decision, Salceda insisted that the committee should exert extra efforts to locate and convince deserving awardees to participate in the annual search.

With the retention of the awards and through the awards committee’s diligent efforts, four more nominees were added.

They are from the Ligao City and Tabaco City divisions, which did not field any nominees earlier.

The TROPICAL pool of nominees even reached 12 but the number was cut to 10, the minimum required number set by the SAC, after two nominees did not meet the set of requirements.

Board Member Richard Benjamin Imperial, chairman on the committee on education and member of ACE-SAC, said the proposed scrapping of the TROPICAL was due to the fact that many principals from Albay find the production and submission of the requirements to be too tedious.

Moreover, many principals have already been conferred with the award and the number of legible candidates is dwindling.

“There may come a time when TROPICAL may become an All-Star event as we would be pitting past winners against each other,” Imperial said.

The Three Outstanding Principals in the Countryside of Albay is a search to identify and reward three principals in the province whose leadership resulted in academic excellence, social relevance, organizational efficiency and the recognition of their school.

Japanese firm to train, employ 4Ps beneficiaries in Bicol

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

LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 17 (PNA) – A Japanese industrial firm operating in the Philippines will train, then hire hundreds of workers from the poorest of the poor families in Bicol, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regional office here.

Arnel Garcia, DSWD regional director, on Monday said the Japanese firm, Aderans Philippines Inc., signed recently a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with his office formalizing a partnership deal that arranged the employment of workers belonging to families presently enrolled with the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

A total of 500 male or female 4Ps recipients -- with ages 17 to 25 years old and coming from Camarines Sur’s towns of Libmanan, Minalabac and other neighboring municipalities -- will be taken in by this employment arrangement which is part of DSWD’s transition plan in order to assure that the current socio-economic conditions of 4Ps beneficiaries will be sustained and continue to improve.

Indicated in the plan are socio-economic interventions which ensure that there is continuity in terms of support coming from the private sector like this Japanese employer so that the 4Ps beneficiaries will no longer go back to their conditions prior to the program.

This partnership deal is another DSWD intervention to improve the well-being of 4Ps beneficiaries by empowering them through skills training assistance towards gainful employment, Garcia stressed.

Besides, 4Ps is also viewed from a broader perspective as the Aquino administration’s own strategic investment in the country’s human capital, so that the poorest of Filipinos are empowered to take control of their socio-economic conditions and become active contributors to the country’s growth, he said.

The 4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.

These financial grants under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme of the program is a work in progress and do not attempt to solve poverty immediately, but instead aim to alleviate it by providing social protection tools through interventions such as empowerment, participation and economic opportunities to the poor.

It is under this broader role that the DSWD, the program’s lead implementing agency has been doing means to break intergenerational poverty cycle in the long run where long-term poverty alleviation comes into play.

Under the MOU signed last Aug. 13 in behalf of the DSWD by Garcia and for Aderans Phils. by its director and general-manager Masao Kaneko, these workers will be trained for free at the latter’s factory in Clark Field, Angeles City, Pampanga.

After completion of the training that will last for 30 days, these workers will be hired into high-earning jobs by the company--with its head office based in Osaka, Japan--engaged in the manufacture and world-wide export of hairpieces and related accessories.

The DSWD regional office, on the other hand, Garcia said, will spend for the food, transportation and accommodation of the recruits through an allocation of Php4.5 million set aside by the agency for the purpose.

“We in this agency are very much pleased by this skills development and employment opportunity opened by this Japanese firm for our disadvantaged families, particularly those with the 4Ps. This foreign-owned company is only one of the many which is helping the DSWD in Bicol in empowering poor families towards becoming economically productive,” he said.

“The 4Ps will eventually end and when such end comes, the DSWD is ensuring that its beneficiaries have already been nurtured into the culture of self-help leading to a productive life on their own feet,” Garcia said.

Earlier, the DSWD-Bicol also entered into a MOU with the municipal government of Donsol, Sorsogon and local tourism enterprises that sealed formal cooperation towards providing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to 4Ps beneficiaries in the municipality.

The areas of cooperation provided under such agreement include the employment of 4Ps beneficiaries; provision of areas for promotion or trade display of salable tourism items they produce; and market linkage of their harvested crops, according to Garcia.

Donsol is one of the key tourism icons of Bicol owing to its sanctuary of whale sharks that draws tens of thousands of tourists yearly but listed as one of the region’s municipalities with highest incidence of poverty among families.

According to the Philippine Statistical Authority, the municipality, known as the whale shark capital of the world and among the region’s leading tourism destinations, has 44.1-percent poverty rate based on the latest survey.

The involvement of the local government unit (LGU) of Donsol in the partnership is to make sure that it is able to sustain the impacts of the 4Ps even after its eventual termination and help further improve the current socio-economic condition of the beneficiaries, he said.

“This is part of the plan formulated by the LGU to help sustain the poverty alleviation program’s interventions to ensure that there will be continuity in terms of support to the beneficiaries to prevent them from reverting to their previous miserable socio-economic status,” Garcia said.

As to the business sector involved in the partnership, he said, it is part of the DSWD’s efforts in pursuing more public-private partnership in carrying out the government’s social protection program.

Besides, the said the involvement of the private sector in the implementation of social protection programs is in line with the directive of President Benigno S. Aquino III that pushes PPP in fulfilling his platform of good governance and poverty reduction.

So far, he said DSWD-Bicol is currently in partnership with at least 24 private organizations and 12 licensed and registered Social Welfare Development Agencies in line with the implementation of the 4Ps across the Bicol region.

Bicol’s young tourism cluster to learn from success stories of older counterpart


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 16 (PNA) -- Triple C, the newly-formed cluster of tourism areas in Bicol, will be learning from the success of its older counterpart—the AlMaSor-- in advancing the travel industry of its own ground.

This new cluster is the alliance of three provinces—Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines -- thus, the moniker captioned “Gems of the Pacific” for its geographical location along the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

It was formed by the Bicol Regional Tourism Council (BRTC) late last year into a Tourism Development Area (TDA) which the Department of Tourism (DOT) has placed under its 2015-2020 National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP).

The NTDP, according to DOT Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla, recognizes every part of Bicol as a tourist attraction, hence, the clustering that provides strategic directions and programs to make local tourism products more competitive are formulated.

Its formation was formalized through the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among governors of the three provinces, which ensures the commitment towards working with local government units (LGUs) and the private sector into the pouring in of more tourism development investments.

Improvement of market access, connectivity, destination infrastructure; and enhancement of tourism institutional, governance and industry manpower capabilities, Ravanilla said, are the primary strategies that the BRTC are instituting toward this end.

A Technical Working Group (TWG) composed of the regional offices for Bicol of the DOT as lead agency and National Economic Development Authority, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior and Local Government as among the members, works on these strategies.

AlMaSor, on the other hand, is the older cluster also formed by the BRTC for the provinces of Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon into a tourism alliance conceptualized as the tourism road map for Bicol designed to achieve development not only in the mainland provinces of Albay and Sorsogon but also in the island of Masbate.

AlMaSor, which debuted its global exposure at the 2013 Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB)-Berlin, puts in place a more integrated and comprehensive promotion strategy to market the potentials of the regional tourism industry, eyeing some 650,000 foreign tourist arrivals in the area annually within five years.

The cluster features Albay with its Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins among the other tourism marvels of the province; Sorsogon offers its butanding (whale shark) interactions; while Masbate has its unspoiled world-class beaches.

As part of the Triple C learning process, its TWG has slated a series of tours of AMaSor within this month for its members to gain insights from its success stories that can be replicated, such as tourism involvement and participation of communities and how they benefited from managing tourism sites, Ravanilla over the weekend here said.

Triple C, according to her, would learn from the successful implementation of the AlMaSor Tourism Development Plan in creating synergy in tourism development, through the combined efforts and resources of the stakeholders, which has found its way into the global market.

It is important that success stories of the AlMaSor be incorporated in the Triple C area development plan, she stressed.

“The 3C is formed to complement the existing tourism blueprint of AlMaSor and with a 15-percent increase in tourist’s arrival every year, we can say that it is possible that we can attract six million visitors to Bicol by 2016.

Hence, the development and promotion of this younger cluster is very much necessary,” Ravanilla said.

The target, she said, is not difficult to realize since this city, now emerging as a favorite venue of big national and international gatherings like conventions and summits, is contributing tremendously to the number of arrivals in a year-round basis owing to its being known today in the world travel industry as the City of Fun and Adventure.

The city alone, which received around 700,000 tourists last year after surpassing the half-million mark in 2013, is expected to make it 800,000 this year as it aims for a million arrivals by 2016.

The 2016 goal insofar as Legazpi is concerned, Ravanilla said, is very much workable as its mayor, Noel Rosal, relentlessly pursues a tourism master plan featuring a massive promotion campaign that highlights the city’s irresistible tourism products ranging from its natural wonders to world-class facilities.

“Tourists now visit Legazpi not only for the breathtaking view of Mt. Mayon, one of the world’s most active volcanoes made famous by its magically-configured perfect cone form, but also for its sparkling metropolis loaded with heavy tourism-related activities and exciting places to relax, play and enjoy a healthful living,” she said.

Bicol-wide, DOT data show that arrivals in 2014 was up by 14.85 percent for a total of 3, 724, 073 tourists, 16.63 per cent of 2,970,744 of whom are domestic and 8.35 percent or 753,329 foreigners.

These figures were realized without the Triple C working as a cluster and Ravanilla said “how much more now that it is already in place.”

There are two sub-TDAs under this cluster--the Caramoan-Catanduanes Tourism Link (CCTL) covering the tourism town of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and the entire Catanduanes area; and the Camarines Tourism Circuit (CTC) to cover the rest of Camarines Sur and the whole of Camarines Norte.

For the CCTL, Caramoan, which lies at the northeastern tip of Camarines Sur and separated by Maqueda Channel from the island-province of Catanduanes, covers Caramoan Peninsula where a group of exotic islets serving as a major ecotourism destination sits.

Catanduanes, on the other hand, is a pearly island in the Pacific that is virtually untouched, unspoiled and unexplored.

It is a promising travel destination owing to its ecotourism wonders, dive sites and sea surfing venues along its long string of palm-fringed beaches backed by jungle-covered mountains and crowned with jewel-like islets.

For the CTC, Camarines Sur has been a long-time tourist destination with its Camarines Water sports Complex (CWC) and Peñafrancia Festival of Naga City while Camarines Norte is famous for its Bagasbas Beach and Calaguas Islands known for its pristine beaches of a long stretch of powdery white sand.

Albay’s high school choir wins in Bali contest

(Philippines Daily Inquirer)

LIGAO CITY—Days after coming home from a choral singing contest in Bali, Indonesia, students from the Ligao National High School (LNHS) Voice Chorale were still on cloud nine for giving pride not only to their school but to the country.

Composed of students aged 14 to 18 years, the 21-member chorale is only two years old and was a first-time competitor in international choir tilts. It was declared the grand winner of the 4th Bali International Choir Festival held at Sanur Paradise Hotel in Denpasar, Bali, from July 29 to Aug. 2.

The Filipino group first performed against 14 choirs from other Asian countries, mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia, in the folklore category, earning 34 points from the judges. It also competed against 22 other choirs in the “teenager” category, garnering 33.60 points.

The LNHS chorale, the only representative of the Philippines in the festival, moved on to the championship rounds, getting 87.5 points in the teenager choir category and 90 points in the folklore category. It rendered two Filipino folk songs: “Ilay Gandangan” (Worship of the Sun), a Maguindanao song by Rodolfo Delarmente; and “Ayug Ti Amianan” (Scenes From the North), a song from Cordillera by Fidel Calalang Jr.

Carmelita A. Sinson, choir manager and principal of LNHS, said the chorale bested nine champions from different categories and was later proclaimed grand prix winner. The group received four trophies, four medals and five certificates.

“They were indeed really amazing on stage that’s why we became champion,” Sinson said.

The chorale members belonged to the school’s special program in the arts, with music as a specialization, Sinson said. For months, they practiced hard, she said, and described the Bali contest as “very tough” as other contenders were “really [very good] performers.”

Celger Villacampa Venzon, the group’s conductor, said the members were required to refrain from eating sweets and salty foods, drinking ice cold water and beverages, and staying up late. Time management coupled with dedication and prayers contributed a lot to the success of the team, he said.

“Our team did their best on stage by singing wholeheartedly and that’s our edge [over] our rival chorale groups … . Thanks to God,” Venzon said.

Last year, the LNHS Voice Chorale won first prize in the National Music Competition for Young Artists’ mixed voices category, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The victory earned the group an invitation to the Bali choir festival.

Ramon Fiel Abcede, regional director of the Department of Education, said the achievement of the LNHS chorale would serve as an inspiration to Filipinos, especially the youth. “We are very happy that they brought home the bacon and, for that, we will give them commendation to compensate for their hard work and success,” he said.

The city government of Ligao, headed by Mayor Patricia Gonzalez-Alsua, said she and the city council also planned to give incentives to the chorale.

Bicol youth adapt disaster education program via fun games


MANILA, Aug. 14 (PNA) - Children prepared makeshift life vest using a t-shirt with 10 empty water bottles, created improvised boots using garbage bags and were given a chart of must-have emergency items as they raced to an evacuation center as part of a game promoting disaster education.

The race is part of Bicol’s adaptation of Japan's popular disaster education program Iza! Kaeru Caravan! to help raise disaster preparedness in Bicol Region.

About 80 pupils from Bicol University’s elementary school are joining the first 'Move Philippines' in Bicol from Aug. 15 to 18 this year.

'Move Philippines' is a local version of Kaeru Caravan developed by Japanese non-government group Plus Arts, Japan Foundation, Capitol University and +63 designer’s group in Manila.

Pupils from Bicol will learn disaster preparedness through obstacle games, exercises, magnetic card games, storytelling and simulated disaster response scenarios.

The 'Move Philippines' activity in Bicol follows the Iza! Kaeru Caravan! disaster education model launched during the 10th anniversary of the earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

Indonesia, Bhutan, Turkey and the Philippines have since adapted respective versions of the program.

“Filipino students these days confront different natural disasters - we’ve recognized the value and need for disaster education programs where they can learn disaster preparedness in an enjoyable way,” said Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) head Dr.Cedric Daep.

Young Japanese volunteer Yuji Ueno - dispatched in the Philippines through the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) - and APSEMO are spearheading the Move Philippines initiative in Bicol.

Since 2014, JICA's JOCV volunteer has been working with APSEMO to further build capacity of Bicol youth and residents for disaster preparedness and response through disaster education workshops and activities.

Aside from the volunteer dispatch, JICA provided materials for 'Move Philippines' in Bicol.

“Albay is very progressive when it comes to disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) but we'd also like to support activities where participants, particularly children who are often vulnerable to disasters, can learn while enjoying,” said JICA Philippines Senior Representative Kunihiro Nakasone.

'Move Philippines' was earlier held in Cagayan de Oro, supported by Japan Foundation and NPO Plus Arts.

As Albay is prone to floods and mud flows from volcanic eruptions, APSEMO strengthened its DRRM coordination activities.

APSEMO institutionalized a mechanism for pre-emptive evacuation during typhoons and volcanic eruptions.

The organization’s efforts at present are also focused on disaster prevention awareness at the individual level, at the front line of disasters, including students, teachers, and 'barangay' residents.

Terminal fee hike in Tabaco City port now in effect

By Jean Rose Geronga (CNN Philippines)

Legazpi City (CNN Philippines) — Based on the directives given by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Bicol, the Tabaco City port terminal, since August 1, has increased its terminal fee by 200 percent.

Passengers going to the island province of Catanduanes used to pay P10 each, but they are now being charged P30.

The terminal fee hike was already earlier opposed by Catanduanes Gov. Araceli Wong in behalf of the people who are going to their province daily, but the increase still took effect.

In her official statement, Wong said that mostly poor people avail of the services of the government-owned port terminal and now they are shouldering the additional burden.

However, the PPA said they need to impose the increase to augment the operational fund of the terminal and port facilities to deliver best services to the passengers. It added that the fund will also be used for environmental and marine ecology protection projects within port facilities.

Meantime, reports said that the legal officer of Catanduanes is now preparing all the documents needed to seek Temporary Restraining Order for the implementation of the terminal fee hike in Tabaco City port.

3 Bicol solons unite for declaration of Ticao-Burias Pass as protected seascape

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

LIGAO CITY, Aug. 12 (PNA) -- Born here two months ago and fathered by Albay 3rd district Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, the move towards the declaration of the Ticao-Burias Pass as a protected seascape has won the support of two other lawmakers from Bicol representing areas covering these vital inland seas of the region.

In a statement Wednesday, Gonzalez said Reps. Ma. Vida Bravo and Evelyn Escudero of the 1st districts of Masbate and Sorsogon, respectively, have co-authored the bill he recently filed seeking the declaration that will classify the twin waters as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).

Bravo’s representation covers six municipalities—San Fernando, San Jacinto, Monreal, Batuan of Ticao Island and Claveria and San Pascual of Burias Island, all along the two waters; while the Sorsogon towns of Donsol, Pilar and Castilla that sit along the northern coastline of Ticao Pass belong to Escudero’s district.

Gonzalez’s district covering the Albay west coast localities of Libon, Oas, Pioduran, Jovellar and this city, on the other hand, shares maritime boundaries with the two Burias Island towns.

“There is indeed an urgent need for the Burias-Ticao Pass to be declared a MPA or a protected seascape to save and preserve its great marine diversity threatened by unabated illegal activities and other abuses,” Gonzalez said.

These waters are home to whale sharks, manta rays, dugong and various kinds of sea turtle, and lately discovered to be a habitat of the globally rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) -- which are all considered endangered marine species, he said.

The move towards the protection measure was formalized during the observance of the World Oceans Day along the shoreline of Barangay Cabarian here last June 6 that bounded together various marine ecology protection and conservation stakeholders in Bicol into the Burias-Ticao Pass Protected Seascape (BTPPS) idea.

Organized by Gonzalez and the local government here headed by City Mayor Patricia Alsua, the historical gathering marked the formation of a broad coalition towards the conservation of the exotic ecological system of the two adjoining inland waters that separate Masbate province from the mainland of Bicol.

The coalition led by the city government is composed, among others, of the regional offices for Bicol of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Philippine National Police (PNP).

Others in it are the local command of the Philippine Army (PA); the municipal government of Pioduran, Albay; Greenpeace Philippines; Local Climate Change Adaptation for Development (LCCAD); barangay officials; and fisher folk.

The primary concern of the coalition is the huge fishing ground covering Albay west coast’s municipal waters and their rich coastal resources threatened by human pressures, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification.

Good for this city because its water within Burias Pass -- which is approximately 126 square-kilometers and coastline of about 8.4 kilometers in expanse covering barangays Cabarian, Catburawan and Maonon -- is site of a marine ecology enhancement program reinforced with a “we-mean-business” anti-illegal fishing campaign being maintained by the local government.

But other Ticao-Burias areas, especially those covered by municipalities of Masbate and Sorsogon, particularly need the protection that members of the coalition want extended to.

Gonzalez said he is optimistic that the proposed legislation for the BTPPS will be approved at once, given the support of the two Masbate and Sorsogon congresswomen and in the Senate, of Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate’s committee on environment and natural resources.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje has also expressed his support of the measure which, when approved, will place the Ticao-Burias Pass under the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), a multi-sectoral body which will be created to be responsible for its administration and management.

The PAMB as provided under the NIPAS Act of 1992 shall be composed of the DENR regional director, and representatives of local governments and barangays with jurisdictions over areas covered by the MPA, non-government organizations and from other government agencies involved in the protected area management.

The same law provides the legal framework for the establishment and management of protected areas in the Philippines defined as the identified portions of land and/or water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.

Protected seascapes, Gonzalez explained, are among sites of national significance characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and ocean while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through the recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activities offered by these areas.

LCCAD executive director Manuel Rangasa said the BTPPS will be a milestone policy for the first MPA in Bicol and fourth in the country which Gonzalez vows to pursue in Congress with the help of Legarda in Senate.

According to Greenpeace Southeast Asia Ocean Campaigner Vince Cinches, who expressed support to the measure, both water bodies are being overfished and devoid of more sustainable coastal resource management initiatives.

Greenpeace, an independent global campaigning organization that, among other environmental activism, challenges wasteful and destructive fishing activities and pushes for the creation of a global network of marine reserves.

Gonzalez expressed high optimism that the BTPPS bill he principally authored and co-authored in the Lower House by Bravo and Escudero will soon be enacted by the House and Senate, knowing that the area it covers is a promising tourism hot spot in line with the national government's drive to create multi-faceted tourist destinations.

Rangasa said the entire seascape covers an area of 414,244 hectares serving as fishing ground for a total population of 93,943 coastal villagers, 41.4 percent of them languishing in poverty as reported last year by the National Statistics Coordination Board of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Albay GAD office starts training LGUs


LEGAZPI CITY, Aug. 11 (PNA) -- Starting July, the Gender and Development (GAD) Office of Albay and the GAD Focal Point System Technical Working Group (GFPS-TWG) has been conducting a series of provincewide orientation-training sessions and seminars to enhance the GAD competencies of the province’s three cities and 15 municipalities.

The move also aims to train the LGUs in developing gender responsive plans, policies, programs and activities (PPAs).

The series of activities, which started with the organization of their respective local GFPS, was launched in the municipalities of Bacacay, Camalig, Pioduran and Guinobatan.

These municipalities will undergo the successive training sessions until such time that they can level off the mainstreaming of their 5-percent budget to GAD-related PPAs, write a workable GAD plan and draft their own GAD Code.

After the training sessions attended mostly by department heads -- including the Philippine National Police Women’s Desk and members of the Sangguniang Bayan, the participants are also expected to conduct said training activities for their respective barangays for total GAD awareness.

GFPS-TWG chair Cynthia Samalea said that in order to sustain the initial gains of the project, the replication of the good practices in the localization of the MCW must be pursued in all municipalities provincewide.

"The Albay GAD Office, in partnership with Philippine Council for Women-AECID, shall continue to support the limited gender mainstreaming initiatives of these municipalities and provide technical assistance until such time that the LGUs are capable of working on the sustainability of its GAD programs,” she said.

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