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Sorsogon hosts 3rd Bicol Prosecutors Convention

by (MAL/BARecebido-PIA Sorsogon)

SORSOGON CITY, May 11 (PIA) -- Around 115 participants and guests composed of national officers from the National Prosecutors League of the Philippines and prosecutors from across the Bicol region register to the 3rd Bicol Prosecutors Convention, which started Tuesday and to last until today, May 11.

Provincial Prosecutor Regina Coeli Gabito said participants, visitors and guests were warmly welcomed by Sorsogon Governor Raul R. Lee himself along with other high-ranking officials in the province.

“The convention is actually an annual activity of the prosecutors, specifically here in Bicol where we have an active and well-organized group, the Bicol League of Prosecutors, and for this year, our province serves as the host,” said Fiscal Gabito.

She also said that the primary purpose of the convention is to update the prosecutors of the current issuances of the Department of Justice (DoJ), brainstorming on their works as prosecutors, and at the same time socializing and harmonizing with their co-prosecutors in the whole Bicol region.

DOJ Sec. De Lima and Prosecutor General Claro M. Arellano of the National Prosecution Service are among the expected guest in the event but due to hectic schedules, they were not able to make it. De Lima is set to testify in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona from May 9 and 10, while the latter left for Hongkong to present a paper on anti-corruption in the international justice community, Gabito added.

The first day was highlighted by the Corporate Planning and Management Conference as per the Memorandum of the DoJ Secretary dated March 2, 2012 and a dinner, fellowship and socials with Gov. Lee and wife former governor Sally A. Lee.

Gabito said that she also took the opportunity to introduce the province of Sorsogon to the prosecutors who are also appreciable of the different tourism sites and products which place offers and among the areas to be visited on the second day, May 10, are Barcelona for its ruins and world heritage site, Bulusan for Bulusan Lake, and Gubat for its beaches and resorts.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Sorsogon has also put up a stall at the lobby of the Bulwagan ng Katarungan for the entire duration of the activity displaying the local products to give way for the local traders and business establishments to earn during the event.

A fellowship through a short program with City Mayor Leovic Dioneda and city officials at the Sorsogon City Hall in Brgy. Cabid-an will be held today. Also, submission to the members and ratification of the Proposed Constitution and By-Laws of the Bicol Prosecutors League will be made with Deputy Regional Prosecutor Jose Demosthenes at the forefront.

The convention will be culminated with a visit to the residence of Senator Francis Escudero in Brgy. Buhatan, Sorsogon City, wherein the senator is expected to deliver a message to the prosecutors.

Fiscal Gabito also expressed her appreciation and thanks to the local leaders here specifically mentioning Sorsogon Gov. Raul R. Lee, former governor and now Executive Director of Sorsogon Provincial Management Office Sally A. Lee, City Mayor Dioneda, Sen. Escudero, Sorsogon’s 1st District Congressman Salvador H. Escudero II and 2nd District Congressman Dogracias Ramos, Jr., Barcelona Mayor and League of Municipalities of the Phils. Sorsogon Chapter president Mayor Romeo Fortes, Jr., Bulusan Mayor Michael Guysayko and Gubat Mayor Ronnel Lim for the full support extended to them and also for making her work easy.

Fish dealer nabbed over drugs in Masbate

by Dennis Carcamo

MANILA, Philippines - Anti-narcotics agents nabbed a fish dealer, who is a suspected member of a known drug ring operating in Albay, after he was caught selling illegal substance in Masbate City.

Director General Jose Gutierrez Jr. of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said PDEA agents and local police arrested Jesus Solla, 38, of Brgy. 28, Victor Village Legazpi City, Albay, at the Masbate port area.

"Solla is aware that his drug-dealing activities in Legazpi have generated...attention from authorities. So, he is starting to test the viability of Masbate as a new market while he temporarily scales down his operation in Legazpi City," Gutierrez said.

Acting on a tip from a confidential agent that Solla will be leaving the Port of Pilar, Sorsogon, authorities waited for the suspect’s arrival at the Masbate Port Area in Barangay Bapor, Masbate City on May 4, 2012. Solla arrived at the port at around 9:30 a.m. onboard a motor boat.

Authorities were able to recover three sachets of shabu and the motorcycle (PN 8981) which is believed to be stolen, brought along by Solla onboard the motorized banca.

Solla, who faces charges for transporting dangerous drugs, is now detained at the Masbate City Police Station.

Transport leader among the dead NPA rebels in Sorsogon clash

by Juan Escandor Jr.

DONSOL, Sorsogon — A transport leader in Bicol was among the three New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed in an encounter in Barangay Pinamanaan of this town on Tuesday, the NPA in Sorsogon said in a statement released Wednesday morning. NPA’s Celso Minguez Command operating in Sorsogon province identified Joel Ascutia, who headed the Concerned Drivers and Operators-Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator (Condor-Piston), was one of the slain rebels. The two others were identified by military officials as Christian Llagas and Leopoldo Nebres. The statement said Ascutia, alias “Ka Pepe,” joined the communist rebels after seeking refuge from them last year. Ascutia was president of Condor-Piston from 2005 until last year. The rebel command “saluted the three slain NPA rebels for their revolutionary work in organizing the masses and hailed them as martyrs.” “Ascutia survived harassment and attempt on his life while still in the open mass movement,” added their statement. On July 13, 2009 Ascutia, a resident of Legazpi City, survived an attack by motorcycle-riding assailants in Daraga, Albay while the transport group joined the nationwide strike to protest oil prices. He survived the attack but was shot five times and hit in the leg and abdomen. Colonel Felix Castro Jr., commander of the 903rd Brigade in Castilla, Sorsogon, told the INQUIRER that Army soldiers chanced upon a group of some 15 NPA leaders at around 6 a.m. on Tuesday. The scene of encounter was around a half kilometer away from the village center of Pinamanaan, a remote village in Donsol, Sorsogon that is also in the boundary of Jovellar town in Albay. Castro said the Army soldiers of the 31st Infantry Battalion recovered from one of the NPA rebels an identification card with Ascutia’s name on it and an M16 rifle, 9 mm pistol, personal belongings and documents of “high intelligence value.”

3 suspected Reds killed in Sorsogon

by Edwin Sevidal and Noel Alamar, dzMM

MANILA, Philippines – Three suspected New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with the military in Sorsogon, Bicol region on Tuesday morning.

Philippine Army Spokesperson Major Harold Cabunoc said members of the 31st Infantry Battalion clashed with an undetermined number of NPA guerillas in a remote village in Donsol town.

Three unidentified rebels were killed.

No casualties were reported on the side of the government.

BFP Sorsogon City intensifies “Ugnayan sa Barangay”

by Benilda A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY, May 7 (PIA) -- Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Sorsogon City Fire Marshal SInsp Walter Marcial said that BFP’s campaign on fire prevention is going-on even if the Fire Prevention Month in March is over.

SInsp Marcial said that as part of the BFP’s mandate stated in RA 9514 or the Fire Code of the Philippines of 2008, Sorsogon City Fire Station has intensified its Fire Prevention Program through the Ugnayan sa Barangay.

Ugnayan sa Barangay is one among the many programs of the BFP that aims in educating residents of barangays in fire prevention and basic fire suppression techniques.

“Ugnayan sa Barangay is one of the strategies that our office implement citywide to help educate the constituents, Barangay Fire Safety Officers and barangay officials about our advocacy on fire safety awareness,” Marcial said.

“We also believe that through this strategy, we can cut the growing statistic of destructive fires particularly in fire prone areas or large residential areas within the city,” he added.

Just three days ago, personnel of BFP Sorsogon City conducted said Ugnayan activity in Brgy. Talisay drawing 20 participants from different households.

They were given introduction and overview of the activity and lectured on how to prevent fires, what to do in case of fire, how to use fire extinguishers, and fire safety tips.

How to apply first aid was also demonstrated, followed by the conduct of the pre-fire planning strategies.

Marcial encouraged barangay residents to constantly hold the same activity to make them updated on whatever information there is related to fire and disaster preparedness.

“Since January to April this year, we had already conducted Ugnayan sa Barangay in 10 barangays out of the 64 total number of barangays in the city. We had already distributed letters to the remaining barangays to inform them of their schedule hoping to conduct the same activity, of course, through the support and cooperation of its officials and residents as well, before the year ends,” he said. (MAL/BAR-PIA 5, Sorsogon)

Crablet mentality stalks young earners in Sorsogon

by Oliver Samson

BARCELONA — Children in this seaside town brave sun and rain to gather day-old crabs to eke out a living.

At low tide, they gather crablets that sell for 75 centavos to P3 a piece to local buyers in Sorsogon for delivery to Pampanga and other regions where they are processed and sold as a gourmet food.

Imelda Romanillos, Labor provincial officer, said state policy prohibited child labor.

“No person below 15 of age is allowed to work,” she told Manila Standard. “If these minors collect crablets in the seaside only, there is no serious problem. The possible negative effect on children is loss of interest to go to school because they are earning.”

In case the children failed to attend their classes, will the parents face criminal charges?

“We will go to the place, not to reprimand, but assess the situation to base the safety nets on and offer help,” Romanilos said.

Chief Insp. Roque Merdegia, also a lawyer, agreed with the labor office.

“There is no violation of the labor law except when parents use coercion and expose the lives of children to danger,” he said.

Darzy Gacosta, a resident, commended the self-supporting kids doing a decent job.

“They would rather (work) than steal for food,” she said, noting that a crablet gatherer averaged about 30 pieces in summer and as many as a hundred during the cold months.

Aldrin, 11, said the fruits of his labor went to good use.

“I can provide my own allowance in school and save part of my earnings for a new pair of pants and T-shirt,” he said. “We are able to help our parents serve enough rice on the table.”

Elementary schools Principal Liza Salonga said work could distort priorities for the young.

“It can cause dropping out because if they get used to earning money they will become lazy to attend classes,” she said, adding that a suitable arrangement is needed. “It’s good if they do it only during weekend because they can help their parents.”

Bulusan Volcano Alert Level 1 status lowered

by (MAL/BAR-PIA 5, Sorsogon)

SORSOGON PROVINCE, May 4 (PIA) -- Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has finally lowered the alert level status of Mt. Bulusan from Alert level 1 or abnormal to Alert Level 0 or normal. This means that no eruption is foreseen in the immediate future.

Phivolcs Bulusan Volcano Observatory resident volcanologist Crispulo Diolata said that the lowering of the alert level status as stated in Bulusan Volcano Bulletin dated April 24, 2012, was due the overall decline of the monitoring parameters after the volcano’s last phreatic (steam-driven) eruption on May 13, 2011 as supported by the following observations:

(1) The frequency of volcanic earthquake occurrences has declined to baseline levels (0-2 events/day), indicating quiescence in the magmatic or hydrothermal system. Short-lived swarms (9-21 events/day) on 25 May, 10 August, 11 September and December of 2011, and 22 January of 2012, have been ascribed to crustal readjustments in the volcanic edifice after the May 2011 phreatic eruption.

(2) Results of precise leveling at both Inlagadian line on the north-northeastern slope and Mapaso line on the south-southeastern slope indicate that the volcano edifice has deflated since late November 2011. This suggests that no substantial pressure source in the subsurface, which could potentially trigger another eruption, can be detected.

(3) Steaming activity from the crater and known thermal vents has been frequently weak or wispy compared to the more moderate steam emissions during periods of unrest.

He also said that the bulletin issued on April 24, 2012 will be the last bulletin to be issued for Bulusan Volcano until new developments in monitoring parameters occur.

Meanwhile, in the light of the declaration, Diolata still remind the public to avoid entry into the 4-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) due to the perennial threat of sudden phreatic eruptions and rockfalls on the upper slopes. Furthermore, people living in valleys and along active river channels are cautioned to remain vigilant against sediment-laden streamflows and lahars in the event of heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Ha also said that tourists and mountain climbing enthusiasts are allowed to climb Mt. Bulusan, however, cautioned them to take extra caution against rock falls especially this time that there are barren spots along the mountain’s slope.

Natural resources office awards 100-ha land for mangrove development

by Benilda A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY, May 3 (PIA) -- One hundred hectares of tidal mudflat was awarded by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) here to the Seaweed Grower and Aquaculture Association of Sorsogon, Inc. (SEAGRASS) in Brgy. Gimaloto, Sorsogon City.

The SEAGRASS, a people’s organization composed of fisher folks and farmers in Brgy Gimaloto, West District, in this city, was chosen by the CENRO in coordination with the Sorsogon City Agriculture Office as beneficiary in line with the National Greening Program being implemented by the national government.

According to SEAGRASS president Redentor Lasay, the 100 ha. mudflat is currently dominated by mangrove species like bakawan, pagatpat, miyapi, lapis-lapis, and nipa, among others.

“As per the initial agreement, the SEAGRASS will serve as the steward of the site for mangrove development for 25 years starting on signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). Inclusive of the agreement is for the SEAGRASS to protect and develop, as well as, benefit from the said area. Members will be allowed to harvest pruned branches of mangroves and nipa shingles as well as aquasilvi culture yields, under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR),” Lasay explained.

CENR Officer Krisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez said the MOA is underway and will immediately be signed upon compliance of the prescribed requirements by the concerned parties.

She also added that this week, BFAR, in coordination with CENRO will conduct assessment and survey of the said mangrove project to determine the type of mangrove species suitable to the 50 ha. out of the awarded 100 ha. mudflat.

Propagules to be planted in the site will be bought directly from the SEAGRASS members, and the growing of mangroves will be monitored and taken good care of by the members for the span of six months as per the agreement.

City Agriculturist Adeline Detera said the City Agriculture Office is set to establish a one-hectare Mangro-vetum, a mangrove propagule nursery in Barangay Gimaloto for sustainability of the mangrove project and to showcase at the same time a rare package of mangrove species both for tourism and educational enhancement.

Meanwhile, SEAGRASS is currently a beneficiary of aquasilvi culture project grant of BFAR which includes seaweed farming and green mussel (tahong) production which is soon to harvest anytime in May this year; the project amounted to P150,000.

Aside from this, BFAR has also established “hilay," a fish-breeding and shelter area which, at the same time, serve as protection against trawl and dynamite fishing and any other form of illegal fishing activities.

SEAGRASS was also granted by BFAR with 6.5 horse power motorized banca and a nipa hut for the convenience and smooth management of the members of the organization. (BAR-PIA 5, Sorsogon)

Aquino inaugurates state-of-the-art Doppler radar station in Virac


BATO, Catanduanes—President Aquino on Wednesday inaugurated a state-of-the-art Doppler radar station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) in this typhoon-prone province, which will help improve government response to potential disasters.

The Virac Doppler Radar is under the P174-billion project for the improvement of the meteorological radar system in the Philippines funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), with two more to be set up in Aparri, Cagayan, in October and in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, next year.

The project seeks to effectively mitigate the devastation caused by tropical cyclones and other severe weather phenomena, and enhance the capability of Pagasa in monitoring tropical cyclones monitoring, especially those coming from the Pacific Ocean to protecting lives and property.

“This will give us more information and will help us predict more accurately the direction, the impact and the intensity of weather disturbances approaching our country. This means that we’ll be better prepared—that fewer Filipinos will be victimized by the vagaries of weather,” the President said in his speech.

Mr. Aquino said that with the new system in place, the public can be assured that the government “is readier than ever to respond to these threats, and to help our people recover from potential damages.”

Science Secretary Mario Montejo said the new facility “is the most vital and strategic Doppler radar installation facility” as it faces the Pacific Ocean. “We made a rough estimate—95 percent of all typhoons coming from the Pacific Ocean can be seen here. This can cover the whole Bicol region, including Masbate and parts of Samar,” Montejo said.

He noted that the Doppler radar station in Virac has a 95-percent accuracy, based on tests that his department conducted.

“This will really give advance information for Bicol region and also give advance information for Metro Manila,” he said.

Montejo said on Tuesday afternoon, the Virac Doppler Radar indicated rainfall in Guiuan to measure 37 millimeters in three hours, which was the exact same measurement shown by the rain gauge in that town, and that two other tests conducted in Legazpi City and Sorsogon showed the same level of accuracy.

The Philippines has seven other Doppler radars that were funded by the national government.

He said that with the type of sophisticated Doppler radar in use, the government can see, in real time, the rainfall in the covered area, and would help the Department of Science and Technology fulfill the President’s directive of giving flood forecasts at least six hours in advance, especially in places along major river systems all over the country.

“It will help eliminate the element of surprise because we would know for sure where the rainfall is,” Montejo said.

The President thanked the Japanese government and Jica for supporting the country’s disaster-mitigation efforts, and committed that the Philippines “will always be ready to do what it can to return your kindness.”

Motohiko Kato, deputy chief of mission and consul general of the Japanese Embassy, said that Japan, like the Philippines, has suffered from natural disasters “so as an important neighbor to each other, we decided to construct this facility so the Filipino people can prevent the occurrence of such disasters to this country.”

An improved meteorological radar system in the Philippines would enable Pagasa to conduct round-the-clock monitoring of severe weather phenomena and associated hazards such as intense rainfall, destructive winds, and transmit these information on real-time, and processed/ analyzed more efficiently, the project briefer said.

It would also allow Pagasa to detect localized severe systems such as thunderstorms and tornadoes affecting the Bicol region, and heavy rainfall event vital for flood and landslide monitoring and warning system.

The President also switched on the Solong and Hitoma 1 mini-hydropower plants, which will augment power supply in Catanduanes.

The mini-hydroplants are the first to be developed by Sunwest Water and Electricity Inc. (Suweco) in the small island grids covered by the Special Power Utilities Group (Spug) of the National Power Corporation.

Suweco president Elizaldy Co said his company spent P540 million to construct the plants, and that it will invest another P500 for expansion plans, “to complete the needs of Catanduanes of another three megaWatts.

In Photo: President Aquino converses with Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the lone district of the province after he inaugurated the Solong and Hitoma 1 Hydroelectric Power Plants and the Pagasa new radar tower station in Barangay Buenavista, Bato, Catanduanes. The Solong and Hitoma mini-hydro plants are the first-ever to be developed by a private entity—Sunwest Water and Electricity Inc.—in the small island grids covered by the Special Power Utilities Group of the National Power Corp. Pagasa’s new Doppler radar station is expected to mitigate impacts of devastating typhoons in the country. (Jay Morales Malacañang Photo Bureau)

Albay governor to seek reelection


LEGAZPI CITY – Amid speculations that he will abandon the Capitol and seek a Senate seat in next year’s election, Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda said he would seek reelection to complete his three terms in office as governor of Albay province. The announcement was made following the playing of the governor’s jingles on local air lanes.

Salceda said he was inclined to run for a Senate post but frankly said he will not win in the 2013 senatorial election, citing the number of Bicolanos identified as candidates.

He counted Justice Sec. Leila de Lima of Iriga City and former Sen. Migz Zubiri whose mother is from Libon, Albay. Salceda said three incumbent senators are also running for reelection such as Chiz Escudero of Sorsogon, Antonio Trillanes of Albay and Peter Alan Cayetano whose wife Taguig City Mayor Ma. Laarni L. Cayetano, is also from Tiwi, Albay.

“With six Bicolanos identified as running in the Senate including me, I am certain I may not have the space to win. The five names for the Senate posts are no joking bets,” Salceda said.  He added he needs to seek reelection to finish his many projects, among them the Southern Luzon International Airport located in Daraga town which President Aquino had given the go signal to proceed after 18 months of review.

Tourism Sec. Ramon Jimenez said the Southern Luzon Airport project should be completed by 2014, saying it has ready funding.

“You need an airport 24/7 to cater to the expected big influx of both foreign and local tourists,” Jimenez told local reporters during his recent visit in Legazpi City.

Local officials are queuing as to who would dare fight Salceda for governorship. Speculations in the political circle showed no name for the governorship has cropped up yet to fit against Salceda who may end up running unopposed.

Villar still the 'richest' senator

by Christina Mendez

MANILA, Philippines - Senator Manny Villar Jr. and wife, former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar seemed to have retained their hold onto their titles as the richest among the country’s legislators.

Villar’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) for 2011 showed that his and his wife's combined net worth was P854,213,716.

A comparison of Villar’s SALN in 2010 showed that his assets increased from P 725,221,964 to 2011’s P 854,213,716. In 2009, Villar’s assets were higher at P 947,883,619.

As in their previous SALN, the Villar couple listed business interests in Fine Properties, Inc., M.B. Villar Co, Inc., Macys Inc, Mooncrest Property, Hollinger Holdings, and the latest one acquired in 2011, which is the Manuela Corporation. The Villars are involved in the real estate business, which vast companies include the Vista Land residences.

Meanwhile, the SALNs of all 23 senators, who are sitting as judges in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, remained scarce at the Senate as of Monday, the deadline imposed by the Civil Service Commission for the submission of the document. Corona is facing impeachment for three articles, among these is his alleged failure to truthfully declare some of his alleged properties and dollar accounts in his previous SALNs.

Some members of the Senate media tried to ask certified true copies of the 2011 SALN of all THE senators, but a staff member at the Office of the Senate Secretary said they WEre still collating all the submitted documents, and the release of documents will likely be made within 15 days.

As of press time, four senators have been transparent about their SALN. They include Villar, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Escudero.

In Villar’s SALN, he listed at least six residential houses acquired from various dates mostly in Las Piñas City. The couple listed purchase as mode of acquisition. They also placed both the assessed and fair market values of the properties which totaled to P4.588.619.

The Villar power couple also listed investments in shares of stocks amounting to P 219,228,941 and other real and personal properties pegged at P 630,396,156 or a total of P 849,625.097 in personal and other properties.

The Villars did not have any liabilities as reflected in the 2011 SALN. Their two relatives are in the public office: Villars’ son, Rep. Mark Villar, and Mayor Vergel Aguilar, the senator’s brother-in-law.

Meanwhile, initial figures from Sen. Pia Cayetano’s staff showed that her assets decreased at to P72,058,846.58 in 2011 from P76,775,628.71 in 2010.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson also filed his SALN with a total net worth of P22,637,612.46 for 2011. His net worth in 2010 was pegged at P 24.729-million, indicating a dip in his 2011’s net worth.

The former police chief’s assets include a lot acquired in 1989 in Silang, Cavite with current fair market value of P 800,000 and building acquisition cost at P 160,000. Lacson has placed the amount of P 23,208,028.71 under cash on hand/bank; P 3.5-million in jewelry; P 1.2-million in furniture and antiques; stocks and investments, P 9,217,500; motor vehicles, P 1.5-million and assorted firearms at P 800,000.

Lacson’s liabilities include an income tax payable at P 1,597,916.25; and P 15-million in loans. There is a note in the SALN, saying that the senator was a co-borrower/guarantor for Megastar Realty on a bank loan of P 100-million.

Chiz confirms 'separation' in SALN

Sen. Francis Joseph “Chiz” Escudero’s total net worth was pegged at P 9,867,082.09. He listed two residential units in New Manila, Quezon City which were acquired in 2005 and 2008, respectively. The first one had an assessed value of P570,860 and current market value of P1,631,030; while the second unit was pegged at an assessed value of P431,960 and a current fair market value of P1,234,180.

The two units had acquisition values of P3.6 million, and P3 million.

Escudero listed P 1.2-million in cash assets; jewelry acquired from 1979 to 2000 now totaling to P 1.37-million, Partnership Int. worth P 213,441.29; and three cars acquired in 2011.

The vehicles include a 1995 Range Rover Classic worth P 1 million; 1969 BMW worth P333,640.80; and a 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser worth P650,000.

All accounts for Escudero’s total assets at P11,367,08.09 while he has a personal loan amounting to P 1.5 million.

Escudero also made known his business interest with EMSA VVIL Law since 1994.

The senator also listed six relatives in government service, including his father, Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III; and his paternal uncles, Sorsogon Vice Gov. Antontio Escudero Jr, Casiguran vice mayor Ramon Escudero, Casiguran councilors Rico Hatoc and Dennis Escudero; and a cousin, Krunimar Escudero, a legal officer.

In his two-page SALN, Escudero confirmed his separation with his wife, Cristine, when he filed yesterday SALN before the Office of the Senate Secretary. Escudero indicated that he and his estranged wife, Cristine, with whom he had twins, are already “separated-in-fact”.

'Poorest' senator

Meanwhile, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s net worth for 2011 showed a bit of increase compared to 2010. Trillanes pegged his total net worth at P3,897,121.50.

Dubbed as the “poorest” among the senators last year, Trillanes listed three properties including a 240 square meter residential lot in Gen. Trias, Cavite; a 308-meter residential lot in Antipolo City and a 60 square meter residential condominium with a parking lot in Paranaque City. In all the three properties, Trillanes listed both the assessed and fair market values as well as acquisition costs which equates to P 5.092-million in his real property assets.

A total of P 4.780-million was reflected in Trillanes’ personal property and other assets which include cash on hand/bank accounts including AFPSLAI, PNSLAI and PAFCPIC at P 1.520-million; jewelry, furniture and antiques etc at P475,000; investments (private insurance and premium PD) at P220,000; a Kia Rio and Toyota Grandia, both acquired through loans in 2011. The two vehicles had acquisition costs of P 675,000 and P 1.89-million respectively.

Trillanes filed his SALN on March 20 this year, way ahead the April 30 deadline.

Trillanes, former renegade soldier turned senator also listed a total of P 6,784,878.50 in liabilities, which include two housing loans and two car loans.

He acquired a P1,753,696.01 housing loan with Pag-ibig Fund, and another one with the Bank of the Philippine Islands at P2,574,049.49. The two car loans with PS Bank were pegged at P 2,457,133.

In his 2010 SALN, Trillanes listed assets totaling P3.836 million, which included a 120-square meter residential lot in General Trias, Cavite; a 308-square meter lot in Antipolo; and a residential condominium in Parañaque worth P3 million. He had P3.880 million in loans as liabilities.

Summer heat driving whale sharks deeper into sea waters

by TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines–Even the sizzling temperatures could be scaring away the Butanding in Donsol Bay, Sorsogon.

While more tourists are hitting Donsol’s beaches this summer, there are fewer sightings of the main draw: the gentle whale sharks, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF) said Saturday. Donsol’s surface water temperature averages 28.3 degrees Celsius, 2 degrees hotter than the average of 26.1 degrees Celsius recorded in the 2010 summer, WWF said. “Our initial findings seem to indicate that the whale sharks are staying in deep water, possibly to avoid the heat,’’ WWF whale shark expert Dave David said in a statement. “They are also highly migratory creatures, so it is not easy to regularly predict their whereabouts.’’ In the summer of 2001, there were also very “few sightings’’ of the whale sharks. On top of the warm sea surface temperatures, the human factor might have something to do with it, too, the international conservation group said. “Donsol now has far more visitors than it can handle. Coupled with the fact that sightings are decreasing, more and more interaction violations are being reported,” WWF Donsol project manager Raul Burce said. Quoting tourist Anton Lim, WWF said some swimmers touched the sharks, and bancas raced to where a shark was spotted. Under the rules, only a single boat of six swimmers is allowed per shark; swimmers should be 3 meters away from its body, and 4 meters away from its tail; they can only interact for 10 minutes, and they can neither touch nor resort to flash photography. Boats are allowed to tour for three hours. WWF called on tourists, boatmen and guides to stick to the rules. “The policies were designed not just to protect the whale sharks, but tourists as well. A 30-foot shark can accidentally swat a swimmer straying too close to its tail,’’ Burce said. “By respecting the rules, we’re minimizing our impacts on the ecosystem, especially the sharks.’’ With fewer sightings, Donsol operators are also offering firefly and mangrove tours. The WWF is attempting to track shark movements through state-of-the-art tracking monitors, instead of relying solely on the trained eyes of spotters.

CSC modified suspension of Sorsogon prov’l employee

by Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.

SORSOGON CITY ( – The decision of the commission proper of the Civil Service modifying the suspension order of CSC Region V against provincial employee Tiere Dagñalan of the accounting department was a relief for the fiscal examiner who was initially suspended for one year without pay for infraction of RA 6713. The promulgation of March 12 this year signed by CSC Chairman Francisco Duque III granted the arguments in the appeal of Dagñalan to the regional commission when it meted the suspension on October 10, 2011. The administrative case was filed against him by former City Councilor Fulton Baylon for simple neglect of duty for his failure to provide public records requested by the councilor in the performance of his duty as an elected official of the City of Sorsogon. Baylon on several instances failed to secure the documents because of delays attributed to the fiscal examiner specifically compliance to furnished the latter of Executive Order 05-002 issued by then City Mayor Sally Lee. As a public record, Baylon argued that he being a member of the city council is not subject of the executive order for he is requesting the document in aid of legislation. Inspite of this, Dagñalan failed to release the record on time. Using RA 6713 as a last resort, Baylon charged Dagnalan for violation of Sec.5, paragraph (a) and (c) which provides the obligations of public officials and employees to act promptly on letters/request within fifteen working days from receipt thereof requiring action taken on the request received. Failing to appropriately act on it, Dagnalan was found to commit a simple neglect of duty.. The one year suspension without pay was opposed by the suspended employee when he filed a petition for review saying that the violation is a first offense and his length of service were considered by the commission proper to modified the decision of its regional office. “The meaning of ‘acting promptly’ on letters and request, in contemplation of the law does not always mean automatic approval of the request of the public. It could mean disapproval or even withholding of any action depending on whether the request or letter complies with the requirements provided for by the law and office policies and procedures”, the Commission pointed out. But it did not totally convince the commission en banc that an act of simple neglect of duty was not committed;. The modified order lessened the period of suspension form one year without pay to one month and one day without pay was received by the suspended employee on April 19, copies were furnished to the Provincial Human Resource Management office and the Office of the City Mayor for the act was committed by the employee when he was detailed at the city government in 2002 as officer-in-charge of the city accounting department. The modified decision was release by the CSC secretariat and liaison office on March 22 of this year.

Ex-Bull May Join SanMig Staff


MANILA, Philippines — Craig Hodges, who played with Michael Jordan and won two NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls, is in the country to hold basketball clinics although he may find himself working for San Miguel Corporation (SMC), owner of three teams in the PBA.

Hodges, 51, who played 10 seasons in the NBA with four different teams and was part of the Bulls team that won the 1991 and 1992 championships, arrived a week ago and had conducted clinics in Sorsogon and in Naga City. He plans to hold several more in Manila until May 1.

Although he is here to teach basketball, he is open to work as coach, or as consultant. He already has a scheduled meeting with officials of SMC, owner of PBA teams Petron Blaze, Barangay Ginebra and B-Meg, and Asean Basketball League’s San Miguel Beer, to explore employment opportunities.

“I was invited to come over to try and take a look at basketball opportunities over here, as far as possibly coaching and possibly doing some consultant work,” said the 6-foot-2 Hodges who was a three-time Three Point Shootout champion in the NBA All-Star Weekend (1990-1992).

“For me it’s an opportunity,” said Hodges, who will meet SMC official Noli Eala, consultant and former PH team coach Rajko Toroman, and B-Meg mentor Tim Cone today.

Eala said they are meeting with Hodges to see if he can help the SMC teams.

“We’re always open to improve our teams,” Eala told the Bulletin in a phone interview yesterday. “All are exploratory talks, no specific or exact detail yet. We’ll also have to see his time table, his availability, and what he can do for us.”

Hodges, a native of Park Forest, Illinois, was invited to observe the B-Meg coaches’ meeting prior to Game 2 arranged by assistant coach Koy Banal. He later chatted with Cone, a disciple of the ‘triangle’ offense.

Hodges is very familiar with the system as he played college ball at Long Beach State under coach Tex Winters who devised the ‘triangle’ offense which Phil Jackson used to win six NBA titles for Chicago and five with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hodges was also guest of the PBA during Game 2 of the current title series.

Hodges’ last NBA job was as shooting coach of the Lakers, a job he held from 2005 until last year.

For now, however, it’s teaching kids the game’s fundamentals.

“That’s my passion. I just want to make sure that young players understand the game,” said Hodges, whose trip here was financed by his US-based group Upper Echelon with partner Kevin Gray.

903rd Brigade chosen as 9ID’s Best for 2011

by MAL/BAR-PIA5/903rd Bgde, PA)

SORSOGON CITY, April 26 (PIA) -- The 903rd Infantry (Fight and Defend) Brigade was recently chosen by Philippine Army headquarters as the best Infantry Brigade (Inf Bgde) of the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division for the year 2011 receiving the Award of Merit by the Commanding General of the Philippine Army and the Command Plaque by Commander, 9ID.

Commanding Officer of 903rd Inf Bgde Col. Felix Castro Jr. said that considering the imperatives of IPSP “Bayanihan” and its emphasis on both combat and non-combat dimensions of military operations, the Brigade pursued efforts to link with agencies that could help in the development of the communities in Sorsogon and Masbate. It has opted to focus its efforts in a certain area rather than have projects in many dispersed barangays.

"By pouring in development projects in a selected focus area, the improvement could easily be felt by the people and there is a higher chance of success. Neighboring communities will eventually also benefit from the improvement economic environment," he said.

The first Brigade focused area is Brgy Pandan in Castilla, Sorsogon which used to be influenced by the NPAs before the area was cleared in 2009. The “Tarabangan sa Brgy Pandan” Project started with the construction of a two-classroom building sponsored by ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. Sagip Kapamilya for Pandan High School.

Other projects soon followed after the initiative of ABS-CBN: one classroom building funded by Cong. Salvador Escudero III; another classroom building funded by DepEd; two-classroom (two-storey) building funded by DepEd; 5 road improvement projects programmed for this year; ongoing cementing of the irrigation canal (P30M) funded by DA; the recently concluded six-month feeding program by ABS-CBN; and the introduction of abaca growing by FIDA. The Brigade also has six Bayanihan Iskolars sponsored by ABS-CBN and The Lewis College in Sorsogon City.

Another two-classroom building in Cabancalan Elementary School in Aroroy, Masbate also sponsored by Sagip Kapamilya was inaugurated last January.

Mayor Enrico Z. Capinig of Aroroy, Masbate committed funds for the cooperatives of the women’s organization and the Barangay Defense System or BDS. He also promised to build a high school next year. Two scholarship slots will also be given by ABS-CBN aside from the feeding program. Funds are now being sourced for the concreting of the road.

Col. Castro further said that the Brigade has been active in the programs of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA). The two provinces in its area have received funds for development- Sorsogon got P30 million for its seven focus municipalities and Masbate received P50 million for its three focus municipalities.

The PAMANA Convergence Unit for Sorsogon which involves representatives from the different government agencies has been a good venue for us to recommend projects and target areas for development.

"Also, we have been able to bring medical services to far-flung barangays. Worth mentioning is a medical mission conducted by the Spanish NGO Asociacion Valenciana de Asistencia Sanitaria y Social Voluntarios (AVASSV) in Barangays Pandan and Amomonting of Castilla and San Pascual in Casiguran, Sorsogon. The television program Alagang Kapatid of TV5 also had a medical mission in Brgy Calintaan, Matnog, Sorsogon," explained Col. Castro.

"We support the School of Peace Program of the Bicol Consortium for Peace Education and Development (BCPED) which is funded by OPAPP. Soldiers are always involved in the activities of San Isidro Elementary School in Castilla which is a pilot School of Peace. We have convinced Dr Herbert Rosana Ph.D, BCPED Director and Head of the Department of Peace Studies of Bicol University, to include the public schools in the municipality of Castilla in the School of Peace Program. A proposal has been made for this to happen," he further said.

The official also said that in addition to their active partnership with the stakeholders towards the development of these provinces, the Brigade also gave equal efforts in meeting the threats posed by those who hinder development. "Last year, we were able to recover 68 assorted firearms in several encounters including a cal .30 light machine gun, two AK47 rifles, and M16 rifles. Sixty-seven improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also recovered. We were able to repulse the attack by the NPAs against some police stations and military detachment," he said.

The exemplary performance of the 903rd Infantry se accomplishments have led to Looking back, the Brigade has been able to perform exceedingly well in its combat and non-combat operations. This could be attributed to a pool of well-motivated, well-trained and experienced personnel who gets the job done.

Meanwhile, the municipality of Castilla led by Mayor Olive Bermillo has recently donated a 2-hectare lot for the brigade headquarters. Another hectare will be given this year. The Deed of Donation was signed last 17 November by Gen Eduardo SL Oban Jr, CSAFP, and Mayor Bermillo. "We intend to build a “green camp” where our soldiers could contribute to the environment," said Col. Castro.

Poor folks in Sorsogon taught how to make a living from ‘hilot’

by Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—For a poor community in Sorsogon, the traditional “hilot” home remedy will soon become a source of livelihood. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) is introducing the old-school Filipino massage method as a career option to residents of Prieto Diaz town in Sorsogon, a community raring to venture into eco-tourism and wellness services. Tesda partnered with the local government to train selected residents in several courses, including food and beverage services, hairdressing, cooking and the traditional Filipino tough therapy in efforts to “mainstream” hilot and develop it into a means of living. A total of 100 students—25 in each course—started training on April 20 at Sorsogon’s Bulusan Vocational Technical School. Tesda Director General Joel Villanueva said the agency would shoulder the training cost. “Through this partnership with the local government, we hope Tesda can breathe life into this town by tapping its human resources for the development of its wellness and eco-tourism potentials,” Villanueva said in a statement. Tesda said that while the fifth-class town is rich in potential tourist attractions, most of some 20,000 residents in Prieto Diaz have an average P100 daily income from fishing and farming. Through the program, Tesda and the local government aim to give Prieto Diaz residents a break at the health and wellness and food and beverage industries, where skilled workers are of high demand, said the agency. “The people recognize the urgent need to get its acts together with national agencies and indigenous communities to develop significant market niche in beauty and wellness of body, mind and spirit, to create new jobs, alternative employment and business opportunities for its people particularly the new entrants to the labor force,” the agreement said. Those who will graduate from the program will undergo Tesda assessment for certification.

‘Manghihilot’ to go mainstream

by Alvin Murcia

THE traditional masseurs will become go mainstream once the training of those practicing it in the neighborhood is finished.

This was the assurance of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva.

He said at present training of masseurs is being held in the town of Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon.

Aside from the masseurs, training for food and beverage services, commercial cooking and hairdressing started last April 20.

"Through this partnership with the local government, we hope TESDA can breathe life into this town by tapping its human resources for the development of its wellness and eco-tourism potentials," said Villanueva.

He explained that the training pushed through after an agreement was signed with Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee.

Under the agreement, TESDA will conduct the training in Bulusan Vocational Technical School along with the assessment.

The program was implemented in consonance with the aim of giving job opportunity in Sorsogon because of its growing eco-tourism.

Gubat town launches reading program for kids

by (MAL/BAR-PIA5 Sorsogon)

SORSOGON CITY, April 23 (PIA) -- Gubat municipal government, the Sangguniang Kabataan, the Department of Education and the Gubat Parents Teachers Association Federation have launched a reading program for children.

Named after one of Gubat’s famous writers, the Delfin Fresnosa Reading Recovery Program was conceptualized by the local government of Gubat which started on the third week of April and which will end on May this year.

“We would like to make the program sustainable, targeting as our clientele those non-reader children and those children who would want to enhance further their reading skills,” said Gubat Municipal Mayor Ronnel Lim.

“Reading skills are very important. Without a solid ability to read, children will be unable to make use of whatever improvements in our local school system,” he said.

According to Lim, selected incoming Grade 2 pupils will each be assigned a reading partner. The reading partners are volunteer Gubatnons who have intended to spend laudably their vacation in Gubat town this summer by volunteering as tutors to the children in their respective barangays. The reading partner will visit the pupil at his own home three times a week, 30 minutes to one hour per meeting, during the entire duration of summer vacation.

“The municipality provided the training and instructional materials to be used for the program,” he added.

The young local chief executive also said that they have opened the reading recovery and enhancement program not only for Gubatnons who are currently residents of the town, but even to those Gubatnons who plan to spend their summer vacation in the town and are willing to voluntary render their services and tutorial skills for free in order to help develop the reading abilities of children in their respective areas.

Lim said that the program is also part of giving tribute and recognition to the contributions made by one of Gubat famous writers, Delfin fresnosa. Born on May 23, 1915 in Barangay Bulacao, Fresnosa taught at the National Teachers College and at the University of the East, and served as the editor of “Boy's World,” the official organ of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines.

Fresnosa was part of the group of thirteen writers who called themselves the Veronicans (named after Veronica who mirrored the true face of Christ). Fresnosa's short stories regularly appear in anthologies of the Best Philippine short stories. He died on December 19, 1988.

Mayor Lim further said that they still welcome more volunteers and that interested Gubatnons may just visit his office at the Gubat Municipal Building.

Nora, Vilma Rivalry Dividing Bishops


MANILA, Philippines - Catholic prelates are split on the proposal to make Nora Aunor or Vilma Santos as national artist.

Out of the six prelates that were informally sur¬veyed, one bishop – Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes – vot¬ed for “Nora.” “I select and en¬dorse Nora as na¬tional artist now!” he said in a text message.

Bastes, mem¬ber of the Perma¬nent Council of the Catholic Bish¬ops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said he was particularly impressed with the performance of the “superstar” in the movie “Himala”.

He said “Vilma” could be declared as national artist years later.

Two prelates, on the other hand, are in favor of making both as national art¬ists.

“Honor them both. They repre¬sent the divide be¬tween the Filipino crowd. The ‘bakya’ and the ‘sapatos’ crowds,” Baguio Bishop Carlito Cen¬zon said.

Malolos Bish¬op Jose Oliveros agreed with Cen¬zon, saying both artists are deserv¬ing of such title.

“Both can be made as national artist. Perhaps, this will not require an act of Congress. An Executive Order would do should President Aquino agree with it,” he said.

The three re¬maining bishops, however, chose not to comment on the matter, saying it is not their expertise.

The three bish¬ops were retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, and Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutier¬rez.

Earlier, House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Ta¬ñada initiated calls to declare Vilma Santos as a national artist after Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez filed a reso¬lution seeking the proclamation of Nora Aunor of the same title.

Tañada said Santos equally deserves to be a national artist for her contribution in lifting the film in¬dustry by captur-ing the hearts of Filipino moviegoers when she competed against Aunor dur¬ing the 1970s.

Donsol's Butanding Festival reels off May 18

by (MAL/DCA, Legazpi City)

DONSOL, Sorsogon, April 20 (PIA) -- All roads lead to this far-flung coastal municipality as townsfolk celebrate the yearly Butanding Festival and the feast of their patron, St. Joseph the Worker, on May 18.

According to town Mayor Jerome Alcantara, the celebration will be both solemn and ultimately festive this time because they will put together the yearly town fiesta in honor of Sorsogon's patron saint and the Butanding Festival to welcome the reappearance of the whale sharks, which usually come in droves during this time of the year.

The festival used to be held in April but local officials decided to move it to May 18 in time with the town’s fiesta celebration, so that it would be more fun in Donsol during the day, the mayor added.

The town fiesta marks the homecoming of Donsolanos who are now living elsewhere of the country and abroad to take part in the traditional revelries while the festival officially signals the opening of another high adventure season of underwater interactions between humans and the enormous but gentle sea mammal.

“Dual celebrations in a day,” the mayor said. “During the town fiesta, we cater not only to our returning town mates but also to thousands of visitors from nearby places who have been accustomed of celebrating with us.”

“In the butanding season, we play host to another thousands of tourists coming in for whale shark interactions,” Alcantara said.

With two festivities rolled into one, the merrymaking will be certainly fabulous, he added.

There will be holy masses to be capped by mass baptismal of babies at the town’s century-old church in the morning, followed by the traditional food offerings in every house until nighttime and holy procession in the evening, apart from other church activities in honor of the patron saint.

Also part of the fiesta activity is a civic-military parade.

It will be followed by the parade of whale shark replicas to be presented by street dancers in colorful native attires in honor of the butandings in the afternoon.

Another highlight of the festivities is the fluvial procession at the mouth of the long and winding Donsol River where a large pod of butandings usually converge at his time of the year.

It will be participated in by an armada of outrigger boats decorated with whale shark replicas and festive colorful buntings.

In the evening after the holy procession, ballroom and disco dancing will be held at the sprawling town plaza.

Tourists will be offered tours along the Donsol River for firefly watching, which serves as another spectacular attraction.

There will be games and stalls put up at the town plaza all night long while music continually plays until the wee hours of the next morning. People would be in the streets talking with each other and having fun.

“Butanding Festival is the way how we give thanks to the Lord of giving us the gentle butanding. It may not be as glamorous compared to other festivities in the Philippines, but we consider it the most important part of the year as it is the best way we express our thoughts as people and nature-lovers,” Alcantara said.

The presence of whale sharks in the coastal waters here was known to the local residents for over 100 years. But they believed these gentle giants were dangerous.

This wrong notion changed when in January 1998, a group of scuba divers discovered its presence and interacted with the whale sharks.

Even the members of the diving group were having second thoughts if the giant creature was docile, they came in contact with it and found out it is indeed harmless.

The municipality then was categorized only as fourth class for being very poor and known only a part of the geography and national statistics.

Copy of video footage taken by the diving group was passed on to the media, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF)-Philippines, and the Discovery Channel.

It became a word of mouth passed on to every tourist exploring the Philippines and by March of that same year, the municipality started to become a world-class tourist destination. It is now known as the “Whale Shark Capital of the World”.

Now, this town is officially listed as first class earning an annual revenue of nearly P100 million mostly from its tourism industry that plays host to an average of over 60,000 foreign and local tourist yearly.

These gentle giants arrive from as early as November but the official season starts from February and runs until the end of May, when the local waters is at its clearest and calmest.

Local tourism officials and professional divers have established guidelines on proper whale shark watching intended to maintain safety and to defend the creatures from over exploitation.

“As long as we protect the habitat of these sea creatures and avoid antagonizing them, they will continue to be here." Alcantara said.

“WWF findings say that whale sharks that are migratory in nature do not actually leave Donsol and they stay here all year-round. They just go deeper into the sea during some months of the year,” the mayor added.

Oslob’s tuki tour operators to visit Donsol

by Carmel Loise Matus

Cebu Daily News

Oslob and Cebu tourism officials will go to Donsol in Sorsogon province next month to see for themselves “best practices” in whale shark tourism. “Although they have different activities in Donsol, the operators here will learn something from the procedures there. What is common for Donsol and Oslob will be seen,” said Rowena Montecillo, regional director of the Department of Tourism. Oslob is now calling their boat paddlers “interaction officers,” like Donsol that has “Butanding Interaction Officers”. An increase in visitor rates that took effect April 15 in Oslob, especially for diving and snorkeling, has not affected sales much, said Oslob tourism officer Elizabeth Tabasa-Benologa. But she said they are still monitoring the trend. About 200 to 300 visitors came on weekdays for whale shark watching, the usual crowd, but there were fewer divers and swimmers, said Oslob Mayor Ronald Guaren. Guaren said this was the purpose of the price increase—to control the influx of visitors and reduce chances of direct contact with the whale sharks. “People who want to go snorkeling and diving have decreased,” said Guaren. The DOT conducted a week-long training for boatmen and Bantay Dagat personnel for 50 participants.

NGCP Launches Line Safety Campaign, Announces 10-hour Brownout In Tarlac


MANILA, Philippines — The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has begun enlisting the help of local media in various provinces particularly in southern Luzon to disseminate information on its transmission line safety and security campaign.

The line safety campaign is aimed at achieving public awareness and cooperation in curbing pilferage of tower parts and avoiding damage to life and properties as a result of unsafe and unscrupulous practices.

Regional Corporate Communication and Public Affairs Officer Nelson Bautista said up to 60 local radio stations in Quezon, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, and Sorsogon pledged support to NGCP’s advocacy for safe and secure power lines.

Bautista already started the information campaign by being a guest on radio shows and discussing NGCP’s anti-pilferage law and anti-electrocution initiatives.

The hazards of kite flying, installation of antennas, hanging of flaglets and construction of buildings underneath the transmission lines were also highlighted in the interviews. He also cited safety tips to avoid electrocution from highvoltage lines.

NGCP also appealed to all listeners and residents to cooperate with the company in protecting the transmission facilities, which remain under government properties.

The power transmission company likewise reminded the listeners that as Filipinos, it is their inherent duty and responsibility to take care of the properties of the state.

It was further stated that violation of Republic Act 7832 is punishable by 12 to 20 years of imprisonment or a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 pesos.

Meanwhile, the NGCP announced that the first and second districts of the province of Tarlac will go through a 10-hour power interruption tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Affected towns are Anao, Camiling, Mayantoc, Moncada, Paniqui, San Manuel, Gerona, Moncada, Pura, Santa Ignacia, San Clemente and Ramos.

The North Luzon Corporate Communication Division of the NGCP disclosed that “affected distribution utility are the Tarlac Electric Cooperative I (TERELCO I) and Tarlac Electric Incorporated (TEI).”

NFA told to open buying stations, start purchasing farmers’ fresh palay

by Virgil Lopez/Sunnex

MANILA -- Farmers' organizations in various parts of the country said that local traders are manipulating the market price of freshly harvested palay as they called on the government to immediately open its buying stations to stop the said practice.

According to watchdog Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS), the National Food Authority must also start purchasing fresh palay from marginalized farmers and let them access the NFA Procurement Program without the farmers' passbook requirements.

In Irosin, Sorsogon, TFFS lead convenor Arze Glipo said farm gate price of fresh palay was pegged between P13 and P14 per kilogram but this has declined to P11 per kilogram.

The lower price is said to be a result of heavy rains that battered the province recently.

"This is also happening in areas which experienced heavy rains in the past days. Local traders know that there is not enough time to dry the grains and farmers need the money badly, hence they are delaying procurement which reduced the price of fresh palay," Glipo said.

To arrest the further decline of farmer's income, TFFS asked the NFA to expand their buying stations in remote areas to save transportation cost for farmers who have to travel to key cities and municipalities just to avail of the service.

"One way that government can help farmers build resiliency and recover from the worsening impacts of climate change is to ensure that they get a fair price for their produce. In this case, NFA should step in and buy fresh palay from farmers at P14 per kilogram and dried palay at P17 per kilogram," Glipo noted.

Moreover, the group urged the NFA to relax or, if possible, cancel the requirements for revalidation of accredited individual farmers who own or does not own the land they till.

For instance, if the farmer is a land owner, he only needs to submit a certified photocopy of the transfer certificate of title (TCT) from Register of Deeds and certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), among others.

By comparison, a farmer who is not a land owner will have to present numerous documents such as the management take-over contract, written proof indicating farm/lot possession, leaseholder agreement/contract, barangay chairman or barangay agrarian reform council (BARC) chairman certification, and location of map.

With so many requirements, the NFA, Glipo said, is already denying the right of smallholder farmers, especially those who are not land owners, to sell their produce to the agency.

NFA told to establish more buying stations

by Othel V. Campos

A group of food security advocates on Friday urged the state-run National Food Authority to open more buying stations nationwide and lift the tedious documentary requirements in purchasing palay or unmilled rice from marginalized farmers.

Task Force Food Sovereignty lead convenor Arze Glipo said they had received reports from farmers’ organizations in various parts of the country that local traders were manipulating market prices of freshly harvested palay.

“In Irosin, Sorsogon, farmers told us that local traders are manipulating the market price of fresh palay. At the onset of harvest, farm gate price of fresh palay was pegged between P13 and P14 per kilogram. Now, it has declined to P11 per kilogram,” said Glipo.

She said local traders had stopped buying palay from farmers after heavy rains battered the province of Sorsogon, pulling down the buying price to P11 per kilogram.

“This is also happening in areas which experienced heavy rains in the past days. Local traders know that there is not enough time to dry the grains and farmers need the money badly, hence they are delaying procurement which reduced the price of fresh palay,” said Glipo.

Prelates happy with failure of North Korea rocket launch

by (FP/Sunnex)

SEVERAL bishops were happy that the rocket launched by North Korea (NoKor) has failed.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said he is glad to hear reports that the launching was not successful.

“I am happy. Our prayers to the Lord are heard,” he said.

However, he is also saddened that the money used by North Korean government for the launch was wasted.

“I pity the NoKor people because their leaders wasted millions of dollars for a failed project while millions are hungry,” Bastes said.

Marbel (South Cotabato) Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez also expressed the same concern as the money should have been given to hungry people.

“The money should be spent to feed the people,” the prelate added.

Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said what happened should serve as a reminder that man does not have complete control of everything.

“Man is only a steward. Let us ask the Lord that we may always be good stewards,” he said.

Earlier, bishops urged the people to pray that the rocket launch will not push through.

On Friday, it was reported that Unha-3 rocket failed to reach the orbit.

With this, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) lifted the no-fly, sail and fish zones off Northern Luzon.

The rocket was launched before 7 a.m. Manila time but crashed into the Yellow Sea after about five minutes in flight.

Awareness sought on whale shark interaction in Cebu

by Virgil Lopez/Sunnex

SAYING tourism should co-exist with the protection and conservation of marine animals, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said local government units must undergo awareness training on whale shark interaction at the increasingly popular town of Oslob, Cebu.

Tourism Director Rowena Montecillo said they have partnered with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Central Visayas in conducting an "Awareness Caravan" in May aimed at raising consciousness on marine protection and conservation, and promoting a culture of tourism.

The photo of a girl riding a whale shark along the shoreline of Granada village in Boljoon, Cebu suffered an online backlash last week, prompting the Municipal Government to hike fees for swimming or diving with the marine creatures.

Reports said the whale shark was trapped in the net of local fishermen. It was brought near the shore because the fishermen had difficulty in freeing the endangered animal while in deeper waters.

Those involved in the incident were already reprimanded and warned of being penalized if caught again while the whale shark was later released into the open sea.

"We need to heighten people's awareness and capacitate the community to effectively manage the interaction, so that it will not cause undue harm or disturbance to the normal behavior of the sharks," Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said.

Last February, the DOT said local officials in Oslob will be invited to an observation visit to the popular whale-shark viewing destination in Donsol, Sorsogon to learn about best practices in handling whale shark interaction and community organization.

The DOT is part of the technical working group, created by Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, which is in charge of formulating guidelines and monitoring systems to ensure that the budding eco-tourism enterprise remains beneficial to the communities.

Measures are also being undertaken to conduct further research on the migratory pattern of the whale sharks.

Do Not Panic


Malacañang and an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the public to stay calm and not to panic amid the rocket launch of North Korea scheduled between April 12 and April 16.

This developed as the United States urged anew North Korea not to conduct a nuclear test or launch a satellite and called on China to exert its influence over its neighbor to try to ward off such "provocative actions."

But Ryu Kum Chol, deputy director of the Space Development Department of the Korean Committee for Space Technology, said, "All the assembly and preparations of the satellite launch are done," including fueling of the rocket.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda assured that preparations are being made should North Korea push through with the satellite launch.

"We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best and it will be irresponsible for the government not to take the necessary precautions," Lacierda said in a press briefing yesterday.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, member of the CBCP Permanent Council, said people should pray instead of panicking, saying it’s still possible that the launch will not affect the country such as what happened during the 1970’s when the US satellite Skylab disintegrated in space with its debris falling in Western Australia.

At that time, people panicked because everybody thought that the debris from the Skylab was going to fall on their backyard.

"Many times such fears are not founded. Remember the Skylab many years ago? Nothing fell," he said in an interview.

Still, Bastes urged the people to pray that North Korea will change its mind about the launch and instead focus on feeding their hungry people.

"Pray that the leaders of North Korea will rather feed their hungry people than show a false military might," he said.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also appealed for prayers from the people.

"Let us pray that North Korea would change its mind because we don’t really know what damage it will bring to us – we don’t know where it will hit that’s why we should be careful and we should pray to prevent a crisis in the world," he said over Church-run Radyo Veritas yesterday.

Lacierda said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has already been directed to make the necessary preparations for the launch.

Notices, Lacierda said, have already been sent, particularly on the no-fly zone while the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council

(NDRRMC) will monitor probable sites where rocket debris may fall.

Earlier, the NDRRMC warned parts of the rocket may fall on Philippine territory after the launch between April 12 and April 16.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government already instructed officials in six regions – Regions 1 (Ilocos), 2 (Cagayan Valley), 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), 5 (Bicol), and Cordillera – to implement contingency plans for the rocket launch.

North Korea, which is pressing ahead with plans for a satellite launch despite US and regional appeals that it desist, is also preparing a third nuclear test, South Korean news reports said Sunday.

Another nuclear test is bound to scare neighbors and infuriate the West, which has long sought to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying North Korea was "clandestinely preparing a nuclear test" at the same location as the first two.

The State Department repeated its advice to the North not to launch a satellite, saying this would violate UN Security Council resolutions and a February 29 denuclearization agreement.

"Our position remains: don’t do it," said spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. "North Korea’s launch of a missile would be highly provocative, it would pose a threat to regional security and it would be inconsistent with its recent undertakings to refrain from any kind of long-range missile launches."

Nuland told reporters a third North Korean nuclear test "would be equally bad if not worse."

She declined comment on whether the United States also had reason to believe that the North might be preparing a nuclear test, saying she could not discuss intelligence matters.

North Korea, which three years ago pulled out of six-party disarmament talks on its nuclear program, agreed in February to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches in return for food aid, opening the way to a possible resumption of the negotiations.

But that has all unraveled with the North’s rocket launch planned for this month, probably between Thursday and the following Monday. The North says it is merely sending a weather satellite into space, but South Korea and the United States say it is a ballistic missile test.

The United States has called on China, the closest that North Korea has to an ally, to exert such influence as it has with Pyongyang, a point Nuland made again on Monday.

"We believe, in particular, that China joins us in its interest in seeing a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and we are continuing to encourage China to act more effectively in that interest," she said.

20 Flights Rerouted

With the scheduled rocket launch, several airlines will reroute flights over the Philippines, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said yesterday.

About 20 flights including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Delta Airlines will be rerouted between Thursday and Monday, when North Korea says it will launch a satellite. The exact timing depends on weather.

Floramel Joy Songsong, spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said the agency will temporarily close three northeastern air corridors, which will result in an additional 20 minutes of travel time for the airlines.

Japanese carriers JAL and ANA will change flight paths on routes connecting Tokyo to Manila, Jakarta and Singapore, while domestic flights will not be affected.

JAL has four flights a day on the expected rocket launch dates. Airline official Norio Higashimine said each flight will carry more fuel in case of an unexpected route change.

ANA is making similar route changes on five flights.

Philippine officials also told ships and fishing boats to avoid northeastern territorial waters where rocket debris may fall.

Meanwhile, Aurora province is now preparing for the rocket launch as the towns of Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Baler, and Dingalan are among the places identified by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) as "spots" where debris may fall.

Other places include Bugey, Gonzaga, and Santa Ana towns in Cagayan; Palanan, Maconacon, Divilacan, and Dinapigue towns in Isabela; Real, Infanta, and General Nakar in Quezon.

People in Batanes, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte are also advised to take precautionary measures. (With reports from Reuters, AP, and Mark Anthony N. Manuel)

Sorsoganons peacefully celebrate “Semana Santa” 2012

by Benilda A. Recebido

SORSOGON CITY, April 10 (PIA) -- Assessment of the Philippine National Police Sorsogon Provincial Office (PNP-SPPO) bared that aside from the electrocuted 16-year-old male in one of the beach cottages in Bacon District, Sorsogon City, the celebration of “Semana Santa,” a Spanish term for the Holy Week, was generally peaceful.

Devotees and Catholics in general were in their prayerful mood especially during the Visita Iglesia and processions on Good Friday. Priests in their Lenten homilies reiterated Pope Benedict XVI’s call for Charity which is the very heart of Christian Life.

According to PNP Sorsogon Director PSupt John CA Jambora, they attribute the success of the activity to the full support and cooperation shown by Sorsoganons, “that is why we are thankful to them that no untoward incidences were noted all throughout the entire observance of the Holy Week,” he added.

Meanwhile, passengers bound for Manila and Legazpi City were irritated with the insufficient number of bus and vans. According to some commuters departing for Manila, they had to wait for about six hours or more to be accommodated.

Philippine Coast Guard Sorsogon Station through PO2 Rico Gabion reported that their assessment of the observance of “Semana Santa” in Sorsogon this year was very successful since there were no problems and negative incidences noted. He admitted however, that fewer passengers in three major ports here were recorded compared to that of last year.

Latest data reported from Matnog station stated that there were 1,535 passengers in Matnog port. There were no reports yet from Pilar and Bulan stations as to the number of their passengers during Holy Week.

However, PCG and PNP both said that they will keep on strictly monitoring major ports and terminals in the province as part of their “Oplan Summer Vacation” since tourists and vacationers will continue to flock for the summer season.

Aside from terminals, the PNP has also deployed their personnel including police trainees to areas frequently visited by tourists such as the town of Donsol for the whale shark inter-action, Bulusan for Bulusan Lake activities, Sorsogon City for its Paguriran Island, Pto. Diaz for mangrove tour, Casiguran for the famous freezing Orok Spring, Barcelona for its breathtaking and huge corals, as well as the province’s prime beach resorts in Bacon District, Sorsogon City, Gubat, Sta. Magdalena and Matnog towns, among others. (MAL/BAR-PIA 5, Sorsogon)

Sorsogon Police Office bags major award in “Takbokasyon 2012”

by Marlon A. Loterte

SORSOGON CITY, April 9 (PIA) -- Personnel of the Sorsogon Police Provincial Office has proven anew their agility and prowess, garnering the major award in two categories during the fun run activity dubbed as “VAMOS SEMINARIO: TAKBOKASYON 2012” held in Sorsogon City in March 31, 2012.

Topping the five-kilometer(km) fun run were PO2 Jayie Encinares, PO1 Geraldine Dave, and PO1 Kwencie Ann Fortuno, while PO1 Mariel Esquiros bagged the first place for the 10-km run.

Said fun run activity was sponsored by Batch 1987 Seminarians of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Seminary in Sorsogon City.

Meanwhile, SPPO Provincial Director PSupt John CA Jambora said that SPPO personnel does not only excel in running but even in dancing competition where policewomen of SPPO also got the second place award in the Ballroom Dance Competition during the Women’s Night, a culminating activity of this year’s women’s month celebration with the theme: “Women Weathering Climate Change: Governance and Accountability Everyone’s Responsibility,” held at the Multi-Purpose Building at Camp Simeon Ola in Legazpi City last March 30, 2012.

Ten contestants from different Provincial and City Police Offices of the Police Regional Office V (PRO5) were bested by the women of SPPO during the said dance competition.

Likewise, on March 26-30 members of the SWAT TEAM of Sorsogon Police Provincial Office got the second place during the SWAT competition and Hand Gun Classification Marksmanship Test at the PRO5 Grandstand in Villa Hermosa, Daraga, Albay and in Brgy. Padang, Legaspi City. (MAL/BAR/PCI NFMarquez-PPO-PIA 5, Sorsogon)

Confessions of a materialist

by Elmer A. Ordoñez

Philippine Daily Inquirer

At UP High in Padre Faura, after the war, we read Shakespeare, notably Hamlet, which, like all the bard’s plays, teems with memorable passages like the soliloquies and lines from the dialogue, as when Hamlet tells his stoic friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” This, after the ghost scene. It has become a favorite comeback, albeit hoary with age, to doubting Thomases, and one feels smug at having quoted Shakespeare in the face of a non-believer. Sometimes, though, I, a professed materialist, have been on the receiving end of this repartee, but I would say, “What philosophy?” and thereby engage the person in a friendly debate. I wonder, however, why lately (the past 15 years or so) I have lost my fascination for antiquaria, like old houses and furniture. I still like to visit the bahay-na-bato in cities and towns, and marvel at the antique tables, chairs, cabinets made in the last two centuries here and abroad, and acquired by the ilustrado families, the nouveau riche at the time. I remember my childhood vacations in the town of Juban, where I was born. I didn’t grow up there, so I missed the steady company of the elders who had lived in bahay-na-bato built for managers of the Ynchausti company tending the abaca and coconut plantations in Sorsogon. My maternal grandfather (Capitan Lino Alindogan) himself owned tracts of these lands, including a portion of friar lands in the foothills of Mt. Bulusan, and lived in a house whose ruins (mainly stone and huge rotting logs) could still be seen in his poblacion compound before the war. The other old houses can still be seen along Maharlika highway. Turn of the century My memories are of the vacations spent with tio Miguel (half Andalusian) and tia Loleng in the house built at the turn of the century. It was finally blown down by a typhoon. Juban is noted province-wide as an aswang town. Why so, I asked historian Luis Dery (who comes from Gubat). He said that Juban in pre-Spanish times was a center of babaylan. It seems that with the coming of the Spaniards, the friars demonized the faith healers and shamans as witches or mangkukulam, as the Church did to the “pagan” priests and priestesses in Europe. I have since associated old houses with dark rooms lit at night with a candle or petro-max lamp, and the call of the resident tuko. When the lamp hissed out at night at my tio Miguel’s house in Juban, my brothers and I would huddle or snuggle together with pillows (abrazador) on a large mat under a mosquito net in the sala, where we boys were banished at bedtime. Dead ancestors in ornately framed pictures looked at us from the walls of the living room. One morning after, older brother Jim swore that he woke up at night because he heard our tio Miguel talking to some people in the camarin below, where bales of abaca were stored. Jim ventured down the staircase and saw no one in the darkened bodega. He ran back to us as fast as he could. On a trip to Ilocos not too long ago, a friend, Emily Tiongco from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts, offered her ancestral house, Villa Fernandez, for us to stay in while in Vigan. The caretaker told us the big chalet-type house, with its stairs dividing in two in the patio, had been used earlier for the shooting of a film with Tom Cruise. We were given the master bedroom, and had the run of the living room, like the one in Juban with fading black and white pictures of the family on the walls . The four-poster bed had a capacious mosquito net hung from the canopy and cascading down the other end of the bed. We kept the light on in the adjoining toilet so we wouldn’t trip on the way to it in the middle of the night, in spite a street light filtering into the bedroom. My wife Elenita said the next morning that she felt presence in both the bedroom and bathroom. I said I felt the same way. Back in Manila, Emily asked if we had met her grandmother. We could only smile weakly and thank her for the hospitality, but we vowed to ourselves never again to sleep in an ancient house doubling as a pension. Original owners Now, long empty houses give us the creeps. I even suspect the old table sold to us by antique dealer/writer Pete Daroy may be visited by wraiths of its original owners. At the UP writers workshop in Baguio in the mid-’90s, we housed three resource persons/writers—Sedfrey Ordonez, Gemino Abad and Roger Sikat—at a prewar chalet on Quezon Hill. The UP Baguio dormitory was already full of loud writing fellows, and not suitable for our distinguished latecomers. We had stayed a night in the chalet (owned by Elenita’s relatives) earlier, and we experienced what we later had in the Vigan house, so I told Sedfrey if he didn’t mind staying in a haunted house. Oh no, he said. The following day we learned that sleeping arrangements for two rooms were changed into one room. One workshop wit suggested that all three be commended for valor. Another writer, rumored to be clairvoyant, claimed the “presence” in the house by pointing them out to our group, taking turns to visit the john. We didn’t see a thing, but I did have again that eerie feeling as I walked along a narrow corridor. The caretaker living in the basement with his family said that skeletal remains had been dug up below the house, which was used by the Japanese before the war. Nowadays Elenita and I can no longer savor new travel experiences. The last one in October last year was a China/Vietnam cruise from Hong Kong. The immediate members of the family were with us on this sea voyage. But my wife and I spend much more time together in our sylvan retreat in Cavite, with well-wishers visiting her in bed. A few weeks ago, a healing priest came and gave solace to both of us. One of the healing rites that he performed was a procedure that has kept me in deep thought. The young Redemptorist priest asked me to cup my hands behind me. He pressed down hard on my cupped hands and I fell on my knees. As I stood up, he put in my shirt pocket what he calls a healing patch, a square-inch cloth patch in blue with a red cross on it. He asked me again to cup my hands behind me. He bore down hard on them this time, with his 75 kilos of weight. I saw him lift his feet for a second or so, and I, at 82, held, panting a bit. He then did the procedure on Elenita, who already wore the healing patch pinned on her front blouse, and she did not fall. Not his full weight was used, but in her frail condition, how could she do it?

Cebu Pacific shells out P798.8M for new aircraft, adds more summer flights


Cebu Air Inc. drew P798.84 million from the proceeds of its initial public offering (IPO) to make pre-delivery payments for seven aircraft last January and February, the operator of the Cebu Pacific airline revealed to the investing public Wednesday.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Cebu Air said the net balance of proceeds from the IPO stood at P380.09 million on March 31 as per accounting procedures applied by SGV & Co.

The pre-delivery payments, in dollar terms, amounted to $18.32 million. The payments were channeled through Citibank N.A. and Banco de Oro.

More summer flights

In an earlier disclosure, Cebu Air said it will add 22 percent more Cebu Pacific flights in the summer months of April and May.

"Because of this increased seat capacity, passengers can take advantage of CEB's trademark low fares for travel this April and May. Plan your family or friends' exciting summer vacation by checking out the low-fare options on," said Candice Iyog, Cebu Air vice president for marketing and distribution.

Cebu Pacific will have more flights on these routes: Cebu-Dipolog, Cebu-Legazpi and Cebu-Pagadian (daily flights, February 8 to June 15); Cebu-Puerto Princesa (3 added flights to raise total to 10 flights, March 17 to June 4); Manila-Legazpi and Manila-Puerto Princesa (total of 4 daily flights each); Cebu-Bacolod (total of 17 weekly flights); Cebu-Caticlan (3 daily flights), Cebu-Davao (5 daily flights); and Cebu-Siargao (4 weekly flights).

“Legazpi is the gateway to whale shark encounters in Donsol, Sorsogon,” the airline noted.

“CEB remains the largest airline operating to and from Puerto Princesa, which is world-renowned for its Underground River. CEB is the only airline flying direct to Siargao, an international surfing destination,” the flag carrier also said.

The airline also decided to extend to June 4 its flight frequency additions for Manila-Cebu (total of 99 weekly flights), Manila-Bacolod (40 weekly flights) and Manila-Iloilo (7 daily flights).

Joint venture of LGU Sorsogon City with LKY Dev’t. Corp. to create 500 jobs

by Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.

SORSOGON CITY ( – The agreement and understanding of LGU Sorsogon City with LKY Development Corporation is expected to create five hundred jobs for Sorsoganons. It will materialize after the completion and full occupancy of the renovated Sorsogon Shopping Center now in its finishing stage of construction and the on-going Sorsogon Bay City project. The projects are hubs for fast food chains, drugstores, supermart, gas station and the Bay City will host condotels and marinas offering the view of the sunset of Sorsogon Bay. Both offer commercial leasing spaces. The renovation of the old shopping center became one of the focal points during the first term of Mayor Leovic Dioneda, to attract and create job opportunities, doubled-up by the investment of Wilbert Lee, Chief Executive Officer of LKY Development Corporation, the biggest construction concern in Sorsogon, who foot the bill for the renovation. When the project was tossed to the Sorsogon Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Wilbert Lee took the opportunity and the challenge to prove that Sorsogon City is a good investment area, thus a roadmap for domestic investors was created.

This is not the first time that LKY took a giant step, back in the late eighties, the construction firm responded to the offer of then Municipality of Sorsogon when it built a commercial building in a government lot fronting the public market, then another foothold when the diocesan leadership offered the development of the back portion of the cathedral lot which now stands as a landmark in the city proper. This time, the response of Lee’s firm was a class act for Sorsogon City. It was a silent statement that private-public partnership can design, build and offer new landscape for business opportunities. It started way back in 2009 during Dioneda’s first term, when the third city council was challenged by him to come-up with a resolution to attract investors for built-operate, built-lease, and built transfer scheme offering safety nets for investors. LKY responded with a grand proposal not only to boost Sorsogon economy but put on record that the traffic problem of the city center be corrected. Thus the renovated Sorsogon Shopping Center when completed will host the tricycle integrated terminal and the Sorsogon Bay City project at Barangay Balogo will house the integrated bus, jeepney and van terminal. Rolling up its sleeves when the projects were given the green lights, LKY never look back. It was committed and it was proving to all that it is not lost in Sorsogon after all. Both Mayor Dioneda and Wilbert Lee of LKY are sort of visionaries, they have the knack of what can be done and how can it be done. Dioneda created an investment climate, Lee responded in ways never imagined by Sorsoganons. Simultaneously starting the project created employment to skilled workers and tap the labor force not only of the city but from the other towns of the province. Masons, carpenters, plumbers, welders, pipe fitters, steel fabricators and many more who for sometimes were not employed are now having a week pay to look-up. At its peak LKY was employing close to three hundred workers in the two projects pumping a large sum of money in the local economy. This was an indirect contribution of the construction firm in prime-pumping the local economy. The construction lessened the number of employment seekers at city hall. The two projects are now the center piece of construction in the city. It’s because, Mayor Dioneda made a big difference and LKY of Wilbert Lee nurtured the big difference.

Firms vie for 38 coal prospects

by Amy R. Remo

The Department of Energy on Friday received 69 bids for contracts to explore and develop 38 highly prospective coal blocks across the country, considered an “overwhelming” number that proved investors’ unwavering confidence in the Philippines.

At the sidelines of the opening of bid offers Friday, Energy Undersecretary Jose M. Layug Jr. said the Philippine Energy Contracting Round 4 for coal attracted a lot of potential investors, of which about half were new players in the local coal industry.

Among the companies that submitted bids were Benguet Corp., Semirara Mining Corp., PNOC Exploration Corp., South Davao Development Co. Inc., SKI Mining and Empire Asia Mining Corp.

Layug said the DOE was targeting to award contracts within 150 days from the bid opening date yesterday, or by August 2012 at the latest. The coal blocks that had only one bidder will be processed faster than those that had six to eight bidders. For the coal blocks that did not have bidders, the DOE is set to re-offer these areas in future PECRs.

The offered coal blocks were in Quezon, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon, Masbate, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Bohol, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga Sibugay.

Initially, the DOE offered 30 coal blocks when it launched the PECR 4 for coal in December last year. Should all the 30 contracts be awarded, the DOE is expecting initial investments to run up to P2.4 billion within a two-year exploration period.

The number of areas, however, were increased to 38 blocks in anticipation of a huge number of bidders.

Layug stressed the need for the country to harness its own coal resources given an increasing demand for the commodity, which now stood at about 12 million metric tons a year. Local production averaged 7 million MT, of which 3 million tons are exported to various Asian markets. Coal imports remained huge at 7 million tons a year, he added.

It is expected that over the next 20 years, coal will remain the major fuel for power generation and the government continues to encourage the private sector to explore and develop the country’s prospective coal blocks to find additional reserves that can be used to address growing local demand.

By harnessing its own resources, the government believes that it will be able to push for energy independence that will allow it to reduce its fuel imports as well as lessen its vulnerability to global price fluctuations.


by Marlon Bernardino

TAIWANESE cue artist Chang Yu Long defeated Filipino Ronato "Volcano" Alcano bagging the top prize of the Philippine Bigtime Billiards Face-Off series on Saturday at the Airport Pagcor Casino in Paranaque City.

Chang won two straight racks to edged Alcano, 9-7, in the race-to-9 event backed up by Sorsogon Province Sports Patron Philip Escudero, Malungai Life Oil, Mandarin Sky Sea Food Restaurant, Servo Marketing, Hermes Sports Bar, Golden Leaf Restaurant, Bugsy Promotions, Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines (BMPAP), Airport Casino Filipino and The Philippine Star as official media partner.

The win was worth $5,000 for Chang while Alcano settled for $2,500 in the winner's break format, dubbed as Philippines versus Asia, jointly organized by the Mega Sports World and BRKHRD Corp and aired live over Solar Sports, Sky Channel 70 and Destiny Channel 34, and also aired worldwide through the Internet, live streaming at and The win allowed Team Asia takes 4-3 series lead against Team Philippines.

Chang saw his big lead, 5-2, by winning three straight racks before Alcano fought back from the grave to cut the lead at 5-4 in favor of the former (Chang).

However, Chang won two of the three racks to go up, 7-5. Alcano managed to level the match at 7 in the 14th frame but the Taiwanese took the last two racks for the win.

“Luck played a part in my victory." said Chang through an interpreter. " Ronato (Alcano) is a very tough opponent." he added.

It shall be recalled that last March 24, Filipino Francisco "Django" Bustamante toppled Taiwanese Yang Ching-shun, 9-3, to lift Team Philippines series tied 3-3 against Team Asia.

Earlier, Ko Pin-yi of Chinese-Taipei downed Filipino pool maestro Efren "Bata" Reyes, 9-4, last February 18. However, Bustamante pull off a come-from-behind win against Ko, 9-7, last February 25 to avenged the loss of his fellow Puyat Sports player Reyes. Chang Jung-lin of Chinese-Taipei, on the other hand beat Lee Vann "The Slayer" Corteza, 9-7, last March 3, then edged Dennis "Robocop" Orollo, 9-8, last March 10. But Carlo " The Black Tiger" Biado downed Taiwanese Yang Ching-shun, 9-3, last March 17 to cut the lead of Team Asia into a 3-2 score against Team Philippines in the Philippine Bigtime Billiards introduces a fresh new format for 2012.

Meanwhile, the PBB Face Off series resumes with a match pitting Liu Hai Tao of China against Alex "The Lion" Pagulayan on April 14, Liu then face Dennis "Robocop" Orcollo on April 21 and Fong Pang Chao of Chinese-Taipei opposite Lee Vann "The Slayer" Corteza on April 28.


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